If you have the great privilege to meet Brian Herbert Maret, you immediately like him, but more importantly, you immediately feel liked. Did you catch that? You immediately feel liked. Listen again. You immediately feel liked. This is the man I call Dad.
Yes. My dad is a gardener and can grow a mean crop of tomatoes. Yes. He’s a missionary and has lived his life serving the God he loves. Yes. He’s a sports fanatic and will watch almost anything with a ball in it. Yes. He packs the best boxes in the safest ways for shipping items all the way to Africa or even New Jersey. Yes. He loves fishing and touching worms and pulling out all the hooks that get lodged in places fish (and squeamish daughters) are not happy about. Yes. He’s a husband who has loved my mom for more than 63 years. Yes. He is all those things and so much more.
Nature and/or nurture passed down only some of those things to me. No. I am not a gardener. Yes. I love God. Yes. I’m a sports fanatic. No. I can’t pack a box to ship across the street, much less to Africa. No. I don’t like catching fish or touching worms or pulling out hooks. Yes. I love my husband and hope to make it to 63 years (28 and counting – check it out HERE).
BUT BUT BUT…
There’s a few more powerful life lessons he shared with methat made me be a better mom (and a better human)…
1. GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR
For as long as I can remember and especially during my young mom years, the image I have of my dad is ON THE FLOOR surrounded by children (and toys and crafts and books). The key is ON THE FLOOR. At their level. Doing what they love.
One day, I watched my daughter crouch down to speak with a child who was asking her questions. I asked her why she did that and she responded, “I learned that from you, Mom. It shows basic respect for them, even though they are little.” “Oh my goodness,” I said, “I learned that from my dad. It just comes automatically.”
Thanks, Dad, for helping me to “get down on the floor” with my own children and those I don’t even know very well, to be a respecter of persons, no matter whether they are two or 92, brown-skinned or blue-eyed, the King of Ethiopia or the poor Somali boy with no shoes. Based on the podcasts I have done with my now child-adults, this idea of respect at all costs for all people seems to have struck their deepest chord. Thanks, Dad.
2. TALK TO STRANGERS IN GROCERY STORE LINES
I know how to embarrass my kids. That’s for sure. Especially when my two youngest were teens. I talked to strangers in strange places, but especially in grocery store lines. If they were wearing a Steelers hat, I would strike up a conversation about the latest game they lost or won. If their cart was filled with healthy fare, I would make some comment of admiration, knowing my checkout receipt was laden with Cheetos, Gogurts and frozen pizza. To add to the problem, their older brother joined in the fun! They, however, hoping to avoid this horrible atrocity of connection, would rebuke me quietly in my ear or poke me in the ribs, reminding me that we were just here to shop and get home.
I was a little kinder to my dad when he did this very thing (probably because I secretly loved it). It wasn’t just grocery store lines. It was the man sitting next to him at a sporting event. It was the new neighbor getting their mail. It was the teenager crabbing on the same pier. I am still kind to him when he does it and in fact, I spark up the conversation right along with him.
Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that people, and even my own kids, want to be known and seen and heard. That you can always find that “something” that provides the sacred space of human connection and by doing so, reminding each one that they are of great value. Thanks, Dad, that finally, my now 19-year-old admitted to me (the last time it happened) that she “gets it” and that she actually likes that part of me. Thanks, Dad, for passing along that trait and your friendly self to my second-born who is relentless in his pursuit of a common connection with those he meets (as one of his friends reminded me just yesterday).
3. MOW LAWNS THAT AREN’T YOUR OWN AND KEEP IT A SECRET
I found out recently that my eighty-something parents drive their widowed, ninety-something neighbor to get groceries. Lots of secrets were kept about these very kinds of things. I would find out from others all the little (sometimes big), kind, generous, unseen gestures that my dad would do for them. Mowing lawns (“I’m outside anyway.”), washing endless dishes every night when we were teens, sharing zucchini from his beloved garden, giving money to the poorer at a time he was poor himself, praying every single morning for us kids and now his grandchildren (along with my mom), and of course, so many things that are still a secret.
Thanks, Dad, for encouraging me during those unseen times of being a mom (countless loads of laundry, lunches made, sleepless nights and booboos kissed…something I now have in common with my own child-mom). Thanks for reminding me that it all counts (not just the stuff that’s noticed), that nothing is too little, that each ordinary act of kindness makes me a better mom and the world a better place, a place where God and all His kindness, generosity, and many times unnoticed Self is revealed to those who need it most.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD! And all you other amazing dads out there! It’s your day and I celebrate you!
“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!
“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in the pews.” (Tish Harrison Warren)
Dear Church of the Ascension,
I have visited your church two times. My husband and I live in New Jersey, but he works in Pittsburgh three days a week and has an apartment in the Strip District, not very far from you. About once a month, I make the reverse commute and we spend the weekend in Pittsburgh, a city I have come to love and enjoy beyond what I thought possible.
