April 14th, 2018
they’re always leading me.
And their dusty trails, covered in leaves, may try but just can’t hide the truth,
someone’s been this way before.
So I walk, unsure of where I’m headed,
but convinced I’m going in the right direction.
On a good day,
I have a plan.
Point A to Point B.
Purpose lines up with passion and suddenly every step is significant.
As Goldilocks once said after journeying through the woods,
these days feel “just right.”
Other days, I wake up wondering how I’ve even made my way to this tree-lined trail.
Point A feels far away and Point B seems completely unreachable,
so I find myself wandering aimlessly.
These paths try to trick me.
My direction changes more often than my mind
as leaves whip in the wind and dust blows high in the sky.
What once seemed like a clear trek through the woods becomes a vague and uncertain stumbling over roots and twigs.
Personally, I’ll take a “just right” day any time.
But then again, wouldn’t you?
Don’t we all long for an easy road?
A journey made smooth for our oh-so-tired feet.
I still have so much to learn, but I’ve learned a little in my 52 years of hiking through life.
I’ve learned God never promised an easy journey.
And He definitely never promised lots of company along the way.
He actually called His road narrow and straight.
And warned of a way to end up exactly where we never want to be.
Don’t give in to worry or anger;
it only leads to trouble.
How often do I do this?
I give in to worry.
I bow down to anger.
I find it so easy to fret.
And holding a grudge……well that’s just as easy as holding someone’s hand.
I’ve learned I don’t have to be an experienced traveler to carry things like worry and anger around in my backpack.
And I’ve also learned they take you nowhere fast.
Nowhere, that is, except to heartache and pain.
A destination I never want to reach.
So, I look a little closer up the road ahead of me.
The path seems to be talking.
Calling me to focus.
As I look,
I see her.
Just around the bend.
Waiting patiently to be found.
Wisdom is there.
She’s whispering (as all wise voices do),
“This path is rough……….but it’s the right one.”
Wisdom knows because she saw it too –
This pain-filled path went right past Calvary.
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
Wisdom, keep leading me.
I’m listening even when it’s hard to hear.
All your paths are peace.
That’s what I want.
I don’t want easy.
I want you.
So worry and anger,
you’re not invited on this journey.
I’d rather travel alone than have your company.
March 26th, 2018
I won’t deny it.
There’s beauty in every winter snow……
even when it falls in spring.
The calendar can’t control its arrival any more than we can.
And with world-hushing power,
it has a way of uniting all creation under its blanket.
Snowflakes slowly pile high, creating magical scenes,
but at the very same time,
they add extra weight to every tree and every bush forced to catch them as they float from the sky.
Bearing this unexpected burden seems to be second nature to our backyard this year
as winter drags on and on.
And this winter has been so very long.
Do the branches ever get weary?
Does the grass ever feel tired?
Do the bushes ever feel bitter?
Surely they do……………
at least a little.
When I stand close to any part of God’s creation that resembles the way I can so easily feel,
I want to believe it somehow “gets me.”
I want to think it somehow senses my presence and feels just a little better too……
and a little less alone.
Because aren’t shared burdens a little easier to bear?
If I’m honest,
I’m a snow-covered bush many days.
Grief is my blanket.
Pressing down on every part of me,
reminding me of what I’ve lost,
it has the power to overwhelm my soul.
“I don’t know how you do it,”
I whisper to the bush and then I wait.
I hope it has a good answer,
because I’ve heard these words so many times and still struggle to find a good reply.
I want to believe the bush, who’s endured so many snows through the years,
has figured it out.
But I think it understands the very thing I’ve slowly learned.
These words make no sense.
A winter storm, like the loss of my two children, was never listed as “optional” on the bush’s application for life.
There was no Plan B for the evergreen as the snow fell
and there was no Plan B for me when my children were snatched from this world.
The bush holds the snow as I hold grief,
not because it’s able to but because it has no choice.
Grief is my snow.
It’s heavier at some times than others,
and I don’t always see it coming.
When it catches me off guard,
I do my very best to keep my branches from snapping under its weight.
And sometimes that’s all I can accomplish in a day.
It snowed today.
Heavy, wet flakes.
Piling up quite unexpectedly.
My heart felt the layers as they began to accumulate.
Each snowflake a faint memory,
a photograph etched in my heart,
God is good………..all the time.
So the sermon went………….and so the saying goes.
But sometimes, when the snow piles high,
those words hurt.
I felt their punch.
And I wasn’t wearing gloves to protect myself from their blow.
