One very ordinary Thursday, a precious friend poured out her heart to me about her son’s death by suicide.
“She’s gone,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the line. “We sang and prayed with her.” His wife had succumbed to cancer on that fall Saturday morning.
I received a terrible phone call that my best friend from high school’s two daughters were killed in a wrong-way crash by a drunk driver. It was Good Friday.
“Do you want me to come over?” I asked my close friend as soon as she spilled the ugly news that her brother had taken his own life.
I could go on and on and on. Loss. Death. Unstoppable grief.
So much sadness. So little understanding.
Each person loved so fiercely.
Each tender one lost too early.
Each story shared bravely with me.
Nothing is more sacred than to share another’s pain. It brings both great sorrow and surprising healing. Each time I enter into this very “holy ground” space, I count it as one of the greatest gifts I will ever know in this lifetime, the gift of another in their most vulnerable and real and raw place. Sheer, terrible beauty.
For those of you who have wildly loved and lost a precious someone, I pray today that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting. I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering, so that you would feel unexplainably loved and cared for. I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to you in the places only He can reach.
We share every part of this life together, including the great sorrows we face, arms and hearts wrapped around each other, each one of us helping the other hobble along toward redemption.
Please feel free to share the first name of someone you have loved and lost in the comments. I would just like to hold the space for them today.
People thought we were having an affair as we sat at the community pool and laughed and hugged and engaged in some seemingly very serious conversations, while snacks and towels and “look what I can do’s” piled up from the six children we had between us.
I guess they were kind of right. We did love each other very much. I was closer to you than almost any other man on this beautiful planet.
But they were also very very wrong.
You see, you were not my “lover,” as the gossipy types might have whispered about in the parking lot with soggy kids in towels yelling, “can we please go home now?”
You were my brother and one of my very best friends.
You still are.
Today is your 60th birthday. I’ve known you for 53 years, 11 months and 10 days, since the day I was born.
You were forced to be my brother, just because of sheer genetic willpower, but you chose every single day to be my friend. I can’t thank you enough.
You taught me how to ride a bike when I was just five and you were a big giant 10-year-old.
You were the one I went to crying when I wet my pants in class at boarding school. You told me it was going to be okay.
You were happy when I was your “little annoying sister” in the school play. You even helped me memorize my lines.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
You told me I was super smart and could be anything I wanted and not-so-secretly told me I should go to medical school when I was older.
You wrote me a long letter from college when I was a young teenage girl encouraging me that I was valuable and to cling to Jesus during those tumultuous years after you had learned some hard lessons during yours.
You included me in your wedding as a junior bridesmaid, making me feel like a grown-up and highly important.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
You had me and some boyfriend of mine over for dinner, inviting us to share your heart and your home once you were living on your own.
You became my actual pastor once I graduated from college and you had 200+ young career singles in your care. You taught me how to love God (even though you spit when you talked and I was sitting in the front row receiving all that lovely spray).
You co-signed a loan for my “new used” car after getting the call that I had totaled my other one.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
You performed my wedding and I’ll never forget the charge to us about the “fire covenant” we were making with each other.
You became my neighbor in a little sleepy town and we shared birthday parties and trick-or-treating, community pool jaunts (as you already read) and Christmas afternoons.
You wound up being the “watcher of my high schoolers” so that my hubs and I could have short getaways that probably saved our marriage.
YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.
The bottom line is this. You were always there for me, in ways big and small, seeing me through the good and the bad and lots of the ugly.
I thought that was my favorite thing about you, but I was wrong.
When some really tough stuff came into your world, you did the most incredible thing of all. You allowed us to reverse roles just a little bit and made it okay for me to care for you the way you had taken care of me for so many many years.
Because of your humility and your bravery, I finally saw you, the amazing, kind, strong, faith-filled, vulnerable, tenacious, loving man that you are. It only made me love you more.
You, my friend and confidant, my cheerleader and my brother, are one of the best people I have ever known or will know.
The only thing that could be better than knowing you ALL of my life is if I had known you ALL of yours.
“Like what I like.”
“Think how I think.”
“Do what I do (and how I do it).”
“Be who I am.”
For years, this was my life’s mantra.
Husband. Kids. Friends. Coworkers. Strangers.
“Make decisions quickly.”
“Enjoy watching football.”
“Be an extrovert.”
“Believe every doctrine I espouse about God.”
On and on the list went, my goal to transform everyone into the spitting image of myself. It wasn’t ill-intentioned, but it was just plain old yuck (for lack of a better word).
I was missing out on the beauty of diversity and the celebration of our mutual differentness.
What a gift when the “scales” fell off my eyes and I could see the truth of this crucial life lesson: these people are NOT me NOR should they be.
WHAT A GIFT of the OTHER!!
It’s where life can be truly enjoyed in all its fullness.
