God has us on a great journey,
where in all circumstances we are giving Him the praise and choosing joy. -Derek
Join us as we celebrate Derek and Dylan at the second annual DDTG Memorial Golf Event, October 5, 2012.

The blog portion of this site has become an area for those that love Derek and Dylan to share. Not only do we welcome community members to post, you’ll also see posts from Charity and occasionally other loved ones.

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The outpouring of  love has been tangible as everyone has rallied around Charity, the girls and the Taatjes family over the past few years. It’s been a way for each of us to honor Derek and Dylan, while taking action in our grief. As needs have evolved so are the ways you can continue to remember the boys and motivate the girls on a day-to-day basis. Ways you can help:

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Father’s Day…

Daily I pray for the girls that God would supernaturally heal their hearts from the hole and wound that is there from growing up without their dad. The hole is huge for any child without a father, but for them I specifically pray for the hole left because I know the father Derek was already and the dad he was going to be. Everyday I cling to the promise of Psalm 68:5, a father to the fatherless. I am often overwhelmed by the responsibility of bringing them up alone, solely responsible for the women they will become. I got my first Father’s Day gift from my sweet mother-in-law, and I feel that burden of being both mom and dad. My heart breaks for the girls as they still aren’t old enough or quite have the cognitive skills to realize what they are missing. But I know!! And I know I am not enough…

But…I know that God is…he has been enough for me each step of the way. When the worst of the worst, the unimaginable happened, and all was lost…God was enough. People often ask how do I still have so much joy…because God is enough. He is my identity, my hope, my all!!! How do I desire but still be content? When I face each day and don’t know if it will be one where out of the blue grief will strike or if it will be a day I can focus on what we have and feel blessed. He is enough.

This road I walk is hard, really hard. I miss them both so much still when I stop and let it sink in the pain is so still so intense, not nearly as frequent. I miss them for the girls…Do I understand why? Absolutely not. Do I wish they were here? Absolutely. Do I want to be remarried? Absolutely. Do I want a father for my girls? 100%! Do I feel like I fail my girls everyday? Yes. But I as my heart aches and longs for all of those things, and wrestles with God, in the midst of all of that, God is a enough. His presence was so near to me in the first days and weeks of the tragedy, sometimes it almost felt like his hand was on my shoulder. His people have walked this road with the girls and I. Loving us, praying for us, serving us. Our everyday is hard, but it is also so awesome! It is exhausting and good and amazing all at the same time.

How can I have joy? How can I have hope for a future? How do I fight the fight one more day when i am exhausted beyond all measure? How can I smile and genuinely be happy? How do i have so much healing? How can i know exactly who am I after wrestling with this idea of identity and worth for several years…because God is enough for me.

So if God is enough for me, I have to trust and hope that he is also enough for Ella and Johanna! Pray for them that in time through their own process and their own wrestling they would come to that conclusion, may the Father of the fatherless abundantly make them feel cherished and special and uniquely loved. Would he take away Johanna’s anxiety and fear of abandonment. Would he fill Ella’s early desire for male affirmation. Pray that he erase all memories of the mistakes I am making and supernaturally help them to listen to their mama, be confident in who they were created to be, for them to be kind…always loving the person placed in front of them at that moment…

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Be present…

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Things I learned from my mom…

