He is Good!

“You are GOOD!” She shouts it from the back seat, her eyes intense in my rearview mirror, her fist pumping the air with all her five-year-old might. And I’m pretty sure witnessing this is just about as beautiful a thing as I’ve ever seen.

My baby girl has known suffering in her young life. Last fall and winter were some of the darkest times for us as she suffering through near constant flare ups of her still-undiagnosed illness. (We highly suspect celiac disease.)

She has looked at me with her wide blue eyes and said, “Mommy? Does God ever forget things?”

“No sweetie. He never forgets anything.”

“Oh, well I was just wondering. Because we asked Jesus if he would help me feel better earlier, but I still don’t feel good. I wondered if maybe he forgot.”

“….No sweetie. No, he didn’t forget,” I said, barely holding back the tears. “You know what? Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want him to. And you know what that means?”

“What?” she asks, tears in her voice.

“That just means that he has something else in mind.”


“YOU ARE GOOD!” I could listen to her shout it from the backseat for a millenia. Singing along to her VBS CD, from a week of lessons about how God is good in the midst of all circumstances. Truth for the children and adults alike. Truth that we’ve needed from the dawn of time. Truth we are so apt to forget.

You are good God.

And watching my daughter in the rearview mirror I see it: the set of her jaw, the flash of defiance in her eyes, the strength of her tiny fist pumping the air. That’s what it takes doesn’t it? To believe in the goodness of God when the world has not been good to you. When suffering has punctured your life in so many places your heart feels like Swiss cheese.

The truth that I whispered over her; time and time again in the moments of her pain and despair holds true: Our God is so powerful that not only could he stop bad things from happening, but he can take even bad things, and use them for our good. Transformation. It is the powerful potter indeed who can take the cracked clay and turn it into something beautiful. The all powerful God is most on display, in the midst of our immeasurable brokenness and this is no exception.

“YOU ARE GOOD!” That the five-year-old can suffer much, and come out trusting Jesus is nothing short of a miracle. That she can shout it from the back seat with all the defiance needed to rattle the gates of Hades is nothing short of a miracle. That she believes it in her heart; for herself— for her friends with cancer, for the family with children her very own age who lost their father, for the hurting around the world for whom we pray—YOU ARE GOOD!

Maybe you’d think she’s just singing along. Maybe you aren’t sure she really believes it. Then I present to you Exhibit B: Boaz is at the dentist. And because of a rather traumatic experience he endured at Urgent Care not long ago, he is terrified of laying down and having anyone look in his mouth. I can’t get him to relax enough to even let the dentist look at his teeth. But then Ellie comes in, and as matter of fact as she can be she says, “Boaz, even when life is scary, God is good.” And though he is still terrified, he leans his head back and opens his mouth enough to let the dentist look at his teeth, as his big sister holds his hand and his heart.

We don’t know it all yet: we haven’t seen the future and we don’t know the extent of the miracle. We don’t know if Ellie will stay well, or for how long. But we know without a shadow of a doubt that whatever comes, God is at work. He is for us. He loves us. And He is Good.


Would you like to read more about my journey with Ellie and her health? I wrote an article for The Joyful Life Magazine this past winter, while we were still in the thick of this season of suffering, and I’d love you to get your hands on it.

The article is entitled; “Splendor: Glimpses of God’s Glory in the midst of Suffering” and it is featured in the Surrender issue which is available to order until the end of August 2019. Just click here to place your order today.

For when you feel confused

“Make a U-Turn at Roller Coaster Road.” The computer voice from google maps instructed. But to us in that moment, it might as well have been the voice of God.

“Are you SERIOUS?!?” We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; but somehow this instruction from the google map seemed to perfectly sum up that had been going on in our lives of late.

We started down a path; prayed and sought and confirmed it. The change was coming; it was a big change and it was going to be hard, but we submitted to God’s leading. Then this: all the plans seeming to fall around our ears. We were left confused and more than a little annoyed at the little mechanical voice telling us to make a u-turn, but we were even more annoyed at God.

Why would he take us this direction, only to have us turn around this far down the road?

It didn’t make sense. It was confusing. We felt lost and wondered if he had forgotten about us for a moment; maybe holding the world in his hands really was as distracting as one would think. But no.

We knew there was purpose in this. Even in this. That this was the test of faith: would we follow him, even when it seemed like he didn’t know where he was going?