When there’s a 100% chance of snow,
I think the bushes must somehow know……
and brace for it.
I’ve got to learn to brace myself too,
because grief is part of my story,
100% of the time.
And maybe that’s the bush’s reply to the comment,
“I don’t know how you do it.”
Maybe it’s simply,
“I don’t do it. Hope does.”
And like the bush,
the very thing that braces me for unexpected waves of grief is with me all the time…………..
I just can’t see it.
Hope, much like spring, is the invisible force,
holding me up.
Keeping me strong.
Bearing the weight of all the things that feel way too heavy.
Quietly reminding me that winter has no power.
It holds up my branches
no matter how heavy the snow.
And for that I’m forever thankful.
If, like me, you live daily under the weight of grief,
I’m praying Hope is your brace too.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
February 22nd, 2018
Long nights with little sleep.
It’s hard to even remember all the things that used to be part of my motherhood story.
Like the voices of my children floating through the house,
the memories of things that once completely wore me out are slowly fading away.
I’m not sure if these memories seem foggy because they feel so distant,
or if they’ve just been buried under all the new things motherhood has brought my way.
I try to get up early.
Spend time with God before I walk out the door.
Read my Bible.
Plow through the Old Testament stories of God trying desperately to lead His people to a better land.
Drink hot tea.
And all the while,
my mind wanders……
just like the Israelites in the desert.
Are my kids okay?
Are they happy?
Do they know how much I love them?
Are they searching too?
Do they want to know Him more than they did yesterday?
Did I do enough to make that pursuit attractive?
For me, the hardest part of motherhood is definitely this newest chapter.
Trusting God to fill in all the gaps,
cover all the wounds,
be the feathers I used to be.
And as I think those words,
He’s had enough.
He pries my hands away from all I’m clinging to and very gently says,
“I’ve always been their feathers.”
I look up.
Toward the wall in front of me.
childhood artwork drawn by little hands.
Chapters of life I thought I controlled.
Who did I think I was?
I stumbled then just as I stumble now.
I may have been carrying my kids,
but God was carrying me.
And does that mean He was carrying them too?
Why do I fret?
Why do I allow so much of my mind to become consumed with their journeys,
their relationships with God………………….
when I often struggle with my very own??
Motherhood never ends –
But neither does God’s pursuit of me
or my children……………..
After all, they were His long before He loaned them to me.
And He uses everything to keep them close or draw them back,
the hard times and the easy,
whatever it takes to pull them closer to Him.
as I head toward a day filled with my own kind of work,
I’ve got to allow God to do His.
Maybe confessing my struggle to the world will somehow completely release my heart and mind from all that’s been weighing them down.
Help me, Lord.
I am one of yours.
and my children are too.
You love them each more than I ever could.
What more do I really need to know today?
You’re always working for good.
Draw my children near to You.
Cover them with your feathers.
As you always have.
And let me fly………………….freely trusting You to meet their every need.
I love you so much, Lord.
Thank you for pulling me back to you,
time and time again.
for the first time in a long time,
I feel a little better.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
February 21st, 2018
Friendship became more than a word as Luke and Olivia’s wedding approached.
About love, when it is time to say it, may you say it.
When it is time to show it, may you show it.
When it is time to prove it, may you prove it.
When it is time to sacrifice, may you sacrifice.
When it is time to create indelible memories, may you do so.
February 15th, 2018
Round and round, thoughts spin in my head.
How does our world have the capacity to hold so much good……………
and yet have room for so much evil?
Yesterday, evil pushed its way into our country…….once again
and tried to take over.
It forcefully took what was never meant for it to have
and left our nation staring at screens,
Evil never makes sense.
We can ask a hundred questions.
We can ask them all day long;
but even if we come up with as many answers as to why……….
evil leaves us empty.
Evil only wins, though, if it turns us into anything less than good.
Because the only way to overcome evil is with the very thing it hates.
Love sees beyond the face of the one who carries hurt into a school and isn’t afraid to ask,
“What is really going on here?”
Our nation has a problem,
and it’s bigger than “who is holding what” or “how they acquired it.”
It’s bigger than any laws or the lack of them.
Evil is a heart issue.
And no amount of law passing can change a heart.
We can pretend evil is humanly fixable…….
because fixing things is what we all want to do.
Some things are just too broken for human hands.
And this world is one of those things.
We need more than a manmade
or whatever-you-want-to-call-it today………
And maybe that’s part of the problem.
We’re so caught up in word usage these days that we’re missing the eyes of the very children we’re trying to teach to read them.
