What is being lost

I haven’t left my house in three weeks. Except for the occasional stroll through the neighborhood, my boundaries have been from the front sidewalk where I shoveled a foot of snow last week, to the the back fence where the chokecherry bushes are getting ready to bloom.

I am moving in small circles lately. From the table, to the dishwasher. From the front door, to the mail box. I rarely need a shoe other than these well worn slippers and the old leather boots I use when I’m gardening.

We are all carving new paths right now—out of many of our illusion of control, of invincibility. They say these are the lost days, but where we find ourselves is historic even as it is painfully mundane.

I find myself asking; is this the desert? Or the land by the stream? I find myself asking; what is being lost?

My human perceptions are no good at telling. How seldom do I actually know what I need for the health of my soul. I feel parched, but perhaps that is because all my false wells are being tarred over. I find myself scraping at the ground in fear, in scarcity, but if would only lift my chin and look up a few inches I would see that that I am mere feet from the clearest, most delicious stream.

Will I stop digging and take a drink?

So much can feel like it is being taken away right now; but what if all that I am losing are the false places from which I pretended to be self-sufficient? My dirty wells are being tarred over.

What if after this pandemic, the words “Jesus help me!” came more easily to your lips in a moment of frustration with a child; in a moment of overwhelm at the kitchen sink.

What if after this pandemic we emerged from our homes a people who believe again in prayers answered by a good God who sees us?

What if we began to see the ways he is intimately pursuing us each and every day in the small things like the kindness of a neighbor, or the startling appearance of a mountain bluebird on the mail box?

God knows the turnings of our hearts. He knows what we most need, even when it clashes with what we most want. Sometimes this fact scares me, but at this exact moment, it brings me the peace that it ought.

When I just want out of here; out of this house, these walls, this sphere that feels too narrow; the days that feel endlessly long, and the evenings full of the fears of the future—God knows that what I most need is not deliverance from my present circumstances: what I most need is the intimate knowledge of his presence and provision in the midst of my present circumstances.

He will bring us out of this place when the time comes; but we will not be left unchanged. Perhaps we will leave our dirty wells tarred over after all this, and only drink from the fountain of living water—the river that God himself provides in the desert.

{Featured Image c/o Annie Spratt on Unsplash.}

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.

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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.

——————————————————————————————————————–

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!]

Scatter those seeds

Sometimes the pain of it all feels like a heavy weight. Like cotton in your brain. Like you can’t see or hear. Or breathe.

Sorrows weigh us down; they make us limp. When I was nine, I twisted my ankle after doing a roundoff of a balance beam in gymnastics class. I had to wrap it, ice it, keep it elevated. Rest.

But oftentimes it feels harder to give ourselves the emotional grace, when sorrows and hardship leave us wounded, like we have a twisted ankle, or worse. Some days my heart feels so bruised I wonder if it’s actually internal bleeding.

So today, here is your permission to not do it all. You don’t have to be productive. The to-do list can fall by the way side. The dishes can stack up in the sink. The laundry can fluff for the fourth day in a row and you can have sandwiches for lunch and dinner both.

It’s okay. It’s really okay.

Today the sun shines brilliant in the sky, but the hearts of many I love are grieving deeply. There is no bandaid to fix any of it. There seems to be only the endless ocean of pain. How do we handle it when our prayers aren’t answered the way we hope they will be? When the 11th hour rescue doesn’t come…how do you hold on to hope?

Maybe this is where we’ve been led of course all this time. Maybe it was wrong to think of hope as this pitiful small thing; this waning attempt at positivity. The truth is that hope is a battle; and today, yes today, you must fight.

Fight hard. Because if you are in Christ, then this too shall pass. And it is well with your soul. And even death cannot separate forever. We have more to live for and more to hope for than this earthly place; these lives we live in the shadowlands. We have eternity stretching out before us; and as one of my wonderful pastors said while we studied through the book of Job two years ago; “heaven is not a consolation prize.”

Heaven is not a consolation prize. I repeated it to myself just this morning. It’s not a dumb trinket you get at the bottom of a happy meal; heaven is the all. It is everything we are longing for.

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our GOD; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'”

(Isaiah 25:6-9)

Someday—someday soon—we will be dancing and singing and eating with our Savior King who himself went through unimaginable suffering on our behalf.

Thank you Jesus, this is not how our stories end. This is anything but the end. Dearest Reader, if you find yourself today in a place of deep grief or sorrow, I pray that these words comfort you. And that they remind you that it’s okay to know in your heart what God has done, what He is doing, and then just rest. It’s okay to just be. On days that begin with terrible grief, it’s more thank okay to just sit and be still, and let God hold you.

He is making all things new; even when it looks like everything around you is falling to pieces. I know it. I’ve seen it. I hope today, you can dare with me, to believe that it’s true.

