Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

"I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." - Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

A burden that is beautiful? A longing for eternity but not fully understanding what that means?

Irony: “A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects” (Merriam-Webster).

Sometimes I wonder if I live in a constant state of irony. And when I look at my diseases in that way, it is almost… ALMOST humorous, depending on my mood. I need to eat salt (POTS) but my mouth is dry as a desert (Sjogren’s). I need to take detox baths (MTHFR gene mutation) but the hot water makes me tachychardic (POTS). I need to wear compression stockings (POTS) but when it’s hot outside they make it worse (Dysautonomia). I’m constantly fatigued (you name the disease) but am plagued by insomnia (again, all of the above). I need medicine (for everything) but my doctor literally said sometimes the cure is worse than the disease for me (MTHFR mutation). I have Lyme disease but not the kind insurance or the CDC recognizes or that conventional doctors treat. I constantly feel feverish but have a low temp until I get to the doctor’s office and then I have a fever. They joke that I’m the only one in the world with low blood pressure but “white coat fever”. And on the mental and emotional side of things, I have severe depression and severe anxiety at the same time. So I’m completely amped inside but also listless. I have an extreme sense of empathy for others but also apathy toward myself and life in general. One of my deepest fears is hurting anyone but I end up lashing out or pushing away and hurting the people closest to me.

I get angry about the ironic circumstances of life. I like things to be black and white and very easily understandable, so life feels like the biggest, most exhausting puzzle and I’m tired. Indescribably tired. I’m tired of trying to figure out why God does the things that He does. I’m tired of trying to understand how horrible things keep happening to the same people over and over again. I’m tired of hope. It hurts too much. I’m tired of trying to understand how this burden could ever be beautiful.

But, here’s the thing that endears my heart to the heart of God. For whatever reason, God seems to love irony. He works in the unexpected. Jesus valued women and children in a culture and time that did not. He shared meals with tax collectors and social outcasts. He came to save the world and yet He did it by serving and dying. In our lives, God’s presence is often best known through suffering. He speaks to us in the small things while we are looking for the big things (like Elijah experiencing an earthquake, wind, and fire but God was in the gentle whisper – 1 Kings 19). God hasn’t healed my illnesses or taken away the suffering of my loved ones, but for some reason he cares about the convenience of my dental appointment (that’s a story for another day but suffice it to say that the one person in this world that could have made the appointment possible called the office at the exact same time that I was calling).

I want God to do big things, but maybe the small things are really the big things, or at least adding up to the biggest thing. Jesus’ lowly servitude and seemingly hopeless death turned out to be the biggest gift of all. I don’t know what God is doing, but maybe it’s much bigger than I often want to believe. And isn’t that one of the very definitions of irony? “A literary technique by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character” (Merriam-Webster). We, God’s children, do not grasp the full significance of what happens on this earth and yet, He is still leading us to the end of the story. He has set our hearts on the path to eternity. I push and wail and fight Him at every turn but at the same time, I’m glad He gives us the gift of the unexpected. And He works in the midst of my sinful fight because “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

When I can see things the way I’m supposed to see them, I’m glad God works in ironies. I’m glad He cares for the lowly, fellowships with the sinners, and even dies for love. And I’m glad He still loves me even when I am so far from okay. See, I’m pretty ironic too. The apple didn’t fall too far from the Tree, except that my irony isn’t the good kind. I’m fearful but unbelievably stubborn. I am gifted with words but have allowed myself to be silenced. And I love God but sometimes I scream at Him. I pray that God fixes my version of irony and uses the ironic state of my life to draw me to Himself. I pray that life’s ironies become proof that God is working because there are no coincidences.

And I wrote this entire blog post before I remembered the verse that my friend sent me this morning, the verse at the top of this post. An ironic verse given to me on the day I write a post about irony. There are no coincidences. God has set eternity in my heart and I pray that He grows that desire into the healthy version. He has laid a burden on my heart and I pray that He helps me see it as beautiful in His time.

Like what you see? Share it!

Don’t Shout at Me, Walk with Me

Originally written on January 25, 2015.

We sit behind her every Sunday.  We exchange hellos and occasional hugs and she tells my roommie and I that we have beautiful voices.  But I did not even know her name for sure until today.  Today she gave us a beautiful gift.  Simple, but more profound than she will ever know.  She asked us if we were attending an event and we both replied that we were not.  She knows we are young, paycheck-to-paycheck couples.  To our surprise, she responded that she loves us and it would be her honor and privilege to pay for us to go.  Our immediate reply was of course not, we cannot let her do that.  It’s too much.  But she asked us to think and pray about it and finally told us her full name so we would know how to get in touch with her.  So, I did what she asked.  I thought about it.  Rather, I should say, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Roommie thought about it too.  A precious thought came to us and it eventually changed our minds.  She was not just simply offering to pay for us to have a weekend away at a retreat.  She was offering the gift of fellowship.  A precious gift that I’m ashamed to say I have pretty much lost over the years.  I started realizing that I wanted that gift.  I wanted to get to know the sweet lady who smiles and waves at me every Sunday, and so many others in the process.  If I could not humble myself enough to accept, I would miss out on an incredibly precious gift.

