“I don’t have much time left, really.”
My father’s voice on the other end of the line reminds me of my grandfather’s.
It’s been nearly ten years since I heard that voice. I’m making beds. I can see Dad at his breakfast table.
“At best, maybe fifteen years. I’m on my last chapter.” He pauses and I let the empty space beckon answers.
Grandpa died at eighty. Dad will turn sixty-three this coming year.
“I need a plan. I don’t think I’ve had one.”
I pull the sheets up, smooth out the bed’s coverlet in coming light, then wait, listening to Dad think.
I’m hesitant to say anything. Best he find the way.
But I’m still, just standing here, knowing that we are moving out into hallowed ground. I wait. Then venture into the space with only a question.
“Well, how do you want that last chapter to read, Dad?”
“I want to end happy.”
I sit on the edge of the bed, sunlight warm on my back, and ask slowly, “And what do you think brings happiness?”
He’s probing in the silence, the back corners of being, looking for what lies in unexamined places. I’m praying.
“More farming?” I make an effort but I know the words still sound incredulous.
“My father farmed his whole life and made nothing . . . But he thought someday folks would pay farmers for their work. That might happen in my lifetime. Can’t quit now. And maybe someday the grandkids will talk about how I could grow a crop of corn.”
I can see Dad sitting at his table, looking out the bay window, watching rows of pride growing up into light.
“What about the people? The relationships?”
I let the words sit.
And he goes in another direction, approaches it all from the other side.
“Alan Strand called the other day.” Every time I’ve seen Alan Strand, he’s wearing denim coveralls, a worn-through cap.
“He was trying to figure out whether to spend the time he’s got left restoring another tractor, buying a new engine for it — or if he should try to track down his daughter. He hasn’t heard from her in ten years. Doesn’t even know where she is.”
Now this seems pretty obvious to me.
“And he decided?”
I shake my head, only a bit stunned. The words dribble out. “He intentionally considered the options, voiced them to you . . . and then decided the tractor?”
“Yep. He knew how to do the tractor. Little risk. The daughter, she was all risk. And you know . . .”
I can’t stop shaking my head. None of this makes any sense.
And yet it does.
“Do we give up what makes us really happy — farming, restoring tractors, writing, study, whatever we are good at — a lifetime of happiness—for a few days of happiness at the end? Do we sacrifice what makes us really happy day in and day out, for a few days of happiness with the people at the end?” Dad says it certain and I can hear the pain. “There are no guarantees with the people.”
Before I can think, I rush along, finding what I’m looking for, my rock.
I say the words more to myself than to him, words leaving my mouth before I can think.
“Jesus said, ‘He who loses his life will gain it.’”
The other end of the phone is quiet.
Tentatively, I step out a bit further. “Maybe making small sacrifices in personal pursuits – in the end we will know a happiness we couldn’t have imagined.”
I circle back, wondering if he’s following.
“Maybe this is one way we live out what Jesus us calls us to.” I say the words again, deliberately, for they seem new to me, richer in ways I hadn’t considered. “He who loses his life will find it.”
Dad lets his voice expose where he is. “Yeah. Maybe . . .”
I let him find his way . . .
“But maybe none of us can change really.” His voice sounds so old . . .
“Great artists, great actors, great politicians, it’s all the same. They do what makes them happy and that means they don’t have much time for people. Balance is a hard thing. Nearly impossible if we are going to do something well. And we’re wired the way we are. Maybe those around us just have to come to accept it.”
I hurt inside.
“I am too old to change. I know farming.” He sounds just like Grandpa.
Then he’s talking about the price you can get for a bushel of corn and the weather forecast for the next few weeks.
And I’m thinking about the times I’ve been in my own bubble with my own agendas of accomplishments, drifting away from people and the true happiness disguised.
I’m remembering with a strange sadness a woman standing amidst the floral memorials of her mother’s funeral, telling us of her mother’s far-and-wide reputation for the important stuff of bleach and immaculate housekeeping.
I’m thinking about the time I’ve chosen to wash windows, tend a flowerbed, answer an email, instead of playing a game of bananagrams with a trio of loud boys, read an Eloise Wilken story to pleading eyes.
My pride was tangled up in the tasks.
Why doesn’t it always matter more to love well?
Is it because relationships don’t bring us paychecks or praise?
Loving well, stepping over hurt, laying aside self and desires, draws on more of our interior resources than investing in a career, a skill, a personal pursuit. And yet, there are no promotions. No public status. No guarantees.
Relationships grow only in the soil of humility, selflessness, open-handedness. Relationships are inherently risky: for all that, you can’t control the outcome.
Investing in relationships requires courage. It mandates daily fortitude and intentionality to make moment by moment decisions to prioritize relationships while balancing vocational demands.
Do my daily decisions support my belief that relationship is the essence of reality? Or do I merely pay lip service to relationship — while the use of my hours clearly reveals true priorities?
The value of your life — is the value of your relationships. With God and men.
Dad’s talking about what he’s got to get done this week. I am my Father’s daughter.
“Look at the time.” I can see him turning there at the table, looking up at that clock ticking loudly over the kitchen sink. “And what am I doing sitting here? I’ve got so much to do and here I am talking the day away with you.”
I have to smile. Dad’s customary call always ends with this customary adieu.
“Always good talking with you, Dad.”
And then he’s gone.
Off to write more farming, more of what he’s good at, into that last chapter of his life story. And I gather Bibles for church and more of hearing Jesus’ words to come crucify self, words I need to hear again and I’ll forget and need to hear again.
So we’re on the cusp of a week of holidays, days of flag waving and patriotism.
Farmers don’t know holidays. Livestock needs feeding 365 days a year. But we finish barn chores early, eat dinner, gather lawn chairs to head up to the lake and fireworks over water. Something we rarely did as kids. We try to make memories. We try to leave the work. We keep trying the investing in people.
Sun’s sunk deep down into water, only a glow of embers burning along the horizon, when we haul our lawn chairs across the grass up at the lake. The shoreline’s full of people. Shadows and glow necklaces and laughter and kids slurping blue freezies out of plastic.
I point straight ahead. Is there a spot there for the lawn chairs? The Farmer nods. Yes, there — there’s enough room for us there.
There should be room enough for us there beside that silhouette with a farmer’s cap. Kids run with their chairs slung over their shoulders.
The silhouette turns. The youngest turns. And then she laughs, running through shadows into shadows.
He set aside self — he wrote sacrifice into his story.
I walk through shadows.
My hand finds the shoulder of that flannel plaid jacket and he finds my hand. He pulls me closer. He brushes my cheek with that leathery skin.
“Ann . . .” His voice is soft, full of things he can’t say.
“Dad.” I squeeze his hand, a long, lingering pulse of all I feel.
And then fireworks bloom.
These mirror images rock gently on water, two spaces merging and petals of color falling.
The children pull up on Grandpa’s lap, lean in close.
And I think how children will talk about this yield of time.
How in our dark places, we sacrifice and find faces and light and happiness unexpected.
The skies explode. Light rains down. I am in this story with these people. What is the plan for this flash of days?
I look over at Dad.
We are not too old to take courage.
We are not too late to sacrifice.
We are not too lost to reach out to each other and linger on the rim of time.
Relationship is the art of sacrifice that makes the days a masterpiece.
Somewhere in our dark, we can forget all that is lost —
for the tender wonder of what could be found . . .
“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” ~Jesus
Q4U: How do you feel about your relationships today? How have you been hurt? How have you been healed?
Will you join in the conversation here? (Email and RSS Readers — come join the conversation here?)
By Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience
Oh, Ann, thank you for this. I’ve pressed pause on many of my relationships over the past few years, and I know it’s time to put aside some of the tasks and tend to the relationships. I needed this reminder.
Oh! Thanks for this post. I’v recently taken what I think is the biggest risk in accepting my sister to live with me. Completely different personalities, never could really get along or stay in a room peacefully for 1 hour – its daunting! I wake up every morning and the first thing I do before my feet hit the floor is pray for grace to be patient and understanding and all. Same thing when I drive back home at night.
We are still at teething stage but like you said, it’s now or never. I look sincerely look forward to fulfilling happiness when this is over. Thanks for reminding me about the value of relationships and not to change my mind about this decision.
Oh! Thank you for the link to Penelope Trunk’s blog! The post about the Farmer is fantastic! And her career advices are JIT!
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
What a poignant and beautifully written reminder that relationships are risky business but SO worth the sacrifice. I pray the Lord will enable me to set down my often silly priorities and grab the hand of someone I love…or better yet…grab the hand of God. Thank you so much!!
ro elliott says
In the end…all that really does matter is love…my brother has been given no more than 4 months to live…He has lived a painful life…we have grappled as a family…do we help…are we enabling…??? but here I see when all else is stripped…Love is the only thing that matters…no longer is it a question of do I…but how do I…how do I love him well…
Thanks for these words… as I am needing to courageously take the Love of Christ…with and without words with me as I go.
Robin Walker says
LOVE NEVER FAILS
Tending to relationships is indeed hard work, but so worth the effort in the end. Beautiful post as always, Ann.
