Jonathan Charles Mueller

Almost twenty-three years ago, my mom brought home a blonde, blueish / greenish eyed baby for me to play with. I’m not sure why but we had nicknamed him “Blue Blue” from the start. I think maybe we thought his favorite color would be blue? Either way, the nickname didn’t last long. Because Mike was born barely a year after I was, I have no memories of him coming home or adjusting to life with a baby brother. But Jon? Jon I absolutely do. Even though I wasn’t quite 5, I remember feeling like a big sister to that tiny little boy. There are numerous pictures of me grinning ear to ear as I carefully cradle my baby brother.

Jon was a feisty little kid. He was loud. He liked to play games and tell stories. He always wanted to do whatever Mike and I were doing, much to our dismay. He loved sports and facts and most family dinners would consist of Jon telling our dad “Dad! Ask me about sports!” He would then know the answer the every obscure question my dad could throw at him.

He had this shock of white blonde hair and these beautiful eyes. Here he is at about two or three. There has never been doubt that we’re related. photo

He was full of so much life and fight and love. I don’t think any of us knew how much he would need those three things when he got older.

Because there are three of us kids, it’s always been a bit weird in division of siblings. Mike and I are really close in age and stage of life but Mike and Jon share similar interests. Jon was about 10 when we moved to Colorado and started in the public school system in elementary school. Different than both Mike and I had experienced. But Jon was likable and made friends wherever he went. He played all sorts of sports and we joked that he had real potential as a football player due to his barrel chest. He excelled at school, taking honors classes and starting his freshman year in a math class higher than the one I took when I graduated.

But things in our family got tough when Jon was a freshman. I was gone off to Nashville, starting my second year in college, Mike began his senior year in high school, one of the most popular and well liked kids, my dad was in the throes of keeping his company going, and my mom was helping care for her ailing father. Our grandpa took a devastating turn for the worse in the spring of 2006. After a successful surgery that made him well, he developed complications that left him in a coma without hope of recovery. It was earth-shattering for us, none more than our mom who was incredibly close to her father. So while these things were going on and my mom was back and forth to Arizona and Mike was getting ready for college and I was away, Jon got lost in the shuffle.

Right after our grandpa passed away, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Our dad had gone to Arizona and I was home with Mike and Jon. Jon and I got into a fight one night because I couldn’t drive him somewhere so he ended up just leaving. I found out later that night was a trigger for his attempted suicides. Jon was young, only 14, and we all assumed his mood swings were typical for a teenager. But slowly it became more evident they weren’t.

After a series of circumstances, we found out that Jon had tried to kill himself and he was lost in an epic battle of depression. My broken hurting family shattered that summer and fall. Jon stopped eating, his anxiety got out of control, he couldn’t be alone, he was paranoid. He was spiraling out of control and we had no idea how to help him. That year I saw my parents stand up against the monster that is mental illness and refuse to surrender. They fought long and hard and with every last ounce of strength and then some.

The fall of Jon’s sophomore year there was an incident that resulted in my parents withdrawing him from our public high school. An incident that made me so mad I was about to fly myself home and kick some serious ass. But my parents decided to homeschool Jon and give him a chance to catch his breath and get well. We saw some people in the community pull away from our family and spread ridiculous gossip, and we saw other people in the community rally in front of our wounded family and protect us, protect Jon.

Slowly but surely Jon got better. One year later, he returned to the very school that had shunned him. One year after that the very school created a spirit award and named him the first recipient of it. To this day he’s remembered long after Mike and I ever have been by that community.

But what I’m most proud of? The reason why I’m writing this post? It’s because of the heart transformation Jesus did in him and the influence that has had on hundreds of lives.

Jon started getting involved with Wyldlife — the middle school branch of an organization called Young Life that we’re all part of — and he started mentoring junior high kids. Yes, he actually CHOSE to spend time with middle schoolers. As he got better he started realizing the power his story has. A story of darkness, despair, desperation all being triumphed by light, hope, grace, love. And because he’s the bravest person I know, he started to tell his story. Little by little, one by one, students who felt like they had no other option than to end their life, heard Jon’s story and chose to fight like he has.

When he went off to college he continued to work with Wyldlife. Giving his summers, after-school time, probably some study time, and everything else he had to the community in Boise. He went on student staff while finishing his degree and felt a very strong calling on his life to continue to work with middle school students.

We went to Idaho for his college graduation in December. I met dozens of people who know and love Jon. Over and over I heard them speak of the impact he had on their kids, their lives, their family, their walk with Christ and I was blown away by the force my baby brother is for the Kingdom. When I saw Jon walk across to get his diploma, I started crying. I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and His faithfulness and how close we were to never having that moment. By God’s grace our family of 5 stayed a family of 5.

So, why am I posting all of this? Aside from the fact that I’ve always been insanely proud of BOTH my brothers, I decided to give Jon a little spotlight. When he graduated, he went to full time ministry with Young Life. This means he raises his own salary so he can hang out with and disciple middle school students. Like my little brother chooses to spend the majority of his week loving on the kids we all avoid. His area is doing a competition to get new donors and if they win they’ll get money for camp scholarships. Young Life spends the entire semester building up to camp so kids can have the best week of their life and meet Jesus while doing it. Donating to Jon is 100% tax deductible. If you’d like to donate to him, please shoot me an email Rachel.L.Mueller(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll give you instructions on how to give.

 

And to Jon, this letter is to let you know how much I respect, admire, and love you. You are the bravest person I know. You are giving, gracious, humble, funny, talented, wise beyond your years, intuitive, caring, strong, and capable. I am so lucky to call you friend and family. I am so lucky to be your big sister, even if you outweigh and outheight me. You inspire me to love Jesus more. You challenge me to love sacrificially. You make me laugh. You bring so much joy to those around you. I couldn’t be more proud of you. I love you Little!

