Tag Archives: celebrate

“My Bursting Heart must find vent at my Pen” Part: 1


If I know what love is, it’s mostly because of her.

Several times the last few months I’ve reached for my phone to call her, only to remember I can’t. She’s dead. On the way home from a particularly devastating doctor appointment a couple months ago, I actually pulled out my phone and typed in her name, as if I could still reach her.  But it’s no longer her number. I looked at the phone and just placed it on the passenger seat next to me and proceeded to talk to her, as if she was still alive and on the other end of the line, because I needed someone to talk to, someone who knows me and loves me and was willing to listen. It felt so good to see her name on my phone, even if it wasn’t real. And a few minutes later when the ache of the emptiness of essentially talking to myself stung more than the reality of her being gone, I pulled over and deleted her name from my phone. It was time. I cried.

So this is what it means to be an adult. To have to keep going even when the world feels cold and lonely. Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sometimes, when one person is absent, the whole world seems depopulated.—Allphonse de Lamartine

Losing someone you love really affects you. It won’t magically go away. Sometimes there’s pressure on mourning, so you stop (or maybe never had the opportunity to, because realistically, mourning has privilege attached to it, and not everyone is privileged to be able to). But it stays buried deep down and becomes a deep hole of ache.

That’s the thing when someone you love, really love, dies. Instead of going into every fight with back up (whether it be an academic, illness, or some other feat that requires a strong sense of support), you have to go in alone. Often without a soul even knowing you’re in the battle.

I miss her in all the places and things we did together. I miss her in the movie theater, with my can of off brand soda and two candy bars she’d let me pick out at CVS. I miss her at the grocery store when I see the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and Oreos she bought for our sleepovers.

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.—Aeschylus

I miss her at Christmas, when she’d make the two of us lasagna and she always made me a stocking, filled with candy and little treats. I miss her at my old church, where we’d go to senior luncheons together (I could never pass up getting to hang out with all the older ladies.. and free lunch!). I miss Christmas shopping with her. She could out-shop me any day. I miss the smell of holidays in her house and the bright red lipstick that always left a little stain on my cheek when she kissed me (I sort of just miss being touched in general). I miss her on the roads she’d drive, our breakfast spot, her favorite restaurant, the pond she’d take me to.

Even places she’s never been, have memories of her. When I was in college, she was one of two people I ever received mail from. She sent me a package every semester. On each of the mission trips I went on, it caused her much worry that I would be leaving the country yet again, but I’d hear from all her friends how proud of me she was. It’s easier to miss someone at their cemetery because you’ve never been there together, but to miss someone at all the places and situations you were in together feels gut wrenching.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”— Morrie Schwartz

She always told me she loved me. She knew how to love, practically and in her words. She knew how to love ME… how I would feel loved, before I was even aware how I feel love, probably because we both felt love in the same ways. Now I have a hard time remembering the last time I audibly heard it. And maybe that’s another hard reality of being an adult now, that you don’t get to hear you’re loved very often. But I know how to give it and say it, and I will continue to, even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t hear it towards me. She taught me that.

She loved mightily.

“The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love.”— Henry Miller

No one has ever become poor by giving.
– Anne Frank

The anniversary of my grandmother’s death recently passed by. It was a quick day for me. I was pretty sick. I slept much of the day. I thought about her and still went about my remembrance celebration. This year, it was a peanut butter cupcake. I wrote my letter to her, because words mattered to her and I. I spent weeks trudging through the cards in various stores, trying to find the perfect one… because even though I have my own card business now, I wanted the perfect one, with the perfect meaning. It’s the only time in my life I can justify spending $6 on a card. And I sit at the bakery on the anniversary of her death, and I write her a note, part update, part longing, part grief. And I eat my cupcake, and I thank God that I had someone for a little while, and that He gave me it, her: stability, and warmth, and touch, and grace.

And I reflected about what parts of who I am actually came from her. I have never been like anyone I am biologically related, but this year, I knew I was like her in some ways. And I am so glad that some of her goodness carried over, to live on in me and through me.