Knowing Christ..Love..Relationships…Thanks for the way you share with us. It is all so true..We are all at the point in our lives now where we just love My Dad. My kids are at an age now where they realize we just must love him for him. We have all learned by the Grace of God to put the expectations aside. . I really believe that this is where so many people just completely miss it. We all have so much to do in our lives. So much we think…we need to accomplish. We say we love Christ with all of our hearts..honestly..if we can’t love our family like he has intended us to or our spouses- does any of the other stuff really matter?
This was completely piercing to me. Growing up in a farming family, I can relate to how older generations try to minimize risk. Yet you are so right, deep relationships are risky, but they are worth it.
Mmmm “older generations try to minimize risk.” I grew up in a small Christian family in Iowa, and though we aren’t farmers, that was something I couldn’t put words too, but it was very frustrating for me the older I got. It didn’t jive with what I read in Scripture AT ALL – safety, comfort, and convenience being supreme god.
Debra Miller says
This brought me to tears this morning. Thank you.
To know the mannerisms, the bents, the intricacies of others – is really a gift! To know and be known! And it comes only from the passing of time together.
A bit of a (selfish) introvert….I struggle with this….to give of myself, to be fully present with people, to run the risk of ‘unclasping the fist’, to the giving up of time. Lord help me with this! I want to be all in with my kids and truly present! All too often…the clothes and the crumb catching…the blog and the stack of books win out.
Oh, I do want my kids to remember me with my nose in their business, rather than my nose in a book…or blog even. Signing off now – to just go and….play 🙂 I NEEDED this today.
Ann Voskamp says
So. love. this. perspective with our kids! YES, right with you, Kate.
Oh Kate, I am so glad to here this. You sound exactly like my mom growing up, except I don’t remember her pulling her nose out of those things. I have no memories of her getting down on the floor and playing (though I know she read to us a lot!) or running around a playground with us (she never exercised). You are being a complete blessing to your kids. Know that.
Thank you for this. Today was my Mother’s birthday, and this reminded me so poignantly of her last few months. Although she was too ill to travel, she brought her entire family together for one final holiday together, and it’s a memory her children and grandchildren cherish. This reminded me–again–how important the relationships are. With love and grace. Bless you!
Ann Voskamp says
My heart is with yours, Carolyn. *Thank you* for this today. Your words bring tears. Just, thank you, thank you.
Valerie Wolff says
Oh. Ann. I am struggling so much with a daughter who is making so many poor choices in her life right now, which can have a disastrous effect on her and her children. All I can do right now is offer unconditional love, but I can’t support her decisions. My heart is aching, and it’s often difficult to just love her because I am so upset with what she is doing. It’s testing my faith fiercely, for I feel hopeless about this situation. I am anxious, depressed, panicked. I try to let go and let God. But then the panic rears its’ ugly head again. Why am I afraid of risking trusting in the Lord that all will turn out for His glory? Please pray that I find my way, and that my daughter finds her way back home to us and to her Lord. Thank you.
Ann Voskamp says
Oh. Tears. Yes — praying the Body of Christ will come together here with you, Valerie…and be His hands and feet and heart, evidence that He is present and weeping with us and nothing is so dark to smother His light. Know I am praying this morning with you, Valerie — the body locking arms in prayer today, for you and your daughter.
You can change everything, Lord. Leaning into Your steadfast love. In Christ’s name who always holds —
Valerie Wolff says
Amen. Thank you for your prayers, sweet Ann.
I totally understand as I am walking that same path with 2 adult children right now. Our son walked away from his marriage and his call from God, he was a Pastor to be with another woman. Our daughter is in the process of leaving her marriage. The situation with our son has gotten to the point that we are no longer speaking…we love him, but do not respect his decisions. No one ever prepares us for this, but thankful that we know Who holds it all and can trust Him.
Praying for you Valerie!
Beautiful words…I think family can be the most difficult of relationships to pursue – at least for me…
Ann, thank you. I am moved and convicted by your faithfulness to your relationship with your father. My relationships with my parents are strained, and it is tempting to turn away from them towards my more healthy relationships within the Christian community. And then I read a post such as yours that places beauty alongside the pain of walking in faithfulness to God through walking with our parents. My parents are in their 60s and what a poignant reminder that they will not be here forever. Can I endure the difficulty of these relationships for a relatively short period of time while they are still here? Can I extend grace and self-sacrificing love just a few more times? Your words were God’s answer of “yes” to these questions and His gentle infusion of energy to do just that. All praise to Him!
i miss you. and i’m looking forward to your words about uganda.
i love this post. i love the way you write and the way you think. a true generous, regenerated mind. god makes good on his promises, doesn’t he? hasn’t he?
looking forward to the post about your dad getting baptized in a canadian lake one day.
love in him,
Thank you! June 27th is the anniversary of my father’s death and since my name is Ann too I felt as if he was sending me a hug through you. I just happened upon your blog today. Thank you again for this blessing
Andree' Robinson-Neal/AR Neal says
I needed this post today. I am sitting at my desk for the last time; my contract with this institution ends this weekend, but today is the last working day for me. I am afraid, as God has not yet given a clear answer as to what the future holds; I am the primary wage earner (and health insurance carrier) for my family, so I feel it acutely. The people in my office wanted to do a luncheon for me but how could I go to something like that–it would feel like a funeral while I’m still alive. God impressed upon my heart to bring them donuts this morning to just say ‘thank you.’ There were meetings in my unit that I declined to go to, including a group appreciation lunch, which would also feel like the funeral while I’m still alive; the end of my contract and the fact that I do not yet have another job, has been subject to conversation outside my hearing. I couldn’t subject myself to that. But I wrote thank you notes. And I’ll go to the end-of-year event tomorrow; your post today was the answer I needed from God about that. It will be a sacrifice, but I will go and spend the time with the people one last time, instead of sitting at home with a broken heart. Blessings to you!
Ann Voskamp says
Your words pierced right through, Andree’ and I thank you… can I just reach over and give you the longest hug? He holds you. Praying just now, putting on the armor of God with you.
My strained relationship is with my husband of over 30 years. He has quit speaking to me literally. Apparently, I am not the woman he married, so he’s given up. I’m in counseling, but he won’t come. How do you love someone who won’t acknowledge that you’re in the room?
Ann Voskamp says
Comfort Cynda, dear Lord… a cupping close that won’t ever, ever let go during this difficult time that stings to the bone.
Heart so heavy with yours. Bowed and whispering prayers with you, Cynda, and circling close.
Standing with Cynda in prayer. 30 years of marriage for me, too- to a farmer who finds that relationships are much riskier than planting crops and hoping that there is enough rain for them to grow well and successfully. Oh, that I could have heard him say that to me in our 30 years-or to our two children. Is this a “learning to love” that God has called ME to? I think I might choose planting crops as well; it suddenly seems less painful. God forgive me for my lack of love.
Elizabeth Rhea says
Investing in others is the ultimate sacrifice of time. How easy it is to get busy with good things, but avoid actually building relationships. I’m so often guilty of this.
Janet from FL says
It is easier to do what we are familiar with and know what the results will be. People are unpredictable. I have been hurt many times, but struggling against cancer the last 6 years has changed my perspective a bit. Forgiveness has become a priority for me. With family it is a necessity. Unfortunately sometimes a family member holds a grudge for years and nothing will heal it. It is sad when that happens. But when it does, all I can do is spend time with the rest of family, pray and hope they will decide to forgive and return for family contact once again.
Thanks for the chance to discuss this issue. Love you, Ann. I am amazed at all you do as a busy mom, writer, world traveler, speaker… Amazing!
God’s timing is always perfect. In the last five years I have lost everything—my company, my house, all those “things” that don’t matter for eternity—yet am held close in his arms, well cared for, cherished. Four months ago I moved from Minneapolis to North Carolina to be closer to family—my grown daughter, my sister and grown kids, my mom who is 93. It was a good move. Leaving all my cherished relationships is still the hardest part—over-the-phone just isn’t the same. But I’m adjusting. Building a new community is so hard, and I shy away from it even as I long for it. So this is perfect for me. Bless you!
Our dear friends left in the middle of the night to go to a friend who needed someone to talk to. My husband said to me, “I want to be the kind of person that does that, too.” We talked about how to make ourselves more available to people. This message comes at a time when we are making big decisions about our future and we’re stuck between hope and fear. We want to lose our lives for His sake, but you’re right — it takes courage. When did our jobs, where we’ll live, what we’ll have become more important than His people? I’m ready to breathe in a change that will give Him more space to work in others lives through me. I choose sacrifice. I choose relationships. I choose Him.
Lisa Spidle says
Love your post! I too face fear and disappointed in myself when I let fear get between me and God. Saying a prayer for you today.
thank you, Lisa. This encourages me very much to know that others feel this, too.
Launi Rogers says
Thank you so much, Ann, for sharing. My oldest daughter and two kids are living with us again for a year or so while she finished nursing school. I have had my home to ‘myself’ for 2 years and am really working on ‘letting go’ for this time period. It is hard. I want to be just Grandma, but am put in the position of ‘grandma in charge, aka’ mom’ for the times Mom is not home. I so do want relationships to be my focus. Even if I have to ‘be in charge’, I want to be guided by God’s Holy Spirit in every moment with my grandkids and daughter. Thank you for sharing yourself and your family.
