Sometimes I feel bad about my seemingly selfish little life. I don't have kids or a spouse or even a dog. I have 2 cats that pretty much take care of themselves as long as I remember to feed them.
I have a house that is much to large for just me and that I don't really have to clean unless on rare occasion more people than my sister and her family come over.
I can do what I want when I want and spend money on whatever my little heart desires.
When I type it all out on paper it feels very very selfish.

I hear those few of you that read this poo pooing away my selfish suspicions listing out the generous things I do and ways I spend my time. I realize that you're right, that not having kids, a spouse or even dogs doesn't define my life as a selfish one. But sometimes, I just feel that way.

I don't mean that I feel that way because I have a strong desire to be married or have some kids, because I still don't. Not that I'm opposed, I'm just not for pursuing that for my life right now. The fact that I need to explain that constantly sometimes makes me feel that there is something wrong about feeling that way. It reinforces the way that I feel sometimes selfish.
As I approach 30, which I will have been for several days by the time you all read this, I've been wondering more and more about why I lead the life I do. I wonder if I'm intentional enough or disciplined enough. I want to make a deep impact while at the same time sitting on my sofa watching stupid TV shows.

People told me that 30 would make me want to get married and have babies. But I find that instead I'm longing to give birth to a life with more meaning and discipline; a life that lifts people up and encourages them. A life that glorifies God and points to the Cross. It's the oddest feeling, but not an unwelcome one.

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.


I was afraid

I was afraid of not living up to what you wanted me to be, not realizing you wanted me to not exist.
I was afraid of your complete disregard for me, so I did anything possible to find regard in the arms of others.

I was afraid to step away from my fear and loathing for fear that who I was without such deep anger would crumble and fall apart.

I was afraid to accept the responsibility for my role in how things played out, I was afraid to understand the reasons behind my reasons.

I was afraid to be afraid for fear that it would show my vulnerability and propensity for panic. I was afraid to not be afraid for fear that someone or something would sneak up behind me and end it all.

"I was afraid of changing because I built my life around you." I was afraid Steve Nicks was right. I was afraid that if I moved away, moved on, carried on, that what was left of me without you would crumble and fall apart.

But now, I'm afraid to not change, afraid to not move on into the calling I hear in the middle of the night. I'm afraid that the time has come to realize that your complete disregard for me spoke more to your value than to mine. It's time to realize exactly whose expectations I should be working to meet, and that it is no longer you and it never was.


Kind of Girl

When left to my own devices I'm a panic and assume the worst kind of girl. I'm a girl that loses sight of the big picture rapidly. When I hibernate and withdrawal I'm the kind of girl that sees all the bells and whistles of other people's lives and immediately feel like a less kind of a girl because my bells and whistles look differently.

It happens so fast that it leaves me gasping, this loss of my firm footing. I'm sure it happens to other too, it just seems that people don't talk about it that much. As if admitting that we have these doubts and insecurities will somehow make them real.

Lately I've been wondering if holding in those things, allowing them to flourish in the dark nights of our hearts, only serves to give them more power. Like Dumbledore said in Harry Potter (I'm about to re-read that series again it was so good!)
"Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself"

To fear naming these things that trouble us seems to only give them more power in the dark. The power to tell you that you're not really enough, that no one will love you, that you'll never measure up. The fear spirals out of control when you keep it shut up inside of you.
But I'm the kind of girl that believes she's a burden to others, and that my struggles aren't really anything important. I've swallowed the lie that I should be afraid to name what it is that troubles me in the dark because the light will retreat from me if only it knew.

I think I'm going to stop believing that lie, I think I'm going to cling to the light and the truth that I'm not really enough on my own. That the only thing that makes me good enough is the love of a God that sent His Son just for me (and you and you and you too).

Romans 8:38
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

John 8:12
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 12:46
I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.


Who's going to want me?

I watched the Horse Whisperer recently and there was a line in it when Grace was asking her mom if anyone would want her, love her like this. She had been in an accident and had lost her right leg. She was further damaged because of losing her friend in the accident and the trauma of believing that it was her fault.
It struck me how often we all ask that question. Married, single or otherwise we all want to know who is going to want us, love us like this. Whatever this is.

Maybe you're body is fighting against you. Maybe you're having medical problems or are fighting what feels like a losing battle against the bulge. Maybe you still believe the lies that people told you so many years ago.
Are you wondering if anyone would love you enough to tell you the truth? To be there for you no matter what? To love you even on your ugliest and meanest days?
Sometimes getting through the muck is enough to make anyone give up, throw in the towel and call it a day. Sometimes, you can't see an end in sight and that makes you want to give up and not even try.
I know, it used to be all I could do to not throw in the towel every day. I couldn't see the forest through the trees.

There is someone real and true. Someone, at least one person but probably more, walking around thinking that you're the cats meow. So special and wonderful. You might not even know who they are but you are important to someone even if they suck at telling you that. There's also someone else real and true. Someone that loves you so much that he allowed himself to be strung up on a cross for you. Jesus. He wants you desperately and is telling you so through the large and small kindnesses every day. Even when you can't see or feel the kindness he is there holding you and loving you.
So the question shouldn't be who's going to want you or love you. The question is when will you start wanting and loving yourself, the person that God is calling you to be.


Those I've left out

I'm 30!
Clearly this wasn't an exhaustive list. Clearly there are people that have been left out. Those that have moved in and out of my life leaving traces of change in their wake. Those that I didn't even actually know.
When I was living in BG, before I fell in love with Jesus, I would wander liquor stores and Kroger buying razors and alcohol just trying to get up the courage to stop inconveniencing those around me by being alive. I would screw up the courage and I would walk into the store. Every time, every single time I was stopped. By different strangers, different people that I didn't know from anyone would come straight up to me and say something. Some would just ask me about my purse, they thought it was cute. But some would come up and out of nowhere just ask me how I was. I would of course say fine, no need to tell this stranger that I was falling apart and was planning to slit my wrists that night. But on these particular days the stranger wouldn't say ok and walk away. They would say, are you really ok? Are you really? We would talk for a moment while I panicked and wondered how to escape this conversation. But they would continue and say something encouraging, or tell me they were going to pray for me.
I would scoff, pray? There is no God who exactly are you going to be praying to? Then I would walk away, bolstered by the rage I was nurturing inside and numb myself enough to get through another night.

Because no matter how angry I was at the intrusion of these strangers it was always enough of a lance to my wound to keep me alive one more day. These brave strangers that had no idea who I was or maybe even what impact they were making saved my life. They saw me and made me feel seen. That was all I really wanted, was to be seen. I felt invisible for so long that to be seen was so painful, but I longed for it deeply.
These strangers and what their obedience to the small things that God asked them to do saved my life. They are the reason that I know that small kindnesses are never ever wasted. Because small kindnesses saved my life.

For almost a year now I've had the joy of leading Washington Project at my church. Every Sunday during one or both of our services we go out into the community and do something or give something to people. We use our Washington's, our quarters and our dollars, and we serve in some tangible way. We've given away Easter Baskets, gas cards, movie cards, water, coffee, papers and so much more. We've raked leaves, cleaned windows, washed cars, landscaped, played games at a nursing home and more. This Sunday we're throwing a festival for some kids at a lower income housing apartment complex in town. We're going to play and have fun with them, give them cotton candy, popcorn, school supplies and backpacks. It will be a blast.
But one of the reasons I love Washington Project so much is because I know that we are touching people that feel invisible sometimes. We washed a car for a woman that almost burst into tears. She articulated that she felt so unnoticed by people and by God as she went about her life and that we were confirming for her that it wasn't true, that God did notice her. It may not show up every week like that, because people might not tell us (I never once told these strangers about the impact they made on me, not once). But every week we're going into the community and we're seeing people. We're loving them in tangible ways and letting them know that God loves them and cares about even their smallest worries.
Sometimes it might just be a paper that we give away, sometimes it can be just a bottle of water. But sometimes, maybe we give water to someone that feels like I did so many years ago in Kroger. Maybe they were going to kill themselves, or hurt someone else, or maybe they were walking around in a kind of living death like I was and we helped show them a God that wants them to wake up to the life He longs for them to have. It's hard to tell. But I believe it's happening because of the Grace of God.

So even though I can't name these women and men that would approach me when I was hanging off the edge of a very high cliff they have absolutely made me who I am at 30 because they helped me live to see the day that I would be 30.

It's been pretty amazing looking back and writing about the people that have shaped and influenced my life. It's made me want to be those people to others. It's motivated me to become more disciplined and intentional about the things I do and how I live my life. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Before I go, I want to encourage those of you still with me to do what these strangers did for me years ago. Listen for the prompting of God and encourage people. See people and show them kindnesses large and small. It may feel a little awkward, a little silly, but you never know when your small kindnesses are just words or when it may very well save someones life. Be gracious and merciful, because we all need grace and mercy ourselves don't we?



I met Leroy in 7th or 8th grade. He was in my sisters graduating class and we were all in band together. Leroy was always protective of me, making sure I was ok. He was the definition of the nice guy. Leroy was the guy that every girl wanted to be friends with and that frustrated him quite a bit in high school. He and I went on one date to see a Tales from the Crypt movie. I spent most of the movie shrieking on the floor.
This of course was back when I could still watch scary movies and sleep at night.
Leroy was an amazing listener and friend. You could talk to him about practically anything and he would just listen and encourage you. Such a good guy this guy.

