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 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

Cultivating Margin in the Midst of Hardship

I used to think margins were a luxury for the very, very rich. I thought that if someone felt good enough about their work done in the main hours of anything to cultivate spaces in between it all, then they must have been rich indeed. Or maybe they really just had money seeping out their ears while they slept on the couch after a movie marathon, and that was how they could justify the rest. It is as ridiculous as it sounds.

But just the other day the thought struck me; that it’s more than margins. It’s more like refusing to do the opposite of leaving margins. It’s refusing to cut it too close.

“Well, you probably missed that one,” we heard from under the furrowed brow of the man clicking on his computer at the Air Canada check in desk. My best friend and I had just enjoyed the most magical week on Prince Edward Island. We saw some sights, walked on the red sand beaches and ate Canada’s most famous Cow’s Creamery ice cream. But when it came time to leave early that Friday morning, we had forgotten that we needed to put gas in the rental car.

I secretly wish there had been a camera filming the action as we struggled to figure out a) how to open the gas compartment on a mini-cooper b)how to pre-pay in liters for enough gas to fill said mini cooper, and c) how to realize earlier that google was taking us on a 45 minutes detour instead of just telling us to make a u-turn, on our way back to the road from the gas station.

When we ended up on a one-way dirt track we realized it: we had cut it all way, way too close, and we were very possibly going to miss our flight to Toronto. But we had a hope, that since the airport we were leaving from only had two gates, that we would probably be able to sneak in 30 minutes before our flight left.

“I don’t suppose you can get two more suitcases on the plane Brody…” the grouchy man with the furrowed white brows spoke into the walkie, he seemed to be willing Brody to say no.

“OH YEAH…” we heard the cheerful voice on the other side, “No problem at all!”

We owe the happy ending of this story to a man with a cart who was not afraid to come and get our tardy baggage. We made it on the plane just as the sun was coming up over the Island, but as we stood on the stairway waiting to board, there was no doubt in our minds, that aside from blindly following google’s directions, the main problem was that we had cut it all way too close. Though this week of rest with my best friend was in so many ways a testament to my learned ability to rest in the midst of seasons of intensity and hardship, I had forgotten to leave margin at the end of it all, to leave room for inevitable hiccups that come when you are traveling, especially in another country.

For so many years I lived a “cutting it close” kind of life. I respected following distance when driving to be sure (I was and am, a rule follower by nature), but when it came to cultivating any kind of personal margin to preserve my sanity; I wasn’t into it. I think I actually felt crazier when I tried to STOP what I was doing in order to rest. As newlyweds, my husband saw this monster of perfectionism up close and personal, as I obsessively cleaned late into the evening and refused to respect my bedtime. Always to my own detriment, and his. How would it be that years later, when I became the parent of a daughter who suffered from terrible tummy pain, that I would finally learn how to rest?

I think so often when we are faced with suffering of any kind, but especially the suffering of our children, it can be so easy to swing the pendulum the opposite direction, and try desperately, to control the situation. And to be sure; as parents we are called to steward our children as best we can, to keep them safe from harm and to help them heal when harm has been done. But there is also peace in realizing that it is not all up to me. There is a heavenly father who loves my daughter, who cherishes her, even as He cherishes me. He watches over Ellie on the couch when I take five minutes to go get a glass of water and wash my face. He comforts her in the quiet dark when I can do nothing more than sit next to her and rub her feet. When I am hungry in the middle of the night, having stayed awake every hour when I would normally be resting to take care of a little girl in flare-up, it behooves me to leave enough margin in my own heart, to accept the rest that God wants to give to me: to heat up a bowl of the soup a loving friend brought for me, and then go and resume my place next to her on the couch.

This is how I refuse to cut things too close; not that I take or fight my way for what I feel are my own personal needs—but that in those moments, I quiet my heart before the Lord, and I accept the rest that He wants to give me. I leave room. As I provide, I must also accept His gracious provision.

It is in the spaces in between; the space between the loading of the groceries and the drive home. The space between the laying down of the last sleepy head, and the laying of my own weary head on the pillow. The space between the alarm clock ringing, and the words I write so early on the page. These are the spaces that God invites me to rest in the fullness of who He is; and who I am as a result of that. He invites me to create space in my mind and my heart, to welcome Him into whatever difficultly, I am currently facing.

If you are suffering; or if you are walking through suffering with someone else, what would it look like for you to cultivate a little margin today? How can you accept the rest that God wants to provide to you, even in the smallest moments, so that you can endure the trials and cheer on others who are enduring with you?