The thing to remember is that God has never been about the destination only; he’s always and forever interested in the journey. The in-between. The promised land, and the wilderness. Heaven, and the earth. The green pastures and the valley of the shadow of death. Yet he is our shepherd in both places.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:1-4

Restoration and rest by the green pastures and still waters; comfort and confidence in the valley of the shadow of death. The promises of God’s nearness and provision are in both places, yet the promise for the ultimate destination is not what is focused on here. Of course it is wonderful when we think of the latter half of the psalm; of the table spread in the presence of enemies, and then, the dwelling in the house of the LORD forever. But hear what God isn’t saying: “Just hang on! Just hang in there!”

More and more I realize my own inability to white-knuckle it to the finish line. I do not have the wear-with-all or will power to “hang on” and “hang in” indefinitely; though perhaps I have deceived myself into thinking I do at times. When Paul and Peter speak of “keeping the faith”, maybe they really mean, that by God’s power and his presence, we keep it. You don’t have to look further than the Israelites, God’s own chosen people, to see that we are faithless creatures. I am no different. Faithless on my own, but faithful by his empowering spirit. His spirit that whispers to my soul, “Come near. Rest awhile. Look around for signs of my provision; here in the valley it’s my staff and my rod—in the verdant valley it’s the pastures and the water. But always, and forever, it’s me.

How tempted I am to trust in the provisions, more than the provider! How often I rest in seemingly secure circumstances, instead of in my always secure place in my father’s hands and heart. Do I look around the greenest valley and fear it’s removal? Do I stand in the shadow of death and forget the one standing next to me, who has already beaten death on my behalf?

Maybe that is what you and I need most, on days where we feel lost in confusion. Maybe we need to just look up and around enough, to remember that no matter where we go, we never go alone. Though the path may seem treacherous and we are frightened out of our wits, our good Shepherd goes with us. He goes before us. He stands beside us. He takes up the rear guard. And because of the indwelling power of his spirit, he also makes his home within us.

Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom.*

Even when I don’t know what is going on, and it feels like every other day is another u-turn onto roller coaster road; even when I don’t know exactly where I am going, or how I am going to get there, I can rest in the knowledge that I belong. I am safe. I am held. I am irrevocably loved.

(*Hillsong United Worship)

Words and Seasons: Guest Post by Beverly Carroll

My father went to school with Beverly back in the day. When he sent me this fabulous post via email last week I just knew I had to get it in front of you all. I hope you are as blessed by it as I was. -Grace Kelley


I have not written since I was diagnosed with cancer. August will mark two years since we got the news. In some ways, it seems a lifetime ago, and in others, it feels as fresh as if the call came yesterday. I wanted to. Write, I mean.


Writing requires words, though, and I lost them. Just one month into my first round of chemo, I discovered that “chemo brain” is a very real thing. Each attempt to write, resulted, only, in disappointment and frustration.


To no avail, I foraged for words. I played “Hide and Seek,” only backwards. I sought, and they hid. Blinking cursors and blank screens mocked me and left me wondering if I would ever, again, translate thoughts and feelings into words.


I love words. I always have. With just twenty-six letters, simply rearranged and shuffled, poetry, masterpieces, sagas, classics, manifestos, and fairytales, have been created and preserved for posterity.


Today, after a long hiatus, and still in the midst of a difficult, protracted season, I reclaim words, and it feels like coming home again. Twenty-six letters are the medium with which I create. I know nothing of art or sculpture, but words? Words, I know. They are, in a word, (pun intended) magical.


They always have been, for me. They transport, they teach, they heal, they inspire. They are the scaffolding upon which dreams are constructed, and seasons chronicled.


Seasons are defined, in part, as, “Divisions of the year marked by changes…” Those changes most often refer to transitions in weather that herald new seasons and register passing years. These are literal seasons, noted clearly on calendars, characterized by gradual beginnings and endings.  


Our season bears no such resemblance. Conversely, our season began suddenly. It arrived with no warning or foreseeable end in sight, and it continues, even now.


Oddly enough, we do not question why. We do, however, ask how long. We just do. The landscape shifts, fatigue sets in, and aftershocks chip away at our equilibrium.


We find it hard, sometimes, to stand, but at the precise moment we begin to topple, the One Who is “able to keep us from falling” steps in. The result is that what first left us reeling, now tethers us to our Christ. He is not the problem, He is the solution.


