After spending time with my grandchildren and my brother I am finding my heart to be more tender than I had known previously. It comes on the heels of visiting them during a time when my life was traditionally committed in a ministry seminar. For the first time in over 25 years I said “no thank you” to volunteering my time in ministry to wounded people. I’ve retired from ministry and, unbeknownst to me, while my heart felt the loss of being absent from what had been so familiar to me over the years, I also felt a deep contentment of being away.

It was a few years ago that my “no thank you” began to surface in my heart. I realized that the life I had found in ministry was slowly slipping away as I felt the ambivalence of what I “should” do and what I “could” do. My heart had lost its way, and I was losing the pleasure of why I was continuing down this path that felt like an obligation.

I thought I knew myself well, but it was in saying ”no” that my heart began to feel the tenderness and freedom to enjoy the love of my family and others in ways that escaped me.

How is that possible?

You see I’m the one who thought I would never say, “no thank you” to serving others. It is in the “no” that I have been able to reflect back in ministry to where my tender heart was found and where it got lost. My heart was found in my childhood story of abuse as I sat with the neglected child in my heart. But somehow I lost my way while serving the needs of others who had been hurt as I have been.

There was gratification doing the work I know God called me to do and there was a cost to my tender heart that I easily shoved aside. So many times someone would say to me “be kind to yourself.” This was their way of telling me that my heart was hardening, and I was losing my way. How interesting others noticed that my tender heart was getting lost? Yet, I continued until I couldn’t any longer. I had no idea that in saying “no” and grieving the loss of ministry I would gain more of my heart and become reacquainted with the tenderness to offer the little girl who waits for me in my heart.

Consequently I am looking forward to what God has for me. It is different…it is not about what I “should” do; it is more about who I have become. I am investing more of me into the lives of my family. Most recently I took the time to recite the Lord’s Prayer with Faith, my youngest granddaughter. It was the first prayer I learned as a child, and it is like God resurrected it again in my heart. I had no idea that Faith would latch onto this prayer and learn it for herself only to recite it back to me. My heart is full goodness that is longing to be released for others…just like Faith… goodness that they, too, will latch onto and remember.

My tender heart is starting to dream again after losing my beloved dachshund, Ashley. Could there be a sweet little dachshund puppy in my future? Maybe so…I’m definitely not saying “no thank you” to this possibility. There is no pressure here to do more or to be more…I’m finding my tender heart to be more than enough.


MJMary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.
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