“Bandage me up!” Our 4 yr old yells to his 7 Yr old brother…pretend play…but oh so real. Praise God that his Son came to bandage our hurting hearts with grace and love…patience for the journey as we create to our families, friends, and even strangers. So my quiet mommy reading time here us done…off to plays with our silly boys! Thanks Ann for mothering us.
Robin Kautz says
I quit teaching two years ago to homeschool our youngest child. I will never regret a single moment of it… a single frugal choice because of it… or a single lost retirement dollar! Love God. Love others. That’s the crux of it; and as always, you bring us to that. Thank you!
Thank you Ann, for this reminder about relationships & how much more important they are than anything we will ever “do” in life. May God help each of us in those relationships that are difficult!
Johnna Fussell says
God knows me very well and he knows when it is time for growth and that he must pull me up short before it begins. That is what this story has done Ann.
I have had a very frustrating morning. DH is sitting and I am following his orders. I didn’t know it was going to be this way, caregiving. At first I had dreams of complete restoration for him. My prayers to a healing God and my Nurse Cratchit demanding tone were going to do the trick. Now I have come to the realization that all prayers will not be answered as I like or when I like. I have always known this to be true so why did I think this time would be different.
As I unkinked the hose, walked over to hook it up to the outdoor faucet I smelled old leaves that had been there for two years now. The smell was nauseating and I hurried back to the other end of the hose to place the sprayer where it needed to go. After pinching the hose so I could move the sprayer over and over as my husband ordered it here and there and a little more to the left, I had reached my limit.
My relationship with my husband has soured just like the leaves. Was it too late? I don’t think I cared. Then I read your story about your Dad. My prayer is different. Let go of the restoring, that is God’s job. Work on the relationship because I took those vows, in sickness or in health with the man I love. First of all I plan to get those leaves raked up and put in black sacks for the garbage man and then I must let God lead me to a happier ending for my story. Thank you Ann, I choose the relationship.
I read your comment and want you to know that I am praying for you. I am a complete stranger, but a sister. Praying for your servant heart and blessings for you to see every day to give you strength. Please don’t forget to fill yourself up somehow, with a Bible study or time away with a cup of coffee and praying. Your choices are loving and inspiring. God BLESS you.
Peg Fury says
Oh, Ann. It’s too convicting. I think about my own dad, there’s a Wendell Berry quote about one of his characters that reminds me of my dad–“seldom at rest, but never in a hurry.” We raised produce, I was lucky, like your kids. Not homeschooled, but had mom and dad home all the time. We were always working together, but not working crazy, just steady, joking and talking the day away. And now? I work in town, Mike works in town, Destine, the child that I longed for, who came to us through foster care almost four years ago, is at the YMCA, spending her summer days. And nights, we are running, to foster care obligations, to sports. I yelled at her this morning because we were running late. Again. I know you say emergencies are for amateurs–well, I am a rank amateur, it seems, no matter how hard I try. The question is for me not “how have I been hurt?” but “how have I hurt others?”
Robin Hurst says
Ann, Thank you for sharing your beautiful God-given gift with us. This story brings hope and encouragement. I feel blessed for many strengthened relationships in my life since I knocked on the door of God’s kingdom 7 years ago. I am learning to act on God’s promptings when the angst of risk stirs in my stomach.
Last week we honored my niece Samantha on the one year Anniversary of her departure to heaven. She was twenty-three and five days old. Thank God for the important time and conversations we shared. She modeled courage for all of us and was clearly rooted in HIS comfort and strength until the very last breath. My sister (Sam’s Mom) suggested we honor and celebrate Sam with an adventure as Sam sought out opportunities to live adventurously. My sister does not want “that day” to be forever filled with only lingering grief. So, my amazing sister, our mom, Sam’s sister, and I all participated in parasailing high above the Atlantic Ocean with laughter, joy, sorrow and risk. Praise God!
I pray for continued strength to live courageously in relationship with God and others.
You are a blessing,
Ann Voskamp says
Your story and heart bring tears. Thanking Jesus for the crazy, unexpected grace of *you*, Robin…
I was blessed by God to have read this very Scripture “anew” just this morning and then to read your words on the same subject warms my heart. God is so near to us, always
“But those who lose their lives for me will find them”
Sarah Schulz says
This is beautifully written, and I feel that it holds so much truth. And yet it makes me want to weep and I feel shame, because I learned all this as a child with loving parents. Then, after sacrificing for others for 20 years, I realized I had erased so much of the person I could have been. I had cut myself into bits, sliced myself apart. I had done it on purpose, thinking that such sacrifice allowed me to love others with more intentionality, with better effort, with greater embracing.
It wasn’t until my husband came along and told me that I was worth loving too, that it was all right for me to open my hands and receive, to sit and enjoy life rather than put out into it constantly, that I understood what happiness could be. That it could be part of my life. That sacrifice may be the beginning of true relationships, but it is not the be-all and end-all of them.
Reading this reminds me, now that I’ve written it out, that one must learn from Christ how to do sacrifice properly, just like anything else. Not to our harm, but to connection with others; not to unhappiness, but to redefining happiness to include both others and ourselves.
Thank you for this. For helping me rediscover sacrifice in its rightful place.
Tracy May Fouts says
Can you please help me? My heart is hurting SO BADLY! I don’t have a Christian family. It is a huge struggle for me. They claim to be Christians, but they don’t have a relationship with Christ. I am 28 years old and I decided to move back in with my family after living on my own for about 10 years. I joined Twitter to count gifts with you, and I am still counting… but I have made friends. These friends became my spiritual family. For the first time ever I had a spiritual family.
My friend from South Africa came to America and told my other Twitter friend publicly on Twitter that she didn’t like me calling her Nana. It is derogatory and she thinks that women this day and age don’t like being called Nana because it makes them feel old. She told me she only believes friendships take place in person.
I have been Twitter friends with this woman for over a 1 1/2 years. We have Skyped. She has said I love you to me many times. We have prayed together countless times.
I am hurting, because her visit to America has pulled 2 dear friends of mine from my “Spiritual Family” away.
I don’t know what to do. I desire reconciliation. I believe the Lord desires reconciliation. But I have asked for forgiveness and neither women are expressing love to me anymore.
I have slipped into suicidal thoughts a lot lately. I have considered deactivating my Twitter account. I have succumbed to believing that the promise of Spiritual Family wasn’t for me. But I am hanging in there. But barely by a thread.
I don’t know how to move on. I see them all the time on Twitter and my heart just hurts.
I read your post and wanted to reply. I’m sorry you are hurting. Please don’t judge your life’s worth by the actions of others. We all fall short in so many ways… And these tools – facebook, twitter, etc., can be such a weapon of pain sometimes. Do you have a church home? I hope you have a place that teaches the Bible and where you can have a spiritual family who will be able to care for you and allow you to care for them. This life is so hard sometimes… but God is good. Don’t give up.
Tracy May Fouts says
Thank you Chris. I have a Church Body, but it is a mega church. So I have been attending a new church, which is smaller. But church life has not seemed to offer the tightness of a family as these social networks have seemed to offer. I started a young woman’s bible study at this new church and I have made friends. I also started serving in the jr high group to serve others. I have slowly been getting close. But the enemy knows I am not close yet. Thanks for the encouragement. I don’t know how to not be affected by the actions of others. I mean, they are so real and so felt in my heart. I am comforted you understand.
I will pray for you. Listen to what Chris wrote. Your LIFE isn’t worth judging, through twitter, or Facebook or any social media. Or anybody’s opinion for that matter. I know how you feel. I’ve been stung through the social media many times. If it means picking up a Bible and reading the words aloud so that you know what YOU are WORTH than do it. Keep serving, being a blessing to others will truly heal you. Keep going to small groups. You cannot control what people say or do just your reaction to it. And I will keep praying for you…
Tracy May Fouts says
Thank you Maria. I deactivated my account today. I just can’t handle it. I think I suffer from depression. I have never been diagnosed. Nor do I take medication, but I have been losing my mind. Truly losing it. I will find my worth in Christ. It hurts so bad, you know? I am glad you both can relate. It makes me feel better to KNOW you understand.
Susan Smith says
Chris and Maria are right…….You are doing just fine. God let me know that He brings people into our lives at different times for different reasons………I call it a “season” in life….where God is teaching us many things-one friend was so incredible-after 2 yrs. she moved to Korea! I see now that she came into my life to give me much wisdom from God during a time when I needed her. And when she had done what God called her to do (be an angel to me), He wanted my life to continue and to learn from her. It is hard to be best friends on the internet. Large churches have “small groups”, and once you are involved in them, they can be very helpful. Small churches are great too-so continue learning from the church you are at, but more than anything, spend more time reading the bible. That is where you will find your best friend, Jesus.
Tracy May Fouts says
Thank you so much Susan. You have blessed me greatly. I promise, I will read and read and read more. I will look to Jesus.
dear, sweet Tracy. Amazingly small world, this is Carole, your former small group member. Saddened to read your post and know I will be praying for you!!!!! People will often fail you so do not put your hope in them. You can trust God fully. Jim Samra preached on this very topic last Sunday. Take a listen to his sermon and I hope it brings you encouragement. http://www.calvarygr.com/sermons Undivided #37 “Don’t Trust People”.
