Red Hair Does Care

Red Hair WineI hung up my phone and squealed for five minutes straight. My girls watched, wide-eyed as I jumped around the kitchen.

I was excited.

“Red Hair is coming! Red Hair is coming!” I chanted over and over.

Four days after we were married my husband, Chris, and I packed up a smallish sized U-haul van and moved to Charlotte, NC. We lived in Charlotte for four years, and while we were there God brought a host of special friends into our lives. One of these friends was Steven, who we affectionately call Red Hair, and his lovely wife, Rachel.

When we first met Steven and Rachel they, too, were newlyweds and had just moved into our apartment complex. We invited them to dinner, to church, to Bible study and in no time at all a friendship was forged.

Together we walked through trials, and heartaches, and loss. We ate together, laughed (a lot) together, and cried together too. We got dogs together, then babies.

When the time came for us to leave Charlotte and relocate to Northern Virginia one of the hardest good-byes we experienced was in the hugs, tears, and whispers of “Don’t worry, we’ll visit soon,” that were solemnly shared between us.

Eight years, three moves, and six children have filled our lives since that tearful good-bye. While living in Virginia, Chris and I visited as often as we could but when we eventually moved to Michigan our visits became few and far between.

Instead of dinner, church and Bible study our relationship, these days, is kept alive through cards, emails, and talks on the phone. Our last visit with Steven and Rachel came in the summer of 2011, almost three years ago.

And then it happened: A fateful call from Steven lit up my phone.

“Hey, Jennifer?”

“Steven?” I said in disbelief.

“Hey, are ya’ll going to be home this weekend?”

“Yeeesss,” I dragged out the word, wondering, hoping. “Are you coming to Michigan?”

“Yeah boy,” Steven said. I could hear the smile in his voice.

Steven’s work was flying him to Detroit to train with another employee. His plan was to fly in Sunday afternoon, rent a car, drive two hours to our house, spend the evening, then drive two hours back to Detroit where he’d be needed for work on Monday.

It would take a lot of effort on his part but this was a visit none of us were willing to miss.

“Don’t tell Chris,” Steven said. “I’d like to surprise him.”

“I won’t breathe a word. See you Sunday,” I said and set down the phone.

The squealing and jumping ensued. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I had won the lottery…Red Hair was coming!

When Steven arrived on Sunday he came with a bottle of red wine for me and a six pack of Two Hearted Ale for Chris. It was a throwback to our time in Charlotte, and coming from Steven it was perfect.

For hours we talked and laughed. The only thing missing was Rachel and the kids. We ate pizza, told stories, and shared memories that never grow old. We basked in the joy of friendship, in the warmth of a forever friend.

When Steven left we were sad to see him go. We invited him back with implicit instructions to bring his family next time, and thanked him again and again for coming. It’s hard to say good-bye when your next hello is a question mark but as we watched our red-haired friend get in his car and drive away all we could feel was thankful for the time we’d shared together.

“God did this just for me,” Chris said. “Out of all the people in Steven’s company they picked him to fly to Michigan. This wasn’t a coincidence. This was God.”

I know Chris was right. After experiencing our share of broken relationships and friendships gone haywire, this visit from Steven reminded us that friendships do last, that there are those who remain closer than a brother.

For years we’ve had a long running joke with Steven. After he unknowingly snubbed Chris at party we teased him and coined the phrase “Red Hair don’t care!” But when Chris opened the door to Steven’s broad grin all he could say through his shock and surprise was, “Red Hair DOES care!”

As I washed out my bottle of red wine a few days after Steven’s visit I couldn’t help but remember how good it was to see him. I decided to keep that bottle. I placed it in our room, a reminder of what God did for Chris and me by bringing Steven to Michigan, by bringing him into our lives.

Friends like Steven and Rachel are more than just friends. They are an expression of God’s heart for relationship. They are an expression of God’s heart for us.

They are a reminder that Red Hair does care…

…and that God cares too.

Birthday Gifts (A Message from the Archives)

Happy Wednesday, Sweet Friends!

Today is my Tenley’s second birthday, and while my family celebrates her special day, I can’t help but look back to last year and remember, afresh, what God has done to grow and mend my mother’s heart.

After Tenley’s difficult delivery left me in a struggle with loss, depression and sadness, God prompted me to write about everything I was feeling. Believe me, I didn’t want too, but His promptings eventually became unavoidable and, in the end, the words I poured onto the pages of my journal evolved into the four part series that started this blog.  

I share this now, because it is a testiment to what God has done for me, and to what I know He longs to do for all of us. I hope you enjoy this mid-week post and no matter what you face this week, I hope that you, too, can find for yourself a gift worth celebrating.

Birthday Gifts ~ Originally Posted on October 7, 2012

With all the amazing truth God has shown me over the last few weeks, I thought for sure I was ready to tackle Tenley’s first birthday. “I think I’ve finally come to terms with Tenley’s big day,” I told my friend, Amanda. Kindly, Amanda simply smiled her “We’ll See” smile and opted not to argue.

