Posts Tagged ‘Love’

I Am A Lover

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I am a lover.
This is who I am at my core.

My love is wide, so wide.
I care deeply even for people I’ve never met in person, maybe never will.

My heart is open, gaping open.
You can walk right into it.
Anyone could, but here you are.

You could work your way from my heart to my head and I wouldn’t be able to quit caring about you.
Not ever.

You would be a part of me.

There are so many of y’all here now.
Too many to count.
And I don’t know how y’all keep getting in.

Because even though my heart is open,
Sometimes my arms are closed,
Sometimes my eyes are closed,
Sometimes my ears are closed.

Sometimes I want to tune you out a while,
Turn off the steady flow of pilgrims to my heartland.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve had enough of y’all.
I’ve loved enough of y’all for one lifetime.

I am a lover, but how can I love well when more and more of you keep coming?

I still mourn those I have loved and lost, you know?
Part of my heart, part of me died when they departed.

And my heart,
Oh it has been hurt by some I have let in,
Some I have loved.
That ache interferes with my loving–makes it hard for my heart to go on.

My heart isn’t what it once was.
But still my heart is open, so wide open.

And I want to let you in.
I have let you in.
Because I am a lover.

(Another) One Fallen Too Soon

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Last week my cousin died. Her name was Melissa Zygadlo Thomas. She was 40 years old and leaves behind a dear husband and two young children.

Cancer.

Damn cancer.

I was glad I got to return home to Ohio to be at Melissa’s funeral. It was good to be there, to be with the family.

This was the first death in my generation on my dad’s side of the family. My cousins Michael and Phillip, who both died in their twenties, were on my mom’s side of the family.

So it was important to be there with and for my dad and brother and the others.

“It’s good to see you,” everyone always says at funerals, and we mean it more dearly than ever for the present loss magnifies how precious we are to one another, “but I wish it was under different circumstances,” we are always quick to add.

Different circumstances…I wish the circumstances were different–that our restoration to one another was not at Melissa’s expense.

I hate death.

I feel no need to cancel out or console this hatred of death. My grief will not be undone by some supposed higher consciousness of “death as part of life.” No, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth–real, and raw, and painful–because death is the end of life as we know it. And life as we (I) know it is all I know in any tangible way.

Oh, yes, there is the here-after, there is the resurrection of the dead, and there are all of the great promises of something else, more, better in the time to come. These promises run through the scriptures I cling to, the faith I hold dear. Yet these promises are of little consolation in the actual here-and-now of living this life as we know it without Melissa as we knew her…or Elaine as we knew her…or Phillip as we knew him…or Michael as we knew him…or grandparents and great-grandparents and Amos & Opal as we knew them…

I think I feel this inconsolable sense of loss–this hatred of death–most keenly with these cousins of mine–Melissa, Phillip, and Michael–because they died so young. I think of these as untimely deaths.

But, truth be told, I wasn’t ready for any of them. The world doesn’t make sense anymore since Elaine died and she was in her 80s–not so very young, but still she is gone too soon.

And Opal…I have not written nearly enough about Opal…her passing was far, far too soon.

Opal too died of cancer.

Damn cancer.

I still hate that Opal is gone from this life as I know it…that loss was decades ago…but even all these years later, there is still an Opal-shaped hole in my heart, my life.

Opal and her husband, Amos, were like grandparents to me in a time when my grandparents and great-grandparents had either passed away already or lived too far away. I could ride my bike to Opal & Amos’s house…my brother and I would go there and play checkers with Opal and drink Coca-Cola, poured from glass bottles into Tupperware tumblers–nearly as tall as the bottles themselves–which we first filled with crushed ice from the mystical phenomenon of a freezer with an external ice-dispenser!

And I don’t remember stories about Opal so much as just the unconditional love that radiated from her. My heart knows who she was to me and that memory of her is so deeply a part of me. But I don’t know if I can ever, ever capture her importance in words.

This is the hole that death leaves. Ones so dear, yet nothing we can say or recall–even if we had kept detailed journals of their lives as we knew them–nothing can resubstantiate who and what they were.

I’m still in my mind and in my heart pondering the stories I want to tell about Melissa. If I’m counting right, she was closest to me in age of all my cousins (on both sides of my family)–Melissa was closer to me in age than even my own brother who is only two years older than I am.