That’s why, after too many months of hype, God knew that today was finally the day for Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering to be released into the world. If you need someone to kneel in the dirt of your present circumstances with you, I’d be honored to be that person. Just click here to sign up and get you’ll get the link to download my free ebook delivered directly to your inbox. It’s in a PDF format so you can either read it on your phone, your computer or print it off at home.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering.

Today, on a day that felt abysmally dreary, I left the dishes and the laundry and the floor unswept; and I went out and planted seeds. Because the Bible teaches that what is sown in dishonor will be raised in new life; and though planting seeds is my least favorite part of the gardening process for just this reason, that I struggle to believe, God knows. And today this is exactly what I need.

[Photo by Constellate on Unsplash]

The Gift of Presence

Ann Voskamp once shared on her blog about what it means to minister to those who have suffered so deeply, that is seems like there is nothing you could possibly say or do. She spoke about listening to the stories—about making eye contact—and then she used the phrase that has become a part of my own vocabulary: being a witness

So often when we see those that are suffering deeply our first response is to try and fix it. We want to make it all better, to make the pain go away. But these attempts are often not only futile, but damaging to the one who suffers. Like giving a makeover to someone with a bullet wound.

You would think that being one who has suffered, I would always make the right choice in this department, but I don’t. I am a controller by nature; a fierce and loyal protector. My first instinct is to make the pain just go away. My second is to go “mama bear” on whoever has hurt one of my precious ones. And if the thing is something you can’t actually punch with fists, like cancer for instance, then if I’m not careful my perceived helplessness can turn to apathy. As you may imagine, neither of these first instincts is particularly helpful.

But when I remember what it meant for someone to hold space for me: to be a witness to the way I was suffering and had suffered, to look me in the eyes and say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Then I come back to the power that is present in my presence alone: I get to be a witness.

As someone who walks often through seasons of suffering with others, this can be a dark task at times. But I don’t believe in a God who cannot take the darkest night and turn it into brightest day; so even as I stare into the black of present difficult circumstances, I imagine what God may do. Not to try and predict the future, or control it in any way, but, as Emily P. Freeman says, “to cast a hopeful vision for the future.”

With tears in my eyes, and my hands in yours, Dear Reader, I stand on tip toe and whisper words of hope: what might God do? How might he begin to redeem every broken piece of your shattered heart?

I am the little girl hiding in her closet, wondering what it would be like to be a “normal” child; wondering if God will keep his promise to work all for my good.  I am the little girl who at seven years old already felt like “damaged goods,” though I couldn’t have put it into words. I am the little girl who was hurt not only by the abusive actions of one, but by the silence and apathy of many, many, others.

Sometimes the wounds feel too deep for words.

I have been the one holding the box of tissues for the heartbroken wife. I have been the one sitting across from a friend discovering piece by piece, an abuse that so damaged her life that her mind tried to erase it. I have been the one in a hospital room, hearing the words, “it’s as we suspected. She has leukemia.” And how in the world do we go on living in a place where babies get cancer?

Sometimes all you can do is sit with a person. To hold their gaze. To not be embarrassed by their grief, but to enter in with them. To hold your friend in your arms and tell them that you love them. And though you don’t know what the future will hold, or if you should ever make any kind of comforts based on your assumptions of the future (I.E. “she’ll be fine,” “he’ll come back,” “that probably won’t happen”), you do know who is holding you both. The Lord of hosts. Who doesn’t promise us a pain free life, but does promise us always and forever, His Holy Spirit presence with us. 

I find it terrifying sometimes, the places God asks me to go, both personally and with others. But one phrase continually comes to mind, like a mantra and a command: Stare into the black, and refuse to be afraid.

I’m not sure where it came from, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. I don’t find myself all that bold or particularly daring. I’ve got fear riding like a tiny hitchhiker in my back pocket. Insecurities like radio static in my ears. My hands shake on these keys sometimes, and I am far from adequate for the task.

But God. How wonderful that He does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called. It’s humbling. I pray it may always be so.

For you, dear Reader; I stare into the black and refuse to be afraid. Because you are suffering, either personally or through choosing to enter into the hurt of someone you love, and it’s painful, and you need to know there is hope. You are not alone. While you mourn the loss of normal. While you suffer in the presence of pain, both that belonging to you and that which you bear with others. While you grieve the very existence of death, and sin and suffering; I stand with you. I weep with you. I groan with you and with all creation for that day when all will be made new. Wrong will be made right. Every tear will be wiped away from our eyes…oh how I long for that day.

Until then, I stand as a witness. I refuse to remain indifferent or apathetic, and instead choose to practice the with-ness of Jesus, trusting that it will be enough. I practice the presence of God with me, and with us, and I practice also giving the gift of my own presence. It is my greatest honor and privilege to hold space for you here in this corner of the internet. So come as you are. With all your broken pieces. With the darkness you feel that surrounds you. You are not alone. You have never walked alone.

Now I leave you with the words of the Apostle Peter. May these words point you to a hope greater than the worst thing that life could ever throw at you

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more previous 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 1:3-7 ESV)