As people of God, we are not immune from difficulty, or the toll it takes. Acutely aware of our frailty, we realized, early on, that we had a choice to make: We could blame the only One Who offers us hope, or we could embrace accept the affliction that drives us to Him. We chose the latter.


God rewarded that choice with Himself and has kept us on our feet. Over and over again, He lavishes us with His grace, and supplements our weakness with His strength.


He excavates the elusive joy obscured by adversity, and displays, anew, that there is no season, storm, or trial that exceeds His power.
That does not mean that this season has been easy. It has not. The difficulty, however, recedes each time we choose to claim God’s promises before the fear clutches. A life-changing reckoning with the love of God has been ours, and we are better for it.


God knows what we bruised reeds can take and what we cannot. He promises as much in His Word. Pondering the promise again, recently, Aesop came to mind. He paints with words, and a portrait emerges. “The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again, when the storm had passed over.”


Our storm is not over. Our season stretches on. We are weary but intact, bent but unbroken, bruised but renewed. We learn, and forget, and learn again, that whatever God sends or permits in our lives, is ordained by Him for a reason. It is not arbitrary or without design.


He is up to something that our finite minds cannot comprehend. His activity mystifies, but where His plans confound, His presence consoles. 

While pain has the tendency to leave us myopic, perspective expands our vision and reminds us that the sum is greater than the part. Our small parts, like puzzle pieces, matter, and are magnified, only when offered for the benefit of the larger picture.


When our dreams lay tattered at our feet, God is sufficient. He collects the threadbare, ragged remnants of the tapestry that was, and mends, repurposes, and stitches together a new tapestry that differs, significantly, but is no less lovely.


He exchanges our fatigue for strength and bestows upon us courage needed for the journey. He plots our path and orders our steps when the way grows dim and darkness closes in. He navigates us through unsteady terrain and unexpected detours. We may stumble, but we do not fall.  


We do not yet know if I will be healed, but we trust without the miracles for which we pray. Our uncertainties regarding what is, are eclipsed by assurances of what will be. Through all the yesterdays and tomorrows, one thing is sure: What God does not repair, He is faithful to redeem.


So, we rest in the assurance of redemption, and submit to His sometimes painful will. We relinquish control of what was never ours to begin with, and entrust, to Him, our keeping. There is no greater repository.


We run to Him because we are welcomed, and we choose Him, because in the end, there is no other choice. It is as simple as that. In season and out, through few calendars or many, the love of God sustains, and His promises prevail.


The lowlands’ lingering veil of mist will eventually dissipate. The desert will give way to blooms, and doubt will give way to confidence. Without fear, we will freely relinquish to our Divine Choreographer, what is easy to perceive, but difficult to define.


At last, the day will come when our striving ceases, and our healing begins. Healing or not, adversity or not, deliverance or not, we celebrate God’s sovereignty, regardless.


The lessons that result from long seasons and endless storms, more than make up for the struggles. This road has not been easy, but it has been worth it. We are everything we are, because He is everything He is. In the end, it turns out, that is enough.  


Beverly is still on her journey with cancer, and God only knows what the future holds. Meanwhile, she stands as a sentry, reminding us in the goodness of God even when it is impossible to see or understand. To read along, look for her online at her blog From Glimpses to Glory.

Why suffering with others is an honor and a privilege

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend time with a friend I hadn’t really seen in a few years. We met at a coffee shop and walked to a park where we sat on metal benches while my two older children played on the play ground. We sat and talked, and tried (and failed), and stop my youngest from putting wood chips in his mouth. It was a good day.

We spoke friendship, (ours is going on 13 years) and we spoke about forgiveness. We talked about the Kingdom of God, and what it means to live here with eternal purpose flowing through our veins. We talked even about times of grief in our own friendship, and I took the opportunity to confess that if I could do it all over, there are some things I would do differently. And then she said something that startled me:

“You were there for me when my brother died, and that’s all that mattered.” 

It wasn’t that I didn’t remember this— the phone call, the drive to her place, the tissues, and the tea. What startled me was this sudden realization, that of all the things good or bad that I have done over the course of our relationship, that this was what she remembered. Being there was what mattered.

As a little girl I suffered. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile then you know parts and pieces of my story. 

