What the skin of my belly knows

As I look down at my ever expanding belly—at the marks which stretch across my skin like red lightning bolts, joining with the other silver marks from earlier growing seasons with other children—I can’t help but think about how love is always expanding us. 

I think when I was younger, I was afraid that if I loved with all my heart any one person, there wouldn’t be anything left. There wouldn’t be any of me left to give. And of course there is wisdom in knowing limits and setting boundaries; but this does not apply to those I have been given to tend, to love, to grow. 

It changes based on the season. Before I had kids, I was a young married college student with a Mother’s heart—and God told me I didn’t have to wait to be a mom to nurture and nourish those in my life. 

So I began inviting people for dinner, and cups of peppermint tea. I carried Ibuprofen in my backpack in case my headache prone friend from Pilates class forgot hers at home. I began seeing people more clearly—because the truest heart of a Mother is one who sees and understands the child better than anyone else. She is first and foremost a student of those for whom she is given to care. 

***

Yesterday my daughter was out of sorts. She had been short with her brother’s all of breakfast, she was getting annoyed about the tangles in her hair and was convinced that she didn’t have anything to wear. (She’s 7.) And in a moment of wisdom that I wish was more common than rare, I asked her to sit by me and tell me what was really bothering her. I boiled the water and made her a cup of black cherry tea, and I tried to listen to the heart in front of me instead of only seeing the irritating struggle and unpleasant behavior. 

It turns out, she was under the weight of grief. For some reason that morning she was worrying about the day she would someday move out and leave home. She was telling me that she didn’t want to leave me, that she was afraid to go out into the world on her own. I told her, I thought that when the time came she would be more than ready, but that I would never make her go. 

“You can live with me as long as you want,” I said. “You can go to college from home, you can live here into your twenties when you have a job—you can stay as long as you want. It’s not my job to kick you out—as your Mom, my job is to let you go when you are ready.” And there were tears in my eyes of course as I told my highly independent daughter that the day she moves out will probably be one of the hardest days of my life. This seemed to comfort her, as a love strong enough to break a heart always does. 

As I find myself thinking more and more about the Mother Love of God lately, I think about moments like these. Moments of wisdom and tenderness; the reassurance that comes from being heard and your heart held. I think about how God has already been preparing me to do the hard work of letting go. 

My mother’s heart attaches easily to those it cares for. My college-pre-kid days are no different than now. The people I let into my deepest heart’s circle, the place I reserve for those for whom I truly and deeply care, have had to leave me often. Be it a job change across country, a drifting apart that neither of us can seem to control, or perhaps a more painful rift that has broken between us—I sometimes feel like a woman who has lost too much. It makes me want to close down. To shut the door. To stop letting the love and the loss pour in and out like the tide.

But I’m learning that whatever the season, perhaps it is my job to love without constraints, no matter the pain. To dish the soup and pour the tea. To cut the sandwiches in triangle halves and pick out any less than perfect grapes—and still be the one standing on the porch waving with a smile, and tears in my eyes saying, “Come back anytime. You can come back anytime.” 

***

These loves don’t make me less me. These losses hurt, but they don’t take away from who I am. Because true love expands. Love grows us and stretches us beyond what we could hold before. And yes it leaves us scarred—but not in the way you think. It leaves us larger as we remember that we too are the child being fed and held; the soul God loves and listens to with patience and attention. We are the ones coming and going, our Father & Mother God on the front porch waving with a smile and tears in his eyes saying, “Come back anytime. You can come back anytime.”  

The skin of my belly knows, there is power in a love that is strong enough to break you—like flashes of lighting cutting through gathering clouds in the hot and humid summer sky. 

Photo c/o Arteida MjESHTRI on Unsplash

All we have left

I stared down at the plastic box on the dryer. It looked almost just as she had left her. Hair clips neatly arranged in a plastic tray, lotions neatly arranged, brushes with missing bristles still full of her shining white hairs.

“I figured I’d at least let you look at it. I didn’t want to just throw it all into the trash,” my grandpa had said an hour before, pointing me to the box where he had set it upon his arrival at our home for a Mother’s Day barbecue.

It was my own Mother’s first Mother’s day without her Mom. She died at the beginning of the Coronavirus panic-inducing-pandemic, and we weren’t able to have her funeral for months afterwards. The lack of closure was as tangible and palpable as the white hairs left in her hairbrush; as the thought that this box of things was only here sitting on my dryer because she didn’t need them anymore.

