Tag Archives: hope

Standing With The Trees

Maybe it’s because 13 years ago today I woke up never knowing what the week had in store, never knowing that in just 5 days we would be burying our son.  Ignorance is bliss.

Maybe it’s because this season is marred by so many anniversaries.  Anniversaries marking the passage of time from “the before.” Before we knew “that” grief, before we knew “that” fear.

Maybe it’s because I can identify with the tree, but I read this and I can’t get it out of my head. Beating like a drum…

All through the woods, the trees are letting go.

I told the Farmer on the way home from Sunday chapel—when we came up to the top of Bobbie Johnson’s corner, and just before he turned, where you could look long to the northwest and out across Gingerich’s cornfield to their woodlot with the embers of maple — that it was brave, the way the trees made dying look glorious.

How did you let go and relinquish glory and be willing to stand bare, straight into wind?

(How The Brave Deal With Losses, Ann VosKamp)

I read the rest of the article but I kept coming back to this, a question for the trees. How do you let go and relinquish glory and be willing to stand bare, straight into the wind?  It keeps echoing in my head.

So, maybe it’s all those things and probably so much more…

There are so many things that strip us bare, aren’t there?  Death and disease have both stripped me down and left me standing bare, and vulnerable, and exposed. They come like a thief in the night stealing away swiftly all that we have known and come to count on and love.

And I thought of this tree, letting go because that is what it has to do. The tree, no matter how badly it wants to, cannot make it’s leaves last another season. And my heart hurts for the tree and for what it is losing.

fall tree

And I thought of these words…

Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight
Of His wind and mercy

The tree, beaten, bruised, and whipped by the wind. Bent and broken under the forces it endures, but rooted still…

How do we let go…of a person, of control, of a dream?  How do we let go and relinquish our beautiful leaves when they have reached their vibrant best?  But the Autumn tree, it lets go and I am reminded of the rest of the song.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware
Of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me.
(How He Loves, David Crowder Band)

The glory eclipses the pain of affliction. It doesn’t erase it, it doesn’t negate it. You don’t forget, you never forget. The pain is still there but it fades under the shine of His glory when our eyes shift from “it” to Him.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. (Psalms 73:26 NLT)

winter treeAnd so we trust. We trust that this isn’t it. This isn’t the end. We know that as trusters and believers glory lies ahead for us. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18 NLT)

And we hold onto hope. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. (Job 11:18 NLT)

While we may stand stripped bare, as autumn turns colder, facing straight into the howling winter winds remember the spring will come.

spring tree

Into Every Life…

We’ve all been dealt cards that we wish we could exchange. There have been times we have been ready to lay our hand down and just fold and walk away, but during the month of May I want to challenge you to see those cards for the blessings that may spring forth from them through this series that I have dubbed, “Into Every Life.” I want to challenge your definition of a “good” life and look at what a blessing may sometimes truly look like. My prayer is that as we do this we will begin to see our hand through the Dealer’s eyes.

“Into each life rain must fall,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous words……but what if, as Laura Story in her song Blessings asks,

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

What if…will you join me this month as we look at this what if? If you know someone else who needs some encouragement, someone whose umbrella is tattered and torn from the downpour they have been weathering, would you please share this with them? Invite them to take this journey with us for a very real look at pain and blessings.

We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you Joy…


This last “interruption” post has been on my to-do list since the beginning of the week. A week which started with another dead car battery. (My car now has a brand new one, I am not going to play that morning guessing game anymore.) So this meant that my 8th grader was unexcused for the 40 min that he missed while I charged the battery and drove the 20 min to school and has to make up that time. I was at two different hospitals that day, once to visit Hannah who had to be intubated early Monday morning and then to pick up my 3 year old niece while my sister sat with another family member at the ER. Tuesday was the day I had slated to bake Christmas cookies and wrap presents until I received a mid-morning call that said 8th grader was vomiting and needed picked up. So needless to say, it’s been quite a week, (and it’s only barely half over.) Thankfully, aside from assorted practices, my fifth grader has remained healthy and even keeled this week.  Even still I have found myself  asking a very important question as  frustration begins creeping into my days.  “Tragedy or inconvenience?” Sometimes in the midst it is easy to confuse the two.