It was awful, traumatic, and life-altering. And yet, I wonder constantly now who I would be if I hadn’t gone through that. My suffering wove a compassion into me that I doubt would be there otherwise. 

Walking through suffering with someone else can be intimidating. There is no guide to social etiquette for a hospital waiting room. There is no step-by-step instruction manual for encouraging a friend who has recently lost a child. There is no form for encouraging text messages to someone who’s loved one is dying.

My own insecurities are often the first thing to stand in my way. Questions and doubts plague me: What if I don’t know what to say? What if they don’t want me to come? What if I do it wrong? I wish I could say it gets easier, but I have dealt with these questions just about as often as I have been asked by God to draw near to someone in the midst of unspeakable pain.

This is not to say that care and consideration of the actual needs of those that are hurting is unimportant, it is vital. Sensitivity is key. Asking questions of others who have gone through something similar is invaluable. But the first and foremost thing, is to just show up.

Doubts and fears arising out of self-preservation often lead to inaction; an inaction does not honor Christ. We know what happened to the servant who buried his talent in the sand. (Or if you don’t you can find the parable in the Bible, Matthew 25:14-30) We know that our faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26) We cannot stand saying we believe, and yet choose to disobey all that Christ commanded us because we are afraid we’ll get it wrong.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord. when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”

Matthew 25: 34-40

Sometimes all you can do is pour the tea and weep with the friend who has suffered horrific abuse. The friend who has lost a loved one. The friend whose heart has been broken by marital infidelity.

The hardest part of suffering with others is that it never feels like enough.

Yet, Jesus doesn’t ask me to swoop in like Superman and make all the problems disappear; he asks me to do the practical things, and to be with the one who suffers, as though I am doing it all to Him. When I extend the with-ness of Christ’s presence to my suffering friend or loved one, I bring the Kingdom of Heaven a little closer.

I don’t need to be intimidated as I approach that front door, that hospital room, or prepare to press send on that text, because I’m doing it to Jesus. It is Him I am going to see. And He says it is enough.

If you are walking through suffering right now, I challenge you to take the risk and step out of isolation with someone you trust. My prayer is that God will lead you to that safe person who will sit with you, weep with you, pour the tea for you—even as they ultimately encourage you to look to the God who is ever at work even in the darkest of circumstances. Give them a chance to serve you as unto the Lord.

If you are walking next to someone who you know is hurting, I dare you to step out and be that friend who is willing to walk the hard road. It won’t be easy, but it is an honor and a privilege to be allowed into those moments with people. Show up for Jesus, wherever He is—in the face of a friend confined to a sick bed, in the face of the man in prison, in the face of the stranger who needs clothing—don’t miss out on seeing Jesus just because you are afraid you’ll do it wrong. Just show up, and look your suffering friend in the eyes, and see Jesus, you will.

Years from now, when there is little left of your memory or mine, the last things to go will not be the ways that we wronged each other, but the ways that we were the hands and feet of Jesus to each other. These moments of hardship bind us together; my closest friends are the ones with whom I have suffered, and those who have suffered with me. It’s not easy, and suffering with others is probably the most painful part of true love in a fallen world, but in the end, this must be what defines us:

Did we love? Did we serve the walking wounded right in front of us? Did we love others more than our own comfortable complacency?

When we do, we see it clear as day: suffering with others is an honor and a privilege, because when we minister there, we minister to Jesus himself.


I made this for YOU.

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For when they’ve left you all alone

Loneliness opens up like a sink hole in my chest. It sucks in everything; my joy in the small moments, my hopes for the future, the lessons I have learned from the past. It turns my whole body numb with longing and the desperate question—does anybody see me?

Suffering can be one of the loneliest places; there are many reasons for this; enough in fact that I could do a whole blog series on it. (And maybe I will, let me know in the comments below if that’s something you’d be interested in.) There are many reasons why the sufferer herself might be the cause of some of her own loneliness, but in this post I would like to examine what I believe is the central reason why other’s pull away from the sufferer in her hour of need: unbelief in the goodness of God, and the fear that comes from realizing the depth of our own unbelief.

The reality is that it is excruciatingly hard to look in to the eyes of someone tortured by the terrible illness of a child they love, when there is nothing they can do to make it better. It’s hard when they don’t know what to say, and the silence gapes wide like a chasm. They know if they stand of the porch a second longer and look into your soul-haunted gaze, they will have to reconcile some things in their faith that aren’t currently matching up.

