In the receiving…

I rolled over in bed, and tried to pretend I was sleepy.
After all, it was 4:30 AM.
We play tricks on ourselves, we pregnant mommies.
But the clock ticked loudly,
and my toddler sighed heavily in her sleep from her crib in the corner.
My husband slumbered away next to me, and I gently turned onto my other side. The tiny little one inside me tumbled and flailed on,
and my fingertips wished they had eyes to see through the layers of skin and muscle…

Finally I gave up.
Today is a big day, with multiple house projects and long awaited things to do. “Why waste time in bed when I can get a head start on the day?” I whispered to myself. But before I padded downstairs, I sat on the top step and let yesterday replay in my mind.

Seasons change, and we change.
My oldest has been facing a lot of changes lately, and his almost eight year old mind has a lot to grasp right now. He is caught between two worlds, one of carefree childhood, where life is best swaying at the top of the poplar tree or tearing through the yard with his puppy nipping at his heels.
And then there is this tedious, intriguing world of adults, and comprehension of much bigger ideas and realities larger than he ever dreamed of before, of eternity, and the choices he makes today and how they affect everything.

I pray for this child.
I beg for forgiveness in how I have failed him,
failed to understand his heart, and chose frustration in his maturing process. Being a mother has laid my heart bare so many times.

It boils down to the raw ugly truth. I am broken.
1J4P0419I am a needy person, trying to wear big shoes, and trying to do it well.

I saw in my son’s eyes yesterday the tears of disappointment.
They stung my eyes too. Salty.
Painful, this thing of life.

We are called to a high calling, to be holy, to live life here on earth as Jesus did.
I find myself with a foot in two worlds, just like my son.
The seesaw, a pile of dirty dishes contrasting with the warm cuddles of my children and sweetness of God’s word. The wanting to do the best I can.
The slap of failure and enveloping discouragement when I fall.

It can be so tumultuous, this thing called life.
Mountaintops abruptly followed by deep valleys, and labor and childbirth followed hard by the ecstasy of holding a new and breathing life.
How can the human heart take it all in,
and keep breathing?

I long for some brilliant revelation to help me grasp how to better walk today.
How to say the right thing each time.
How to have a heart that genuinely honors God, and those around me.

And the answer comes in meager and small words.

In faithfulness.
In the small things.
In the little moments.


I am amazed that Jesus celebrates the journey, and not just the arrival.
How, oh how I have wished that this journey of life could be traded today for the reality of eternity. I remember standing on the edge of the river that only hours before had taken my brother from me, and heaven felt so close.
So alluring, so real, so near.
It was as if I would only jump in, then I, too, would burst through eternity’s dazzling gates. But I stood landlocked in the blistering sun,
so close, yet so far.

God knows how impatient I am.
I want eternity’s fingerprint all over my heart, now.
I want to be made like Jesus, now.
I want to be the perfect wife, friend, mother, now.

I look in the mirror and study the person looking back at me.
She is on a journey.
A long one.

And today, Jesus doesn’t expect me to sing in heaven’s tongue perfectly.
He looks at where I am today, and smiles.
And he invites me into his presence that changes and purifies me,
as I sort the smelly laundry and listen to childish squabbles.

Here, on the unswept floor of my kitchen, badly needing to be mopped,
it is here, that Jesus invites me into his presence.
Here, in my messes and needs, is the best place for me to be made into his image.

In the little steps today, I will receive from him.

And in the receiving, I will be able to give my children what they need.
Not because I have it all, but because I too am being carried, and taught.
_J4P0160Tears sting my eyes again, but this time tears of gratitude.
When we see we are loved in our need, we see how deep this love really is.

Love that reaches past my failures and loves me anyway – this is what changes me.

Celebrating my dad, and missing him too…

Morning light sifts through the sheer curtains,
but my room is filled with even breaths of four other people. It doesn’t seem to matter that two of the figures sprawled across the floor have bedrooms of their own downstairs. Somehow, most of the time, they manage to drift up the steps in the middle of the night and crumple in a pile on the floor in my room. I know soon we may need to put a stop to it.
The eldest IS going on 8, but I can’t blame him.
I always felt safest when Daddy was home too.

Scan 5

I remember as a child sneaking down the hall and peering silently around the corner to catch a glimpse of my dad, sitting at the dining room table, book spread out under him, his tired eyes poring over the page. I’d tiptoe off down the hall, hoping no boards creaked and slide under the sheet, happy.
Life was good.

Scan 2

So this morning when I got a text, there in that hushed bedroom,
and read my Mom’s words: “Today your Dad would be turning 59…”
And she proceeded to tell me how proud he would be of me, how he would tease and laugh with me, and dote over my children…
And tears streamed into my pillow, and suddenly I’m not the mom of three and wife to an amazing man.
I’m just a little girl missing her Daddy.


