How Grief leads the way to Deeper Peace and Greater Clarity

“When the old way is dying, we can cling to normal or we can let sorrow lead our search for something better. This is the summer of imagination… Today I pray that instead of grasping for what you used to have, you let your empty hands clasp in prayer. Optimistic clutching for normalcy only can give you temporary relief, but you were made for more than the normal you had. Only grief can grow your imagination for the goodness of the kingdom you belong to.”

—K.J. Ramsey

I’ve been to two funerals in the past month. The first was a memorial for my Grandmother who passed away in March, the week that everything in our state shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The second was for my Grandaddy who passed away at the beginning of August, and because of slightly fewer restrictions, we were able to have a small, mask-wearing-service at his home church in Fuquay-Varina North Carolina.

Aside from the season of fear and anxieties and generally vague grief that this pandemic has brought us through, some of you, like me, are also experiencing the sharp grief that comes with deep loss. Loss of a loved one. Loss of a job. Loss of money you had been saving in a 401k—we are all grappling with so much, but some of us more than others.

But it’s in this season that I am remembering and re-learning, that allowing ourselves to grieve over these losses, makes way for more peace. The kind of peace that is independent of circumstances, but that is rooted in something realer than what our eyes can see. The kind of peace that allows us to see our lives with greater clarity and imagination, showing us that our hunger for rightness in not foolish, but a good hunger that will lead us to our greatest satisfaction.

God’s Kingdom is here, and it is also coming. Every broken thing will be restored. The dead in Christ are only the seeds waiting for the proper time to grow into a new and fuller life. Our King is here; and He is coming.

The tension of the already-and-the-not-yet can be a difficult place to live. In the months following my Grandmother’s passing, before her memorial service, I found myself trapped in a grief I didn’t feel like I was allowing myself to process. The pandemic pushed pause on so many things, and I found myself being forced to grieve in different ways. In May my Grandfather gave me a box of my Grandmother’s hair things; brushes, clips, hair ties, combs—because he didn’t want to just throw it away—and I found myself staring at the grey hairs in the hairbrush she had probably been using for 20 years or more, wondering: Is this all I have left?

The question haunted me right into the grief I had been avoiding. I penned an angry poem or two, and that’s when it began to happen. Quite by accident, or quite by the Holy Spirit, my eyes began to clear and I saw what I had been missing. In my attempts to push aside my grief I had said things to myself like, “She lived a good life. She was ready. She’s with Jesus now,” all of which are TRUE and GOOD things to say and believe. But I was using them like a tourniquet and not a bandage. I was circumventing the grief, trying to cut it off at the source, by saying things that I knew to be true, but didn’t really feel or believe in my heart.

The reality is that death is always an unwanted and greedy hand at the table. My loss is great. My mother’s loss is greater. The grief I felt at waking up the morning that I heard the news, knowing I would never see my Grandmother again in this life, was crushing. And why wouldn’t it be? When I finally penned the angry poems and let out all my feelings of pent up rage and frustration, it was then that the clarity came. Crashing against the cold hard reality of death, I broke through into the realer-reality; her glorious eternal life. Grief was the path that brought me there.

Two funerals in a row is a lot, but it has given me time to practice. After my Grandmother’s memorial, I felt the peace that comes with a little bit of closure, and many tears shed with loved ones who also loved the one we lost. When I visited my Grandaddy for the last time a week later, I knew that though sorrow would come with the night, joy would come in the morning. The memory of the peace that would come through grief was recent enough for me to have not forgotten everything I learned for once; and for that I am so very thankful.

Dearest Readers; I know the burdens you carry are heavy. There are so many of you walking around with griefs much heavier even than the loss of a Grandparent or other loved one. The anxiety threatens to crush you some days. The little sorrows pile up and feel heavier than a wheelbarrow full of lead. The weight of uncertainty in this season, and whatever season will come after, adds its weight too.

But I want you to know; there is peace on the other side of this thing you are grieving, when you grieve it in the presence of God. Circumventing your grief with platitudes and comforting phrases (even when those phrases are TRUE), is not the way forward to a lasting peace and a clarity which sees the Kingdom of God at work even in our most deeply devastated and broken places.

This is your written invitation: Let yourself grieve. It’s okay. You are not alone. Your losses are not insignificant, nor do they go unnoticed by our heavenly Father. He is not looking down on you. He is not waiting for you to be stronger. He knows your frame; that you are dust, and He cares for you as His beloved child. The way to the joy of the morning is the sorrow of the night. The grief that needs to come, the tears that must be shed to wash your eyes clean so that you may rightly see what you cannot see right now.

