Technically, in the biological and legal sense, she's no relation. Meredith, daughter of my dear friend Debbie, was born July 4, 1995 at 25.5 weeks; her identical twin fell victim to twin to twin transfusion. Meredith lives 1000 miles away, but for nearly 15 years, our families celebrated Thanksgiving together. I'm so very grateful to have this grown-up miracle in my life.
My beloved Meredith,
Who could have ever guessed that a baby who weighed less than two pounds could make such a big impression on my life? You slipped into this world three months before you were due, right by yourself (your identical twin went straight to heaven, bypassing Earth altogether). Immediately, though, you found yourself surrounded by love—family, friends, medical staff—and found within your tiny little self, the spirit of a champion. I am so very thankful for you, sweet girl, and I thought it was time I tried to tell you how grateful I am for the gift of YOU.
Thank you baby Meredith, for surviving your shaky beginning. Somewhere in your amazing self, you found the will to thrive. So, after four months in NICU and I-can’t-even-remember-how-many days on the ventilator, you went home. It was only a few weeks later that I got to hold you for the first time. Thank you, tiny one, for smiling at me so readily. I can still recall the feeling I had, holding all five pounds of you (a pound for each month of your life), looking into your beautiful brown eyes. You made me feel like I was the only person in the world. Thank you.
Thank you little girl Meredith, for always being delighted to see me. (You’ve always been so easily delighted.) Thanks for crawling up in my lap, for letting me read to you, for playing games and watching movies with me, for letting me push you on the swings. And as hard as leaving always was, thanks for always holding on so tightly to me, asking me not to leave, begging us to stay longer next time. Oh how I loved every precious moment of those fleeting days.
Thank you middle school Meredith, for being so unexpectedly full of spunk. I know it wasn’t easy. I’m so grateful for the grit in your makeup that kept you moving forward. Middle school is just the worst, isn’t it? I’m so grateful that you survived those difficult times. Thanks for liking me when it was hard even to like yourself. It felt so undeserved and it felt like treasure. It still does.
Thanks high school Meredith, for sticking with it. It is just so very hard . . . being. Especially in high school. But you connected and found friends I’m certain you’ll have for life. Thanks for not giving up on my Meredith during high school. I’m eternally, endlessly grateful.
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life, but I’m even more grateful that you let me be a part of yours. Thanks for emailing, Facebooking, texting, and SnapChatting with me. Thanks for loving me from far away and for still wanting me to be with you. I’m so very grateful.
You will have nieces and nephews of your own before you can truly know how gratified my heart is that you are a part of my life. So thank you dear girl. Thank you for being Meredith.
I loved you before you were born.
Dear Mrs. Doris,
The Storehouse Ministry you have established at your church is a blessing to so many. In an effort to thank you for all the ways you have impacted your world, I wrote this story about a day I spent volunteering at Storehouse.
“Okay! Everyone on the porch!”
The volunteers pour out of the house that used to be the church parsonage. Now, the three-bedroom, brick ranch is home to the Storehouse Ministry: a program that has grown into one of the most productive and efficient food pantries in the region.
“I believe we’re ready,” she tells us. Grocery carts are lined up on the sidewalk; bags of canned goods are piled on the steps. Under the carport around the corner, fresh bread and baked goods are stacked in the bed of a pick-up; frozen foods will be added at the backdoor. The line of recipients has started forming on the other side of the carport; Mrs. Doris’ table is along the back. From there, she and other volunteers will greet each person: checking id’s and credentials while chatting about life this week. Mrs. Doris knows them all. She asks them about the specifics of their lives, remembering them from months, years gone by. She hugs them, she laughs with them, and by her very demeanor she reminds them that they matter, that they are loved.
Back on the porch, the volunteers—that day there were more than 20 of us (when she started this ministry, Doris Johnson was one of a two person team)—circle up, squeezing in shoulder to shoulder. They come from her church and other local congregations; but they also come from the community—from Doris’ community. Some worked on the farm she used to have. Some started here as recipients and have stayed on to help. There are wealthy people here, and people who receive public assistance. They are African-American and Caucasian, neighborhood locals and people who haven’t yet learned English.