It’s on these weekends that we have walked through your bright red door, been greeted by your people, sat in your pews, listened to your choir, watched your children gather at the feet of your rectors, opened the scriptures, kneeled in prayer and shared bread and wine. It’s on these weekends that we have been outsiders peeking in on how you navigate this complex world of “church” in the new millennium.
I have some confessions to make to you this Palm Sunday morning, a day where I will be entering into the doors of another church, one where my view is from the inside out, not the outside in, one where we’ve loved and served for many years, one that is also maneuvering the mosaic of “church” in 2019.
Back to my confessions.
Today, I confess that I only visited your church because I was mildly obsessed with Tish Harrison Warren, having soaked up her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, not only once at a cursory level, but in depth with my women’s group. When I found out that she had moved to Pittsburgh and was a writer in residence only a mile away from my husband’s apartment, I was determined to visit you. I felt a little like the paparazzi, as I recorded her talk with the children, received communion from her and talked her ear off as she was greeting parishioners. It was not my finest moment, but as she reminds me in her book, we are all “limping to redemption,” and I am included in the “all.”
Today, I confess that something changed inside of me that first day. I wanted to come back. Not just because of Tish, although her talks that day fed my soul the love that it so longed for, but because as I watched and wondered about this community that “practiced” very differently than what I am used to, it seemed kind and gracious, filled with love for those on the inside and those on the outside (me included), the kind of love Jesus talks about every chance He gets.
Today, I confess that I came back with my husband, this time my motivation not to see Tish (I didn’t even see her that day), but to be filled again with this love you have to share. I confess that as I sat there, tears welled in my eyes as the message of God’s love for me was communicated from beginning to end, almost as if it was a calculated move on your part. Here is just a glimpse of the words that leapt from the white booklet and the hymnal I held in my hands:
We started here…
“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.”
“Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine.”
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside His crown for my soul.”
“Jesu, my love, my joy, my rest, Thy perfect love close in my breast…”
The middle was filled with this:
And we ended here… “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”
Whether it was deliberately planned by your leadership, God knew what I needed that day, my heart was more open to receiving the love and goodness of God, or ALL of those in sweet combination, my “outsider” self felt beautifully connected to you and your people, and especially to the loving heart of God.
Today, my last confession is one of thanks to you. Thank you for being a beacon in the middle of my beloved adopted city of Pittsburgh. Thank you for giving this outsider a place of belonging. Tish reminds me in her book that “God loves and delights in the people in the pews around me and dares me to find beauty in them.” I have found the beauty in you. Your beauty is one that has given me inspiration for my inquisitive mind, daring hope as an anchor for my soul, but most of all, deep, deep love for my longing heart, a beautiful and firm foundation that I carry with me into this Holy Week ahead. Thank you. We shout HOSANNA (“Come Save Us!”) together today!
I am amazed at how often “Millennials” are made fun of. Put down. Told they are lazy, entitled, spoiled, narcissistic. Even skimming articles online, I came across titles from prominent magazines and newspapers like:
“Millennials and Their Destruction of Civilization”
“This is Why Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap”
“Millennials are Uniformly Bad Tippers”
I have been constantly bombarded with negative viewpoints on this whole generation of people. I was raising three of them (with a fourth not too far behind) and every time they did something I didn’t like or agree with, I would dismiss it with “after all, their generation….yada yada yada.” I fell many times into the trap of blaming them for the ills in my home and in our world, jumping on the “Millennials Suck” bandwagon, complete with “eye-rolling” and outright contempt. NOT GOOD.
Allen and I (other than raising almost four of them) spend lots and lots of time with this generation. Between our nieces and nephews, our kids’ friends, the significant others in our children’s lives, and the young engaged and married couples we mentor, our lives are surrounded by men and women aged 22-37. Truth be told: WE LOVE IT AND WE LOVE THEM! News flash: they certainly don’t suck. They are an incredible group of human beings who have taught me how to live and love better. They are SO SO SO good for my soul! They have revealed God in a way that brings hope and healing to the core of who I am.
If there was anything that was hammered into my psyche from a very young age (by who knows what), it was the message that I should not reveal my true self. I should hide. I should only show the good parts of me, or what I think others will approve of. This was the way to keep the world, my marriage, my church persona and my friendships in tact. I even remember a deodorant advertisement that said, “Never let them see you sweat!” as if I couldn’t even have normal bodily fluids when I worked out. Millennials have shouted, “NO MORE!” “Sweat!” “Be yourself in all your good and bad.” “Be vulnerable and authentic!” Even writing this blog and having my podcast comes as a result of the permission I’ve been given to boldly be who I am, flaws and all. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS!