The day my Grandaddy died, I told my husband I needed the beauty of the lake. We packed a picnic dinner and went out kayaking and paddle boarding at sunset. But I got sunscreen in my eyes and they kept stinging my whole way across the lake. I kept wiping them with the corner of my shirt until finally a wave of grief hit me and I began to cry. Later I realized that it was the tears that cleared my eyes from the sunscreen that had been stinging and clouding my vision.

May it be the same for you.

Go in peace friends. The way isn’t easy, but it’s the way we’ve been given—and it is good.

*If you need someone to pray for you, leave a comment below. You can tell us what you need prayer for, or keep it between you and God, the choice is yours. And if you feel led to pray for someone, would you reply to their comment and let them know that you are lifting them up? Grief is done best in the body of believers.*

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

On Smallness and being out of control

This morning I was walking and talking with God, as I’ve come to do these days. I have been terrible at praying and abiding lately, and getting up early enough to drink my coffee on a fifteen minute walk has been a recent sanity saver for me.

But this morning I was tired; I have been so soul weary of late. I didn’t have much to say. So I asked God to keep up his end of the conversation. And this is what He said.

Look up! Look around! Do you see all of this? I made all these things. That bush and that grass. That tree and that flower. That moon, and that mist hanging over the stream. Look up! Look around! Do you see it?

He spoke joyfully; His voice exultant in my ears. And I know that my smallness before Him is my comfort; it’s a comfort I can always come back to, no matter how grand and lofty I am tempted to think I am becoming.

Yes. Yes I see it. Quiet me in my smallness, O Lord.

It was Emily P. Freeman who first inspired this thought in me, that smallness is a gift. That we can be small like the child; held by the One who loves us, who will never let us go.

It easy to see the beauty of this when I look at my baby boy, finally asleep in his crib. His newly emerging teeth have been keeping him up at night of late, but I can’t stop thinking about how sweet it is that now he holds onto my neck, and squeezes me tight. At the same time, it’s beautiful to think that just because he wasn’t holding on to me before, doesn’t mean he wasn’t held.

I held him and grew him for nine months in my womb, and then the day he emerged, I held him in my arms like the gift that he is and thanked God. THANK YOU GOD.

Did he know he was held? Could he understand? Or is it only now that he can crawl to the back of my legs, fussing along the way, pulling himself up by fists full of fabric and looking at me with those furrowed brows. I need you. Hold me. But I am always holding him. And I have held onto him long before he even knew it was me that he wanted.

Isn’t God the same way?

Holding us always, whether we acknowledge him or not. Carrying us where we need to go, meeting our daily needs like a Father—and a Mother—both.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.”

Isaiah 49:15

My lack of abiding has nothing to do with my actual state of being held by God. My refusal to acknowledge who is actually in control, does not change who is in charge. The only thing that changes is my peace, as I tune into the underlying sustaining presence of the One who can ultimately meet each and every one of my needs, and has the sovereign ability to truly do so.

He holds me. He nurtures me. He hears my cry, and carries me. Sometimes I like where we are headed; and sometimes I am screaming from the top of my lungs because I don’t understand. But as a Mother I know what He is longing for; He longs for me to wrap my tiny arms around His neck. To hold on to Him, even as He is holding on to me. Because that sign right there; that shows us both that we belong together. That we always have, and we always will.

Being a grown-up is overrated. Being “big” is overrated. To the child, perhaps being a grown-up looks like the closest thing to being like God—to that control that we all inherently crave. But then come the taxes and the bills and the clock-in-and-out job, and our clothes only agree to keep fitting us properly if we give up on that whole ice cream for breakfast idea. Our desperate grasps for control are so often fruitless and tempt us to despair. In short, being a grown-up almost always feels like a let down.

Now for the good news: for those of us who are in Christ, we can, and should be the child. Always and forever, we can revel in our smallness, in our lack of control. We don’t have to be afraid. Because we worship a God who was holding onto us with His mighty and sovereign hand long before we even knew to try and wrestle that control away from him.

Whatever your current season, Dear Reader, I ask you to remember this today: that the God of all grace has been holding onto you longer than you can imagine, and He will never let you go. Yet, in our faith, we have the privilege of wrapping our arms around His strong neck, and the comfort we receive there is not in our perceived control of situations and circumstances. No. The comfort we receive as we bury our faces in His neck, is the child’s comfort of knowing that he is held, and abiding in the loving plan of the one holding him.