Dearest Reader, it takes a recognition that we are not in control to sit down for a moment and rest in the midst of hardship, but in the end, that surrender is where peace comes. Here we make space for the small things that could become as urgent as a missed flight if left unattended. Here we make space to fill up a glass of water for ourselves, as well as for someone else. Here we make space to acknowledge that God is God, and we are not. We are finite, and so needy, and that is not a liability, it’s an opportunity for God to meet us.

For when you feel misunderstood

My chest aches. Tears blur the words of the page and my throat feels like I’m being strangled.

I wonder what they think of me. Do they think I am weeping for my own suffering? Do they wonder what is going wrong or do they have their own guesses? What would they think if they knew that the primary reason I was weeping at church this morning was not for me, but for someone else?

I think most believers agree that weeping with those who weep is a good and beautiful concept; but what about when you are the friend of the friend of the person weeping? What about when your friend seems drug into the depths of despair by a grief that you know is not theirs? Would it make any sense to you?

I have been the friend; the one weeping. Stuck between the well meaning friends who just want me to be happy, and the friends that I can never put out of mind as they walk through the depths of suffering. I cannot “change the subject”. I cannot simply refuse to think about it and move on. I am all there sometimes with those that are walking through the valleys of deepest darkness. It’s a gift. But sometimes it looks like a curse.

Sometimes I find myself angry, because I feel like I shouldn’t be feeling the way I am feeling. Sometimes I find myself wanting to involve myself more and more with those suffering; partly because I want to help and minister to them, and partly because I feel like then I’ll have an excuse for the way that their hardships are affecting me emotionally. But why do I feel I need an excuse?

Do I need to make excuses for the God who made me this way? So sensitive there is hardly a TV show I can watch that isn’t a comedy. So in tune with the way that others are feeling that I can tell they are upset even when they insist that they are not. So empathetic that I weep often into the dishes of my kitchen sink for children that are not my own, belonging to people that I’ve never even met.

It doesn’t make much sense. Even to me it often feels confusing and frustrating. But I’m done wishing away the gift. It is this very same vulnerability, this intensity of feeling, that has led me here. To writing these words on this page. Because it’s the least I can do.

I wish for the world that I could understand it all; that I could tell you the future and assure you that it’s all going to work out just beautifully in every way you hope and dream; but I can’t. And I’ve learned that’s not my job. My job is to kneel down next to you in the dirt.

You—yes, you. You living in the barren landscape. You—staring down giants and dragons and shadows and death. You—looking around at the wasteland and thinking it’s so familiar, it must be home. You—too despairing—too afraid—you’ve seen too much, perhaps, to hope.

But hope, real hope, as my pastor reminded me today, is more than a passing fancy. Hope is the firm belief that what has been promised to you will come to pass; and if you believe in the God of the Bible. In the Great I Am, who sent His own son Jesus Christ to die on the cross that we might be reconciled to him; then oh brother…oh sister—there is much that has been promised to you.

Romans 8:28 met me like the tiniest seed, planted in the soil of my own childhood suffering. An abuse perpetrated against me that was so damaging, I couldn’t even begin to understand it’s impact on my life. Mustard seeds start small too, then grow into the largest garden plants. So large that they make home for birds; they provide food and shelter and shade.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Romans 8:28-30- ESV

I don’t know all of God’s purposes for my life, no more than I know all of His purposes for yours. But I believe this verse is for us. God works all for good, and our ultimate good, is to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Maybe somehow that makes it not only okay, but important, that sometimes I feel misunderstood. Christ, the creator himself wrapped in flesh, was rarely understood by anyone. He was misunderstood even (and sometimes especially) by his closest friends. And no matter how many times he said it, or tried to explain it, they still never really understood what he was there to do.

Even once he did it.

It’s a good thing that his selfless service of us had no condition; he wasn’t looking around at the crowd that day on the road to Jerusalem thinking, “Hmmm. These people really want me to be an earthly king. I guess I’ll change plans and do that instead.”

Thank heavens, He knew what He was doing. He was about His Father’s business, and He didn’t let misperceptions or misunderstandings, even seemingly honorable ones, get in the way of His doing what He was there to do. Maybe that’s it, maybe that is the key to the courage I need right there. To do my Father’s business. To not worry about being misunderstood in it, but being fully known and understood by the Father, carrying out the mission that He has put in front of me. Daring boldly to do all that He has asked me to do.