(Looking around the porch that day, I see a glimpse of the Kingdom.)
“We’ve got a great group here today,” Ms. Doris begins. “And of course, all of us have stuff going on in our lives.” She lists needs among us and names a few of her own. “But we’re going to put all that aside right now and serve these people who’ve come our way. We’re here because Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and we’re going to do just that.”
In a few minutes, we would leave that porch and everyone would get busy filling carts and helping recipients load their groceries. Each recipient (unless Ms. Doris knows of special circumstances and makes an exception) will get a single cart that has been filled to beyond the top with canned foods, dry goods, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and treats.
Most families are allotted a single monthly visit to this ministry. Ms. Doris says the food we provide will not last the whole month; it will last around a week, depending on circumstances. “But,” she tells us, “We do what we can. And we do it in Jesus’ name.”
Ms. Doris turns to me. “We have a guest here today. She’s a seminary graduate, a youth minister in North Carolina. I’m going to ask you to say our opening prayer, Aileen; and folks if you meet someone today in need of prayer, Aileen will be here to minister to them.”
See to Doris Johnson, delivering groceries to people in need is important; sharing the love of Jesus, though, is transformative. So every cart that is filled with food is also covered with prayer; every person who comes through the line for service is seen as a beloved child of God.
“Let us pray,” I invited the group. And we bowed our heads, committing that day to Kingdom work.
Doris Johnson, you are the very face of Christ to so many. Thank you for who you are and for all you do in Jesus’ name. Your example teaches me so much about how to honor God. May the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ be with you always.
With grateful heart,
That’s who I am thankful for today. How about you? Who would you like to thank?
8-2-2015--Mother's 77th birthday.
Just yesterday, I realized for the very first time how difficult it must have been for you when we moved to North Myrtle Beach in 1982. I was a junior in high school; your youngest was in middle school; your oldest, a college freshman. The house we were building wasn’t finished, so while we waited, we stayed first in one rental and then another.
I gotta tell you: I thought I was the one with the problem. I mean, I had just moved from my beloved friends, my sister/soul mate was away at college, and I had the most annoying little brother ever born. Plus, we’d had to leave the family pet behind with friends while we stayed in the rentals. And school. And homework. And woe was me.
I never thought about how much harder it would have been if it hadn’t been for you. When I look back now, I can see the obstacles you deftly removed from my path.
The first rental was beautiful, but so sterile that it felt far more like a hotel than a home. You couldn’t change much there, but you added just the right touches to transform the generic to the familiar. Thank you.
The second rental was—well—not beautiful. It was old and so rickety it swayed from the ocean breeze. I distinctly remember your upbeat presentation of the place, offering me first pick of the rooms. I realize now that it was sort of a dump, but I didn’t really know it then. Because of you, it was home. Thank you.
When we finally moved into our house, you went to extraordinary lengths to make my room special. You essentially designed the room (at least in my recollection) around the dollhouse I loved so much. You didn’t have to—I know my furniture cost more than anything you bought for yourself—but you did it just for me. I loved it. I probably didn’t mention it then, but thank you. It meant so much that you valued what was important to me.
Today, I have two college kids and a high school senior myself; I realize more every day all the sacrifices you made for me. Thank you.
Nearly every day, as I learn more about myself, I learn more about how your love has shaped me. I could never thank you enough for being the extraordinary person you are, for showing me how to be a mother, wife, daughter, woman. I can only live my life in gratitude, humbled by the knowledge that by cosmic chance, I was born to the mother of all mothers. I love you.
With grateful heart,
Dear Oakley Elementary School:
It was a conscious choice for me to surrender the first of my three children to you back in 1999. I thought about charter schools. I looked at city schools that would accept transfers from the county. I considered private schools and even homeschooling. You see Oakley, as an educator myself, I knew the importance of starting formal schooling in the right way. I was unwilling to leave this aspect of parenting to chance. After prayerful consideration and active research, I opted for you, Oakley; and you—by my home address—had chosen me.
