The One Who Leaves and the One Left Behind


The summer after my freshman year in high school, my best friend Tina announced to me that she was moving to a boarding school. We were fifteen. I was crushed.

All of my fondest memories starred me and Tina. Against varied backdrops — her bedroom, her cottage, a stretch of sand along Lake Huron, the auditorium at the Bay City Players, the Wheel at First Presbyterian Church, the back of their ’80s-fabulous van — we shared secrets and music and thoughts and dreams. We laughed uncontrollably at inane inside jokes, the basis of which I can no longer pull from memory. We weathered the hell that is middle school together, walking the long stretch of road from Cramer Junior High to Lesperance Court, where I dropped out, followed closely thereafter by our friend Andrew. Then Tina would continue on alone.

She was the trailblazer, always traveling, always going somewhere and doing something and sending me a postcard written in her huge, lefthanded script with the strange M’s that looked like a hammock strung between two trees — like the one in her backyard that I would never lounge in again. When she left, I began to scheme about a way to leave as well, not because I wanted to get out of my hometown or get away from my parents, but because I wanted to be the one who leaves instead of the one left behind, the one who was embarking on a new adventure instead of the one standing on the porch and watching taillights fade away in the distance. The one who leaves and the one left behind are both parted from one another, but it is far from the same experience.

I had the distinct joy of keeping in touch with Tina. After she graduated from her boarding school, she went on to Boston then Boca Raton then Colorado then Argentina and then back to Colorado with occasional trips to Cambodia and Thailand and Scotland. Whenever she was back in Michigan I tried to make it back to Bay City to visit. She was a better letter writer than I, and so occasionally I would get a card or note in the mail. I never felt like I had much to report back to her; my life was so tied to routine and the everyday tasks of the student, the worker, the wife. In 2002 or 2003 I sat with her in the cafe at Schuler Books in the Meridian Mall in Okemos, overjoyed to hear of an important change in her life. When I drove out of that parking lot to head back to Grand Rapids where I was living at the time, I could hardly see the road for the tears — tears of joy, yes, but also tears of loss. And every time I have thought very long about her since she left me on my porch in 1995 — my God, twenty years ago — I have cried.

Five years ago I flew to Denver to attend her wedding to a wonderful man I have recently had the pleasure of getting to know a little better. A few weeks ago, I flew out again to visit for a few days and meet their little baby boy. We rambled about in the mountains, shared meals at their table, talked of our parents and our friends and our families. And like all true friendships, we picked up where we had left off like no time had passed between us. But even now, as I type this, tears are in my eyes. Because I’m still the one who was left behind, and the ache never quite goes away.

Last night, my husband and I got the heartbreaking news that our closest friends in town are moving three states and ten hours away. It’s wonderful news for them — an answer to years of fervent prayer for a teaching position. And I am truly happy for them. Yet here we find ourselves again, standing on the porch while the ones who know you most deeply, for whom you put up no front of having-it-all-togetherness, drive away to a new life. We feel emptied of something that made us us. And it sucks.

My sophomore year of high school started without my best friend. I wasn’t sure if I would make another close friend — everyone else already had their best friends. They’d been best friends, most of them, since elementary school, just as Tina and I had. But then, a few weeks into the school year, I met a senior named Zach.

And five years later, I married my new best friend.

Amazing Grace on Good Friday

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)

Jesus didn’t die for people who had cleaned themselves up, gotten their act together, stopped sinning of their own power and volition, or kept the Law perfectly.

He died for the weak. For the ungodly. For sinners. For his enemies.

That’s us. We weren’t just not “living our best life now.” Who would die for that? No, we were in opposition to God. We were thumbing our noses at him, flipping him off, and actively working against him because we wanted to do what we wanted to do.

And yet, he made it possible to be reconciled, restored, resurrected.

While we were his enemies.

That’s amazing grace.

And if he died for his weak, ungodly, sinning enemies, how should we treat those we view as weak, ungodly, sinning enemies?

If you’re a Christian, find someone today to whom you can show the love of Christ. If you’re not, thank you for indulging me in this post. And if you find the Christians you know to be unloving, please forgive us, because even when you’ve been reconciled with God, you still make mistakes and you still need grace. (I know I do.) Maybe do some reading of the Bible yourself (I’d suggest the Gospel of John and then the Book of Romans). Or better yet, team up and read it together. I’m certain great, spirited conversations will follow.

Some Thoughts Upon 14 Years of Marriage

Today I’ve been married for fourteen years to a man I’ve been in love with for nearly twenty.

Z & E laughing color

Judging by the length of my hair and nails, this photo was taken Christmas 2000, five years after we started dating, and just a few days before we got married. I was twenty, he was twenty-two.

Life is still like this for us. Still full of joy and laughter. We are rarely at odds. And while I appreciate the sentiment that “marriage is hard work,” I have not found it to be so. That’s not because we’re super special people. We’ve been incredibly blessed in life to avoid some of the tough situations that tend to put couples at odds. But it’s also because we still strive to put one another first, to honor the other above ourselves. And the reason we do that is because the first will be last and the greatest of all is the servant of all. And the times we have quarreled? Usually it amounts to one or both of us being a little self-centered.

We have many challenges ahead of us raising a sweet son who will eventually be a surly teenager who makes some poor choices. We both have dreams we are working toward that may or may not pan out as we’d hoped. There are mounting sorrows the longer you live as people close to you experience financial or marital distress, suffer failing health, and eventually die. But we walk the road of life together, hand in hand, one pulling the other back up onto his or her feet when we stumble, always looking for the path that is laid out for us together rather than focusing solely on our own ambition.

I’m so thankful to have Zachary in my life, and if I try to imagine what my life might have been like without him, it is a dark and lonely place indeed.

Roses, Roses Everywhere


My roses are mostly pink…


…but why miss an opportunity to share some lovely Robert Burns with you?


O my Luve is like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
   That’s sweetly played in tune.


So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a’ the seas gang dry.


Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run.


And fare thee weel, my only luve!
   And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
   Though it were ten thousand mile.