Dance, Don’t Wrestle

I can feel it when it happens. Can you? A tense conversation begins to escalate and my strong emotions, my perspective, my concerns, my fears, all begin to fuel my desperation to be heard.

To be understood. To appeal to reason. To prevail.

And I wrestle. If it is someone I care for deeply, I give it my all.

And God is right. “Where words are many, sin is not absent.” (Prov. 10:19)

I say too much. I say it with too much passion. I sound strident and angry and inflexible.

All the love I truly feel for the other person is drowned out by my own voice. Instead, I usually end up injured and injuring- emotionally and physically exhausted.

Everyone has hard moments in relationships. It is a normal part of life, but it can be super helpful to have tools to navigate the stormy times. As I sat in a seminar last month, the speaker gave us this advice that has been super helpful and timely for me:

 You need to change how you are communicating. You need to dance, not wrestle. When you sense you are beginning to wrestle, shift back to where you were last dancing together about the topic and reapproach it from another angle.

Hmmm…it sounded good, but would it work when tensions were high?

The very next day it was showtime. I had to work through a super messy, emotional, life changing conversation with someone I love. I wrote “dance, don’t wrestle” on a piece of paper and set it between us.

We faced each other with those three words as the referee.

By God’s grace, as we haltingly tried to move forward in our hard talk, we began to “dance.” I stepped on her toes. She stepped on mine. But, we persevered.

When I felt the urge to “wrestle” or when I could tell she was ready for a throw-down, I shifted us back to the place in the discussion where we had been on the same page. From there, I would try to reapproach the hard topic from a new angle.

It took us a long time. This dancing conversation continued off and on for two more days as we waded through deep waters of differing perspectives and hard decisions. But I was proud of us. We mostly danced and never had an all-out wrestling match (yes, sometimes we got close). Because we had experienced successful dancing, we wanted to keep the dance going.

That was nearly a month ago. Those three words have stuck with me as I think about all of my life, not just hard conversations. Life gives us many opportunities to choose to dance or wrestle. As a friend, pointed out: the words aren’t actually saying anything new. It is just a new way to express what Jesus already told us to do: Love others the way you want to be loved.

No one wants to feel verbally or emotionally overpowered and wrestled into submission.

I have found myself wondering am I dancing or wrestling with God in the midst of the days of my life? It has been humbling to realize that I do a whole lot of wrestling with Him about the parts of my life that feel hard. Sigh.

I really want to be responsive and willing to stay in step with Him but some of His dances I have trouble following. He is a bold, strong, fearless dance lead.

But, I hope I become a better dancer as I grow to trust His leading and focus more on following Him, rather than bossing Him around this dance floor called my life.

Life is harder than I ever imagined it would be. In the six years since John died, my unexpected journey has continued to surprise and confound me with new twists and turns.

Maybe, like me, your life keeps you on your toes (& knees). I am glad for the company.

May God encourage you in the midst of the messiness of your life that He will meet you right there in the smack-dab middle of it, take your hand, and lead you to dance with Him again, or for the very first time.

And, may He teach us how to dance with one another.

hoping for more dancing than wrestling this week,





If Your Christmas is Messy Like Mine

Messy and Christmas don’t seem to go together. Adults don’t have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Oh no! Our visions are much, much loftier (and harder to attain): sparkling well-decorated homes; the yummiest of menus and treats; the perfect stack of brighly wrapped presents; peaceful, happy family moments. We want it all: all the goodness of life wrapped up with a big bow.

But sometimes life is messy. And painful. And it is no respecter of the calendar. Life has lots of ways to land you smack dab in the middle of messy when it is Christmastime. It is hard to accept when the timing is so off. So not picture perfect.

It is frustrating when you realize that no matter how hard you fight it, there is no way to get all the mess of life cleaned up in time for Christmas.

That is how this Christmas feels for me. There is lots to share about the past few months, but I will save it for the new year. Instead, I want to tell you what is at the top of my heart right now. Today. Because maybe some of you need a little Christmas courage as you face messiness of your own.

I bring you good news of great joy! Christmas and messy go together. 

Ahhhh…take a slow, long deep breath. Isn’t that good news! What a welcome oxymoron, the best of contrasts: Christmas & Messy.

This morning, a friend encouraged me to think about Mary.  It was clear to Mary that she had been chosen by God for something special and amazing. Maybe she developed some expectations of what that would look like. I am pretty confident her expectations did not include a donkey ride to Bethlehem or giving birth in a stable.