I want to be so singular minded as that. I hope some day I will be. Until then, I hope I can keep in mind that the refiners fire rarely feels good, but the reward is worth the endurance it takes to produce.

“…though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:6-7

Maybe no one understands you, or what you are going through. Maybe you feel isolated and often alone. Being misunderstood is only painful because I think in our deepest hearts, we are all desperately longing to be seen and truly known.

The suffering I endure is one thing. It’s not that I only weep for others, no. I have shed more than a few tears for myself this week as well. But I think for me it comes down to that additional fear; that additional pain. The fear of being misunderstood. The reality is that my longing to be deeply known in this life may only be met by the God who made me the way that I am. But if becoming more like Him is the point, then even this is good.

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Dearest Reader, if you need someone to kneel in the dirt with you—to help you hope in a season that seems more wilderness than promised land, more winter than spring, CLICK HERE to sign up and get my FREE E-BOOK DEVOTIONAL Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering. [If you are already a subscriber, be sure to check your email, it should already be in your inbox. If not, be sure to check your junk mail folder!]

Our Story

“Are you ready to tell Our Story?” 

A year ago I was preparing to share my testimony with our small group. It was a chaotic day; one in which I felt inadequate in nearly every way. The kids were crazy, the house a mess, so I stuck my (then) two kids in the stroller and took a walk in order to gain some sense of peace and gather my thoughts.

Then the voice—so familiar and yet so startling: “Are you ready to tell Our Story?” 

It caught me like a lover’s indiscreet kiss. It sent shivers down my spine. I’m not sure if I was even ready then—but I am now Jesus.

Yes Jesus. I’m ready to share Our Story. 

Here is where it all began:

I was eight years old.

Sometime in the recent past I had finally got up the courage to tell my Mom that I was being sexually abused. She believed me, sheltered me, fought for me. Both my parents did. But there were, and are, some things no parent can give to a child in that situation—and it was something I desperately needed. It’s what we all need when we feel stuck in a darkness too deep to ever escape from on our own.

I needed Hope.

I was in the messy middle of recovering from an abuse that I was too young to understand. I knew the darkness that plagued me to the the depths of my soul. I sensed the evil that lurked around each and every corner, threatening to gobble me up. In my childish mind, I just wanted it all to go away.

God found me there on the rough carpet of my bedroom. On my knees in front of the solid wood bookshelf, I was kneeling as I often did when searching. Searching for something to read. A bibliophile from a young age, I looked for the answers to my needs in books, but none of them seemed to meet me here and now. None of them held the answers to the questions I was asking. Bending over, peering down at the volumes on the bottom shelf, turning my head sideways to read all the words on their spines. Then the Bible caught me. That large volume which I considered to be both Holy and wholly intimidating. The thing I had tried to force myself to read, but just couldn’t quite get into. I was only eight years old after all. 

I pulled it out and didn’t know where to begin. Then, a miraculous whisper. Romans. It said. Chapter 8.  It said. 

And I opened up to these words in the 28th verse. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

(Romans 8:28, NIV)

There on my bedroom floor, kneeling at my bookshelf, God captured my heart. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that somehow, someway, the suffering I was going through, and the abuse I had endured was going to be worked for good. Down my eight year old cheeks streamed tears of peace—tears of joy.

That was the beginning of my love story with Jesus.

About seven years later, I started blogging. Blogging for other survivors of sexual abuse. Blogging so that they would know that they weren’t alone.

Though I think my readership was near non-existent, I haven’t even actually deleted the original blog because it has a sentimental special place in my heart. And now, it’s just so beautiful to me to see how God was planting seeds in my heart to serve others who are, or have gone through suffering; that you would know that you are not alone, and that there is and always will be, a glorious redemption plan for every broken piece of our shattered hearts.

This one thing I know for sure: that God is in the business of making all things new. He’s done it for me, over and over again. I wish that I could say that my childhood trauma was the only really hard or scary thing that I ever faced; in fact when I was younger I was pretty sure that the fact that I had dealt with hardship at such a young age meant that I had gotten that part of my life “out of the way”, and it was going to be all rainbows and sunshine from there on out.

Go ahead and laugh if you want to. I can’t think about that sweet naiveté of mine without chuckling either. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought this way. Because believing that life is will often be dark and difficult? That can make you want to give up right there on the spot.