There were “girly” toys we played with together–things my brother turned his nose up at. There were chats about school, and boys, and make-up. There was this extended family that we shared that we tried together to make sense of.

When we were both grown and had become mothers, we had a few occasions to talk about parenting. I admired how at-ease Melissa was in her role as a mother. With my son a few years older than her firstborn, I was still trying to recalibrate life as a mom, but she was a natural. She told me once that she didn’t see much use for a lot of parenting books, but that she would just trust her instincts. But oh, how I myself had poured over so many books!

Yet, Melissa’s instincts and all of who she was as we knew her are laid to rest.

And even as I try to remember what I need to remember about her, the memory of her is all there is.

I know there is something else, more, better for Melissa, Elaine, Michael, Phillip, Opal…

As the appointed leader of a congregation, I have had occasion to conduct two funeral services for members of the church where I’m serving. And in these times, it is my job to point the people to the life that really is life that is promised to us in Christ Jesus. And I believe it full well. It’s just that I’m not afraid of the hope and grief commingling–neither diminishes the other.

Hope isn’t some salve we put on our grief to make it go away. True hope in the God of the universe doesn’t fill in the grief-shaped hole. The hole remains. Hope doesn’t need to fill in the hole in order to function.

And the hole has plenty of its own work to do and is not at all interested in swallowing hope.

Really, if anything, the hole–holding that loved-one-shaped place in our hearts–can be for us a well, reflecting back to us the glimmer of light and life and love of the one we’ve lost.

I just wish it were under different circumstances.

Still, it is something–even if not tangible.

And even cancer and death cannot take away the glimmer–even if our words fail us to do justice to the life of the ones we have lost–the glimmer of their memory is as real as breathing.

Oddly, it is in hating death–in feeling it so hard and true and real and deep–in despising death I can begin to love life harder and truer and realer and deeper.

I hate death because it takes what is precious–life–the lives of those we love.

I despise these circumstances because I love life.

And if life is worth loving, and worth living, if lives are worth remembering (and they are!) it is because the Author of Life–the Creator of all things in heaven and earth has made life good.

And the Author of Life knows every story that I’m forgetting–and even those I never knew–about Melissa, and Opal, and Elaine, and Phillip, and Michael.

I may not have Melissa’s motherly instincts in which to trust, but I do trust in God–my God, the Lord of Life. And my hope in the Lord of Life abides alongside my grief.

I trust that Jesus is greater than anything we can experience in our living, in our loving, or even in our losing and dying. It is as Jesus promises, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Oh God, into your hands I commit life as I knew it, life as I know it now, and life as I can’t imagine in the yet-to-come. Into your hands I commend the lives of those I have loved and lost too soon.

Married Half My Life: Anniversary Thoughts

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On May 20, 1995, when I married my David 19 years ago, I was 19 years old. I’ve been married to that guy for half my life now!

It blows my mind when I think of it like that–married half my life!

(For a fun post about my groom saving a turtle on our wedding day, click here: Link to Turtle Story.)

Of course, we’ll have to have a big party for our 20th anniversary next year or a second honeymoon or some such. But this milestone right here, to have reached the point where I’ve been married for as many years as I was single is a pretty big deal to me.

Tink is 10 years older than I am, so he has reached (or will reach) most milestones in life before I do. But this is one where me being younger means reaching this milestone earlier in my life than he will. (He was 28 when we got married and he is 48 now, so it will be another 8 years before Tink will have been married to me for half his life.)

This milestone is significant to me because of the commitment it represents. Naturally, I meant it when I said, “until we are parted by death.”  The commitment I made was for keeps.

But at 19 years old, it was hard to think about much beyond the elation of having snagged a seminarian and convincing him to marry me. I was just so eager to be married in the right-now of it.

I could see ahead a little to being married to a pastor, sharing the highs and lows of parish life together. I could picture having little Tinkers running around our home.

At 19 years in though, there is so much that I could not have imagined. I never saw years of infertility problems coming. I didn’t anticipate the moving around the country that we’ve done. I didn’t expect to be such a depressed mess.

But I also didn’t know how hard we could love despite all of the pain and change in our lives. I didn’t know how very tightly we would cling to one another through it all.