Tracy May Fouts says
My dear Carole! How amazing that we both found ourselves here! I watched the sermon. It hit me so hard in such an amazing and comforting way. Do you know you are the 3rd person who has told me to read David. So, I believe I will start watching one sermon from Calvary a day. I really believe it is where I am at right now in my walk. I am coming out to Grand Rapids for Art Prize and would love to catch up and say, “Hi.”
I sent you my email via FB so we can stay in touch!!!!!! 🙂
John 16:33; Psalms 42:11; Psalms 34.
Lisa Spidle says
Thank you Ann. My sister lives with us. Her life has been so hard, some by her choices, some, just some have been about the cruel reminder of sin in this world. She is a hard person and a hard person to love. People see it, know it and ask why? My response? God is teaching me about him through this. He’s teaching me how to love like he loves, not the way I think I should love.
Thank you for your words.
More than a decade ago, a family member said in front of me that my dad had failed at every thing but my sisters and me. At the time and in remembering, I felt the wound to my dad. It felt so exposed, especially looking at the mess I am. If that’s his only success, then…?
I’ve read this post before on your blog, beautiful Ann, but today reading it that comment came to mind. Your words reframe that memory for me. If his daughters are “all” he ever succeeded at, that’s a pretty great book of a life to write, in the upside-down eternal scheme of things.
Thank you so much for being God’s instrument in that touch of grace. I’m grateful for you and your words. Your dad is on my Saturday prayer list; I pray alongside you for his salvation.
So beautiful. I read this after a conversation with my dear and only sibling….
After watching my mom be sick for the last 3 years and all of her “plans” evaporate, I have found myself challenged to examine my life, my goals, God’s goals got this next season of my life because life is but a vapor and I do not know when mine will be over. I hope I continually ask myself, ” what do I want my legacy to be?” And may it bring God glory.
Thank you for sharing a piece of our heart and challenging mine.
Marla Lynch says
Dear Ann. Your words are always so thought-provoking and wise. But, I think what makes them especially powerful is that you speak them with sincere and utter gentleness and humility. You truly understand Jesus’ words — “Do not judge…” God bless you always. Love and prayers, Marla 🙂
Jennifer A says
I can’t even begin to tell you how close this hit home to me. I am a farmer/rancher’s daughter. My Dad worked so very hard his whole life growing wheat and raising cattle to provide for his family. He was gone a lot, and he sacrificed a lot, but we always knew he loved us. Due to some bad crop years and this unfortunate economy we lost the family farm. They still have the house and a little bit of the ground, but everything else had to be sold. So now, in his retirement years he is feeling like a failure. And none of my family, neither my parents or any of my 3 younger siblings know Jesus. I have had a few of the conversations like the one above, and even some where I really laid myself bare. I keep praying and keep trying to plant seeds, I try to be a good example of a life changed by the love of Christ. My father, my family…they aren’t perfect but they are mine and I love them. I only pray that someday they too will KNOW how very much they are loved by Jesus.
This hit me smack dab in the middle of my forehead, but God really likes to do that to me. Yesterday and today I have been extremely emotional. Some of it has to do with having my Birthday and something hurtful my mother said to me about the gift she gave me. A little while ago I plead with God in the shower to tell me if I was supposed to reach out to this woman at church who is starting a women’s ministry this fall. We are relatively new to this church and it is only almost three years old itself. So it is actively growing. My mind whirls with ideas and I sometimes keep them to myself because I have been told that in my excitement I can come across as pushy. And then I have been told a few times to keep the idea in my back pocket for a later time. That is fine, but there are people who need it now. Anyway, back to the woman. God has been working on me the past few years (I am certainly a work in progress, but this is a specific work) about women. He led me to start my own blog and back a few weeks ago during church one day I clearly heard Him tell me that He has called me. To exactly what I am not sure yet. After a lot of internal arguing with Him about me certainly not being a person He could use, I gave in to at least the prospect. A lot of it started after I read your piece about the Girlfriend Gift and the event around it. I even printed the whole thing out and have been wanting to tell someone at church that we should do something like it. But have held back. Then one day He gave me a beautiful confirmation. I had to drop my son off at the pastor’s house for a swim party and when I drove up my heart jumped when I saw the pond in front of the house. A pond where we could throw our rocks! So I was all excited to finally tell someone, then the announcement came out in the bulletin that this fall would be a start to the women’s ministry. But the woman heading it I don’t think likes me, and what if she thinks I being pushy? I keep hearing those things. And as I type this I really should be emailing her. But I am holding myself back listening to voices other that God’s. I am so afraid. Sorry, told you I was extremely emotional today. This part really hit me, “What about the people? The relationships?”, Relationships grow only in the soil of humility, selflessness, open-handedness. Relationships are inherently risky: for all that, you can’t control the outcome.
So again I feel God is confirming I need to email the woman. But again, I am scared.
I sit here wondering & asking God if I can encourage you somehow through my experience, & thought I’d put finger to keyboard & try, so I hope you will be encouraged & the Holy Spirit will bless you.
About 4 years ago some from our little church were going on a Mission trip to Uganda to help build a school room at Watoto, so we (along with a bigger church nearby who also had people going on that trip) were organising/being involved in, etc, raising funds for this. I began to ask the Lord how we could keep this sort of work/outreach going ~ we live on a dairy farm in Australia, & I was helping my husband milk one evening, when the Lord answered my prayer ~ anyhow, cutting the story shorter, He gave me a picture of a huge cup on a saucer with the coffee & sugar sachets sitting in the cup, but with the words, Hope & Healing written on them. Hence the Cup of Hope & Healing ministry was given, but a group of us women from church had been studying Priscilla Shirer’s book ‘Discerning the voice of God’ (excellent if you haven’t heard of it) & so I followed her suggestion when checking out these things, from God, & like you I was very excited & told my eldest daughter & one of the church ladies, but kept it close to my heart until I could talk with our Pastor/church leadership, etc. So I do wonder when you say that you had been ‘told’ that you can be too pushy, & about keeping the ideas in your back pocket, did those comments come from someone you trusted the ideas with, or are they things said from people who only want their agenda?
I do agree that sometimes we do need to ‘sit on’ ideas God gives & wait in prayer, but what I really want to share (sorry long winded, but needed to give a background) is that after one year of the Cup of Hope & Healing supporting Watoto for 12 months, we were to move to support another organisation (that was what the Lord told me, that we raise funds for a different group each year), which was Destiny Rescue (rescuing young girls from the sex industry) & I got the doubts, because of a particular woman in our church who doesn’t seem to want to support o’seas mission. I thought every time I got up to talk about it all, that she (& maybe others) were thinking, ‘oh, no, here’s Pam again……’. But I quietly, nervously kept on,(with encouragement from our Pastor & a few g/friends in the Bible Study group) & God showed me that I was hearing Him & doing the right thing, because we had a dinner for Destiny Rescue & raised over $1,000 which is a HUGE amount in our small Christian community.
So if you are till reading this, BE ENCOURAGED sister ~ if you have truly heard from our wonderful God about this ministry, stop listening to those negative things the ole devil is putting on you ~ by the way I know that isn’t easy, cause I am one girl who at times can be very low on confidence & imagine things that just aren’t!! ~ but we have that victory in Jesus over the enemy, which I know you know, so I pray that in Jesus Name you will see something beautiful bloom through what the Lord God has shown you.
Will be praying here ~ by the way did you email her? 🙂
God is amazing,
P.S. would love to know how this all turns out too.
After submitting my blog post this morning, which was a personal and unusual one for me, I read your blog. Relationships! Time! Giving! Pain! Hurt! Disappointment! Where do they all fit in? I don’t know right now, but I do know The Source, and will continue to seek Him in all things. Thank you!!
Caryn Christensen says
I have had these kinds of conversations with my own dad lately after 20+ years of not hearing from him. I can relate very closely to your own story Ann of the incredulous answers given by your dad. On my end of the phone, my mouth hangs agape and my heart wonders, “Where is the fruit?” And when I take a close look at my own life, I am reminded that we can take NOTHING with us into eternity…except people. And the only way to do that is to invest in people. When it’s easy, fun, rewarding…and…when it’s inconvenient, tiring, a burdensome. I’m so glad your dad’s heart was stirred by your conversation and he sacrificed time to spend with his family. That was a blessing!
Debi Schuhow says
I identify with your feelings in your post and at times felt like I really don’t care. Over and over I’ve been told look to Jesus, lean in Jesus, fall into Jesus.
Kara P. says
Ann, I always pray with anticipation when I read about your dad…..Oh that one day his eyes would be opened!
Thank you for this reminder for my own life and modeling how to encourage this in a patient and quiet way with those we love.
Ann, thank you for your words that reminds us that what matters in this life is the time spent with others not the stuff that we do. It is when we get off our own agendas and get into the the lives of people that we truly do reap a great blessing. As an introvert, I find it hard to extend myself sometimes. I know that I need to reach out more and I am trying but it is a constant struggle. Just today I was speaking to a co-worker about the need to build lasting relationships instead of missing out on knowing someone because of my “busy-ness”.