Standing with those who suffer is sometimes like signing up for a weekly wrestling match with God. Because when you love them, and you look in their eyes, and you hear their hearts beating and breaking—you will howl right along with them: Why God?

These questions can be scary, and I believe they are the very reason that many shy away from sitting with someone who is deep in the midst of suffering. The greatest relief I have experienced though, as someone who ministers to those who suffer, has come through realizing that these questions must come.

In one of the great paradoxes of the world we live in, sometimes the quickest way to faith is through doubt, and so I have stopped measuring my faith by a lack of doubt, and instead have begun thinking only of how quickly I surrender to God when we wrestle—because wrestle, we will.

During seasons of suffering in my own life, I have felt the rage bubble up, as well meaning people tried to white wash over my pain. And it seems like an impossible ask, but here it is: I think sometimes God asks us, as ones who are suffering, to have grace on those that are less than helpful around us, and even on those who abandon us in our hour of need.

It feels like insult to injury I know, to say that as those who are hurting we might even have to forgive the well meaning friends who say all the wrong things, or the friends that once loved us and now seem to have forgotten us completely; but there it is. Because where there is hurt, there must be forgiveness. And we must entrust ourselves to the love of our good God, who will provide for us what we need to take the next step—the next breath.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, some of my deepest wounds are not from the abuse itself, but from those who should have stood in the gap for me. Those who claimed to be our friends, but who left us in our hour of need. Friends whose negligence led to my being abused in the first place; because they knew something was wrong, and yet they kept silent.

If you are reading this, and you were one of these people, I want you to know—I have forgiven you. Before the Lord, in prayer, by name. You are forgiven by God, and you are forgiven by me.

In turn, I’m sure I also have been a means of wounding some; maybe even some of you who may be reading this. Maybe it was a casual word spoken out of turn, or maybe it was the words I should have said but didn’t. If I have ever added pain onto your pain, I pray that you would also forgive me. I too am a work in progress, and have sometimes chosen wrongly. I do not get it all right. But I trust that even here, God will redeem.

Because here’s the really beautiful part: partially as a result of who God made me, partially as a result of the lack we suffered when I was a kid, God has grown me into a woman who cares deeply about the suffering and hardship of others. It’s a part of my story—that I am committed to the long road with people. That I will take the time to wrestle with my God for the truth that He is good even when circumstances seem to shout otherwise. In many ways that’s what this blog is all about.

This isolation––this loneliness––may feel like an insult to the injury of your present hardship, but this too will be redeemed by the God who takes every broken thing and makes it beautiful. And no matter how many people hurt you, abandon you, whitewash over your pain, or condemn you in the face of your suffering, you are not alone.

You are seen. You are held. You are loved. Even when the people who ought to be there, run away. Even when the family members don’t know what to do or say. Even when your friends withdraw and you come to that painful realization that where you are going, they cannot come…even then. You are seen, you are held, you are loved; by the God who paid everything to make you His. By the God who suffered also from loneliness in His hour of deepest need. By the Savior who was betrayed and abandoned by His friends. He knows. He cares. He sees. He has not forgotten you.

Dearest Reader, my prayer for you today is that the overwhelming peace and love of the Lord Jesus would surround you today, wherever you are. And through this peace, I pray we will be able also, by God’s power, to extend forgiveness and grace to those who have hurt us by their words, actions, or lack-thereof, in our hour of deepest need.


Do you need someone to kneel down in the dirt with you? To help you scatter seeds of hope in the midst of hardship? It would be my greatest honor and privilege to minister to you in this way; to give to you a little of the comfort with which my God has comforted me.

Just click here to sign up to get the link to my FREE Ebook Download—

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For when someone is to blame for your suffering

I’ve seen the eyes tainted with bitterness, and in truth, more than once they have been my own.

Forgiveness comes like a threat to us; when we are holding on to hurt and pain like so much precious cargo—like the filthy bandage on a gaping wound, how can we let it go?

There is so much about which Satan lies; unforgiveness is just one more of those tools in his belt. And like all his other weapons of mass destruction, it is meant to steal, kill and destroy.

You’ve heard that unforgiveness is like swallowing poison, expecting the other person to drop dead. I too have lived this way.