I remember him taking me to a sporting good store and picking out a softball glove. Back at home in the yard, he stepped farther and father back, throwing the slow arching ball. I was scared after a poor catch where the ball hit my face. But he wouldn’t let me quit,
“Step toward the ball, not away from it.”
Toward the danger, the risk, to enable accomplishment.

Those words have followed me all through life.
Later,  holding my hand as I cried, Isaac would reiterate them,
“You cannot run away from your problems. You have to face them head on.”
To ask the hard questions. To plow through the muck,
determined to get to the other side and see what God sees.

It’s been a long time. I was only twelve when he died.
And I tried to be strong for everyone as we faced those days of gloom.
The clutch of cancer reached past my dad’s starched white lab coat, and grabbed the surgeon in his prime. Thirty-nine is very young to die.
And my dear mother was widowed, and with six children overnight at the age 38.
But I smiled and bounced and played with the kids. Someone had to smile. Someone had to remind everyone to live.
Life would get good again, only I couldn’t imagine how.

Scan 10

I’ve wished for his presence so many times in these 19 years.
I wished to have his input as I dated and married.
I longed to have his arm around me, to let me bounce ideas off of.
To hear him say what I know, that he loves me.
Is proud of me.
To watch him play on the floor with my kids
(Uncle Neal, do you have any idea how much that meant to me while we were at your house? My kids adore you).

But I think I wish for him now, more than ever.
To watch my younger sisters have him guide them through life, to offer advice, to be a safe place.
And my dear mom… We watch old family videos and stumble across a scene with Dad in it, his voice sounding strange and unfamiliar. Guilt pierces deep and I wonder how I could ever have forgotten my own dad’s voice. But Mom is where we all pause, in the video Dad grabs her and dances teasingly across the floor. She laughs, and joins in his goofiness.
To see her carefree. Weight of life lifted off her shoulders.
She was a trauma surgeon’s wife. Life looked good, in spite of the 16 years of grueling school schedule.
But just as it was over, and things were looking up, he was gone.

Scan 9

She has smiled and plowed on,
but she gets on her knees and scrubs other peoples toilets to put bread on the table.
I would give almost anything for her to be able to stay at home,
to have free time to go visit the ladies in the nursing home and not worry about the bills.
Daniel recently asked me what I would do with a million dollars. And the biggest thing to me would have been to be able to set her free of work. For her to stay home and do what she loves; to cook and write notes of encouragement. Today, on my Dad’s birthday, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she wanted me to know how proud he would be of me.
Her life is so selfless.

But today, Dad would be providing so much more for her than just financially.
He would laugh with her, and help her to see life a bit more lightly.
He would grab her and make her dance across the kitchen floor, her soup spoon still in hand. He would dote over her beauty, and hold her hand.
She would not be alone.

My dad worked hard. He studied hard, and expected a lot out of himself.
But he was not a perfect man. He fell, and he fell hard. But he let God remake him. I remember in the weeks before he died, when skin hung on his arms like a concentration camp victim, and his eyes had the deep hollowed look only the dying wear, he wept loudly sitting on the edge of his bed.
Shanna and I rushed in, wondering if he needed more pain medication, which he hated.
He just shook his head,
“How I have grieved God with my life!”

He saw how his sin had pierced the very heart of Christ.
And of all the things my daddy gave me, this horrible, painful moment seared on my memory is somehow one of the dearest. My daddy saw his sin, and agreed with God. It all comes down to this; what does God see when He looks at my life.
For God is all that really matters.

Scan 6

Someone told me recently that growing up without a dad doesn’t have to cause pain, but I can’t shake it…
A dad is supposed to be there, cheering for us and encouraging us as we learn to take our first step, make our first wobbly bike ride, read our first book and eventually walk down the aisle into the arms of our groom.
Yes, growing up with out a dad hurts more than you can imagine.
It creates a vacuum and you watch everyone around you take their dads for granted.
We cannot pretend it does not exist, that the wound is not there.
It is part of our deepest being.
Breath taking, some days the pain nearly knocks you flat.

But this piercing is a gift.
Not having my dad to coach me through life has brought me face to face with my need from my real Father, the One who doesn’t die.
In the long dark nights, He WAS there, holding me even when I felt alone.

Honestly, sometimes the easiest thing is to run from the pain.
To be strong and happy and keep life going.
God didn’t create us to be miserable creatures, after all.
But the more I see, I understand we need to embrace our shattering,
and find the beauty amidst the rubble.

I’m learning to face it, to step toward the ball head on. Face the risks.
‘Cause life is worth living with all of our hearts.