After graduation we would still email (back before Facebook, how did we function!?) and chat on the phone. Leroy was great friends with John, his sister Rachel and their parents Denise and Rick. We were just always around each other, visiting and hanging out. In 2000 when Denise was killed I remember clearly standing in the kitchen and seeing Leroy's car pull in the drive. I had been trying that week to hold it together, because I didn't feel I had the luxury of falling apart when so much around me was already falling apart. But when I saw Leroy get out of his car I ran out the door and we just stood there in the drive crying and holding each other. I walked him in and we settled into a kind of marginalized grief together. We weren't her kids, but we sure felt like it. We grieved her death as those that saw her as another mother and a wonderful friend.

But the time in my life that really sealed in the influence and impact that Leroy had in my life was the few years between when John and I broke up and I moved to Cincinnati. Leroy had just ended a long long relationship with another woman as well and he and I were floating around shredded. So we talked a lot. Late night calls on the phone, visits to each others places and just sitting beside each other knowing that the other heart in the room was just as broken as yours was. I would call him some lonely days and tell him that I just couldn't be alone and we would go to the mall, or the park or just to lunch. We fell into a lovely, flirty friendship that cheered me up on days that I felt the lowest. He never once failed to make himself available to me when I called. He was my lifeline on some very very dark days.
He bought a house and I helped him move and get settled. We stayed up late talking into the night in his new house about nothing and everything.
Shortly after that I moved to Cincinnati and we were long distance friends. He met and fell in love with Kimmie and her kiddos and they're building a really lovely family. The last time I saw him was to long ago at a surprise party for his birthday.

Though I don't get to see Leroy as much as I would like, or even talk as often that doesn't change the way he drug me out of a deep pit so many years ago. He just listened and loved me, he showed me courage in the face of heart break and he kept me fighting to keep my head above water. Leroy also taught me a love and respect for family. He took care of his Grandma the last few years of her life and I got to spend one lovely afternoon over at her house with him. It brings a smile to my face to remember the way they spoke to each other and the care he took with her. No family is perfect, but Leroy honored his as he took care of his Grandma.

I love the time that Leroy and I spent together, even though it was marred by heartache we laughed so much. He helped me find the (often macabre) humor in every day life again. He helped save my life when I was determined to end it, even if he didn't know that's what he was doing.


Linn Siblings

There are six Linn siblings including my dad. I'm going to try to put them in order, Sharen will need to tell me if I'm wrong. Gary is the oldest, followed by Greg. After that was John followed quickly by Dad. Cathy and Chris round out the kids of Grandma Linn.
When I was little I thought they all lived in 1 bedroom in my Grandmas house. I never understood until I was a teen that they actually used the upstairs of the house.
While I was growing up the siblings were scattered far and wide. Gary, his wife Margie and their kids Alex and Mindy lived in Florida. Gary's an engineer and when I was little I was pretty sure he was an actual rocket scientist. Greg lived in St Louis and then moved to New Jersey after he married a woman named Joyce. I remember his wedding and playing with his step-son Neil. John lived in St Louis too, he was married for a time to a woman whose name I can't even recall. He also had a dog whose name was Abby but who he called Black Dog. Cathy lived in St Louis too, she had an apartment and boyfriends and didn't marry until I was well into my teens when she was 40. Chris was the baby and lived in St Louis too. He lived in an apartment with barely any furniture and drove a car with only the driver seat and the back seat. In place of the passenger seat were piles and piles of empty Budweiser cans. When I was little, I was fairly certain I was going to marry Uncle Chris. I realize that's a little icky now, but as a little girl he was it. I used to lay on Grandma's floor and tickle his feet, tease him about how his feet smelled and just bug him for hours. When Chris started bringing around the woman that would become my Aunt Debbie I was pretty put out about it. He was MY guy, who did she think she was. But it all worked out.

I used to joke that I saw Gary every 8 years. I saw him when I was born, when we went to Florida when I was 8, when I was 16 and Grandma had bypass surgery, when I was 24 and they were just visiting Ohio. But we broke that streak a few years later when they came back because Grandma died. Gary is wicked smart. Almost to smart for his own good sometimes. He's who I know the least about because we just didn't spend that much time together. But in the last few years I've had a chance to talk to him about more grown up things.

Greg I remember traveling a lot. He would always be popping in and out and staying at Grandma's house. He is tricky though. He seems quiet and reserved until you get him loosened up, then watch out! Whenever I see a Nissan Ultima I think of Uncle Greg. I don't know why, I swear it was one of his rental cars that he had a few times, but he said he never drove one. Greg and Joyce stopped being married sometimes around the time I graduated high school. They lived in Wisconsin at the time. Greg had started traveling between Appleton and Shanghai for work and once he sold their house he moved into a residence inn for when he was in Wisconsin. A year or so after his break up he met Maggie in Shanghai. I'm pretty sure she worked for the same company and was showing him the sites. They became friends, then started dating, and ultimately married about two or three years ago. It's been nice getting to know him more and meeting Maggie was really great. They are cute together and seem to have a great relationship. He's been spending more and more time in China as they're beginning the rest of their lives together and it's been so lovely seeing him happier than I can remember seeing him before.

The thing I remember the most about Uncle John as a kid is White Castle. He would take us to a specific White Castle in St Louis where you could sit at a window bar and be within reaching distance of the street. Whenever the light was red we would bang and bang on the window and get the drivers attention. Then we would open our mouths wide and show all the people at the stop light our "See Food".
John I've gotten to know the best as an adult I think. After he and Sandy (Sandy! That was her name!) stopped being married he was restless. He's an OR nurse (Oh. Are you? Love that movie!) and ended up training to be a traveling nurse. Back around 2001 he packed up his things and moved to London to be a nurse in England. Right before he moved he and Chris got into a huge fight about something or another. I don't know what it was, but I remember that Grandma was so upset about it. Her sons were barely speaking and one was about to fly off and move to the other side of the ocean. I was at a loss, because to me these were grown men that were supposed to have it all together. I hollered at John and Chris about it because I was so fed up with how they were acting. I was upset about my friend that was killed still and was just over people trying to end relationships over dumb dumb dumb reasons.
I'm still not sure if or how they worked it out or if they just swept it under the carpet as our family is sometimes apt to do.
John went to London and was there for almost 2 years. When he came back he wanted to hang out in the US for awhile and then go to Australia. My parents lived in BG by then so he moved into the basement bedroom. It was a blast hanging out with him more. We would head out for a drink or two now and then and just chat about life. Before I moved to Cincinnati I moved in across the hall from him in my parents basement and we would just chat and laugh from our respective rooms. Shortly after I moved to Cincinnati his visa came through and me moved just outside Sydney. He's been there ever since and is working on immigrating to Australia full time.

Cathy I remember as being so exotic. She didn't have kids or ever really a steady boyfriend that she brought home to meet everyone. She was just fun Aunt Cathy. She used to walk out of rooms in the middle of my stories (because I was long winded even as a child) and when she walked back in I would pick right back up from where I'd left off. She tells this story about getting me ready to go swimming once when I was young, and we made it all the way out to the pool, I dipped my big tow in the water and shrieked like someone was stabbing me. She asked, "what what?!" I cried out, "I have to peeeeeee!" She was the originator of the "what slide" joke because I was with her at Cedar Point, and we climbed about a million steps to go down the Giant Slide the woman asked me, "Are you ready to go down the slide?" I replied, "What slide?"
When I was in 4th grade or so, whenever Chris and Debbie married, she had begun dating this fella named Ross who she would wind up marrying years later right around her 40th birthday, her college graduation, and my cousin Casey (her sons) birth. I found out later from Grandma that she had moved out west and back, to Chicago and back. Now she's hilarious and an amazing mom.

Chris as I mentioned before I was determined to marry when I was a little girl. I had no regard for the "law" and that it was "gross". I just knew that he was handsome and funny and he would play with me. I still think he's just around the corner whenever I smell a Budweiser. He and Debbie married and had twin girls eventually. They waited a long time for Sarah and Emily and I'm so excited they finally got their kiddos. The girls are so intelligent and creative.
There was the falling out with John and most recently a falling out with my parents. It makes me sad to see siblings that were so close falling apart after the death of Grandma. I would hate to think that the only thing connecting them was their mother.

When I was 11 I got to ride on a plane all by myself to see the uncles and aunt Cathy in St Louis all by myself. I had my teddy bear under one arm and Stephen King's IT under the other. When the stewardess asked me what I wanted to drink I said, "coke". Then she asked Ted E. Bear what he wanted, he was buckled in the seat beside me. I leaned over to his face and looked up, I told her he wanted a vodka on the rocks. She never brought his drink, shame shame Southwest Air!
We played and gallivanted, ate so much White Castle and went to the Arch (I LOVE the Arch!).