But for those of us who belong to Christ Jesus, suffering doesn’t get to have the last word. Abuse doesn’t have the last word. Sickness and death don’t get the last word. Whatever current hardship you are facing; it doesn’t get the last word because we live by the Power of the Living God, and there is nothing that is so dark that He cannot bring the light of His redemption to it. We walk in step with the Holy Spirit, and He gives us all that we need to survive this crazy life, and to make it a life worth living. For now, and for Eternity.

How do I know? I’ll tell you. I have so many stories. I’m sure you have them too.

Stories of joy in the pain. Of beauty from the ashes. Of eternal weights of glory being made from these comparatively, light and momentary afflictions.

The truth is that God is the Good Gardener in my life, pruning me that I may bear fruit. Planting me often, in the soil of suffering, that I may bear fruit. Showing me that His presence with me always was, and always is, enough.

And it’s enough for you too.

I’m working on something right now: It’s called Scattered: A seven day journey to planting seeds of Hope in the Soil of Suffering. It’s not finished yet. But if this sounds like something that might help you, I’d love to get it into your hands.

All you have to do is click here, and give me your email address. A few minutes after you put in your info, you’ll get an email welcoming you to my email list, and as soon as I am finished creating this content, I will send it directly to your inbox for absolutely free.

Even better news: if you sign up before I finish making this resource, you may even get to help influence it by sending a reply to my first email and telling me what you are struggling with.

Because these words aren’t just for me anymore, Dear Reader, they are for you.

That together we may bear fruit, by God’s grace and for His glory.

When all is unknown, and nothing feels comforting

It feels like a full fledged onslaught. The battle for my mind is raging every moment that I am present to my actual feelings and thoughts; and if I’m not present, then I’m just plain numb.

We heard these words of doubt last week: “I’m stumped.”

From a doctor, especially your child’s doctor, those are words you never, ever, want to hear. She looked sad. She looked tired and concerned. She has labored for us and with us for well over a year, and now, we are at the end of her expertise. The end of her possible answers.

“That’s what specialists are there for,” I heard her say. And I wonder if she wasn’t just saying that for us, but for herself. To remind herself that it’s okay that this time she didn’t have the answers we were looking for. In fact, we seemed at a loss for answers at all.

We have run out of non-invasive options. Our next right thing is to head to the pediatric gastroenterologists at Children’s Hospital, and hope they can help us find an answer. A diagnosis. Something, that will help our baby girl feel well more than 50% of the time.

The last time I was at children’s hospital, I stood as a witness as one of my best friends received the news that her 18 month old daughter had cancer. What had seemed like a fractured ankle from a crib injury ended up quite different than any of us could have anticipated. I can’t say I’m excited to go back there.

No solutions feel very comforting right now. Even if it all goes perfectly “well.” Sometimes the diagnosis makes things a lot better, other times, it’s the devastating last blow that seals just how much “worse” it all is.

And even if it’s not worse. Even if it’s all fine; I’m not excited to put my daughter under extensive and invasive tests. I don’t want to watch as she fades from consciousness from anesthesia. I don’t want to let anyone wheel my baby away on a gurney. I don’t want to put her life in any one else’s hands. As I looked at the faces of the pediatric gastroenterologists on the Children’s Hospital website, I just kept thinking to each face, “Do I trust you to take care of my baby girl? How about you?

The truth is I trust no one. And I know enough now to know that I can’t necessarily even trust myself: I mean, I haven’t been able to keep her healthy have I? No matter how much I slam down the control all around us and our life in attempts to keep her well, it’s never enough. I’m sure there’s been a time more than once over the past year and a half, when I’ve encouraged her to eat something that ended up making her sick. I try not to dwell on those times, but sometimes I do.

All I know is that I know her, and I love her. I remember when she was one-year-old she smelled to me like butter, and sugar cookies. That when she’s happy she doesn’t always smile, but her face is smooth and peaceful. She doesn’t always show her pleasure in the demonstrative ways you’d expect from a five-year-old. And she’s always been that way. I know that she’s happiest when she’s making art. That she’s an extrovert that needs her alone time. That she is more thoughtful and capable of compassion than I often even give her credit for.

A little over a month ago, I found myself making an hour long drive with a car full of sleeping babies. And through the gentle words of a scripture lullaby CD, I heard an almost audible whisper:

If you never find the answers, will you still trust me? 

And through the tears, my whispered answer came, “Yes.” 

The challenge now is one of memory: remembering the peace that comes when I choose to rest in the sovereignty of God. Remembering and keeping before my consciousness moment-by-moment, that God knows her and loves her even more than I do. That He has not abandoned her. And challenging as this thought is, that He has good for her, for us. Even here, smack dab in the middle of this pain; this terrifying unknown.