My segment on joy was actually planned to be a video clip from a women’s program that I took part in last Friday evening. But true to the way of the week, first I couldn’t find the cable for the video camera and then the sound was sub-par. Soooo…here goes joy, in written form. I hope it will have the same impact.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:8-14)

So not only did angels proclaim peace that night, they also promised great joy. Joy to the world, right? Tis the season for joy. But the fact is it’s been a rough year for many and there’s not much joy in sight this Christmas. Sadness and hurt are all we see. I understand that. Many of you know my story, but for those of you who don’t let me share just a bit with you. When I was 23 years old, we experienced the death of our son at 32 weeks into my pregnancy. That was in October. Do the math and you will find that I was due in the middle of December. What most people don’t know is that my plans for our Christmas cards that year were birth announcements. I had visions of two little boys on Christmas morning in matching pajamas, the whole bit. So for me, that Christmas was like the back-handed slap of life. I had only barely begun to heal from our son’s death when the hole that was left became ever more pronounced when there was no baby at Christmas. I can remember telling my parents” I am just not feeling it this year. ” It felt like joy had given up on me. No matter how hard I tried, and pretended for the sake of those around me I just couldn’t convince myself deep down. Ten years later I spent the entire Christmas season undergoing a series of medical tests that continued to bring more questions than answers. That entire season was overshadowed by the cloud of fear, no terror. All I knew was the doctors were very concerned which in turn made me very concerned, and has ended in a diagnosis of an extremely rare and incurable autoimmune disease. I get it if you are sitting here tonight, humoring whoever it is that invited you. But I am so glad you are here because let me tell you today as I stand on the other side of that fear and joy-lessness, sometimes you just need time, sometimes you need to take the outstretched hand of someone else who loves you even when you don’t want to, but no matter what, if you are going to find your way out, it always takes God. The miracle of Christmas is that your story isn’t over. My story did not end there. God is not indifferent to your pain. In fact, He left eternity and came to earth to show how much he cares. He came to live with us and die for us. Your story of mistakes, sadness, shame, and hurt, my story of grief and fear, are erased and re-written by God’s unmerited love. This Christmas, if you are looking for peace, for joy, for love, you’ll find it in Jesus because He is the promise. I bring you good news of great joy. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, straight from Jesus himself. For God so loved you and me that He sent His son to be born and die in a world where the no vacancy sign was lit. There is hope and I would love nothing more than to share that hope with you this Christmas.

It starts with making room…

Read the entire interruption series beginning with Hannah’s story, then Hope, Comfort, and finally, Peace.

We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you Hope…

hope was born

Celebrate on Christmas morn, the day that love and hope were born.

Hope…I believe hope is an appropriate place to start this Christmas journey.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Optimism is a tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

Both of these definitions talk about hope but hope in what?

I know what I hope.  I hope that my own disease stays in remission.  With every blood test, MRI, and blood pressure reading…I hope. I hope that the inflammation in my arteries disappears, that it is totally and completely gone.  I hope that I become the case that baffles the doctors and they can’t figure out what they had seen before and why it isn’t there anymore and then I hope that it never comes back.

We all have hopes.  I can’t help but think of Hannah’s parents (read Hannah’s miraculous story) and all of the hopes that they have for her.  What do you hope for? Maybe the better question is what or who do you hope in? Mine is more than the whimsical, baseless optimism of the world because I have prayer and I have faith in that prayer and in the power of the God who hears those prayers. There is real comfort because my faith is not in the things of this world, but in God. The God who made the world, parted the sea, tumbled the walls of Jericho, shut the lions mouths, silenced the storm, made the blind to see, made the lame to walk, and emptied the tomb forever, is listening to my prayers, to your prayers, and He cares! I will say that again, because I know I need to hear it continually, I think we all do – God cares for us! Miracles are His specialty. Big prayers answered are an opportunity for us to glorify Him!