It actually looks like God was a little off on the timing of Christ’s birth. A census? And what about the stable? It seems that God was unprepared for Christ’s arrival. Couldn’t there have at least been a room in the inn? Did Mary or Joseph wonder why it was all playing out the way it did?

The first Christmas was messy. Honestly, on a scale of 1 to 10 it was about as messy and unorganized as it could have been. Really, think about it.

But, the truth is that in all that messy there was God’s perfect, purposeful plan being slowly revealed…entering in the most humble of ways so that all of us can be messy and not be scared or feel the need to hide or compensate or fake it. He actually made Jesus more accessible to all of humanity through this simple entry into our world.

And, there in that stable surrounded by smelly animals and manure and earthy sounds and all that is messy, Mary embraced the one thing that mattered: Jesus.

Oh, how peace settles over my messiness as I think about all of that. In the midst of messy I can treasure Christ. I can embrace the gift He gives me of knowing God as my Father and being known and loved by Him. He just wants me to let Him enter into my messiness.

He says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:38-20 (the Message version)

So if you are having a messy Christmas, know that I know what that feels like. But I am just a voice on a blog, God sees all your mess and wants to get right down in the midst of it with you. Just talk to Him…

As the Lord gently helps me see that my messy and Christmas go together, something amazing is happening in my heart. The hope I have in Jesus Christ and the peace He brings into my messy life is all I really need or want this Christmas.

He is our gift. He is enough. May our hearts be open to receive Him. “and to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

Merry Christmas friends!

PS And if this resonates, you might want to check out Jen Hatmaker’s blog: Sabotaging Big Days










You Don’t Have To Fake It

Earlier this week, big problems and small annoyances were mounting up and irritating me, but the bigger issue was deeper. Underlying my frustration was the reality of being a widow.

You see, the hardship of this journey is still the same as it was five years ago when it was fresh.  Yes, I am more acclimated to life without John, but it doesn’t change the fact that I carry life alone. The Lord encourages me daily, but the relentless, everyday pressure, work, and loneliness of doing life without him is hard. And it isn’t going away.

Stuff breaks, and it isn’t my skill set to fix it.

Decisions have to be made, and, though I have friends and family who listen and give insights, they aren’t really “in it” with me. Their lives aren’t actually impacted by the decisions. My trouble isn’t theirs to carry.

Our kids have tough times, and I don’t necessarily know how to navigate it with them. As they get older, the issues are getting more complex and far-reaching. It is a heavy responsibility to be the only parental voice in their lives, especially when I know John’s wisdom and perspective would be incredibly insightful. Some days I get angry, frustrated and despairing that he isn’t here and they only have me. I know I am not enough.

And, I simply miss the daily encouragement of having John in my life. It is an aspect of marriage I didn’t even appreciate or comprehend until it was gone. In a good marriage, it is energizing to know you have someone doing life with you. It is a huge motivator that helps you push through tough stuff knowing their love and presence will be the highlight at the end of any long day.

Some days, being a widow just. gets. tiring. (I bet you get tired of your pain too.)

This week began with one of those really hard days. In fact, I started to spiral downward in a self-pity free fall. As I walked across a parking lot hiding tears behind my sunglasses, a stranger’s genuine smile appeared out of nowhere. Eye to eye.

The smile arrested me. I got into my car shaking my head, “Lord, I am falling apart today. Help me. I am losing my perspective, my hope.”

And, He did. The last few hours of the day were filled with His goodness. Encouraging things happened. My spirit rose. My son noticed my heavy heart and loved me with a tender hug and extra help around the house. A difficult situation with my daughter resolved well, better than either of us could have imagined.

As I got into bed that night, I was talking to the Lord about it all. It had been an emotional roller coaster kind of day. I sensed Him quieting my heart with truth.

Nothing is ever going to change the fact that being a widow is a tough, hard, sad reality. It means death has robbed life. God hates widowhood. He hates that my kids don’t have their dad.  He isn’t going to spin being a widow into a blessing. When I say I hate it. It is ok. He hates it too. There are things about it that are uniquely, permanently painful.

Somehow, in those moments I felt validated in my frustration with life as a widow. I am not supposed to like this reality. I am not supposed to be working really hard to make a bad thing into a good thing.  That can never happen because something that is intrinsically bad can’t be redefined as good.

Many of you have things in your life that are sad. That are hard. Brokenness abounds in this life: Sickness. Injustice. Poverty. Abuse. Betrayal. Pain. Abandonment.