Is this all I have left? I thought to myself after everyone had gone. Staring down at the hearts on the metal clip she used to pull her hair back into a half-up-do ever since I was a little girl.

And though I was glad to have her clips, the bath and body works lotion that always was her favorite and reminds me of her—these things are far from an inheritance. They are only the small and ordinary remains of a life lived with beauty.

I wonder if the disciples felt the same way. After they had laid his broken body in the grave where they thought he would stay. Which one of them took it upon themselves to open up his traveling pack? Did they find his extra tunic, the comb for his beard, his fishing lures and knife? Must this not have seemed a far cry from the inheritance he had promised to them?

Did they wonder as I do, in moments of doubt: is this all we have left?

I threw away all of the lotions but one. I kept most of the clips. The brush with the most bristles now runs through my short red hair each morning, and my strands of DNA lie alongside the strands of my grandmothers—some of the only earthly evidence left of a life well lived.

It’s too easy to believe that this is it. Her body burned down to ashes mere hours after I received the news in the pre-dawn of a March morning. Sometimes I think I hear her warbling voice singing the old hymns she loved so much. I see her weathered hands holding open the precious pages of her Bible in her lap, her neck bent so she could see, her chin in her hand, pinkie finger extended to her bottom lip in contemplation—the same gesture I catch myself doing at times.

Getting older was no piece of cake for her. She lived in chronic pain for many, many of that late years of her life. When the pain and the meds made it hard for her to have her daily study time with the Lord she told me once, “I just know that God is teaching me something I’ve never learned before.”

The God of the resurrection will have no trouble bringing her back from the ashes that were once her body—they are only the seeds. And be they scattered on a mountainside here in her Colorado home, or in the wood of Washington that she loved so much, it doesn’t much matter.

I can almost feel her long arms hugging me around the shoulders. Her lips puckered to kiss whichever part of my face was closest. Her voice saying words that were always the honest truth: “I LOVE you.”

Like a blessing. Like a benediction. Like Jesus’ words to his Disciples;

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me…Truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow with turn to joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

John 16:16-22 ESV

Sometimes what we have left feels like nothing near enough—where was that joy for the morning again, I often ask?

But this is only my shallow perception—my finite mind cannot grasp the weightyness of the glory that is unfolding all around me even now. Nor can I ever hope to fully imagine the glory that is to come.

This isn’t all I have left. There is so much more.

Even so—Come Again LORD Jesus.

Be blessed this Good Friday friends, and as you sit in the grief of the Savior and your own personal griefs that I know weigh heavily still on your own shoulders—may you remember that whatever your “this” is; THIS ISN’T IT.

It’s Friday. But Sunday is coming.

For the days it’s hard to breathe—

Sometimes the heaviness 
	here 
makes it hard 
to breathe. 

When my lungs 
are burning
for breath
I close my eyes
& think about 
the wedding feast.

The long table, 
laid with fine linens &
fruits of glorious labor—

beloved faces of those
I have wept with,
rejoiced with,
& grieved—
all shining 
like the glassen
sea’s surface
in summer. 

I hear the wind
blowing fragrance
through the trees
in the orchard.
Joy overwhelms 
me & I know 
	he’s coming. 


I lift my eyes
to meet his own &
when he smiles,
I feel it to the soles
of my bare feet
where they plant
themselves in 
warm grass,
like a tree
who knows
where she’s
growing.


He laughs 
easy as breathing &
like the sudden break
of dawn over mountaintops
I breathe in 
the reality that
this sound could fill
every crack,
every lack
every longing 
of my whole life. 


I open my eyes,
shining with unshed tears
& my heart breaks 
to find myself
	 here
again.


But the burdens
feel lighter 
with his laughter 
to buoy me. 



To the God of Hagar

 
 To the God 
 of Hagar—
 God of wandering 
 people 
 in wilderness
 places—


 We know
 that you see—
 but we are having a hard time
 believing 
 what we are seeing
 and seeing it—
 still believing
 that you see.
 
 
 God who has seen 
 all violence done 
 upon the earth—
 who sees the mothers
 and fathers fleeing—
 their babies in their arms
 only to arrive at safer shores 
 that do not want them. 


 God who has seen
 every innocence stolen
 by the hands of wicked men
 some who claim
 your name
 while inflicting 
 unspeakable pain. 
 