My parents were outliers in many ways in their own generation. Living in a world where their peers were living the “American Dream,” amassing wealth and pursuing happiness, my parents chose to give their lives for the “least of these.” This did not make my childhood filled with all rainbows and ponies (in many ways it was fraught with a host of difficulties), but ONE vital thing I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world is their hearts of generosity that penetrated my own. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for listening to those outliers who went before you and solidifying this good place in me. You volunteer more than any generation before you. You believe it’s essential to GIVE BACK! You are changing the world, one cause at a time, one person at a time, with your love and commitment to the lost and the least. You remind me each day to live in and from this place of generosity, the very heart that God has towards me! YAY for you!
For years, I lived with the idea that if I could get my outer world under control, my inner world would follow suit. I believed that “to do” lists checked off at the end of the day would bring me what I truly longed for: a life filled with peace and joy. But the harder I tried to fix, fix, fix, perfecting my outer world, the more I realized it was impossible, sending me into much anxiety, wondering what was wrong with me. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for challenging that lie, revealing the truth to me that tending to my inner world, my soul, where true peace and joy dwells, where God lives and moves and speaks and heals, is the best starting and ending place. You have helped me have an “anchor for my soul, firm and secure,” (Hebrews 6:19) one nestled in the very heart of God.
Today, on this very ordinary Monday, my heart swells in thankfulness for you, my friends, those of you who were placed into this world and especially my world “for such a time as this.” I am humbled and grateful for the deep truths that you have so willingly spoken into my heart, shattering the lies that held sway over me! Thank you for your vulnerability, your generosity and your wisdom!
To my own Millennials (Sarah, Cody, Jared, Josh, Daniella, Courtney, Brandon, Marina, Nick…with Rachel and Cara closely behind), THANK YOU for showing me who I am and how much I am accepted and loved, not only by you, but by the God who formed me from His very vulnerable, generous and wise heart! The best is yet to come!!
“Friendship is so weird. You just pick a human you’ve met and you’re like, ‘Yup. I like this one’ and you just do stuff with them.” (Google Search On Funny Friends Quote)
Dear Friends of Little Old Me,
Today marks the Dolly Mama “tell your friends how great they are” blog post. I can’t believe I haven’t done it sooner. I am a little embarrassed (and if you know me at all, that’s a load of hooey…I wouldn’t know embarrassment if it smacked me right in the behind). Sorry. Back to the letter.
Right off the bat, I have to just be super honest and tell you I am feeling a little snarky right now and you might just sense it when you read this. Bear with me. I’m planning to be serious and sappy and smooshy and sentimental as well by the time this letter is over. Sorry. Back to the letter.
It’s true. You really are great! Like wearing a superhero cape great! Like standing behind a mic and getting an award great! You get the point! I think you are great!
Some of you are great because you don’t let me stay my “less than the true Esther Goetz” self. You believe in me. You motivate me. You encourage me. You kick me in that not-embarrassed behind when I need it. You believe in the best version of me and you build me up one brick at a time. I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you are my cheerleader. You sing your praises to my words-of-affirmation-is-my-happy-place heart. You root for me and would have poms poms shouting “Esther Goetz is ‘da bomb'” if I would let you (don’t tempt me…I might have to make that happen in real life). You make me feel like a champion even when I’m just an average New Jersey housewife. I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you love what I love. We can take a walk or a hike and talk heady stuff like Christian doctrine. We can take a bike ride on LBI and get our favorite kind of ice cream. We can meet for lunch (on time may I add) and share silly stories of our week and our latest caper. We can watch the Bachelor together (no judgment please) and laugh at the screen and ourselves in the process (“Do we seriously watch this show?”). I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you are just “WITH ME.” You sit with me in the dark times. You laugh with me in the hilarious comedy that is my life. You stick with me when I’m screwing up. You talk me down off the ledge when I want to jump. You calm my heart when the monster of anxiety rears her ugly head. You have no judgment for me (take note, you who judged my Bachelor watching). I tell you all my secrets. I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you make me feel connected to you in all the best ways…emotional, spiritual, mental and even physical. You wave at me across a crowded room, save a seat for me at an event, send me a card on my birthday, grab my hand when we are together, and remind me that we are “two peas in a pod.” I belong to you and you belong to me. I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you are just fun! You make me belly laugh. You always have an adventure for us to go on! You are super okay with my snarky nature and “give it back” to me when I’m dishing it out to you! You light up when you see me! You’re not afraid to say all that’s good about our lives and our days! You give energy when this “Esthergizer Bunny” is about done. I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you open my mind and heart to new things. You don’t let me get stuck. You ask me great questions, challenging me to rethink the way I always have and help me to change “just a little bit” at a time (even though I might fight you in the moment). You make my view of life (and many times GOD HIMSELF) bigger and enlarge my whole heart at the same time! I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
Some of you are great because you are wise. You keep me headed in the right direction. You’re like the GPS of my life. You help me navigate all the beautiful and messy parts of my journey with understanding, grace and kindness. You straight-up give me advice (even when I’m being stubborn and a know-it-all). My goals and dreams matter to you and you help me to keeping working toward them. I love you and need you. #youhavenoidea
ALL OF YOU ARE GREAT because you love me. You really love me. For who I am. Plain and simple. What more could I ever ask for or want from a friend? Nothing! Whether we text each other every day, talk to each other once every six months on the phone, are only able to connect on social media platforms, or see each other once in a blue moon at reunions, I count you forever as my friend, one that I will treasure in my heart until I take my last breath.