I have been discouraged and complaining a lot lately about the state of the church in general.  Those who have the loudest voices in the church make my skin crawl and my insides churn.  I don’t want to be linked with the ‘shouters’ – those who scream hatred to sinners in the name of my Jesus.  Jason and I watched a movie recently called Meant to Be.  It was not a great movie that I would recommend, but I did appreciate one part in particular.  I think Jason was waiting for me to try and fist-bump the woman who said this – “Sunday after Sunday we go to church and we sit and listen to what God’s word says about a Christ-filled life. Well, Christians are never more visible than when they’re standing on their soapboxes screaming that abortion is wrong.  They take the time to protest the clinics, to snub their noses at the women that go in and out of these establishments.  But tell me something.  Where are the Christians who say, ‘let me take your hand. Let me help you have this baby?’  It is lazy and it is an arrogant way to respond and I can no longer be a Sunday Christian.”  I could say the same about those who scream on the street corners or even social media about anything in the name of Christ.  Or even those who think they are doing the Lord’s work by shunning those who sin differently than they do.  I want to know where to find their love.  I want to know why they think shouting is going to change someone’s heart better than actually walking through life with them and offering help.  They scream so loudly that I cannot find the love anymore.  I have lost sight of the love that Jesus portrayed when he walked side-by-side with the same people at whom we scream – ‘sinners’!

I found that love again today.  It may appear to be hiding, but it’s not.  That love is in the Body of Christ.  It’s in the church.  It’s just hard to see it behind the shouters.  But it’s there.  It’s steadfast.  It’s beautiful.  And if I avoid the church because of the shouters, I miss the lovers.  They are the ones who befriend the outcasts, who make extra food and pray for someone to share it, who walk beside the hurting and share their burdens.  They are the ones who have taken my own hand over the years and walked me though trials.  They so beautifully represent the love of Christ.

The shouters do not represent my Jesus.  They just happen to be louder than those who do.  But in the end, actions speak far louder than words.  And I am far more blessed by the lovers than I am put-off by the shouters.  Because what speaks the loudest and most beautifully to my heart is Love.  And I am so thankful that the beautiful, Christ-filled woman, whose name I finally know, was there to love me today.  She has no idea how deeply she has blessed me.

Like what you see? Share it!

Half-hearted Holi-daze

Are you only half-there this Christmas? Me too. My glass feels far less than half-empty. I used to love Christmas. Christmas music began in my world on Halloween. I decorated every room in the house. I hand-made Christmas cards and gifts. I would lie awake in my room on Christmas Eve listening to Christmas music by the twinkling lights until midnight when I sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. And I was still doing this as a full-grown adult!

But something has happened to my joy. I’m only feeling half-Christmasy, and even mustering up that much is a stretch. It’s hard to welcome Christmas music into our weary world anymore. God knows there’s a couple who already buried one child, pleading for their new little one’s damaged heart to keep beating one more day. There are Jesus-followers haunted by the memory of that one Sunday they watched as their brothers and sisters were murdered while they worshiped. There are people holding vigil over their loved ones this Christmas because pain doesn’t ever take a holiday. There are countless people I hold dear who can’t remember the last time they felt well. I am wrecked by the suffering I see and feel. Most days I wonder if I’m even half the person I used to be. I can’t get to my feet after one bout of depression before another flattens me and I yelp, “can’t You give a girl half a chance? Can the suffering not break for just half a second so we can catch our breath?” I wonder if God is half-asleep or half a world away.

I’ve got half a mind to just give up. And some days, many days, I do just that. I’ve got half-written songs and half-written blog posts, testifying to my half-hearted focus. And sometimes I have to ask what God was thinking with this seemingly half-baked plan being carried out down here. And I start to wonder, what has happened to my faith?

"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'" - Luke 10:38-42

Martha chose distraction and anxiety. Mary chose the good portion, the good half of things. She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him teach, and it was the very thing that would not be taken away from her. I think I’m like Martha. I am “anxious and troubled about many things”, keeping only half an ear on Jesus, half an eye on His love and the other half on my pain. I’ve been listening to Satan’s half-truths, or flat-out lies, instead of the voice of the one who whole-heartedly entered the flesh so many years ago. Evil wants me to believe that all of this suffering means that God doesn’t love us. I’ve closed half my heart that sees good in the world, good in God, thereby magnifying the choking darkness when only “one thing is necessary”… Jesus.

Here’s the problem though, Jesus. Distraction and anxiety aren’t easy to lay at Your feet. Not when the pain still scalds our hearts with each fresh pour on the fire of suffering from our half-empty glasses. We just don’t have it in us. And You repeat.. just give Me what you have.

"He put another parable before them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.'" - Matthew 13:31-32

"For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." - Matthew 17:20

This is the best news for our half-alive hearts this Christmas and always. Jesus has come. He is not half a world away, nor does He sleep. He is here and the more our eyes focus on Him, the more clearly we will see Him. It doesn’t matter how big our tired faith is as long as we plant it in Him. It can be as small as a tiny seed as long as we lay it at the feet of Jesus. He will grow it. He will multiply the smallest faith because nothing is impossible with God. We don’t even have to fight half the battle, because He has already won the whole thing. AND IT WILL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM US.