 God who has seen
 every victim silenced 
 by lies and deceit 
 and the idolatry 
 of the comfort 
of lies so much
 easier to swallow
 than the bitter 
 draught of truth. 
 

 God who has seen
 every genocide,
 every leader drunk
 on power and prejudice,
 who values not 
 what you called holy
 —the imago dei— 
 of all of human kind. 
 

 God who has seen
 the ruthless grip of 
 natural disasters 
 tearing houses
 and lands 
 and peoples 
 apart.
  

 God who has seen
 the ravages of every kind
 of sickness and disease;
 we know this is not the first 
 pandemic you have seen. 
 

 God who himself
 has felt the sting 
 of sickness that leads
 to death—
 the tears of grief
 for your beloved,
 Lazarus in the tomb
 and for the moment
 out of reach. 
 

 These times are not 
 “unprecedented”
 to you. But
 we are still
 afraid. 
 

 We need 
 to know—
 do you see us
 here?


 Do you see
 every lonely heart
 turned lonelier 
 by pandemic 
 isolation?
 

 I had days 
 where I was scared
 to make contact— 
 to smile, to wave 
 even to those 
 a street away.
 The distance 
 has felt more
 than social.


 But God,
 these are 
 small things
 I know.
 

 What about
 the family members 
 saying goodbye
 with nothing but 
 a lousy internet connection
 connecting them
 to a parent
 a child
 a loved one—
 dying in the ICU?
  

 Do you see
 how the fingertips
 ache to be squeezed?
 to be held 
 one last
 earthly time?
 

 Do you see 
 the fear 
 in our eyes—
 that we 
 (or one we love)
 could be next
 to die alone? 
 

 Or what about the cries 
 for justice God? 
 You’ve been hearing 
 some version of the these 
 for millenia—
 the oppressor always 
 has his boot pressed
 against the neck 
 of someone unable 
 to fight back. 
 

 Some of us 
 are just now beginning 
 to understand this is 
 not the promised land.
 

 This is the valley of shadows.
 

 I’ve known it 
 since I was seven. 
 And despite
 all you’ve done 
 to heal and redeem—
 some days 
 all I can say is:
 “I hate it here.”
 

 Like Hagar
 running 
 through the night
 her heart beat 
 slamming
 her short breaths
 burning
 her shaking lungs. 


 forced into service
 forced into her master’s bed
 forced to carry the burden
 of the patriarch’s lack of faith
 and her mistresses’ abuse—
 she fled.
 

 But where 
 could she go?
 

 Where can we find shelter
 in a world that seems
 to be tearing always 
 at some new seam 
 we didn’t know
 was there?
 

 Do
 you
 see 
 her 
 God? 
 

 See the tears
 track down her 
 dirty cheeks?
 See her face, pale
 with fears her heart
 cannot hold?
 What more 
 can she take 
 God? 


 (What I mean to say is
 what more 
 can we take?)


 Is there a spring 
 after all?
 A spring rising up 
 in this wilderness—
 water bubbling
 like the sound of joy
 from the ground?
 

 Would you speak
 as you once did
 to Hagar—
 to ask us 
 where have you been
 and where are you going? 


 Will you give 
 to the wounded,
 outcast,
 abandoned,
 lonely,
 bleeding heart—
 promise of a blessing?
 

 Can we name our sons
 Ishmael—knowing 
 you have heard
 our affliction?
 Knowing you have 
 your eye upon us
 even still? 
 

 The chickadees
 in the barren lilac
 out my window
 always have enough
 to eat—
 will you feed us
 even here Jesus? 
 

 Will it taste
 like bread
 and water
 to know 
       you
       see
       us 
       still? 

Photo by Tess on Unsplash

What could ruin the coming of Christ

This is a repost of something I wrote last Christmas. Last December was the hardest month yet with our daughter and her health; but the gems of truth I learned during that time have carried me through the various sorrows I am carrying into Christmas this year too. I hope this blesses you to read again as I know it blessed me.


There is so much to anticipate about Christmas. The time with family and friends. The presents under the tree. The vacation days. The special feasts that invite us to remember the incarnation with songs sung by candlelight. 

But with every anticipated event comes a certain amount of anxiety; for all of us. To get the shopping done on time. To prepare the food for the guests. To teach our children the meaning behind the celebration, and so much more. The anxieties include the small griefs associated with the plans foiled, the cookies we never baked, the gingerbread houses that were accidentally left in the garage, the advent calendar we didn’t remember to start until halfway through the month.

