A Note on Notes

I’ve been trying to be very intentional about writing notes and cards and letters. In fact, in the last month I’ve mailed seven. None for the sake of just sending a card – all because I wanted those seven people to know, “Hey. I’m thinking about you. This card is cute and so are you”. And there are certainly more to come. My personal goal is to send at least two a month, but the sky is the limit when it comes to something as important as postal love.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 7.38.32 PM.pngI say all the time, AND IM NEVER JOKING WHEN I SAY IT, that my dream job would be to work in a stationary store. That’s it. Small dreams McGee over here. But I don’t know what I love if not letters. Timothy obviously, but besides him?! To me, letters are the best way of showing love. They’re how my mother showed love. When I first moved to Memphis and was so so lonely, my mother mailed me a card every single week. Sometimes nothing would be in it except a quick “love you!” sometimes it would be covered with her sweet handwriting hoping I’m okay. My stationary box (a yellow polkadot suitcase that Timothy gave me for our very first Christmas together – treasure holding treasure) very much resembles the secretary drawer that my mother had full of cards, all organized by occasion. For me it’s all of it: taking the time to pick out a particular card, to write a personalized letter with your own hand and pen, to tenderly add a stamp as you smile thinking of the cherished and loved person behind the name written across the front  – these things are so personal.

My hope is that when you, my friends, receive a card in the mail that you feel all my intention and love within that envelope. Adult friendships are so… weird, and I feel that there are so many people I am wild about – CRAZY EVEN – that I just so rarely see because life is so busy, and sometimes so hard. But when I write someone a card, when I think really hard about which stamp to use on the envelope, I feel connected to them. And that’s really all I ever want.

Not So Secret Love Letter [5]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

You. You were one of the handful of friends I was thinking about when I came up with the idea to write about people who I think are amazing. That may surprise you since we aren’t technically the closest of friends — we’ve never shared our deepest secrets with one another, but we have shared bits of our souls. It didn’t surprise me at all to think of you first because I really really (really really) admire you a lot. And think incredibly highly of you. And I think you’re great and I want to write about that.

John 13:35 says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” You have, unknowingly and accidentally, taught me that this verse is true. Because you love incredibly well. And I can see Christ in you as you do. Honestly, my friend, I don’t think I have ever met someone who loves as much as you do. You are intentional and interested and you remember things people say and you help do the dishes at parties and you invite people to lunch. And you don’t get offensive or rude when people disagree with you. You embrace. I think you love like Christ. You’re the first person to not make me feel like a heathen or a moron when I said I wasn’t able to label myself a calvinist. And when I dared to share that I didn’t feel like such things mattered, you didn’t throw John Piper references at me. You didn’t tell me I was wrong. And it wasn’t just because you agreed with me — I’ve seen you treat people with polar opposite values as you with the same consideration. You let me feel safe enough to have an opinion.

I do appreciate how many of our opinions match up, however. Honestly, I love you for the way you love women. Not… like, pervertedly. That’s the opposite of what I mean. You care about the rights of women, the role of women in the church, and the importance of shifting the way women are viewed. As a woman, I thank you for not prescribing to the concept of “masculine christianity”. Seriously. Seriously thank you for seeing how that type of thinking is destructive. This is a product of truly loving.

You’re also really talented. True, I don’t believe that someone’s worth depends on their level of talent and what they can give the world, but if I did you’d still be golden. You’re talented and you’re ambitious and you work really hard. You make things that matter. You create and you encourage others to create and I love seeing you, specifically, and christians in general create in the likeness of their Creator. Thank you for letting me be part of your work in the past. Thank you for your honesty and for being willing to spill your soul when you sit down at the keyboard or with your pen and paper.

I just think you’re a person worth knowing, basically. I want everyone to experience the joy of being loved well. Of being treated like they have value and are interesting and are worthy of being loved. Thank you, and I can speak for everyone you encounter, for reflecting Christ in a world that desperately needs it. You’re great.

