These Are the Cherished Times -

It is burning in my heart and it will not be quieted....I must write.

I think when one looks at life with only a few weeks or a few days left with a best friend (here's looking at you, Lauren, and the moving-to-Alabama-Hope family) ... you start viewing life differently. Seconds are treasured, times are established, moments are memorized. I found myself staring at Lauren for absolutely no reason last night and then realized my eyes were trying to memorize the way her face changes when she talks. Knowing you don't have much time with someone, whether by moving or by earth....changes priorities drastically. 

I've known it well, but I'm feeling it very much condensed these days, as a huge amount of events, happy and sad! are stuffed into a very small amount of time. I'm the emotional wreck in the middle, in case you missed me. The tears have been quiet, coming and going, but the meltdowns few. It is no longer the state of happy denial, but now the hurt of letting go. It is too much to even think of, even worse to write of. Writing it makes it real. 

I feel like I have intense sorrow coming at me from the right and unbelievable joy hitting me from the right, and in the middle is me in an explosion of emotions that doesn't know how on earth to live without going through every single emotion known to man. It's exhausting and wonderful and teary.

But seeing life as a whole in a small amount of time is...overwhelming and also grounding. And that amazed me today. That I could be grounded in the memories we've made and realize that because we cannot be separated from Christ, we really cannot be separated from each other either. Because we shall always be with the Lord, we shall one day....all be together again. It is a joyful knowledge to rest in when one has to say goodbye to those one loves. It is not a new knowledge. Just one I never applied to moving or "I will miss you when you move" goodbyes. 

This past December and the start of this January have been so FULL of good things and good gifts, and most of all, good friends. I've felt so loved, so cherished, so known, so cared for, so wanted, so free. 

In the second week of December, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a road trip with Molly from my house to hers in IL. In case you missed that, it was about 19 hours of driving. Let's just say, we made some profoundly fun memories that rarely involved sleep. 

She described it as having a Jean sized hole in her heart that she didn't know she had until I filled it up....and it was exactly to a T how I felt as well. I've rarely felt so quickly connected in a small amount of time. When she left, I cried on the porch in the freezing ice and snow on Shelby's porch, and had a mini-meltdown when I got back to FL because I missed her so much. We had such a grand, special time. Every hurt and sorrow and everything ever to talk about ... was talked about it. It was real, grace-filled, honest living. It's what friends are grounded into becoming best friends....for a long time, and I love her so much. 

It only continued to Shelby's house....and falling in love with her family. I would wake up in the morning in a happy bundle of blankets and tousled heads and knowing extreme fondness for my life at that moment. Teasing and laughter and scrambled eggs in the mornings....a million hugs and singing, sharing and knowing and just being together. When we got up early-early in the morning to say goodbye to Shelby, we pulled on our hoodies to avoid looking like we just got up, even though our faces tell of happy slumber, and wow, it was hard to give the one last hug. We are bonded, sure and true. 

On December 20th, Emily and I threw a Going-Away-Party for the Hopes (under protest, of course). It was oh-so-wonderful having the gang together...playing together, taking pictures together....I kept looking out across the sports fields as the sun streaked glory rays across the grass. I actually teared up at one point, yes, because it was just so wonderful to be all together, and I realized how much I take it all for granted (me, even, the introspective and memory-taking-and-maker). I took for granted how lovely it is to see the Hopes pretty much whenever I want. 

and I forget to remind my friends how dearly, how deeply I love them all. Like my Becs. 

It isn't until we have to say our goodbyes that all our fondest memories flood in with the tears and we realize how desperately we want to keep them here with us. And then we are overwhelmed because we know they can't. 

And oh, I've been so blessed, so richly blessed by the friends God has brought into my life. The best friends are more than I could ask for, they encourage, build up, hope with me, love me. The friends and acquaintances are joys to be around, truly we act like family when we are together. My friendships span from little ones to best friends' parents to honorary grandparents and I love that. 

God made us for community, and a community to serve and bless the body of the Lord. 

I have been more blessed than I could ever have dreamed. 

And wow, like Mr. Morse commented last night, I've been logging a whole lot of traveling hours recently. It's true. I've been more on I-95 and SR-46 lately than I would like. I'm sick of driving. 

But I wouldn't have given up one moment of December or this week for ANYTHING. It has been worth the caffeine-driven-Metoprolol-moments, it has been worth the quiet drives home in the dark, it has been worth stumbling to bed at 1am and getting up at 7am, it has been worth the insane crazy of packing and re-packing and making 4 batches of tapioca in one sitting for a party because I have been together with those I love. 

"Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. 
Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend."
~ C. H. Spurgeon ~

And because I realize more than ever these moments are fleeting, then I am holding onto these moments tighter than ever. I am putting a higher priority into watching them and listening to them and really entering into the conversation, or really taking a step back and looking around at everyone together. 

It has left me in tears every single time. 

Rarely do I look around the room and realize that this moment I will remember forever, but I've been having a lot of those lately. Usually it is Christmas or Thanksgiving....but when goodbyes and Heaven and separation seem so close all the time...oh, it changes you

I've realized SO much lately how blessed with opportunities I've been. A road-trip with Molly, time in FL with friends, just many impromptu trips to see people, a concert here, a Sunday there, hugs and conversations and chats and e-mails. They have all been treasured, stored away, for when I'm missing them. 

LtoR: Myself, Kaylee, our Lauren, McKenna & Lauren G (they are moving to TX as well!)

Not to mention all the weddings. I've attended 3 weddings in December, and 1 in January, and 1 wedding reception as of last night.
But I'll tell you what really drives it home. 

