Category Archives: Truly Loving

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In college, I spent a lot of time seeking meaning and purpose – in my life. In the world. 

I was curious. 

I had accepted Christ when I was younger, but hadn’t fully given my life to Him. 

I was unsure. 

I knew I had a big, gaping hole in my heart that nothing could satisfy. Nothing. Not personal relationships, material possessions, substances, food. Nothing. 

And believe me – I tried a lot of somethings to fill that hole.

Some of my attempts to fill the hole were healthy and some self-destructive. 

I went to a shaman and had a healing ritual performed. 

I went to an astrologist and had my chart created and read. 

I took college courses on religions around the world. 

I met with numerous counselors. 

I attended the occasional service at the Catholic Church. 

I did body detoxes and juice cleanses. 

I practiced yoga and intentional breathing. 

I numbed my mind and body with substances. 

I binged. I purged. 

I hooked up. 

I read self-help books. 

I followed bands. 

Seeking and searching. Searching and seeking. 

I don’t have time to get into my entire testimony here – and you probably don’t have the time to read it. 

The short of it is this, when I came to my lowest point – the point in time when I wanted it all to be over – the point in time when I was ready for my life to end because I had traveled down a rabbit hole of bad choices and didn’t know how to possibly climb out – at that point in time, I remembered the prayer I prayed at church camp in middle school. 

I clearly saw Jesus. 

I remembered Him. 

And I wanted to live. 

Slowly and surely over the course of the next few years, my life changed. The hole vanished. 

What drew me to Jesus? I knew no matter what I had done – He would love me. Nothing was too big or too awful for Him. He knew me. He saw me. He was with me in all of my seeking and searching. He knew about every bad choice I had made and would make. He was there. Patiently waiting for me to turn my eyes to Him. 

It was His love that drew me in. 

Not shame. Not condemnation. Not a checklist of things I needed to get right before He would accept me. 

I came to Him broken asking for His love to cover me. 

And I still come to Him broken. Every day. 

And do you know what? He still loves me. 

When I accepted Him, there wasn’t a contract I had to sign saying I would have it all together in x-amount of years or else our arrangement would be over. 

Nope. 

It was more along the lines of – I will forever mess up and He will forever love me. 

Do you know what else? I loved knowing God called His followers to love me and all of my imperfect mess. That gave me hope. 

And that’s the kind of Christ follower I want to be. Not one with a list of rules and obligations, but one who strives to love others well. Someone who another person can come to in their lowest moment and know they will be loved and accepted. Hugged and not rejected. 

All others. Not just those who are like me. Not just those who voted a certain way. Not just those who dress a certain way or have a certain amount of money in the bank. Not just those who believe just as I do. Not just those who live just as I do. 

ALL others. ALL. 

I will never, ever have it all together. And neither will you. Neither will anyone you encounter on this broken planet. 

Isn’t that comforting? 

Let’s strive to love each other well. Let’s embrace each other for our strengths. Our weaknesses. Our similarities. And our differences. 

Let’s be salt. 

Let’s be light. 

 Let’s show love to the broken-hearted. 

Let’s remember – we are all works in progress. We are all broken. 

Let’s meet each other in our brokenness.  

That is where we see beauty. That is where we see healing. That is where we see Jesus.

 

*This originally appeared on the Truly Yours Jen – Jennifer Thompson, writer Facebook page

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I can be a bully sometimes.

It’s not something I’m proud to admit. I mean, who would be proud to admit that?

There are plenty of things to be proud of. Like receiving a good grade on a test you studied hard for, completing a home project, running a marathon (or half, or 5K…..or for some, simply running at all), earning a degree, baking a cake from scratch  – the list is long and varies from person to person.

Being a bully is not on that list.

I don’t want to be a bully. It’s not something I intentionally do. Sometimes, it just happens. It doesn’t show up in the form of physical abuse – it arrives in the form of words.

“You can’t do that. What’s the likelihood you will succeed? Slim at best.”

“Why did you say that? That didn’t make sense.”

“You look old.”

“Look at your legs. You should do something about those. You should workout more.”

“I know you want to follow your dreams and do something you’re passionate about, but honestly – you’re not that good. You should seriously consider finding a real job and give all of this up. Who wants to hear what you have to say, anyway?”

“You’re not a good mom. You’re not a good friend. You’re not good at this. You’re not good at that.”

Ouch. Those words hurt.

Who’s the victim?

Me. That’s who.