Into the deep

I stepped into the raft, balancing myself and finding a place near the front, or so I thought. One by one, the other five fully helmeted, paddle clad people climbed in after me and our guide looked us over.


“I bet we look like an unlikely crew,” I thought.
Three men, all strong and capable looking, and three women, each with slightly uncertain looks in our eyes.

Don’t get me wrong.
I was ridiculously excited about battling the white water rapids.
Daniel and I had each been here before, the US white water rafting olympic training ground, but never together, and we knew that one day we wanted to do this, together.

But even while the excitement was high, there was a teeny tiny question mark in a dusty corner of my mind.
Was I really strong enough to be an asset here?
And what if the boat flipped?

You know, the scenario they talk about in the warm up talk, describing what to do if you come up under the boat and need to get out fast?

But I smiled, wedged my foot under the support brace and gripped my paddle firmly. We would get this. DSC03138_2 I looked over, and could see the delight glittering from my hubby’s eyes.
He simply could not wait.

But the guide paused. He looked us over.
“Bummer,” I thought, “he looks too cautious. Maybe he will try to guide us over the calmest places.”
Which, in spite of my fears, isn’t what I really wanted.

“So what kind of ride do you want?” he had asked.
“Wild!” Daniel quickly answered. I nodded, mostly meaning it.
“Just shy of a concussion!” the tall guy shouted who had never before been over white water rapids.

He was big. Tall. The kind of man you would want on your side. A law student, we later learned, eager to fight crime and injury and make the world a better place… He wanted a challenge.

“Let’s switch the two of you on the middle row,” the guide decided after a trial strokes of our paddles. The lady with the big guy couldn’t figure out how to hold hers. She held a baseball grip instead of hand over the T. I cringed. She would need to know how to use the thing when we faced the real deal.

But in a few moments, and after a bit more instruction, we must have passed the test. The guide stood up and walked to where Daniel and I were, and we were suddenly in the back.

They call this “Big Water.”
It’s when they open all the pumps on this white water course. What before were placid rapids turn into fuming, foaming waters. You have to be at least 16 to even be allowed out on this, I later learned. IMG_0505 But there were lots of other boats out here, so it was all cool.
And our guide had never had a raft flip on Big Water.
So how bad could it really be?

“Three forward,” the guide commanded and our paddles dipped deep.
I worked to match my strokes to Daniel’s. Ahead were the first rapids, and they looked easy. The kind I would inner tube over. In a few moments, we shot over them, with just a small spray hitting us in the face, and suddenly we were looking at white foam and churning whirlpools.

The guide yelled something, but I couldn’t hear him over the roar,
even though he was right behind me.

Then we hit it.
I hadn’t seen it coming.
You couldn’t see it, the rock under the water, but it caught the raft.

All I knew was that the impact launched the guide suddenly off his seat and across my lap. In a split second the raft leaned heavily to the left, and catapulted us all out into the swirling mass.

I felt people under me, a leg kicking, water swirling in my face.

My first thought was, “Where are the kids?” and then remembered they were safe at home with their grandmother.

The water pulled and tore at me, pushing me down the rapids.
“Stay calm,” I told my panicking self as I fought to get a mouth full of air.
“Let your feet float, lay on your back, swim to the side,” they had instructed.

But the water kept crashing over my face. The lifejacket seemed waterlogged,
and I had to fight to keep my face up, out of the water.

I was alone.
I grabbed a glimpse of the guide behind us, trying to get back to the raft. I couldn’t see Daniel at all, but I wasn’t worried. He would be fine.
But where was Gretta?

My sister, the one who also has lost a brother to drowning. I caught a glimpse of her, and her strong boyfriend confidently holding onto her lifejacket.
I knew she was in good hands.

“Just get to the side,” I told myself.
But the water grabbed at me, trying to keep me in the current.
The concrete side, though just a few feet away, looked tantalizingly calm.

I pushed past the current and in a few moments threw my hands up onto the concrete and curled my fingers over the ledge, pulling myself out. Daniel swam up a few seconds later, and crawled out, smiling widely and his face mirroring the exhilaration he was feeling.

Within a few minutes, our guide had four of his six passengers back in his raft, and we waited for Gretta and Merlin. The raft hugged the side of the waterway, where the water played and lapped calmly at the concrete side. Our eyes scanned the bend, around which the water must have carried the two. I learned later that Merlin had pushed Gretta out and got swept further down the rapids. But soon they came, dripping and ready to climb back in. IMG_3139 I’ll admit. I was a bit traumatized.

We had just barely started down the course and the first real rapid got us.
Like really got us. And we were in for hours of this?