Even as we wave our flag at half-mast, deeply grieving the things we just don’t understand, let us plant our tiny grain of faith where God can grow it, where it will not be taken away from us. The very best thing we can do this Christmas is drag our weary and broken hearts to the feet of Jesus, believing that, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). It makes sense that if we listen with more than just half an ear, we hear His voice more clearly. And we’ve never even heard the half of it.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." - 1 Corinthians 13:9,12

Jesus, meet us here in our half-hearts. Make them whole as we plant our tiny faith in You. We long for the day when the “partial will pass away”, but for now, we place it in the only place it can’t be taken away, the soil of Your love. We may only know half, but in You, we have always been fully known. Thank You for coming, Lord Jesus. Happy Birthday.

Like what you see? Share it!

Eyes and Eagles, A Reflection

I love how God surprises us with His Word. It’s so full of life and truth and His very breath. Not long ago, I spent an entire day studying Deuteronomy 32, of all things. It’s as if the passage was drawing me in and I could not pull away.

"In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft." (Deuteronomy 32: 10-11) 

Wandering in a desert like the Israelites, living what feels like a wasted life, howling because I have forsaken God, He finds me, cares for me, guards me, and carries me.

The phrase, ‘apple of my eye’, refers to something cherished above all other things. It represents the pupil of the eye, which is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. We can usually tough it out when we have an eyelash on the white of our eye but try to focus on anything else next time you have an eyelash touching your pupil. The sensitivity makes it nearly impossible. The original Hebrew literally translated this phrase as “Little Man of the Eye”, referring to the reflection of yourself seen in other people’s pupils (

Is this not one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever heard? God guards us occasional wanderers as the apple of his eye, the most sensitive part of Himself, and His own reflection. He allows Himself to be affected by us, to care for us, and to long for us (Isaiah 30:18, Matthew 23:37). I love this quote that references the stories of Hosea and the prodigal son, “God’s longing and love could leave some embarrassed for Him, saying, ‘I don’t want God to make a fool of Himself over Gomer or a delinquent young man. I don’t want to see Him standing there with red, swollen eyes, or an aching lump in His throat.’ And then He turns those red eyes toward us. He puts the robe around our shoulders. And slips the ring on our fingers. And turns us toward home” ( The God of the universe loves us, allows Himself to be tender toward us, and welcomes us home to Him. And He made us tender so that we could reflect Him, so that He could be the Protector of our sensitivity, and so that He could provide for us (vs. 13-14). If we were not wired with sensitivity, we wouldn’t need God, and if He had no affection, He wouldn’t be jealous when we wander (vs. 16).

In verse 11, God describes Himself using an eagle metaphor. An eagle lines the bottom of its nest with its own feathers to protect and comfort its young until they are ready to fly. Then the eagle loosens the comfortable feathers and stirs the nest with its wings so the feathers fly away and the nest is no longer pleasant. If that doesn’t work to make the young leave the nest, the eagle will knock them out of the nest and fly next to them, catching them until they learn to fly on their own (

God’s metaphors are stunning! Just like an eagle stirs its nest so the young don’t get too comfortable, God stirs up our comfortable lives so that we learn to thrive. And He catches us and carries us if we have some trouble learning right away. I got too comfortable for awhile so God stirred up my nest. And because I have been refusing to learn how to fly, this thorny nest is even more uncomfortable on my sensitive flesh. It’s the security I have always known but now God wants me to fly, to be the person He created me to be. But I’m afraid to fall so I sit in uncomfortable misery. God promises that if I spread my wings and jump, He will catch me when I don’t soar the heights right away.

At first I wasn’t sure I believed the truth in this because I have jumped and I have regretted it. I’ve done what I thought God wanted me to do and seemed to fall pretty hard. But I’m starting to wonder if that’s not really the case. I think maybe when I tried to fly, I got scared. Instead of trusting God to catch me, I flew back to the nest to sit in misery. I fear that if I, as the sensitive apple of God’s eye, were to jump out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be affected by Him and other people, the tender heart that God gave me would shatter. So here I sit aching in my jagged nest, the life slowly bleeding out of me, not letting anyone touch me. If only I would leave behind the things that used to give me comfort, God would be my comfort. He would heal my heart when it breaks and my life would not slowly, achingly bleed away. If I let people touch my  heart the way God lets all of us touch His heart, He will spread His wings to catch me when things get too uncomfortable and He won’t let me fall. He will fly with me.

"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants" (vs. 2). 

Making this even more precious to my musical heart, this whole chapter is actually a song that God Himself wrote for the Israelites to memorize. He wanted them to remember how affected God is by their choices and that He helps them learn to fully live. Can you believe that? God wrote His people a song! God wants His song to pour into our tender places. As our Protector, He doesn’t want us to try and protect our own hearts from being affected, but He wants His song, His love, His longing, and His reflection in other people to touch our tender hearts. God cherishes, guards, and even sings about, our sensitivity.

"I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand" (vs. 39). 

It is possible for our tender hearts to be wounded when God stirs our comfortable nests, but God heals and delivers us. At first glance, this beautiful verse means that no one can take us out of God’s hand. But I see an even richer meaning as well. Nothing and no one else can bring us God’s deliverance. Nothing can truly heal us or make us more secure than our Protector, not even the nest He first built for us. No one else can vindicate or clear us of blame when we waste our strength resisting God’s flight plan (vs. 36). No one else can be our rock, refuge, help, or shelter (vs. 37-38). No one else can bring us life or heal us. Nothing we see as ‘good’ outside of God can be the thing that delivers us. We are the cherished, protected reflection of God. It’s time for us to believe that, to open our hearts, and to leave the nest. We may be surprised at how healing it is to fly.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." -Psalm 17:8
Like what you see? Share it!