Not So Secret Love Letter [4]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

Today is your birthday. It’s a special birthday because it’s the last one you’ll have with your current last name. Wouldn’t you know it, some lucky dude has finally snagged you up. Albeit not the same lad we thought for sure you would marry back when we were in 4th grade, but that’s all right – I can be wrong once. This upcoming year holds some of the biggest life changes to date for you, but when I think of you and your friendship I’m reminded of something that has never changed. Our friendship has ebb’d and flowed but it’s always been present. Since first grade it’s always been present. You take up most of my memories when I think of my life as a whole. Even though it’s been years since we’ve lived in the same town and spent any real time with one another, I still would bet money that you know me better than anyone I have ever met. You were by my side in such formative years —  you saw me at all of my awkward stages. Kudos for sticking around through my awful 7th grade hair style. Slick parted down the middle? I could die. Together we sold girl scout cookies, bought trunk loads of cheap crap from Claire’s, had major crushes on total hotties, sang NSync, Britney Spears, & Blink 182 really loudly, visited the emergency room (again, kudos for helping me pee after I passed out and bashed my head), and went through a pseudo punk phase which mostly consisted of buying shirts from Hot Topic (I don’t.. whatever). Your house was the first place I drove when I got my very first car. You were always who I called when I lost grandparents, pets, or just my mind. I think that we could not speak for 15 years and you’d still be the first person I’d call when I was devastated or got engaged. Note – my fingers are turning white they’re crossed so hard in hopes that it doesn’t take me 15 years to get engaged. There were seasons in our friendship that I know I wasn’t fully present — I was flighty at times, and I apologize for that. Hindsight is 20/20 and I see you’re the friend that never once let me down. I’m sorry I wavered and gave more attention to relationships which have proved less dependable.

I remember when you first told me you wanted to be a nurse. Well, I don’t remember the specific instance, but I remember you knew all the way back in elementary school. And now here you are. You worked hard and you did it. And we talked about weddings and getting married, and now you’re getting ready to do that too. How honored am I to get to stand beside you. I realize I was growing up right alongside you all these years, but I’m so proud of you and the woman you’ve grown into.

We have been friends for approximately 18 years.  This is the 18th year in a row I’ve gotten to tell you “happy birthday”. 18 birthday cards we’ve exchanged. 18 years of being your friend. What an incredibly huge honor — to have known you for 18 years and to look ahead and see the promise of so many more.

I love you.

[So, I mailed you a card obviously forever ago but I wrote the address wrong like a nincompoop and now you’re going to get it late. But I can’t stand the thought of you imagining that I forgot your birthday and mailed it last minute and that’s why it’s arriving late. I’m far too type A for such nonsense. Plus I adore you and would never forget your birthday]

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Not So Secret Love Letter [2]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

While I love all of the many things that make the two of  you different (and remind me of myself), I’m going lump you together right quick and write this letter for the two loveliest sisters I know.

Our relationship is incredibly unique. Actually, “unique” may be trying too hard. Our relationship is weird. We’re stitched together in such a strange way that there isn’t even a word to describe it so we’ve had to make up our own.  It’s weird.. but it’s beautiful. I feel that God was very intentional in stitching us together — that He had to be creative to do so and so here we are! In this messy, lovely, confusing relationship. The older I get the more interested I am in our dynamic. I think of how crazy it must have been for you when you were first told about me. What were some of the things you thought about? Did you wonder if the three of us would be close at all? Did you wonder if I would look like you? Did you wonder if your mother was nuts? She kind of is. But, anyway. Now that I’m older I appreciate and recognize the way you tenderly handled our bizarre relationship – how you were careful to not push too hard, but instead allowed me figure out who I was and how I related to our family. All while still loving me really well. Now after nearly 24 years of being able to find my little niche I see that it’s right there next to the two of you. I’d say “standing shoulder to shoulder” but honestly my shoulders are at y’alls ears. That Yaklin height will win out every time.

You two are two of the many strong women God has put into my life. I’ve never seen a family with so many capable and brilliant and.. bossy women. You have both sailed your ships through hard waters — the waves have made you very skilled sailors and now I see two women who aren’t so stoic they don’t have room for love, but instead are strong and love strongly. Two women who can laugh at the silliest nonsense but aren’t silly women.

I see myself in the two of you so incredibly easily. Maybe that’s why I love you both so much. Maybe this whole thing is just a big ol’ box of narcissism. I think you’re really witty and charming.. because I think I’M so witty and charming. Hmm. There may be something to that.

But I digress. The fun that I have with you two can not be matched. I dare someone to try. You know how certain people make you funnier? Like, their humor lines up with yours and together you’re just ON FIRE? That’s how I feel I am with you two – I am easily at the top of my game with you. I am the funniest I get when I am with you. And the beauty of our relationship is that it doesn’t stop at humor. You’re not just the fun friends I go hang out with when I want to be distracted from deeper things. You want my deeper things too. Those conversations about God around the bonfire at Thanksgiving mean more to me than any mad house Black Friday shopping experience. Sharing embarrassingly large desserts are only sweet when we’re having “real talk” alongside them. You two make me feel comfortable to grow, and I think that’s the most amazing feeling anyone can give you. I feel secure knowing you’re rooting for me and knowing your arms are near should I lose my balance and waver a little.