But sometimes these anxieties run deeper. Sometimes they are the deep fears that are the product of deep griefs. Sometimes the current of suffering and grief drive us through the holiday season at a pace that feels unnatural. It can be hard to sing a Christmas song when it seems like everything around us is wrong. 

Fear and anxiety should not be invited to take a seat at our tables during this joyful time of year, but yet sometimes it seems like they’ve pulled out the seat of honor and made themselves quite at home, always without our consent, and often without our immediate knowledge.

If you are worried about this Christmas, that something might ruin it. That the holiday stress will drag you down. That the traffic will make you angry. That the checkout lines at the shopping mall will frustrate you. Or that your family will be angry with you because you have to work…Fear not.

If you are worried that the grief over a loved one missing around the table will swallow you whole. If you are fearful that the constant suffering that plagues your everyday life might spoil Christmas. If you are alone this year and don’t know who you’ll celebrate with. If your spouse is in prison. If a loved one has cancer. If the budget is too tight for gifts for your kids this year. Fear not.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret; nothing can ruin Christ’s coming. Not then. Not now. Not ever. 

Jesus’ birth occurs in the context of a census taken by the Roman empire. The Jews were being taxed by an oppressive regime, who wanted to count and see just how many of them there were as if counting assets, not people.  He was born in a humble town, after a long on-foot road trip. A town so crowded that no one had room even for a very pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth. He was born in a stable, surrounded by the dirt and the hay and the feces of animals. Delivered by his teenage mother in the usual turmoil of the usual way. Caught by a man whom he would grow to call Father, though he himself had biologically nothing to do with him. Unless of course you considered that is was Jesus’ very breath of life that made Joseph’s own chest rise and fall. 

If I wanted to tell a story of a birth plan spoiled, I don’t have to look any farther than the birth of my own Savior. I wonder what Mary thought, in the midst of intensity of labor. I wonder if she held fast to the faith that all this was as God had planned it, or if she doubted, even for a moment, the way the Lord chose for this Savior to come. Did she wonder if his birth was being profaned by the dung and the dust in that moment? Or did she know with certainty that everything was exactly as it should be.

In the fullness of time, he came. Nothing could stop him. Nothing could ruin it. Every strange, painful, and difficult circumstance along Mary and Joseph’s way, only confirmed the prophecies that had already been spoken of Messiah. All of it was by God’s grace, for his glory. 

The maiden girl, the stall, the manger, was exactly the way he had to come.  It was apart of who he was as “Immanuel”, God with us

He was born to breathe that filthy air. Born to feel the pain of a scraped knee. Born to feel the sting of a harshly spoken word. Born to feel the wrongness of people’s anger towards him. Born to submit to the authority of human parents, though He alone was the ultimate authority in all the Universe. All of this before he even would begin his more official “ministry” among us.  And not one iota of those experiences could ruin his coming, because of course; that was why he came. He was born to feel in the flesh, the effects of the curse as far as it was found, even as he came to ultimately break the curse once and for all, forever.  

Nothing could ruin the miracle of his coming. No corrupt governments, no inns full to bursting, no filthy stalls. 

He came for the social outcasts, as well as those who were held in high esteem. The shepherds, who abandoned their flocks for a chance to touch his sleeping face, were just as welcome as the three kings bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

We were going to go cut our own tree this year. We’d been planning it for weeks. We thought we’d take some friends with us. We’d warm up with cocoa after. It would be the snowy family adventure we’d been longing for since the hot hot months of summer. 

Then Friday night came with another auto-immune flare up in our little girl. We were up all night holding her, consoling her. Praying for her. Singing over her. Holding back her hair and wiping the tears from her cheeks. And when the new mercy light of Saturday morning finally came, I knew there was no way we were going to go cut our own tree. 

So we traded off taking naps and watching the kids. We ate leftovers. We cancelled our plans. And when four o’clock came around, I made my husband a thermos of coffee and sent he and our middle son out in the snow to find the perfect tree from a local tree lot. 

Ellie woke up to find them gone, and though she knew we would have been cutting our own tree if not for her flare up of illness, she took it as a kindness that the boys were out finding the perfect one just for us. Just to cheer us up. 

In the fullness of time; even if our timing seems off for everything, God is always on time. Nothing is by accident. All is for our good and his glory. That baby in the manger didn’t come because he wanted to be apart of some idyllic winter solstice celebration—he came because we are broken, and he wants to heal us. 