Hope is a very strong feeling. Even in bad situations hope is there. The psalms are a wonderful illustration of this. They usually end with praise: God is good, God loves, God is faithful. But before we can get to the praise, we hear the hurt, we hear the doubt: Why have you abandoned me? Why are you not listening to me? So while there is hope, it is growing out of a place of pain.

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder brinks, a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees

O holy night, the night that hope was born. A baby who brings hope to the weary. A baby who brings a new dawn after the darkest night.

I read the following description of the first Christmas by Annie Dieselberg, CEO and Founder of NightLight, and feel that many of us can probably relate, at least in part. It’s messy, and stressful, filled with disappointment and discomfort. But where does hope appear? Right in the middle of it! God with us, in the flesh. In the mess, in the pain, in the hurt, in the uncertainty, God with us! Hope showed up!

I realized long ago that few Christmases are actually idyllic. In fact the first Christmas was anything but picture perfect. Mary and Joseph did not stop at a midnight mass to ponder the coming of their Savior. The political climate was chaotic and oppressive. People were forced to return to their city of birth for the census and the dirt roads would have been crowded, dusty, and noisy. Personal transportation was a donkey not a car with air conditioning and there were no noise-reduction headphones. There was no fast food and no convenient rest areas with picnic tables and clean bathrooms. On top of all this, Mary was experiencing the discomfort of riding on a donkey with a huge belly while experiencing labor pains.
Arriving in Bethlehem was only a temporary relief to the weary travelers, as the inns were full. Since in those days people didn’t hide out in their hotel rooms watching TV and ordering pizza to eat in seclusion, they would have been gathering around fires to cook their food in community. Children would have been running around and parents would have been yelling after the children to behave. In the midst of this chaos, Joseph was under pressure to find a place immediately for his wife to give birth. Joseph is usually portrayed as calm through it all, but from my own experience and stories of others, few men are actually that calm when their wife is about to deliver their first child. Sure they were given a stable but that’s kind of like finally getting a hotel room only to find the bed uncomfortable, the carpet stained, mold on the walls, and the odor of the previous tenant still lingering – not even a 2 star hotel. Somehow we have spiritualized everything to look so idyllic. I can’t think of anything idyllic about going through labor in a stable surrounded by animals. Mary and Joseph’s moment for reflection and wonder probably only came after an intensive labor and after a visit by the Shepherds. There was little in this first Christmas that was quiet, beautiful, or private by worldly standards.
Jesus came in the midst of chaos and he came into community accessible to all. He didn’t come to bring us a picture perfect Christmas. He came in the flesh, bringing hope to a chaotic world desperately in need. He came to a world in political upheaval because hope of peace is needed in these moments. He came to broken communities because He is the hope for better relationships. He came in the dark night because He is the hope that light will shine and overcome the darkness. He came to our stressed and burdened lives because he is Christ in us the hope of glory.

Because of this I have more than just hope, I have assurance. I know that God is sovereign and in control and that no matter what  my tests show this month or three months from now God has already forseen it, and He will never leave me. I know that God has been by my side through the trials of yesterday and he will continue to uphold all of us though the trials of tomorrow and if there can’t be true comfort found in that I don’t know where else we can possibly find it. The things of this world will crumble and fade away but we have an awesome, eternal, all powerful God who is just waiting on us to say – “Help. I can’t do this on my own anymore.” It’s the reason he came to us in the humblest of ways. If there is anything that I have learned it is this, no matter what happens today, or in the future, we have a loving God who hurts when we hurt, cries when we cry, and celebrates with us in the victories, both large and small. I know that God will provide us, all of us, with everything that we need for today and beyond that we don’t need to worry because He is holding this all together, and that is where we find hope.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:22)
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:5,6)

I again make a heartfelt plea on behalf of Hannah. Please join me in lifting her up in prayer and in sustaining her family with hope this Christmas.

Hope is a Savior
Who was born in the manger
Sent down from Heaven
To rescue our hearts
Hope is a promise
For a better tomorrow
In a world filled with sorrow
We always have hope
Our Christmas hope
-The Christmas Hope, NewSong

We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you back to reality…

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  Let your heart light.  From now on our troubles will be out of sight.