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What to do when Sunday morning becomes a Match.com mingle.

Here it is!! My guest post over at Stuff Christians Like. Check it out!

For all of you who are new to this site – welcome! Here’s how I recommend we get to know each other:

About – Ya know, who I am, what I write about, yada yada

And some of my best loved posts are these:

How “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” Broke My Heart…
Love the Sh*t Out of Someone
How to Love Your Single Friends

Feel free to stay awhile and hang out. I’m here to answer any questions 🙂

200 and Stuff Christians Like (!!)

Whoa. Guys. This is my 200th published post. I never in a million years thought I’d get to this point of writing.

I started this blog to document my journey of moving back to Colorado. Home with my parents – to a life I never wanted. What unfolded was beautiful and restorative and necessary. I had no idea what I was about to encounter in the next few years.

This blog has become exactly what it needs to be – a place for you to connect your story with someone else’s. A place to know you aren’t alone. A place to feel safe.

So thank you – thank you for cheering with me when things are going well, thank you for grieving with me in the midst of loss and heartbreak, thank you for laughing with me when I tell boys I smell like ham, thank you for commenting, messaging, emailing, texting, high-fiving, and hugging me, thank you for telling me YOUR stories, thank you for reading consistently or one time. Thank you thank you thank you.

And now I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m guest posting over at Stuff Christians Like on Friday. Maybe I wrote about the time I ran into an online dating match at church and gave some  steps on how to avoid it in the future.

If you haven’t been to that website, check it out now. It’ll be time well worth spent. And don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll announce the three winners for the ARMED WITH TRUTH tatts (have you gotten yours yet? Still 20% off!).

Once again, I’m humbled and blown away by your love and support. Thank you thank you thank you.

ps. don’t forget to subscribe over there on the right hand corner. It’ll make sure you never miss a post!

Letters to my 16 year old self.

Rach,

First off, PUT THE DENIM OVERALLS AWAY.

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, we need to have a little chat. There are going to be some things you do very right and some things you do very wrong. It’s going to get hard at times and a little bit scary. You’re going to lose your job when you’re 23 but it’s going to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

(And you’re going to crash your car a few times. Just FYI)

You’re going to cycle through a lot of friends. Some friends treat you pretty terribly. You’re also going to treat some of your friends pretty terribly. Apologize to them. Strive for reconciliation. Because sometimes you make it about you and it really isn’t. Some of your best friends are going to walk away from you. Don’t chase after them. Let them go because there are far better people ahead. You’re also going to drift away from others. You’ll both want it to work but it won’t so just let it drift. It’s much less painful when you both acknowledge it isn’t working.

Don’t worry, you graduate from high school and get into the college of your dreams. You have a blast. And yes, you pass Strategic Management. And Accounting 1 & 2. And Finance. I hate to tell you this, but maybe you should think about a different major. You’re a little bit awful at details. But you figure this out in your mid-twenties. You learn about your creative side and how to embrace it.

Your family becomes the world to you. But it gets really dark for awhile. It gets dark and hard and painful. You’re really angry and scared. You feel caught between being a kid and being an adult. You grow up and hurt them. They hurt you too. Then one day comes and redemption happens. Words aren’t erased but they start to fade and new ones take their place. You begin to trust them with all of who you are.

You get to do all the things you always wanted to do in the music industry. It may not be particularly impressive to anyone else but you cross all the things off your list. The stories you’ll have are crazy. It’s a short lived ride but you meet some of the best people and it sends you to the best and worst time in your life.

Baby girl, you move back to Colorado. Not only that but you move in with mom and dad. Twice.

I know, I know, you’re covering your eyes, groaning and swearing you never will. But it’s literally the best thing in the world that could happen to you. Because you find out who you are. You find out the beautiful mysterious things that make your heart come alive and you meet people who push you to do those things. These people? They are the rarest of the rare. They have seen your heart, your mess, your broken, your ugly, and they love you desperately in the middle and in spite of it all.

You enter into a season of knowing how deeply loved you are by Papa and the community He places around you. You get your heart wrecked by this love. In fact, I know you say your favorite color is blue, but it’s actually something else. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s just say you have to go to a hotel room in Denver, all by yourself to figure that out.

The part you’re really wondering about? Boys? I guess we can get to that now.

Yes – you get your first kiss. I’m not going into more details than that because you just need to experience it on it’s own. You start to get more comfortable in your skin. You’re going to say some super awkward things but they make for great stories. Your heart will get destroyed twice after you move back to Colorado. Once soon after you move back and once not long before I wrote you this letter.

It sucks. You cry alot. You get angry and throw a few things. You lay on the floor in a puddle of tears. Your best friend brings you Gatorade one Friday night because you’ve been crying so hard and you’re so sad you haven’t been eating. Then she strokes your hair for two hours as you lay your head in her lap. She doesn’t say a word. She just sits there.

Don’t worry though. You do meet some nice boys and go on some fun dates. You like a couple of them and some of them like you. You haven’t quite figured it out but you do okay. Most of all, you end up comfortable in your own skin. You actually learn to like yourself.

Oh and it doesn’t hurt that one of the most popular guys from your high school hits on you . So you’ve got that going for you.

But sweet love, it’s going to be hard. So hard that at times you can’t breathe. Believe me when I say, it is so worth it. And Papa is always good to you. Better than you deserve. Because like I said, you get it wrong way more than you get it right. The only thing you do really well is running to Papa in desperation. Don’t lose that, love. Don’t lose that for a second.

I’ll see you in another ten years.