Thanks for this
Jody Shoemaker says
Oh my goodness! This really hit home today, I just had lunch with my Dad (who is 66) yesterday. It was the first time in forever that it was just the two of us and I was overcome with this great need to express to him how much I loved him and appreciated him. My Dad is not one for intimacy and our relationship has been somewhat strained since my parent’s divorce and his remarrying. So to have lunch with just him was a BIG deal. But afterwards, I felt like that little girl who got to spend time with her Daddy and it was the Best feeling. I had almost given up, but it was worth it to push through to ask just one more time to meet for lunch and boom! God moved.
Jennifer A says
I will be 39 soon and I still LOVE “Daddy/daughter” time! The older I get the fewer of those times I seem to get, making them all the more precious. Here is hoping we both get many more of those moments. Blessings! 🙂
Ann Voskamp says
~I’m smiling, Jody!~ … bowed grateful with you.
Ann, Thank you for this beautiful post. I’m thankful that your Dad spent this time with you. My Daddy went home to be with our Lord in October of 2011, I miss him so much, yet I know he is happy. We were very close, I spoke with him on the phone everyday, what memories I have and treasure. I knew he had surrendered his life to Jesus and I know that is what helped me through his time of illness. I was with him as he drew his last breath and felt his heartbeat fade away, even thou I was sad, I felt joy in my heart, knowing He would be with our Savior. Thank you for sharing your heart with us, and for reminding me that I can’t let being busy keep me from spending time with our Lord, people I love, and those I’m just meeting.
Thank You again and God Bless
Oh Ann! What needed words! I am struggling at the moment. Keeping these little grandchildren is weighing on me physically, but telling one of my daughters that I may have to stop is scaring me. There are times she can not treat mother so well and that hurst so much too!
Pray for me to find the words, courage and strength to do what is right for these little ones!
linda herrera says
thank you again for your precious words that speak to my heart! it is so easy to keep doing, pressing on..and miss the important. the precious people that God has blessed us with…my prayer is to be a Mary..and to finish well, doing what He desires. God bless you!
I love (biblically) a young multiply handicapped young man. I love his family also. They love me though I often wonder why. This young man has been in the ICU for some time now. It is difficult to see him suffer so. It is more difficult to see his parents suffering because of their love for him. However, I find it impossible not to what to be with them, throughout all of this….yes, relationships are most important regardless of what we must sacrifice for them. God I believe loves us best when we are in loving fellowship with His creation. Bless you for this “story”, Ann, it is a blessing as are you.
Ann Voskamp says
Oh, more tears here, Sandy. How I love your Jesus loving heart…*thank you* for sharing.
Robin~All Things Heart and Home says
Beautiful, in a way that hurts. I’m crying by the end thinking that there are so many hard choices with our time. Even as we age…I thought when my husband and I raised the four children, we’d have all the time in the world. But our children have given us grandchildren and one part of me wants to stop doing everything else to simply be with them.
You ask in your post: Why doesn’t it always matter more to love well?
I suspect if I stop long enough to honestly answer that question I’ll get a glimpse of myself living a self centered life~
Thank you dear one~
(I’m listening to 1000 Gifts for the umpteenth time this week. I have the book of course, but it’s a difficult time right now and listening to your soothing voice read those life changing words encourages me so-thank you for that too~)
LuAnn Braley says
Many people cannot understand why, with a magna cum laude degree in finance, I am not working in a brokerage firm or some such job. I just couldn’t spend my life in the relentless pursuit of things. Now, my brother is an extremely talented and accomplished musician. At 53, he is in demand…but goes home alone. I love and respect him. I started my family late, after one false start (an impetuous marriage). Now, I’ve been married 16 years and we have 3 children, which I had when I was ages 35, 36 and 41, respectively. It has not been an easy haul, but I wouldn’t trade any one of my family for additional creature comforts.
How timely today’s post is as I, near your father’s age, a guarded introvert, now seeking to yield my words to Christ and trust him as I step deeper here. The following link from Paul Tripp Ministries has a survey on talk and four videos on Godly Communication which have been helpful in putting things into perspective for me. My words have been given to me by the creator of words, am I using them in the way that he desires for them to be used? The answer, is no I have not, but I don’t have to remain in my former perspectives.
Connie McLemore says
Thank you Ann , I had always dreamed of a close relationship with my daughter Katie. The kind I never had with my mother who is bipolar. Katie turned to drugs which took her from us almost 15 months now. The last year with her was wonderful, loving, and close. Thank you Jesus. Now I have a whole group of ladies who have steped in they have loved me, listened to me, and have never judged me. A gift from Katie is how I see it. Another mother who lost her daughter a month before Katie went to live in Heaven says to me, you seem to be doing so good, I am not. I told her I am healing through my relationship with God, help from my husband and family, and my casserole ladies. We meet twice a month and are called Lord I Need a Casserole; friends who gather to cry, laugh, love, and support each other unconditinally. Take time to love each other ,
I know just how your father feels. And how the man feels in your story that your father talks about. We had an out door music concert at our church. I saw this couple standing off at a distance. I was fairly new myself. So I asked my pastor if they were visitors or from the first service because my husband and I went to the second. He said they were visitors. As it turn out they had just moved here from another state and we quickly became friends. Then my parent’s had serious health issues and my children were needing my help. And we started going in different directions. For a while we would hook up in between things. They also had a lot of company. Then they stop getting together but would say they wanted to. There actions said otherwise. They kept seeming like they were angry about something. Now they are bad mouthing me to people in the church. I’ve asked what I did wrong and its always the same you didn’t do anything.
“Investing in relationships requires courage. It mandates daily fortitude and intentionality to make moment by moment decisions to prioritize relationships while balancing vocational demands.”
Thank you for encouraging my heart and affirming God’s will for my summer. I have been praying for intentionality to reconnect with family while I am out of the classroom. I am out the door to buy belated Father’s Day cards for my half-brothers, who love me despite long silences and unshared childhoods.
Thank you Ann for a article that is causing everyone to take pause and think about self versus selfless
Sharon Macri says
Well how wonderful to share our lives with those who mean so much to us. How much i cherished time with my Dad. June is such a bitter sweet month for me. Yet my Heavenly Father watches over me. Even though I am 60 He keeps me out there building those relationships. He knows what is best. Thank you for today.
joanne Thomas says
I am always being pulled away from “my work” for others. mostly my kids and hubs. Just never appreciate it.
A weird thing happened. I started “a thousand gifts” journal and had around 400 gifts listed. Somehow it got into the washer and was completely lost. I was so sad, but of course– it was an ugly-beautiful gift. Started again.
It is so hard to keep trying, to learn how to make new friends again, to put yourself out there all over again when you are already weary.
I am at a point in life where, having moved for the fifth time in five years of marriage, I am weary of starting over with relationships, of trying to keep my long-distance friendships strong, of the enormous strain of new mothering. But I really do want to keep trying, because you are SO right, our relationships are what make living this life truly meaningful. Thank you for the encouragement.
Fifi LeFan says
After caring for and watching my father struggle with three terminal illnesses 10 years ago, it brought hoje to me all that really matters in this life is relationships. Your relationship with God and with others. My dad died, and two months later I finally left my abusive marriage, and experienced so many losses that I just shutdown. I experienced relationships that I thought would be there for me, instead judge and condemn me…and others came out of the woodwork to offer grace at a time when I could not perform for anyone. I am a professional artist, and live pretty much day to day. The last few have been difficult, and I keep reminding myself that His Grace is sufficient, and I just need to really receive how much he loves me. I never had children, and I didn’t get any support when I left my ex, because I just wanted to get away before I lost my life or my mind. Because the closest relationships to me have contained extreme pain, and because I tried for so long to make everyone happy, even now, getting close is hard for me. I am more authentic, so when I am with people, I am more real than ever before. But the things those of you take for granted with families, the moments of tenderness, or just shared life aree not a reality for me. When I am lonely, or when I feel disconnected or unknown, it affects my ability to create my paintings or sketches. When I am at peace, and when I feel wanted or known, they flow out of me. So…on this day, with a mindset to be intentional about my relationship with God..and taking a couple of hours to drive and go down to the river and pour my heart out to Him, to worship Him, and thank him that he knows I am just dust, that he is faithful when I am faithless…I still come home, with a restlessness in me.. To be known. But all too often, I choose to read a book, or paint a picture, because the little girl in me that wants to be safe and enjoy delighting in others and telling stories, chooses to hide away, because the effort to be known seems just to hard. Tears. So, today I take one step at a time, thanking him for the broken places, that somehow he will redeem and restore and bring beauty out of ashes….and I try to quiet my soul, to be still…and receive His presence. I guess I don’t really now the balance between looking at others as idols to make me feel good..and just how to relate to others whose lives are filled with children and husbands, and jobs and homes and vacations and sports. My art tends to put me before people, and gives me a voice that they listen to. But my art isn’t me. It’s just something I do. Rambling on.
Rachel Larkin says
This article came in perfect timing for me! I was pondering (and asking God) what my focus should be on – in terms of my website and writing.
Ann, God spoke through you loud and clear – I was asking the wrong question –
Who should be my focus! not What!