With a childhood stolen by a man with selfish hands.

With friendships lost and my character assassinated.

With friends I loved like family, who chose to walk the other way in my darkest hour.

I know how bitterness can feel like a knife in your hand— like your last weapon against the coming onslaught. It can feel like self-defense.

That is until you look down, and realize that the knife isn’t in your hand at all—it’s in your chest, and you are bleeding out.

Rooting out the bitterness is as painful as all that. Letting that sharp edge be removed from your heart; then letting the Lord stitch up the place, so true healing can come. It can feel like letting that pain and anger go is letting the person who has caused your present suffering “get off easy.”

Hear me now when I say this: no one is saying that the pain isn’t justified. No one is saying that you haven’t been hurt, that the suffering isn’t real, or that there won’t still be echoes of the hurt 20 years from now—ask me how I know.

What I am saying, is that with that knife of bitterness in your chest, the healing will never come.

God never sweeps what was done under the rug. That sin that was done against you? It will be dealt with. Our God is a God of justice; he doesn’t wink at sin or give lame excuses.

He will avenge the blood of the innocent. He cares deeply about your assassinated character. His heart breaks for the lies spoken, the discord being sown among brothers. And he knows it all experientially as well.

Satan desperately wants you to forget that Jesus knows what it feels like to be rejected in his hometown. Jesus knows what it is like to have his brothers not believe him. Jesus knows how it feels to be betrayed, to death, by a close friend, and then have all your other close friends follow suit. Jesus knows.

But that doesn’t change what he does—or what he did. He died that they might be forgiven; both his friends who abandoned him, as well as the ones who called for his execution. He died that I might be forgiven; while I was still his enemy. He died to forgive your own offender, my own offender, if they would put their faith in him.

That can feel like a tough pill to swallow some days. I have wished ugly things in the deepest part of my heart; that those who hurt children would never believe and would have to bear that grievous sin on their own shoulders when eternity comes. But that’s the bitterness again. The knife’s edge sharp in my chest; and it has to come out.

The terrifying and wonderful truth is that God’s justice is so much better than mine; and letting my hatred go—letting the knife of bitterness slide out of my heart and be thrown away—that is me choosing to trust that God’s justice is better than mine, and He will do right.

Say it with me: HE WILL DO RIGHT.

So I let the knife go. I allow God to stitch me up. I let go of my need to be validated. Of my right to hold on to my anger. And that is when the healing comes. I let go of my title of “victim” and become victorious in Christ. And I begin to see things I never thought I’d see before. Some days I can even grieve for the sin that ensnared my abuser. I can pray that God will redeem even his part of the story; and I know then that I have forgiven.

Turns out Max Lucado had it right. Forgiveness can feel so hard; like opening the door of a prison to let out the one who did me wrong; and yet when the lock falls down and the gate creaks open, it is my own face that I see in that cell: I am setting myself free.

Dearest Reader, I hope you have ears to hear these words. No one is saying that it will be easy. No one is saying it’s a piece of cake. I am saying it’s worth it. I am saying that though the pain might be caused by someone else, the bitterness is yours to own—it is your responsibility. This is what God is asking you to do.

Don’t let bitterness be the pet sin you are content to hold onto; like the fluffy white cat that is held constantly on the lap of the evil genius who thinks complete destruction is the way to world peace.

If you can’t believe it in your heart just yet, I understand. There was a time when I felt exactly the same way; but freedom comes when we exchange the truth of God for the lies of our own reasoning.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Proverbs 3:5-8

God the good Gardener

I cannot claim to be an excellent gardener. This year Colorado threw us all for a loop and decided it was perfectly okay to snow the Thursday following Mother’s day, and like many in the state who use the Mother’s day rule to plant things outdoors, I had already transplanted my tomatoes.

Gone.

I probably should have read the farmers almanac. Maybe they knew that something like that was coming. Maybe they could have saved me the grief of agonizing over seeds that will never now bear fruit.

The other parts of my garden look well enough this year. The beet bed is my pride and joy, as long as I’ve weeded recently. This year we used some of our own compost to amend the soil, some of which was used straw from the goat shed, and if you are smarter than we were you can probably guess our mistake: there are all kinds of grass seeds trying to grow amongst my beets. And grass where you don’t want it, is actually pretty hard to pull up.