What that good might be? I don’t know yet. But I’m on the hunt for it. I’m ravenous. I’m parched. And I need to taste that spring of water that never leaves you longing for more. Especially here in this desert season, as I feel myself walking towards this valley of shadows and death. Come near to me Lord Jesus.

I believe He will.

If you too are walking through a season of suffering, or uncertainty, or both; I’m so glad you are here. I hope to create a place here where we can Cultivate a Fruitful Life, and I know that paradoxically, God often does His best work in the soil of suffering. Will you let me kneel down in the dirt next to you? CLICK HERE to sign up.

Praying for you Dear Reader. I know you’ve been through a lot. I have too.

But together, let’s keep before us, the truth of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)

If you are planted in the soil of suffering like I am right now Dear Reader, then maybe, just maybe, God is in the middle of cultivating fruit.

Habits of Rest: Keeping Sabbath

Psalm 131 (A song of Ascents, of David)

“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;

My eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

Too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with its mother;

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD

From this time forth and forevermore.”

For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you know that recently I have been digging into a new habit; the habit of keeping Sabbath. Now I don’t do this in really any kind of formulaic or even strictly religious way, but God has been tugging at my heart about this topic for awhile now. And after reading the book Rhythms of Rest by Shelley Miller, I realized that resting on the Sabbath is a gift that God wants to give to me, even me in my busiest seasons with little people at home.


Let it Rest

A couple weeks ago my husband and I were blessed with a little time away as we look forward to the arrival of our third child sometime in the next few weeks. When we got to the house at Breck, all we could hear was quiet and bird song. At least, that’s what we noticed first since we are used to living in a house with two rambunctious young children.

The quiet brings with it this peacefulness, and I wanted to let that peacefulness seep into my bones. The breeze was blowing through the open eastern windows that first morning, keeping me cool as I sat at the dining table to write. For me, a 35 weeks pregnant lady in a Colorado July, this escape to the mountains was an escape from the heat of the lower altitudes as much as it was an escape from the busyness of our every-day life. As I wrote at my computer during the early morning freshness, all I could hear was the breeze in the trees, a hawk circling somewhere nearby, and the clack clack of my fingers on the keys. And being away, I didn’t anticipate any sounds other that that. It’s easy to let the silence invade in a place far away from the usual rhythm of everyday life with it’s typical responsibilities, but how do we let that silence invade during our normal week? How do we come to rest on Sabbath, when our every days lives are so full of constant needs and demands?

Plan for Rest (the practical) , 

As I have been sharing in mini-blogs and posts on my instagram, for me the practical aspects of Sabbath include preparations. How to rest on Sabbath includes, planning for rest. For us specifically, this looks like preparing food enough food on Friday that we can enjoy delicious things to eat on Sabbath without my having to cook. It means making sure I’ve run any errands that I need to run by Friday night, and planning to do any crazy house cleaning or projects on any day other than Saturday. It means I make sure I’ve taken out the trash and wiped the counters, and that I’ve washed the vast majority of the dishes before the sun sets and we use paper plates for the next 24 hours. We take our time drinking our coffee. We watch the goats graze. We read the Bible and extra stories to our kids and spend time asking them questions and listening with undivided attention. We take naps. We have a movie night. We eat a special dessert that I prepared on Friday. (Homemade Goat milk ice cream has been the favorite of late!) In short, though it looks different from week to week, we choose to spend this set apart day in “peaceful celebration”.

For you it could be similar, or totally different. You could celebrate on Saturday like us, or any other day of the week that works better for you. Maybe you eat out on Sabbath instead of cooking the day before. Maybe you stay home, or maybe you go on a hike or a family adventure. Maybe you spend time in your garden because that is life giving to you, or maybe you spend most of the day reading or in quiet reflection. Maybe you refrain from doing anything “extra” no matter how great the temptation is. It doesn’t really matter exactly what you do or don’t do, so long as you are choosing with intention what you will do or not do, as an act of worship, and for the sake of true rest.

Anticipate Rest (the spiritual) 

But even more important than these practical aspects to think through is the preparation of spirit we need in order to cultivate a truly meaningful Sabbath rhythm. I call this anticipating rest.