Thanks for sharing your heart and life with us.
Hannah Nicole says
Ann, I have tears in my eyes. Your words are truthfully gifts from God today. This is exactly what I needed to hear, exactly what my heart has been struggling with. I’m overwhelmed. Thank you for writing. Many many blessings to you.
Thank you Ann. I look forward to your messages, but today’s hit home so hard. I haven’t talked to my brother since he walked out of my parent’s home and disowned us 5 1/2 years ago. Some days I am so angry at how he has hurt my parent and other days I just cry for him and all that he is missing. Then there is my husband’s family in which several don’t really talk to me over which I am not sure what happened there, but it has to do with our lifestyle (no drinking, smoking etc…)…I am trying hard to keep building a strong relationship with my daughters-in-law (4) and that isn’t always easy either…it takes work..it takes God in every step. Thank you for your message.
Blessings to you and your family.
Lori B. says
It is true that what you know best is easiest, but that with the biggest risk may be the biggest reward. I reconnected with my dad after 5 years of silence, in the weeks before he died. So thankful that I did. Not a lot was said, but it didn’t need to be. Just being there mattered and I cannot even imagine if I hadn’t had that time.
I love you.
I love how He uses you to grow us. Especially me.
Crying at work. Thank you 🙂
Love the message and always look forward to the heart-warming photographs. Thank you for using God’s gift to you to bless so many. We are looking forward to hearing you speak at the Ladies Luncheon at the North American Christian Convention in Louisville, KY two weeks from today. Praying for you as you prepare!
Cynthia McGarity says
Wept with joy when I read this. Thank you, as always, for lifting us up. It’s astounding to me, really…how you can take the most simple things…a phone conversation, a fireworks display in a field, a parent/child relationship (well, maybe that one’s not so simple :), and craft them into a profound lesson written poetically. He has given you such a gift.
In other news, I have written a love letter to all of you incredible women at (in)courage and wanted to share the link with you in case you wanted to read it. (It mentions you ‘specially.) I know time is precious – as you write above – but just in case you want to know JUST HOW MUCH you’re affecting us. http://godsdailymessageforthedense.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-love-letter-to-encourage.html
Thank you from the bottom of my heart…for all you’ve done for so many.
Lorie M. says
Reading this dialogue with your dad, my heart felt hot, burning… so painfully familiar. This farmer’s daughter is weeping. Dad choses his tractors, the growing things, and holds me, my kids, all of us firmly at arms length. Yet, he seems to want to talk at me now and then; expects me to “do” for him – I’m just not allowed to get close to the space around his heart. And we must not expect him to “do” for us, that’s too much. Call, listen, don’t say anything too hard for the heart to hear, otherwise the door slams again. He’s hard, but fragile; he wants us to go through the motions of showing him love, but lashes out and pushes away again if we show any indication of hoping to see that love returned.
He can handle the inherent risk in farming, but not in people. A lost crop is easier than pain of relationships, exchanging love. Light-bulb moment and a wash of tears again… and sadness. I can’t fix this. I never could.
Your perspective challenges me to search harder for the ways the Lord would want me to continue loving, showing love, and teaching my children how to love him… without tripping over the pain and falling, struggling with wanting to give up. Thank you for sharing your words and pushing me to consider more… and double my efforts to understand God’s will for me in this.
Amy D says
I am compelled to share this with you…perhaps it is a familiar one?
Psalm 10: 14a But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.
He sees your grief, friend–and your heart. As your Father and your helper, He loves you and yours passionately.
I have prayed for you and for your dad…..
Thanks Ann. This morning I was looking for a word of encouragement for my daughter who is going through many relationship issues, and has become a very anxious young girl becaue of this. I pray that she experiences the love of Jesus – the ONLY perfect love. That Jesus embraces her and gives her wisdom to understand the people around her. Many blessing to you. You are the best Ann.
My grandmother passed away this afternoon. And even though she was with us for 95 years, at the end I was longing for more. And what I remember best is all the laughter. I remember that Grandma was THERE, that she was my cheerleader. She never said much about herself, but she loved much. I never doubted her love. She overcame so much pain to teach me about joy. Your post today was such a reminder to me that we choose our moments. And Grandma chose them well. Thank you.
I just watched the video of you on your porch talking about “Framing our Lives”….I have an important question but it is quite personal so could you please email me? I need to send you something and get your take on it….would you mind??
I guess you will need my email…email@example.com – thanks!
Thank you Ann…
This truth is simply heartwarming…I’m a grandmother of four and in the past three years have had three operations…my beautiful grandchildren have crawled into bed with me, prayed with me, painted my nails, done ,my hair etc… Relationships are what matters, they have been Gods shinning light to me in some hard places …love motivates us to keep going, relationship is how we demonstrate love in our beautiful Lord and Savior, Jesus…
This message will help younger women and older women remember what counts…blessings dear.
To be honest…I have lived much of my Christian life as a skeptic and cynic when it comes to people. Those who were suppose to love me most and be most supportive have failed me. They seem to be indifferent at crucial times, even though the words ” I love you” are often there. I do not trust people and I have snap-shut trap/barrier around my heart. Up to a certain point I love people and enjoy letting them know me…but there is a brickwall to keep them from being too close. I am too afraid of being hurt again, and letting them know how wicked I really am. It’s sad…but its a trap I can’t seem to get out of.
Lisa H says
It has been many months since I’ve stopped by the website but this email that came in my email today called my name, LOUDLY! God wasn’t whispering in my ear he was yelling at me to stop the madness today and read this posting!
If you remember, back in 2010, I commented on one of your posts about hurts and healing and I told you about my Quilt of Truths. You encouraged me to share that story of hurt I carried inside of me regarding my mother and the miraculous healing by our Father. I cannot begin to tell you how my life has changed the past 3 years after learning to trust fully in Him and let go of the past hurts I have no more control over than the weather!
Today’s post hit me hard as I read about you answering a call from your Father whom you hadn’t heard his voice in 10 years or longer. I’m hoping I read that the right way. Father’s Day this year was especially emotional for me for some reason I can’t understand. I’ve not spoken to my Dad in 15 years. He chose to walk away when he found out the race of my then husband, father of my children, was not the same as ours. He literally told me it was time to leave, I had to live with my decisions. So I have. I’ve done okay with this up to this year really. The emotions are raw, the tears were hot on Father’s Day this year. Probably because I’m getting remarried to a wonderful Christian man who has a great relationship with his own parents. Something I’ve lacked for the majority of my life. I sat and cried and prayed and wrote pages and pages that night. Asking God what is it he is wanting me to do. Do I reach out to him, my Dad, again? Do I put my heart out there again? Will he have changed in 15 years? The fear is there but the paralyzing anxiety I had regarding my mother 3 years ago when I was facing this same dilemma, is not there. For that I am so grateful. I have a wonderful fiancé who will support me no matter what I choose to do and will stand beside me so I am not alone if I decide to go forth with this.
God is speaking to me again and as much as I’d like to say, No God, I don’t want to see or speak to him again, I’m beginning to think He wants me to do just that. So I keep praying about it, keep thinking about it, and will be talking to my two ‘safe’ people about it.
Thank you again for your powerful words that are gentle and caring at the same time.
West Chester, Ohio
(I hope you read this) – I remember your quilt of truth! It was a blessing to me at the time I first heard of it – and one I shared with others- and I needed to be reminded of it now. Thank you for that – and remember to keep surrounding yourself with truth as well.
Lisa H says
Thank you JP!
Again Ann, your words touched my soul. I have been letting God(finally) heal me over the last year. I found your website and your words have truly been a blessing to me. Thank you. While I grew up with my Dad in our house, we were never close. I did not know why he didn’t like me (and still don’t). I am learning through a lot of reading, prayer and the comments of other people (on sites like this) to allow God to love me as a true father. I am really coming to know and trust his love and am soooooo very grateful to look at my life through the eyes of 1000 gifts. The long standing pain is slowly melting away as I let the healing of appreciating God as my father and all the gifts in life that he gives us. I wish that my Dad could have been like yours, to have a softening of his heart while he was alive. I pray he stays on the path of realizing that he has a wonderful daughter and family. Hugs, prayers and love to you and yours.
Indeed, why doesn’t it always matter more to love well? Matter more then being right or having ones way? At first it was the grumbling and gossip, then names-calling and accusations, then shunning and cold shoulders. Even the older women whom I once turned to were suddenly too busy every time I called and emailed. We’re in a new faith community now that is trying to love us. But what I know to be True and how I feel are so very far apart, relationships are hard right now. I’m scared . . . of church women, of potlucks, of stand-and-greet-someone-new-time in the service. So I keep pressing on taking thoughts captive with the truth of scripture, trusting my Lord and Savior with the feelings, hoping in His time for healing. For where else do I have to go, no where and no one else has Words of Life abundant, full of grace and mercy, free from chains of fear.
Beth Williams says
I’m becoming skeptical about people. Although I do realize that God made us for relationships with others. It is hard at times, especially with an introverted hubby.
I plan to invest more time with people and do things with them while they are here. All to soon they leave this earth and regret can set in. Planning on writing or calling my sisters and keeping them up to date on my life.