Somehow, my snarky voice has quieted and all is right in my very sappy world as I think of you and all that you mean to me! I love you, my GREAT friend!
From my heart to yours,
P.S. Please let me know three things – that you received this and maybe even read it (since I wrote it just for you), which kind of great friend you think you are and also what kind of friend you believe I’ve been for you (why I’m great…sorry, back to the snarky). You can text me, call me, email me, snail mail me, comment on this blog or my current favorite, post it on social media.
TODAY, I challenge you to maybe write a text or a letter or pick up the phone and tell one friend you love them and why they are great. And then share this with them. How amazing would it be if each one of us spoke our love with just one and then encouraged them to tell one. The ripple effect would be wonderful! January 20th, 2019, would be just a little more hopeful and beautiful! TELL JUST ONE!
ALSO PLEASE FOLLOW ME VIA EMAIL! JUST A QUICK CLICK AWAY!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)
I walked into Panera this past Wednesday and there was a gift waiting for me.
I climbed 20 flights of stairs last January and another gift was waiting for me.
I went to my normal chiropractor appointment at the end of the summer and a third gift was waiting for me.
I went to church on a regular Sunday and a fourth gift was waiting for me.
All the talk right now is what do I want for Christmas. What do you want? What gifts are we going to get come nine days from now (yes, I know, it’s the final countdown…9…8…7)?
Walking into Panera a few days ago stopped me in my tracks. Right there on Route 22 in Watchung, NJ was a gift I had already been given in 2018: my new friend Jackie! Her bright eyes and cheerful smile greeted me before we even reached each other for a hug! Our conversation unfolded in authenticity and grace. We didn’t really want to leave at the end of two hours, but other things beckoned us to pack up our plates and give a quick hug goodbye. As I pulled out of the parking lot, filled to the brim with joy over this wondrous gift of a budding friendship, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of all the gifts I have already opened in 2018, gifts strewn lovingly by God’s hand to my heart.
Maybe it’s just me (and somehow I would hazard a guess that it might not be), but with all the struggles that come from my average, every-day life, my mind tends to swirl around all the gifts I’m NOT getting on any given day. They range from the minuscule (I forgot something at the store and now I have to go back and I just lost a half-hour of time) to the grandiose (some of the prayers I fasted for during Lent on my Hosanna List have not been answered yet). I become discouraged and disheartened, wondering where God is in all of it and if He sees me and even cares.
Enter Panera. My 2018 AHA moment. “Take stock, Esther, of the gifts you’ve already received and opened and enjoyed this year,” a Voice inside my heart nudged, or more like prodded, “You don’t have to wait until December 25.” So on this ordinary Sunday, December 16, 2018, I am doing just that…one for each month of the year!
The beauty of Allen’s apartment in the Strip district in Pittsburgh. Yes, it’s 20 flights up (there is an elevator for the faint of heart), but the view of the river and the sheer “one-of-a-kindness” of it takes my breath away each time I turn my key and open the door. And can I just say, Jared moving to this land of Allen’s birth is the icing on the cake!
Fellow writers, editors and podcasters like Afton, Janis, Gail, Annie, Sarah, Debbie, Tracy and so many others who are encouraging me on this new-found and scary, but exciting journey of blogging, and book-writing. (check out some of the links by clicking on their names…you won’t regret it). AND YOU READERS who this would be useless without!!! Huge thanks and shout out to those of you who read and share and encourage! You have no idea how my heart leaps with each “like,” “share” and “comment.” It means what I’m doing matters. Thank you.
Authors who share their hearts with a waiting and skeptical world and the books that come out of them. My two favorite this year and who I am determined to meet one day soon (one moved to NYC and one moved to Pittsburgh, so I have a good chance!!! One knows a friend of mine and already emailed me back and I have a couple of friends who know the other personally…if you know them, hook me up!): Shauna Niequist and Tish Harrison Warren!
Our cozy beach house that provides a place of respite and restoration for our family, my women’s group, our friends and even the renters who call it “our house” year after year. Memories are forged, love is shared, the salt air heals and each one leaves better than when they came. There aren’t enough words.