He Holds Hands Full of Lilies of the Valley

I’ve noticed something about myself lately that I don’t like at all. I’ve been responding to everything with biting sarcasm, whether just in my head or spewed from my lips. Any attempt at trying to cheer me up has been met with an internal scoff and usually external negativity. I should apologize to anyone I’ve allowed to see that ugly bit of myself but hey, at least I was being honest for once… or so I thought. I have felt anger within myself for awhile. It’s ok to be angry sometimes but it’s not ok to sink into bitterness, which is what I have done. But I’ve realized that most of this knee-jerk sarcasm and anger is a cover for the way I’m really feeling. Because I’m really feeling like a lost and terrified little girl who needs her Father to take her home.

I’ve become aware that every bit of my existence has been about striving for something. If I am not striving for something, perfection of some sort, I have no idea how to act. I am trying to find the way home my own way and have gotten frustrated and given up. Instead, I need to let God carry me home in His way. I’m terrified because it’s not the way I have always known. I have never fully grasped what it means to be God’s child. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that I had to work hard to earn that position, that I had to be perfect for God and everyone else or they would be disappointed in me. I thought I had to work harder to be better, and to make everyone else’s lives better, or I wasn’t good enough. And since I have not been able to make my life or the lives of anyone around me better, I am hopelessly lost and my entire life has been a failure, perhaps even a lie.

I think that’s a big reason my illness started right after my first Social Work job. It was impossible to be a perfectionist at that job because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day. I had to cut corners and I constantly felt guilty for doing so. It was unacceptable to me that I couldn’t hack it. I was miserable because I could not do everything exactly right. So instead of finally accepting that it was impossible for me to be perfect, I found a different job and quickly realized I had stumbled back into my comfort zone. I loved this job more than I can say, and not just because I was good at it and could accomplish it with my normal perfectionistic drive. I genuinely looked forward to it every day. And when it was taken from me due to my illness, I found myself lost again.

Probably one of my most frequent prayers since leaving work has been, “what am I supposed to do?” God’s only clear answer has been, “rest and let Me heal you.” That may sound good, but it is indescribable agony for someone who only knows how to work, how to do, how to strive for perfection. There has never been one single moment in my life that has not been spent analyzing which “self” would be best to present in that moment and working hard to present only that self at that time. I have never been at rest within myself. This fake world crashing down around me has left me lost, vulnerable, and basically non-existent, since I have never known my true self and don’t know how to be her. I HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO REST AND IT FEELS LIKE IT IS KILLING ME. Hence, the healing crisis. But it’s easier for me to be angry than sad because it’s less vulnerable, so that’s where I’ve been hiding out for awhile. See, always hiding.

I finally started to allow God to reveal to me how completely heartbroken and devastated I am. Then, I visited my work friends the other day. It was good for my heart to see them again but it also reawakened in me deep sadness and loss. As I watched them move about their office, familiar in their workplace, and as I listened to their lives, my ache became evident. And when I realized that it was not even two hours from the time my friend picked me up to the time she dropped me back off and my body was completely finished, overly-exhausted and unable to function anymore, I just knew that was the last time I could push it to have much of a life outside of this house. I felt my body telling me it was finished for awhile and that scares me. It’s not just the loss of my job that has left me reeling, but the loss of my ability to strive for perfection, the loss of the only way I know how to act, the loss of who I truly believed I was. I miss work. I miss knowing my purpose (even if it was misguided). I miss familiarity. I miss helping people. I miss the daily support system and camaraderie. I miss being able to go places without issue. I miss knowing what to do with myself. I miss everything about the life I used to know….except when I remember that the life I used to know was a life of my own making, not God’s.

But the sadness is still overwhelming. So I’ve been asking God where He’s keeping the comfort that He talks about, because I don’t feel it. I keep asking Him to hold me, to come find His lost daughter and carry her home with Him. My heart is so broken and I just don’t feel comforted. I asked Him to show me in His Word. As I was reaching for my Bible, my alarm went off and played the song, “Held”, by Natalie Grant. Yes, I chose the song as my alarm but I didn’t remember that’s what I had chosen, nor that I had chosen it for this hour. God used my previous choice to show me this hour that He is holding me.

Indulge me while I apply the song lyrics to my life. “Two months is too little. They let him go. They had no sudden healing. To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling… This hand is bitterness. We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow.” I’ve had no sudden healing and to think that God would do this is appalling. I’ve been covering and numbing my sorrow with anger and sarcasm. I just didn’t want to feel the pain. I would rather blame because at least that convinces me there’s a reason for my suffering. Without the anger, there is only loss. But I need to let go.