God agrees with you that the wrongs in your life are wrong. Period.

Read that again. God agrees with you that hard things are really, truly hard and heartbreaking.

And, He did something about it. He was moved to action.

He moved heaven to conquer hell. He sent His own Son to face the sin and sorrow of our lives. Jesus surrendered his life so we could have peace with God and hope for our lives, no matter what sufferings we have to bear.

God doesn’t turn away or keep His distance. Instead, He draws near us with promises to be our comfort, strength, and defender. He will stand with us against all these things, and He can bring beauty and peace and hope despite the brokenness. And, ultimately, He will make all things right.

So, you and I can rest. We don’t have to keep fighting to make bad things somehow good. We don’t have to fake it to make it. We don’t have to do more yoga or go on more vacations. Or try to power through with positive thinking. Or sleep more. Or entertain and distract ourselves from sun-up to sundown. Ever moving faster to block out pain.

Instead, we can trust Him to come alongside us; agree with us that sin and sorrow in this life are terrible realities; and bring us to the deep peace of understanding all that Jesus Christ has done for us. Jesus gives us the healing and hope we need most.

I love how Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Notice that He doesn’t say that the cause of our mourning is good, but that we will find a special solace in being comforted by God.

I have known this comfort in the past five years, and it is the best kind of comfort- genuine, quiet, steady, joyful, gentle, truthful, never forced. No one and nothing can surpass His ability to comfort our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. He lets me be real in my mourning whenever it hits. And He loves me there.

So, my prayer and hope for you is that you don’t run away from the hard in your life but that you bring it to the One who will patiently, lovingly, powerfully meet you where you are and give you strength and hope to trust Him as you keep. moving. forward.

Trusting one day at a time,




Easter: Our Tears Meet Hope & Joy

Happy Easter, My Reading Friends!

Every year I become more excited about celebrating this Holy Week! How could I face every day without the confident hope that death isn’t the end? What would our family do without the peace that John is safe in God’s care, and we will see him again?

God has offered us hope beyond death, and it is the best news anyone could ever hear. When death has hit close to home (or in your home), life gets bottom line serious. Who can rescue us from death’s reality?

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has given us hope in the life and death of Christ. I can’t imagine my life stuck in the despair of John’s death. For me, Easter isn’t just a spring holiday. It is the reason I can live and breathe every day.

As the years go by, I find that I am more aware of Easter’s roller-coaster of emotions. I wasn’t before. In years past, I was only focused on the joy of Easter Sunday. But, now, I am more aware of the grief that lead up to that day.

And, it feels familiar.

Now, I am more intimate with the pain of death. I identify with how powerless Mary and the disciples felt as the One they loved was seized, sentenced, and cruelly crucified before their very eyes. I identify with the women who woke up determined to do what needed to be done: find Jesus’s body and lovingly, tenderly, respectfully prepare it for burial. I now know what it feels like to wake up and wish it had all been a bad dream.

Yet, I am also more intimate with the sweet relief of God’s hope and comfort. Daily I live with the contrast of my sorrow over the loss of John, and the joy of knowing he is with God and our separation is temporary. I dream of the moment when I see Jesus face to face, and beyond Him somewhere will be John, alive and smiling.

Easter has become a time to rejoice that our salty tears can meet the delight of hope & joy.

There’s real sorrow as we consider Jesus’s betrayal and physical pain and unanswered prayer. Jesus personally knows what it is to suffer and die, unjustly accused, rejected, and alone.

But, Easter also fills us with relief and joy because Jesus came back to life and promises to share eternity with us. We don’t have to live dreading death.

Not only that, but our brokenness and sin is no longer a heavy burden we have to carry through each day. Jesus has brought forgiveness, grace, and life to each and every day and all of our tomorrows, as we trust that He made things right between us and God.

For people who believe in Christ as the Son of God and follow Him as Lord of their personal lives, this is a week of embracing the fullness of Christ’s story- the deepest sorrow and the greatest joy.

But, no doubt about it, Resurrection Sunday’s joy overwhelms Good Friday’s sorrow because we confidently know that the story isn’t over: we will one day finally see and be with God forever!

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4


I want to give you some gifts! They are free and they can be passed along to anyone else. These are all things that have recently encouraged my faith. Just click whatever is blue and it will take you there…

I made a playlist of my favorite contemporary worship songs, many we sing at church. They are on Apple and Spotify, just click and enjoy. The playlist is the same on each one.
Apple Music: Favorite Contemporary Worship 2017-Apple
and also on Spotify: Worship Songs to Lift Your Heart- Spotify
(You will need to have Apple Music or Spotify installed on your phone or computer to listen.)