Sharing at church about marriage mentoringand all the wonderful couples who came forward to be mentored and especially to mentor! This makes my heart so happy. Not only do we get to share about our own marriage journey (filled with struggles and strengths), but that others willingly come to receive and give themselves. #yayformarriage #yayforvulnerability #yayforredemption
Budding friendships with those I didn’t even know existed a year ago. Jackie isn’t the only one, even though she’s pretty AMAZING as I’ve already told you. How about Susan, Stacey, and Tatiana, girls who jumped into my small groups and opened their hearts wide, sharing their very selves (BTW my small groups are unbelievable…don’t live without one)?! WOW! What about Liz, a young wife who loves Jesus and whose heart matches mine on this wholeness and healing journey (she’s the one who was waiting at the chiropractor, a very unlikely place)? How about Natalie, my cohort in mischief and joy on my trip to Rwanda? As a pastor’s kid, she gets the “growing up in ministry” part of me very few understand. Plus, she’s a great match for this Esthergizer Bunny.What other surprise people are in store for me? I never want to say it’s enough. As I’ve told Sarah so many times in her life, “the best friend you’ll ever make might be waiting just around the corner.”
Our monthly couple’s massage. Best birthday present ever given by my awesome husband. Somehow, though, he benefits from this. He’s a sneaky, but cute one.
An invitation into the redemption story of Rwanda!To see this dream fulfilled after 10 years of our family’s “clean water obsession,” was absolutely incredible. Not only to be a small part of it on the ground, but sharing with our team, meeting the people who do this day in and day out, and being completely invigorated by the ways God is bringing true restoration to a county so broken and devastated. Even the Rwandan woman who prayed for me one day! What a gift! We cannot wait to go back with our family!
Long, deep and abiding friendships that are too many to count! (I can’t even begin the list because I so don’t want to miss anyone. You know who you are! Some of you are even my family members!) Friendships that stand the test of time and love all the fabulous and flawed parts of me. Friendships that remind me never to give up hope and speak grace over me when I’m hurting. Friendships that keep me on course as we “limp our way together to redemption” (Tish Harrison Warren).
The latest Podcast I listen to and online book club I am carefully venturing into with the Bible for Normal People. This is the place I get all my mental feels and my brain gets stretched and I can discuss and argue and be free to express all my doubts and questions about God and the Bible. For this girl who grew up thinking she (and a few other chosen ones) had all the answers to the big questions nailed down, it’s a huge, precarious step into the largeness of God! On a very silly note: I even got to record my voice giving a shout-out in one of their upcoming podcasts! #90secondsoffame
Allen, Sarah, Cody, Broden, Jared, Lady, Josh, Daniella, and Rachel. Heart of my very own heart! Can you even believe that I have permission from them to share about them?! Can you believe a husband and a bunch of mostly Millennials let their stories be known? Who has that? Believe me! I don’t take it lightly! This gift of them and from them allows my voice to be heard and there is nothing I treasure more! They are even willing to go further! How about that?? Here’s the LITTLE SURPRISE: you will begin to hear more from them and from me in the New Year on my new podcast called “The Dolly Mama and the Millennials.” So excited!!
So what’s your Panera today? What gifts have you already opened this year? Take stock, my friend! And please please share at least one! Or two, or twelve! You can comment here, but even better out on social media! Or BOTH!
When I see you, my eyes turn into little hearts! (The Internet)
Dearest Broden Bear,
Today you turn One! I just can’t believe it’s been a year since I held you in my arms at Hershey Medical Center and had that unexplainable BIG feeling that your arrival would change me forever, in all the very best ways.
Mommy and Daddy have kept you alive for 12 whole months, 52 weeks, 365 days! This is no easy undertaking now that your adventurous, free-spirited, “I-want-what-I-want”, curious and mobile self has taken over! Just less than 72 hours ago, your determination to climb the steps all by yourself led to a not-so-little tumble, complete with a bloody nose and a call to the doctor. Thankfully, you were back to your happy self very soon and went right back to the steps, not a care in the world.
I knew way back on November 18, 2017 that you would be cute. I knew you would be super special. But I didn’t know how easily and quickly my heart would be captivated by everything Broden:
Your big blue eyes filled with wonder at anything new.
Your six-toothed smile.
The pleasure you expressed when eating pizza with us on Friday.
The way you scrunch up your face.
Your strong-willed cry when you don’t want me to leave the room.
Bubbles of laughter during peek-a-boo!
Your love of music already.
The “look” of wariness when you are unsure of something.
The way you snuggle into my neck.
Your strong determination to get where and what you want.
Your look of recognition and then happiness when you see me.
Watching you giggle when you were playing with your new birthday toy last night!