Are you walking through a season of hardship or suffering? If so, I made this for you. CLICK HERE to get your FREE DOWNLOAD Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering.

This free resource is fueled by my desire to see lives changed by the hope that comes through faith in the God of the Bible. Nothing is too broken for Him; though the damage may be irreparable, it is not irredeemable. My prayer is that the stories, scriptures, and questions in this resource help you to see that for yourself in the midst of your own story and journey.

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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Waiting in the Wilderness

Four years ago, April 2015, we were in the final stretch of our time living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After a long year lived far away from our families, which neither my husband nor I had ever done up until that point, it was almost time to pull the boxes we had saved from our move a year ago out of the detached garage of our apartment. To say I was excited was an understatement. I was counting down the literal days to the day when I could “reasonably” start packing for our trip home. In my defense, I think I was probably nesting just as much as I was preparing to head home. I had dreamed and planned my second baby in Wisconsin, but my plans included him being born in Colorado.

It had been a bit of a wilderness season for us out there, beautiful as it was and as many new friends and new adventures as we were privileged to enjoy on those strange shores of lake Michigan. In May of 2014, Willy drove a truck loaded to the gills with all our worldly possessions, and I, who had made my own parents grandparents only eight months before, said goodbye to them at the curbside of the airport, and held my own tiny daughter in my arms on a one-way flight to a place I’d never been.

Wisconsin was a season of waiting in the wilderness. We had been told right from the outset that the assignment would last a year, and though we felt this to be a blessing in so many aspects, it also felt like a curse. It would be hard to choose to get attached to people and to a place that we would certainly be leaving. And in turn, I found that people were hesitant to get attached to me in turn. That waiting place, like most waiting places, was extraordinarily lonely.

May 2015 my husband’s work informed us that they needed us to extended our time in Milwaukee by a month. And though 30 days was far from long in that grand scheme of our time there, that extra month that I had to wait to start packing felt like an eternity.

But there was one fear I held onto while I filled those boxes and taped and labeled them for our longed for journey home. What if they don’t recognize me?

I was 30 weeks pregnant with our second child when we finally made our journey home. I remember the heat of our new rental house on that July day; the stale air of a house that had been sitting empty, to me smelled like the sweet aroma of a longing fulfilled. But it wasn’t the growth of my belly that made me fear the lack of recognition by my family and friends; it was something much deeper than that. I was different now.

The wilderness had changed me.

Recently, we were talking with our small group about waiting on the Lord. We talked about seasons of waiting, what was hard about them, and what they produced in us. One of my good friends mentioned how seasons of waiting, are often seasons of being stripped down to the bare essentials. God whittles away our idols in seasons of waiting, in seasons of wilderness. In those times more than any others, it becomes easy to see what things we are truly waiting for—what we are truly hoping in.

That year was a stretching time. That summer, removed from every support system, like scaffolding, we wondered if we could stand on our own two feet. Now, when I look back on that time, though I still feel the ache of that deep loneliness I experienced there, I also see roots of strong relationship between my husband and I. When the last piece of scaffolding fell, and the last apron string was cut, we held on to each other, and to the God who had brought us to the wilderness for a reason.

As a people pleaser in a season with very few people to please, God revealed to me that my longing to be useful and needed, had the potential underbelly of inflating my ego. My longing for connection, though good, revealed my unbelief in the sufficiency of God and His presence with me in all circumstances. It was there that I battled idols of entertainment, which made my hollow life feel less lonely, but which were steadily whittling away the time which God had purposes and intentions for, if only for a year.

My definition of a full life changed dramatically that year. When we had once had friends for dinner almost every night of the week, for months there was nothing. By the end of our time there, I was overjoyed to have one playdate every other week, and I deeply enjoyed the one night a week when we were privileged to host our neighbor for dinner.

Our waiting changed us. That time created in us a pure desire to not only be apart of community, but to help create it. That time cemented us in our marriage in ways that would not have happened otherwise. That time revealed to me the idols in my heart that desperately needed to be dethroned. And it was there again, and the desk in my living room, that I finally began writing again. The Lord began to stir passions in my heart, many of which I couldn’t yet name.

All this and so much more. And I wouldn’t trade that wilderness for anything; not because it was easy, but because it was just another step on my journey to becoming the woman that God has always planned for me to be. I’ve seen glimpses of her in a window pane sometimes, just a sideways glance, nothing more. She’s beautiful and fearless. She loves fiercely with bold affection. She speaks words of truth and is always ready to hold out a hand in forgiveness and in grace. She knows that her life is not her own, and she’s okay with that. She trusts in the sufficiency of Jesus in the midst of all circumstances, and she helps others do the same.