Anticipating a time of peacefulness of spirit; of rest, is part of preparing our hearts to receive what God wants to give us on Sabbath. Like the traditional setting of an extra seat at the Sabbath table, he asks us to come expectant, for him to show up. And he doesn’t show up empty handed.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We prepare our hearts for Sabbath when we allow the LORD to set our expectation. Does it seem too high to you? Does it seem like with your life, your circumstances, your job, your kids, your ministry, that he couldn’t have meant YOU when he promised rest? The word “all” is pretty inclusive though isn’t it? Maybe this is strong, but I think we have to work pretty hard to willfully misinterpret what he meant there… and yet, how many of us do that?

Pride and unbelief will try to steal the dearest, sweetest, promises of scripture away from you. The promise of rest is one among many that I think it has become so culturally easy to ignore. Perhaps we’ve let our God become too small. Perhaps we read that verse as a comforting intention for what he would like to give us, if only he were able. But of course, saying that out loud, it’s easy to see what an insane heresy that is.

The God of the Universe promises rest! The God who formed mountains and seas; who designed the expansive universe and also designed the smallest function of every cell in your body. The God who died on a cross for sinful man and them RAISED HIMSELF FROM THE DEAD… this God promises rest.

He doesn’t say, “Come over here and we’ll see what I can scrounge up to give you…” He isn’t sorting through his pockets for loose change. He is the God who makes promises, the God who keeps promises, because he alone is the all powerful deity with the ability to actually, perfectly, do both. 

He promises rest. He built the law of rest into his world on the 7th day after it’s birth (Genesis 2:1-3). He put commands for rest in the center of his very law (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). And when he came to earth to live among us, he lived and breathed Sabbath rest even in the rigors of his earthly ministry (Luke 5:16).

Do you believe me yet? Rest is and was God’s idea. And he longs for us to come to him anticipating it.

We can sit with him quietly, like in that passage from the Psalms, we can tell our soul to sit quietly like a weaned child on his mother’s lap. We can surrender to him and his kind intentions towards us. We can choose not to worry about the things that are too great and marvelous for us. We can lean in to trust the one who has nourished us and carried us thus far, who has promised to carry us still. We can anticipate that our needs will be met, just as they have been before. Like my son Boaz rests with me now that he is a little older, he lays his head on my shoulder and asks nothing more than to be held. And I will hold him, often, for as long as he’ll let me.


Dear Reader, if rest has long seemed too far out of reach, remember that the spirit of Sabbath exists even in the smallest moments when we quiet ourselves before the Lord. When you humble yourself. When you remember who he is, and who you are, and that that world will keep spinning with or without you. This next week, I hope you find some time, be it a whole day or even just an hour, to quiet your soul before him.  Do whatever it takes to set aside some time with intention. Prepare to Rest. Then come anticipating Rest. Keep your hands open. Remember his great love for you. Don’t let Satan lie to you any longer; no matter who you are or where you are at today, this invitation is for you.  


You can follow my journey towards rest and Sabbath at @gracieishomesteady, or with the hashtag #learninghowtosabbath if you’d like to see my weekly posts on this topic specifically. Please feel free to leave me a comment there, or here, or shoot me an email if this topic resonated with you and you’d like to learn more. I’d also love to hear how your time of rest went if you pursue it with intention this week.

May we Cultivate a Fruitful life, by God’s grace and for his glory.

P.S. Speaking of rest, as many of you know we are due with our sweet baby boy in a couple weeks at the time this blog will be posted. As I didn’t make it to my due date with either of my first two babies, I don’t expect to with this one either, so if you don’t hear from me for a hot second, then you know why! Stay tuned to my Instagram for baby updates, as I’ll likely post there first. I do have some bomb-digity guest posters scheduled to help me cover a few weeks in August, but wanted to let all you readers know ahead of time. Looking forward to this special time with my family, and to returning to you with even more stories of God’s sufficiency in providing rest by his grace, through the sleepless newborn days! 

Habits of Work: Are they working for you?

Habits that Work for You

Your day is full of working habits. From that first time you push snooze, to the time you get up, brush your teeth, and put on your clothes. To where you find your keys, wallet and phone just before heading out the door. As I spoke about in my last post, Let the Daily be Deliberate, these seemingly trivial and insignificant moments add up to so much of our lives. So my question for you today, Dear Reader, is are your habits working for you, or against you?

When your habits of work are working for you, they can turn the daily grind into a rhythm and a routine that brings with it the comfort of the expected and the normal. They can bring you to a dailiness that helps you feel as prepared as possible for what lies ahead. By contrast, when they are working against you, you will feel habitually behind and unprepared for what your day holds, always scrambling to keep on pace with the demands placed upon you by your actual work, whatever that may be.

