”I have no lid upon my head, but if I did, you could look inside and see what’s on my mind. Oh, it’s you.” -Dave Matthews Band

Recently my in laws gave us a mailing that had a part of a letter my husband wrote in 1996 to our friend Heather.*  This was when he and I were just starting out.

You know in a movie when there’s a romance starting and they have the musical montage? That’s what we were like.  I flew to Denver for a week to volunteer with him at a Missionary of Charity House for people dying of AIDS.  Our love grew in the midst of service and discernment, as he prepared to move to Mexico to become a Missionary of Charity Father, and as I discerned becoming a nun or letting myself fall even MORE in love with him.  I knew instantly when I saw him I was going to marry him, but both of our calls to serve God and others threw us big curves.  But back to our movie montage, it would probably be to a Dave Matthews song, because his soundtrack was the background to that time in our lives.  Mini clips of him picking me up at the airport after my first ever plane trip.  Kneeling next to each other in a chapel.  Serving dinner to a room full of very sick men, who were so joyful.  Him helping people bathe, as I helped the sisters strip beds down and mop floors. Both of us surrounded by these little nuns, stealing glances and sharing smiles (yes, it would be a cheesy montage).  Bumping shoulders as we walked in the snow to a church, and him asking me afterwards if he could hold my hand. These little memories still fit in my mind like a movie.  Sometimes when I’m super frustrated with him about the mundane like laundry or his work gear taking up an entire couch I remember watching him lift someone out of a chair and escort them back to their room, their slippers shuffling next to his confident feet as he let them set the pace.  I remember him leaning in to one of the sisters, listening to them and doing what they asked right away.  That music montage plays so fluidly because in him I didn’t just see the person God has whispered into my heart I was going to marry, but because I saw someone who had the same calling.


These are some of the Missionary nuns (the three on the right) who were in Denver we met and had the honor to serve with. All of them were beautiful souls living their vocations so beautifully.


In the Gorge at “The Dave Matthews Band”  Concert in 1998. Babies.

We met as he started his missionary year with a program called REACH (which is unfortunately no longer around). I ended up serving a couple years after him, but grew up with REACH and worked with them for many years.

The mailing my in laws gave us couldn’t have come at a better time. Jonah, our oldest son, leaves in four weeks to join NET which is the same sort of thing that his Dad and I did.

The words that were written years ago by my husband in a letter don’t just matter because of what Jonah is going to be doing soon,  but is in many ways the mission statement of our life together.  I just didn’t know it then.

  “Well, what I do isn’t that extraordinary. I serve Jesus in a distressing disguise, but REACH also does that.  Everyday I touch the broken body of Christ, but so does REACH.  He is in all of us, and it has taken this to open my eyes to that simple fact.  I work with Jesus in people who are dying of AIDS. I serve meals, mop floors, change diapers, give baths, dispense medicines, hold a hand, give a smile.  I listen a lot.  I pray a lot.  I understand that if someone gets mad and yells at me, then it is my duty to love in the face of fear and anger.  Over time this will change a person, the one that yells and the one that listens.  I do not do any one specific thing here because there is so much to do.  I just do whatever the sisters ask.  I have learned many things here. One thing is that our greatest ministry is by our example, not our words. As we say in our morning prayer, “It is the sympathetic influence of what we do, the catching force of the love our hearts bear for you, Jesus.” There is so much truth there.     


Another lesson I’ve been shown has brought much sorrow.  It is that our failure to love is always at the expense of another.  So there, that’s what I do.  It is outwardly very different than what REACH does, but inwardly it is all the same.  Youth ministry and AIDS ministry have a lot in common:  We both work with people who struggle with their identity and where they can fit into a society who refuses to identify them.  We both work with people who find it hard to see how God can love them.  We both work with people who are very vulnerable, and who are very hungry for the cross.  You don’t have to look far to see what I do, because you do it too.”  -December 1996


(Former) Seton House, Denver, where Missionary of Charity Sisters served AIDS patients for 20+years.



If you take out the words REACH and put in our life’s journey, whether it’s how we are raising our kids, or what we have been called to do career wise there are no coincidences.  The Lord so clearly put us on this path, together, side by side. As the years have passed even with the messiness of life, we’ve been led to the same conclusions about things.  None of these are from the news or media, but instead of learning how to listen to others, and to be willing to love them, even when it’s difficult.  This includes in raising teenagers with all the curves and heart ache as they find themselves and their own path. 

It’s in the moments of loving one another, through anxiety and depression.  Loving each other when there’s only been $6 left in our bank account, or one of us is really sick.  When we’re grieving, and when we are so hurt by life.    When one of us veers off, we’ve learned that we need to go straight to love, because love never fails.  

Maybe our greatest testament of this is because in the days after our 20th Anniversary next month, Jonah leaves with the same calling.  I write words, but my greatest work has always been in the example of who I try to be and how I strive to live.  How we strive to live as a family.  Jonah is a product of that love and that mission.  As his parents, we are humbled by this.

We fail a lot.  But we strive to love better every single time.


Cheesy Engagement photo 1999, reenacting “Sixteen Candles.”  You know because Jake Ryan and Haystack Rock go hand in hand.



I pray my kids find that sort of love, where memories become a montage. That they learn our failure to love is always at the expense of another. We must never turn from love, we must offer it freely. We must never give up on each other.  We must never give up on the opportunity to show someone else grace and hope.  

We get to be a part of a great big love story, way bigger than us.  Side by Side.  Together.

To God be the glory for that.

*Thank you to Heather Khym and my husband C for allowing me to use this portion of his letter.  All pictures of the Seton House and Sisters were from scouring different outdated news articles – none of them are mine.  But it absolutely melted my heart to see those sisters again.