Stop!  Time out! Someone forgot to notify our troubles that it is Christmas and that because of this nostalgic song and the season that we find ourselves in, they are supposed to magically disappear.
Today, I want to introduce you to someone who interrupted our holiday preparations.  Our tiny Hannah. This sweet little baby made her entrance into this world one week ago at 26 weeks into my sister-in-law’s pregnancy.  At only 13 inches long and just 2 lbs 6 oz, she magnifies the miracle of life and the mighty and merciful God that we serve.  The doctors have nicknamed her “Little Tiger” for her already evident strength of spirit.  After years spent praying for a child, this dream pregnancy had been anything but.  The first trimester was spent battling nausea and vomiting.  Then came a terrifying diagnosis of Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS) that brought all of us to our knees. ABS occurs when the fetus becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development, causing anything from limb amputation and cleft palate, to club feet, or miscarriage.  Two weeks ago, during a bi-weekly ABS ultrasound it was discovered that Hannah’s mom was two centimeters dilated and beginning to efface.  The doctors did what they could to prevent labor and prepare and protect the baby but four days later Hannah’s mom’s water broke and after being rushed to one of the leading neonatal hospitals in the country Hannah made her appearance in this world.  And in joyful praise, Hannah is perfect.  The ABS didn’t affect her at all, and may very well have saved her life because of the increased monitoring.  Hannah’s story has only just begun but God’s merciful hand of protection on her is increasingly evident. In an answer to prayer and a display of God’s power,  Hannah spent only 14 hours on  the ventilator and has since been breathing on her own.  Every day is a milestone with challenges and questions, victories and sometimes set backs but there is no doubt that her little life is already bringing God glory.  God is already using her in a very mighty way!

Seeing Hannah lying in the NICU, hooked to machines beeping and monitoring, you can’t help but be overcome.  She has captured my heart while at the same time  pricking it in a way I never thought I would have known.  Looking at her tiny, fragile body, I can’t help but think of my own son, delivered at 32 weeks, who never had the opportunity at life.  The mix of emotions over the last week has been tumultuous.  I only share this insight as an explanation of the lens through which I share Hannah’s story.  I have had difficult moments claiming that “it is well with my soul” this week, with unrest billowing and rolling, always just under the surface, for these young parents, waiting and watching and holding their breath, afraid for the very life of their sweet little baby, not knowing what the next hour, let alone day is going to bring.  Having been on the other side of this story my heart is in anguish, knowing too well all that they fear, but finding comfort in the confidence of our God, who is holding all of this together.

So, I come back to the words of the song above, let your heart be light.  This is after all, the season for joy. The season for a plastic smile and a shiny veneer of holiday cheer.  But what happens when you find yourself picking up the pieces of your dreams, having to revert to Plan B before you even knew you needed a Plan B.  This is when real life interrupts the idealist version of Christmas.

This week, through Hannah’s story,  I want to share with you another picture of Christmas.  A picture of peace and hope, comfort and joy, in the midst of real life, delivered into a manger on that first Christmas.  These promises fulfilled through the birth of a tiny baby.

She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” (Matthew 1:23)

In the meantime and in the days going forward, will you join me in praying for “Little Tiger” Hannah and her parents and doctors?20131208-211411.jpg
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107:28-30)



Very well said on a day when I simply feel like enduring. A reminder that we need to engage, not withdraw into ourselves or stick our heads in the sand. Engaging requires more of us than simply enduring. It requires that we open our eyes and hearts to those around us. Engaging is our opportunity to use what God has given us, the good and the bad, to glorify him.

We have a sign posted as a reminder as we leave our house that says, “Your life may be the only Bible someone reads today.” That’s a heavy weight to bear but has everything to do with how we handle our shortcomings, our stumbles, our heartache, and the times when we are wronged. These are all ways we are able to begin fleshing out hope for a watching world. To live authentically, even in failure, gives hope to a world that has perfection as the standard expectation. Humility and gracefulness are strong, heroic attitudes. These words in action truly do require courage because it goes against the pride of society, the self-promoting, excuse-making, blame-avoiding society that my children are being raised in and influenced by on a daily basis. I want to engage deeper, to live my life fearlessly in the shadow of my Protector, and when I fail I want to be brave enough to admit it. You want others to know God? You want to begin to flesh out hope? Engage. It’s not in what you say, Jesus will be seen (or not) in what you do. And quite frankly there are days when that makes me want to just stay in bed with the blankets over my head but there is one more sign that we have hanging and it simply says this, “It’s not all about you.”