Morning Habits, that make our Routines

Let’s zero in for a moment on those pesky morning routine habits. The Lazy Genius, Kendra Hennessy, has an entire podcast episode where she talks about the power of a morning routine and how everyone has one, even if that routine means having no routine. (Click here to listen.) If that is your daily life, then that is your routine. This is where you can think back to my previous blog where I talked about how habits are basically just pre-made decisions; some of which we have fallen into because we haven’t been intentional in those decisions.

I know we all come from different personality types, from hyper structured/organized Type-A person, to the super creative/spontaneous left brained person; but allow me to argue that a little routine is good for everyone. If you are the less structured type, but find yourself constantly waking up in a sweat, with no time for breakfast, rushing around to find your phone and your keys…allow me to submit to you that you are starting your day in a sweat of anxiety that will likely bleed into the rest of your activities whether you think it will or not.

And to the Type A person who is tempted to write this whole “live intentionally by creating fruitful habits” thing off because you already have a structured schedule, let me ask you this: When was the last time you really thought about the habits you are making and keeping, and whether or not they are yielding the fruit that you want to be cultivating in your life? You could be super organized, with a routine for everything, and still not be cultivating fruitful habits. Your life might look like a very clean trap of legalism and safety.  Dear Reader, whichever camp you think you find yourself in, I urge you to examine this! Your life may be full of untapped potential that could be awoken by something as simple as starting to make your bed every morning.

My husband, who is not at all a morning person, has finally found the value of giving himself enough time in the morning to get his cup of coffee, a decent breakfast, and a little quiet time with the Lord.  His work is extremely demanding and often exhausting, not to mention we have two (almost three!) small children at home. But for him, this morning routine before heading into the office, though hard to start at first, is now far worth the price of getting out of bed when his alarm goes off. We have realized that this is especially significant for him because he is an introvert, who works a demanding job and also has little kids and an extroverted wife to attend to whenever he gets home. Until this change, he basically got NO ALONE TIME EVER. It’s been really cool to see how even just a little time alone in the mornings is serving him better, and helping him to perform better in all the various roles that he is asked to fill throughout the day.

Habits of Homemaking

I’ve always been a morning person, so getting up with the sun in the summer isn’t much of a change for me. But when the Lord began to demolish my perfectionism 5 years ago, and I needed a new motivation to clean, habits of homemaking became the first life giving habits that my family and I benefited from.

Good home keeping habits have not only allowed me to spend less time working in my home, but they have also freed me up to spend less mental energy even thinking about what needs cleaning. This all adds up to more time enjoying the family that is sheltered by the walls of my home, even if those walls do occasionally contain a rogue smudge of peanut butter.

Some people enjoy the routine of having one day a week set aside for cleaning, for others (like me) I know that with little people constantly needing things from me, that one day puts way too much on my plate. So for me, a cleaning routine looks like having certain tasks that I do on certain days of the week (usually). This gives me the freedom to not stress about when the bathrooms are getting cleaned, because I know I cleaned them last Wednesday, and I’m going to clean them again on Wednesday. I see hand prints on the windows and I know that I can leave it until Thursday, which frees me up to just live in the middle of the everyday messy with my little people, instead of constantly fretting over mess. I give myself two days for our regular laundry, and one separate day to wash linens. I do this because I know that some weeks there is going to be more than others, and almost every week I end up leaving at least one load in the dryer for a day longer than I should, or I end up leaving clean clothes folded in the basket at the end of the day instead of getting them put away.  This is just part of knowing yourself and what is realistic for your life, as well as what actually works for you. The key is to be flexible. If I have something going on, like a sick child, that doesn’t allow me to get to a certain task the day I normally would, I have “buffer days” that give me the needed time to catch up and at least hit the high spots on the things I missed. This keeps my routine from being stifling and legalistic, and instead keeps it doing what routines and habits should be doing best; working for me not against me. Not scheduling something to clean every single day of the week gives me the freedom I need to rearrange when my life requires it.

The practical application of these ideas will always differ person to person, from capacities, to stage of life, to work schedule, to personality type. If you are in a season of life where one day of cleaning makes more sense, by all means GO FOR IT. The important thing is to realize that your routines and habits can either be working for you or against you, and that it is up to you to set your intention and create the habits that will best serve the life style of your family, as well as their physical needs.

Get Started

You can’t makeover all your life’s habits in one day. Say it aloud with me. YOU CAN’T MAKEOVER ALL YOUR LIFE’S HABITS IN ONE DAY. And that’s OK.