One year ago, I found myself asking the questions, “What will you be like? What adventures will life bring you and you, in turn, bring to life?” You’ve already had so many adventures:
rides in your Daddy’s 1985 Bronco
staying up til midnight on New Year’s Eve (that might not happen again for a bunch of years)
meeting your great-grandparents
reading Press Here over and over and over (parents of young ones, buy this book…it’s genious)
going to your first wedding
eating a banana popsicle
dressing up like a pirate with Mommy and Daddy
putting your toes in the sand in LBI
kissing your first fish
loving the swing at the park
eating Chik-Fila (if Daddy has anything to say about it, this will be a staple in your diet)
dressing like twinsies with Daddy
swimming in the pool at Allenberry Resort
riding in your special bike seat behind Mommy and Daddy
meeting a goat at Paulus Orchard
having your first lollipop as Charlie Brown
And it’s not over . There are many many more to come! They have and will continue to range from hazardous to great, terrible to sweet, quiet to joyous, sad to wonderful, hard to exciting. One thing for sure: all of your adventures will be unique, because you, Broden, are one of a kind! But one thing I didn’t realize then was all the adventures you would bring to me! It’s been quite a ride already! Can’t wait for more!
Regardless of the kind of adventure you take, never forget above all that that you are extremely loved. The God who formed you has absolute and unconditional love for you. Nothing you can ever do will make Him love you less or love you more. He loves you just because you are you.
Your creative, smart, kind, hard-working, compassionate mommy and your free-spirited, adventurous, wise, level-headed, willing-to-grow daddy are absolutely head-over-heels in love with you. They will love you no matter what and nothing you can do will ever change that.
You also have grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who have loved you from the first moment of hearing about you. You will never find yourself in a place that you won’t be loved.
All of our eyes do turn into little hearts when we see you! It’s impossible for it to be otherwise!
Your inner soul anchored in this place of unconditional love will be of immense value for living your outer adventure to the fullest. Never forget that you have that safe place deep down inside that no one can take from you. Live in and from that place!
This year, on the day you turn one, I want to remind you again of the “bunch of verses” that God gave to me right when you were born. They are from God’s heart to mine and mine to yours:
From the day I heard about you, I have not stopped praying and making special requests for you.
I pray that…
you will be filled with a deep and clear understanding of His will for you, that you will have insight into the ways and purposes of God.
you would live how God designed you to live, from a fully-known and fully-loved place and that you would have complete trust in Him. This brings Him the most pleasure.
your life would bear much fruit from all your hard work.
you would have a full, deep and clear knowledge of God.
you will be invigorated and strengthened with all power from God so that you will have much patience and joy.
I thank God because He has made you fit to share in all that is His. He has brought you into His Kingdom, one that is filled with love.
(Colossians 1:9-14 – EJGV – “Esther Joy Goetz Version”)
Broden, how fun that you are ONE! I am so glad that you were born right before Thanksgiving. It’s perfect timing! Having you in my life gives me countless reasons to be thankful! Next November, you will be TWO and we will do this all over again! For now, I am off to your birthday celebration! Happy Birthday to you!!!
With all the love I have in my heart,
(Not sure what you will name me…maybe we will know by this time next year)
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” (Warren Buffett)
Dear Mrs. Geiger (otherwise known as Grandma to my kids),
This weekend, I was flipping through my beat-up recipe book trying to figure out what to eat with Allen. I came across an old-fashioned casserole recipe that you had given me. Made with Rice-A-Roni®, cream of mushroom soup, diced chicken, corn and breadcrumbs. Usually, I am fairly health-conscious, but it didn’t matter one bit. I was determined to make it just to honor the fact that you gave it to me (and from what I remember, it was yummy).
From the first time I met you, I felt loved. The year was 1990. Me: a twenty-something, red-headed, spicy girl in a new church in the middle of a budding romance. You: a sixty-ish, white-haired grandma, with a contagious laugh (I can even hear it now) and a servant’s heart. You were pretty spicy yourself. Little did I know what was in store for the next eight years.
Right from the very beginning, you began planting seeds of kindness and goodness into me. You were unlike anyone I had ever met. I wasn’t sure why I was chosen, but I was happy about it. Within months of knowing me, you invited me (and my new love Allen) over for dinner. As we pulled up to your Cape Cod on a quiet cul-de-sac in the darkness of winter, candles flickered in the window inviting us to the feast you would set before us and the warmth of your love (and Mr. G’s) inside.
As the months and our romance progressed and I struggled to convince Allen that I was the love of his life, you called me to your home once again and said, “Let’s get on our knees and ask God about this.” Onto our knees we went beside your bed. I’m not even sure I had a choice. I found out we weren’t asking God about anything. You were telling God that He needed to make Allen see what a gift I was and that he should ask me to marry him immediately. It was crazy bold and I felt loved. How good and kind you were to me.
It was sooner than later that your bold prayer was answered and Allen asked me to marry him. You had us over for a celebration complete with an Italian dinner, those candles again flickering in the window inviting us into your home and more importantly, your heart. That evening, we spoke of our discouragement in finding a reasonably-priced rental. Immediately, you told us you would phone the widow who owned the empty home next door and ask if she would be willing to rent to us. We were not only overjoyed at your kindness, but also because our frustrating home search might be over. You called the next day.