I've learned quite a bit from the Linn siblings. I've watched them all interact with each other through life and death, marriages and divorces, fighting and making up. I'm simultaneously happy and sad at the results. These are brothers and a sister that have known each other for over 60 years in some instances. They are the only brothers and sister they will ever have. But things seem so different since Grandma has died.
I've learned a wicked sense of humor from my Uncles and Aunt. Sarcasm, teasing and the holding onto of many many stories from years past. The time that Dad stepped on Cathy's baby bed and broke it, what slide, comforbor, Sharen getting into the Oreo cookie jar and tons more. I've learned the perfect delivery of such stories and how to laugh when they're told about me. They've taught me how to fight, and how not to fight. They've taught me the importance of seeing the best in people, believe the best about people.
They've modeled working hard and playing hard. They've show me resolve in the face of a crumbling marriage and bravery in the face of fertility problems. I've watched Cathy slug her way through getting Casey the best education in the way that he can learn the best and John re-start his life several times and find such happiness in Australia.
I love my Linn Uncles and Aunts. I miss them now that we don't hang out as much. Maybe this year I'll take the lead and be better about getting in touch and staying in touch.



I'm fairly certain I met Dad shortly after I was born in the delivery room. My dad worked at a bank and was my favorite guy. I didn't really know what my dad did for a long time, only that he was my dad. I used to climb on his back in the pool and he would shout, "ready?!" I would reply, "Yes!" and take a deep gulp of air clinging to his shoulders. Dad would dive under water and swim to the bottom of the 10 foot deep end of the pool. We would just float down there looking around and swimming until I tapped him on the shoulder just as I was running out of air. I tried and succeeded at lengthening the amount of time I could hold my breath underwater. It was magical down there.
When Sharen and I were little Dad had to figure out how to get work done with us underfoot. So he would have us pick strawberries and bought little mini garden tools and put us to work. Sharen and I used to have our own brushes that we would use to scrub the lining of the pool. Sometimes we would do it even when we weren't asked, it was an excuse to be in the pool! We ran errands and just followed him around while he did things. I loved getting to see what my dad did when he did things. He just seemed so important. Wednesdays were dad's half days at the bank. In the spring and fall Sharen and I would get off the bus from school and dad would be standing in the driveway. We would all pile in the car and spend the afternoon and early evening at Cedar Point, we had season passes and we got our moneys worth out of them.
Saturday mornings were cleaning days at the Linn house. We would be up early and get cracking. After awhile Mom would get to making some chocolate chip cookies and it would be break time. I remember sitting snuggled on Dad's lap watching This Old House and smelling the cookies baking in the kitchen.

Dad worked hard and was good at what he did, he still is. But he would play with us and be silly too. He would dress up and swim for hours at a time. He would swoop us up in Daddy hugs and just love us. He would do weird things, like grab the edge of the sofa as he walked past and pretend the sofa was pulling him back. He called bras algebraziers, and later called algebra that too.
Dad didn't get mad often, but when he did you knew you had pushed it to far.
We fought and I pushed as I got older. I had all sort of notions of my value (my value being next to zero) and his expectations of me. I just knew I was going to disappoint him, so after awhile I just stopped trying and began trying to actively get him to reject me.

When I dropped out of YSU he was on board with requiring me to go to therapy. One afternoon I was sitting in my room crying and he came in and sat down beside me. He asked me why I was so unhappy, he waved his arm around and asked what it was that made me so unhappy. I just couldn't even speak I was crying so hard. He wrapped his arms around me and told me he loved me. What I longed to believe, but the lies in my head were louder and told me he had to say that because he was my dad. But that he didn't really love me. Dad asked me what made me happy, what was it that I liked. I couldn't tell him, not a single thing. I told him things that he liked and he said, well that's what I like, but what do you like? I cried harder and harder as I tried to tell him something anything that would please him. But I couldn't. Because I was a deeply unhappy and angry girl and looking back I can see that what would have pleased him was a happy and smiling girl. He told me to try to figure out one thing, anything that made me happy. It was a long time before I could, but a little bit sunk in that day that he wanted me to be happy. I just didn't know how to be that girl.

A few months after this my friend was killed. I had stayed at Alaina's that night and had gone home to clean up while dad was at work. I was in the Clink's kitchen when my dad walked in dressed to the nines in his work suit. Everyone in the kitchen stopped, thinking he was with the police but I just stared at him, my eyes filling with tears and I ran into his arms. We just stood there like that for a few minutes, just holding onto each other. Every time I saw him for several weeks we would just hug and hug. I just didn't know what to do or where to go from there. Time stopped for several weeks and I just cried more than I knew I was able to.
During that time I had told my mom and dad both about some of the things that were being said to me, confessed to me, as a direct result of my friends death. Things that I was to naive and young to truly process on top of being a sad and angry girl and so lost in grief. Dad had long been opposed to how involved I got in other peoples drama. He would tell me that I couldn't separate myself from their problems and that I was to involved. He was right in a way. I was in way over my head. I still contend that being involved with people in the thick of things, slugging it out in the joy and the sorrow is 100% worth it. But I also have a higher capacity for those things now then I did then. Back then I was barely keeping myself alive let alone keeping anyone else's head above water.

I moved to Bowling Green in the fall of 2000 and started working in the call center of the bank Dad worked for. We would have lunch regularly and it was a time that we really able to connect in a different way. I was still a pretty sad and angry girl, but I was much more adept at keeping it quiet.
In 2002 John and I broke up. I called mom and dad as I pulled out of his driveway, I was ugly crying. I mean UGLY crying. I told them I needed to come over. After the events of the last few years I can't even imagine what they must have thought. I pulled in their driveway and ran into their arms at the door. I was crying to hard to tell them anything about what happened, so they both patted me down looking for wounds that weren't visible to the naked eye. When I finally calmed down long enough to talk I told them about John and I breaking up. My dad asked me if I wanted him to fire bomb anything, which made me laugh because my dad is not the fire bombing type. But the three of us just sat there for awhile. I was moving closer to a happy girl, feeling them there beside me on the sofa.

Christmas Eve of that year I went to church with Dad and Mom and was shattered by God. I would sneak back and forth to church and finally told them about my torrid love affair with Jesus. Dad was there when I was baptized in September and was there at the 10th anniversary party later that fall. He and I were sitting in their living room one random everyday day and he looked at me and said, "You know I was skeptical about Cedar Creek, wondering about all their overhead costs and staffing costs and if it was really necessary" (Because my dad is a numbers guy) "But then I look at you and everything they've done to help you just turn yourself around and it doesn't much matter because I'm so proud of you and how far you've come"

Because sometimes, all a little girl wants is for her dad to tell her he's proud of her.

I moved to Cincinnati in 2004 and would talk to my dad on the phone a lot about money things and he was who I called when I decided to start tithing. I made pitiful money at the bookstore part time and was in way over my head with debt and bills. So when I decided to start tithing I told him because if God didn't show up then he was the backup plan. Dad said, "You know I think that's great. But you need to remember that the way God rewards your faithfulness with your money isn't always going to be with money. Just keep your eyes open for his blessings in forms other than big fat checks" It was true. After months of going back and forth with Cincinnati State about transferring my credits from the million colleges I'd gone to and them stating that NOTHING would transfer I was told that EVERYTHING transferred. That catapulted me from 1st quarter freshman to last quarter sophomore. (Not that I've moved much past that status in the time since...)

Dad was the one that slugged through the John, Mae and Betty drama so hard and for so long. He protected Mom, Sharen and I from a lot of the ugly that was happening. It was much harder on him than he ever let on until the end. He was the one that sat in the basement of their house in BG and told us about Johns lies and deception. He's the one that broke the news to us that this man we thought so pure and good was really not.

When I was deciding to buy a house Dad was the one that I talked to the most about if I could buy a house. Not for his permission, just for his help with amortization and all those fun numbers. He drove down for the closing and helped me sign my life away. He dreams with me about what we can do to improve my house and he puts in the blood and sweat to help make it happen.

I'm not sure I could have asked for a better dad. Even with all his flaws and imperfections he is a great dad. I just want to make him proud. Proud of what I do with my life, how I spend my money and my time, proud of the relationships I nurture.

Dad has taught me generosity and strength. He's taught me that you don't always have to fill up the world with a million words, that sometimes silence speaks just as loudly. He's taught me hard work and perseverance, kindness and compassion. Dad's taught me honoring your commitments and the value of relationships within the community. He's taught me the value of a dollar and that money isn't the most important thing in your life, it's just money.
My dad also worked very hard to break a cycle of behavior that his dad had. One that I hear wasn't that kind. I would hear he and mom talking at night about it and him wondering if he was a good dad, doing a good job and not acting like his dad. I don't remember his dad, only the snippets here or there that I heard about him. But my dad, was a good dad. I hope that I make him proud of me, I love him very much.



Clearly the first time I met Mom was July 27th 1979, although I was already pretty familiar with her it would seem.
I already had a big sister in the world and I was brought home to a single story ranch house in Clyde.
My mom stayed home with Sharen and I for the first years of my life and we played and imagined and swam until we were falling asleep on rafts in the backyard pool. She was an English teacher in her previous life. When I was 5 or 6 Mom went back to work, this time as a Children's Librarian. When she couldn't get a babysitter for me I would either go to Grandmas house or I would go to the library and "work" with my mom for a few hours. I was doomed to love reading and all things literary. I was an early reader and would haul stacks and stacks of books to a corner and just read for hours at a time in the library. There's a white noise website I sometimes listen to and my favorite noise on there is Library Lullaby because of those hours spent hanging out at the Bellevue Public Library with my mom.