Things I learned from my mom…
1. How to love everyone…everyone. My mom constantly demonstrated that act of loving the unlovable. She showed no prejudice or favoritism. She opened her home, her time and her heart to everyone God put in her path…poor, rich, ugly, beautiful, unsophisticated, intelligent…everyone. She also told me daily before school, “don’t just be friends with the people that are like you, find someone outside your group of friends that needs a friend. Love them all the same, Charity. Jesus ask us to love the people that are hard to love.”
2. How to give generously. I witnessed my mom giving herself constantly to our family, her friends, our church, my school, my friends and strangers. She gave time and finances with an open hand. It was like she didn’t even think it was giving it appeared to be so natural for her.
3. How to love without boundaries. My mom wears her heart on her sleeve and always lets you in. She is open and honest. She forgives easily, again and again. And she gives and gives and gives.
4. How to have fun, be adventurous and up for anything. My mom was one of the moms all my friends called a second mom…mainly because she was always coming up with ideas for trips to Canton, crazy backroad hill driving, laughter, trips where she was the only adult. She would get in and lead things she knew nothing about if we showed interest, like Girl Scouts, 4H, sports, etc. She is spontaneous and fearless.
5. How to be hospitable. My mom opened her home to everyone and loved it. There was someone living with us about 50% of my childhood, from football coaches to missionaries to friends. I could also come home with 20 friends without notice (pre-cell phone era), and my mom loved it. She always had food on hand and made something for all of us. Offer everyone a blanket, pillow and spot on the floor to spend the night. My mom also knew how to throw a party, for hundreds or for the four of us. She could cook with the best of them. Everything taking hours to prepare. The decorations, china, paper plates, napkins…whatever was needed for the occasion. She also knew where to buy the best food to compliment what she was making. She made everyone feel special.
6. How to work hard. My mom was from a more urban area of New Jersey. She moved to Millersburg, then to the farm. She completely gutted the entire house, down to the studs, she did everything she could herself and coordinated the help she needed. There would be times she was covered head to toe in black dirt or up on a ladder. There was nothing she couldn’t or wouldn’t do. No work was beneath her. She told me if I wanted something with hard work I could achieve it.
7. How to believe in my kids. My mom instilled confidence in me. To this day I think my mom thinks I am capable of doing anything. She constantly told me I was beautiful, smart, kind, hard working, one of a kind. She was there when I tried something and failed, to catch the tears, brush me off and send me back in. She told and showed me often how proud she was of me.
8. How to talk to my kids so they talk to me about everything. I don’t know how she did this but somehow I felt like I wanted to tell my mom everything. She asked great questions and always listened.
9. How to be a servant leader. She laid down herself and her needs for Josh and I. She faithfully loves my dad. Today she gives her life to care for my dad’s mom.
10. How to suffer. When Josh died, dad had his accident and they had to sell the farm…my mom kept serving Jesus. She still smiled. She kept walking!!! She kept her faith. She did not quit.

My mom taught me how to love Jesus and know him. Serving the kids ministry and youth group my entire life. Her faith was one of action. Everything I like about myself I learned from my mom. I hope and pray I am half the mom to my girls that my mom is to me.

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The triangle…

I miss the triangle. The one made by an arm connecting to a body. Some might call it the armpit, but it is that space above the armpit that provides that perfect resting place for someone else’s head. Waking up too early or the middle of the night. Wanting to crawl into that triangle, that little space filled with an abundance of safety, happiness, protection and love.

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Tomorrow it will be three years since Derek and Dylan went to be in the presence of God. This past year when I was studying the Torah with my bible study gals, we studied Exodus and the feast. In Exodus 12 and 13 as God is establishing Passover, an idea accord to me for what we would do with the anniversaries going forward. In alignment with my goal to not celebrate their deaths, but rather their lives…we would have a memorial of how God rescued us, how he delivered us, how he has been faithful to us. We are going to account these memories to pass down to the girls of how God and his people showed up and delivered us in our greatest moment of need. And how God has continued to heal us and provide for us.

So if you are going to remember Derek and Dylan tomorrow my challenge to you is to remember how God has healed you, be thankful for his deliverance, and celebrate his faithfulness.

Exodus 13:8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.

13:14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.’

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The Greene family…

The Greene family…
There are some people that come in your life and you just don’t know how to put into words or actions as to how grateful you are for them. A whole family that you watch and observe and your first thought probably is how can so much attractiveness exist in one family!!! But it is so much deeper. Your love for others and Christ exudes out of you. You are the true essence of servant leaders. You are the Greenes.

Laid back, so easy to be around. Full of life and fun. Opening up your home and entertaining. Everything about your entire family is inviting. You are all constant givers. Always active.

We became friends when we moved to Grand Rapids, even though we had met years before through Joya. You always all have advice and we are watching you go through life a stage a head of us. Many many nights of Derek and I coming over and sharing life with you. You always listened. Always loved on my girls and Dylan. You taught Derek and I how to be pregnant and how to be parents. Gave us hand me downs of clothes, books and toys. I watch as you prioritize family not by words but by your time, resources and actions. Your parents, siblings and children are always at the very top of your list.

When the tragedy happened, your world was turned upside for us. You often literally gave the shirt off your back, opened your home, fed the thousands (well maybe hundreds), didn’t sleep…you gave and you gave…so much time. You organized the generosity, opening hundreds of envelopes. You were a regular companion. You served, you prayed and you cried with me. This was a big sacrifice for each of you including Caleb, Olivia and Landin who had to give up time with their mom and dad, their home and normal routine. Today, you are one of ones that always helps me remember Derek and Dylan. Telling stories, loving them, and reaching out on special dates.