I want to be her. I want that more than anything.

And if the wilderness has helped me get there? Then I thank God for the wilderness.

Spring is coming

I had a dream last night that my daughter was making paper mache at church. Her hands and face were covered with the sticky white glue/water/flour mixture. For a Mom of a child with severe gluten sensitivity, this was an actual nightmare.

It’s been seven weeks since her last flare up. It’s been a long hard season, but it feels like maybe we are getting towards the end of it…? I’m always afraid to say that. Like maybe I’ll be jinxing it somehow. Maybe I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

But part of me is almost ready to dare to hope. To hope that maybe this season of intense hardship is ending. Maybe we have done a better job keeping her safe. Maybe we are finally figuring some things out. Maybe there isn’t another shoe hanging above our heads, but just the same shoe at our feet: that she has severe issues with gluten. And maybe it’s celiac and maybe it’s not.

We were told by the pediatric gastroenterologist that we will not be able to get a celiac diagnosis, even if we did a scope, because she has been on the gluten free diet for so long already. 

“Even though she’s still been having flare ups?” I said.

“You could make a case for it,” she said, “but I don’t think it would show up definitively, no.”

She said the only way to get a celiac diagnosis would be to feed her gluten for six weeks straight and then do a scope. 

You can probably guess what my answer to that was. 

Heck NO.

I am not so obsessed with answers that I will purposely hurt my child to get them. 

I am not so obsessed with control that I will break the well earned trust that she has built into me, that what I cook for her, to the best of my knowledge and ability, will not make her sick.

I do not need answers that badly. 

It helps that she’s doing better. Right now, that feels like answer enough. 

She still has tummy aches from time to time, a few every week. I try to keep on top of her enzyme as best I can. I make sure to follow rigorous hand washing when we go anywhere and I wipe down a table before she sits there.

I don’t take her down the aisles with bulk bins and I warn her not to touch the open baskets of bread at the grocery store. I don’t take her to Willy’s hockey games anymore; that was the tragic scene that we are fairly certain caused her last flare up. Gold fish cracker crumbs littered the bleachers, and who knows what other specks that could not be seen. It was probably just a few too many small exposures in one day.

No matter how we covered her hands with her sleeves, I laid out a blanket for her to sit on, she washed hands repeatedly during and after our time there as well as changed her clothes the moment we got home. I thought I had thought of everything. But then next day when she woke up sick, I remembered the dog licking her face. I hadn’t accounted for that. Most dog food contains gluten of course, and I would never let a person who just ate a slice of bread lick her face.

So we try to be careful of that now too. 

It could be easy to start feeling sorry for myself, but when I think back to that season of intense suffering that has only appeared to end a few weeks ago, I remember to give thanks for the little girl with the strength to be sassy to me about how “unfair” it is that she can’t eat/touch/do XYZ. 

It’s understandable she’s upset. But the fact that she calls it unfair and doesn’t automatically shy from that thing in fear, just goes to show how the Lord is healing and protecting her little psyche as well as her body. She is forgetting how bad it all is, and I am okay with that.

Maybe that’s what this in-between season is all about. Learning to be okay. Learning to live with the unresolved. The lack of answers. The lack of certainty about whether or not what we are doing is working, or if it’s something else all together. Time may reveal some of these. But either way; God is with us in the middle places just as he was with us in the darkest nights.

My youngest child has always been a good sleeper, but these past few weeks he’s taken to waking multiple times at night again like he did when he was a newborn. I could bemoan this fact, or I could thank God that he’s doing this now and not while I was dealing with a daughter in flare up in the middle of the night.

A friend has needed temporary childcare help with her sweet 2 year old daughter, and though adding a fourth kid, five and under, does make some things (like a trip to the grocery store) a little more interesting, it’s also just so amazing to me that God has orchestrated this timing. If this had happened a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to help.

Another friend’s daughter has been in the hospital for the past four weeks; they just finally moved her out of the ICU. And the thought in my mind and heart is that I’m so glad I can offer my help in some small way. Watching your daughter suffer is no easy task, I know it in new ways now that I hope help me to be a compassionate companion.

And you Dear Reader, I am working hard for you; like I’ve never worked before. If you would like to be one of the first to receive my (almost finished) FREE DOWNLOAD: Scattered: A seven day journey to planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering, just click here to sign up, and as soon as it’s finished I’ll deliver it to your inbox.