My mom wasn't a perfect mom, but she was a great mom. Her imagination would run wild with us and we would play pretend all the time. When I played dress up she was the narrator to my story, she played Barbies like no one elses mom I knew. When Betty pulled me aside and told me how to ensure I wouldn't have to live with my parents I was so confused. I couldn't figure out why I would want to live with this shrill angry woman instead of my mom who played with me, laughed with me, and gave great hugs.
As it sometimes tends to happen I grew up and began to try to assert my independence. I was all sorts of messed up about my value in the eyes of others thanks to years of hearing I was a horrible nasty girl from a few adults that were supposed to love me. I believed deeply that it was inevitable that my parents would see that they were right. I had kept all sorts of secrets from them, not telling them what people would say and how they would treat me because I was afraid to hear that they agreed. They of course didn't, but I was a lost girl that was far to young to understand that. I would push back against them, daring them to leave me or to tell me that I was horrible. When they didn't I couldn't hardly stand to be in the same room with them because I knew that it was only a matter of time that I pushed them to far and they would leave or make me leave. I just knew they couldn't possibly love the ugly girl that I was inside and out. For years that was my deepest cut, my darkest fear and the lie that I just couldn't see past. There are times that it festers still in the deepest dredges of my heart.
Mom and I just didn't seem to know how to communicate for awhile, other than yelling of course.

As I started to come out of my teen years things calmed down a bit, we still argued, just maybe not as often. I went off to Youngstown and after almost two years decided to leave right before YSU invited me to leave. Mom was the first to tell me that a stipulation of my coming back home to live with them was that I must go to therapy. I had spoken to someone a few times at YSU and ended up finding a lovely woman in Fremont with a lot of cats and some birds in her office. Dr Barrett was the one of the first people ever, other than John, that I told about the things I was told growing up. She was the first person that told me, "Maybe the things these people said, maybe they're not true. Have you considered that?" I hadn't, and I immediately knew this woman was way off base. Clearly I had put on a good show for her and she didn't see how horrible I really was. So I started hiding things from her too. Playing the I'm ok you're ok game.
I started having panic attacks multiple times a day and went on medication for it. I became either hyper anxious or sedated like a zombie. There were so many times that Mom had to come get me at work because I was hyperventilating and couldn't drive. She would bring me home and we would get into shouting matches because I couldn't or wouldn't explain to her what my problems were. I had become so adept at hiding who I was that I couldn't figure out where I was anymore. I had fractured myself off into hundreds of ideas of who I though all these people wanted me to be that I started short circuiting and forgetting who I was supposed to be with what person. My brain felt like it was constantly shaking like a child throwing a tantrum, I was fairly certain I was losing my mind. This was April, 2000.

Later that month, on April 24th my friend was killed. Around 11pm Monday April 24th 2000 the phone rang at my parents house. When I answered it a woman I worked with at Whirlpool was on the phone. "I wanted to make sure you were alright, I heard someone was shot" I leapt out of bed and burst into my parents room. I told them I was going to the carryout, someone was shot. I ran out of the house in a tee shirt and undies and hopped in my car. My mom came sprinting out of the house pulling her own pants on and carrying a pair of shorts for me. She told me I wasn't allowed to go, I told her I was going. She got in the car and said if you're going so am I. We sped to the carryout and arrived just as an ambulance, with no lights on, was pulling away. It's difficult to explain the void that is left when hope leaves you when you see the ambulance lights are dark. The carryout was lit up, John's car sat out front. John and his mom had been sharing a car and for about 30 minutes I had no idea which one of them had been shot. The police wouldn't tell me anything, they would only question me because I was an employee. Denise's sister Pam showed up with her son and the police didn't want to tell her either. But I yelled at them, and Mom backed me up. When Pam heard the news she collapsed. Her son and my mom caught her and we all just stood there holding each other for awhile. I don't know how I got to Alaina's only that my mom was taking my car home because she needed to tell my dad what happened.
The next weeks and months were a complete blur.
I remember one night sitting in our living room crying and mom came in. I vomited out on her all the information and secrets that people surrounding Denise had been confiding in me since she died and I just couldn't hold them anymore, not on my own anyway. Mom wanted me to step away and not spend as much time over there anymore, but it just wasn't possible. Not being near that family during that time was like holding my breath. She didn't understand, and we argued about it quite a bit. When the carryout reopened for business I announced that I would of course be going back to work there. Mom and Dad were both adamantly opposed to that. We argued for days, knock down drag out fights about it. In the end, I told them that I had both of their stubborn streaks in me and I was going back. Bob (nicknamed Squirrel) was going to be hanging out and Rick, Denise's husband, taught me to shoot. Mom would drop in randomly to say "Hi" or bring me something she thought I needed. She was checking up on me of course, making sure I was safe and making sure there was always someone else there with me.
I moved to BG the fall of that year and there were times when I was sick that mom would drive 45 minutes from Clyde and bring me soup, or just sit with me while I stared, fever riddled, into space. Mom and Dad moved to BG in August 2002. I would go house hunting with them and was with them when they saw what ended up as their house the first time. They found Cedar Creek and dragged me there that fateful Christmas Eve. Mom drove over a Mountain Dew when I finally told her after months of sneaking to church that I had fallen in love with Jesus.

Mom and I would have weekly lunches while she was living in BG. It was a lovely time to catch up and just spend some time together. It was during one of these lunches that I yelled at her about her sister Betty.
Mae and John had both died by this point and there were some discrepancies about their estate. Mom had pushed it a little but was just talking through some of her frustrations with Betty and the way the estate was being handled. I yelled at mom. I told her that Betty had been pushing her around her whole life and why on earth doesn't she just push back. It had never been about the money, it had been about the fact that my mom and her family were given such a small percentage with no explanation. Betty tried to run a game and say that it was because of something horrible that my parents had done to Mae and John, but after over a year of attorneys and meetings nothing ever came out. Because it was a lie.
It was amazing watching mom through this process. She found a lot of herself in the fight and because stronger because of it. I had to give a report to their lawyer (whose name was Mr Rogers, how can you go wrong with a fella named Mr. Rogers!?) about the things that I would overhear as a child. I spoke for the first time to anyone that would/could tell my parents about the way Betty and Mae treated me but also the way they spoke about my parents. I told my dad first and he told me that I could never tell my mom. I did eventually though, and it was very hard for her but thanks to the trials of going through the contesting of the estate she was a stronger woman and handled it well. She said the thing she was most upset about is that she didn't protect me from all of those things. I told her she didn't know so how could she and she said, "I'm your mother, I should have known."
It was an amazing moment for me, a lot of the guilt I felt for keeping the secrets, the feeling that it was my fault and the suspicion that Mae and Betty were right all along were just lifted in that statement.
I'm by no means blaming my mom, it was just reassuring to see someone else as upset by it as I was all those years. Knowing that had she known she wouldn't have agreed with Mae and Betty, she would have tried to make it better.

In the years since Mom and I have had our ups and downs. Sometimes I get so frustrated with how we are different, how different we see things. We argue and fight but we also laugh and have long conversations about random things. It's a mother daughter relationship, isn't that how it's supposed to be?
Mom has taught me a great many things. She's taught me how to wear makeup and how not to. She's taught me how to cook and clean nd has given me a love of the written word that runs so deep. Mom has modeled for me caring for people even when you have to fight to do it. She always came back. Every time I pushed and pushed her away she came back. She fought her way through the battlefield of ugly words and accusations I threw at her if only to hold me and tell me she loved me even when I acted the worst. Mom has shown me faithfulness in being a wife that loves my father deeply. They met in the 8th grade at church camp, went to each others prom, dated through high school and college and married a week after my mom graduated. I tease them that they've ruined me for all adult relationships, but it's in a good way. Their relationship isn't perfect and they fight and make mistakes. But they love each other. You can tell just by looking at them. More to the point, they've ruined me for mediocre adult relationships. I don't want to settle, I'd rather be alone because I can do alone well.
Mom gave me an imagination to believe that crazy things are possible and that a good story is only as far away as the tip of your tongue. She's a hard worker and a good worker. Mom taught me the value of your time and effort and that if you try hard enough there is almost nothing you can't do.
I can't imagine having any other mom, even on the days that we argue the loudest. Weathering those years when I was so angry and hateful reinforced that she wouldn't ever leave and that's a great thing for a girl like me to know.


Katy, Melissa & Angie

Katy, Mel, Ang and I met in 2006 on the Don Miller forum. Katy lives in Oregon, Mel lives in Michigan and Ang lives in Pennsylvania. We all came to the forum thanks to Don's book Blue Like Jazz. We bonded during late nights and silly random conversations. We talked about anything and I immediately felt comfortable, especially with these three in particular and especially Katy.
This past weekend all three of them descended on Cincinnati and my house (along with Jake, Cody and Pete. We are friends that happen to have met on the internet and not get to see each other that much. I love them, the way they encourage not only me but anyone they seem to come in contact with, the way they feel things so deeply and the way they love others so deeply.