You have been one of my true safe places before and after the tragedy. You challenged me and held me accountable at just the right times in the right way. My debt to you is inmeasurable. Each one of you has sacrificed for us. You have all loved us through some of our ugliest times. I hope you know how amazing you are and how much we appreciate you. I really don’t know how to express it or show it.

We loved spending the past few days with you. You are amazing parents and amazing kids. Thanks for having so much fun and playing with Ella and Johanna so much. It was so good, in spite of the little stomach issue. :)

We love you!!!!

The Taatjes Girls

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A love letter…

You have been gone for nearly three years. And I still love you the same. Our love grew deeper with time. It weathered the storm. You loved me so well. You showed me Christ through your love. You empowered me to be the best version of who God created me to be. You would ask me what I loved most about you…the first thing that always came to my heart is that I loved the way you loved me. Full fledged, go big or go home, let the world know kind of love. A head servant kind of love. A love that pushed me and challenged me to be better, to be more, to be transformed. You got me. You knew me. You saw my beauty and my ugliness, and you loved it all. You loved me in a way that left no doubt, no insecurities. You celebrated all my success with passion and zeal. You loved me for being me.

And you loved me a in way that has left me strong, capable, joyful, content, living out this life purposeful, dream-filled and hopeful. Desiring to be loved and to love that way again. I am so blessed and grateful that I was loved by you in all our imperfections. Thank you for pointing me to Christ intentionally and unintentionally because through God’s love I continue to be loved in a way that sustains me, fills me, picks me up when I am down and empowers me to be all he created me to be. He too loves me through my beauty and my ugliness…it is not about what I do or how I perform or if I mess up. It is an unconditional love. It is about who he is, not about what I have done. He loves me for being me…

Psalm 139:13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

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On Saturday! Dylan would be turning three. He would now be older than Johanna was when Derek and Dylan passed away. She turned three a month after they were gone. I feel this pressure building over the last few weeks of frustration. Moving from a season of contentment to frustration is hard to watch yourself step through…but it often a reality. I desire for my heart to stay in that season of contentment, but I feel it slipping away. I am frustrated that girls are growing up without their dad. They would be such better people if he was pouring into them the way I know he would be doing. I am frustrated that Johanna can’t live out her natural ability to be a big sister. I am frustrated that Ella doesn’t get to wrestle with her brother. I miss my family. My son…my third born. I am frustrated that the girls are growing up with a compromised me… I am frustrated that I don’t have more of me to give to them! To family! To Friends! And to those in need! I am frustrated that I don’t have enough time or energy to maintain relationships with close friends that I love. I am frustrated that I can’t trust God more fully. And that this is such a battle. I despise the ugliness that is in my heart and how this frustration spills out onto others.

All my personality profiles I have done over the years for work or leadership show that I enjoy challenges, thrive in problem solving and love change. I don’t like maintaining. I can do it but it is not my natural area of strength. So give me something new and difficult I am in my element. The continual grind…ahhh! But God’s word says endurance produces character and character produces hope.

So I surrender this frustration at your feet…clinging to the eternal Hope that you are a God that satisfies…one worthy of my life, my all…I cling to the Hope of your promises…I cling to the Hope of you, Jesus. You promise to breathe life into dry bones..so I am calling on you to breathe. Please don’t let my heart become hard and bitter after all this battle. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Derek and Charity. You promise Joy, Restoration and Peace. I am trusting in You alone to make me whole and to deliver.

