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Love Letters to the Underloved | 2/2012

The Underloved a note from the editor

Photo: Patty Christopher

He pretended to stretch, but instead, dropped a folded piece of notebook paper on my desk. I stared at my name, paralyzed by the thrill that someone scrawled out words on the back of an old spelling test to me. Words written to me. Not to the adorable blonde two desks back, but to me. And isn’t that what we all desire? To receive the note. To feel special, noticed, loved. The letters collected here sing encouragement to groups of people who often go underloved. Sometimes these individuals are neighbors, coworkers, friends, or even strangers. Sometimes the person that goes underloved is you. Thank you for lingering in these pages. I pray you find comfort in the words of those who trekked along windy, uphill paths, and I urge you to look hard and discover the underloved lining your life. Always,

Amy [2] Love Letters to the Underloved


Letters to the Underloved| 2/2012

Table of Contents

Love Letters to: Facts behind our letters

7

Mamas Who Adopt

8

Military Wives

10

Parents of Girls with Eating Disorders

12

Victims of Abuse

14

Our Kids

16

Parents of Kids with Labels

18

Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones

20

Those Whose Dreams Don’t Take Flight

22

We think too small like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced he would have an entirely different view.

The Homeless

24

But how do you love...

26

Mao Tse-Tung

Final thoughts

27

Photo: Laura Henderson

[3] Letters to the Underloved


Contributors Amanda Dodson Amanda Dodson is a wife, mother to three and a freelance writer. She lives in a small town in North Carolina and blogs daily at The Letter a Day.

Emily Wierenga Emily is a broken woman trying to understand Jesus and failing miserably. She writes, paints, plays guitar, is mother to two glorious boys and wife to a dashing math teacher. They live in a hamlet in rural Canada and find God in the grunge of the every-day. Find Emily at Emily Wierenga Amy L. Sullivan Amy Sullivan battles entitlement in herself and her family while tirelessly fighting her two daughters’ newly acquired Southern accents. Amy writes for both print and online publications and blogs at Amy L. Sullivan.

Kendal Privette Kendal is a wife, mom of two guys, and middle school teacher living in northwestern North Carolina. She enjoys Bible study, reading, writing and running when she is not frequenting a gymnasium or ball field. She has published one book, Full, about her battle with anorexia, and blogs at a spacious place.

[4] Letters to the Underloved


Contributors Shannan Martin Shannan is an ordinary girl who searches for and finds beauty in the everyday. I'm the wife of a man who thinks all of my jokes are funny and who regularly indulges my late-night, thinking-out-loud ponderings. I have three funny shorties, Calvin, Ruby, and Silas, who came to us across rivers and oceans. Together we are embarking on a fresh adventure, and we’re confident that God will meet us there. Shannan blogs at Flower Patch Farmgirl.

Renee Montgomery Renee is a Georgia Peach living among the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. The beauty and wonder of God’s grace knocks her over daily. Renee blogs at Sunshine Lime.

Tracie Nall Tracie Nall is a writer, wife, mother, and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She manages the monthly Blog Against Child Abuse and is an officer to the board at Band Back Together. She believes in the importance of support, the power of speaking out, and the possibility of healing and joy. Tracie loves books and takes pictures of things that are yellow. You can find Tracie at her personal blog, From Tracie.

Jessica Orris Jessica Orris is a 28 year old Army wife and mother of two. The day after her first child was born her husband deployed to Afghanistan as a part of OEF. Jessica blogs at Dear Little Orris’

[5] Letters to the Underloved


Contributors Contributors Jane George Jane George is a UK based professional artist and Mummy to three beautiful children under six. Her eldest Tilly, has the extremely rare genetic condition, Smith Magenis Syndrome so days are never dull. Jane is passionate about her kids, parenting and special-needs, her family, her creative time and her work for Reece's Rainbow,a charity which advocates and fundraises for special needs orphans. Jane blogs at Flight Platform Living

Patricia Christopher As much as Patty loves being behind the camera, she’s really uncomfortable in front of it. Isn't that silly? She thinks it's left-overs from her less secure, younger-than-40, days. These days, she understands who she is and she’s grateful for that. Patty feels passionate about nurturing selfesteem in young girls, and she writes and posts photos that encourage and inspire at Finding Serendipity.