I didn’t know love could be this big.

Oh, there was a lot of excitement to our love before we got married and it was consuming.

But to be here, twice as old and to only just now begin to really understand how big love can really be?

That a guy would stick with me even when it looked like I could never provide a child for him? That I would stick with him from state to state for this ministry life? That he would stand with me in the throes of depression?

And even after all that, we still can’t wait to tell each other about our day? And we still laugh together every chance we get?

Half my life later and it feels like we are just starting to discover what this marriage commitment really entails. And I know now that I still can’t know what will be next for us in life.

And if we live good long lives I hope that half a lifetime later from now we are still surprised by our love.

Happy Anniversary, David James Tinker! I love you forever! You’re the best!

For a fun list I wrote in honor of my 19th anniversary, visit Life & Liberty and read the post, 19 Ways to Honor the Ones You Love. (Click the title to read that post.)

Life is Too Short to Mess Around About Hearts and Love

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Life is short. It’s just too short…

We had a heart scare this week. When my son and I got home from homeschool co-op on Tuesday, Tink (my husband, aka David Tinker, but I call him Tink) was complaining of chest pains.

And life is too short to mess around about hearts and love. So I drove him directly to the ER to get checked out.

After an overnight stay at the hospital they found no signs of heart attack and no blockages of any kind. The cardiologist suggested stress as the most likely culprit for the chest pain. Stress management then was the order of the day.

And while stress management isn’t the easiest thing to master, it’s way better than dealing with a life-threatening heart condition.

I tried not to be too worried as we were getting Tink checked out. I mean, we both knew that we were erring on the side of caution. But still, when there was enough doubt that the doctor wanted to keep him overnight, it did make me think about how short life is…

I think there was part of me at 18 years old that already knew that life was too short to mess around about hearts and love. And that’s why I didn’t mess around about how I felt about Tink–then a seminarian on the verge of his ordination and about to begin pastoring his first church.

Let me back up a bit and give you a little more context for these hearts and this love…

I was 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, and he was 25, a second-year seminary student when we met.

Our little church in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio was a frequent wayside rest for Lutheran college and seminary students. And part of my family’s ministry was to extend hospitality to students for however long or short a time they were with us.

So, when Tink came to my church as a guest of our college-aged church musician, we did what we always did and invited them both to lunch. And whenever Tink came back to visit my church, we included him in our lunch plans.

It was no big deal really. I mean, this was just our thing. I was comfortable talking with these students because I had been practicing for so long. At points I felt more comfortable talking with them than people my own age.

Tink’s initial visits to my church were related to an assignment for one of his seminary classes. He even interviewed me for the assignment and quoted me in the paper he wrote about it!

Around Christmas of that year we started writing letters to each other. Even though he was in seminary only 20 minutes from my house, we didn’t see each other very often because he ordinarily had field work at another church. The following year Tink went all the way to Miami, Florida for his seminary internship. Our letters throughout this time were our primary means of connection.

Tink came back to Columbus for his final year of seminary classes during the summer that I was 17. I was on the verge of my senior year of high school. He called me to help him move in. By this time I had developed feelings for him, but I knew he was way too old for me and it could never be. So I helped him move into his apartment and tried to play it cool.

I didn’t see him again until November of my senior year. He showed up at my church to preach while our pastor was on vacation. I had no idea I would see him that day, but all my feelings for him rushed in on me.

But then he told me he was leaving again. He was going to Mexico City for a seminary cultural immersion experience and he would be gone for weeks again.

I finally had him back after intermittent contact and there he was leaving me all over again. I just thought it must be for the better because what was I doing having feelings for this seminary student on the verge of entering the ministry?

Then in January, I turned 18.

And later in January, Tink came back to Columbus after his trip to Mexico City and he started coming around more. And instead of letters we started having phone calls. And instead of chaperoned lunches with my family, we went out to dinner just the two of us.

We had always talked easily but then we were talking endlessly. And we had this recurring dialog wondering what life would be like when we couldn’t see each other when I was off at college and he was away at his first church being pastor somewhere.

And it was more and more obvious to me that this was becoming more than “just friends.”

And I knew life was too short to mess around about these hearts and this love between us.