Psalm 119:49&50 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Romans 5 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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Contentment, this allusive thing that we as human’s seek often and often struggle finding. Regardless of people’s faith, family or cultural background, I have observed everyone seems to desire to be content and very rarely are content. We are jealous of others, want to find greener pastures or think the next achievement or thing is going to be the one that makes us happy. What is contentment? How do we get it? How do we keep it once we got it? Is contentment the same as joy? When am I content?
Even in the first days of my tragedy and every day since, I have experienced joy…but that was supernatural. To me joy is a supernatural delight in the people, purpose and person of Christ Jesus. So I could have joy in the midst of pain, joy in the midst of tears and joy in the midst of anger. But to me contentment is different than joy. Contentment is resting in the place and circumstances that you are in. To be content is to not long for the next season, the next thing, the next relationship thinking it will make me happier. A place where my unmet desires are found in knowing Christ. It is when I am comfortable in my own skin, grateful for all I have, and happy for the blessings of others. It is when I stop trying to gain control and totally let go.
So although, I had joy from day 1…I was not content. In all honesty for almost 18 months, I HATED my life. I chose joy. I wasn’t bitter. I praised God. I was grateful and full of thanksgiving. I chose to see the blessings in the little things along the way. We survived life in a beautiful way…we were often found laughing, loving and seeking our next adventure. I loved all the special time with each friend that walked along side of us. I had a heart full of gratitude for what God had done, was doing and promised to do. But in my heart of hearts, I hated my life. It was constant and consistent survival. I wanted Derek back with every part of my being. I was lonely. Needy. I missed my son. I missed my brother. Feeling like my best years were behind me. I clung to the girls, but it was so hard. They needed more of me than what I had to give…which made me feel hopeless and like a failure. There was always so much to do. There was always so much emotion, so much need for affirmation and attention. Everything was urgent. We had to file insurance claims, complete fire reports, buy new clothes/cleaning supplies/furniture…, sell the old house, find a new place to live (temporarily and long-term), go to therapy, relearn how to discipline the girls, thank everyone, remember Derek & Dylan…heal. We had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I exhausted friends…either needing too much or not having anything to give back. I wanted my old life back. I longed to feel like myself. I hated the fog. I wanted to be living sooner, not just surviving. I tried to choose life and live it, but it was work. I desired to not feel so exhausted all the time…it took so much effort and so much work to make it through each day, staying hopeful. Sometimes, my relationship with Christ was work. It was work to choose Him…to trust Him…but it was my only option. Even when I didn’t want to or feel like it…I dug into His Word, I spent time with His people, I prayed, I tried to live out his calling on my life to love others…but it was work. I had to preach to myself, remind myself of his Word, His promises, His character. And I failed over and over again in this process. Getting angry with people, feeling hurt then entitled…often showing signs of my own selfishness. Doing things in my own strength. Filling my needs sometimes with temporal comforts. It was all healing. It was part of my process. It was required. And, every day I prayed for reprieve and contentment.
The crazy part is as we have gone through this journey we are now in this season of abundance. I started a new role in February at work which enabled me to afford more help at home. We have been living in our new home for almost a year…and our absolute favorite part is the people that live in our neighborhood. They have quickly become good friends. Ella and Johanna are getting older, more independent, enjoying more things and time with just the three of us. They have beautiful hearts – full of passion, opinions, competitiveness, kindness, love and intensity. They make bad choices like all of us, but to witness the healing in their lives over the past two+ years is unbelievable. We drink up life, seeking more adventures, loving the people placed in our path and loving each other. We dance and sing a lot. I have a passion for his Word, greater than before. My relationships with friends and family have normalized. I continue to feel like I have a wealth of amazing people in my life. The urgency is gone. We make decisions about the future. I can feel myself dreaming again. I still miss and will always miss Derek, Dylan and my brother, Josh. But I see all kinds of new life in us. When I was in Israel, I learned about olive trees. Israel is a dry land and after 100 years olive trees stop producing fruit. Rather than planting new trees, they cut off the old tree at the trunk and graft in new branches. The established roots from the old tree enable the grafted tree to produce olives quicker and in more abundance than planting a new tree. I saw myself in this tree. Two plus years ago, my life was cut off at the base of the trunk. I still have my roots: Derek’s love for me, the girls, my family, my friends, my relationship with Christ, my knowledge of Him, who I was created to be, my life experiences – but my old branches, my old life was gone, cut off at the trunk…BUT the exciting part…I can see the new life springing forth from that old root system with new fruit. New branches have been grafted in. And in more time, I am confident that this new fruit will be even more abundant. I am so excited about what other branches God is going to graft into me in this season.
One of the hardest things about contentment is keeping it, especially when you deeply desire something and you want to be content without it. Since having Derek back is not a reality, from the beginning I truly desired to be married again. I loved being married to Derek…having a best friend as my life partner. It was like I needed to think about getting married again to survive, to get through it because the idea of being alone the rest of my life in addition to missing Derek was suffocating. I had watched my sister-in-law, Tracy get remarried after my brother had died. I walked through life with my friend, Sarah as she began a new life with her now husband John. So it seemed natural, it was a point of hope, a place of distraction from the pain. It was a survival mechanism, which I don’t think was bad, abnormal or wrong. I needed to go on dates to feel like I was moving forward…to feel like I was healing. I went on my first date about a year after the tragedy. It lasted an entire hour because I thought it would be rude to leave before an hour had passed. I created online profiles, had people set me up, went to places where I could network. And in it, the entire time praying for contentment. Longing to be content without Derek and without someone else. Feeling immature in my need for male affirmation and attention. And in His time and in His way, that contentment in this area has come. Do I still desire to be married again someday? Yes. But I don’t need to be. I am content. I actually really love this season we are in and feel so blessed. I feel fully complete in who I am, who God has created me to be and with the blessings He has given us. I love my little family, Ella, Johanna and I. We have an amazing life…filled with amazing people, amazing opportunities and an amazing Savior.
So I can truly say as Paul did in Phil 4:11 – 14 – “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” The secret is trusting in God in such a way that I can do all things, especially when my emphasis is on obedience to God and service to others. And I do thank all of you for sharing in my trouble as you have walked and continue to walk this road with us.
That doesn’t mean I still don’t have hard days because I do…I miss them…and this is not an easy path, but as I have been pushing against the rock on a daily basis…I see God has been making me stronger. Just like the man in modern day parable that God called to push against the rock. Every day the man pushed against the rock, but the rock never moved. The man felt discouraged and disheartened because he hadn’t made any progress in what he felt God had asked him to do. He began to believe it was an impossible task. He took his concern and feelings of failure to God. God responded, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”