I would never in a million years think to say these words to another human being. So why in the world is it okay to think them about myself? These words tear down. They are good for nothing.

Yet, at times, this is my self talk.

Thankfully, these thoughts don’t take up residence in my mind as often as they used to. I usually can recognize when I’m going down this path and nip it in the bud pretty quickly. Not so much when I was younger. When I was younger, I regularly fed myself the lie that someone was mad at me, or didn’t like me. That I said, or did, something wrong. That if I could do more, if I were a little smarter, a little more funny, a little more whatever than……what? I really don’t know.

Because I didn’t need to be more of anything. I just needed to be me.

That’s all I’ve ever needed to be.

That’s all any of us need to be.

If you find yourself heading down the path of negative self talk, I hope you can stop yourself and realize how wonderful you are. You are a unique person with special gifts and talents. You bring your special something to the world every day, just by being you. Not by pretending to be someone else. Not by living up to someone else’s standards. Not by trying to fit into a mold that doesn’t belong to you.

Just be you. Embrace the wonderful you that God created. Embrace your flaws. Your weaknesses. Your strengths. Your talents.

Strive to be the best you that you can be. Not the best someone else you can be.

You have gifts to give and people will be blessed by them.

God can use you.

You.

I am determined to silence the bully within. She doesn’t show up much, but when she does it is very sneaky. A quiet little lie being whispered in my ear. A lie I can choose to believe, or to reject.

And I’m choosing to reject.

It is time to replace negative self talk with truth.

I no longer need to be concerned with what others think of me. I am not defined by other people’s definitions of success. Some people will like me and others won’t – and that’s okay. My weight and age are just numbers. The number of likes on my posts or number of followers I have on my page does not define my worth or my talent. The kind of car I drive or clothes I wear doesn’t make me – me.

I am defined by God. I am His child. His daughter. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. He has created me to do good works that He has prepared in advance for me to do. He knows me. He has a plan for me. He loves me. Always.

It’s time to start living more for God, and less for the world. It’s times to start being less concerned with my own personal agenda, and more concerned with His.

Not only am I going to pay more attention to how I speak to myself, I am also going to pay attention to how I speak to others. I am going to try to use my words to build up, and not tear down. To encourage. To compliment. To love.

The more we use our words for good. The more we let people know how special and important and valued they are. The more we share the love of God. The more these things happen – the more I believe the internal bullies will be replaced by something beautiful and wonderful and good.

Words matter. To myself. To others.

I can be a bully sometimes, but you know what I decided? Not anymore.

I am developing a zero tolerance bullying policy.

Starting today. Starting now.

Who’s with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When someone you love is preparing to leave this world, life feels a little funny. Actually, a lot funny.

I’ve been in that funny place for a couple of weeks now and it has made me more acutely aware of what really matters and, on the flip side, what doesn’t really matter. It has also made me realize how precious life is.

It seems so painfully obvious, but incredibly easy to take for granted. The sun rises and sets each day. Every day we wake up and take our breaths. Our hearts beat. We move forward doing the things we do. It can all seem so monotonous at times, but it isn’t really.

It’s a gift. A beautiful gift.

And when you are saying goodbye to someone you love, the reality of the miracle of life and the fragility of life becomes intertwined in a way that is uniquely designated to those moments of loss and grief.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Indiana to say goodbye to my mom’s best friend, my godmother, my Aunt Lisa. Although not an Aunt by blood, she has still been family.

When the reel of my life plays back through my mind like a silent motion picture, I see her. When I was roughly four or five years young, I remember my dad leaving us for a period of time and the pain I felt from his absence. This is one of my earliest memories. I also remember my Aunt Lisa walking into the living room with the most magnificent colored pencil set I had ever seen. She knew how much I loved to color and she knew how much I needed those multicolored pencils in that moment. I remember her handing them to me and the joy I felt when I opened the case. What she brought me in that moment wasn’t just colored pencils – it was so, so much more.

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From one of my earliest memories to now, this is who Aunt Lisa has always been in my life. She has been a quiet, reassuring presence – bringing my family what we needed, when we needed it most.

I didn’t see her often, but that didn’t matter. Every Christmas and Birthday I would receive a card with money tucked inside and a hand-written message telling me to be sure I used the money to “treat myself” to something fun. She has five children, grandchildren, a large extended family, worked as a nurse and yet she still remembered. And the cards always arrived early. Never late.

I tried for a couple of years to send cards to my nieces and nephews on their Birthdays. After sending multiple cards a few months (not days – months) late, I realized this may not be my strength.