Here is a recent sermon I really enjoyed (as did my 15 yo son, so that’s a strong recommendation). “Savior” by David Dwight  Take a listen or you can watch the video. It is great to download sermons to hear as you drive and walk and cook and garden… There are many at Hope’s sermons online.

Last year I wrote a blog for Easter, and I still like it. : )  Here it is if you haven’t read it before: Easter is My Every Day

And, if you don’t have a church family, join Hope for our Easter Sunday Worship at Altria Theater in downtown Richmond this Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00. Here are the details: Hope Easter Sunday

May God fill your mind and heart with joy that rescue has come. Spread the good news!

Celebrating Easter every day,

He Loves Us Back to Life

Last month, March 8 came around again and marked five years since John went to heaven. Five years is a long time to miss someone you love.

Years ago, in our early days of dating and marriage, I feared losing John. I couldn’t imagine life without him. The thought of experiencing a loss that great would paralyze me. I couldn’t imagine surviving much less ever thriving again. I believed that if he died, my life would be permanently broken.

And, then after twenty two years together, what I feared actually happened. One early spring day, he was gone without a goodbye. For months, the days were gray and the future dim, but as the years have gone by, something miraculous has been happening: God’s tender, consistent love has wooed me out from under grief’s shadow.

His love just keeps showing up. He keeps on delighting my heart with moments I love. He surprises me with blessings that I couldn’t have imagined and joy I couldn’t see five years ago. Full, real, deep, fresh joy.

And, yes, I sometimes daydream about John walking through the door and how wonderful it would be for all of us. I will always want him back.

But, God is filling my life with real joy and real laughter and real peace. And, that, surprises me. I never thought it would be possible to feel like I love my life again.

I underestimated my Heavenly Father. 

I underestimated the powerful gift He gave us in Jesus Christ.

Because, what I realize now is that
Jesus Christ is a Savior, not only for the dead, but also for the living.

On March 8, John needed a Savior, and God met John’s deepest need for rescue from death. As a little boy, John had simply believed Jesus Christ’s promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” At 44 as he collapsed on a jogging trail, John’s belief transformed into present reality as God brought him home to heaven.

But, all of us- John’s family and friends- needed a Savior that day too. God’s consoling love came to our rescue. He fulfilled the promises He has made to love us well when grief hits hard. His love has never stopped, whether it was through His Spirit’s reassurance in the middle of the night or as He prompted someone to help, pray, or simply give a hug.

On March 8, God’s love was set in motion in a new way in our family, and it continues to heal and restore us. Years ago when I feared tragedy, I simply didn’t account for the fact that God’s sustaining grace and goodness and love could outsize grief.

Five years out, I can truly say He is doing just that: His love is bringing joy and gladness into my life and deep into my soul. My life is becoming a different kind of wonderful as He patiently loves and steadies me. I am learning that nothing is too big for Him to overshadow with His peace and truth and presence and eternal perspective.

No matter what any of us have faced in the past or what we may face in the future, His love can bring true healing and bright hope and deep joy and settled peace. You don’t need to be afraid of what may be ahead. He will be your anchor for any and every storm.

There will be days when it feels like we’ve lost our bearing. But, it’s okay. He will be there to help our faith get back up again. It takes time to learn to trust and listen to His love instead of our emotions and fears.

But He is patient and steadily encourages us as we learn to live in today with Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we are blessed to be comforted by God. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The treasure and wonder of the past five years has been experiencing God’s love and sustaining strength and peace. Jesus is right. It is a blessing to personally experience the tender comfort of God.

May you know with greater confidence that God will give us everything we need for this life’s journey- yesterday, today and tomorrow. You don’t have to go there alone.

with His love that brings us back to life,

Stay in Today

You woke up today in what was your tomorrow. It is profoundly true; the future unfolds one day at a time. Methodically, rhythmically, always on time. We are getting to the future slowly but surely.

There are times when it just can’t get here fast enough because you are anticipating what is ahead. Like when there is something exciting on the horizon: new babies, weddings, graduations, trips, renovations, or a move to a new place or a new beginning.

But, then there are times when it is completely unknown and you really want a pair of binoculars. That is where I am these days. What is ahead for me? I have absolutely no idea. I know some pieces of the puzzle, but it seems like I am missing some really. big. pieces.