I didn’t grow up with close siblings and if I’m honest, I’m not sure I have the personality that would thrive in that dynamic. Siblings fight a lot and frankly I’m a little bossy and I hate loud noises. But I did always wish someone was with me saturday mornings watching cartoons and in long car rides up to West Virginia. I’ve seen many movie representations of sisters and brothers who grew up together and there’s this tight connection that I never had with someone growing up. I finally feel like I’m getting that. Twenty years a little late, but in this one instance I won’t be type-A about being on time. I finally feel connected – I finally feel related.  And I love you both so much that it doesn’t matter how much or how little we are technically related to each other. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t grow up together and have had completely different childhood experiences. Honestly, mine was probably better because it had you two in it. Because I had you two sitting there, patiently waiting to see what the three of us would be.

You’re both so beautiful and I love you endlessly always.

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Not So Secret Love Letters [1]

I have decided to embark on a very public tryst.

I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. And it’s true I have a drawer full of stationary sets and I love hand written notes more than anything — but for these, this blog will be the platform. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist. 

And so, here is the first Not So Secret Love Letter :

My sweet, sweet most precious friend — I’ll never understand how there can be so many states in between us. How I can be “here”, and you can be “there”. Yours are the arms I most like to link mine with. You are the soul that makes mine feel at home. You’re also a total bombshell, but that’s besides the point. I think you are one of the most sophisticated women I know. Even the quirky things about you are sophisticated. Even the way your hair poofs up in the morning is sophisticated. You taught me more about kindness than anyone has before you or since you. I can remember specific instances where I asked you why you were wasting your time helping someone in a way that I felt was useless, and you shrugged and said “It’s just an opportunity to serve”. And you didn’t say it in a “Jesus Juke” type of way. You weren’t trying to make me impressed with how holy or spiritual or nice you were, you were being authentic and your authentic self just happens to be loving and beautiful. You have some heaviness in your life – you have burdens that must make your shoulders tired. I imagine people would be surprised to hear some of the onerous parts of your life because your smile has a way of making the world believe in beauty and goodness and that everything will get better. I’m guilty of not bearing the weight of your burdens well because of that. Because you’re you – you’re the joy of my heart and you listen to all my messes. I’m sorry that I don’t tend to your messes well in return. I never want anything to ever make your heart heavy. At a big season in your life I remember saying to a friend of ours, “If I would want anything good to happen to anyone in the world.. it would be her.” And that’s still true. You know that line in Wuthering Heights, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”? Well, besides the fact that you’re not a man and I am not romantically attracted to you (sorry not sorry), I feel that exact way for you. Do you remember that Sunday at church when this conversation took place:

You: Hi! How are you?

Me: Good! How’s it going?

You: Good

*Pause*

*We both suddenly start crying*

You: I miss you so much

Me: I MISS YOU TOO. I LIED, I’M NOT GOOD I’M MISERABLE.

And this was only after not seeing each other for like.. three weeks. Now we have much bigger gaps in-between seeing each other. I hope you know that every time you ask me about Memphis and life and I say “Good!”, know that at any given moment I could cry thinking of how much I miss you. It doesn’t matter if weeks slip by somehow in between our conversations. You are still the friend that I adore. You are still my person. And it’s not just because you’re the only person in the world I’ve ever been able to borrow jeans from — it’s because you’re the most precious and lovely person I have ever had the pleasure of randomly sitting next to one night at USF four years ago. I love you so.

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Please, no Christmas Business until November 29th.

I’m listening to Tegan & Sara and eating an embarrassingly large number of Hershey Kisses (sorry not sorry) while the most precious of little boys naps next to me. I don’t hate it. This is one of the few chunks of my day where I’m not following a one and half year old around saying things I never thought I’d have say to another human being. For example, “you can’t eat your shoe” and ” don’t put your hands in your poop”.