Kristin Bridgman Kristin has been married to a sweet, patient, and loving man for the last 30 years, and the mom of two wonderful sons for the last 23 years. Kristin has been a Christian for 37 years. Kristin is just an ordinary woman who lives for an extraordinary God. Find Kristin blogging at Ponderings by Kris.

Laura Henderson Laura is a mountain mama living on the Western slope of Colorado. When Laura isn’t chasing three kids, she captures snapshots of God in everything from sticky fingers to mountain views. Find more of her work at Laura Henderson Photography.

[6] Letters to the Underloved


120,000

Children are adopted each year in the Untied States.

6 Links to resources for victims of abuse are included on p. 15.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness

636,017

in America, people experienced being homeless in 2011.

Photo credit.

8 Million Americans are estimated to have an eating disorder.

12 people were involved in creating this ezine. Like what you see? Click the red links to find the personal websites of contributing authors and photographers.

[7] Letters to the Underloved


To Mamas Who Adopt Dear Adoptive Mama, Do you have any idea how often I think of you? Every single day. I think of you while I'm twisting my daughter's hair, slathering it up in oil that soaks right in. I think of you when my big boy gets that far-away look in his eyes and tells me again that he misses the foster mommy he was too young to remember. When my baby is crying in his sleep, when he sounds so sad and I wonder how anyone can be that upset in a dream, I think of you. And it helps. These are some of the things that hold us together, a long strand of gemstones strung with invisible thread. We are pearl and topaz, sapphire and onyx. We're a little bit of everything, no two alike. But dang, do we look good together. I see you on the street sometimes, or at Target. Sometimes you look tired, mommystressed. But I'm sure that I see more, things others might miss. I see that you need to be gotten in a really specific way. Your friends, they say that it's hard no matter what. I think that's true, kids are no easy gig. But when there are months or years left unaccounted for, and it's dark outside and nothing in the world makes sense, it's terrifying. You fill out papers at the doctor's office and you don't know if there's a history of asthma or cancer. You have no idea how old he was when he crawled. You think your daughter would scarcely notice or care if she were living with the neighbors. It's heart-breaking. You start to believe the midnight lie that it can't be fixed. It feels hopeless. I'm so proud of you, Mama. Of course you know that adoption is one of life's shiniest gifts, but don't forget that what you're doing is also quite brave. You're just what he needs. You're all that she's got in the world, so go on ahead and be it. Push through the days that are so hard to like. Kick-box those lies right in the teeth. Remember that trust takes time and love takes longer.

[8] Letters to the Underloved


When nights stretch thin, reach up and feel the strength in our numbers, circled two times around. And when days are glittery and golden? We'll go out dancing. We'll drink fountain Cokes in the middle of the afternoon knowing for sure that a good day is made even better with a little bling. I love you, Shannan

“Kick-box those lies right in the teeth.

Remember that trust takes time and love takes longer.� [9] Letters to the Underloved


4 Do’s and Don’ts For Military Wives Do: Decorate the inside of the boxes you use to send care packages. You can do themed boxes for holidays or special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays. Don’t: Fight with your deployed loved one over the phone or internet. Do: Make a sign that says, “Wish you were here” and take it with you everywhere you go for that entire year. Have people take pictures of you holding it to document the occasion (sort of a Flat Stanley kind of thing). Get friends and family in on it as well! Don’t: Download the “Donut of Misery” ever. It’s a curse. Do: Use your military discount. You’ve earned it. Don’t: Slap people that say “I miss my husband so much. He’s been gone all weekend.” It’s hard, but resist the urge. Do: Take advantage of the free counseling from Military One Source. You are going to need to vent and let it out. Don’t: Become a hermit. It’s not healthy. Live your life, grow and learn. If you have gone longer than two days without a shower or putting on real pants (not sweat pants) then it’s time for an intervention! [10] Love Letters to the Underloved