She saw the best in me. And by seeing the best in me, she empowered me.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
— Kahlil Gibran




31 DAYS OF WRITING: Hoping, Healing, and Caring for those around us: Day 3


 Sometimes, often, I am overwhelmed by the heaviness of humanity and sin in the world. My heart sinks so deeply I sometimes think I can feel it in my gut, my innermost area. Compassion, I’ve learned, is a gift. Compassion also costs. I want to follow every.single.thing that tugs at my heart. I want to meet with every.single.person who is struggling. I want to meet every.single.need that I hear of. And when I can’t, I feel grieved.

I think brokenness, sin, the heaviness of humanity should grieve us. There is no possible way any one of us can meet each need we are encountered in a given hour, let alone a day. Grief is the only possible response for me. Grief for how life ought not to have been.

And then there are these moments, sometimes when I do have the capacity to meet a need, that I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to be with someone, show up for something, or share a piece of my story that connects with another. These moments are glimpses of what capture the beauty of humanity, of working towards peace and togetherness that I imagine and hope heaven will be like.

But if I am honest, it’s the times when I don’t meet the need right away, when I am not sure God wants ME to be the one, but rather a part, in some capacity, of seeing healing. That happened today. Today, one of my soccer students, who has a lisp that often makes her barely understandable, spoke words of encouragement to our team, and they listened and applauded her. The team applauded her. She often has panic attacks because of the fear of letting people down, often because she’s not easily understood. Her captains now are the ones who help her through each panic attack. Not myself. She hasn’t had one in a week. Unheard of for her.

Another student who does not have a typical soccer body and really struggles in the sport, started in the game due to lack of alternatives. The captains have been taking turns running laps with this particular young lady each practice as she finishes far later than the rest and barely can do a light jog. Seeing the captains doing this, the other teammates have begun to loop back around and run with her as well, encouraging her every step of that last lap, and taking on an additional lap themselves. Last week said student realized she could ACTUALLY run without falling. For the first time in her life, running is so fun for her, especially with teammates by her side.  In the game, this student was an MVP. Not.Even.Joking. She punted the ball. She blocked. She tackled. She attacked the ball and defended the goal and owned her position.

There are these times, too, when we see such goodness in humanity, such wholeness and healing coming from places I would never have expected. Even though I want to meet every need, help every person, I can’t. I’m not supposed to. Sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of the way and let others who have some additional capacity enter in and experience the richness of those moments together. Those are the images I want to capture in my mind and hold onto, images of humanity and of conquering, of looking fear in the face and continuing to go, with a team cheering on. Sometimes God wants me to play a part, an important part in the lives of others. Other times he just wants me to watch, capture and record the moment, and thank him that even though times may feel heavy, it’s being redeemed, one day will be whole. Until then, I will have glimpses.

31 Days of Writing: Capture

10 Things I learned in September


The What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.” Today is my third time joining with

10 Things I Learned in September:

  1. I can do far more physically than I thought: I am coaching a JV girls soccer team. WHAT?! I have not played since I was 13 and injured myself during a non-soccer activity. I could not tell you how many players were on a field or what the position were, let alone how a game runs. But I’m doing it! And I am finding I have incredible power kicks and foot work, even if I had to throw speed out the door years ago.
  2. There’s always beauty in each person I come across, even when it doesn’t fit my perspective of what beauty is.
  3. Shimmery deep red nail polish is NOT a fall color: I got a pedicure recently. It was a late birthday gift. I chose this deep shimmery red thinking it would be like a fall red color. Wrong. I look like a Christmas decoration.
  4. I love bacon, but not on donuts: Tried my first maple bacon donut from the #1 donut shop in Massachussetts. It was good. I just prefer my bacon and donuts separate I think.
  5. A freshly cleaned and made bed is near heavenly: I rarely make my bed. It takes a lot of work. Recently I washed and cleaned it and made it and it is so delightful to get into every night. Who knew how nice crisp sheets are?
  6. Division: Everyone who lives in America (or is Christian for that matter) does not see everything the same. But if you find yourself upset at someone’s outlook…that may need to be the very person you build a relationship with. Division is to be expected when people aren’t developing meaningful relationships with others outside their culture.
  7. Good friends are the spice of life: “You know these are your life friends when you haven’t seen one another in years and can still hold a conversation as valuable as when you said “bye” the last time”: I saw some friends this month that I hadn’t seen in years upon years. It was fantastic. The hope and encouragement and sisterhood I felt with them was so needed.
  8. Cultivating a gentle heart is ridiculously hard.
  9. I need older women in my life: I met with a woman this month, and I must have wept buckets. I did not intend to, I just did. She was so calm and fun, settled in her own skin and grateful to now be thought of as “an older woman”. It’s a title she claimed with honor. That’s the type of person I want to become, someone aged to gentleness, prone to listening, prayerful in speech, quick to laugh.
  10. Ganache & chocolate chip babka: HEAVEN in my mouth!

