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,




Brokenness Doesn’t Define You

I wake up every day surrounded by broken pieces of a life I used to know. It isn’t a novelty. After four years, I am familiar with this unexpected life that greets me each day.

I am not alone. If you’re an adult, you know brokenness- maybe in yourself or in someone you love. I hope it isn’t the first thing you are aware of each day.

But it might be.

The reality is that childhood’s broken toys give way to an adult life where the stakes are higher. Broken things are the least of our worries. Instead, we encounter a world full of broken dreams, hearts, bodies, and relationships.

As I have recently wrestled with my own brokenness, the Lord showed me something beautiful and hopeful and transforming: my brokenness does not define me. 

I will say it again, just for you: your brokenness does not define you. 

Our brokenness can only have as much power over us as we give it.

It is a demanding tyrant. We can feel hopeless and helpless as we survey the pieces. There is no way back to the life we had before. It all seems impossible, or at least impossibly complicated. Depression, anxiety, anger, shame, self-absorption all clamor to flood in.

Sadly, our brokenness can often distance us from the One who can help us. The One who loves us in the midst of our broken, ruined lives. The One whose body was broken so we could be made whole.

Nothing is beyond His ability to heal, restore, or transform. We see God’s love for us poignantly at work through Jesus’s life of ministry to broken people. Never did Jesus say someone’s brokenness exceeded His ability to help and heal. There were no lost causes.

God is bigger than whatever is broken in your life. When Jesus gave His life for ours, He covered all the brokenness this world could ever generate.

When He enters our lives, He trades us: beauty for the ashes, joy for the sorrow, praise for the despair. He tells us that He alone defines us. Our identity is as His deeply loved child.

Several years ago, shortly after John had died, my children went to a camp for kids who had lost a close family member. Many of the activities were designed to work them through different aspects of grief. One day they were each given a terra cotta pot and told to go outside and hurl it onto the pavement.

Shattered shards of pottery surrounded them. I watched them from a distance. It is how our lives felt: whole one minute, shattered the next.

They were given bags to carefully gather the pieces. Then, they were told to write on each piece something they loved about the person they had lost. Next, it was time to try to glue the pots back together. It was painstaking. Nothing fit right.

But, hours later they were done. The haphazard shapes didn’t resemble the previous pots. Yet, each pot was transformed when the lights were out because candles had been nestled within them.

In fact, they were beautiful. They shimmered forth more light than ever before because the cracks, the broken places, were the very spots where the light could shine.

It was a holy moment when the room was filled with their glow. Brokenness transformed.

As a widow, I can feel like I will always be broken and diminished by my loss. It is tempting to believe my life will always have less joy, less fullness, less purpose, less meaning, less peace. I can feel resigned to a second-rate, broken life and future.

But, it isn’t true, and I am beginning to deeply believe it. His grace and abundance is big enough for even this. For even you and your story.  Our circumstances don’t exempt His promises.

They don’t get to have that much power.

Jesus Christ promises us true fullness of life. His love for us brings peace and hope and purpose and joy. He fills us with love to share and kindnesses to give and praises to proclaim and people to bless with the overflowing love He has given us.

Brokenness is not the end, nor the final word. Instead, in the gentle hands of God’s redemptive love, it can be the beginning of a new kind of beautiful.

believing more beauty & joy are yet to come,
because His love wins,


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.