So, one Sunday afternoon–20 years ago this month–I got bold. Tink had come to church and lunch with us and was hanging out at my house with us just talking and talking. The feelings were so obvious and I was so frustrated that he would not broach the subject.

I had to go to work that evening, but I was so tired of dancing around about our feelings that I felt an urgency to tell him how I really felt. So, right before I left for work, I looked him in the eye and I just blurted out the line that will live in infamy:

“Dave, I love you, and I want to marry you!”

And he didn’t say it back. And he started mumbling something in Spanish! I mean, we both knew some Spanish, so we sometimes did that for fun, but this was not a time for that!

I left for work with no clear picture of how he felt about what I had said.

I was so out there. I mean, it’s one thing to be the first one to say, “I love you,” but I went and tacked on that bit about marriage too!

I worked my shift in a daze, just totally shaking my head at myself. But hey, life’s too short, right?

As my shift was ending though, guess who showed up at my work place?

You guessed it! It was my David.

I wasn’t sure whether to be nervous or excited. Was he coming to let me down easy and tell me I had imagined what I thought was between us, or was he coming to admit that he felt it too?

Finally, he said, “I just had to come and see you and make sure that the world is real and make sure that you meant what you said to me!”

And I clocked out of my shift and we went out to the parking lot to talk it over. I reiterated my sentiment and waited for him to respond in kind. But he still hesitated.

“Just say it!” I demanded! I wanted him to tell me that he loved me too! I needed to hear him say it.

He nodded his head.

That was not enough for me.

“Just say it!” I demanded again.

And finally he said it and there was no more messing around about hearts and love from then on. Which is really good, because life is too short.

P.S. It turns out that Tink actually made note of the exact date in his Pastor’s Desk Diary in 1994. He noted it simply as “Jennifer Day.” (See photo below)

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Stuff You Learn After You Say “I do”

My husband saved a turtle that was stuck in the middle of a busy highway.

I thought I knew my husband pretty well before our wedding day. But no matter how much you think you know a person, there will always be those quirky things you never saw coming.

We were friends for quite some time before we ever got romantic. We got to know each other quite well through letters we exchanged as friends. The friendship eventually became so obviously more and we finally confessed our true feelings for one another. We went from “just friends” to practically engaged pretty quickly, but a year-long engagement gave us even more time to get to know one another.

My beloved had been in Seminary when I met him, and he was ordained by the time we were married. So I knew going into it that I was marrying a pastor. He had seen me at my worst, I knew of his vulnerabilities. We both recognized that we were the youngest child in our respective families and had a sense of the challenges that would present for us. We talked for hours about faith, hopes, dreams and more.

Then on our wedding day, after the reception, on the car ride back to my mother’s house, there I learned something about my new husband that I was completely unprepared for.

On a country road he suddenly slowed and became very tense. I was worried that something serious was wrong with the car.

“There’s a turtle,” he said.

“Oh.” Imagining the turtle to have been safely camouflaged in the grass, I was bewildered how he even saw it. And I couldn’t understand why this sighting had such an effect on him.

He sensed my confusion, “It’s in the road,” he said.

So that’s how he saw it! I still didn’t understand what that had to do with him.

“Turtles are slow,” he said.

I nodded.

“I’m afraid he’s not gonna make it across.”

“Ohhhh!” I was beginning to catch on. This was starting to be really sweet.

“So, I, well… would it be okay if I saved it?”

How could I be so oblivious?

“Do what you have to do!”

And he did. He pulled the car over to the side of the road. And in his wedding tuxedo he walked out in the road and picked up that turtle and put it safely in the grass.

As he headed back to our car, other cars began to drive up. They saw my groom on the road and me in my wedding dress waiting in the car. They stopped to check on us. But all was well now, he explained, because he had saved the turtle.

The other drivers honked their congratulations and rejoiced with us in our new marriage and in my husband’s valiant deed.

The thing I learned about my new husband is that he is the kind of guy who will save a turtle. And I loved him a little more that moment, confident I had chosen well to get my life knotted up with his.

This month, on May 20th, we will celebrate 18 years of marriage. Almost as if to mark the occasion, my husband saved another turtle just the other day. And I loved him a little more in that moment too. Each day since we were married I continue to learn new things about him and find new things to love about him. I continue to be so grateful to have our lives intertwined.

Happy anniversary, my love!