To Military Wives Dear Camo Cutie, I know you’ve been fighting for your sanity all day with bombs of baby puke and tantrums going off in every direction and no pinch-hitter to relieve you. I know you want to hunker down in your bedroom and rock back and forth to drown out the craziness of bath time, bills and back talking. I know you’ve been at this for many months now and the soles of your spirit are wearing thin. I am certain your ammo packs less of a punch now that you’re the primary parent for your little weapons of mass destruction kids. I’m sure your troops cry and want the General and you want to cry right along with them. I know what it’s like to wait days with no phone call and wonder if this will become your permanent lifestyle. I know what it’s like to want to abandon the fort and call for back up. I also know what it’s like to have no back up. I know what it’s like to keep every light in the house on because you are scared to be alone in the darkness of what used to be home. I know what it’s like to want to torture the next person that asks you,“How are you doing?” I also know what it’s like to wrap my arms around camo and feel whole again. When the battle is over and you’ve won – you made it through a deployment. Your medal of honor hangs proudly around your heart. Your months of loyalty, bravery, hard work, and commitment finally pay off. In many ways, like giving birth, you forget all the pain you went through because the reward at the end is more than worth it. Hang on, hold on, your heart will be whole again. Love, Jessica, A Veteran [11] Love Letters to the Underloved


Photograph by Patty Christopher Love Letters to the Underloved


To Parents of Girls Struggling With Anorexia Dear Exhausted Parent of an Eating Disordered Girl, I was that girl you are trying to save. The one who is all rib and screaming and slamming of doors, the one who once cuddled in your lap, who now wants to die. And this is killing you. And I wish I could hug you now and say, while I was that girl, I’m now a woman who wants desperately to live. I was 13 and five foot six, 60 pounds, purple with hypothermia and a miracle, the doctors said, but all I could see was the mistake God had made in making me. And it was four years of not eating. Four years of insulting the mother who homeschooled me, the pastor-father who worked day and night to put bread and granola on the table and it wasn’t enough, I told them. And I wish I could hug you and tell you that it is enough. You are enough, and one day you’ll laugh with your daughter again. One day you’ll sit across the table from her and share a meal with her, for we serve a God who rocks at redemption. A God who celebrates the losers, but he often waits and waits until we’re forced to give up and then, only then, does he step in, so just rest, friend. Rest and get your strength back and trust and hope for a new day is dawning. And I can’t explain why I decided to eat again, except for the way I saw myself clearly one day for the skeleton I was. And I wanted then, more than anything, to be normal. To go to school and to like boys and to write papers and go to slumber parties and to stop counting calories. It was never about food, and everybody has them. Scapegoats. But eventually, we’re left emptier for the trying. And in the end, it’s love we’re starving for. It’s easy to not want our children to feel something for the pain it causes them. But we need to let them cry, and to hold them when they do. And to not fix. And they’ll know their sadness means something, that they are worth the feeling. And this girl, the one who’s writing you, she’s now in love with her parents. So don’t give up. Better things lie ahead. So rest, and trust, and hope. In Him Alone, Emily

Does your loved one have an eating disorder? See Chasing Silhouettes or Something Fishy. Love Letters to the Underloved


To Victims of Abuse Dear Survivor, I call you survivor because that is what you are. I know there are days when you don't feel like a survivor. Days when the memories and triggers from past abuse come crashing in, and it feels too hard to take even one more breath - but you take that breath anyway. You are strong.  I long for you to know that the abuse was not your fault. It does not matter if it happened in your childhood, your teens, or when you were an adult. You did not deserve it, or cause it, or bring it on yourself. You own no shame.

Photograph by Tracie Nall

In your life, you have faced much darkness. Look around you and see that all is not dark - there is beauty, too. You are beautiful. The abusers in your life told you that you are worthless - that your only value is as a sexual object or a punching bag. Those were lies they told you. Your worth is great. I know that sometimes those lies push their way back into your mind, and you find yourself repeating them. I encourage you to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are amazing - because you are.  The truth is you deserve to be loved and treated with respect. You deserve peace and joy in your life. Don't settle for anything less than that. God has plans for you. Your future does not have to be dictated by your past. Your abuser tried to hold you down, but now you are free to fly. Your life has purpose and hope. You are courageous, and I know you will do incredible things.