While binoculars can be handy, they really aren’t very helpful for seeing the step right in front of you. And, that is where we live: we live in today.

I can be so focused on peppering the Lord with questions about my future that I forget to live the very day I am in. The day He has given me to love Him and love others and do the work that is today.

Lately, the Lord has been redirecting me back into the present.

Jesus says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

And so I am reminded that I need to stay in today. Is there something I know I am supposed to be doing today? Do that. Do first things first.

Start with the thing that is smack dab right in front of me, in front of you. Little by little, day by day we will make our way into all our tomorrows. And who knows, maybe there will be something in one of our todays that sends those future tomorrows onto a whole new trajectory; one that we can’t envision now.

What we can’t anticipate when we consider the future is that we don’t know everything there is to know. We may know some realities, but we don’t know them all.

Over and over again I have found that the Lord met me on the days I dreaded with surprises of His grace that changed everything…changed how I felt, changed how the day actually unfolded.

I am trusting that His faithfulness to me on specific days will also be true of His faithfulness in the seasons ahead for me. The future that is unknown to me is completely known to Him.

I can be content today. I don’t have to know my future. Instead, I can rest in the truth that my God does know it, and He will be loving me in my tomorrow as much as He is loving me today, right now.

I have been at the beach for a few days. This morning I woke up early and felt prompted by the Lord to peek outside at the sunrise. Before I even got to the window I could see the pinkish golden glory beckoning me.

And, as I expectantly looked out over the Chesapeake Bay, within moments a new day had been birthed. A new dawn was filling the sky with streaks of fresh golden glory. What a way to begin  this today.

There is nothing like a sunrise to remind us of God’s daily faithfulness.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

That verse says it all. Each morning God is faithful to us…the sun comes up and gives this planet and all who live on it another day full of light and life. We can trust Him.

The God who does that is the One we can trust to show us the way we should go. He will light the way forward. One day at at time.

And, so I have set aside my eagerness for future-revealing binoculars. I am living today. Some days that is the next load of laundry, other days it is the writing project that I know He put into my heart to do. He is showing me how to attend to what He has given me to do now and leave my tomorrow safe with Him.

And, He is right. I have enough light from Him to do today.

To you who read these words, my prayer for you today from a little beach house on a bay, is that your heart is full of light. It is Jesus Christ, the Morning Star, who fills our hearts and lives with light. May He rise in your heart as you ask Him to lead your way today and for every tomorrow.

His presence in your life will flood your heart with God’s love for you and you will have hope for all that the future holds.

And on one best. day. ever.  He will bring you home to Him and the light and glory will never end.

“For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4:6

living in today & trusting Him with every tomorrow,

Daring to Dream Again

Well, we are at the end of the first month of this new year and resolutions aren’t quite as shiny. I don’t typically make many new year resolutions. Since John died, my resolutions have been simple: “I am resolved, with God’s sustaining grace, to keep putting one foot in front of the other for 365 days.”

Repeat for five  years.

But this year, something unexpected happened. One snowy Saturday morning when the year was just a few days old, the Lord began to gently challenge me. My friend, Nicole Unice had a new blog that caught my eye, “Why I Believe in Life Goals (and How You Can Set Them for Yourself).”

As I read, the tears began to fill my eyes as I faced the fact that I don’t have any dreams for my life anymore. Not like I used to. There is no life bucket list.

It evaporated when John died. The bucket still sits empty, not a drop in it.

John was part of every dream I had. There were things we wanted to do, places we wanted to go, people we wanted to help. We wanted to encourage our children and love our grandchildren. We imagined God would give us new horizons as our children left home, and we learned to serve Him in a new season.

The operative words of “we” and “together” are now obsolete. Nothing on our list will be experienced together. Instead, all of it is forever left undone.

It is depressing and scary and disorienting. For five years, the future, which used to beckon with joy, has just been a gray haze. When I try to project to the years beyond raising our children, I haven’t been able to see anything but mist.

Since John died, I have repeated this sentence hundreds of times, “I just want to finish well what we started together: raising our kids and helping them launch into adulthood.” Everyone who knows me well has it memorized.

And, I have been fully committed to it. But, I am working my way out of a job. One bird is off and has flown halfway across the country. The other two are perching on the edge of the nest. Only one remains in the nest, and he is flapping his wings with strength and confidence.

I need some plans and dreams. The future is approaching my doorstep.