Father, this is such a tall order and I fail you daily but because of your mercy I am forgiven. Please help me to live in such a way that even in my failures I am pointing others to you. On days like today when I just feel like enduring, remind me that is because I haven’t spent time with You and forgive me for not wanting to engage. Thank you for being the author of grace and redemption. Thank you for your limitless, unconditional love. Amen.

It’s a book trailer…


Run and Be Still Books now available in soft cover and hardback!

Plus, through Wed 10/23 take an additional 10% off with code BOOKTRAILERWP1013!

Things have been busy lately (to put it mildly.)  Tonight, I am excited to share my newest project with you, the book trailer, in addition to offering my WordPress readers a special discount.  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

I wish I may, I wish I might…

pray impossible
Don’t just pray about what seems logical and possible. Pray hard about the impossible. God will show you that NOTHING, nothing, nothing, nothing is impossible with Him. Ever. Period. End of Story.

You make beautiful things out of the dust. (Gungor, Beautiful Things)

I am fascinated lately by this imagery, Glorious Ruins, life from the ashes, beauty springing forth from destruction.  I guess this is what hope is, if you had to put a label on this picture.  But in my mind, this is bigger than that.  Hope is defined as “a wish to get or do something, or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely.”  What I am talking about is a hope that is bigger than a wish.  A belief in the impossible!   Hope that is only possible through the hand of God, our Father.  Who else can take a story of death and disease and turn it beautiful.  Not me, not without God.  Who else can repair relationships that are damaged beyond our ability to communicate? Only through God.  He is the one who can get to the “heart” of the matter.  We can’t change others, we can’t fix them, our love isn’t enough.  But God’s is.  He is the perfecter of love and He wields the power to change the unchangeable.  Nothing is to big for God!

Sometimes we have to see things torn apart around us, we ourselves have to be torn down,  before we can spring forth, emerging stronger and more beautiful.  God’s hand in this process repairs us, so that even if our situation doesn’t change, we will still shine brilliantly, reflecting His love.  A lighthouse in the middle of the storm, guiding others to Him through that light of love. But being broken hurts, and healing, is a slow and painful process.

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:5,6).

Where is your hope springing forth from today?  Maybe a better question, the first question, is do you have hope?  Are you listening to a world that tells you to make wishes on stars and put your faith in the things that seem likely? Or in a God who says “Dream the impossible.  I love to answer big prayers in big ways.”  Those big miraculous answers are the answers that  are unmistakably from the hand of God.  In answering our big prayers, in bringing forth life from the ruins, His glory shines brighter.  Today, put your hope in God, not the things of this world.   Allow Him to have control,  not only of your situation, but also your heart, and then have the faith that He will not disappoint you!

Father God, You know my every desire and wish.  You know the secrets of my heart.  You know that sometimes I am afraid to hope for the impossible because of my fear of disappointment or failure.  Please help me to continue to put my hope in you and my fuel my faith in Your miraculous power.  Help me to remember, no matter how big or small Your answer to my prayer, it is exactly right in Your plan for my life. When things seem to be falling apart around me, help me to remember that this hasn’t slipped by without your knowledge.  You are the giver of life, and I will cling to Your promise of restoration and wholeness, even in the midst of the ruins, knowing that if it is Your sovereign plan, goodness and growth will spring forth from it.  I know your Word says you have big plans for me, good plans for me.  That you are able to do immeasurably more than I ask or even imagine.  Please Lord, plant in me the seeds of longing for Your plans.  Help the dreams I dream, be rooted and aligned in Your will, and help me not to sell them short for fear of the impossible.  I pray all of this in your holy, powerful, life-giving name. Amen.