“The wise hands open slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.” Lilies of the valley are a symbol of humility and also of the Second Coming of Christ. It is also a highly poisonous flower. How profound. In order to gain the hope of tomorrow (Jesus’ return), I have to have the wisdom to open my hand and accept the poison (pain and suffering of life) with humility, recognizing my need for God and that the life He is building for me is better than the one I built. Vaneetha Rendall Risner, about whom this song is written, says, “I can experience true joy only after I have acknowledged my sorrow. And when I do, I find myself in a deeper place with the Lord, who helps reframe my disappointments and pain.” I highly recommend her book, The Scars that Have Shaped Me.

“This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was when everything fell, we’d be held. If hope is born of suffering, if this is only the beginning, can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?” Maybe comfort is not necessarily removal of the pain, but knowing that I am still held and loved when my world falls apart. Maybe it’s knowing this is only the beginning and that we can wait for our Savior to deliver us. Maybe the comfort is knowing that God will never waste our pain and will use it for good. Knowing this probably won’t take the pain away but it may remove the sting of bitterness.

When I finally made it to the Bible after the song was over, the verse that seemed to mean the most to me was Isaiah 66:13, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” I thought about how a child doesn’t understand why anything bad happens to her and she runs straight to her mother to be held and comforted. Being held may not change the circumstances but she cries it out in her mother’s arms. Even if her mother is the one causing what she perceives as bad, she still lets her hold and comfort her. And though the child’s pain grieves her mother’s heart, her mother doesn’t change the circumstances because she knows what is best. This deeply touches my heart and it’s where I have been in the last few days. I have been angry at God for so long but right now I don’t want to be angry anymore. Instead, I crave comfort and I want to be held. I can trust God enough to let Him hold me even when I perceive that what He’s doing is bad. He knows what’s best for me and will accomplish it even if it grieves His heart to break my heart. After all, “The Father said no to the Son. And that no brought about the greatest good in all of history.” – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Earlier in Isaiah 66, God says He esteems those who are humble and contrite in spirit (vs. 2) and He will not bring labor without delivery (vs. 9). This is such a beautiful promise. God will not bring pain without delivering us. He will comfort us (vs. 13), we will rejoice, and His hand will be made known to His servants (vs. 14). To those who humble and submit themselves to God, opening their hands to the lilies of the valley, to those who allow themselves to grieve in God’s arms, He will bring deliverance, comfort, joy, and a knowledge of His work. This is what it means to be held.

Like what you see? Share it!

I Am Held

While I was growing up my grandparents had a cottage at Lake Erie and we spent many summer days on the beach and nights sitting around the campfire ring. I remember the delicious breakfasts over the fire and the camp pies and singing around the fire at night. Many wonderful memories surround that fire ring.

But there is one memory I have of the fire ring that isn’t quite so pleasant. I was very young and I was ‘helping’ my dad burn trash in the fire ring. At one point, my dad reached down with his left hand and touched the fire ring while he threw trash into the middle of the fire with his right hand. I don’t know why he did it, and he certainly wouldn’t have done it if he had known that I was going to do it too. Because I thought I could be like my dad, I touched the very hot fire ring and was burned. I did not understand that it would hurt me because I was not as strong as my dad. I didn’t have calloused, hard-working hands like he did and I didn’t know how to just barely touch it for a moment so I wouldn’t get burned.

Ever since the beginning of time we have been trying to become big and strong and knowledgeable. We have been trying to become like God. Adam and Eve wanted to become like God so they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Becoming like God hurt us. We thought it would make us like Him, to understand like Him. But all it brought was pain and shame. I still don’t understand why my dad touched the fire ring. There really wasn’t a reason that I can see. But just like I didn’t understand what my dad did, I often don’t understand what God does. There doesn’t seem to be a reason behind His methods sometimes. But God’s ways are always going to be higher than our understanding can reach. I am not strong or knowledgeable enough to understand Him completely and I never will be. Constantly trying to become like God and understand things like God has hurt me, just like trying to be like my dad hurt me for a brief moment. I try to ‘help’ God by becoming like Him and I hurt myself instead. I question His ways and live in fear when I could just rest and let Him be God.

But, here’s another truly beautiful thing about God. Even when we try to be like Him, He still takes us in His arms and comforts us when it hurts. He still covers our shame and offers us His love and grace. My dad held and comforted me when I got hurt and I learned a valuable lesson. And each time there is pain in our lives, it’s an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson and to be held by the greatest Love in the universe. I am so glad my Father is strong enough to hold me when I hurt.

Oh, and I imagine there will be camp pies in Heaven! 😉

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." - Isaiah 55:8
Like what you see? Share it!

It Would Be Easier

“It would be easier if He wasn’t who He said He was.”

Those words, penned by Jennie Allen in her book- Nothing To Prove, stared me right in the face. She was giving words to Peter as he pondered his denial of Jesus. It would have been easier for him not to have to look Jesus in the eyes again after his betrayal. Those piercing, loving, forgiving eyes gazing into eyes that had denied knowing Him. It would have been easier for Peter to just try and forget.

It would be easier. And I want easy! Too many people have put me on a pedestal and I want to knock it right out from under myself every single time. You have NO idea what goes on in my heart, and that’s probably my fault for not telling you as much of the ugly as is necessary to kick the pedestal down. I am NOT an inspiration… so just stop. Right here and right now, I admit that what I continually strive for in this life is a way to make things easier for myself. And when something goes wrong, I immediately look for a way out.