But you can make one new fruitful habit today. That’s why I created this short worksheet, 5 Steps to Cultivating One (new) Fruitful Habit.  It’s not super fancy or complicated, but if you are hankering to try making a new habit today, why don’t you give it a look and see where it takes you. Maybe you start with your morning routine, or maybe it’s your evening routine. Maybe you reevaluate the way you are cleaning (or not cleaning) your house right now and add one step that makes things just a little bit better. Maybe you examine the way you structure meal planning (or don’t). Let it be an area of high impact for you. Click here to start making little changes today! 

Dear Reader, I pray you aren’t too daunted as you think about your habits of work and whether or not they are working for you. My prayer is that instead you would see that even some of the most seemingly insignificant changes can make a world of a difference for you, for your family, for your life.

And if you have something to share, or a question to ask, please reach out! You can find me on Instagram @gracieishomesteady, shoot me an email at gracekelleywrites@gmail.com or just leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

May we realize that we have more potential for growth and change than we every thought possible, and may this spur us on to love and good deeds by the grace of God, for the glory of God.

 

Let the Daily be Deliberate

Sometimes as a stay-at-home Mama, it feels like I’m drowning in the daily. Like the little tasks I do again, and again and again may smother me inside their static ordinariness. The littleness of the days can threaten to swallow you in insignificance. If you’re staring into the washer this morning, wondering whether the clothes are clean or dirty, if like me you’ve been fluffing the same load in the dryer for three consecutive days,  then you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you feel stuck in a lifeless career that doesn’t exactly make you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Maybe some days you feel like little more than a button pusher, doing the same mindless task over and over again. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe you work really hard to achieve and come up with creative solutions in your work, but no one ever seems to notice. That’s when the temptation to quit speaks up the loudest; “quit and then they’ll notice you! They’ll notice all the work you have done just by the fact that it’s all NOT getting done right now!”

Whichever deadening dailiness you may find yourself in, can I let you in on a little secret? Every moment of your life matters.

Just think about that for one hot second. Every moment of your life matters. That means every mundane chore, every thought that you have while walking down the hall at work, every casual word or casual glance, every little, seemingly insignificant, choice that you make matters.

And because we are creatures of habit, even if we don’t think we are, so many of these choices are in some way “pre-made”. Sometimes the pre-making of the decision happens by default, as in, we decide we can’t decide and so we do nothing. Others of them are made with intention. And still there are others that probably fall somewhere in between. When you boil it all down to this it may feel overwhelming. But I’m not asking you to think about and analyze every choice and non-choice  you make right now; I’m just asking you to be aware of the fact that you have made/are making these choices.

So what’s the big deal? Well, since our lives are built of these moments, these choices, these habits; that means that if we want to Cultivate a Fruitful Life we need to start by cultivating the building blocks of a fruitful life. The good and the bad news is that we need to start small, by cultivating fruitful habits. By letting the daily, be deliberate. 

Realizing that the choices we make and don’t make every day are not only meaningful, but important and crucially significant, may seem overwhelming. Don’t let it. This is our opportunity. We get to cultivate a little more fruitfulness in our lives every day, and sometimes all it takes is breaking or making one small habit. (If you haven’t read it yet don’t miss my last post “Break this Habit First.“)

Don’t be afraid to start small. As my garden teaches me; seeds hold in them the unimaginable potential for amazing fruit. Jesus isn’t intimidated by our small beginnings. 

Letting the daily be deliberate can feel like putting a whole lot of pressure on a situation, but don’t let it. Look around you today. What choices are you making in habit? What choices do you wish it was easier to change? What do you wish you had more time for? What do you want to do less of? How does your attitude change and shift throughout the day? Are there ways that you need to change your perspective in order to cultivate a more fruitful outlook?

We’re going to get into all this friends; because I care about you. Because God has taught me so much about the power of habits of work, and habits of rest. Because I no longer believe that fruitfulness is about what I can manufacture, but about what God does in and through me as I obey his commands to be faithful with what I have been given. I can’t wait to share with you.

If you are interested, I’d love to hear from you about the daily habits you currently have and whether or not you feel like they are leading to fruit in your life. Where do you find yourself struggling most in the daily? Where do you think you are succeeding by God’s grace? I’d love to hear from you!

As always, thank you for reading and thank you for sharing.

Praying for you, that God would use my words here in this space to help you cultivate a little more fruitfulness, by God’s grace and for His glory.