30 by 30 · Life Chronicles

Five People Who Have Most Impacted My Life

A few years ago, I found a list of things to do before you turn 30. Since I was compiling my own list of things to do before I turned 30, I was quick to look through it and add a few of their suggestions. One of those suggestions was to write letters to the five people who have most impacted your life.

I immediately grabbed on to the idea as I am a lover of writing letters, telling people what they’ve done for me, and reflecting on how I can be the kind of person who makes an impact on someone else’s life.

Within the last year, I’ve written letters to the first four people – my dad, my mom, Rick Taylor (fatherly-like mentor during my college years), and Katy Faust (high school mentor). But when it came to the last person, I just couldn’t decide.

The problem is that there are so many people who have impacted my life in different ways – and who are currently impacting my life – that it’s hard to judge. Who’s to say whether one person has impacted my life more than someone else? I can think of family members, friends, teachers, pastors – all of whom have encouraged me and spoken truth in my life over the years to shape who I am today.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were several people through CYT who have impacted my life very specifically by believing in me and giving me a chance. These people saw something in me that I didn’t see myself and they urged me to step forward and develop my leadership potential in a way I never would have thought possible. Currently, I still have people in my life doing that for me – and I know in another 20 years, I’ll be writing them letters to thank them for the way they’ve impacted my life.

But this goes out specifically to six people [yes, so I’m bending the rules a little bit by doubling the number!] who believed in me throughout my early 20’s and helped me get to where I am today as the National HYPE Director for CYT, Inc.

1. Greg Papst
Funny how something someone says to you can stick with you for a lifetime. Funny how you never realize that someone else sees your potential when you’re just floozing along as a silly 18-year old, giggling about boys and drama. But there I was, in my last CYT show, Oliver, directed by Greg Papst, and we were sitting in the auditorium for notes. I can’t remember if it was for a dress rehearsal or in between two shows, but Greg was out of town and had just called in to share a few notes over the phone.

The last thing he said (over speaker phone to the whole cast & crew) was, “Is Lydia there?” Then, “I read your blog – the post where you were wondering why you were picked to be the Rose Seller. And I’ll tell you why – because no one else could have played it as well as you.”

He saw through all my insecurities and nervousness at auditions. He saw past the scared teenage girl and saw how badly I wanted to be the Rose Seller. He saw what could be, and he encouraged it to come out – by giving me a chance. Did I still have to work on my solo? Yes, of course – and his wife, Kari, was so gracious to help my voice break free from its inhibitions and embrace that solo. But he never doubted that I was meant to play that part – and what he said gave me confidence in who I was.

My only regret is that I never told him this while he was still with us here on Earth … but I can’t wait for the day when I can tell him thank you in heaven!

2. Doug Beschta
Only a year later, another person at CYT named Doug Beschta had confidence enough in me to actually hire me to work in the front office – even though I was barely 19, and the only experience I had was my absolute love for everything related to CYT!

I remember that interview at Red Robin where Doug told me that a lot of people on the Board questioned whether or not I should be hired, seeing as how I was so young – but he believed in me enough to give me a chance.

I was pretty stubborn in those early days of working in the office when it was just Doug, Nickle, and me … and I had a lot to learn. But Doug taught me office skills I never knew I needed – how to title all the files on the computer so they would sort most efficiently … how to work in Excel! … how to set up the voicemail … and a hundred other little tasks that might seem insignificant, but actually added up to the training of a savvy office administrator. And maybe because of that, a year or two later, I was able to manually ticket over 3000 people to see a certain show called “Peter Pan” – as well as taking care of many other administrative details at the same time.

Not only did Doug train me, though, he showed me what it’s like to actually value your employees. I never questioned that Doug appreciated my work, and that made me want to work all the harder, to improve, to do my best. That taught me how important it was to value my own students, student leaders or anyone that I’m leading. Doug took a chance on a fresh high school graduate – counted the number of “um’s” that I said in front of parents to make me a better public speaker! – and helped me become “that” employee at CYT, the one who “knew everything” just because she’d worked there for seven years …

3. Mark DeSaulnier
He was at CYT for such a very brief time … but were it not for Mark, I wouldn’t have become the HYPE Adviser – in fact, HYPE Spokane wouldn’t have had the boost that it got when I became the HYPE Adviser, and I never would have gone on to work for CYT, Inc. Talk about someone giving you a chance!

I remember that day so clearly at our staff meeting when we discussed the former HYPE Adviser who had to resign, and then afterward when he called me into his office, and said, “Why don’t … YOU become the adviser?”

