well done.

my friend and brother in Christ, AJ Gaus, went to be with Jesus in heaven on Monday, December 9th, 2013.


“let my last breath here be my first with you
where You rob my fear and you make me new.
so whatever comes, whatever I go through
let my last breath here be my first with You

the bells will ring Your banner lifted high!
our holy King and we Your holy bride;
I’ll join with all the saints and lift my voice
when I see Your face through tears of joy.”

I’ve been listening to this song and my Name is on His heart on repeat all week long.
the first song, I imagine as an anthem…
all of us who love Him at the finish line, running…laughing at finally being forever Home with Him and experiencing complete freedom and peace…AJ at the front raising and waving the banner high…full on Braveheart style. 🙂

the second song that has been healing for my soul
and is sung by men who I still get-to love and get-to tell that I love them.
this song has been somewhat of a lullaby that makes my heart ache, that makes tears fall freely…
and somehow resting in Him, with the aid of this song…I find peace.

this week has been one of the longest in my life to date.
I feel like the thoughts/conversations/moments of this week could have easily filled a month.
and I’m finding that grief is a funny thing.
there is no rule book…no do this, don’t do that, feel this, oh my gosh DON’T feel that.
but I feel like I’m slowly coming to a few conclusions as I sort my grief out at losing my friend…

real men are rare.

I’m so eternally thankful that I get-to be married to one of this few kind.
his “full assurance in the things that are promised to him” and confidence in his brother being with Jesus
has been a rock that I can wholeheartedly lean on physically and emotionally.
I’m finding that the longer I live, that I’m realizing that there are only a few like him.
and I get-to be married to one of these few.

AJ was one of these men.
He strived to fully live out John 15:13
“greater love has no man than this, than he who would lay down his life for his friends.”
as in REALLY lived it.
*he filled strangers and friends gas tanks.
*he told girls that real beauty matters and to chase that.
*he was chivalrous.
*he noticed those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.
*he encouraged others to the point that a person felt “weird” because of how earnest and
rare compliments really are.
*he out worked all but a few.
*he was the first to show up and the last to leave.

I was watching a bagger at the grocery store two days after he went to be Jesus.
I found myself being filled with rage at the bagger’s lackadaisical non-hard working attitude
towards what he was doing.
but then my rage dissipated when I thought of AJ…and I was thankful.
thankful because my son got to see on a regular basis what it meant to be a good young man,
a man who valued hard work and who showed him on a regular basis what exactly that looks like.

AJ was creative…especially with his guitar.

most people don’t think of music as being creative…but it so is.
being able to express pieces of your heart through song is beautifully creative and he did so regularly.
he could sing too…he didn’t like to in public…which I can understand…
but I loved when he occasionally did quietly as he played.
AJ was a real man…a young man…
and a real man chasing after what God says a man after His heart is supposed to look like.

oddly, I’ve found that there is competitiveness in grief.

there are some people who get irritated at those who grieve too much or those who judge the earnestness
of the sorrow of what another feels…
as if what I’m feeling is more of a feeling than a person who may have known AJ less.
it’s made me wonder what Peter, Paul, James, and all Jesus’ friends must have felt like
when Jesus went to prepare heaven for us…
were they judging those who wept for Jesus and saying to themselves “YOU didn’t know him like I did.”?
I think the conclusion to this thought of mine is that it is foolish and dishonoring to the one who has passed on to bother to be petty like this.
let people grieve.
in however small or large they want.
it is not for us to judge a grieving heart.

I think often about this life as being a journey…visually much like the one from Lord of the Rings.

I’m so eternally thankful to Mr. Tolkien for writing those books
it helps my imaginative mind to find peace on the narrow road on this seemingly long journey.
on Tuesday I went on a hike with one of my “samwise gamgee’s” who loved AJ and who loves me.
we sat on the highest point we could climb and looked at the river and four peaks right next to each other.
I thought of this scene sitting with her…the scene where frodo knew he had to continue on his journey…
with or without his friends:

I was thankful to sit with her…to talk out doubt, to wonder at heaven and life, to be encouraged, to laugh…
to just journey with her.
and it made me thankful for the few others that I consider to be “samwise gamgee’s” on my journey.
so very thankful.
and this LOTR thought makes me laugh too…because AJ is SO an elf…a legolas elf.
(and yes, I am fully aware of my nerdiness, ask me how much I care.) 😉

when someone you loves dies, it either roots your faith deeper in Jesus or it exposes the shallowness of your faith.

in all of this, if you are reading this…
know this:

AJ loved Jesus and was loved by Jesus and is in heaven right now worshiping our God only because of that belief.

the only good he would want to come of his death
is for you to know that truth and to find salvation because of that truth.
those of us who share that truth have bittersweet hope and joy at knowing that we are going to one day raise that banner high with him and forever worship our good God together…
but if you don’t really know what it means to be loved by Jesus in a real way, my prayer and I know AJ’s prayer would be that you would figure out that truth that he molded his life around.
AJ was a good man, but he was a great man because of his love for Jesus.
no amount of candlelight vigil’s, of “positive thoughts” are going to save you.
Jesus is the way…the only way…the only truth and life to us who know it and believe it.
I’d gladly talk with you if you need someone to.

AJ was my friend.
I miss him.
and I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with him this side of heaven.
and I know…I KNOW and so wonder in amazement at knowing that on December 9th, 2013 he heard the words
“well. done. my good and faithful servant…welcome home.”

2 (2)AJGAUSmexico


sc11-5sc11-4sc11-6sc11-9redemption SM BBQ (12 of 112)1



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Jared N Ashleigh Smith

    December 16th, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Beautifully said Jen. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Michael Massara

    December 16th, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Great Post. I had the honor of serving along side him at summer. Likable guy! Ecc 3… Seasons of Life. 🙂 Loss while not his original plan allows us to understand God’s sincere heart for the broken hearted. Jesus wept! 🙂 As I heard from the movie, Courageous. Losing a loved one is like learning how to live with an amputation. You heal but never the same. 🙂

  3. Debbie Tennent Bower

    December 16th, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Beautifully written, my friend!! Thank you for sharing your heart!

  4. Sherry Turk Simon

    December 16th, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    This is amazing – as AJ was. Thank you for your poignant thoughts…

  5. Tammy Hilgers Worhack

    December 17th, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Thank you Jen. He was an amazing young man.

  6. Lory Horn

    December 17th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Wonderfully written and heavenly inspired. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Christina Turner

    December 17th, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Amazing. Healing. Jen thanks for sharing.

  8. Jamie Semenak

    December 18th, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Wow, praise the Lord!

  9. eli | arizona senior photographer »

    April 23rd, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    […] to go for his session, my heart squeezed a little bit…I hadn’t been back there since his session. but I smiled, because it was […]

  10. much. »

    August 5th, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    […] in order to hear “well done“. “well done” will forever remind me of him and how this life is short…so the reclusive gollum in me was finally silenced and the resolve to get back in the […]

  11. derek | arizona senior photographer »

    February 10th, 2015 at 1:45 am

    […] are very few people that remind me of him…and this is one of the few. I’ve known of derek for a while…mostly in the […]

  12. 27 vases

    June 8th, 2017 at 7:53 am

    […] to my song. the song is very familiar to me. it was the song I listened to on repeat for weeks when he died…two years ago today… and I still listen to my song on repeat a few times a month when […]