You just can’t skip over this part of grieving the loss of your spouse (or other hard realities in life that cause you to start over). It is real, and it has to be fully acknowledged. It is important to make peace with what was and what you hoped would be, and then tenderly kiss your old bucket list goodbye.

Only then can you face a new future- standing in a new place, hoping to find hope.

As I sat there that snowy day and read Nicole’s blog, I felt the Lord reassuring me that I can be brave. He is with me. I can trust Him to move into an unknown future with me. 

I felt tentative. Honestly, I have never dreamed about my life all by myself. Just me. It feels strange and unfamiliar. How do I do this? Since I was 15, John has been part of every dream.

A blank sheet of paper stared at me. Daring me to write down even one dream beyond launching my children into adulthood.

It takes faith and hope in God to believe you can have a future after devastating loss.
It takes faith and hope to trust that God has work for you to do.
It takes faith and hope to believe that God desires for you to live and love and give.
It takes faith to believe God can fill your life with wonder and joy again.

You need God’s help to let go of one bucket list (like the tattered and torn one I’ve been hanging onto) so you can look at a clean, blank sheet and begin again.

I am pioneering my own life for the first time, and it isn’t by choice. As hard as it is to say, it is by God’s unique design. With His permission. With His knowledge. In His plan for my story.

He knew I would be a widow at 43. I may still be surprised, but He isn’t. And He has something in mind for my life.

It is a holy work…summoning up the desire and courage and will and hope to dream, not just survive. It takes faith in God to believe your life is meant to be fully lived right now and into each tomorrow He gives.

I am not there yet, but I am on the way.

And, I am going to share my journey with you because I know I am not the only one who is drawing a blank when it comes to dreaming again. Life has more than one way to turn your bucket list of hopes and  dreams upside down.

You will hear more about this part of my unexpected journey because it is where I am right now.

But, I leave you with this truth: You are loved by God and He desires to fill your bucket with more than a wish list. He desires to fill it to the brim with His love so that you can overflow into other peoples’ lives and love them where they are, just as they are, and on His behalf. His plans for us are fueled by love, to fuel us for love.

Rest assured. Though your future may look very different than you had hoped or dreamed, He has new plans to unfold. And they are good.

May He begin to rekindle hope in your heart today
& may He whisper God-Sized dreams into your soul,




Presence is the Best Present

No one prepared me for the anticipation of my adult children coming home. Giddy is the best word to describe how I felt during December.

Giddy that my oldest, newlywed daughter and her husband were headed our way for six whole days! Cell phones and facetime are wonderful, but they can’t compare to real live hugs and laughter.

Giddy that our other two girls would be on break from college. All four of our children nestled under our home’s roof.

Everyone home for Christmas.


All month, I could have jumped up and down like a four year old. I refrained, but I was jumping up and down with giddy delight on the inside.

Christmas has never been so anticipated.

Presence is all I wanted for Christmas. Simply the joy of their presence.  My son and I have adjusted to being the only two at home, but life is better with all of us together.

There is more fun, more life, more joy, more love, more laughter when this house is full.

Full house=full heart.
(well, sometimes…)

Actually, there is a little hitch with presence. For it to be truly wonderful, presence needs to be accompanied by peace.

Because the truth is that sometimes presence is less than wonderful if it brings with it tension or angst or misunderstanding or other confusing emotions.

When that happens, presence isn’t easy or enjoyable. I have had Christmases when presence wasn’t a present. Instead, I felt torn between wanting to be together, even though we felt disconnected, and wanting it to all be over and done with.

But this year, all signs pointed to a forecast of peace in our midst- peace in our relationships together, deeper peace with our story as survivors of great grief.

Peace settled over us, and it was truly wonderful and treasured. I didn’t take it for granted.

Peace and presence are what Christmas is all about: rejoicing in the peace we can have with God because of the presence of Jesus Christ.

Recently, our pastor reminded us that Jesus isn’t just the hero who came to save us from certain doom. The kind we see in movies who swoops in at the last minute to rescue, and then zooms off to his next mission- leaving us alone to pick up the pieces and patch up life.

No, Jesus is the Hero who fully loves us by saving and staying. He saves us from the hopelessness of sin and death, then stays in relationship with us forever. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit, so He could be with you and with me and with all of those who trust and believe in Him around this world.

He is with us: comforting and counseling and guiding and reminding us of how to live our new identities as children of God. He is with us through His Spirit, even though we can’t see Him.