We are a broken world and a confusing one.
Today, the media and our government have no problem sending out “prayers” to the hurting,
but tomorrow they may very well call into question anyone trying to pray within a school building.
No wonder our children often feel lost.
We teach them to want God when they need Him
but to push Him away when they think they don’t.
We’ve got to change this mixed message
unless we think the next generation can survive by bouncing back and forth between faith and self-sufficiency.
There are so many things I want my granddaughter and every other child to know,
but today I want them to know that no matter how evil the world seems…………….
good is still here.
If they’ll only look up.
He is the answer.
He is the way.
Every single day.
He is the Healer of all that is broken.
And there’s no law that can take away, change, or override that truth.
Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts,
would know that they do want, and want acutely,
something that cannot be had in this world.
There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you,
but they never quite keep their promise.
January 31st, 2018
Moses encountered God in a burning bush.
He watched God perform miracle after miracle in Egypt.
He saw the Red Sea parted and witnessed manna falling from Heaven.
He climbed Mt. Sinai and chiseled God’s laws into stone as God spoke to him.
But it wasn’t enough.
He needed more.
He needed to know what I need to do on the good days and the bad.
“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you,”
and just a few verses later,
“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
Moses needed to know more about God’s ways so He could know God more.
And He needed to know God was still with him…………….every step of the way…………
or he’d choose to stay right where he was in the wilderness.
Driving to work can be daunting when life is hard.
The thought of facing a world full of people when you’re struggling to face your own little world can feel as if the sky is closing in.
And even though God’s shown up in your life time and time again……..
in mighty ways,
it’s easy to find yourself asking,
“Where are you today?”
And it’s easy to think,
“I’ll stay in the wilderness unless I see you……..again.”
And then, as if He knows exactly where you’re looking for a sign of His presence,
He parts a new Red Sea.
He opens the sky.
He places your feet on the same path as a random penny.
Or turns a leaf into a perfect flower.
He just knows.
And He doesn’t get exasperated, throwing His past works in your face, as if your request is uncalled for.
He could have made Moses feel pretty silly for not knowing who was leading him that day in the sandy desert.
Moses had witnessed as many or more miracles than anyone else on this planet.
And yet he felt safe asking for more.
“Show me your glory,” Moses pleaded.
And God showed up.
He led Moses up the mountain,
placed him in the cleft of a rock and said,
“I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you,
and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.”
I’m so thankful Moses found himself needing more of God time and time again and wasn’t afraid to admit it.
I need more of Him too.
I need more miracles.
I need more skies with His glory peeking through.
I need more pennies.
I need more hearts.
Because even though I believe with all my heart He’s always with me…………..
I, like Moses, still need to see signs of Him in order to KNOW
just how close He truly is.
I’m so thankful He shows up.
Over and over again.
He never gets tired of reminding me that His glory truly goes before me.
And His glory goes before you too.
If you need to see Him today, just ask.
Then keep your eyes wide open.
And God was faithful.
He’ll be faithful to you too.
January 26th, 2018
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
Exodus 13:17-18 NIV
They didn’t have a GPS or a map so they didn’t know what we know…….
or what God knew.
There was a shorter way to the Promised Land.
And God chose the longer, harder path.
He looked ahead and rerouted the Israelites, knowing full well where it led and how long it would take.
It’s easy to read the verses above and wonder how this could be the decision of a loving Father.
Who purposely sends His children into the wilderness when there’s an easier way?
I read these two verses about ten times this morning.
“God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country,
though that was shorter.”
The God of the Universe KNEW where He was leading them yet looked at the terrain of the land stretching from point A to B,
and said, “Go this way.”
And “this way” wasn’t the way any of them would have chosen had they been leading.
“This way” felt like the wrong way for forty years.
They grumbled, complained, disobeyed, and kicked their feet in the dust mile after mile,
longing to go back to Egypt but surely feeling it was too far gone as they climbed sandy mountain after mountain and slept night after night under the huge expanse of stars.
God knew the shorter way was easy.
And who doesn’t like the sound of the word, “easy.”
That’s why I have to keep reading when I get to tough verses.
God knew the way, but He also knew His people.
“If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
God also knew that easy roads can just as easily lead us back to the very place we started if the enemy pops up along our path.
And who wants to start over?
The way of the world can look pretty attractive when the enemy shows up to fight.
And God knew war would be the very thing that sent the Israelites running.
And running isn’t nearly as easy when we turn around and realize the journey back is long and hard.