It’s where love’s root can dig deep and blossom into a bouquet of grace.
It means discovering the life-giving rhythms of silence and solitude from my introvert husband. (This Esthergizer Bunny needs these desperately.)
It means processing math lessons with my teacher daughter, along with unearthing the compassion she has for the struggling student, allowing for my own heart to come alive in ways I would never have known on my own.
It means hearing stories about the latest sales strategies from my second-born and possibly implementing them into my own little life’s goals of writing.
It means asking (and then actually listening to the response) about the latest headphones on the market from my tech-savvy recent college graduate. (The current sound system in our family room is to die for.)
It means getting a late-night text from my California-dreaming daughter about how her dreams are coming true, which means mine are too.
It means allowing each of my friends to be perfectly themselves, right where they are, without an agenda in my back pocket. They bring gifts every single time I am with them, gifts I would never receive if they were just like me.
It means leaning in and learning from all of you beautiful souls who are so incredibly different from me. I thank God for YOU!
“Like what YOU like.
“Think how YOU think.”
“Do what YOU do (and how YOU do it).”
“Be who YOU are.”
I will be much richer and fuller and happier because of YOU.
After 14 straight days, the Holiday Hoopla has come to an end. The annual “Goetz Games” have had their closing ceremony.
14 straight days of guests in the form of adult kids, significant others, a super busy toddler, cousins, uncles, and friends.
14 straight days of mayhem in the form of playing games, opening presents, chopping wood, dirty dishes, scattered toys, endless grocery store runs, sleepless nights (with said toddler), and trying to keep the puppy from escaping with all the doors opening and closing.
14 straight days of meals in the form of take-out, home-cooked, half-baked, childhood favorites, too many carbs, cookies for breakfast, and New Jersey Taylor ham, egg and cheese on everything bagels no matter what time of day.
14 straight days of skirmishes in the form of toddlers kicking puppies and puppies nipping at toddlers, couples struggling to find time to connect and getting a little annoyed with each other, family feuds about past Christmas traditions (“did we always go to the movies on Christmas Eve?”), and fun-loving, game-playing conflict about rules and all the lovely that comes along with playing Code Names.
It can feel like HATE is winning. Fear creeps into our skin and buries deep within us, tearing our souls in shreds. Despair tangles her knots around our spirits, attempting to blow out the tiny flickers of hope we carry inside.
Hate is NOT winning. It will never win.
LOVE is winning. LOVE will always win.
LOVE WINS WHEN A…
…mommy and daddy hold their newborn and shout, “We are so in love!” on social media and then take 1,345,428 pictures for the next year.
…married couple look deep into each other’s hurting eyes and say, “We will fight for each other. Let’s go to a counselor.”
…toddler giggles at the sight of their aunt coming in the door, arms filled with gifts that only she can get away with giving.
…friend texts in the middle of the day and says, “I’m here. Call me day or night.”
…teacher pulls her “spicy” student aside, and says, “I believe in you.”
…top executive makes his way to an inner city soup kitchen on a Friday night in the pouring rain.
…garbage collector rings your doorbell to remind you it’s Tuesday because your trash cans are still in your garage and then waits until you go running downing the driveway in your jammies with said cans flailing behind (#personalstory)
…gangly middle-schooler takes a risk to befriend the new kid who moved into the neighborhood.
…hospice worker cares tirelessly, going many extra miles, for the victim of a dreaded disease.
…person on the “other side” shares these words, “I hear you. I see your point of view.”
…boss reminds a new and confused worker that failure is part of eventual success.
…grandpa plays “peek-a-boo” for the 48th time in the last 10 minutes.
…customer in the grocery store line steps aside and says, “Go ahead of me.”
…Savior sends a gorgeous rainbow to remind us of his promise never to leave us or forsake us.
…mechanic takes the time to help a stranger in need in the middle of Kansas on a cross-country trek (#anotherpersonalstory CLICK HERE)
…victim chooses forgiveness over revenge
…knowing smile that says, “me too,” sneaks to the lips of a stranger across the room.
…doctor takes the extra minute in the room and says, “I’m here to help. You will not fight this alone.”
…roommate utters the precious words, “I’ll do the dishes tonight.”
Overwhelming peace quiets our desperate souls. Hope is lit brightly again far down in our fledgling spirits.
“She was an adventurer at heart. But oh how she loved drinking this tea in this mug in this chair. Oh how she loved to be home.” (Google Images)
When you hurriedly trekked up the sidewalk with your then 10-year-old in a whirlwind house-hunting trip in August of 2002 and opened the door at 23 Cedar Hollow Drive, DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know…
the neighbor boy that walked through the door the day you moved in would become one of your son’s life-long friends and your son would share the weight of pall-bearer at his dad’s funeral eight years later?
music would fill the living room and your baby would fall in love with the guitar and piano and her playing and singing would be a gift to your soul and you miss these moments terribly?