Very soon I shall be boarding a plane (annoyingly early in the morning) back to the home in which I grew up for yet another beautiful Thanksgiving. There will be pumpkin pie, endless hugs, and probably — definitely — dancing in the kitchen. Thanksgiving doesn’t get enough credit. People who know me at all know that I may be pretty passive when it comes to lots of things, but I am at the front lines in the war against starting Christmas too early. You know, because I pick important battles. Listening to Christmas music / watching Christmas movies / putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving enrages me. Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, and gosh darn it,  give it some space! Sure, Christmas is the bee’s knees. I get it. I love Christmas just as much as the next tall redhead, but because I love it I don’t want it’s season to get soiled! And the fact that Christmas is awesome doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving can’t be! Ya’ll, we can have more than one enjoyable holiday. Starting Christmas in November is ludicrous. It overshadows Thanksgiving and it makes me exhausted of carols way too soon. I can only deduce that if you’re in a rush to get Thanksgiving over and done with, you never had a slice of my Grandmother Charlotte’s pumpkin pie. Let me brag a little: my family does Thanksgiving right, ya’ll. A bonfire with s’mores the night before as we all arrive from out of town, an early morning Thanksgiving 5k complete with turkey hats I am too embarrassed to wear, cooking together, chowing down together, plotting our Black Friday excursion, disagreeing about which movie we’re going to all go see Thanksgiving evening (you can’t know how happy I am that the “Twilight” series is over – I’m exhausted from dramatically declaring, “I WOULD RATHER BE PUNCHED IN THE FACE THAN GO SEE TWILIGHT” — yes, sisters, this is directed at you), a 5am Black Friday start time, auntie anne pretzels, punching clingy and obnoxious employees at Bath & Body Works (this has never actually happened but every year I’m amazed it doesn’t), an Olive Garden lunch, a nap, etc.

My beautiful mother preparing a Thanksgiving feast 2011
My beautiful mother preparing a Thanksgiving feast; 2011

This year in particular I AM SO EXCITED FOR THANKSGIVING I CAN NOT SEE STRAIGHT, and I think it’s because of all of those little traditions. I know what to expect at Thanksgiving. It’s familiar. It’s count-on-able. Thanksgiving is my longest and most consistent relationship. It’s with the people I have known most deeply. The people who know me better than anyone else. And because I’ve spent the last few months being the new person in a city that confuses me, familiarity sounds amazing. Instead of attending a gathering where I only know three people and have to introduce myself over and over and over again (uggggghaskdfakuweh), I will instead be attending a gathering where every attendee has known me for twenty three years. Ahhhh, to be known.

To be really really known and understood. To end a day in conversation with a friend who knows your backstory because she lived it with you. A friend who knows the reasons behind your quirks. Most often what I find I miss about Florida is simply the time that has already been invested there. By that I mean the fact that my friendships aren’t a few months old, but years. When I tell my mother or one of my old roommates something, we’ll call this hypothetical something “IT”, they consider it in the context of who I am and what I have experienced. Because they know my backstory they know how IT will affect me / how IT makes me feel / how wonderful IT is / how terrible IT is without my having to say so. And maybe even more lovely, they know how to show me love. Ask any Christian female, we all have “love languages” and it’s the most marvelous thing for yours to be known and met by others. For instance, this is a freebie for anyone interested, one of the languages that communicates love to me is hand written letters. Okay, I will grant you this is not one of the 5 technical languages, but it’s mine. Letters and words and stationary sets and pressed leaves. I eat that up. The fact that I have people who know this and send me notes mean more than anything. It has been so exciting to make new friends in Memphis, and frankly I am crazy about the ones I’ve met. But we don’t fully know each other yet simply because we’ve had only a few months and not years and years to laugh and dance and argue together. This will come (even the arguing), and I’m looking forward to knowing them and being known fully.

Till then, I am thankful for my aunt’s delicious turkey stuffing and being known.

Things I Know About God.

I choose sadness a lot of the time. I think it’s because I’m really good at throwing myself pity parties; lots and lots of empty brownie pans and a very used copy of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” can attest to this. This is not a good habit, obviously, but something really neat has happened during the times I laid on the floor and cried with a pillow over my face (y’all, I’m a catch): God kept moving forward anyway. God still set really really good and beautiful things into motion.

It’s very much like when I went skiing for the first time. January of 2011 my brother invited me up to West Virginia with him to go skiing. This would not only be my first time skiing, but also my first time ever seeing snow (florida cracker, over here). The place we went to ended up not having any bunny hills – great for every other person there who knew what they were doing, terrible for the tall gangly florida girl wearing a blue hat covered in snowflakes. Suffice it to say it did not go well. After hours and hours of falling and getting tangled up in my skies I did what every other emotionally unstable female would do: I sat in the snow and I cried. My brother had spent that whole first day with me, despite being a fantastic skier himself, and when the afternoon peaked at this pathetic moment he didn’t agree that maybe skiing wasn’t the best thing for me – he dragged me down the mountain. Figuratively, not literally.