But it is definitely hers. One of her many.

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Seeing Aunt Lisa and my mom’s friendship over the years has taught me what true friendship looks like. It shows up whenever needed and stays as long as necessary. It doesn’t ask what needs done – it just does. Friendship of this depth and magnitude arrives with meals and hugs and words and silence. It is a strong presence bringing comfort and joy to anyone around who is fortunate enough to witness it.

Aunt Lisa has been there for the momentous milestones worthy of celebration and for the moments when you realize how precious and fleeting life really is. Birthdays, graduation, showers, weddings. She sat with us in the hospital for hours on end when grandpa was in a coma, after my stepdad had his heart attack, and when mom had her hysterectomy to remove the cancer. And when grandma was at home receiving Hospice care – preparing to, and eventually taking her final breath – Aunt Lisa was there.

And she has been there for the in-between. Playdates with her children when we were young. Meals at Halls restaurant. Parties thrown to celebrate holidays and other special occasions and parties thrown for no reason other than life being worthy of celebrating. Aunt Lisa was there.

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And now, Aunt Lisa is in her home, surrounded by her family – preparing to take her final breath. Every day, I wake up and go immediately to my phone to see if I may have missed a call in the night. When the phone rings, my heart skips a beat.

Is this going to be the call letting me know she is gone?

Life feels a little funny right now – but I guess that’s how it is when someone you love is preparing to go home. I am not sad for her. I rejoice for her. She is going to be with Jesus. She is going to a place with no pain or suffering. For her, I rejoice.

But as it is with death, it is for us that are left missing her that I cry. It is for her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her family, her friends – for my mom. For all of us who have been impacted by her loving, kind, funny, generous and steadfast spirit – I cry.

Thank you God for using Aunt Lisa as a conduit of your love. She is my godmother and has done her job well – with her loving, servant heart – she has helped to lift my eyes to you.

When she does go home to You, I imagine she will have quite the homecoming. When I said my goodbyes to her, I thanked her for showing me the love of God. I thanked her for being there for me. She looked into my eyes and said, “I will see you again” and as the tears streamed down my face, I told her I knew that to be true.

I will miss her presence on earth, but someday – I will see her again.

When my time comes, she will be there for my homecoming.

And as she prepares for her homecoming – I pray for those by her bedside. I pray for her husband, children and grandchildren. I pray God gives them the strength they need and that they feel His loving presence surrounding them. And I pray for Aunt Lisa as she prepares to leave her body and make her trip home.

I love you, Aunt Lisa.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? The earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:23-26

Until we meet again……

 

 

 

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I had a plan. My plan was to share a fantastic cookie recipe on my page today. I sat down to write and couldn’t find the words.

One of the ways I process and deal with things is through writing. Before the days of internet and blogging and typing out thoughts on the computer, I would take my pen to paper and fill pages of journals with words.

Sometimes it felt like my hand wouldn’t move fast enough.

My deepest thoughts and feelings would materialize on the lined pages and then be tucked away in a secret place with hopes that nobody would find them.

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It’s funny how I went from hiding journals to publicly sharing my thoughts.

The computer has become my journal and because of this – I couldn’t share my cookie recipe.

Not today.

My heart is too heavy.

Another shooting. More innocent lives lost.

Again.

It feels like the world is it’s own special brand of crazy right now.

Charlottesville. Las Vegas. Antioch. New York City. Sutherland Springs.

Violence. Tragedy. Loss.

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Horrific.

Senseless.

Over the years we have seen violence unfold in places that inherently seem safe.

These are the places I imagine people going when they are in need of help. Places where Safe House stickers would rest on the window – letting people know this is where they can flee for protection in the face of harm.

These safe havens – these places of warmth and safety and comfort don’t seem as safe as they once did.

When I kiss my children and wave goodbye in the morning as they head out the door to school – it does not seem that I should fear their lives be taken.

When I arrive to church on Sunday morning and stand to worship the Lord in song – it does not seem that I should fear our lives be taken.

When we go to the movies or to the mall – it does not seem that I should fear our lives be taken.

When we are walking the streets or playing at a park – it does not seem that I should fear our lives be taken.

But that fear is slowly starting to creep in. As I watch the news unfold, I can feel it bubbling slowly in my pit.

What if?

Yes, what if?

And then I realize – if I live my life with this ‘what if’ ruling my thoughts then I will become paralyzed. This fear will rob me of joy. This fear will keep me from living the life God intends me to live.

