I know I say this whole song and dance every time, but, Stacy is my mom’s college roommate Cindy’s (lovingly known as Cinne Binne) daughter. So we have -actually- been friends since the womb. And she just got married, to a great guy, Andrew Lisi. So now her name rhymes. :)
Stacy is one of those friends that you can go a whole year without seeing (or even talking to because of both of your phone phobias), but pick up right where you left off when you see each other again. Like no time or distance ever separated you.
I have so many fun memories with Stacy it is hard to even count. When we were 3 & 4 years old we decided it would be a good idea to paint my Grandpa Al’s work van. It was dark brown so obviously we thought it would be best to use white shoe polish. And once I even convinced her to get IN the van with me and I pulled the gear shift down and we started rolling down the driveway.
Also that year we made a guest appearance in my dad’s and her mom’s musical show at the retirement home. We cried and pouted because we wanted the dress up clothes the other one was wearing while singing Ain’t We Sweet, though we were being anything but sweet.
At age 9 & 10 we started going downstate together. Downstate was one of the coolest Daddy/Daughter activities in the Birkeneder family. When you turned 10 you got to go with Dad and Grandpa (and any other poor male soul of our relatives that wanted to go once us girls started going) to the Illinois High School Boys’ Basketball Tournaments in Campaign (later Peoria). Being the eldest in our families, Stacy and I were the first girls to go on this all male weekend. I think we forever changed “downstate”. Instead of watching the games, we bought nachos, then ice cream, then hot dogs, then Pepsi, then cotton candy, then threw up all over the taxi. We would drag Dad & Grandpa Al to the nearby mall to take pictures in the overpriced photo booth while sporting our huge gaudy basketball earrings. We spent all our money from the winning pools (don’t tell our moms or anyone else for that matter that we were underage gamblers) buying stickers from the sticker machine at Pizza Hut (smartly thinking we would sell them for profit when we got home). And then we fought with each other and cried when one would win a pool and the other wouldn’t. One year we fell madly (seriously, it was obsessive) in love with one of the high school players- Alfredo Jimenez from Maine West. We even stalked out where he would be after the game to get his autograph while we hysterically sobbed.
When we were 10 & 11 we started spending some of our summers at Camp Timberlee in Wisconsin. We carefully shopped for matching outfits for every day of the week, including our denim ruffle shorts and side ponytails. We would always room together and never leave each other sides and make sure everyone in the cabin knew WE were best friends so they wouldn’t infringe upon us. In the middle of the night we would crawl into our bunks together and worry that we were blind because we couldn’t see anything, and nervously search for a flashlight just to make sure.
When we were in our teens we shared a profound love for all things Hanson and JTT . We convinced ourselves we were marrying one of them and lovingly agreed upon who got which one (Stacy: Zac and Me: Taylor…Jonathan Taylor Thomas dropped out of the running when Hanson came along). We decided the best way possible to make this dream a reality would be to form an all girl band ourselves. So we reigned in our sisters and we became: Purple Daizee. We co-wrote many one hit wonders and videotaped ourselves singing/dancing to them in the basement so we could send our videos to the Hanson brothers. Making them fall in love with us, of course.
Stacy and I laugh about all these episodes and more whenever we get together. But there’s a distinct, life altering memory I have with Stacy that I don’t even know if she recalls.
My freshman year in college was rough. We had just moved to Texas and even more life shattering than that to me was that Michael and I broke up. I started a new life in Texas, a double life. I was good at playing the part of “good Jenni” when I needed to, but with my new friends I partied. Hard. And I got myself stuck in a web of alcohol, drugs, and sex.
At the end of the summer, right before I was going to start my sophomore year, Stacy came to visit. She was getting ready to start her freshman year at University of Illinois. While Stacy was there I tried to hide my “bad Jenni” side, though I’m sure she knew. She met all my friends and was incredibly gracious to them all. She was relevant, but unchanging and never wavered from who she was in Christ. She was real. When I was with Stacy that week, I felt my old self start to emerge…my real self that I had shoved away that year. I remember feeling God awake my soul again.
Stacy’s flight left early one morning before I was awake, but she left me a note on my pillow. I remember finding it and getting up to read it before it was even light out. In it she thanked me for spending time with her, told me she was thankful for our friendship, and that she was praying for me and all that God would do through me that year. I broke down and cried. I laid on the floor and just cried and cried.
God had been working in my heart that whole year, but He used Stacy in a major way to bring His prodigal daughter back. She was the vessel that saved me from a life of destruction and despair. I firmly believe God used Stacy to redirect my life. She was loyal, faithful, loving, and gracious. She didn’t judge me or correct me, she just loved me and prayed for me. I will never forget what she did for me that summer.
And actually, if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have gotten back together with Michael that year, married him that next summer, had 3 beautiful boys years later. So Stace, you’re the reason my family exists. :)
I have a love/hate relationship with the journey we are all on in life. I love the mystery of God and the excitement of seeking Him and joy in knowing Him. Obviously life has some rough places, a lot of mine have been self inflicting, but I’m thankful for a God who redeems. He is faithful, loving, and gracious and waits for me. Thank you Stacy Leigh Lisi for being such a beautiful living example of Christ.