Within a few months, just weeks before our wedding day, I moved in to 23 Edward Court, the little Cape Cod right next door to you and Mr. G, 27 Edward Court. After our return from honeymooning in the Smokey Mountains, Allen moved in with me and we started our married lives together, happy to know that you were only about 30 feet away, filled with love, goodness, grace, kindness and wisdom. What a treasure. The next several years began to unfold.
You were one of the very first people I told when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. You invited us over several evenings for dinner as I awaited my baby, juggling work, pregnancy and our new home. You gave me recipes as a new wife that I made without the same ability and patience as you. You prayed with and for me, listening to all my hopes and fears about these new chapters I was writing.
When Sarah arrived, you immediately called yourself “Grandma” and Mr. G “Poppy.” You brought the Rice-A-Roni® casserole (the above one I made this weekend) the day I came home from the hospital, providing food and love once again in a time where I was exhausted and didn’t know my right hand from my left. The seeds of kindness and goodness you sowed in my heart began to bud.
Time marched on and I had more babies. You were the truest Grandma in every sense of the word, having Sarah over for tea parties and doll-house playing, beckoning Jared into your home to push the button to make the “choo choo train” whistle, poking Josh in the belly button, reminding him that it was his “tortellini” and causing bursts of laughter for all. You viewed the dirty fingerprints covering your glass door from six little Goetz hands as marks of love.
You celebrated our birthdays, always making my favorite angel food cake in February and serving Allen a London broil on the grill in our backyards in August. Our kids expected just the right gift from you on their big days and they had no idea you were anything other than their family. The truth is you weren’t.
Our lives kept moving along in sync with each other, as we attended the same little church, lived on the same little street, and enjoyed the same little moments over and over and over. Cups of tea, your love for Bermuda and our promise to go there on our 20th anniversary (which we did), visits for missing ingredients in the dishes I was making (too many times, I am embarrassed to say), stroller walks, laughter until our bellies hurt, tools borrowed, meals eaten together, wisdom shared (this was a one-way street), and hearts connected. The seeds of your kindness and goodness bloomed in my soul.
The winter came when Allen and I felt we had outgrown our small home. We began looking. Knowing we would leave you gave us deep sadness. When we mustered up the nerve to share this with you, you had your own news. You were ready to move on to your next home as well, an adult community in beautiful Lancaster, PA. We were relieved yet very sad. As the months stretched ahead, we had garage sales and goodbye parties. We shed mutual tears and shared excited hearts. And as God would have it, our move dates were only days apart. At the end of August, 1998, we both packed up all our belongings side-by-side and headed out into the next chapters of our lives. We both said we couldn’t have done it any other way.
Of course, over the next many years, we visited you often and you came to our new home and we shared beautiful moments together. One more time, you welcomed our last baby, Rachel, with open arms and hearts. But the plain and simple truth is that it was never quite the same. The true gift of those eight years living right next door, sharing our tables and our hearts, was once-in-a-lifetime, something I will treasure forever. But as we know, kindness and goodness are the gifts that keep on giving. Those seeds that you planted in my life are growing into a beautiful tree filled with abundant harvest and hopefully shade for others, that same shade you provided for me.
Today, I am a kinder and better woman, mom and wife because of you. Allen is a kinder and better man, husband and father because of you. My children are kinder and better human beings, budding adults, spouses, friends, sons and daughters because of you. I don’t know why I was chosen for to receive this grand, beyond-my-imagination gift. I am eternally grateful.
It’s been about six years since you passed away. The last time Sarah and I sat with you in your apartment (only three weeks before you were gone), you shared your excitement about going to see Mr. G (Poppy to Sarah) and Jesus very soon. You planted more seeds of kindness and goodness even that day. You gave Sarah a special teacup from your collection, a wonderful reminder of all the tea parties you had with her when she was just a little girl. You gave me, as I looked into your eyes and hugged you fiercely one final time, the greatest gift I could ever receive, the gift of yourself.
I miss you and Mr. G very much. I can’t wait to eat that casserole today.
“Honeymoon experiences cannot be sustained. We must always return to the ordinary.” (Richard Rohr)
I am still trying to wrap my head and my heart around the fantastic, incredible, extra-ordinary, unbelievable, “other-worldly” experience I had in Rwanda. There really are no words in our English language able to capture it in its fullness. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve had these times as well where it feels like it’s too almost too sacred to share.
I go from energy to exhaustion within the same moment. I am energized because a new village has clean water to drink. I can see and hear the girls jumping rope with their new gift from America and dancing as water pours out from the brand new pump. However, I am exhausted because people are still wearing their same dirty clothes day after day and school girls don’t have access to feminine hygiene products, much less a private place at school when it’s their “time of the month.” They have to stay home for the week, thwarting their learning and the prospect of a better life.