And He will never, ever leave.
He does messy, even when it happens at holidays.
He does tears and failure and fears.
He lavishes grace when this broken world breaks us too.
He stays through the thick and the thin and the loneliness.
He leads when you don’t know what to do next.
He keeps you going when your strength ebbs.
He isn’t deterred by our lack of peace or patience or obedience.
He keeps mercy and grace and love flowing through our lives.
His peace takes root and starts to grow and overflow.
All the while, He is cultivating beauty that makes it obvious that
He is steadily at work in our heart, mind, and soul.

We aren’t leaving Him behind in a manger as we go into the new year. He goes with you into all the joys, challenges, sorrows, temptations, and successes the new year will hold.

My children will return to the places they now call their own homes- a house in the midwest, a dorm on a campus, an apartment in a city. And my son and I will stay here. But Jesus is with my family in all our places and with you in yours.

The beauty is that He goes AND He stays. He goes with them. He stays with me.

His presence is the best present. Forever and ever. Peace and presence are here to stay.

Happy 2017 my reading friends…

PS more words are coming your way in this new year! : )

When You Need Some Holiday Comfort


The approaching holidays are a mixed bag of emotions. They are an intersection of excitement (time with my kids! and extended family!) and sorrow ( I have to do the holidays without John again?).  It is simply bittersweet.

Some of you know exactly what I mean.

Because time may heal, but it doesn’t forget. I know how wonderful it was to experience the holidays with John- with our family intact. I want him to be here to hug our college daughters when they walk in the front door and to welcome our faraway newlywed couple when they come home for the holidays.

I can’t help but truly, deeply miss him.

This will be our fifth holiday season without John, and over the years I have learned to expect a tidal rise of emotions somewhere in late November. Pre-holiday sorrow is real.

I am never sure what will trigger it, but I can sense it building. My edges feel frayed. Tears are dangerously close to spilling over. It is tempting to ignore it. Stuff it. Get busier.

Yet, I have learned to listen because my soul is telling me I need a time out.

Ignoring it doesn’t work. In fact, it makes it worse. My soul can be like a crying toddler. Quiet at first, but increasingly louder, more demanding, and strident when ignored.

However, if I make time to be real with myself about my tender emotions and I give myself some time and space to acknowledge it, God allows something amazing to happen. I can honestly embrace the sense of loss this season brings and then move forward into the holidays with the settled peace only He can give me.

Time for simple acknowledgement is what I need.

Like that crying toddler who just needed a big hug and a kiss on the forehead to be steadied again. Who needed to be told, “I bet that does hurt. Let’s look at it. Wow! Let me give you a hug.”

Courage comes because He reassures me once again that He is with me. He is walking every part of this unexpected journey with me. Leading the way.

And, it is okay if I sometimes need to just stop in my tracks, sit on the ground and say, “By the way, I really don’t like this.”

He isn’t surprised. He listens. He reminds me what is true as I pour through His word looking for the places that speak to my heart.  

And, then I begin to feel better. Steadier. The heaviness begins to fade.

Strengthened, I know I can carry my part of it- the part I have to carry for now (but not for always. not forever)- because He is the best company for wherever love takes me.

And, then, we begin walking forward again into these holiday times and my heart is lighter. And my smile is real. And before I know it we are doing it! We are walking on the holiday’s troubled waters, and I feel joyful and peaceful because He is with me and I know it.

Together we can do another set of holidays.

So, to all of you who are looking at the next six weeks and feeling pressure build because of the people you are missing or the situations that just won’t get better. I would tenderly say: don’t ignore it.

Talk to God about your heavy heart and mind and soul. He has truly offered to bear your burdens, any and all. Stop on your life’s path (find silence-go for a walk, sit quietly in your car, lock yourself in your bathroom with a Bible) and let Him speak to you where you are: True words. Burden easing words. Love speaking over you words.

Open your Bible- Psalms is right in the middle. Right where we need it. Easy to find and full of real, raw emotion and comfort and hope-growing truth.  (see my PS)

Then, your heart will be strengthened and steadied for these holidays because the truth of His love and the truth of His presence will have settled in your hearts. New streams of thanksgiving and joy will flow, even when it seemed impossible.

Because He steadies my heart,

PS Here is where my journey through Psalms took me yesterday…

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me,
Therefore, I will remember you.” -Psalm 42:5

I hit pause with this passage for a long, quiet while…giving my heart time to read (not just my eyes and mind) until I was getting real with the passage and it could resonate.