My people, they aren’t extraordinary


I know we aren’t supposed to choose favorite people.. or at last I’ve been told. But I do. My favorites aren’t usually well known or popular. Even my most favorite kids I’ve ever worked with had some pretty intense struggles and behaviors- and you guys I wanted to adopt them (and still do) and maybe I will. Some of my most favorite people in the Bible aren’t the ones who you’d think. They aren’t the Ruth’s or Deborah’s or even Priscilla. My favorites tend to be Naomi, and Lot’s wife, and even Jezebel.

Maybe because they aren’t big, or well known. They aren’t very prized or cherished or admonished. Maybe because we don’t know, we really do not know what their lives were really like, what lead them to the decisions they made, how things could have been different for them or even how THEY would have explained their choices. Maybe they think much more like me, perceive this challenging and difficult world similarly as I. Maybe life was really difficult, people hurt them, others left. Maybe they grieved horrifically in ways that few others could even try to imagine, let alone relate to. Because that’s how I feel, and it’s not too hard for me to imagine they could have, too.

So my favorite people, they aren’t extraordinary. They have no super strength emotions or vitality. The are very defeat-able, have big deficits, and ache for things beyond their control of obtaining. One of my most favorite people was my grandmother.

Her name was Shirley. I owe any normalcy of a childhood to this dear woman. From giving us normal, regular meals, to movies and beach/pool days and toys, she sacrificed so my sisters and I could have some semblance of what our peers had. And not just in physical ways, but emotionally. She’s the only woman I can recall hugging me. She kissed me goodnight during out sleepovers and walked us to bed. That was a foreign concept to me. She let us pick out special things and asked us questions, like if we liked a specific food or movie, what we learned in school, how sports or art were going.

My grandmother smelled of musty sweet perfume and red lipstick. She loved velour and elastic waste pants, but man was she classy for an older women! Her skin was soft and she loved elephants. She had amazing stories of her childhood and family, of life during war and poverty, of being the oldest of 5 kids and of caretaking for her mother in her mother’s last years of life. Grandma Shirley was kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and sacrificial. She loved her friends as family and her family all the same. I loved to watch her relationships, the ease with which she connected with others. And she loved to talk on the phone (I did not get that trait).

My grandmother is the only person who ever asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. She used to say she believed I could be whatever I wanted. When I was really good in the artistic arena, she always complimented, same with sports and music. She never pushed me, but just believed in me, believed I was more the sum of my situation (which was difficult to say the least). As I was older as a teenager and no longer was able to live with my parents, she’d drive to wherever I was living to pick me up at least two weekends out of the month. She’s always end our time together with some “spending money”, and baked goods for whichever family I was staying with. Even those families came to love Grandma Shirley. She always showed up when she said she would. She loved to see me.

She cared well for her friends. Her friends loved  me. I often stopped to visit them in her apartment complex before entering my grandmother’s home. At her funeral, dozens of her friends hugged me and wepted. I told each of them stories that my grandmother had shared with me about them or our stories all together. I reminded them how important they were to her and how grateful I was that she had such wonderful friends. My grandmother was social like me, but also introverted too. She loved people deeply and individually and with all that her heart was able to.

When my grandmother passed away, I was immediately ushered into some kind of care taking role for others. I was even asked to give the eulogy and officiate the ceremony (the perks of being the only family member in ministry). It wasn’t until a couple years later that things died down enough in the relative drama front to feel like I longed for her, grieved her. She was my favorite. I know I was her favorite too. She began to follow Jesus a few years before she died. I celebrated a lot that Easter.