I’m thankful to have a friend, like Amanda who sometimes knows me better than I know myself. In the days that followed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that God and I still had some work to do.

Two days before Tenley’s birthday, my emotional dam broke open. After arguing with my husband over something insignificant, I found myself angry and upset. To my surprise this petty argument was all it took for my defenses to crumble. Pent up tears started to fall, slowly at first for the frustration I felt towards Chris, then quickly for my heart’s true ache. Before I knew it I found myself weeping for the unavoidable arrival of Tenley’s birthday and for all the longing I have felt this year.

“God, why?” I asked. “After all you have taught me, why do I still feel this way? Why do I still feel so deeply upset?”

“Because it’s not just about Tenley, and it’s not just about the day she was born,” He gently replied.

Suddenly, I realized through God’s tender reply, that all the grief I have been feeling over Tenley’s birthday and the loss of a natural delivery is not just about these recent experiences. Rather, this grief is old and lasting.

It’s about the time in high school when I didn’t make the basketball team. It’s about the time I failed to finish my first marathon. It’s about my decision to not finish college and the book it’s taken me five years (and counting) to finish. This grief is about all my significant failures. It’s about each and every time I’ve felt defeated or have failed to accomplish something precious and important.

Finally, the nagging ache in my heart made sense. Some of these experiences happened to me when I was very young, and all of them have awaited their chance to be tended by God’s loving care for a long, long time. In a sweet instant, in my very own water to wine miracle, my tears turned into laughter, and for the first time in 363 days of sorting through the desires of my heart I felt at peace.

For so long now, I have looked at this season of desire, loss, and sadness as something I had to get over, as something I had to let go. By validating my feelings of grief, I also feel that God is showing me that these experiences are not something I have to let go or get over. They are a part of me, a part of who I am. Each and every one of them has shaped me, formed me. How could I let them go?

Rather than dwelling on them, rather than staying here, stuck in grief, I must, by God’s grace and guidance keep going. I must continue to bring the aches of my heart to God. I must find my security and comfort in Him and His truth. I must allow myself the grace to grieve my losses, defeats, and failures. And I must continue to desire, to trust in the plans He has for me, and sow the seeds He plants in my heart.

Throughout the scriptures God instructs His people to set up memorial stones as a testimony to the way He has worked and provided for those He calls His own.  Tenley has grown a lot this year, but sometimes I wonder if I have grown even more. This growth has only been possible through God’s work in my life, and I feel the need to remember this year, to testify about what He has done.

As Tenley’s birthday arrives, I will hold her, love her, and cherish her. With every smile, every kiss, every hug, every chance to watch her sleep, every second lost in her deep blue eyes, I will remember my year of desire, loss, and growth. Tenley is my memorial stone, my testimony and sign of what God has done in my life and in my heart.

When the time comes, I’ll lean in close to Tenley’s cheek and help her blow out her first birthday candle. As I watch her eyes grow wide with the excitement and joy only a birthday can bring, I will give honest thanks in my heart to God, creator of desire and healer of hearts, for all I have been given: A beautiful daughter. A mended heart. Two precious gifts worth celebrating.

Thank you for remembering and celebrating with me. I’ll be back on Sunday with a fresh post and the winner of last week’s give-a-way.

Re-member

NetI’ve been thinking a lot this week about fathers, and daughters, and memories.

Partly because Father’s Day is this Sunday.

Partly because a dear friend lost her dad this week to pancreatic cancer.

And partly because my husband tore down my old basketball goal on Wednesday night.

Perhaps you’re wondering what a basketball hoop has to do with fathers, daughters, and memories. Well, in the case of my dad and me, this particular basketball hoop meant everything.

My mom said it was time for the hoop to go. In her mind the house would boast better “curb appeal” without it. My husband jumped on board, happy at the chance to save $100 in removal fees and an excuse to be destructive.

But for my dad and me, it was a sad decision. As I watched my husband pull and tug at the rusted poll and half rotten net, all I could see was a thousand memories being torn down as well.

Back HoeIt’s not like we even play anymore, my dad and I. To tell the truth it’s been years since we’ve challenged each other to a game of H-O-R-S-E or Around the World. A combination of my dad’s bad shoulder and my interest in other things brought our days of heated rivalry to an end long ago. But despite this fact, our memories remain and, in our hearts, we hate to see what has become a symbol of our time together, torn down and thrown away with the rest of Wednesday’s trash.

So what do memories like these mean to a daughter?

I can see us now, my dad and me, on warm spring nights, in the heat of summer or the chill of fall. Nearly every night we were out there, firing away, “Sweat Buddies.” It was fun, it was joy, it was a thrill to see my dad so proud of me whenever I made that net go swoosh or even prouder still when I missed shot after shot but refused to quit for the night until I could end with a made basket.