Katy and I bonded over You've Got Mail and conversations about nothing in particular. According to her comment here she said that I freaked her out at first because I wanted to come hang out with her in Portland. But I love Portland, I would move there if God wasn't making it painfully clear that my place for now is firmly rooted in Cincinnati. I first met Katy at 4am EST, 1am PST in the Portland airport. I flew out over Labor Day 2007. My visit to Oregon only confirmed what I already knew, that I wanted to live there so much. We wandered around places Don had written about and saw all the beauty that is around there. It was like Katy and I had known each other for decades when I arrived. You wouln't have guessed we had met each other on the internet less than 1 year previous to that.
I love Katy's gentle spirit and the way she sees the world. She sees the world and all it's trauma and ugliness and it breaks her. I can't even really describe it adequetely, only that it seems she sees the world and her heart yells that it's not supposed to be this way. I love the silly things we giggle about and the way we don't have to fill up all the gaps in conversation with words because our hearts seem to sometimes just speak directly to each other.
Katy has taught and is teaching me another way to look at the world. I can be very cynical and cold about a great many things, it's my defense mechanism. I just don't care. If I don't care then it can't hurt. But the deeper my friendship grows with Katy the more I'm realizing that I may not be getting hurt (which isn't actually always true) but I'm also cutting myself off from the hope for how things should be. Katy's teaching me to be more gentle with my words and attitude because I may never know when I come across someone that sees the world as Katy does and my rash actions and words will cut them deeply.

Mel and I met for the first time at IHOP in Perrysburg Ohio right before a terrible snow storm. I was in BG visiting my parents and she was only about an hour away. We chatted about the forum and life in general. I love the way Mel can unpack conversations. The way she sees and calls out the subtext in posts online and even in real life. She hears the things that you don't say and it fascinates me. Mel and I also often find ourselves in awkward situations. Whether it's saying loudly that some fella is cute while he's still within earshot, staring awkwardly at Rob Bell in a Cleveland Starbucks, or dripping margarita on our own shoulder I can see how things happen and realize that I've done the same sort of thing at different times in my life. It cracks us up and we laugh until we can't talk and tears are streaming down our faces.
Mel and I also went on a trip to Tennessee together. I drove to Nashville and picked up a guy from the internet (and lived to tell the story!) and then we picked up Mel and another woman from the forum at the airport. The four of us traveled to Chattenooga and met another man and his wife from the forum and saw Don speak. We had such a blast and ran amuck the whole time. Interspersed with our hilarious antics (the anatomically correct horse at the Nashville TBN studios for example) were these crazy serious conversations about relationships with men and God and figuring out what God is calling us to do with our lives.
I also met up with Mel in Cleveland twice, once at the zoo with Angie and her family and another time with Angie as well to see Rob Bell speak (and to stare at him in Starbucks...not that I'm socially awkward or anything). Each time, including this past weekend has been the same. The way she listens and pulls out depth in even the most seemingly benign conversation amazes me.
Mel has been to Africa on a mission trip and God has just moved so deeply into her heart about serving others through missions work whether locally in Detroit or internationally in Africa. It's been amazing to see her obedience to His call in that and inspiring to get a front seat to the struggle that comes with following what is clearly the movement of God in her life. Mel teaches me obedience and patience, she shows me that I'm not alone in feeling so lost and confused after stepping out towards the call you feel on your life. Just because God is calling you to it doesn't mean you aren't going to be working your way through it and I love that I get to see Mel doing just that and seeing the journey that she is on with God.

Angie and I met for the first time at the Cleveland Zoo. I was in town with another forumite Christopher (the same one I met in Nashville) to see Don speak at a church conference. I also met up with Larry another guy on the forum. The next day Mel and Ang came into town with Angie's family (1 husband, 6 kids) and we played at the zoo. She is teeny tiny and so beautiful. She's full of energy and spunk and she loves her family so much. The 2nd time I met her was outside a Starbucks in Cleveland. She Mel and I were going to see Rob Bell on his "The Gods Aren't Angry" tour. We grabbed some pizza and gawked awkwardly at Rob Bell through the window of Starbucks. Mel may or may not have waved awkwardly at him and pointed to the venue across the street.
I love Angie's honesty. She is the first to tell you she hasn't got it all together, although in my opinion she has it much much more together then she thinks she does. Angie is silly and passionate she has a crazy wild imagination and a not so hot idea of herself (although she's getting better, as all of us on the forum are together) I've bonded with Angie over our shared losses. She's lost people she loved suddenly, as have so many of us. But there was something kindred when Angie shared her story. I admire the matter of fact way she shares such sad events. It's taught me how to step back from the death event and really appreciate the living things about those that I've lost. Angie, like Mel and Katy, has this knack for pulling people out of themselves and getting them to open up. She is kind and compassionate and a very good listener. This past weekend on Saturday night I pulled back a little (being very overstimulated after days of lots of people) and just cleaned up the kitchen. I got a chance to step back and watch all of my friends love on each other. Angie was so amazing asking questions directly and really drawing out the conversation towards deep things, yet somehow also making people laugh so hard. I overheard her talking to her kids and husband on the phone Saturday morning while we were all milling about and it was just so lovely to hear her talk to them. Angie will be the first to tell you she's not perfect, but she's more amazing then she gives herself credit for.

All three of these amazing women had changed who I am. They encourage me and cheer me on. They listen patiently when I'm in the throes of breakdowns and help lift me back up when I stumble. All of this through the internet even. I thank God for these women, that they are in my life and that I get to be a part of the amazing story God is writing for each of them.


Grandma Linn

Grandma Linn is my fathers mother. She was the mom of 6 kids, 5 boys and 1 girl. She lived the next town over from us growing up. Grandpa Linn died when I was just a baby and I don't remember him at all. I remember Grandma only being a single woman or being married to Bob. She lived in the house in Bellevue that my dad grew up in, it was a blue two story house, the 2nd story had its own entrance and was rented out at some point.
When I was little my mom went back to work as a childrens librarian. If she couldn't find a babysitter my Gma would sometimes watch me. We would become embroiled in a Sorry blood feud. It was years before I was able to beat her, but I tried so hard. We used to walk her Dachshund Penny up and down the block or play in the backyard with her. Penny was a very particular dog that really only liked Gma. She had a blue ball with a bell on it and a fat belly that hung down by the ground. Sharen and I would stay the night and throw the ball for Penny and occasionally she would run over it with her belly and it would get stuck, just roll along under her belly. Penny would be so mad thinking that we were hiding her ball from her. I seem to remember the strangest things about time with her house on High Street.
There was a Sunshine Family play set that was on the top shelf of the closet that I would play with for hours. I have it now, Sharen and I were looking through it awhile ago and realized that the hassock (or ottoman) that we used was an old Aqua Net hairspray cap and the sofa the Sunshine Family would relax on was a cut up cardboard milk container with some fabric on it. When we were little, it was specialty furniture to us! I remember the way the sidewalk was worn smooth made it the perfect sidewalk to ride bikes on. There were enough cracks to make it interesting, but not enough to make it scary. She had an old detached garage with a dirt floor. I used to poke and prod around in there fascinated by the way the garage looked. I was sure there was something to discover in there, although there never was. The stairs that created the separate entrance to upstairs off the side of the house were hours of fun running up and down up and down and just sitting on the landing up top spying on the mystery neighbor next door. The upstairs in and of itself was so fascinating. I never knew why we couldn't go up there, I was sure it was because something salacious happened there and no one spoke about it. Turns out, Gma just didn't use it because she didn't need to.
Gma was friends with her neighbor, Mary. Mary was an old Italian woman that mothered everyone. We would go over there and she would feed us heaping plates of spaghetti with tall cold glasses of milk. She would sit and chat with Gma in Gma's kitchen and I would just lay on the floor listening to them talk.

After Gma married Bob I would still hang out with them, and they would take me random places with them. They would visit friends of theirs in Sandusky, Norwalk and the surrounding towns and I would tag along. Normally I would have a few moments of polite conversation with the adults and be shuttled into a room and given a classic movie like Doc Hollywood to enjoy. I also watched the Mission Impossible TV series at a lot of different houses while they visited their friends. I loved it, it was never ever dull. I would get to see these totally non Gma sides of Gma, but they also just reinforced who she was as a Gma too. She would take such care of her relationships with her friends. If someone was sick, or if they had a child that was sick, she would remember and ask about it. Gma seemed to have this memory that would capture and retain the name and personal, medical and relational history of everyone she met. Then she would recall these things and ask about them with such concern. I would get to hear exciting stories about what these grown ups did and I learned that the world wasn't always kind to people, but that was ok when you had friends like Gma and Bob.

In high school Gma had to have bypass surgery and she had a rough go at it after. She would get depressed and her worrying tendencies escalated to some crazy heights. The people that she had gathered around gathered around her and helped as best as they could. It took awhile for her to pull out of her post surgery depression, but she did for the most part. Although she always seemed a little more sad from that point on to me. Nothing catastrophic, she was just a little bit different than she was before.