It’s been a couple more years since then. I celebrate her birthday each year. She always celebrated me in whatever way she could. So each year on her birthday, I head somewhere and I buy two cupcakes. I pick out a birthday card and I write her a letter. And then I eat both our cupcakes. Because I know she’d be happy I did. And my heart stays soft in it’s grief, even when I can’t remember what she looked like. And each Thanksgiving, the anniversary of the stroke that eventually killed her, rolls by I remember that holiday that I found her-the precious couple weeks I took the 50 minute drive out to her hospital daily to feed her and read her a Francine River’s novel nightly, and I bake her brownies and mail them to someone I know could use a little package surprise. Because that’s what she did for me. And I honor her memory and role in my life in such a way. And I write her another letter. Because words mattered to both of us.

Five Minute Friday: Favorite

And when a season turns unexpectedly into years, you wonder if you will ever accomplish anything, let alone your dreams.


I recently watched my first college graduation. I felt sad and excited. I knew some of how much it takes to get a college degree. I knew some of how hard this journey had been for her, the ups and downs, the starts and stops of college life, financial pressure, adulthood coming at you too fast, requiring you to take a break in your education for a season. And when a season turns unexpectedly into years, you wonder if you will ever accomplish anything, let alone your dreams.

I watched her, them. All several hundred of them walk in their dark blue cap and gown. Saw families and friends and a whole lot of excited people celebrating.

There were flowers. I overheard people discussing celebratory meals and graduation parties. Blue gown after blue gown that walked up the stairs, across the stage, and down the stairs. College graduates.

I did everything right. I went to college 12 hours away from where I grew up to get out of my comfort zone. I worked hard and had most of my undergraduate education paid for. I received outside scholarships, high school scholarships, federal and college scholarships. I worked in college. I spent my weekends traveling in ministry. I worked summers, I interned, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I was sick. I was constantly under pressure to figure out how I would provide for myself. Where would I stay for winter or summer break during those college years? Would I be alone during the holidays? Did I want to be alone? Who’s family photo would I take on Christmas day (because they always ask the “guest”, who’s not in the family, to take the family photo. Please stop that.).

I never got to walk in a cap and gown. Never received that graduation picture or party. I did graduate from college, twice actually. Almost three times now. But I never got to celebrate it. Never had anyone cheer me on.

Recently a relative commented that they had no idea I even graduated, let alone with nearly two master’s. I’m not sure anyone even knew it happened. I was a wallflower. I walked a quiet path.

Looking back it seems like one of the more challenging obstacles I faced wasn’t completing a degree. It wasn’t 20 page papers written during the weeks of hospital stays, blood transfusions, IV treatments. It wasn’t navigating group projects from the confines of my dorm room during flu season when everyone else ran around campus like nothing.

The most challenging obstacle wasn’t my health, even though I was scheduled for major surgery the day after what would have been my 2nd college graduation and health being the reason I had to leave my undergrad studies early and finish from home. The challenge that gripped me, that I never knew I was facing, was realizing that I was worth celebrating. I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up if I walked in the ceremony. And it cost $100. $100 is a lot to pay when you $60,000 in medical debt, jobless, homeless, and just hoping for the generosity of a friend’s spare room to get you through until you can afford your own place again, at 21 years old.

As I sat in this room full of hundreds of soon to be graduates in blue caps and gowns, a part of me felt privileged to celebrate a piece of their history. Part of me wished I had tried harder to get that $100, to know what it felt like to be celebrated like that. Even though there were twinges of grief, it was such a privilege to be a part of this, to celebrate.

Friend to me, “I have been thinking about how I got here. And I realize that a lot of people helped me get to this place through support. I want to celebrate them too. I want to celebrate you.” And she handed me a note. A thank you note. And we celebrated. Together.


FMFParty: Blue

28 things on my 28th


During my last year of college I was partnered in ministry with a girl I didn’t know. We both looked at eachother and wondered how this was going to work… she admittedly had many more hesitancies than I did….

I was tan skinned, dark hair, she was light skinned, blond hair. I dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirt most days, she had pearls and rings and several outfits to match each. I wore flip flops year round, she wore uggs. I slept every couple of hours due to being chronically sick and was up by 5:30 each morning, she needed 8 hours of sleep and enjoyed sleeping in. I had never used a blow dryer before and she blow dried her hair and used a curling iron in ways I wish I knew how. She came from an intact 2 parent ministry home, and I, well, I didn’t have anything remotely like that. She had traditions and warm feelings around holidays. I didn’t. She’d call her parents to debrief about her day. I called my pastor a couple times a month. She enjoyed going to starbucks and the gym. I wanted to roller blade and shoot nerf guns. In fact, that’s how she met me. She walked into our dorm room to move in and I was in roller blades speeding down the hall shooting nerf guns. To say she was nervous about rooming with me was an understatement. I judged her, too.

