I want to help lighten the load – Lilly Moon
Spend some time with Lilly and you can’t help thinking that you’ve been with a special friend. Kind, warm, engaging, intelligent she’s the type of woman that folks are drawn to and whose impact is felt. Seven years now on Young Life staff as the Regional Initiatives Coordinator in the Inland NW Region, her energy and influence are impacting the trajectory of the mission for years to come. She’s a seriously gifted person who loves God, her family, her friends, her work.
I sat down with her recently at Einstein Bagels in Spokane. I asked her to tell me the backstory of who she’d become and how she, a woman who helps lighten the load of so many, had met those she loves so dearly and deeply.
Her story begins in Redwood City, California outside the Bay area. The middle child of three daughters in the family, she grinned as she recalled her dad teasing the girls, calling out some mornings “Ladies – start your blow dryers.” The peacekeeper of the family, she grew up being a confidant to her mother, Jenny. Life with her sisters Zee Zee and Yolanda was stable – but it wasn’t without pain that would impact Lilly deeply.
Her natural father left the family when she was 6 months old. Nearly 50 years later she can still recall what it felt like to wonder if she was somehow ‘why he left’. Lilly was a cute little red-headed baby and he was Hawaiian. Was that why? Because she didn’t look like him? Not a fun thing for a little girl to wonder about.
It wouldn’t be the last time she’d feel the pain a father can cause in the life of a little girl. But it opened the way for the desire of her heart to be introduced to the love that she needed the most.
Her family wasn’t the churchy type. Yet when Lilly was about 6 years old she felt God’s presence in her life, as though He was wrapping her in His arms and holding her. She couldn’t understand what was happening then but she knows know now that God himself was holding her when she needed holding.
Her ability to work hard, her applied efforts and the rewards of accomplishing good grades spurred her on. She became an achiever and ultimately earned her entrance into UCLA where she joined a sorority and got involved as a “Bruin Belle”, a philanthropic organization at the prestigious university. By the world’s standards she was killing it. But her soul was aching and her soul was spiraling.
This entrance into adulthood was a season of working hard to find herself, prove to “someone” that she had value and worth. She was striving but not thriving. Her efforts of trying to get others to love and admire her only made her less happy with life.
So she dropped out and moved home. She, and her mother, Jenny, had begun attending a local church where Pastor Evers taught. Her younger sister had started attending Young Life. Lilly had a lot of questions. Did God love people or did God love perfection and performance? That season became pivotal in shifting her focus to the possibility that God loved her because of who He is, not because of who she was or what she might be able to accomplish.
Lilly reengaged her studies a year later at San Jose State, ultimately graduating with a nursing degree in the specialized discipline of neuro intensive care. Around the same time she dove into the Young Life mission with a new understanding of God’s love for people. She loved the work that YL did and felt that she was experiencing the opportunity to join Him and others in how he wanted to accomplish His mission around her.
She went to Woodleaf camp where she met her “arresting officer”, Bill Moon. He knew right away that he wanted to get to know her better and, well, he apparently succeeded. After dating for 3 years they tied the knot in Fremont, California. Young and in love, they continued on as YL leaders and committee folks, waiting 4 years before starting a family.
William (now 27), Ashley (25) and Jessica (24) arrived and life found it’s full stride for Bill and Lilly. And for Lilly, this is when her deepest doubts reached their loudest echo. She couldn’t do it all. It was too much.
At 30 years old, Lilly came to the end of herself. Married, 3 kids, years of achieving at most everything she aspired to do – yet still wondering why her dad left her when she was a baby, the pain that ultimately happened with her stepdad and mother divorcing in later years – and now Lilly found that she didn’t have what it took to love all these folks, let alone herself, despite how hard she tried or how desperately she wanted to.
In this beautifully messy time she finally realized that she couldn’t love the way that everyone needed – but God could. And God wanted to! To love her and others in ways that she continues to explore to this day.
And that has made all the difference in her life. God loves first – she loves in response. And loving she does. She wants others to feel that love in the work she does with hope that the weight of things is somehow shared and that those she cares about feel that they have someone helping, someone caring, someone listening. God and Lilly – helping others.
It begs sharing how deeply Lilly’s admiration for her husband Bill comes out. She describes him as a “pillar of strength” and a “rock”. We discussed how everything she ever wished for in a father, she found all that and more in her husband. Inspiring! (Way to go, Bill!)
She’s excited to watch her children grow and flourish. William married Emma almost a year ago and Ashley is engaged to Omar – two additions to the family that Lilly heartily welcomes with open hearted joy. Jessica is about to graduate from Gonzaga with a math focused teaching degree. Lilly is one proud momma!
I asked her how she hoped to be remembered someday. To my friends – a loving, faithful friend, wife and woman of God. To my kids – a committed mother willing to go anywhere for them, who’s life was marked by always being there. To my Bill – I was the woman who loved him more than he could have ever imagined.
I’m glad we get to experience all that Lilly is to so many. She does lighten our load with great love.
Lilly – your life and story, especially the hard parts, remind us that there is hope and promise in the gospel of God and the goodness of creation. Thank you for working so hard for so many. More so – thank you for trusting God to work even harder.
You’re one special woman. Bill’s a lucky guy, and the rest of us are too.