In the fall of 2000 I moved to Bowling Green, about 45 minutes west of my hometown because I got a job at a bank. My parents followed in 2002 because my dad had been commuting for his job for a few years and was pretty much over that. They all decided that Gma and Bob would move in with them. At that point Gma was in her early 80s I think and Bob was in his early 90s. I would often ride my bike over to see them, especially if/when Mom and Dad were out of town. Gma would be so mad that I rode my bike so far (which was really about 5 miles at the very longest) and insist that at the end of the evening Bob drive me home. Most of the time he would even heave my bike into the back of his car by himself. Gma still worried a lot, wringing the skin off her hands we called it. Once, my parents were in India and she was almost hysterical with worry that something would happen to them both while they were over there. I was over having dinner and she just was so agitated and would not calm down about it. For the first time, and the only time, I yelled at her. I mean she was talking about car bombings and snipers and terrorist attacks taking out my parents, she was crying hysterically and Bob couldn't get her to calm down at all. It was a panic attack brought on my such terrible worry. I told her that there was nothing she could do about it if that's what was happening. That for all we knew any of us could be killed that very moment, fall over dead from a heart attack or aneurysm or whatever. I reminded her of all the people that told me after my friend was killed that those sorts of things just don't happen in small towns and how they were all wrong because these sorts of things can happen anywhere at anytime. I just yelled and yelled telling her that if she wanted to worry why not worry about this or that or the other thing. I said that if she was going to be scared of this she should be scared of that because of this reason. In the end I calmed down and so did she and I told her that as scared as she was she shouldn't even be getting out of bed in the morning, because she could slip and fall or someone else could. That living our lives crippled by this fear was just useless.

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older but my neurosis and fear can sometimes feel like it borders on hysterical sometimes (to the degree that Cody suggested I seek professional help this past weekend). But I still remind myself of this conversation and what I said to my Gma way back in 2002 and it helps calm me down. Because I don't know what the day holds, but I know that God is large and in charge and my worries are safe in his arms.

Towards the end of her life Gma started talking about her life more and more. I asked her how she met Grandpa Linn (who by most accounts was not the kindest husband and father). She had moved to Nashville after getting her nursing degree and met him in the hallway of the boarding house she was staying at. She looked at me and said, "Just like that, my life changed." She went on to talk about how if she had never run into him there she wouldn't have had her 6 kids, who she loved so deeply. She wouldn't have moved to Bellevue and met the friends she cared for all those years. She wouldn't have been a home care nurse and wouldn't have taken care of Bob's wife as she died of cancer and she wouldn't have met Bob. When she said the last part she looked to Bob who sat beside her at the table and she just lit up. Wide smile, glistening eyes. She reached over and he took her hand and patted it. It was almost uncomfortable seeing such tender intimacy happen with me in the room, like I was intruding on something. But it was a picture of love, of marriage that I hold on to still. That reassures me that even if I wait until I am retired and gray headed for marriage that it will be well worth the wait.

Gma died in the spring of 2006. She had fallen, gotten sick and simply never recovered. She went into the hospital and they didn't know if she was going to make it. Nicole was in Cincinnati for the weekend and she no sooner arrived in Cincinnati then we turned around and went right back to BG. Nicole and I would hang out with her in her room and she kept demanding that we recite the Lords Prayer with her. She was also saying Hail Marys, part of a long ago forgotten Catholic Mass. She was in the hospital for a week or so and then she was gone. We spent time with her in the hospital before she died and there was one afternoon in particular that I remember. The whole time she was at the hospital she was agitated and would raise her hands up while crying out Papa Papa. I sat over there with her one afternoon, when others were resting or greeting family members that were streaming into town. I sat over there, held her hand, recited the Lords Prayer and read the Psalms aloud to her. It was the last time I saw her and it was spent worshiping God in such a pure way. I have no idea if she knew what she was doing in a logical way that we would understand, but she was calling out for her Father in Heaven, raising her hands and praising him. That much I know for sure. Uncles came in the room and my time alone with her was done.

Like Aunt Ellen and Bob I never truly appreciate Gma until I was older, and even then I'm not sure that I appreciated her enough. I'm glad that I had the time with her when we both lived in BG and even the few months we all lived together at mom and dads house.
I learned love, crazy irrational love from Gma. She loved. You couldn't avoid the fact that she loved. She saw everyone, no matter how large or small they were according to social standing, financial standing or reputation she saw them. She remembered their names, their kids names. She remembered what was going on in their life and asked about it. She saw them. She taught me faith that was built by habit and discipline that developed into a habit and desire so deep that even when her mind was going on before her body she still cried out in worship of a God so awesome. She didn't teach me that faith by beating me over the head or making me feel like an outcast for not wanting to know this God. She taught me by believing and growing closer to Him herself.
Like Bob she was generous. With her time, her attention, her money and her love. I was lucky to be her granddaughter and to know that part of her is flowing through my veins.



The first time I met Bob was when I was in 4th grade. I was in Fremont Hospital because I had just gotten my tonsils taken out. He popped in and had a small pink stuffed mouse that had these huge ears. I still have it. He was, at the time my Grandma's (dad's mom) boyfriend.
I don't know much about Bob before I met him in the 4th grade. But he had been married a few times before and had two daughters Joan and Gretchen. Grandma was a RN and had taken care of Bob's wife as she was dying of cancer. She and Bob struck up a friendship and they started dating.
They ended up marrying when I was in 6th grade, I was so excited about the dress I got to wear to the wedding.
When Grandma moved into Bob's house I was finally allowed to go up into the upstairs part of Grandmas house. I was so excited walking up those stairs, but it was anticlimactic. I'll tell you about that in Grandmas post. As Bob was cleaning out his house to make room for my Grandmas stuff he found and then gave me a framed aerial picture of the Grand Canyon. I think I sold it in a garage sale when I was a teenager, I sure wish I hadn't done that, I love that picture.

Bob and I were sort of peripheral to each other for a long time. I wasn't sure how to relate to him, but he was a nice guy. Occasionally in high school we would have conversations that were based around Christianity. Those were often awkward conversations because, well I'm an awkward girl and I also had a chip on my shoulder about Christianity. He was always interested in what was happening in my life and he took pictures constantly. Until the day he died he was taking pictures with a 35mm camera that had been around since roughly the late 80s. Whenever a special event or gathering of more than a few family and friends happened Bob was snapping pictures.
When I was in college I had come home for a visit and was at Grandma and Bob's house. Somehow we got on the topic of abortion and Bob and I got into a crazy heated argument about it. I was a 19 year old know-it-all going up against a almost 90 year old man that had been a believer and firm in that decision for over 70 years.

In August of 2002 my parents moved to Bowling Green from Clyde and in October Grandma and Bob moved in with them. That Christmas we all went to Cedar Creek for Christmas Eve service. That was the night that God was done with my anger and hostility. That also marked a turning point in my relationship and interactions with Bob. I began to listen with more interest to the things he was saying about God and Christianity. Bob, until the week he died, would cut out almost any article he found in dozens of papers and magazines, about Christianity. He would paste them to paper and file them in 3 ring binders. There were tons of them. He also had multiple bibles that were falling apart and lined to the hilt. He knew a lot about God because he spent a lot of time with him. Something I'm still trying to get better at being in the habit of. Bob didn't consider time with God a habit to be formed, he considered it a vital part of your everyday life no matter what you were doing or where you were.

We would talk about prayer and serving, about baptism and how to live a Christian life. He was so much less emotional about it than I was. But not because he wasn't passionate about it, but because to him there wasn't an option of not being a believer, it just wasn't going to happen. When I got baptized in September of 2003 Bob came with mom and dad and Grandma to Cedar Creek while I got dunked. They brought me flowers and I had a lovely moment with Bob in the lobby talking about how excited he was for the future now that I have committed to Jesus and been baptized.

After I moved to Cincinnati I would come home or chat with him on the phone, and we continued in that sense for quite awhile. My Grandma died in March of 2006. She and Bob had been married for around 15 years and Bob was devastated. He was in his late 90s and he missed his wife. Easter 2006 I came home for the holidays. I had just started at the bookstore as Daryl's assistant manager and he was in the hospital. So I ended up working until almost 130am. I left right from work and drove to BG, 3 hours away. I got home about 5 after stopping a few times to wake myself up. I walked in the front door and back to the bathroom. I saw Bob, awake, sitting on his bed. He was crying. I went in and put my arm around him and just sat there hugging him. He cried about missing my Grandma, he cried because he didn't understand why he was still alive. He was almost 100 years old, two of his wives had died before him and he was tired. He didn't understand why God wouldn't let him just go home. We just sat there like that for about half an hour.
Bob died the following August. Finally able to go home to be with his wives and his God.

Bob was very matter of fact about his faith. He believed it, and he believed it deeply. But it wasn't emotion based, it wasn't based on if he felt the spirit move in a certain way or if he heard a certain song. He believed because he chose to believe. Bob taught me that even when you feel like Heaven is the deafest place you can imagine; even when you think that God is so far away you can't even see him anymore you believe. Because that is faith.
Bob was generous, sometimes to a fault. He gave. He didn't analyze, at least when I knew him, if the person might be asking for money because of some salacious reason, he gave. He was active in his church until just weeks before he died and was generous to them and through them.

Bob taught me to recklessly believe, to be generous to people that needed it, asked for it. He modeled a love that wasn't perfect but it was love. He was rough around the edges and nothing but soft in the middle. I got to talk to him about the mission trip I was about to go on and we talked about serving. Like so many others on this list it's hard to explain adequately the way that Bob impacted me. He modeled for me a life of committed faith that I long for, a faith journey that I aspire to, and a love of other people and being generous that I think of every day.
I miss Bob, but I'm glad he's hanging out in heaven with my Grandma.