What a divine and blessed choice that was: for ten years, you nurtured my family. Thank you for caring for us so completely. I can’t list all the ways you did that, but I want to point out just a few.
First, thank you for keeping music education alive in your school. My children loved their music teacher and looked forward to what they’d learn in her class. But music did not stop—or for that matter even start—in the music room. No, at Oakley, music spread throughout the school. One teacher provided each of her fourth graders with recorders and taught them how to play. Others used music to aid memory or productivity. At Oakley, music was the norm. That made a difference for my children and I thank you.
Thanks also for the art you have displayed on your walls. Murals abound at Oakley Elementary, saying to my children and others, “Be creative! Explore beauty! Express yourself!” Thank you for whispering those encouragements to my children daily. They heard them. I did too.
Thank you, Oakley, for hiring fantastic teachers. My children have found academics to be pretty easy throughout their lives—owing in large part to the fact that they have always had books within reach and have parents and grandparents who value academic success. People told me my kids would lose interest in the classroom. Those people didn’t know Oakley’s educators. My children’s teachers engaged students across a wide range of academic abilities. Despite having 25 students in a class, many of whom needed more instruction and attention than mine, Oakley’s teachers recognized my children’s needs and responded to them. Thank you Oakley. Thank you so much.
Finally, thank you Oakley for your diversity. My son’s first grade class included children of six different nationalities. There were kids at Oakley who were first generation immigrants and those who were third generation Buncombe County landowners. There were kids who lived in government funded housing and those who lived in million-dollar mansions. They were black, brown, and yellow, red and white, but everyone was precious in Oakley’s sight. Thank you Oakley for showing my children what the world looks like. You taught my children from an early age that friendship isn’t dependent upon matching skin or equal resources. They’ve not forgotten that lesson. They never will.
Thank you Oakley for loving us in ways that seemed to come easily for you. You have blessed us beyond measure and this mother’s heart overflows with gratitude.
Mother of Trellace, Baker, & Margaret Lawrimore
PS Trellace will finish her Bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 2016 after finishing summa cum laude at Reynolds High School in 2012. Baker is on a full scholarship at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Margaret, an honors student at Reynolds, graduates in May 2016. You did well, Oakley Elementary School!
That's who I'm thanking today. Who would you like to thank? Comment below to let me know!
Back story: Back in 1983, I began my freshman year at Campbell University. Within the first few days, I met Tammy and later Lisa. They are, in fact, two separate people, but I can’t think of one without the other, even for the purposes of a thank you note.
Truly, I can’t remember ever being as surprised as I was when I walked into my 50th birthday celebration Wednesday night and saw you both standing there. I can’t imagine the scheduling magic you must have pulled off to rearrange life’s demands so you could travel across the state to my party. What a gift! Thank you. Thank you for always being there for me.
Well. Not exactly always. As I recall, you were happy to stay safe and sound in your dorm room the night we watched Fatal Attraction on TV. Neither of you offered to walk me back to my room across campus, despite the very real danger of Glenn Close following me back to my dorm, only to arise bloody in my shower.
But ya know, other than that, you’ve been there.
You were there that freezing cold weekend in 2010 when I was ordained to the ministry. You came, husbands in tow, and celebrated every moment of the weekend with me and mine. Certainly, there was a financial sacrifice that weekend, but even more, I know you sacrificed family time and work responsibilities to be there with me. Thank you for taking the time. It mattered so much.
It mattered in part because you honored my call to ministry. You’ve known me longer than many, so you know--you’ve witnessed--my failings. You know my brokenness, my weakness, and my shortcomings. You know I’m flawed in countless ways. Yet your presence there that weekend, and again this week in the church where I serve, reminded me, “Yes Jesus loves me. I am weak but He is strong. Yes Jesus loves me.” Thank you for being the voice of God to me, reminding me that I am indeed worthy of this call God has placed on my life.
If that were all you two had ever done for me that would be enough for me to be forever in your debt. But there’s so much more. So here’s a list of other things.
Of course there is more. There will always be more. But Tammy and Lisa, know that I am grateful for your friendship. I love you both immeasurably.
With heart full of gratitude,