Thanks for a wonderful post@ Glad your dad finally called you! God Bless!!
Thank you for the depth and beauty of this piece. It brought deep, longing tears for the dad that’s been gone almost 19 years… just 7 weeks after the birth of our last child.
In the end, he gathered us to him like the flowers my Mom had planted, making sure we knew how he noticed the distinction in each of us, and of his love.
Wonderful reminder for me today. Daughter #2 coming home next week – for weeks/months until she flies off again to a career job – probably not nearby – son’s high school graduation open house is 2 weeks away: the bitter sweet celebration of our baby… grown, and going off to college this fall – along with daughter #3 just before him. How I’ll miss their chatter, and mess, and busyness, and hunger! Our oldest daughter – a beautiful, gifted introvert waits, with such deep longing for a child. “Adoption” has begun to surface… big thoughts. They take time. Then, there’s the needs of our disabled son, living in an adult foster group home nearby… and my hardworking husband who needs my ear to process all he’s thinking about the future…
I want to do relish the relationships, and have no regrets, but the demands in each day are heavy. Your well-written, lovely piece, reminds me to BREATHE in the blessings – to savor them in THIS moment.
Thank you, Ann. I so love your dad for the choices he’s making. Tell him, for us, what a beautiful daughter he has given the world!
August 20th 2012, spent my evening running back and forth, between my home health paperwork, and my Greg. He was on the carport, in the shop, using powertools, and concerned with the crankshaft…This was his last evening. He had a stress test this morning and had spent the afternoon, on the phone with me and visiting old friends, before he came home to this farm. I was so happy he was in such a good mood, and busy…we both had important things to do, you know. The last thing he said to me was ” Baby, I love you sooo much, don’t worry, i’m never gonna leave you.”
Ann, i read your posts most days and keep trying to hope…just know, there are those of us who appreciate, and need your expressive style in our lives. imstillafloat…
I thank God for your beautiful, truthful words that reached all the way to my soul. What is more important than relationship? What greater gift is there? it ‘s right before us yet we let so many other petty, self centered things get in the way. Like we think we have all the time in the world. We don’t know. We just don’t. And we need to remember that. I want to leave this world “loving well”. Dear God help me to write that on my heart and to strive to live it each day.
This was a great post! Thanks! Something we all need!
Vera (Faith in Ukrainian) says
Ann, your words are so eloquent and piercing. So amazing that the Holy Spirit had my devo today from another author’s devotional titled ‘Day 56: Pinches and Grace. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 Thought for the Day: Today is a beatiful time for grace. The gist was not expecting people to act as we want them to act, ‘but this is a beautiful time for grace. And when you give grace . . . you won’t come unglued.’ Our loved ones are our pinches and we through the mercies of God’s Spirit can have His power to give grace. With love in Jesus, V
Renee Pierce says
Thank you Ann. When you all came upon your father at the fireworks, tears filled my eyes. Because yes, he chose the best, and he inspired me to do the same. Thank you for sharing this whole experience. I want to be more ‘here’ with my children. We homeschool, we run a family business, we are together all of the time, yet I often feel like I am not really ‘here.’ My mind is elsewhere and even though my body is here, I am not engaged. I want to be more engaged. This was a good reminder of that priority.
On my return from Uganda after a month long mission, I was on a flight that nearly crashed. During what I thought were my final moments, I reviewed my life. My greatest sadness was that I would never see my family again. It was my only regret. In that moment I realized that I had put too many things that really didn’t matter ahead of my love for them. I had focused too much on the doing and hadn’t cherished time doing nothing more than loving them. I had spent my life looking for accomplishments and letters behind my name, not recognizing how empty that was. Instead of small, every day acts of love and kindness, I had based my worth on experiences that would build a resume, not a life. This experience reaffirmed for me where my values and priorities need to be. If I truly want to make a difference in this world I must ask myself have I made a difference in my own home, with the people who love me in spite of everything they know about me. Under this measure of achievement I have to look at how I live each day and how well I have loved another. I try harder now to say the words that matter: I love you …thank you…I’m sorry … please forgive me. Because in the end, that’s all that’s left to say. So I say them now. And I ask God to help me be brave enough to risk rejection and heartbreak and to love from a big, juicy heart – no holding back. There are no guarantees. So I choose to love big. Love recklessly. The way Jesus did, even when he knew the outcome.
“So I choose to love big. Love recklessly. The way Jesus did even when he knew the outcome” It seems like you and I are choosing the same things; I agonised when I heard God telling me to start loving daringly, because I’m naturally passionate and tend to go all out but I had started to stifle it to protect myself, choosing to cover up with events like gift giving instead of being there and giving my heart. But you know what? Love never fails. By the way,Uganda is my home, thank you for visiting us 🙂
Marina Bromley says
Oh Ann…so perfectly said. I’ve perfectly heard, lived these very lines. All my life I’ve chosen the busy to bury the pain in… I so long for the relationships, but others’ work was always too important. I’m still longing to have the relationship, so I tolerate the hours, DAYS away from me to do his job well…and write my words, encourage with HIS words, to pass the time away. It’s hard, always being last…behind the kids when they were young, behind the job…the work…a Missionary in a chicken plant…and I’ll sit home and tend the kitchen and the keyboard…to God’s glory…
Oh Ann how this story has touched my heart. I tend to avoid relationships when they get difficult and require work on my part to work and this awakens my lazy self to do better, work harder and just be there when needed and sometimes just listen. I love your quote, “Relationship is the art of sacrifice that makes the days a masterpiece.” would you mind if i borrow it and put it in one of my cards i make as gifts? Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I am just now reading your book, One Thousand Gifts, well i just finished the first chapter but i know this is going to be a wonderful life-changing book, i just know it♥.
Hello,I think I am going through a season of loving, learning what love is and hence sacrifice for relationships. This is so true, the article is so reflective, had me thinking if I’m not just giving lip service because I have talked about it a lot. Thank you, thank you for this.
Thank you for this, Ann. I appreciate the reminder to have courage to risk, because that is what is needed after a deep hurt and betrayal by one you called friend. It is worth the risk to care again and find friends who come alongside you and push you to become more emotionally and spiritually healthy. A true friend who is healthy themselves can come beside us while Jesus heals us! I’ve grown in my walk with Jesus so much since being introduced to your writings. Thank you for being an instrument of grace.
Lauren Kay says
Ways that combine the two…I try to find them. No one knows more than a mother how the responsibilities of life can weigh her down if she doesn’t take time to build her relationships. Relief is in His Spirit. Relief is in the eyes and arms of her husband and children.
Thank you for these words of awareness and grace. You inspire me and have had a part in keeping me in touch with God every morning. Your work echoes through my life and all those my life touches.
May God continue to fill you to bursting…we will leave the sunglasses off! 🙂
Amazing. I was led to this site for the first time today. My first day of retirement after 34 years as an educator and administrator. I have lots of relationship building and repairing to do. Staring with my farmer husband who does the 365 days a year. Thanks for these wonderful reflections. I will visit this site often.
As a pastor’s wife and full-time volunteer Children’s Leader, can i just say that sometimes church work can find its way between relationships. I am task oriented and sometimes i get so caught up in the work of church that i neglect my own child. At 21 she doesnt need me as she once did, but there are times when i dont have “time” to talk because I am “planning lessons” or something. I needed to be reminded of the truths you spelled out today. T-I-M-E is important with those we love. My life has been out of balance in this area. I am a work-driven momma and simply have forgotten how to relax and enjoy. God help me!
Kathie at hisglorysm says
Thank you Ann for the reminder that we all need to keep our priorities straight (relationships first) in light of the fact that, no matter what our age, we could be writing our “last chapter.” Just yesterday I realized that if I live 15 more years I will be 80! Will I still be around? Only God truly knows. What I do know is that relationships can be difficult but God is always good. I will continue to live each day as if it were my last, just as I have since I began my relationship with Him 35 years ago. God bless you!
Irene McGuinness says
Lulu James says
I am reading your book and found your blog–profound writing for one so young. At 64–divorced after 40 years of marriage-I am starting over and writing about it. My desire is to “Finish Well”—and God has shown me that is through relationships and service. You inspire me to continue forward. Grace and peace to you.
Since I am in the throws of a separation from my husband of 39 years….this story is too real for me. The relationships with me and our four grown children and his now lost faith have nearly always taken a back seat. Things have not been easy these past 6 months alone, but I still have hope that God will restore us and renew a wonderful happy future for us all. God has blessed me with our first beautiful grandson, Henry(in April) and a new daughter in law (just two weeks ago) during this time…and will have another wedding and new daughter in law in August. I am so thankful for these blessed times with family! I pray my husband and I both will humble ourselves before God and join our life again.
This brought tears to my eyes. So often I have found myself as a Martha rather than taking the time for relationships. I think as I have become older and wiser I have seen this change and value relationships more and more. I was so touched as I have parents that are in their 80’s and I want more time with them yet life gets in the way. Thank you for sharing and the reminder of sacrifice.
It is the Mary and Martha story, isn’t it? The difference between prioritizing relationship or prioritizing the to-do list. I am such a Martha. Thanks for this, and the reminder make the less obvious choices that bring joy. I read your writing and want to be your friend! Your words have been the balm in very painful life experiences, always pointing to a good God who does all things well. Thank you!