It gives two direct pieces of advice for these times when my soul is downcast and disturbed: put your hope in God (not in anything or anyone else) and remember God (who He is and how I have seen His presence in my life).  

As I spent time taking these two pieces of advice to heart, praise came. Praise that He had refreshed my heart and given me true perspective. Praise that He can redeem my broken heart and life. Praise that He loves me here and now and forever.

May His word and Spirit meet you 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.” -Romans 15:13


Strength One Step At A Time

In March 0f 2012, my life as a widow was just beginning. With four children to continue raising, I was stunned with the realities of parenting alone, keeping a household running, making business decisions, and comforting our children in their loss.

Life needed more from me than I had to give. Everywhere I looked there were issues to resolve, questions to answer, love to give, and areas that needed my leadership. And, I wasn’t in a place of personal strength. I was weak, wounded, shocked. 

One morning, two weeks into my unexpected (& unwanted) new life,  I received a text from my husband’s sister just when I needed it most:

Love you and praying for continued strength.
‘Go in the strength you have been given.’

What strength? I didn’t feel like I had any. How could I possibly have an endless stream of strength for the days and years ahead? Not me, especially the brokenhearted me. The mountains ahead of me looked impassable and impossible.

Yet, hope whispered to me from the verse she had quoted from the book of Judges. I opened my Bible to read more. I was surprised to find a man I could identify with.

In Judges 6, Gideon is a desperate and devastated man. So is his country. Israel has been defeated. No food. No housing. Utter disruption and ruin surround them, and they cry out to God for help. God responds by sending an angel with a rescue plan to Gideon.

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” the Angel boldly announces to Gideon, who isn’t looking very heroic at the moment. Not at all mighty. Not like a warrior. He is furtively trying to thresh wheat in a wine press out of sight of their enemies. 

Gideon replies, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

My head nodded. I immediately identified with Gideon. Someone in the Bible was asking a question I was asking about my own life: “Look at these ruins around me! Why, Lord? Why?”

The angel’s response felt familiar. He doesn’t give Gideon an answer. He simply responds with a command: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Why is a question we ask when we are looking backward.  Instead, the Angel’s response focuses Gideon on the future. He gave him a call to move forward, regardless of the ruins surrounding him. A call to action:  “Go in the strength you have.”

Gideon isn’t convinced. He knows he isn’t the man for this huge job. He responds with another objection: “But, Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”

The Angel encourages him:“I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

The source of Gideon’s strength is revealed: he would have strength that God would supply.

As the chapter unfolds, Gideon tests and questions God repeatedly. Patiently, God proves to Gideon over and over again that there is no mistake. He is called to this new role and God will equip him for it.

I was stunned to find that I identified with a man from thousands of years ago. His questions resonated deeply within my own heart: “If God is with us, why has all this happened? How can I do this hard assignment you are calling me to?”

Even in the initial weeks as a new widow, there was no doubt about my assignment and calling: take care of our family. The harder part has been figuring out how to do that without getting completely, utterly overwhelmed.

Like Gideon, I am all too aware of my weaknesses and lack of ability for many parts of this job, but they aren’t obstacles to God.

Gideon was given the same fuel that I am promised:  God is with us. It isn’t about the strength we have, it is about the strength He will give. 

My weakness did not fill me with hope for our future. In fact, at that point in our journey, if I thought about all the work set before me in the years ahead, I was simply stunned and overwhelmed. But reading this passage gave me confidence that God would supply me with strength for what He had given me to do. It was a game changer.

God helped me realize I couldn’t measure my ability to do this job by how I felt. My feelings were emotional responses but not indicators of ability. Feeling weak and overwhelmed didn’t mean I wouldn’t have strength as I needed it.  I just needed to trust that He wasn’t surprised I was a widow. He knew I had four children to love and raise, and He would strengthen me for what each day would bring.

Since then, the key has been to stay in the day, not looking ahead to tomorrow’s mountains yet to climb.  I keep waking up each day and doing what comes next in the strength God supplies. For each moment. Each breath.

Some of you may also face challenges today, with more on the horizon. Don’t measure your challenges by your strength, but by God’s strengthening. He is all-in with you and will lead you forward from “strength to strength.”

In Gideon’s story, I found hope for my unfolding story. When the challenges of life loom large, “go in the strength you have been given” continues to whisper courage and truth into my heart. Frequently, it helps me put one foot in front of the other.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:7

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
You can too. He’s got us.
PS Thanks for the text, Stephanie.