If you feel broken down and beat up by life right now: Christmas is for you. If you feel weighed down by the burdens of past hurts laid upon you by others: Christmas is for you.  If you are afraid of the emotional, or physical pain that you are experiencing and very well may continue to experience all throughout the Christmas season, Christmas is for you.

If you are tired of muddling through life in your own strength. If you have nothing left when the dawn finds you, then take heart! Christmas is for YOU. 


The holiness of this Holy Night of the Incarnation mirrors the holiness for which God has set us apart: the holiness is not clean and tidy like the stained glass images of the birth of Christ, but in the midst of the mess and the mud and the blood, it is set apart. And if you believe in Christ Jesus, then you are set apart, by God’s grace and for his glory. And nothing can take that away from you.

Glory. That’s what makes the more obviously sacred and the seemingly profane aspects of our lives  the same in the economy of God. Because God redeems profane people with profane pasts into the sacred work of his coming Kingdom. And the redemptive power of Jesus more than defeats the pervasive power of sin and shame. 

Nothing can ruin the coming of Christ.  Not then, not now, not ever.

Not the oppression of governments. Not abuse. Not job loss or relationship loss. Not homelessness. Not the diagnosis. Not school shootings. Not the death of a loved one. Neither height nor depth, neither angels nor demons, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else can separate us from the love of God, made incarnate, in  Christ Jesus our Lord. (Paraphrase from Romans 8:38) 

Fear not. No matter what trials your Christmas holds, the best gift of Christmas is always and already yours to hold; the very presence of God with you in the midst of whatever you are going through. 

You are not alone. If there’s anything I can be praying for you for this Christmas, please leave a comment below, or click reply to one of my emails if you are a subscriber. I’d love to hear from you; and I’d love to pray for you.

Gracie

{Photos shown in post, in order they appear  c/o Francois Pistorius, Dan Kiefer, Davidsonluna on Unsplash} 

This post is dedicated to my three youngest siblings, and all the survivors of the Arapahoe High School shooting on December 13, 2013. 6 years ago I didn’t know what to say. Now, I do. 

Out of the rock

Provision can come from the strangest places. Or maybe strange isn’t the right word: maybe more like, “unexpected.”

When you are walking through the desert; through a wilderness season, and you look around for water and there isn’t any to be found, it can be so life sapping. When there isn’t any water in sight, how can we hope for the refreshment our souls need? It feels pointless at best, and at worst, foolish.

We are searching for the thing: for the what of what we need to survive. But the more important thing to search for is the Who. The Who that provides for our needs. This idea keeps coming back around: that it’s not about the what, it’s about the who.

The Who that holds together every molecule of our being, the Who that ordains the location of every grain of sand in this desert; that Who can bring water out of the rock if He so desires. There is nothing too hard for Him.

To us; unexpected or strange. To Him; as natural as breathing. As natural as a mother, whose child tugs at her skirt saying, “Mama, I’m thirsty.” As natural as pulling a cup out of the cabinet and as simple as leaning over the kitchen sink and turning on the tap. As mundane as screwing on the lid with the child’s favorite straw in place.

It’s as easy at that. This water from the rock. It’s as natural and normal and spectacularly beautiful as a mother giving water to her thirsty child.

Yet, I so often hesitate to even ask. And when I don’t ask, how could I receive?

It’s pride mostly—and fear: they combine in me to form the deadly sin of self-sufficiency. Pride because I don’t want to need God to bring the water from the rock; I want to find it myself. Fear because, what if He doesn’t bring water from the rock, and I look foolish on top of everything else? What if I ask and I DON’T receive? Or what if His provision doesn’t look the way I want it to?

The truth is that it rarely does. The Israelites were led in hope to the edge of a promised land they would not enter for an additional generation, because though the Lord had brought them this far, they couldn’t imagine how He could possibly help them overtake the fearsome inhabitants currently living in the promised land. (Deuteronomy 1:19-46)

I am so like the Israelites more often than I’d like to admit. Oh how small is my belief! I so easily forget that the God who has brought me this far, will surely see me home.

“The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.”

Deuteronomy 1:30-32 ESV

I am no better than they. I too have forgotten the way He has carried me through desert seasons past; the way He has provided so unfailingly for me in the midst of difficultly, loss, and pain. I have forgotten the miracles by which I have come this far. And even when I go astray, even when the path before me does a 360, whether as a result of my own disobedience or just the fallenness of the world, my God, He will lead me still.

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty hears int he wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.”