This fear has the potential to seep into my children’s lives if I am not careful.

The reality is, we all have a moment when we will take our final breath. It is inevitable. I don’t know when or how that moment will arrive for myself, for my family, for my friends. I don’t know. Only God knows and I cannot be afraid of the ‘what if.’

If I am letting fear control my thoughts and my actions, then these few people who have committed these horrendous acts have won.

I will not let them win.

I will not let the enemy win.

I know the battle is so much bigger than what we see.

I believe the words of the Bible to be true and I believe that every battle that takes place is really a battle in the spiritual realm.

Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

I believe in good and I believe in evil.

Even in the midst of these tragedies, God is at work and I will not lose faith. I will not lose faith in God’s goodness.

I will not be afraid.

My heart breaks for all of the people who have lost loved ones to these senseless, horrible, cowardice acts.

I pray for the families and friends of the victims whose lives have been forever impacted.

I pray for the lawmakers – that in the face of these tragedies they will see where change needs to be enacted and that they will be brave enough to make the necessary changes.

I pray for God’s protection over our country.

I pray that fear will not take root in our hearts.

I pray that this senseless killing will stop.

I pray it will stop now.

I sat down to write a cookie recipe and I couldn’t do it, so I typed this instead. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t what I intended to write, but it’s from my heart.

And really, if I think about it – that’s the best way for me to write anyways.

 

 

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The Importance of Response

*Sometimes I write things and then realize I hit publish a little prematurely. If you are wondering why the same post is ending up in your inbox again today – this one is a little different. After reflecting, I realized I didn’t quite say things like I had wanted to. Every once in awhile we need a do-over. This is my do-over. 

Oh my heart.

It feels like whenever I turn on the television, open my Yahoo account, log in to Facebook or read a headline somewhere – it’s almost too much.

The words I read, the images I see – they break my heart.

Our country seems a little more divided and a little more angry than I remember in my lifetime.

There is political discord, racial tension, terrorism and nuclear threats – to name a few.

And to top it off, the recent natural disaster, Hurricane Harvey, has wreaked havoc on the lives of many – leaving over 30,000 people without their homes, their communities, their towns – now living in shelters. As the waters recede and they head back to their homes to assess the damage, they are left  to wonder what will happen next.

What do you do with so much wreckage?

Photo courtesy of The Weather Channel

The new statistics that come in daily are mind boggling.

The images are gut wrenching.

The stories are hard to hear and the images are painful to see, but I am watching from a place of comfort – not out my window. I see the images flash by on my television, my computer screen, my device. What about the people who are there? What about the people who watched, unable to help, as people were swept away by the water?

What about the people whose lives have been turned upside down in an instant?

And it’s not just the hurricane victims my heart breaks for.

What about the people who were at the Charlottesville rally? What about the people who stood there watching as the car drove into the crowds?

What about the people who were injured? What about the woman who lost her life?

Photo Courtesy of New York Times

Sometimes it’s just too much to take in.

I wonder how to process it all? What to make of it? What to do about it?

My life may have not been directly impacted by these recent events in our country, but they have still left a mark. My heart feels topsy-turvy and upside-downy and like I want to do something.

And so I am going to do something. Because I can.

Don’t think for one second that how we respond to these events we see on the television, or read about on our newsfeeds doesn’t matter. Don’t think that because you are just one person you can’t make a difference in this broken world. Don’t think that you aren’t able to make a dent, make a change, make an impact. Because you are.

How we respond to these things does matter.

I am learning sometimes the best response for myself is silence. Sometimes the best response is for me to say nothing at all. Especially on Facebook.

 

Shortly after the election, I posted an article that highlighted some of my thoughts on what had transpired. Within moments, I had responses from people. Some in favor of the post. Others in opposition. I quickly hit the delete button.

Getting into a political debate on Facebook would only create lines of division. I knew that as strongly as I felt about my opinion, there were others that felt as strongly about their own.

Posting an article wasn’t going to change those opinions.

I realized in that moment as I deleted the post, that I didn’t want to get involved with these discussions on Facebook. For myself personally, there would be no benefit.

Only frustration. Only more division. More discord. None of which I want in my life.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t engaged in political debates with people. That isn’t to say that I don’t think people should speak up for what they believe – because I do. I have just decided that Facebook is not a great platform for me to share my political views.

And sometimes the best response is for me to listen. To try to put myself in the other persons shoes. To try to see things from their perspective.