Love Letters to the Underloved


It is okay to cry and feel tired- healing is hard work. But you are rocking it- even on the days when it feels like too much. You are doing that hard work, and I am so proud of you. Each step you take is a precious blessing, dear survivor.  Stand strong. You are loved. From Tracie 

“It is okay to cry and feel tired. Healing is hard work, but you are rocking it, even on the days when it feels like too much.” Additional resources because it might be time for action:

RAINN

Safe Horizon 1 in 6 Survivors of Incest Anonymous Joyful Heart Foundation  The Courage to Heal 

Love Letters to the Underloved


“Live out the plan God has beautifully sketched on your behalf. It isn’t designed to match your friends, your parents, your teachers, it is exclusively yours.”

Photograph by Renee Montgomery

Love Letters to the Underloved


To Our Children Dear Kids, I once bought a beautiful painting and carefully hung it over our mantle. I admired the colors and the swirls each time I passed. Weeks later, a friend purchased the same picture. Soon after, I saw the painting hung pretty in a store window. And the artwork that was given prime real estate, center stage in our home, no longer looked lovely. It didn’t light up the room as before. It was just another mass production. And in this life there is a pull, a tug to be and do and sound like everyone else. To march in sync to the beat of life’s chorus. But you were created for more. Much more. Unique, crafted in His image, there is none like you. Live out the plan God has beautifully sketched on your behalf. It isn’t designed to match your friends, your parents, your teachers, it is exclusively yours. Embrace it. Write it. Scream it. Sing it. Play it. You were made for greatness. Psalm 139: 13, 14 (NIV) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Love, Amanda Love Letters to the Underloved


To Parents of Kids With Labels Dear Parent Hero, I know your path is challenging, extraordinary, scary and surprising. I know because I walk that path with you. Parenting is such a crazy road up a steep learning curve but add in a label, a diagnosis and suddenly highs are higher, lows lower; plummeting drops unfenced and level ground infrequent. Your heroism is often invisible to a world quick to stare at the disabled, to run from the sick and to misjudge the challenged. So today, to the inspirational people on this journey with me, I say… For every hour spent in waiting rooms with high hopes set to be dashed by the professional who didn’t care…know you are your child’s expert. For every wall you have knocked down as you stood firmly on the solid ground of your instinct… know you are your child’s protector. For every time you have whispered love regardless of trashed rooms or bite marks, wiping away their tears whilst trying to understand the unfathomable and pre-empt the unforeseeable…know you are your child’s comforter. For every time you have screamed at cruelty, highlighted injustice and demanded inclusion … know you are your child’s light of hope, shining into ignorance’s darkness. For every time a sleepless night has whispered ‘I can’t do this’ into your exhausted mind…know that you are your child’s safe place and the arms that chase away their darkness. For every time your child’s smile has soothed your soul and calmed your fears…know that they are the most amazing love-affair you will ever have. For every time your child grabbed life, tore up their label and forced others to see ‘them’…know that they will allow you to hear the true voice of freedom. For every time your child reached a milestone with tiny steps whilst others were leaping…know that they are your magic in a world that takes too much for granted. For every time your child has pushed you to look beyond yourself, made you love unselfishly, unconditionally and with no end…know that they are your blessing and your path to heaven on earth.

Love Letters to the Underloved


Fellow travelers on this path less normal, I send you love today. I will savour with you the wide horizons, sweeping vistas and hard-earned views from the top! Let us delight in this walk together for our joy holds the key to unlocking the world from the stronghold of ‘normal’ that leaves it blinkered! Be blessed. Love, Jane

Photograph by Patty Christopher

“Know that they are your magic in a world that takes too much for granted.”