Bless you. I wish I could give you a hug!
Lyn Dershem says
This is exactly what I needed to hear today, as I have been struggling the last few days with my list of things I want to get done before guests arrive. Doing so, I have disregarded relationship and let my frustrations rule. Asking forgiveness is the priority today. Thank you Ann, for the perspective I needed.
beth willis miller says
Great post, Ann <3 this is a great reminder to put people before things…in all ways…thank you!
This hits a little too close to home. My father hasn’t come around yet, though. A rancher, with more attention to cows than children and grandchildren. I often pray that things will turn around before it’s too late. Reading this encourages me that there is still hope. Thanks!
I had a conversation with my husband this morning about going to visit his sister in Atlanta. His only sister. He says he doesn’t want me to go but acknowledges that I have made a decision to go anyway.
“Do you want to go with me?” I ask, knowing his answer. What he said next makes me sad.
“Why do you have to go?” He asks.
“Because it is important to keep a relationship with family” I respond.
He says “Why…no seriously why?”
I respond with “You’re kidding right, you don’t really mean that.”
He did not reply.
This just went right through me. I am around your Dad’s age and just had a conversation about being old with a contemporary. Felt insulted by the response of two younger women at work and wondering just where my place is now. What have I made with my life? I have provided for others, I know, but in that busy-ness where have I gone. I still seek faith, spirituality, but often feel I am looking in the wrong places. Can someone my age still get the life she wanted? To be continued. . .
Heidi Roseman says
I love her words. Oh how I love her words.
I shared a link to you today dear Ann – more of us need your powerful words.
Hi. I know that I’m not the typical reader here (though y’all can’t really tell), but I wanted to let y’all know this: tonight, I found out something that has shaken me to my core. I cried, and I don’t cry much. I write, I emailed a friend, and I read this. Y’all’s words have helped me; I’m not crying now. I do have one request: I don’t know if anyone will read this, comment 131, but if you do… Please pray. I need the peace and healing of God tonight.
Praying for your Gretta!
Greta, I read your post and am praying for you even now. As I read Ann’s post I am reminded that I am not alone in my struggles with relationship. I struggle how to get pass the pain, hurt, disappointments with my mother. I do not want it and praying to be delivered from this. It robs me of my joy and peace. I know it hurts her too and I pray for victory in The Lord over this matter. In Jesus name, amen.
Bosede Santos says
Greta, I read your post and prayed the God of all comforts would carry you right through this.
Relationships at times can be a bitter sweet pill. You work at it and it may just yield little or no dividend at all. What do you do? Give it up? Most certainly not! To have friends you must first be a friend. I know He would send people to pour the same affection you pour on others. I know, cause He’s repaid me that way. Like it’s said some friends are in our lives for a reason and a season, we just need to identify that and know when to let go instead of holding on, saving ourselves some grief. I am always comforted and thankful knowing I constantly have a friend Who sticks closer than a brother, Who also knows I need flesh and blood community, and so places the ‘desolate in families’!
Thanks Ann for putting it all in perspective.
Thank you for these words, Ann. I am struggling as my spouse keeps everyone at arm’s length and is pulling further away from others and me. He’s ended relationships with family members and has said it’s too hard and too much work for our relationship as well. I’m at the end of my rope and just pray somehow he will see the value – that the sacrifices and risks are worth it all. I pray that the love of Jesus will overcome him. Your words remind me that through the bewilderment and pain, I have Jesus and community while I pray for a miracle and healing.
Thanks, y’all; God has given me that peace and healing in that situation that I so desperately needed. Thanks, sweet sisters.
The line that is written in Ann’s book: the demand of my will is the singular force that smothers my joy, nothing else. That line is one we must adhere to for any relationship to flourish. Forcing a healthy relationship doesn’t work. So do we whine, critique failed relations, pour self pity or carry on gracefully surrending all to God? Yep, indeed submitting is the only way.
vicki bellI says
i love relationships
real and gutsy and full of love jesus but yes it is hard with family
but i won’t ever give up
struggling in singleness but i still crave to follow the one who can really sustain
still longing for a help meet but i have and desire to follow jesus more
he will supply blessings whatever they are in his time amen
Your words so tugged at my heart. So much truth to digest!
As I read the comments, I realized I’m the one that made a mess of my life, leaving my husband for another man, breaking the hearts of my parents, sister,children, church family, friends,and neighbors, his wife,his children, his parents.. I experienced so much hate and rejection, definatly wore the scarlet letter in my community. I knew I deserved it all! For at least 10 years I struggled with self hatred and condemnation , I asked for forgiveness but I had hurt so many, how could there be grace and mercy when I chose myself over loving those around me?
My parents continued to walk in love, loving me though their disappointment and heartache. My sister and a small handful of friends said yes to loving me unconditionally. Still I ached with loneliness .
It’s now been 23 years since I started off in a wrong direction. I’m here to assure each mothers heart that our Lord will not give up the whooing of your children’s hearts. God will even use all the hurt we cause ourselfs to draw us to Him! And to my parents and sister who are all on the heavenly side of eternity, to those believers and friends who chose to to sacrificial ly love me, I say bless you, bless you, blesss you. I don’t know where I would be today without their love, probably dead both spiritually and physically !!! I too am many times afraid to risk the possible rejection and disappointment that sometimes comes when I take the dare to love regardless of the outcome., but Ann has spoken it so beautifully, it’s never too late to write sacrifice into our days!!! Loosing our life for love is never really a loss!!! I too thank you Ann for speaking truth in Love.
Denise Powers Fabian says
I’ve read this before…on an Ann post or in her book…but somewhere. But it never hit me like it did today. “We can still write sacrifice into our lives.” I’m not sure where this will take me…but I know that God is working.
I just got off the telephone with my 80-years-plus parents who live in the mid-west. My father farmed for many years and his heart still belongs to the Land. Your story immediately caught my attention due to the most obvious physical similarities. Yet what pulled me in on a much deeper level is an issue that has haunted me since the day I retired from a professional career. It is so engrained within me that I must have a “product” to show at the end of a day for it to be worthwhile. Now years have gone by without visible products, which leaves me constantly questioning my use of God’s precious gift of time. YOU helped me see that although I may not have visible products from my labor, I am now invested in relationships (relationships so often frustratingly put on ‘hold” when I worked full-time). Time is now used taking small gifts to a friend just out of the hospital, watching a friend’s dog at the last minute, traveling spontaneously to spend time with grandchildren, having dinner with our son and his girlfriend on a weeknight, spending leisurely time on the phone with my parents…so many acts of love I couldn’t quite all fit in during my “previous life.”…. This is the worthwhile business of my life passage now. May God shine his light in your corner of the world. Thank you, Ann.
This post is for LOLU- I am in the same exact situation as you- my sister came to live with me just last week. Most days I don’t think we are related lol. Been praying for grace and patience just the same! I knew I was meant to read this article, Ann, and Lolu’s comment! Thank you both. Ann, you are such a blessing to me. May the Lord keep blessing you for your efforts for Him and for others.
I come from a Farmer Father as well. The farm was (and is) always first. Their hearts are soft, but seem covered with tractors to fix, land to till, and (in our case) cows to milk. The photos of those dirt crusted coveralls could have been in our barn. I am so happy your dad chose to spend time with your family. It’s heartening to know that sometimes the farmers choose the right thing. Your dad did something VERY big that day.
There are so many comments and so many hurts listed here, it just breaks my heart. I am glad you provide a place for people to sort things out. It’s a good thing God is BIG!
But for some of us, the best thing we can do is leave other people alone. When all we ever do is say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or say things that hurt other people, without even trying. It’s best if the “relationship” just goes south and we work on the things. There are always lots of people around but only certain people can do certain things well. It’s better if I stay away from people and just do what I can do without inflicting myself on anyone. Just like this … it would be better if I never commented than to inflict myself on this conversation. See what I mean?
I do not do well with relationships at all. I am nice, friendly, a good person yet my relationships are wacked out. I seem to give too much and get hurt too often. The sad thing is that I am a people person and tend to love everybody no matter what. I live a quite lonely life that has been full of tragedy and disasters. I would like to have good relationships and do make time even with too many responsibilities yet what I do never seems to be good enough in the eyes of others.
I need prayer so that I do better. Thanks for the beautiful story. I love it and will read it again and use it to better my life.
Laura Brown says
Relationships and friendships can ebb and flow like the tide, we shouldn’t judge others and should forgive ourselves for our own mistakes. Be friendly when you are out and about and use your quiet time at home to nestle in close to the Father. Remember to follow Jesus’ example and remind yourself not to throw your pearls before swine. If you find yourself being offended and you know it is a rejection of Jesus in you, not something you’ve done, dust off your feet and leave that place. It is good to say NO sometimes. Ask yourself, what is the motivation behind my sacrifice, gift or choice? Are we selfishly motivated and looking for people to pat us on the back or selflessly sacrificing because of the ultimate sacrifice from the Father? Be motivated by what the Father wants you to do and follow Jesus’ footsteps. Take no offense with you and leave only blessings in your wake.