For example, I thought my hope was in the right place because the thing I hope for more than anything is Heaven. I long for it every moment. But God recently broke through my thoughts and showed me that my motivation in hoping for Heaven is not pure. I hope for Heaven so that I can run away from this life. Because it would be easier for me to be there right now than it is for me to be here. It shook me that my motivation for the end of this life is not Jesus. Rather, it’s an escape. And it breaks my heart that I want the escape more than I want Jesus. Because if I really wanted Jesus more than anything, I could have all of Jesus right now. I could have all of Him and He could have all of me if I would stop running from Him.

But I run because the Jesus life feels too hard for me. It would be easier if I could just ignore every hard thing, and I’m ashamed to say that I have tried. I try all the time. It would be easier if Jesus had called me to a pain-free life. Instead, He reminds me that He won’t take my pain away but He will help me carry it (Isaiah 53:4). It would be easier if I could turn a cold shoulder to the ones who hurt the people I love, but there’s that “honor one another above yourselves” thing (Romans 12:10). It would be easier to ignore any nudge of calling on my life because I don’t have what it takes, but Jesus said the Holy Spirit would accomplish it through me (Matthew 10:19-20). It would be easier if Jesus would stop calling me to have my heart ripped to shreds, but there is a pruning process that is necessary for bearing fruit (John 15:2). It would be easier if I could just stop my heart from loving altogether but Jesus said loving God and loving my neighbor as myself are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39). It would be easier if none of this mattered. It would be easier if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was.

But is easier really better? Today, I really want to say- yes, yes it is. But I know better. Easier invites complacency, stagnancy, pride, a life choked-out from the lack of Living water. Easier takes instead of gives. It consumes comfort instead of offering it to someone else. Easier is safe and selfish. Easier extinguishes real relationships. And easier does not care about others. Easier means this life is all there is and, oh my, I can’t handle that! Easier here means there’s nothing to look forward to There. Easier is a wasted life.

It would be easier if He wasn’t who He said He was. Then I could relax and forget about the hard things He calls me to – the loving my enemies, the giving up my control, the being seen and vulnerable. And though my heart feels pulverized by this life that is so, so hard, easier is not better. Because easier is a life without Jesus. When I think about it, when I REALLY think about it, life without Jesus is not actually easier. That’s just an illusion. Because a life without Jesus is a life done alone. It is dark. It has no hope for anything but the right now. And Jesus invites us to more than the right now, to a beautiful and eternal future. And He wants us to allow Him to make our lives on this earth easier. He wants to carry our burdens and He wants us to rest in Him. Life with Jesus is actually the easiest and best life because it is a life allowing Him to do the hard work. He wants to flood our lives with Light for the path, love for our broken hearts, and His strength for the hard things. I AM SO GLAD HE IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS!

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
Like what you see? Share it!

The Healing Crisis

"The Lord replied, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" - Exodus 33:14

Remember the time I almost died? Well maybe not, but I thought I was dying and I’m trying to convey how I felt. I started a new supplement this past week and it completely knocked me off my feet. I believe I had my first herxheimer reaction (herx) from the medicine. This article explains a mild herx but it’s basically a die-off reaction, also referred to as a “healing crisis”. Medicine kills the pathogens in your body- in my case Lyme, among many other things- and the body reacts to the large amount of toxins released as the pathogens die. The die-off either exacerbates the symptoms you already have or it creates new ones. There’s always something new to discover in the medical wonder that is my body. A daily adventure, if you will. I reached out to the Lyme community and the consensus was, if you’re lying in the fetal position waiting for death, it’s a herx. That about sums up this past week in my life.

During my reaction, I vowed that I would not take the medicine again because it simply wasn’t worth the agony of sleeping on the bathroom floor and the fear that my heart would truly stop beating, nor the worry from my husband who has to watch all of this unfold and still fitfully attempt to get enough sleep for work. But my doctor told me to take two days off the meds and start back very slowly. During those two days of rest I did a lot of thinking and praying. I realized that my joints and glands were not as swollen. I think for the first time, something was actually working. That was the scary part – the realization that it doesn’t matter which medicine accomplishes this task, if I am ever going to get better the pathogens that are causing me to be sick have to die. In order to heal, the evil that is inside of me has to die no matter how much it hurts.

How metaphorical. This is exactly what has to happen in our spiritual lives as well. If we are going to let God heal every part of us, the evil parts have to die no matter how painful the process. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 says, “It is a trustworthy statement: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” If I endure the healing crisis allowing the pathogens to die, I will live. If I endure the spiritual healing crises allowing my old self to die, I will live and reign with Christ. What could be better?

Awhile ago, I asked God what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I just feel so irresponsible and useless and it deeply bothers me that Jason has all the responsibilities while pretty much having a second job caring for me. What I heard God say was, “rest and let Me heal you.” Ok God, maybe I heard You wrong. You know I rest all the time. In fact, I feel like I rest so much that I’m restless!! And I’m pretty sure God said something along the lines of, “bingo!” If your spirit/mind/heart is restless, you are not really resting.