This roomy and I have kept in touch over the years. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. We see each other every few years. Recently she shared her testimony in a church service and each time she does that, she calls to remind me how much of an impact I’ve had on her. You see, our one year rooming together was hard, not because it was hard to live with each other, but because we learned a lot that required us to grow and see things in ways neither of us had before.

One of the biggest things I started to learn from my roomy was how to celebrate. I celebrated nothing formerly. It felt awkward and strange. It wasn’t a big part of my life growing up and it wasn’t known to me. I was often sad that there weren’t many celebrations but it was a normal piece of my life I had accepted. Then I met Stephanie, my roommate.

This girl celebrated everything… a finished paper, a good grade, making it to class on time…  birthdays, birthdays are a big deal to her. It was so special to celebrate my birthday with her that year. I still have her card. I acted like my birthday wasn’t a big deal, but man did I learn a lot about celebrating birthdays and celebrating people through her. I felt what it was like to be special. She has a way of doing physical acts that resonate with a lot of love.

The next year I was living with my pastor and his family because I was too sick to stay at school. Stephanie flew up from our school to surprise me for my birthday. It was a very special birthday. I felt loved. I felt special. We spent a lot of time laying in bed (because that’s mostly all I could do), but it was so nice that she celebrated me where I was at.

Birthdays are hard for me still. One of the hardest things for me to celebrate. This year brings many other complications that add to the grief season I am in. But I am reminded of how special it can be. Some of the few birthday memories I have are low key and personal and special, like my birthdays with Stephanie. I am a sentimental person. Birthdays, to me, are more about intentional relationships and being surrounded by people who care and love me. I am all about purpose. I don’t do much if it doesn’t seem purposeful. Add some sentimentality into that and I feel very fulfilled and loved.

This year my birthday will have some special moments and some sad moments. And as I think of how I want to remember it, I decided it would be appropriate to celebrate in a way I enjoy the most, by giving. So this year, my 28th birthday, I’m going to do 28 everyday, extraordinarily normal  intentional prompts of love in my community, my friendships, and for those I love, to celebrate the purposeful and sentimental pieces that make up a lot of who I am and to be reminded that a lot of people have loved me, cared for me, and helped me to grow.

28 Things for 28 Years

  1. Write a snail mail encouragement to each of my former roommates (I’ve had over 30, not including my little sister…)
  2. Bake for my neighbors
  3. Mail baked treats to a friend who’s hurting
  4. Pay for the person behind me’s fast food anonymously
  5. Surprise a friend with flowers during a hard season
  6. Write a thank you note to the EBT/Food Stamp dept (because they could really use some cheerying up)
  7. Thank someone I know who works in a social service field
  8. Drop off flowers to a wife who recently lost her husband
  9. Give each of my softball girlies a note encouraging them to befriend someone different than themselves
  10. Spend an hour collecting strayed grocery carts in the parking lot
  11. Send a note of thanks to my doctors, because they are awesome
  12. Make some frozen meals for my mom friends to eat on days when they are too sick to cook
  13. Do each of my roommates chores for a week
  14. Remind my little sister she’s a good mom
  15. Write a note on the anniversary of a death and remind that person that they are seen and remembered
  16. Take some city kids to the ocean
  17. Write a poem to someone who’s impacted my life
  18. Pack a lunch and give it to someone else
  19. Leave a sticky note that will make people smile in a few bathrooms
  20. Remind 5 people I am the closest with how much they mean to me
  21. Write to the former people I coach with and let them know how much I’ve appreciated what they’ve taught me
  22. Compliment someone I don’t know
  23. Leave a tip that’s bigger than the bill
  24. Thank my post-lady
  25. Offer some garden veggies to neighbors
  26. Write a thank-you to a new foster mom
  27. Give away books I’ve read
  28. Tell my disability facilitator how helpful he’s been (seriously, he has been).