Twelve Things I’ve Learned from the Andersons

This coming Sunday, our church will have the opportunity to say good-bye to Charles and Erin Anderson and their children as they prepare to move to Indianapolis at the end of the month. I am one of many people who have been deeply impacted by their time in Columbia and will forever be grateful for the ways that they have invested in me and my family both pastorally and as dear friends. As we prepare to celebrate and thank God for their time at The Crossing, I thought I’d share a list of twelve things I’ve learned from them.


1. The best kind of discipleship happens by inviting others to live real life with you.
College gave me the impression that coffee shops were the place for discipleship to happen. While God can certainly work in and through people at Kaldis, doing so in my life stage in not feasible. Today it looks like a post-nap text to see if my son and I want to come over. It looks like a conversation broken up between requests for a snack or a discipline issue or a walk with kids on scooters and in strollers. It looks like her kids reading to mine, sharing their favorite old toys, and the bond we have all formed because of the time we’ve spent together.

No offense to coffee dates, but this is where the good stuff happens. While Erin might apologize for an interruption, I cherish seeing how someone I love and respect parents up close and uncensored. I’ve learned just as much from the incidental things that happen during our time together as I do from the more formal things. Even more so, it has changed the way I invest in others. I don’t have to make a great dinner and have the mess cleaned up before people arrive. We can do it together…or even eat leftovers. They don’t always have to wait until nap time or bedtime or after I’ve cleaned the bathroom to come over. I can invite others to live real life with me too, even when messy. It keeps me from thinking ministry can only happen when life slows down or has a certain look to it. It helps me to realize that God can use me today regardless of what season I’m in.

2. You can’t out give God, so be generous.
If you’ve seen my son Gideon, chances are you’ve seen him wearing the hand-me-downs of an Anderson. If you’ve been to our house, you’ve seen him play with their old toys and read their old books. I’m not sure how many meals we’ve consumed at their expense and who knows how many hours of their time we’ve enjoyed. All of these things were given generously and in ways we simply can’t pay back, only forward.

3. Don’t just say you’ll pray for someone, actually do it for and with them.
As Christians, many of us are quick to say, “I’ll pray for you.” but many of us are slower to actually stop and take the time to do it right then and there. That’s not the case with the Andersons. This was especially meaningful to my husband and I in the midst of our struggles with infertility. Right before two crucial doctor’s appointments they invited some of our friends to their home to pray for us. Before our son Gideon was born, they hosted another time of prayer at their house, this time thanking God for the way He answered.

4. People are complex and caring for them must be holistic.
If a genuine request for, “How can I pray for you?” was the first question asked, “What can we do to help?” was the next. Whether through babysitting, meals, a visit on a day that knew its own busyness, a text or note, we’ve been deeply cared for by our friends not just spiritually, but emotionally and physically as well.

5. Be specific and generous with your affirmation.
My thirtieth birthday fell at the end of one of the most difficult seasons of my life. Erin gathered a few close friends and had everyone go around and share something they valued about me. It was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given and one of the most special birthday memories I have. John Piper once said, “When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love of self.” I think the opposite is also true. I’m thankful for the way Erin knows me well and provides specific affirmation as a result.

6. Be honest about your sin and shortcomings, even with people who look up to you.
It’s easy in any type of mentorship relationship for one party to share and the other to receive. Erin’s vulnerability has encouraged my own not just to her but also to the women I invest in. A quick text asking me to pray encourages me to respond in kind. A pre-marital counseling session that starts with two people I respect disagreeing about the state of the recycling or who left the cabinet door open gives me hope when the same happens in my own home. I don’t have to pretend that all is well when it’s not. I don’t have to fear condemnation for my imperfections.

7. It’s o.k. if God is the only one who sees what you do.
In our social media obsessed world, a quiet online presence is rare and truthfully, refreshing. It’s easy for us to want to make sure credit is given where it is due, it’s easy for us to want to broadcast everything we do. I need friends in my life that model the opposite.

8. You’re a family before you have kids.
This advice was given to us during pre-marital counseling by the Andersons. It served us well as we set patterns for our family early on in marriage and was a great comfort during a hard season in a world that sometimes makes couples without children feel “less than.”

9. Parent with the end in mind. Short-term convenience often has long-term consequences.
There are many specific ways this has translated into practical parenting decisions, but the overarching principle remains the most important. I’m thankful to have a friend one step ahead of me in life. We’re all prone to make excuses, to find ourselves in survival mode and to just stay there because it’s easier. I’m thankful to have a friend who encourages me to do the hard thing, who reminds me that each season has its own challenges and “waiting until…” might not make it easier.

10. Partner for the Gospel with your spouse.
When Redeemer called me to provide a reference for Charles, they asked for his greatest strengths. The first one I mentioned was Erin. More than any other couple I know, Charles and Erin work as a team. They share, discuss, and value what the other person has to say. When I get advice from Erin, it often involves the best that Charles has to offer as well and vice versa.

11. Loving someone means saying hard things.
Proverbs 27:6 says, Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” One of my favorite things about Erin is that I know she’s not just going to tell me what I want to hear.  I need people in my life who love me enough to say and ask hard things.

12. Gospel people say good-bye.
This has been a reoccurring theme in the life of our family these last five years. Countless friends have come into our life only to leave Columbia. Few of these exits stings more than the Andersons’. A few years ago, I ran across this blogpost from the Village Church called “Gospel People Say Goodbye.” These words ring especially true today.

“As Christ is building His church, He brings His people together in groups for a time, for seasons, to accomplish kingdom work. Some stay together to nurture the work. Others are called out to start still other works. Two thousand years later, this is still the ebb and flow of healthy Christian community…Truth is, godly people hold one another with an open hand. Godly people who are about the gospel say goodbye often, confident in our union together as the family of God and confident that we will celebrate again. We WILL see one another again at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will be with God together. For all time. But now, just for a little while, we have little time to waste. The Great Commission overrides any attempts to build our own little castle of community we want to rule over. God is so much greater.”

*13. Take pictures with people who are important to you even if you’re both reluctant. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to find any images that capture what your thank you is trying to say.

2 Comments

  1. Such a great post Emily! We sure are going to miss the Andersons too!

  2. Julie Geyer said:

    Beautifully written! They’ve touched so many lives in powerful way! I’m on the fringe, and even I’ve been imprinted by theiir loving large for the sake of the Gospel! They will surely be missed!

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