I told my counselor about this and she read the definitions of “rest” to me. Rest is a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities; freedom from activity or labor. I assure you I’ve got that one completely covered. Next, rest is peace of mind or spirit. I do not believe I have ever been at rest inside of myself. I truly don’t know what that feels like but I think God wants to show me. Rest is also a rhythmic silence in music, which speaks to my musical side. Rest is something used as support. I liked this one because I could take it to mean that I need to use God as my support. I also need to lay down my pride and start letting others do things for me without feeling guilty. Not easy! The definition that my counselor read multiple times was “the repose of death.” I really did not like that one because it sounded morbid and I didn’t understand why she kept repeating it. It’s awesome how God plants seeds and then later helps us see the reason. I get it now!! In order to rest and let God heal me, the old me has to die no matter how much the process hurts.

I’ve never been as attached to Psalm 23 as many people are, but I think I’ve fallen in love with it anew and will be camped out in this passage for awhile.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” During this time of rest, God will make sure that I lack nothing that is necessary by His standards, not mine. Just as a shepherd knows what the sheep need, God knows what I need.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” In order for God to restore my soul, I must lie down, be quiet, and listen to Him. Rest.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God has to get rid of the old things that were not leading me down the path He wants for me. And that means those old things must die.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” But while these things die, I do not have to fear because God is with me to comfort me, provide for me, and guide me.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” This is the most beautiful part to me. There is rich meaning in anointing oil. Oil can be used for physical and spiritual healing and I find it so perfectly beautiful that it is included in this passage. As I rest, I allow God to pour His healing over me. Another use for anointing oil is to set aside someone for the service of God. I love this. God is using this time to prepare me to serve Him, likely in a way that I have never imagined. The old me is dying so that the new me can be the person He created me to be. I am so excited to see where God takes me!

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God only has goodness and love in store for me. And what better promise could there be than that?

When I allow God to heal me spiritually, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I do nothing in my own strength. Therefore, I am at rest as I rely on Him. My heart yearns for this healing rest. I also want to be healed physically, as much as the process scares me. So I need help! I need to be surrounded by the support part of rest. I need my brothers and sisters to pray for physical and emotional strength. At this point in my weakness, my 9-pound dog can pull me over. During my weakness, I need to feel God’s presence with me to help me through. I need His perfect love to cast out my fear. Today I stared at the medicine bottles for a good half hour, took a break for an hour, came back, held Jason’s hand and took them, panic and all. There’s a reason they call this a “healing crisis”. But if I’m ever going to heal, I need to let the medicine heal me even when it feels like death. And if I’m going to heal spiritually, I need to let God heal every part of me, no matter how painful it is and how much it takes out of me. Both processes will take nothing from me that I need, only the things that harm me.

There must be a reason this song has been on replay in my house for quite some time, “Oh, Lord I lay it down. Help me to lay it down. Oh, let this be where I die. My Lord, with Thee, crucified. Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall once and for all” (Lauren Daigle). God, I’m ready for the dying part of rest. I’m ready for you to heal me once and for all. I’m ready for my kingdoms to fall and Yours to build. I lay it all down. I trust You! Let the healing come as I rest in You.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." - Isaiah 30:15
Like what you see? Share it!

The Beauty of the Rubble

He will show you a new beauty. That’s the post I wrote one year ago when I decided to start naming the beauty I see in the midst of the brokenness. Beauty in the rubble.

I had been in a very dark place before that time. And I’m not saying this year of noticing the beauty has been bright. In fact, it’s possibly been more painful than the last. But slowly it transitioned into a different kind of pain. Instead of drowning in darkness, it has been a pain from which I’m generally able to see the light all around me. I started watching sunsets again. I had stopped doing that. I enjoyed nature again. Instead of constantly doing, I’ve been able to just observe God’s beautiful people at work. When I felt like I was drowning in pain I could look outside of myself and notice beauty.

Noticing the beauty this year helped get me out of my head at least once a day. It’s a scary place in there sometimes. Counting the beauty helped me praise God and notice his gifts. It helped me to see something positive amidst all of the negative. This year was jam-packed full of beauty that I would not have noticed if I had not purposely gone looking for it. God’s gifts to me. Beauty in the rubble.

But, the most surprising thing I have learned is that it is actually possible to see the beauty OF the rubble. Sometimes I may have to squint a little, maybe tilt my head or turn around. Or maybe I can’t see it now but I know I will see it eventually. The rubble is beautiful because of what God is doing with it. He said so in Romans 8:28.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that I only thought of that verse as God working the greater good for other people. I took comfort in the thought that my pain could help others and I definitely still think that can be the case. But I finally realized that God is working it for MY good as well. It’s difficult to see it that way because it doesn’t feel good, but it IS good. It is good for ME… because God said so.

I realized recently that I often thank God for the things I originally begged him to take away. I begged him to let me stay in Tennessee instead of moving back to Pennsylvania for awhile and now those Pennsylvania years are very precious to me. They were some of the last times I spent with my grandparents, among other blessings. I’ve begged God countless times to take away this illness. But if you were to ask me if I wish it had never happened, I would firmly, wholeheartedly say “NO.” This illness has gifted me in unbelievable ways. I can feel God’s presence with me like I had never felt before. I can see how this brokenness is allowing God to mold me into a better person. I can feel it stripping away the things in me that do not matter and slowly putting the broken pieces back where they belonged in the first place. It is a very painful beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. When I finally started pulling myself away from the darkness and started focusing on God, my eyes began to adjust to the Light.