To me these memories are priceless because more than anything it was my dad and me together. Every time my dad put his wild schedule aside to spend time with me in the drive way, shooting hoops, he showed me that his love for me was wilder than any deadline, report or phone call that was waiting for his attention.

Isn’t this what we all need to know, that the love of our Father is wild? And when we stop and take the time to make memories with the people we love isn’t this what we’re saying? “My love for you is wild. Wilder than everything else.

This is what memories mean to a daughter.

I’m not sure why and how but there is something unique and special about memories made between fathers and daughters, and now that I have girls of my own, I love to watch my husband follow in the footsteps of my dad.

Whether it’s a fishing trip, a walk around the block, or a family movie night with “pop-pop-corns,” I am proud and privileged to have a husband who refuses to let the demands of his work come between regularly scheduled time with his girls.

Time moves quickly, but memories hold time still. And the memories we make today are what will “re-member” us in the future.

HoopAnn Voskamp writes about this term, “re-membering.” In her simple yet profound way she explains how the act of remembering God’s goodness to us, through the practice of thanksgiving, draws the fractured pieces of our minds and hearts together and makes us whole in Him.

I think it’s the same with memories, with good memories of the time we share and the people we love. Whether it’s with our children, our family, our friends, the special moments we share today, both big and small, will draw us together tomorrow. When our lives become fractured by time and distance, memories re-member us.

As sad as I am to see our basketball hoop go, I am thankful for the memories that remain. Precious memories that time, distance, and the general unraveling of a life can never take away.

And just in case you’re wondering what my dad is getting for father’s day: A half rotten basketball net that screams, “My love is wild too.”

My Journey of Desire (Part 3): Birthday Gifts

With all the amazing truth God has shown me over the last few weeks, I thought for sure I was ready to tackle Tenley’s first birthday. “I think I’ve finally come to terms with Tenley’s big day,” I told my friend, Amanda. Kindly, Amanda simply smiled her “We’ll See” smile and opted not to argue.

I’m thankful to have a friend, like Amanda who sometimes knows me better than I know myself. In the days that followed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that God and I still had some work to do.

Two days before Tenley’s birthday, my emotional dam broke open. After arguing with my husband over something insignificant, I found myself angry and upset. To my surprise this petty argument was all it took for my defenses to crumble. Pent up tears started to fall, slowly at first for the frustration I felt towards Chris, then quickly for my heart’s true ache. Before I knew it I found myself weeping for the unavoidable arrival of Tenley’s birthday and for all the longing I have felt this year.

“God, why?” I asked. “After all you have taught me, why do I still feel this way? Why do I still feel so deeply upset?”

“Because it’s not just about Tenley, and it’s not just about the day she was born,” He gently replied.

Suddenly, I realized through God’s tender reply, that all the grief I have been feeling over Tenley’s birthday and the loss of a natural delivery is not just about these recent experiences. Rather, this grief is old and lasting.

It’s about the time in high school when I didn’t make the basketball team. It’s about the time I failed to finish my first marathon. It’s about my decision to not finish college and the book it’s taken me five years (and counting) to finish. This grief is about all my significant failures. It’s about each and every time I’ve felt defeated or have failed to accomplish something precious and important.

Finally, the nagging ache in my heart made sense. Some of these experiences happened to me when I was very young, and all of them have awaited their chance to be tended by God’s loving care for a long, long time. In a sweet instant, in my very own water to wine miracle, my tears turned into laughter, and for the first time in 363 days of sorting through the desires of my heart I felt at peace.

For so long now, I have looked at this season of desire, loss, and sadness as something I had to get over, as something I had to let go. By validating my feelings of grief, I also feel that God is showing me that these experiences are not something I have to let go or get over. They are a part of me, a part of who I am. Each and every one of them has shaped me, formed me. How could I let them go?

Rather than dwelling on them, rather than staying here, stuck in grief, I must, by God’s grace and guidance keep going. I must continue to bring the aches of my heart to God. I must find my security and comfort in Him and His truth. I must allow myself the grace to grieve my losses, defeats, and failures. And I must continue to desire, to trust in the plans He has for me, and sow the seeds He plants in my heart.

Throughout the scriptures God instructs His people to set up memorial stones as a testimony to the way He has worked and provided for those He calls His own.  Tenley has grown a lot this year, but sometimes I wonder if I have grown even more. This growth has only been possible through God’s work in my life, and I feel the need to remember this year, to testify about what He has done.

As Tenley’s birthday arrives, I will hold her, love her, and cherish her. With every smile, every kiss, every hug, every chance to watch her sleep, every second lost in her deep blue eyes, I will remember my year of desire, loss, and growth. Tenley is my memorial stone, my testimony and sign of what God has done in my life and in my heart.

When the time comes, I’ll lean in close to Tenley’s cheek and help her blow out her first birthday candle. As I watch her eyes grow wide with the excitement and joy only a birthday can bring, I will give honest thanks in my heart to God, creator of desire and healer of hearts, for all I have been given: A beautiful daughter. A mended heart. Two precious gifts worth celebrating.