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 ESV

Dear Reader, wherever you find yourself today, I hope you remember to look up and around. Open your eyes to the way God has carried you and led you up until now; and seeing His faithfulness, believe again that He is carrying you still.

If you need a little reminder of how to walk through the hard things of life with the hope that comes from remembering what God has brought you through, then I made this for you. It’s a short little PDF e-book called Scattered: Seven Days to Hope in the midst of Hardship. And for a limited time, it’s yours, absolutely free. Just click the link and subscribe to receive the link to the download today.

*PLEASE NOTE being a WordPress subscriber will not allow you to download this file because I am not permitted to email WordPress subscribers. So if you have been following me here for awhile, and haven’t ever received an email from me (other than a WordPress update) you may want to check and see if you are actually subscribed! I’d love to get this goodness into your hands.*

Trusting God with your broken heart

I had had enough. The straw had finally broken the camels back. I sat slumped in my chair staring into space—my heart shattered in a thousand pieces by so many burdens and so many pains. Deep regrets fought their way to the surface in the form of tears that couldn’t stop falling. What was the point?

I thought I had heard God right. I thought I had been trusting Him. I thought that the way I was headed was the way He was leading me; then why all of a sudden did I end up in this place? I felt shattered into a thousand pieces; depression slinking around the corners of my heart and a numb apathy coming to dull my mind. What now? How could I possibly move forward in the midst of all this?

I called my Dad.

“Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure honey, what is it?”

“I’m just…I’m just so brokenhearted.”

As I poured out my heart and concerns a thread began to emerge; one that I didn’t see coming. Was I bearing these burdens alone? Was I entrusting them to God’s care? I thought that I had been—but now that everything had gone horribly awry I was ready to claim fault for it all. I was ready to act like everything that had gone wrong in this current situation was a direct result of some neglect on my part. I was acting like I was God.

Slowly the realization dawned on me. Once again, in slow and insidious ways my pride had crept in and made me believe that for better or worse, I was responsible. No wonder the weight was too much to bear.

We got off the phone and I knew immediately what I had to do. I needed a sign, a way to represent what I was choosing now. These concerns were too far above me. I am not God. And I needed to roll these cares into His hands and allow Him to do what only He could do.

I got down a basket and labeled it: GOD’S JOB.

I cut up strips of paper, and wrote on them each of the burdens. Each of the cares that had been weighing me down for so long. All the griefs and wounds I had carried, were being lifted one by one as I scribbled, folded and placed each paper in the basket.

Some cares were easier to let go of than others. Some I could only drop into that basket by a slow uncurling of my fist. Then at last, I thought I had reached the end; but there was this nudging in my heart to write one last paper.

I grabbed the strip and the pen and scrawled the final care:

Heal my broken heart.

With tears streaming down my face I dropped that final paper in the basket, and put the basket high and out of reach on a shelf. A visual reminder that these things are way above my pay grade.

I cannot cure the cancer. I cannot mend the fractured relationship. I cannot raise the dead. I cannot be the friend I wish I could be all the time. I cannot be in more than one place at a time. I cannot turn back time. I cannot stop people I love from making destructive choices. I cannot predict the future. I cannot heal my own broken heart, let alone anyone else’s.

These things are God’s job. He is qualified and capable. He is able to do what He says He will do. He never tires of listening to our requests and granting us mercy for the day. No care is too small or two large to toss upon His great and gracious shoulders.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the might hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

(1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

I invite you, Dear Reader, to cast your cares upon Jesus today. He knows what is weighing you down. He does not applaud your self-sufficiency. Rather, like a child whose parent delights to help him, the Lord delights to help you bear what you were never meant to. Pride is the root of your desire for self-sufficiency, which might be hard to hear, but is actually really great news—because it means that repentance is the path to peace.

My prayer for you Dear Reader, is that you would entrust yourself, and your broken heart, to our good and gracious God today. And if you need a friendly hand to hold, click here to subscribe to receive a five day email series entitled, “Dear Brokenhearted: Letters to the lonely and the hurting.”

Whatever cares you have to add to your basket today, from my broken heart to yours Dear Reader, I pray you always remember that wherever you go, you never go alone.

He is Good!

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

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

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

“No sweetie. He never forgets anything.”

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

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

“What?” she asks, tears in her voice.

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


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

You are good God.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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.

CLICK HERE to Download my FREE EBOOK: Scattered: seven days to hope in the midst of hardship.

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