 

The racism that has been rearing it’s ugly head lately is like a bad breakout. You may not know how dirty your face really is, until all of the pimples appear. Then you know you have an issue that needs dealt with – pronto. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before – you just couldn’t see it.

All of this racial ugliness has opened my eyes to the kind of person I want to be and the kind of person I don’t want to be. It has made me realize how ignorant I have been to the sufferings and oppressions of minorities in our country.

This has been going on for a long, long, long time. Unfortunately, I was just blind to it.

The recent events in our country have made me want to listen. To learn. To open my ears and my eyes. It has made me want to build more diverse relationships. People tend to be drawn to people who are just like them. It’s what we do. I don’t want to be that way anymore.

As a white woman in our country, I honestly don’t know what the best response is to all of this, but I do know that I want to start having more conversations. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to be a part of the solution in some way.

As part of the majority, if I want to help enact change, then I have a responsibility to listen, to learn and then respond.

And I do believe that while sometimes the best response for me is silence, there are other times when the best response is for me to speak out against the injustice I see in the world.

And when I choose to not be silent, when I choose to speak for justice – I must be sure I am speaking from a place of love. I am learning if I choose to respond to hate with more hate then I am no better than the people I am speaking out against.

There is such a thing as righteous anger. When there is injustice in the world, it is likely to make your blood boil. As it should.

When I saw the images and videos of the white nationalists marching in Charlottesville it stirred up anger and sadness and frustration and the reality of how incredibly ignorant I was to the racism that exists in our country.

A fire had been ignited. And when I heard people defending the actions of the white nationalists in any way – that fire burned bright.

I was angry.

But even in if the anger is righteous, even in the face of injustice, we are not called to respond with hate. We are called to respond with love. We are called to love our enemies.

It is easy to pray for the families of victims. It is easy to pray for the people who are suffering from injustice. It is easy to pray for those who are being marginalized and mistreated. It is much harder to pray for the person who caused the pain.

What about praying for the person who drove the car into the crowd?

What about praying for the other people who were there marching?

It is counter to our natural response – it definitely wasn’t my first response. Or second. Or third even. But over time, as I have thought about this I have realized that if we are called to love our enemies, these are the people we are called to love and called to pray for.

I can make a difference in this world by choosing to respond to even the most atrocious acts in love.

I believe we are capable each and every day of making small choices that will leave large, lasting impacts.

When we hear about the division in our country, we can pray. When we hear about injustice, we can pray. When we hear about terrorist attacks and international discord, we can pray.

When we hear about the devastation happening in Texas and surrounding areas, we can pray.

We should pray.

We can also make monetary donations. We can find out the greatest needs and send those items. And for some, you may be called to pack up your belongings and travel there to physically help in some capacity.

Whether you donate $5 or book a flight. Every little bit helps. Don’t think for one second it doesn’t.

We can all make a difference in this broken world. Our words, our actions, our response to the small things and the big things that happen in life – they matter.

The more that we choose to respond in love, the more we choose to love our neighbor as our self, the more we choose to listen and empathize, the more we choose to pray for our enemies instead of lashing out in hate – the more we will impact this world for the better.

We don’t have to be paralyzed by the headlines. We don’t have to be afraid of what we see. We can make a difference, even in the face of great disaster.

The remarkable thing is that if everyone does a little something, it becomes a whole lot of something. And that is when change happens. As we can see from the outpouring of love in our country toward the victims of Hurricane Harvey – our response matters and when we act in love, together, we can make a difference.

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Click on any of these links below to make a donation to help Hurricane Harvey victims:

The Red Cross

Americares

The Humane Society

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

The Texas Diaper Bank

Catholic Charities

Direct Relief

Matthew 25: Ministries

The Salvation Army

Save the Children

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-Dr. Seuss
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
Proverbs 10:12
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5: 38-48
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A Letter to My Children as They Head to School

To my sweet children,

You are so brave.

I know this move hasn’t been easy. I know at times you find yourself missing your friends, neighbors, classmates and school.

I would imagine life feels a little upside down right now.

It’s hard walking into a school for the first time down unfamiliar halls filled with unfamiliar faces.

It’s hard walking into the lunch room amidst the conversations and laughter. It’s hard to decide where to sit and who to sit next to – and when you finally do pick a place to sit, it can be hard to look someone in the eye and say, “hello.”

It’s hard to be in a new place you haven’t been before surrounded by people you don’t know.

It’s hard to be at recess and not know what to do, or who to play with.