On December 19th, I went to a really sweet wedding of some friends of mine...I danced with my childhood best friend and laughed because I have no moves, but still have a blast; the next morning I got up and saw that my dear friend Elise A (who was one of the biggest spiritual mentors I had throughout my teens) was in the hospital (I've mentioned her HERE before - she has Stage 4 breast cancer). I went to the hospital and spent 2 joyful and tear-filled hours with her, often just leaning over the bedside to hold her hand and pray over her as she slept and to share with her when she awoke. And then the next morning was the going away party we threw for the Hopes. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. 

And it struck me anew and it struck me deeply how intertwined joy and sorrow fall together in this life.
How grace comes swift and sure, how tears fall hard and gentle, how trust in Christ remains strong and true. 

I've shared SO much laughter, so much joy, so much excitement. I've also shared tears, hurts, fears, sorrows, and the knowledge of goodbyes. I love one and hurt for the other. It just is that way. 

But the one sure thing I keep coming back to is that because we are grounded in the same memories, we will also still be grounded in the God Who gave us those memories, and we will have more memories together. Even if it is only one more. Even if it is 1,000 more. They will all come from the same One Who started the relationship in the first place - the Giver of every good and perfect gift - Jesus Christ. 

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." ~ James 1:17 

He gives with such an unfathomable love and grace that it leaves me weak at the knees. 

 And tearful at the sight of His meeting and holding Ryan Case last night. 

Some things cannot be put into words...and meeting someone you've prayed for for many months is one of them.
It was like the moment I first held Avery, the first time I held Georgia and the first time I held David. 

Perspective-changing, heart-altering, joy-giving, grace-present....LIFE. Life full and abundant. 
I love him so very, very much.
I adore his every move. I watch for the slightest unhappiness so I may fix it.
He is completely sweet and utterly precious. What a gift to Cody & Tricia & David. 

I spent today with my dear friends Holly & MaKenna & Shannon. We went to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and spent some extremely cold and windy and fun moments up there in the ... sky. We tromped around and ate lunch and sat in a fireplace and had the grandest old time. 

It was so strange though. Something hit me right before they came, and even though I didn't mention it until later, it stayed with me and reminded me of how precious time is. It was the first time I had seen them in a while.....the last time I had seen them - Avery was alive. That just brings tears, no matter how many times I think about it. 

And I caught myself staring at the way the wind moved the trees while I was half-listening to a conversation, and I felt my soul move with the wind that threatened to pick us up and hurl us across the sea, and how I wished it could take us straight to Heaven forever. My lovely friends' smiles and peace and joy blessed me so immensely. We teased and laughed and played and walked....but I couldn't help but remember the sweet weight of Avery in my arms when I showed him off to Shannon, Holly and MaKenna at FPEA, and oh, so hard to remember him as not here. 

Goodbyes change you ... but friendships often change you too .... in the most beautiful of ways. 

After feeling like loss and cancer have been chasing me around for weeks and taking out people I love...last night at the wedding reception and meeting Ryan, and the Lighthouse today was a blustery reminder that not all things that change will hurt. Some things will be known as pure JOY. 

Thank you, MaKenna, Shannon, Holly & Mrs. DeVore ... for today!! I love y'all!! 

So I wanted you to know that if I've been quiet at times when I would normally be shrieking and dancing, 
if I've dropped out of a conversation that normally I would be wholeheartedly entering into, 
if you've felt the silence of unreturned e-mails or missed messages or phone calls, 
if you've caught me with a sad look on my face when you are perfectly happy about something, 
if I give you the polite tired smile....

please know this - my life is changing right now, and it hurts so much. 
I hate goodbyes and I am saying them to people I love. 

But know this even more - I've loved every single second with you.
If I've yawned around you, I'm not bored, I'm tired. ;)
 If I forget your birthday or miss sending you a card for a hard anniversary, it's not because I forgot,
 but because praying for you is so much easier than writing out how much I care for you. 
If I'm distant and quiet, know that I still hear your voice and joy in seeing the smiles spread across your face. I love being with you.
But as I grieve and say goodbye, I'm hurting for all my friends who are saying it too. 

You are so loved, my dear friends....I know I'm so incredibly and deeply blessed by every single one of you. And tonight I couldn't not tell you for one more minute. God has used you and blessed me through you immensely. I cannot wait to see the memories God will give us all together. 

Because our lives are all grounded in Christ's love for us, we stay anchored together. 

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
from whom the whole family in Heaven and Earth is named, that He would grant you, 
according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 
may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - 
to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,
 according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, 
forever and ever. Amen."  
~ Ephesians 3:14-21 ~ 

When I step back and look at all our memories, I am flooded with thankfulness for all the wonderful times we've had together!!!! The sweet thing is that I can see myself doing the same thing next January, and the next one after that, even. There may be sad times mixed in with our happy times ... but they shall all be treasured.

Because these are the cherished memories I will love to look back on.....for a long time. 

Please keep all of our friends in your prayers, as we have to say our goodbyes and
send off the Hopes with much love and hugs to 'Bama, and pray for the Lord's blessings upon them as they move.

Please keep Elise and her husband, Joe, and their two sons, Joe & John in your prayers.
Pray for peace and comfort to reign in their hearts as they spend precious time with Elise.

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 


  1. Man, you're gonna make me cry. And I would say something but all the appropriate words have already been used in this post. *huuuuuuug*

  2. Forget it.... I'm all ready tearing up. You wrote in words that my heart yearned to hear, but couldn't think how to put it. I needed to be reminded that because we are in Christ, anchored in His love, we are never truly separated. {though I confess: I'll be having a few more meltdowns this week.} Thank you for encouraging me to embrace every glorious moment of *today* and to cherish the joys of memories made and that which is still to make. Thank you for filling my day yesterday with so much love and joy. Love you!!!! ♥


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