Since I launched Bloom In the Dark, I’ve started considering what being successful in this new career might look like. Is it how much money I make? Is it how many books are sold or donated? Is it my book making a best seller list? Is it how many books I write? Is it how famous I become? Is it how many likes or followers I have on my blog or Facebook? Is it how many people are on my newsletter email list? Articles about becoming a successful author say these factors are signs of a successful career.

But what makes someone truly successful? The Bible tells us the two most important things to do–love God with everything and love your neighbor as yourself. Relationships with God, ourselves and others trump all other commandments in scripture. Crazy, right? But if God says relationships are the most important, wouldn’t you say He sees success in the form of relationship units? Not money, position, power, possessions, appearances, accomplishments, but rather loving relationships?

This concept became crystal clear to me today. I’ve caught myself crying off and on all day. I’m not depressed or hormonal, so why the tears? Well, someone I met 23 years ago lost her battle with cancer on Monday–Labor Day. I hadn’t seen her or talked to her in the last 10 years. We would see each other’s posts on Facebook, but had no real connection for way to long. It didn’t help that we ended up on opposite sides of the country.
Deborah Kunz

I thought back to how close we’d been before. I had helped her get ready for her wedding. She was one of the most beautiful people I’ve known. Inside and out. I remember how I thought she was the most photogenic bride ever. Beauty always seemed to surround her.

Yes, everyone always says the best things about those who’ve died, but I’ve always seen Deborah this way. Even when we lost touch. Even when we couldn’t seem to reconnect. I knew that if I showed up on her doorstep, she’d invite me in like we’d never been apart. Despite time and issues between our families, she would show Christ’s love to me. I am only one of hundreds of friends who are hurting because she’s gone.

She had the amazing ability to make people around her feel loved and accepted. No matter what. She gave hugs that squeezed out any bad feelings. Her smile was contagious. Her grace under pressure was impressive. She battled cancer for the first time at 15. Then again during the last few years. Fighting cancer, but always loving and forgiving people. I’ve been crying because I miss her. I hate the fact that we’ll never reconnect here on earth.

VictoriaWhen my best friend, Victoria, died last January, I pictured her cuddling my babies that are in heaven. Now, I am picturing Deborah and Victoria each holding one of my angels. Two amazing friends who loved fiercely. They touched people’s lives just by existing. Two amazingly successful women who left us way too soon! They consistently put relationships above everything else. Loving God and others without reservation.

If you measure success in relationship units, these two women were definitely more successful than Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton or President Obama have ever been. They loved with absolutely unconditional loyalty. New friends, old friends, close friends and distant friends all felt the pain of loss when Deborah and Victoria left this earth.

When tears come to my eyes as I think of never seeing my friends here on earth again, I am challenged to focus on my relationships more. I want to follow my friends’ examples of love, service, loyalty, and generosity. I want to be successful the way Deborah and Victoria were! I want to invest in what God says is most important–loving God and loving others.