God has done the same thing with me here. He hasn’t gotten annoyed with me or irritated at my sadness, he’s kept saying “come on, we have other things to do. I some really neat things for you.”

SOME NEAT THINGS I WOULDN’T HAVE BLAMED GOD FOR NOT GIVING ME, DUE TO MY BAD ATTITUDE:

1. I have this friend in Tampa who really loves excel spreadsheets and making her own yogurt. I haven’t known her long because she only moved to Tampa a handful of months ago but it’s impressive how quickly she has taken up residence in the inner circle of my heart and soul. I believe one reason she has reached out to me so so tenderly is because she is well versed in all of the emotions that come hand in hand with moving. She is the person who validates my sadness. She tells me I’m allowed to be kind to myself. She is holding my excitement for me until I’m fully able to hold it myself. And recently, she mailed me the seemingly simplest of objects that filled my heart to the brim. A mug from the church I’ve called home for over three years, empathetic handwritten words, a dishtowel full of sentimental value (it’s the little things). It is quite clear that God timed our friendship perfectly. I was angry to leave so soon after her arrival (in fact she was on the CON column for moving) but if I hadn’t met her in this season I would be struggling. I know God is a loving God because he provided me a friend who is experiencing the same changes only a few steps ahead of me and because of that.. I can breathe.

2. I found a church that I love. I knew coming up here that my biggest struggle would be leaving Watermark. And I knew my initial reaction would be to try to find a church exactly like Watermark. That isn’t really fair, though, is it? No community is the same. And no community is perfect, especially not the one I had in Tampa. So, I had to be very purposeful in keeping myself from simply trying to find a Watermark-wannabe.  And wow, I definitely went to some that resembled Watermark in NO WAY WHATSOEVER. I heard some good teaching, saw a lot of worship sessions I detested, and made small talk with lots and lots of people before God brought me to Christ City. I know God is a kind God because he brought me to a church that reminded me of Watermark, even though I knew that couldn’t be my rating scale. They’re not identical of course, but the feeling of peace I had upon entering was oh so reminiscent of that feeling of comfort I had every Sunday in Tampa (and they both have minimal, slightly dim lighting which of course isn’t a deal breaker but hey – I like minimal lighting) . I confessed to a new friend over lunch this past Sunday that immediately this feeling was conflicting. Of course it felt so wonderful and so restful to be in a church that gave me peace, but in the same moment I was very heavyhearted. How could I be at peace when my friends were over 800 miles away from me? Well, because God isn’t present merely in Tampa. There are no replacements for the friends I have currently said goodbye to, but there are beautiful people to love in their own right here in Memphis.

3. Proof of that can be found in this past weekend: I was invited to head out to Moscow, TN (who even knew such a place existed) to stay at a big beautiful house surrounded by beautiful fields and beautiful trees and a beautiful lake. There we would stay up late laughing, talk about God and the unique ways we know Him, make s’mores, lay in the grass, and drink sweet tea. It was Saturday night when the beauty of the situation hit me. I was lying in the grass stargazing with new friends resting on either side of me. I know God is a big God because as  we ooh’d and aah’d at every shooting star we saw I had the thought: here I am in Tennessee with people I didn’t even know existed two weeks ago… and God knew the entire time I was in Tampa that I’d one day be here, laughing with and learning from these unique and interesting individuals. Stuck on the earth by gravity, looking up at stars that may have burned out ages ago.

4. I know God is a God who cares about little things because I was invited to join a book club. I kid you not, I’ve always wanted to be in a book club. Admittedly it’s as much for the conversation, wine, and laughter as it is for the books themselves. And that’s exactly what I found waiting for me when I arrived that first night, cookies in hand: delicious wine and equally delicious conversation. We have started reading “Bread & Wine” by Shuana Niequist. Basically it’s a collection of essays she’s written about food… but it’s a lot more interesting than that may make it sound. Every little essay makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy as I recall beautiful moments had around different dinner tables with different friends. The title itself makes me think of a specific evening I had while studying abroad in Paris: myself and four other ladies traveled via metro to the Eiffel tower (as all americans do) with wine, brie cheese, and fresh bread in hand. We lounged and laughed and shared with one another as one of the world’s most famous landmarks sparkled in the background.

That God led me to a wonderful church, to friends who love being outside, to girls who enjoy wine and reading is really humbling when I think about how angry I was about moving. No parent would reward their child with lovely gifts after a myriad of tantrums. And yet.