Instead of stressing out over the little things along the way, we need to embrace the opportunity to work alongside those we love to make whatever the occasion is all the more special and memorable, for whomever is being honored, or in our case...remembered. Last year, on the 19th anniversary of Heidi's kidnapping I released my book, Where's Heidi? One Sister's Journey. To release my story of how Heidi's kidnapping affected my life and faith on the anniversary date of her kidnapping was my way of honoring Heidi's memory and sharing hope with others.
This year, the 20th anniversary of Heidi's kidnapping, we wanted to do something to remember Heidi, her kidnapping, and show appreciation to our community at the same time. Mags and I had a few ideas of how to make this a memorable and uplifting time yet wanted it to be a family affair.
Between emails, messages, table talk, and phone calls between my parents, family, and friends...the gathering and vigil came to be. It was during this time of preparation that we shared memories of 1994, ones some of us didn't remember. After scanning the pictures, we realized there were things we'd forgotten until seeing the pictures, and this sparked great conversation. This memory making could of been lost if we were too busy to slow down and enjoy the preparation.
They hauled everything into the fire barn and helped set up for the gathering. There was much laughter and teasing. You see, I tend to me a bit OCD with my organization. I had sticky notes on the table cloths designating their location. I made a color-coded diagram of the room in case a surplus of people showed up to help. Each box, laundry basket, and bag was labeled with its general purpose. My goal was to make the set p as pain free and relaxing as possible. I think the fun and loving teasing is evidence, this was a success.
With new black and orange balloons lifting to the sky, the old Where's Heidi? balloons were taped to the tables as part of the decorations. Down the center the of the tables were new buttons. Half were made last year with my website and the phrase started in April, twenty years ago, Where's Heidi?. The others were newly made buttons portraying the same photo of Heidi from her missing person's flyer with a new phrase..."Always Hope". The old and the new meet.
Fire halls are renovated all the time but does the community appreciate the care taken to keep their volunteer fire department current? Sometimes. The gathering was an evening to remember Heidi and also share the new and improved hall with some new to the area and others, that hadn't visited since they searched for Heidi. One woman said, "I haven't been here since I searched for your sister. They've done a lot of work. It looks great. One thing is the same, they (New Haven Fire men, women, and auxiliary) sill care for their community." I couldn't of said it better myself.
If I would of focused on the lists and things to do, I might of missed opportunities to reflect on how life in our small town has not only changed, but improved. I could of missed a chance to laugh with my husband, daughter, and family during one of the most difficult weeks of each year. It was in the planning and preparation I prayed for my family and community. I prayed many would believe and leave encouraged and inspired. While the tragedy of Heidi's disappearance and kidnapping continues to tear at the hearts of many, God's love, hope, grace, and mercy are new every morning and available to us all.
Rather than rush through the planning and preparation, remember to slow down and pray the one you plan to honor and the ones you plan to invite. You never know how God might use you. Encouragement is found is the smallest of things, not always the big things.
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!