My heart wants to go back and stay here all at once. Here in New Jersey, I have people I love, conveniences (like wifi that actually works consistently), and a bed that welcomes me (without a mosquito net). But in Rwanda, there are new friends that I love and already miss, the simplicities of a slower pace without the constant dinging of cell phones, and a night sky filled with unhindered stars shining brightly.
I miss the excitement of my team and our trip yet I am happy for the silence of my kitchen in this moment. There couldn’t have been a better group of people to travel with. Our persons varied widely: silly and serious, introverts and extroverts (#meandnatalie), newbies to world travel and those who have lived all over the globe, young parents to grandparents, singles and married. We laughed at ourselves in all our Americanness and shed tears for and with each other, sharing how our hearts had been changed forever because of this precious time spent. We danced in the afternoon and sat bleary-eyed at the early breakfast table, We played soccer and sang praise songs, gave hygiene lessons and carried pipes. We did our best to be utterly flexible while our “used-to-being-in-control” selves took a much-needed break. Yet, now, I am happy for the normal, everyday life where I can take stock of these moments and process how I have been shaken on the inside, never to be the same. It’s just my computer and me in my kitchen in my home, all activity quieted for the moment.
I met some of the brightest and kindest people serving their local community with Living Water International. Graciously, they allowed us the opportunity to actually hold the drill rig in our own non-calloused hands. I danced with local church leaders who care day-in and day-out for the poorest members of their villages. I stood in awed silence as one woman prayed for me as she squeezed my hand intermittently during the time given to the task. I spoke with a government sanitation minister about her efforts to have working toilets in the schools (the funny thing being that the toilet in her government building actually over-flowed after I used it). Tears flowed as I left them behind, yet hope sprang because they continue to do the work after I am gone. We are connected not in body anymore, but still in vision and heart.
I want to do something more, not waste my experience, make it count. I don’t want to go back to my ordinary life of sending emails, brushing my teeth and getting my car fixed. I want to buy a cow for three people that I met. I want to write blog posts that the world will read. I want to make a slide show, a scrapbook, something so that I won’t forget, and neither will others. I want to capture it and hold on tightly.
But when it comes down to it, I am probably not buying a cow for anyone. It might be not the wisest thing to do. I also have had a really hard time writing down exactly what I experienced even though I have tried many moments. Even looking at my pics and videos (and I know some of them are here in this post), they just don’t do the trip justice. I’ve tried to share them, but they don’t really capture the beauty of the rolling hills or the sheer joy of the people met. You know. You get it. You’ve had these experiences too.
Processing some of it out (at least for now), I realized that I just want to build a shrine out of this mountaintop experience like the three disciples did when they saw Jesus being transfigured during their literal mountaintop experience (READ IT HERE) . After all, they had just encountered something fantastic, incredible, extra-ordinary, unbelievable, “other-worldly.” I’m with Peter. Why not build at least some tents, something more permanent, so everyone could live there? Why not have at least a blog post, a video documentary, something concrete to hold on to so that no one would ever forget?
But Jesus surprisingly and gently says to them, “Don’t talk about it right now.” As Richard Rohr reminded me this week (Check out his whole article HERE), “Jesus knew that talking too soon would only weaken the experience. Silence seems necessary to preserve the sacred and the mysterious.”
Obviously, I have not been completely silent (I am Esther Goetz after all). Here you are, reading this blog post that I have written. It’s my third one (here are ONE and TWO). However, I have found myself fumbling for thoughts, words and images to share here and with family and friends. And no matter what I’ve tried, I sense that I’m holding back and not really wanting to speak about it very much. Now I have a small glimpse as to why. Richard Rohr is wise. Jesus is even wiser. He has invited me on a sacred journey meant just for me FOR NOW. He has lovingly thwarted me from “building a shrine” and living there in the extra-ordinary, mountaintop place. He has reminded me that yes, the fantastic has its purpose. It shakes us to the core. It shouts loudly to our souls. It changes us forever. Thank God for the fantastic.
However, we can’t stay there. Nor should we. Even though this week, I have really wanted to. Coming back off the mountaintop back down into the ordinary is just as crucial for us, for me. It must be. Most of our time is spent here. Our hushed, behind-the-scenes, gentle, seemingly dull moments are not wasted. They are essential. For it’s in those very ordinary moments that turn into days that form weeks and months and years, that a lifetime of long-lasting redemption takes place. We are truly changed forever.
Thank you again, Rwanda, your people and your land are beautiful. Your redemption story is almost unfathomable. Because of the light you shine, our world and my heart are much brighter!! Again, I say, Murakoze Rwanda!!!
**THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TODAY…WOULD BE THRILLED IF YOU LIKED THE POST HERE OR OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I WOULD ALSO LOVE AND WELCOME ANY COMMENTS*