Sharen is my sister. She is a working mommy to 3beautiful kiddos.
With the exception of my mom and dad (who will of course have their own posts shortly) she is the one that I have known the longest.
She is two years older than me and doesn't hesitate to tell people that it's impossible for her to look like me because she came first.
Growing up our rooms were across the hall from each other, it was a long hallway. When we would get grounded to our rooms we devised a secret code using our Burger King Kids Meal decoder packets so that we could still communicate. We would toss a ball back and forth all while listening to be sure that Mom wasn't coming.

Sharen was for most of the time the only friend I needed. We would swim for hours and hours on end in the backyard. We played Barbies and board games and ran and ran and ran around the yard like insane children. As she got older and we both made friends of our own there was always overlap we would just hang out together (unless I was being annoying, as little sisters can often be). There is still overlapping and I think we've just agreed to share friends, it's much easier that way.
We would fight, for sure. There was one time I took the newspaper to my room and she wanted it. I locked my door and she banged and banged against it. It then got eerily silent. I was leaning against the door with my forehead, gasping for air when I heard it. The slow creaking of my bedroom window being opened. Sharen had dashed outside and was busting in through the door. Apparently you don't mess with Sharen and her news! We had "she's touching me!" fights in the car and all sorts of other fights. But mostly , we played together.

Growing up, and even now, our parents work very hard to ensure that Sharen and I get along and have a good relationship. Mom and Betty had such a hateful relationship growing up and to the point as adults that they no longer speak. Mom and Dad don't want that to happen to Sharen and I. We used to tease dad that he kept a notebook with two columns in it, making sure that to the penny things were evenly dealt out to Sharen and I.
As close as we were there was also a seperate thing going on. Sharen doesn't remember the ice cream sandwiches at the farm and how I didn't get them. She doesn't remember the differences between the way we were treated. I don't rememeber all those mysterious big sister things that she did when she started hanging out with her friends and dating. But those just weren't things that we talked about.

When I was 16 Sharen moved to Cincinnati to be a nanny. I got her car. Oh the sweet freedom of having a car at 16! When I was 17 I was allowed to drive to Cincinnati with Jamie Keegan to see Smashing Pumpkins in concert with Sharen. We stayed at Motel 6 because her nanny quarters weren't big enough (and we were a little rambuctious).
When I was 23 Sharen started campaigning to get me to move to Cincinnati. I didn't end up moving until just before I turned 25, which was right around the time that she found out she was pregnant with Matthew.

I moved in with her, Jeff, Kirsten and Shelby until Matthew came. It was so weird knowing that she was going to have a baby. Watching her nest and prepare, seeing these parenting instincts kick in that I didn't even know were there. It was funny and sometimes scary to watch the quick flip of emotions run through her as she moved closer and closer to mommyhood. We were together when she had an emotional break down about Meijer not having cinnamon pop tarts. I still can't really look at those pop tarts to this day without giggling.
When the day finally came for Matthew to be removed forcibly from the womb I hung out at the hospital and even stayed on the couch one night when Jeff had to work at his 2nd job. I saw more of her during labor and delivery than I was prepared for, but I'm still able to tease her about her walk to the shower when she was finally allowed to shower.
I hung out with her a lot after Matthew was born. I would work, go to school, and go to Sharen's. That was what I did and I wouldn't change it for anything.
Once I had just left her house only a few weeks after Matthew was born and was on the phone with John (on a HOUSE phone, it was 2004, the last time I had a house phone) when the operator broke into our call. Sharen had called the operator and asked them to inturrupt my call because of an emergency. I hung up with John and Sharen was connected. She needed vegetable oil. Matthew was asleep, she couldn't leave the house and needed to make Jeff's birthday cake. But she was out of vegetable oil. It was hard not to laugh, because she really was so upset. But I laugh now, because I drove her vegetable oil at 11pm.

I stood up for her at her wedding and got to hang out with her while we picked out centerpieces, dresses, and made flower holders for the ceremony chairs. I went with her to pick out her wedding dress and helped her put it on the day she married (finally!) Jeff. I cried while she danced with Dad for the Father-Daughter dance and danced the Cha Cha Slide with her in fancier dresses than either of us are usually spotted wearing. I ate White Castle with her on the curb of the hotel parking lot (Jeff and rest of the wedding party, Nicole and Stephanie were there too) after the reception was over.

I could go on and on, but I'm not sure anyone would read that much. The point is, I love that I live so close to my sister and that we are so close. I was just thinking the other day about all the other places I could have bought a house in the Cincinnati area, but that I was glad I bought one 5 minutes from my sisters house.

Like Alaina, Nicole, and Stephanie, even more so Sharen holds my history. She was there when I tacked a note to my bedroom door saying I didn't want to be alive anymore, she ripped it off the door and screamed and hollered through the house for mom and dad to tell them. She was there in Louie's at 1 in the morning when that guy was dancing up on me and wouldn't back down. She was the one that ripped him off my backside and threw him against the wall by his neck. She's the one that has always been there, since the time I was born.

Sharen teaches me ferocity. She loves feircly and definitely. There's not a question where you stand with her because it's so direct. In the years since I've moved to Cincinnati I've learned that directness even more and adopted it as my own. She wears her heart on her sleeve and cries at the drop of a Hallmark commercial. We'll be sitting at the table on family night and just talking when she will smile just so and you can tell she's about to cry.
Sometimes I feel like I can be cold, just making up my mind to not care about something. Just the other day Sharen told me that I can't pretend like *insert what we were talking about here* wouldn't bother me. She's teaching me still to realize that it's ok to be emotional, that it's ok to wear a little bit of your heart on your sleeve.

I just love that I get the opportunity to live this life with Sharen so close to me. That I get to watch her be a mom to her kids and a wife to Jeff. They all started coming to church awhile back and I have loved every minute of watching her connect with people, begin serving in Odyssea and inch closer and closer to a relationship with Jesus.
It's a credit to my parents that they worked so hard for Sharen and I to have a close relationship, but it's a credit to Sharen too. Because I have a tendancy to withdrawal and try to disconnect from relationships when they're to intense for me. But her ferocity kicks in and she is usually the first in line to bang on my door. When other people are shying away from engaging me directly because I'm spitting mad and cursing anyone I see she is the one that steps up into my face and gets me to calm down and come back out to play.
She's my sister. I love her.


Aunt Ellen

Aunt Ellen is really my Great Aunt Ellen. She is my mothers mothers sister.
Word on the street is when Mae had my Uncle Johnny, her oldest child, my Aunt got on a bus in Georgia to come for a visit and just never went home again. I mean, she would go home to visit, but she moved in and stayed until she died.
Ellen never married, never had any children, never learned to drive. She kept house and helped on the farm and took care of the kids for Mae and played with the grand kids, at least Sharen and I. Ellen is who I really wish was my Grandma, because my mom's mom was just not a kind person.

I have a little girls memory of Aunt Ellen and sometimes I feel like my memory isn't really trustworthy (see proof here). But to me, she was a life raft in the middle of the hurt that was my relationship with my grandmother. I felt protected by her in a way that probably wasn't accurate because she was easily 5' tall or less and weighed barely anything.
Ellen used to babysit Sharen and I a lot. Once we were settled into bed she would sit down in the hall between our rooms and just sit there at least until I fell asleep because I never remembered her getting up. After she died, I would imagine that she was still there.
Mom would go pick up Ellen while Sharen and I were at school for various things and then bring her back to our house. They would have McDonald's for lunch and Ellen would buy 2 small fries and keep them for us as an after school snack.
At the farm there were these huge trees all along the drive and around the house. In the fall Sharen and I would make these monstrous piles of leaves to jump in. Most of the time one of us would bury the other and then go running to tell Aunt Ellen that the other girl had disappeared and we didn't know where she went. Ellen would come out, sing songing our name and saying "pea-pie!" for awhile. Ultimately she would wander over to the pile of leaves and say she was tired, she would then settle herself into the leaves, partially on top of us and then be shocked when the leaves would move and we would tell her that we were just hiding in the leaves.

She was almost completely deaf in her old age and would have whispered conversations with people long dead that she probably thought weren't out loud.
Once, when Ellen was babysitting me at my house I fell down the stairs and scraped the skin off my back all the way up and down (sorry, it's gross I know). I screamed so loud she heard me at the clothes line and came running in. Once she arrived, I knew that it was going to be ok.

When Mae would call Sharen and I into the kitchen for an ice cream sandwich and tell me I didn't deserve one because I was a horrible child Ellen would sneak me one. She always wore an apron and would find me a few moments later and take me out back. We would sit hidden beneath the weeping willow tree and she would pull an ice cream sandwich out for me to eat. Years later, a few years after she had died, Betty and Mae tried to tell me that Ellen hated me, that she thought I was a spoiled and rotten child. They said that she would tie me to the stove with her apron and boil large pots of water close to the edge. Our moments under the weeping willow with ice cream sandwich's was enough for me to know that their story couldn't possibly be true.

When either Sharen or I (or both) would stay the night Ellen would tuck us in so tightly we couldn't hardly breathe. For minutes after (that felt like hours) she left the room we would wiggle, giggle and writhe trying to free our arms from under the prison of blankets that she had put us under.
When just I would stay the night Ellen would come in as Mae and John were going to bed, as if to tuck me in. Instead, we would go back downstairs and watch David Letterman while eating cinnamon toast. I haven't eaten cinnamon toast since she died.