Type to enter text

Love Letters to the Underloved


[20] Love Letters to the Underloved


To Those Who Have Lost Loved Ones dear bereaved, you dwell in shadows cast by loss heartbroken hopeless unable to stand, much less walk into light i know you, shadow dweller afraid that red flowers at a grave afraid that rereading memorial messages afraid that people’s sympathetic glances afraid that this dark is all you will ever have but as shadows come with light christ comes with hope he has overcome the shadows, the world i am praying for you, shadow dweller that you can stand today and walk into light Kendal

[21] Love Letters to the Underloved


To Those Whose Dreams Don’t Take Flight Dear Friend, Sorry about that dream of yours, the one you gathered up with Queen Anne’s Lace and tossed into your chipped-up wagon since childhood. I know you planned to hold that dream and mold it into beautiful, but now it sits shriveled and useless. See, life got in the way of your dream. Addictions raged. The ring fit the finger of another girl. The baby went to the couple who already had three. Your arm gave out when the scout showed up. School became another unfinished item on life’s to do list. The job found itself in the hands of someone more qualified. Money never walked into your house. Even now, the cursor sits as a blinking reminder that your words don’t resonate with others. Failure lingers, taunting you from the dark, and you hadn’t counted on failure; it was never penciled in. Nope, girl, you had dreams. I had dreams too. Dreams I held too close to my chest. Dreams I suffocated. Dreams I tried to force to fly. But I tell you this, my dreaming friend, sometimes regardless of our actions, dreams don’t take flight, and when this happens, you may want to hold onto anything your desperate fingers can grab, but don’t. Resist the urge. Take some time, take months, or years if you need it, but find a way to brush off the dirt, give those dreams a pat on the back, and send them on their way. See, sometimes the dreams we want to fly need to crash so we can make room for new dreams. We need to mourn lost hopes, and then quit trying to resuscitate them. Will this be easy? Hell, no. Think of leaving your hand on a hot stove. It burns, and sometimes scars, but it’s time to clear the runway. New adventures line our paths, and it’s time to give something else a chance to fly. Go for it, dreamer. I believe in you. Always, Amy [22]


Then,
I
think
about
the


dreams
I
held
too
close
to
my
 chest.
I
remember
dreams
I
 suffocated.
Dreams
I
tried
to
 force
to
:ly.

Photograph: Laura Henderson

[23]


To The Homeless Dear
One, As
you
sit
under
the
bridge,
warming
by
:ire, Do
you
know
He
loves
you? As
you
sleep
under
stars,
weary,
worn Do
you
know
He
loves
you? As
you
walk
endless
streets,
hoping
for
change, Do
you
know
He
loves
you? He
sees
every
move. He
knows
every
thought. He
waits. Do
you
know
Him? His
loves
covers
a
multitude
of
sins. Your
hurt,
He
can
heal. Do
you
know
Him? When
a
stranger
brought
an
unexpected
lunch,
He
was
there. When
another
gave
a
blanket
and
a
hug,
He
was
there. When
the
Salvation
Army
fed
you,
He
was
there. When
the
Red
Cross
gave
you
a
cup
of
hot
coffee,
He
was
there. When
you
were
given
a
good
diagnosis,
He
was
there. When
Hope
House
gave
you
a
new
pair
of
shoes,
He
was
there. When
you
are
weary, Come,
and
:ind
His
rest. Come,
and
:ind
His
love. You
are
not
forgotten. Love, Kristin

[24]


Photo by Kristin Bridgman

“You

are not forgotten.� [25] Love Letters to the Underloved


But how do you love... A pastor’s family? To love a pastor’s family you have to love each member differently. Your pastor needs encouragement. Tell him when the sermon touched you. Tell him when his teaching inspired you. Tell him when his leadership transformed you. He often only hears complaints. Your pastor’s wife needs friendship. Take her out to lunch and ask her about her life. She often feels lonely. Offer to care for her children. She often needs time to relax. Share yourself with her openly. She often feels as if the other women find her intimidating. Their children just need love. Remember their birthdays. And above all, give them the gift of being children before they are “the pastor’s” children. Don’t expect them to behave any better than your own children do, but give them a little more grace. They often feel scrutinized. Gaby

Photo: Laura Henderson

A chronically ill friend? Individuals with chronic diseases need compassion. Sometimes they just wish to have someone listen, receive a thoughtful card, a video clip from a child, homemade soup or a thoughtful visit. Sara S.

[26] Love Letters to the Underloved


Love Letters to the Underloved | 2/2012

Final Thoughts

Photo: Patty Christopher

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

[27] Love Letters to the Underloved

Love Letters to the Underloved  

Twelve authors and photographers gather to encourage people who often go unseen.

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