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Millersburg, Ohio…my heritage…

Some people tell stories about their imperfect childhoods. They tell tales of all that went wrong, hurts and pain that linger with them today. My childhood story couldn’t be further from these types of tales. It was pretty charmed. I grew up in small town in the rolling hills of Millersburg, Ohio. It is a beautiful town. The hills are stunning due to being the place where the glaciers had stopped when the Great Lakes were being formed. There are trees and windy roads, many made of gravel and dirt. Millersburg is the county seat of Holmes County. Home to the Antique Festival. Holmes County was and may still be the world’s largest Amish population. There was a hitching rail for buggies at our grocery store and plenty of road apples (horse manure on the road) to prove it. It is town that I remember when Big Wheel, McDonalds and Walmart opened. A town that closed down stores and restaurants for Friday night football games. Our girls basketball team is filled with tradition and legends. Because I was a Lady Knight, I was sometimes asked to give my autograph at the grocery store. This is my hometown. My heritage.

I grew up 10 miles outside of Millersburg on a 160 acre farm. I had animals, a pet goat named Apples that I had from age 4 to 17, horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. The pigs were an addition that I brought through my desire to earn some money at the 4-H fair. I played in creeks, fished in ponds and played basketball in barns. I had two loving parents that loved each other, loved my brother and I, and loved God. They taught me how to work hard, love everyone, lead by serving, try new things, believe in myself, give generously and to pray continually. I had aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that lived around town, but that is not where my family ended. I had family like the Browns, the Bakers, the Mackeys, the Loders, the Birds, the Findleys, and the Runyans. I had my basketball family…which when your a Lady Knight is the entire town…extra grandparents, aunts, crazy uncles and most of all sisters. We became friends with the radio announcers, grocery baggers, teachers, and auto body repair man (me more than most). I have friends I still call friends today that I have known since elementary.  I adopted some little brothers when my big one had gone off to college.  This family, this town has dramatically shaped me into who I am. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else. Even from a far, I am supported and loved by the place I still call home. I cheer for the Knights, the Ohio State Buckeyes and everyone else nearby. I still think getting dirty is fun and working hard takes a good sweat.

So in this little community when tragedy happened it impacted us all. And unfortunately tragedy hit often. We lost many community members way too young. One of the ones that hit me hard was when my friend Ande’s sister passed away. She had worn the basketball number 42, and so had I a few years later. When she passed, it was one of my first realizations that life is so short and none of us are invincible. Jenny Bird was a tall beautiful athletic girl that I always looked up to. Her family was one I loved that loved me back. Spring breaks, our families both vacationed to Anna Maria Island. The loss of Jenny, like the many other losses, was felt by our whole community. So when my brother passed away tragically a few years after Jenny, it too was experienced by our town. This joined my heart to the Bird family even more.  And it was our community again that helped my family grieve.

So although I haven’t had an address in Millersburg, since 1999 I still call it home. It is still my roots, my heritage and its residents are my family. I am so blessed.

As I reflect on my first community, I realize I have had communities of people each stage of my life ones I have shared about before…my Holmes County community, my Taylor community, my Chicago community and my Grand Rapids community…and this realization sparked another realization. I am so rich! I have a wealth of amazing people that I am privileged to call friends. And if I could choose to be rich in anything it would be people. Thank-you for being a part of my life and loving and supporting me for the past 36 years, especially the past two!

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