It’s hard to leave the comfort of all that is familiar and enter into a sea of unknowns.

Yes, it’s hard. But do you know what?

You are brave. You are so brave. Here is how I know.

To my oldest:

I know it was hard on the first day when you stood alone at recess, but you didn’t let that stop you. The next day, you found someone to talk to. Each day, you will find more and more people. You will figure this out. You will make your way here. Just give yourself grace. Give yourself time.

Some days will be harder than others and that’s okay. Give yourself space to grieve when you need to. It’s okay to miss our old home. Also, give yourself permission to find joy here. That isn’t betraying our old home, or the friends we left. You haven’t lost your old friends, you are just finding more people to love.

I can see the look in your eyes when I drop you off in the morning. I know it is hard, but you’ve got this. Just be yourself, sweet girl. You are more than enough. Keep your positive attitude and before you know it, as impossible as it may seem, all that seems so foreign now will someday start to feel like home. You are so brave, 

To my second:

I know you were scared yesterday at the end of the day when you weren’t sure how to get to the pick-up line. When you walked out of the school with tears streaming down your face I wanted to scoop you up in my arms and run you back to the car, but I knew you wouldn’t like that very much. I knew you were trying to conceal your tears and all that attention would just make things worse. Even though I wanted to run to you, I resisted the urge and walked calmly instead.

That’s one of the hard parts about being a momma as your kids are growing. It’s hard to know when to give space and when to jump in, but I knew in that moment you wanted some space and I tried to give it to you as best as I could.  I’m glad that you felt safe enough to really let those tears come in buckets when we were in the safety of the car, together.

There may be times in the weeks to come when you feel lost or unsure of what you are doing or where you are going. Know that the teachers and other staff in your school are there to help you. They are for you and they want to see you succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. You will figure this out.

You have such a big heart and have already made a long list of friends in just a few short days. In fact, I will never forget when I picked you up from your new school on your first day – how you had to run back to give a new friend a hug. You are a little joy spreader. You’ve got this. Just keep being you. You are so brave.

To my third:

I know you miss home and your friends. I know lunch and recess have been a scary time for you. I see you trying hard to keep those tears in. Remember, it’s okay to cry. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to let those tears stream down your face and jump into the arms of someone who loves you and get lost in their cuddles and snuggles while you cry your heart out. Sometimes, the bravest thing to do is to cry. To be vulnerable. To let someone see your heart is hurting.

Before long, you will be excited to go to school. Just like you were before. It may take a little while to get there, but I believe you will. Look at what you’ve already accomplished!  In just three days at this school, you’ve already figured out how to hang upside down on the monkey bars with NO HANDS!  If you can do that in just three days, I am pretty sure you can do just about anything. You are so brave.

To my baby:

Sweet little boy. Today, when you climbed into the car with your Star Wars backpack and Super Mario lunch box you were so excited. You said you were a little nervous, but you hopped in the car with a determination and enthusiasm that made me excited for you. I hope you keep that enthusiasm and that excitement throughout life. Keep looking for the joy in the adventure. Keep facing new things head on just like you did today. You are so brave.


My sweet children, thank you for showing me what it looks like to be brave. I have been learning from you since the day you were placed in my arms. You teach me so many things about life that I never knew. I will be learning from you all of my days. I am sure of it.

It may be hard to be the new kid in a new school, but you can do this. You are doing it. Do you want to know something? This is hard for me too. I miss my friends and our old house. I miss our neighbors and the familiar streets. Do you want to know something else, even with all of that missing in my heart – there is an excitement too. It’s okay to feel both.

Just remember, regardless of what comes your way in life, always be who God made you to be. Never compromise who you are, or what you believe or know to be true in your heart, just to fit in. Be wonderful, fabulous, unique YOU.

Watching you face your fears has helped me to face mine.

We’ve got this. We can do it. One day at a time.

Together, we can be brave.

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Uplifted

Late Sunday evening, as I was driving in the dark, through the pouring rain, around the twists and bends with tears streaming down my face I thought, “Please. Just let me get there.”

The couple of weeks prior to our departure were exhausting, emotional and by far some of the best weeks of my life.

We were constantly surrounded and uplifted by friends and loved ones.

Friends who stopped by our home in the last days just to hug and talk and laugh and cry.

Friends who came to pray.


Friends who had us over for dinners and going away parties and family celebrations.