I’m sure the Israelites sat around the campfire and talked about “the good ole days” in Egypt when they had more than just manna to eat and homes to sleep in not tents.
I’m sure they remembered the friends they mingled with there who had even handed them jewels and treasures as they rushed out of town at God’s command.
Looking back always looks better when life is hard today.
But in these moments the Israelites were losing sight of their goal –
the Promised Land –
and in losing sight, they chose bitterness and blame over thankfulness and joy.
I’ve been there.
I’ve been an Israelite in the wilderness, wondering why God sent me this way or that.
I’ve kicked my feet in the dust.
But thank goodness, I didn’t have a map.
Thank goodness God didn’t make the way back easy.
Because I would have set off running…………
so many times………………..
back to something easier.
Because who really wants to face battles?
Today, I’m thankful for the wilderness road.
The easy road doesn’t give you time to cultivate………..
That’s why I’m still on the long road.
I’m still learning.
My road still weaves to the left and the right.
And that’s okay.
Because I know where it’s leading.
And the shorter path would never get me there.
January 24th, 2018
It’s strange how life goes.
You grow up thinking you want to be this or do that.
You imagine all the places you might live.
You dream of having a family.
And then you commit yourself to God’s leading………………..
you throw away your own ideas of what an adventurous life might look like in exchange for an adventure with Him.
You lay it all down
— every dream, every hope, every wish —
and you hold on tight.
Because God’s idea of a big life never seems to look like the one you envisioned.
And God’s thoughts about what will bring the deepest joy never match the things on your humanly-created list.
I’m 52 years old now.
I’ve lived nearly all of my 32 years of married life in a tiny town in Kentucky.
I’ve finished three degrees by taking classes online or walking from my house to the college where my husband teaches or driving weekly over 100 miles from my home.
I’ve babysat to help pay our bills, taught elementary, middle, and high school, and written a book on grief after the loss of two of our children.
I’m now a therapist in our small town,
and through all of my “working” journeys my husband has kept our home stable with his steady passion for being a Bible college professor and tax preparer for ministers across the United States.
None of this was part of our plan as we dated and walked the campus of Cincinnati Bible College in the early 80s.
We had no idea where God would take us as we sat in Larosa’s on dates or played intramural volleyball with other young married couples.
We just knew we loved each other and most of all loved God.
Many years have passed since we said, “I do,”
and we’ve now watched all of our children “fly away” to pursue their own life dreams.
And if I could say just one thing to each of them,
I would say,
“Never stop dreaming or working or living big…………………
but let go of your own idea of what a fulfilling, adventurous life looks like.”
I read recently in John Ortberg’s book,
The Me I Want To Be,
that “the Spirit is the river………….not us.”
And you can’t push a river,
you can only move with it.
Monday night I told my class of college students to never get so caught up in trying to answer the question, “What do I want to be?” that they miss the importance of correctly answering the question, “Who do I want to be as I do this or I do that?”
WHO is so much more important than WHAT.
I think I’m finally figuring that out.
Who am I? isn’t so much a question about careers or titles –
it’s a question that needs to be answered as we look in the mirror and see every blemish and flaw in light of His mercy and grace.
We are children of the King.
Sons and daughters placed on this planet for such a short time………………
to have a relationship with Him as we stumble through all sorts of roles,
trying to bring Him glory with each faltering step.
That’s what I want to say to my kids.
Don’t worry about tripping or falling as you travel through life,
because the One who guides your steps is ahead of you.
He’s already smoothing rough roads,
and He’s already working out ways to provide just what you need as you face successes, failures, gains, and losses.
He’s got this.
You don’t have to have it all figured out.
Because the minute we think we’ve figured out life,
we’ve taken over the role of Him who created it.
And that’s a dangerous place to be.
So let go.
Enjoy the flow of the river no matter where it leads,
because when the Spirit is our river it never leads us where we shouldn’t go or be.
Last month, our daughter and her fiance’ became husband and wife.
As my husband and I left the wedding ceremony arm in arm,
my heart overflowed with joy even as it ached for the presence of our two children in Heaven at this very special family occasion.
And that’s how God works.
He fills up every empty place in our heart with His love and His joy……………….
when we surrender our lives completely to Him.
This life passes by so quickly.
So soak up every memory.
The amazingly joy-filled ones and the ones that hurt more deeply than you ever thought you could bear.
Because one day this world will wash away and the only question that will matter will have nothing to do with “what you were” but it will have everything to do with “who you were” along the way.
And the only way to really answer that question is by answering the only question that truly matters,
and that question is this…………….