23 Cedar Hollow Drive would be brimming with boatloads of love for and from almost every species of animal, from snakes, to dogs, to cats, to hamsters, to fish(that wouldn’t die), to every assortment of lizard and now there is only one left?
your marriage, faltering at best, would become a place of hope and healing for dozens and dozens of young couples on the verge of their own life-long journey of marriage? (in fact, you are spending time with one of them again this morning)
your nervous decision to construct a pool granted a space for family, friends, teammates, youth groups, classmates, neighbors and even strangers to rejuvenate and be refreshed? (water gun fights and subsequent peals of laughter did just the trick)
first days of school and dance pictures and phone conversations filled with both laughter and tears would mark your front stoop (and who knows, maybe some goodnight kisses by young lovers)?
extended family would gather for holidays and normal days, where sports teams would be cheered for, good food would be eaten, games (and some arguments over those games) would be played, and most significantly, unbreakable bonds would be formed?
your young daughter, struggling with severe OCD and the inability to go away even for a week would receive help through counselors and would now be a flourishing wife, teacher and mom?
an actual wedding ceremony would be performed in your living room because the bride and groom thought the church was located in your town and got their marriage license in the wrong place?
annual Easter Egg hunts (or should I say money hunts) created a place for teens and budding adults to still be kids in all the best ways?
endless art supplies and crafts from your artist would be haphazardly strewn over all available surfaces and one of those works would be still hanging proudly in your family room for your prospective buyers to see and admire?
birthdays would be celebrated in all their simplicity and sometimes complexity, giving room for sharing reasons why the one whose day it was to be honored was loved (and even liked)?
every kind of sport uniform would be thrown in heaps on your kitchen floor and not-so-carefully cleaned in your laundry room, providing a place of community and friendship for your kids? (even as you write this, two of your son’s high school teammates are asleep with your 23-year-old in the basement)
your finished basement would be filled with sleep-overs and left-overs and hang-overs and do-overs and make-overs and probably thousands of humans entered those doors?
your outdoorsy son, content to spread mulch, carefully prune bushes and chop wood with his dad, would be happiest at his job doing the same? (and he would embrace your sports teams to the full)
your family room couch would become the healing place for illnesses too numerous to count, unforeseen and planned surgeries, along with the comforting spot to take a mental health recovery day and that you let your kids skip school for only this reason (oh how far you’ve come)?
small groups filled with lasting and abiding friendships would meet, pouring over books and videos, praying through heartache, celebrating joys, living the ups and downs of life and kids and marriage and…and…and.. (one of them still met last night right in your family room)?
the pony-tailed 10-year-old around the corner and school-bus seat mate would become one of your firstborn’s closest friends, bridesmaid fourteen years later and Auntie Taylor to your grandson?
a baby in your womb would be lost yet your heart would be born anew?
your game-boy playing first-grader would help you to create your new podcast and be a regular and wise guest?
early Christmas mornings would be filled with children (and even now adults) sitting on your bed opening surprises (and not-surprises) through sleepy, yet curious and excited eyes?
a nervous breakdown would seek to destroy you but a life-long journey toward healing and wholeness would begin and continue today and that a writer’s quest would result?
homework would be finished (or not-so-much), college applications would be filled out, but most important, hearts would be taught to love and hope and apologize and respect and give and continue to learn?
your basement would be the place for a barely sprouting church youth group of eight teens and three leaders that is now hundreds strong?
warm fires would be built inside and out, where stories were shared, sleep was encouraged, s’mores were eaten, and life-giving memories were created?
fights would break out, doors would be slammed, harsh words would be spoken, yet subsequent apologies would be made and forgiveness would be granted? Love and trust would be painstakingly built brick by brick?
your two-year old would happen upon a friend in first grade and after endless sleepovers, birthday parties and bring-a-friend vacations, their college hearts would be knit together even though hundreds of miles separate them?
your glass kitchen door would be filled with chore charts and yearly memorabilia, bird-feeder and deck-flower views, and sun-soaked floors for pets to relax and sleep blissfully?
seventeen New Year’s Eves would be celebrated, some quiet with tired bodies barely making it until midnight and others loud with friends singing God Bless America on the stoop after a long-night of Bunco?
a new love would come bearing another new love?
religion would be shed over and over and Jesus would rise in its place to become the healer of your heart and the lover of your soul?
you and Allen would be more in love than you thought was even possible?
Did you know…
Thankful tears would flow because this house is a true haven of healing and that as you leave it, your prayer is the same for the next set of feet that trek up the sidewalk and open your front door and make this their home?
Yes. This you now know. You know ALL of it.
If you’ve made it this far and you like this, I am asking if you could go back out on social media where you came from and “Like” it! Makes a huge difference in how much it gets read and/or shared. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!