And in our final days when we needed places to stay, friends who opened their homes to our noise and chaos and plethora of bags and pillows and all that comes with opening your home to a family of six for the night.

Friends. Friends. And more friends.

Love. Love. And more love.

So much that my heart felt on the constant verge of bursting and my eyes felt on the constant verge of welling up and over into a pool of grateful tears.

We didn’t deserve all of this, but it was being poured on us in buckets. It was a picture of grace.

And then when I thought it possibly couldn’t get any better, that we couldn’t possibly feel any more love than we already had felt in the previous weeks – we walked into the home of our dear friends for our going away celebration.

We spent the next hours in the company of loved ones – laughing, crying and saying, “Hope to see you soon” – which sounds so much better than goodbye.

These days leading up to our departure and our final celebration served as a reminder for me. A reminder of what matters.

Relationships.

Relationships matter.


God is relational and He created us in His image. He created us with a desire to be loved and a desire to love. Loved for who we are in all of our imperfection. Pure, unconditional love – like the love God shows us. Gracious love.

People went out of their way time and time again to show us this kind of love. They took a moment from their own busy lives and busy schedules to pour into us.

Looking back on the last weeks spent in Indy, I needed this and my family needed this. More than we knew.

This time of love from friends and family filled my tank and also reminded me of how I want to live my life.

It reminded me of the importance of a text. A phone call. A card. A hug. A shared prayer.

It reminded me of the kind of friend I want to be and one that I oftentimes am not.

It reminded me of the importance of leaving margin, leaving space, leaving room for God to show me how He may want me to spend my day.

It reminded me of what matters.

I often get wrapped up in my own little bubble. My own list of to-dos has the potential to rule every minute of my well planned out, perfectly orchestrated day.

There is nothing wrong with calendars, to-do lists and schedules. In fact, those are wonderfully effective tools for living an organized life.

The problem for me is when the calendar is so full that I can’t see past my plan for the day. I start my day in my bubble and forget to stop and think about what may be going on in the lives of the people God has placed around me.

 

This kindness we experienced had a profound impact on me and has continued in our first days here.

Prior to our move, a sweet friend from Indy introduced me to a mutual friend of hers from college who lives in the small Tennessee town we now call home. She took the time  to introduce us via email and her friend was kind enough to invite me and the kids over the day before school started for some ice cream.

Her three children are all close in age to our three oldest. She said she was just returning from a long vacation, but she would love to have us.

 

Again, this made me stop and think.

She made space for us. School was about to start and I had to imagine things were hectic for her. We were complete strangers and she made space for us. She invited us into her home. She fed my children ice cream and she gave me a hug.

A complete stranger.

I want to live my life like this.

I know it won’t be long before our calendars become full again, but I hope to not forget the impact that the love of others has made in my life and in the lives of my family members. I hope to remember the importance of leaving space. I hope to remember the importance of keeping my eyes open to what is happening in the lives of those around me. Neighbors. Friends. Family. Strangers.

Late Sunday evening, as I was driving in the dark, through the pouring rain, around the twists and bends with tears streaming down my face I thought, “Please. Just let me get there.”

I was exhausted. I had cried many tears in the previous weeks, days, hours and minutes.

As I followed my family to Tennessee in the rental van with the Illinois license plate that said AM I found myself looking continually at the words, “I AM.”

It was a beautiful reminder of God with us. God carrying us. God leading us.

I was exhausted, but I was ready. It was time. Time to trust. Time to let go. Time to open my eyes to the bigger picture of what God may be doing in my life. In my husband’s life. In my children’s lives. Change isn’t easy, but I have to believe it will serve a bigger purpose.

I pray that as I begin this journey here I can love a little better. I pray I can trust a little more. I pray I can be the kind of friend that others have been to me. I pray I can live with space in my life. I pray the lessons I have learned in these weeks will be embedded deep in my heart. I pray they won’t be fleeting. I pray God will use me in this new space I occupy.

Please God. Use me.

 

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“Oh Shoot”

Yesterday evening, I received a phone call that made me fall to my knees and cry.  I knew this call would come.  That wasn’t the surprise. I guess I just hadn’t expected to receive the call so soon.

And even if I had expected that my phone would ring at that exact hour, my reaction would have been the same.  Longing.  Longing for more.

One more hug.  One more kiss.  One more I love you.

Just one more.

But that one more would never be enough.  Because when we love someone, we don’t want to have just one more of anything.  We want lots more. We want to be with them.  Here and now. With them.