Try pulling a blade of grass up by the root. You’ll see what I mean.

It’s amazing how even something I would think of as a “good plant” has become such a burden and a nuisance. Among all the notoriously “bad plants”; the bind weeds, the dandelions, and a hundred other nameless weeds that call my raised garden beds home, now I also have to contend with grass that wants to grow where it absolutely does not belong.

I weed by hand. That’s the only way to feel if I’m doing it right. I get dirt under my finger nails and I feel the tug and pull of the roots under the earth, and I try and get just the right angle so I uproot only the bad, and keep my tiny beet seedlings intact. They are small, but growing larger every day. Soon, they may not even need me to take such care, but for now, it would be so easy to uproot what I want, while pulling what I don’t.

It strikes me that God weeds my life like this. He weeds it by hand, not afraid to get dirt under his nails. And though the soil seems to shift around me, and I can be afraid of what is coming next, if I trust that the Good Gardener knows what He is doing, I need not be afraid.

We have taken this season for a sabbatical from “formal” ministry life, but paring down is not always easy. Sometimes what looks like a healthy beet bed from the window is really just a bed full of weeds, the tiny beets barely distinguishable. And God wants more from us than that. More than just the signs of life, whatever they may be. He wants to give us full and abundant life; fruitful life.

So we have been paring down on things. We have been putting a pause on the small group we’ve led for the past four years. I’ve stopped serving in the nursery. Willy is taking a break from worship team. We have tried to set down what so often occupies our time. On Monday we took the TV off the wall and hung a picture up instead. We’re just trying to quiet the voices.

But sometimes the silence feels uncomfortable. Sometimes it reveals the invisible sins that have been hampering growth all along, but weren’t obvious to us.

The first hour after our last official small group meeting, I felt it like a gaping hole in my chest; the fear. For a recovering people pleaser, (and an Enneagram 2 if you’re into that) the most terrifying fear of all: that people only loved me for what I do, and not for who I am, and if I stopped doing what I had been, that they will leave me.

Because God cares about the heart—my heart—he doesn’t just look out from His back window at the beet bed of my heart and say, “Hey! It’s all full of green. Looks like Grace is doing a-ok!”

No. He wants me to bear fruit. And though my fears may motivate “right-looking actions”, God cares about my mixed motives. True, I serve because I really do love people, and I want to help, and I love God. But the dark side of that coin is that I also serve sometimes because I want to make myself indispensable. Because if I am indispensable, then no one will leave.

It’s tricky isn’t it? This space right now, this pared-down calendar, is giving God all kinds of room to pull out all the grass seeds that have mistakenly been growing where a flourishing vegetable garden ought to be. And though painful, that is a good, good thing.

It might seem counterintuitive to see any kind of rest as a hardship, but when you are a recovering perfectionistic people-pleaser, it can certainly feels like a sacrifice. And because I am still a stay-at-home Mom, in many ways, I am only laying down the service that in any way gets recognized. No one cheers me on for cleaning poop off of the carpet.

Quiet me in my smallness O Lord.

It’s hard to lay down those parts of me that I have wanted to claim as identity, as things that make me worthy of love, when God gently says, like the loving Father He is, “No, No Gracie. It’s me. Always and only me.”

If God has you in a season of paring down, weeding, or any kind of upheaval—know that you are not alone. Remember, that God weeds by hand, without the gloves, He isn’t afraid to get dirt under His nails. He is not embarrassed to be associated with you, just as He isn’t embarrassed to be associated with me. In the space that your season of hardship affords—in the quiet moments of isolation and loneliness—may He minister to you in your smallness, and show you the things that you’ve been hiding behind, that you really don’t need after all.

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Have you been waiting for a written invitation to start planting seeds of hope in the midst of hardship in your own life? Consider this it!

Click here to download my recently released mini-ebook/devotional Scattered: A seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering.

Inside you will find:

-How lamenting before the Lord is actually the quickest path to trusting Him in the midst of heart break and disappointments.

-How looking around for gratitude will only bless you as you quiet yourself before the Lord.

-How to remember what God has done in the past, so you can trust Him with your future.

AND SO MUCH MORE.

If you are walking through something hard; then I made this for you. Let’s plant those seeds of hope like it’s our job, that we may cultivate a fruitful life wherever we are, by God’s grace and for his glory.

Gracie