I was shocked. Me?? About to turn 22 years old? What did I know about leadership training? But even as I questioned it, the wheels of excitement were turning in my head.

Maybe I was too young. Maybe I did make way too many mistakes, and yes, maybe it was hard to tell me apart from all the teenagers sometimes. But once again, Mark believed in me. He mentored me so that HYPE could grow and become something beautiful. He was the one who came up with the idea of taking HYPE to the Expo back in 2010, and he helped make it happen. He was the one who suggested we start doing Retreats, and they became a staple that we can’t live without now. He would meet with me about once a week, and we’d check in about where HYPE was at and how we could make it grow.

And my passion and excitement for this little teen leadership program grew every day – because Mark believed in it, he believed in me, and he’d look at me and say, “How can I help you?” He modeled what an adviser should be doing – training the next leader so they can train the leader below them. He didn’t push in and try to do my job for me – he just gave me enough support and enough encouragement so that I could do my job really well. And that’s what leadership training is all about.

4. Heather LaForge
And then came the day when I was asked to plan the HYPE part of the CYT Expo in 2012. I don’t know whose idea it was to trust me with THAT giant endeavor! But to whoever you were … thank you for taking a chance on me and allowing my dreams to soar at a national level. I never thought I would be doing something for CYT on a national level, but I was more than ecstatic to jump on board!

It wasn’t until 2013, though, after two years of helping plan for Expo, that I really saw the need for a National HYPE Director and put it into writing. An actual job proposal. Something I had never done before – proposing that a job be created!

And just when I thought I might as well give up hope about it, Heather LaForge (and the Board of Directors) was the next person to give me a chance and offer me the job with CYT, Inc. She decided to trust this crazy 25-year old from Spokane, WA, and allow her to come on board and help shape HYPE at the national level – a dream I never knew I had until it came to pass.

And over the past two years, though we only work together in person once a year, Heather – and now Renee, too – have been so supportive and trusting of me in my role. They encourage my ideas, trust me to work independently (and thousands of miles away!), and help me remember I’m part of the CYT, Inc. team.

I absolutely love what I get to do – help develop HYPE at the national level. Not very many people here in Spokane know what I actually do (the usual response is, “Oh yeah, you’re still doing that stuff with CYT, right?”), but the connections I get to make with people all over the country, the leadership material I get to develop, and the planning of the Expo bring me more joy than I could even say.

And it’s because Heather said yes, let’s give her a chance – let’s try her out & see where this goes.

5. Paul & Sheryl Russell
I couldn’t possibly have a tribute to people who have impacted my life without mentioning Paul & Sheryl. Not only are they the co-founders of CYT, but they are two of the most humble, gracious, and loving people I have ever met.

Paul has a way of making you feel like the most important person in the room when you’re talking to him – and consistently turns your thanks to him back to thanking you. I will never forget words that he’s said to me about developing the HYPE program – words that touch my heart and make me realize how important my work is. I will never forget his words in general about CYT that he shares every year at the Expo, words that challenge all of us to truly remember that what we do isn’t just about us – it’s about making an impact for Christ.

Sheryl is one of the sweetest, most motherly people you will ever meet, and she has always showed so much grace to me, whether it’s driving me around in San Diego because I have no car or being a wonderful seat mate unexpectedly at a CYT-North Idaho show!

Together this couple has modeled to me what I most want in a marriage – a shared passion for something that they do together that changes the world … one stage at a time. Their love for each other, for Jesus, and for what they do is inspiring and beautiful. I hope my life can one day be a fraction as impacting as their lives are.

To all of you – I say a deep, heart-felt thank you. Thank you for impacting my life just by living yours the way you do and giving me a chance to spread my wings and soar. Thank you for modeling a life of courage, love, inspiration, and leadership. I am proud to say I worked with all of you, and I cherish the impact that you had (and still have) on my life.

Now may I continually learn to “pay it forward” and be that kind of person in someone else’s life – the kind of person that not only inspires someone else, but actually believes in them and gives them the opportunity to prove what they can do. This is the way leaders are made … and I love being a part of the process.

One thought on “Five People Who Have Most Impacted My Life

  1. Gratitude is powerful and the way to live. With thankfulness in your heart to God and others, you're lifted up and joy oozes out. Thank you for mentioning Greg. Pouring into you kids, lifting you up to explore and bravely tackle new ideas and challenges while giving you to tools to do it, was his great passion. And, you soared to new heights. Makes me smile. All the other letters were lovely. So proud of you Lydia. Keep shining brightly as a light in this world for God's Kingdom. He has even more exploits for you….people to love and lead in Christ, for Christ.
    I love you,


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