This is certainly a beauty I have never seen before. All I needed to do was turn around.

Like what you see? Share it!

Stinky Fish Grace

"But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord." - Jonah 1:3

I grew up learning about Jonah on the felt board in Sunday School. Yes, felt boards, not Smart boards, were the name of our game back then. Jonah is likely one of the first Bible stories we learn because it is so memorable. And what kid wouldn’t love a story about a man being swallowed by a big fish?

Well, of course that kid would have to be me. Ever the odd one, I always kind of worried about Jonah and was grossed out thinking of his three-day surroundings. Then, there’s the lovely visual of the fish vomiting him up. I can hardly even stand to use that word and Jason knows to change the channel at the first hint of visual/audio up-chucking of any sort. This story has never appealed to me in the slightest. But I still felt as if I’d known it inside out (ha, pun not originally intended) since I was a child. I didn’t really think there would be anything more to learn from it, but God always has other plans. I thought I knew it by heart, but He showed me it hadn’t sunk into my heart. Because I now realize, Jonah is my soul-brother.

Jonah disobeyed a direct order from God. I disobey God and He’s been speaking so clearly to me lately, I really have no excuse. Jonah tried to run from God. Boy, do I love my running shoes. Jonah thought he could sleep peacefully after saying “no” to God’s difficult task. I think I have to say “no” to the hard things if I want peace.

But, my storm is coming…

This illness is a storm of sorts. I refused to take care of my health for years. It’s really not a wonder that I’m sick. I ignored the nudges from God to slow down, to grieve, to manage stress, to ask for help. And I was swallowed-up, forced to stop and take care of myself. Forced to cry out to God again.

"In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry" - Jonah 2:2

The fish in which Jonah sat marinating in filth for three days was grace. Stinky fish grace. Grace he did not deserve. He was disobedient and deserved to be tossed around by the storm. But God sent grace in the form of a fish. It was in the dark, rank belly of that fish that Jonah called out to God again and promised to finally obey. And it is from the dark, foul belly of my illness that I found the nearness of God again. My illness is grace. Stinky fish grace, but grace. Beautiful, wonderful, humbling grace that I would have never known otherwise.

Allow me to illustrate this concept further. My days are full of stinky fish grace. Beautiful rubble. We only have one car right now and that means when I need it, I have to get up early and take Jason to work. Less sleep, stressful driving, BUT also togetherness I would otherwise miss. I would have missed kissing him goodbye outside his work today and watching his coworkers greet him in the parking lot. I had to be in Kingsport later anyway for an unpleasant meeting. There wasn’t enough time for me to go home after dropping Jason off so I planned to meet my friend, Robin, to walk. I was early to our meeting place. I could have considered all of this a waste of time, BUT I was able to watch the ducks play in the peace of the stream in the early-morning sun. I met a fellow bench-rester and we watched and shared a laugh at the ducks chasing each other. This man was just visiting his sister from out of state and I gathered he lives alone and doesn’t see his family often. I will likely never see him again but I hope this encounter was as bright a spot in this lonely man’s day as it was in mine. I am thankful for this simple, shared moment with a stranger. A divinely-appointed gift. My friendship with Robin itself is grace born out of illness. I only worked with her for six months and by that time I was so sick I couldn’t hide it very well. Being the great nurse that she is, Robin read me like a book. And I, the person with the iron bars and concrete walls, let her sneak past the gate. She is still a dear friend to me, much attributed to my illness rather than in spite of it. I have other divinely-appointed kindreds due to this wonderful, stinky fish gift of illness. By the time I had to drive back to pick Jason up this afternoon, I was far past my expiration but again, God gifted me. I don’t go many places by myself so I was perhaps overly-excited to be able jam to my very eclectic array of Alathea, Dolly Parton, Savage Garden, and Point of Grace. All I can say is dancing to loud music fends off panic-driving. Thanks be to God. Again, I was gifted with Jason’s presence and recap of his day on the way home. Alas, we still needed groceries and I almost considered it when Jason asked if I needed to ride IN the cart (oops, I mean, buggy). But God gifted another grace in the midst of the stink. I was greeted by my favorite grocery clerk who always smiles, calls me “young lady”, and genuinely wishes me a good day. He always blesses my heart. God always blesses my heart. My disobedient, fearful, run-away, stinky, filth-covered heart. He gives me grace I do not deserve.



The storm has been raging around me for quite some time, waves pelting me against the rocks, the darkness covering my head, drowning me. Sometimes I’m not sure how I will make it out alive. Is the storm raging around you like this? I am wondering if it might be time for us to embrace the storm. To jump, or ask someone to help throw us overboard. I wonder if by welcoming the dark and painful circumstances, if we would experience God’s peace in the middle of them. To watch God calm the storm around me instead of watching Him calm it from a distance seems that much more powerful. I think I’m ready to be swallowed up by the stinky fish version of grace. Wondrous, mind-blowing, heart-changing grace that I do not deserve in the slightest. Grace that may not look like what we would consider good, but grace that saves us from drowning in our darkness. I want to embrace my less-than-ideal circumstances, believing that God IS working them for good. I don’t want to reject the seemingly stinky gifts anymore because they just may be what saves me. I want to see these gifts as grace. Beautiful, saving grace. It’s time to jump in.

Like what you see? Share it!