There was one time, that Ellen had chipped a cup of Mae's china. It was a mustache glass that was apparently very old. I was sitting in the living room watching TV. When Mae discovered the chip she called Ellen into the dining room (attached to the living room by pocket doors which were open) and slammed her into the wall. Told her that she was incompetent and how could she be so careless with something as valuable as this cup. That memory, it still scares me. It motivates me to see that the value in that situation shouldn't have been placed on the cup but on the sister. It reminds me that things are just things. They come and go and even if they're valuable so what, people should be more valuable, relationships with people should be more valuable.

One thing that makes me so sad is that I don't really know much more about Ellen then my little girl memories. She died with I was 15 and I was just a 15 year old girl that though everyone would live forever. I didn't stop crying the entire showing, through the funeral. I was afraid what would happen at the farm without Ellen there, a fear that was well founded.
I wish that I had a chance to ask her why she stayed. Why she didn't leave and move back to Georgia or in with my parents (who had asked her several times). I wish I asked her why she put up with Mae's laziness and the way she treated her. I wished I asked why she never married and had kids, especially now I wish I knew those things. I wish I could ask her about her faith and about those people that she had whispered conversations with.
But Ellen still taught me things. She reminded me in the midst of Mae and Betty's ugliness that I was loved. That I was worthy and accepted. She taught me generosity and patience. I learned that even when it seems like you're floating in the middle of an ocean abandoned that there is someone there that sees you and loves you.
She's still teaching me those things.

I'm turning 30 this year. I will have spent as much time alive without Ellen as I have with her this year. I still miss her so much every day. When things are all complicated and turned around in life, I sometimes still pretend that she's sitting in the hallway, whatever hallway I may be by, just sitting there and making sure I'm safe. I'm also standing firm on her faith, that one day when I die I will be reunited with her in Heaven and that we will be together again.


The Ladies of 4 Corners

They are far to numerous to mention but they are all the ladies at 4 Corners. A few have their own posts in the series (Claire, Bobbie) but there would have to be several more entries if I were to name them all by name.
At varying times I have been so encouraged by these women. We laugh and have fun, we have deep conversations about what its means to be a woman honoring God with her life. They show me what that is in their lives everyday.
It is comforting to see the married ladies honoring their husbands and navigating the worlds of wife, mother, sister, daughter, employee and friend with such grace. There's the ladies that aren't married that teach me how to be a single girl in a coupled up world.

There's Michelle, who I am so lucky to lead Washington Project with; I love watching her grow as a leader and the excellent job she does every week. She is an amazing creative woman who is a great mom and wife too.
There are a few Amy's, a handful of Jill's (Jill Hartsock who is married to Ryan and Jill Hodges who is married to Ben). There's a Diane, a Lisa, Nancy, Debbie, Joan, Claire, Jessica, Alyssa, Melissa, Kim, Denise, Peggy, Judy, shall I continue?

That list is certainly not exhaustive, not at all. Each of these women have taught me so much. They've supported me though a lot of drama and convicted me on my walk with Christ and met my confessions with compassion and grace. I've laughed and cried with them, told deep meaningful stories and shared some filthy inside jokes (play dough in Tennessee anyone?)
The women at 4 Corners help make it home. They include me and so many others so easily; when friends come to church with me they greet them enthusiastically.
I can't imagine my church without each and every one of them, yet I have had to say goodbye to some of them because they've moved to different churches (coughBobbiecough). But not matter what church they go to or how busy we all are we come together and we encourage each other to be better and to draw closer to Jesus through it all. I love these ladies so much and I feel so lucky that I get to go through life knowing them.


Kirsten, Shelby, Matthew

I first met Kirsten and Shelby in the living room of a townhouse off of Field-Ertle. It was where my sister Sharen and my future brother in law Jeff lived. I'm pretty sure this was 2000 or 2001. Kirsten and Shelby are Jeff's girls from his first marriage, but they were my nieces from the day I met them. My sister calls them her heart babies, because they were born in her heart when she met them.
Matthew I met about 30 minutes after he was born in the recovery room of Christ Hospital in 2004.
Kirsten, Shelby and I used to spend a lot of time playing dress up, reading out loud and playing with Barbies. We would swim at the old house in Clyde and generally all sleep in the same teeny tiny blow up bed when they would be visiting. Before I moved to Cincinnati I would road trip down here and once I did so just to baby sit them while Sharen and Jeff went to a fancy work party overnight. We made chocolate chip cookies and played Barbies until it looked like Mattel had exploded in the living room. I've played dress up with Shelby more times than I can count (usually I'm wearing my old bridesmaids dress from Lisa's wedding). We solved world problems together like, Should we watch That's So Raven or Dora the Explorer. We located missing big birds and played school.
Once I moved down to Cincinnati in 2004 I started giving the girls "Special Days" for their birthdays. On a Saturday after their birthday each year I spend the entire day with each of them individually. They have a set amount to spend and they make all the choices. No compromising with their sister or brother, no having to wait for another sibling to catch up or wake up from a nap. It's all their way all day.
We've done roller skating, putt putt golfing, bowling, I've visited every mall in the Cincinnati area in one eight hour period. I've watched a lot of kid movies and cartoons and listened to a child speak for almost 90 consecutive minutes. The whole time I wondered, did I ever talk that much? Do I still talk that much?
Shelby and Kirsten are 11 and 14 now. They're growing up quickly and dealing with a lot of growing up things. They push their boundaries and sometimes are just looking for someone to tell them they love them period.
I love them very much and can't imagine what my life would be like without them.

Shelby wears her heart on her sleeve and isn't afraid to tell you when she's hurt or disappointed. Sometimes she has a hard time seeing the good side to things, but she's also 11 and we're trying to help her see the sunny side of life. Shelby is so eager to please, yearning for praise and assurance that she is loved. She struggles with her school work and will often shut down out of frustration of not getting it right. But in the last few years has made such amazing improvements. Shelby wants things to be fair, but doesn't always think that fair is what is actually fair. Shelby flings herself into people and retreats quickly at the smallest sign of hurt. I don't know about the whole birth order thing, but the older her younger brother gets the more I see a definite middle child in Shelby. She is a storyteller and spares no detail. Shelby told a story once that I'm pretty sure I could have gone to work, come home, slept through the night and worked through another day of work before she got to the point of that story. It was hilarious and the whole family was held hostage at the dinner table.

Kirsten is both shy and boisterous at the same time. She is the child that has spoken for almost 90 minutes straight. She laughs with abandon and retreats into silence when hurt. Kirsten is really coming into her own as she hits the teen years. She takes a role of responsibility that is older than her years call for and is often busy doing responsible things (taking care of her sister or brother, cleaning up the table, carrying laundry upstairs etc.) as opposed to doing teen things. She does them quietly, seeming to wonder when she gets to goof off, until she explodes and wonders that aloud. (It doesn't help that her sister is a master at getting out of the co-jobs they're given at home...) Kirsten excels in school and is an avid reader. She used to horse back ride and was great at that. It seems that those sorts of things come easy to her. She has her own unique sense of style and dress and she isn't afraid to tell you why she loves something so much. This past Christmas she wanted yellow. It didn't matter what as long as it was yellow.
Kirsten is obedient. She generally follows the rules and does what she's told. When she steps out of line it is usually after much stress and provocation. She's 14, it's not unusual for this to happen. I can kid around more with Kirsten, her skin is thicker than Shelby's, but she's just as sensitive at the same time.

Matthew is 4 and a bundle of 4 year old boyness. He's intelligent and caring with quite the temper. He likes things just so and has a very strong sense of what's fair, what's fair usually being whatever it is he wants at the moment (just like his big sister). He loves movies and will tell you ad nauseum his favorite part of the movie until he has at last told you the entire movie itself. Matthew will say, "Hey Aunt Bethany" I'll say, "Yes Matthew" and he'll reply, "I love you" He's a cuddler and a wrestler and he loves to play games. He does this funny little wave when he wants you to follow him, which is almost all the time. He tells great stories and loves for you to tell him stories too. He is already reading and apparently identified the Nigerian flag the other day for his mom. I was there when Matthew took his first poop, of merconium, and I caught it in my hands with Sharen because we had no idea what else to do. We looked at each other after and said, "what did we do that for!" I was there when he had the hiccups for the first time and when he rolled over for the first time. He chatters non stop about the funniest things and has recently discovered "I'm copying you" I just copy him right back though so it doesn't usually last long. It's been really something to know this little guy his whole life. I've never spent so much time with someone that I remember when they didn't even exist. To be able to see who he becomes as he grows up has been really amazing.

These three kids are all pretty amazing in their own right and as a group. They've taught me patience and perseverance. Like taking a walk when one doesn't want to walk anymore and then it starts raining and you have 2 dogs and a stroller and are pretty tired of walking yourself. They've taught me a deeper love than I knew existed before these particular children existed to me. They've pushed me to the brink of insanity and then yanked me right back with their hugs and kisses. I've been kicked, shoved, punched, hugged, kissed and cuddled within an inch of my life; and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.