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! : )

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.




Grief Grows Up

My grief is growing up. This week, on Tuesday, March 8, it turns four years old.

I happen to be familiar with four year olds. A few years ago I persuaded my teenage daughter and son to help me lead the four year old class at our church. We are with them two Sundays each month. We love them.

It is quite amazing how similar a group of four year old children are: potty trained, increasingly confident, generally cooperative- they understand not to hit, and that it is nice to share, and when the teacher is talking it is time to be self-controlled. They are unique people with distinct personalities in little bodies.

Those little people have come a long way from the tiny bundles who were placed in their parents’ arms four years ago.

Right next door to our classroom is the three year old class.  Peeking in there is a reminder of the amazing growth that happens in just a year’s time. That class has a very different tone.

Potty trained? maybe, maybe not.
Sharing? not fans.
Listening to story time? sitting still is hard.
Happy to be there? not really. Being with mom and dad is always better.

It is a room full of emotions those little ones can only express in tears and limited words. Three year olds are absolutely adorable, but they are definitely high maintenance. My kids and I aren’t brave enough to take on an entire class.

But I can identify with them. And I am glad to be turning four.

If you have been in a delivery room, then you know the holy, stunning reality of birth. The process isn’t pretty,  but miraculously life perseveres, even though it is messy and howling. For each of us, our Day One begins the long process of figuring out life.

We are welcomed by grace.

Grace cleans us up. Grace comforts. Grace hushes.
Grace holds. Grace kisses. Grace smiles.
Grace whispers love. Grace embraces.
Grace expects little of us and gives us much.

And grace is there ready to do it all over again when we wake up each morning.

The graces continue as we grow.

For me, the last four years began with a sudden c-section birth into an entirely unfamiliar world:  a world where death permanently changed reality for my husband. For me. For our four children.

I was reduced to an infant. Needy, messy, undone. Nights and days confused. Unable to eat solids. Crying was my native language.

Grace embraced me.

And, I have been growing up the past four years through the early days of grief’s bewildering, needy infancy into the growing confidence and awareness of toddlerhood.

All along the way there has been God’s presence and grace for my lack of understanding, my yearnings, my confusion, my over reactions, my insecurities, my bad days, and good ones.

There has been grace for tantrums and inconsolable days.

There has been grace to love and care for four people who needed me to wake up and lead the way forward.

There has been grace as the songs of His love surround me on Sunday mornings.

There has been grace given as the sun still shines, ocean waves lap shores, birds sing, and seasons change.  All of it gently, continually coaxing me to see joy and recognize hope.

And there has been grace expressed through the people who have helped, listened, reassured, and loved. Patiently. Willingly.*

And, as we arrive at year four, this is what I know: in the embrace of grace, my grief is growing up. Grief’s infancy and toddler days are becoming memories.

I feel four.

My grief will always be part of who I am. It is my story, but we are growing up together.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Reading friend, if there is grief in your life, may you also find His tireless, gentle grace helping you.

thank you for being here with me~ listening as you read,

**thank you my dearest, closest family and friends. You know who you are. I love you more than I ever imagined, for reasons I never thought I’d know.