In Colorado we are transitioning—from winter to spring. And it comes slowly here, where we often still get snow even through the month of May. But the crocuses are opening in the morning light. The tulips and the daffodils are emerging from the front beds that I neglected to clear of leaves last fall. The chorus of birdsong now greets me and my morning cup of coffee. And the clearest sign; the delicious light that lingers over me as I prepare supper in the evenings.

Though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of winter’s chill, this time does feel like a change in the air. Like the spring that we hoped for might be just around the corner, after all.

It’s almost time to plant some seeds.

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.

Better Gifts

“Do you want me to be happy?” She demanded.

We were out on a girls shopping run, and I had allowed my daughter to pick a couple things from the dollar section; a unicorn page with heart gel stickers, and a stack of unicorn note cards.

But it wasn’t enough. Each and every thing she saw she wanted for some reason or other. Her reason for wanting the thing? “But I LOVE __________, and I don’t have any ___________ yet!”

I kept saying no. Calmly, by God’s grace, to her innumerable requests. But she was getting angry now.

“YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO ME!” She insisted.

“I’m listening,” I told her, “but my answer is no.”

And that’s when the real question came out:

“Do you want me to be happy?” she demanded.

I replied, “happiness does not come from getting everything you want. Happiness comes from learning to be content.” If you are a parent maybe you are quick to nod along; this is sound teaching. Contentment is a better and more important gift than allowing her to have everything she wants and sees.

Now imagine that you are the child. And God is the loving parent.

How many of us have accused God of not hearing us? When we don’t get our asked for request? How many of us have hated Him for his apparent indifference? How many of us have demanded with fists shaking towards the sky, “DON’T YOU CARE! DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY!?!?”

This metaphor is often used to apply to a child that is asking for something dangerous. Like, “Well of course you wouldn’t give the child matches…”

But what about when the request doesn’t seem obviously dangerous or evil in any way? What about when the request is for something good? Like a glitter unicorn candle making kit? Like answers and a path forward for a sick child?

I would like to propose something: that God also says ‘No’ to good things. Even as He longs for us to pour out our hearts and desires to Him, He often answers those prayers with a ‘No.’ And this is still His kindness to us.

“…which one of you, if his son asks him from bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:9-10 ESV
God knows how to give us good gifts; and sometimes when He is saying ‘No’ that is just another way that He is giving us a better gift.

He is giving us better gifts. The gift of trusting Him in the middle of the unknown. The gift of His tangible presence in the midst of horrible pain. The gift of Hope in the darkest places; the Hope that He is God and He is Good and all will be made into Splendor and Glory in the day of Christ.

Every tear will be wiped away, one day. And now, as we rage against the wrongness of it all; the wrongness of war and slavery. Of illness and death; God cups our chin in His mighty hands and says, “I see you. I am with you. Look at me.”

I wish He would tell us right off the bat what good could possible come from the wreckage of our present suffering; from the suffering of those around me whom I love. But I think if he did, I’d be short circuiting part of the miracle.

Instead, He reminds me of where I’ve been. What hells He has already led me through. And He paints a hopeful vision, that is as beautiful as it is undefined. It’s the wrapping on the better gift that I have yet to understand or open.

Photo c/o Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Six months ago, during one of her tummy flare ups, my daughter asked me if God forgets things.

“No sweetie, no, God doesn’t forget things. Why do you ask?”

“Because we prayed for Him to help my tummy, but my tummy is still hurting… I thought maybe…maybe He forgot.”

“No baby. He hasn’t forgotten you. Sometimes, God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to. And do you know what that means?”

“What?” She sniffed, wiped a tear from her cheek.

“That just means that He has something else in mind for us right now.”

And as the tears threatened in my own eyes, I knew it was true. And laying next to her on the couch that day, I painted for her a picture: a picture of a God so powerful that not only could He prevent bad things from happening (which of course He could) but that He can take even bad things, and turn them into good things. A God of incredible, beautiful, miraculous, Redemption. That is the God we worship. That is the God that is worthy of my life-long praise; and all of my praise for joyful eternity after.

He has something else in mind for us right now. As the answers refuse to come. As we are left instead with more questions. Because in the midst we know that God is for us, and He is good. Even if.

Perhaps this faith that He is growing in us is the better gift. Or perhaps it is something even more glorious than I can currently fathom.

It’s probably the latter.

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.