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But, that is not how life works.  This life is temporary.  We all have a guarantee that one day will be our last.  We don’t know when that day will come, but it will.  And when it does, our loved ones will fall to the ground longing for more.

But that pain that makes the body crumple and the tears flow is, for me, often times accompanied by another emotion.  An emotion that seems contrary to, but somehow compliments, the heartache.

That emotion is hard to describe, but the closest word I have for it would be peace.

Peace in knowing that the one I love is truly in a better place.  Peace knowing that there is no more pain.  Peace knowing there is no more suffering.  Peace knowing that they are now at home.

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One of my favorite movies is Inside Out.  I love how it describes the developing emotions of a young girl going through significant change in her life. In the beginning, her emotions are simple. She would feel each of her emotions independent from one another. As she grows and changes, her emotions become more complex.  By the end, it is not just the isolated emotion of joy that she feels, or the isolated emotion of sadness, but instead a beautiful combination of the two.

This is how I felt in that crumpled moment.  I felt an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness in knowing I would never see my grandma again on earth, and at the same time a peace that all was how it should be.

My grandmother, Marjorie Alice (Hill) Lohman, who we all lovingly called Gammy, was 95 years old.  95 years wonderful.  95 years wise.  95 years stubborn.  And 95 years well loved.

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She was the master of the English language and taught me at a young age that you should never end a sentence with a preposition.  If she ever heard me say, “Where is it at?” She would yell, “Right before the AT!”

She knew the way things once were, and the way she believed they should still be, and she wasn’t afraid to let you know.  A man should take off his hat when he walks in the door, and a hat should under no circumstance be worn at the dinner table.  Hands should never be washed in the kitchen sink.  A table should always be set for dinner, even if you were just having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  And when you set the table, you better set it properly.

She loved reading, knitting, and the game show channel. She strongly disliked commercials and muted them instantly.  She loved wine spritzers (after 5:00 of course), bridge, golf, good food with good friends (no spice, please), and the occasional trip to the casino. And with the exception of golf, did all of these things until the very end of her life.

She was an artist. A teacher. A wife. A mother. A grandmother. A friend. She was my Gammy.

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Gammy spent her summers up north at her lake home on Walloon Lake, Michigan.  When I think of the Lohman family, I think of Walloon. Gammy would spend her summers there, and the rest of us would come and go throughout those months.  She would have a revolving door of family members.  As one family would leave, another would arrive.  We would enter her home with the anticipation of another week spent at Walloon.  We would bring with us our bags, our noise, our chaos, our joy, and most of all our love.

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When the week, or two, or more if we were really lucky, had come to an end we would gather our belongings into the car and prepare for another trip home.  Knowing we would return again next year.  Those who still remained would all gather on the front lawn to wave goodbye.

A week spent at Walloon would always come and go quickly, as most times spent in the company of loved ones at a special location do.  And even though the promise of next summer was ahead of us, that did not take away from the difficulty of saying goodbye.

With the car packed, we would all kiss and hug.  Inevitably, some would cry.  Those fortunate enough to have had their vacation, but unfortunate enough that it was now over, would pile into the car to make the trip home. The cottage sits on a giant oval, like a track. With two cottages on one side and two on the other.  Those who were leaving would make their way around the curve, and when they came to the straightaway they would honk and wave.  This was our tradition. Gammy would always be front and center waiting for this ritual to take place.  Sometimes she would even yell, “don’t forget to honk!”, as if any of us ever would forget.

For as long as I can remember, whenever someone drove away, tears would well up in Gammy’s eyes.  She would stand there while the car turned off of Hamilton Court, and watch it until it could be seen no more, and then she would turn and say, “Oh shoot.”

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She went out in style. She had just started hospice care and was told she had up to two months to live.  Anyone who knows Gammy knows she loves a good party.  So, that is what her kids decided to do. They were going to throw her a party.  She was taken out of hospice and brought to my dad’s house. We all gathered to tell her we love her.  It was her living wake.  Why wait until someone dies to throw a party?

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That night, when she was brought back to the facility and tucked into bed, I was told that she told the nurse that she “had made peace with everyone.”

The next day, I was informed that hospice had changed their time frame from two months to two days.  A few hours later, I got the call that she passed.  She was surrounded by the people she loved most in this world, her four children.

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She had her party, and she was ready to go home.

I can picture all of us standing on the lawn waving, and this time it is her turn to drive away.  I know she honked.  I know she waved.  I know she smiled.  I know she was ready to go.

Oh shoot.

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