“Are you ok?” I asked Gretta. She nodded and smiled, but her eyes didn’t look quite so assuring.

The irony of it struck me.
Why would two sisters, whose only brother lost his life in white foaming waters, choose to go white water rafting?

Why on earth would we put ourselves in the position to have to fight the angry foaming water?

Our seating was all rearranged now, any careful placing was lost as waterlogged people had slopped back into the raft. Daniel and I were now at the front of the boat, not the back.

The raft shot out into the middle of the course, the calm open space where the rapids were left far behind. We laughed and chatted and found out how the unexpected dumping had hit each of us. And then our raft went up the long conveyor belt, and headed back to the beginning of the course, where we had been high and dry, just a few minutes before.

We were heading right back to the site of our dumping. Heart thumping, I followed the guide’s instructions to paddle towards the foam.

“Oh God!” the lawyer quivered.

The roar surrounded us; Daniel and I were first into it. And we shot past it, up over the raging white water and on to the next. We all cheered, we had conquered what had conquered us last time. It was thrilling.

Then they opened up the channel, where the boulders squeeze tight and the water pulls deep and sprays high. Here the adventurous kayakers hang out, dancing and flipping and playing in the powerful water. Our raft entered the channel and I felt us get pulled into the fast current. Ahead the waters merged and a wave three feet high reached for us.

“Paddle hard,” he yelled from the back and we dug in. We hit it a little to the side, and the raft dipped and leaned hard. My body collided with Daniel’s. “Lean LEFT!” the guide shouted. “Which left?!” the lawyer moaned.

But we all leaned hard and the raft righted itself. People standing by the side of the course cheered. Usually a rafting trip includes four trips through the rapids, two through the first stretch and two through the channel. But as we came around after the second time in channel, our guide said, “I think we have time for another.”

So we plunged down again, muscles straining and eyes glued to the water. Our guide directed us nose straight onto a rock and we spun around, our tail now the head.

“Keep spinning!” an onlooker yelled, smiling. This was all play to them, these techniques each with names and practiced many times. We shot down a deep fall backwards. I smiled, it was almost easier going backwards, not seeing how big it was till we were past it.

We sucked into a side eddy, and got lodged on a rock. A boat behind us flipped. Three staff members ran, throwing tow lines to the swimmers. We waited it out, ready to pull a swimmer in, if any came down the big rapids.

“I wouldn’t want to have to swim down that,” I thought as I watched the water leap down and churn angrily. But no swimmers appeared, and we pushed off the rock and in seconds were out on the calm water again.

“Hey, the channel is still open!” our guide shouted when the ride should have been over. “Wanna go?”  We all cheered and paddled toward it, the fourth and last time.

The water raged, and as we shot down into the biggest rapid, something in me snapped. I raged with it, I dug my paddle into the foam and I roared back. No one could hear my war cry over the noise, but it was a God moment for me.

I wasn’t gonna let the water, and all it has torn from me, be a conquering fear.
I would fight back, and win.
We ripped through the sticky spot and cheered.
I lifted my paddle toward heaven and roared triumphantly.

That last round was a second bonus.
The guide didn’t have to do it.
God didn’t have to do it.
But there was that moment, that war yell,
that “I will be with you in the deepest waters,” from God.

“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.

My tears have been my food day and night,

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

(Pieces from Psalm 42)


This morning is normal life again.
The children are sleeping in.
Daniel has gone off to work, our coffee mugs emptied.

I have a few muscles squeaking from the strain of yesterday’s adventure.
But would I turn around and do it again today, if I could? Of course.
Would I remember the terror of that first dumping, the struggle to keep my face above the water, the exhaustion after climbing out? Most certainly.

But today, God calls me to look my fears straight in the eye.

Not to dodge them.

Not to run from them.

Not to hide.

He is that kind guide, choosing to take me out of my comfort zone,
into the deepest rapids, to feel the foam on my face.

He gives me a paddle, a promise, and a strong husband on my side.
And he gives me a war cry, in that moment of terror.

He is there.
And He is proud. IMG_3140 (All the images in this post are of the Lempa River, where my brother left this world behind and entered Heaven’s gates. I will forever miss him, and his presence in my life now, but daily God uses his death to change who I am, and to see life through new eyes. And some day, the tears of now will be gems of gold, for the lessons we learned through them.)

Three Steps Back…

when we find ourselves relearning what we thought we already knew

I flipped the closet light on and scanned the high shelves. There it was, the new box, only now quite old, that sported a picture of a 30D Canon. I pulled it down, and dusted it off, this old friend of mine.

While it should have been exciting, it stung.
Pulling this old thing down actually hurt, because it reminded me of what I had lost.
I was having to downgrade, step back and face my loss, my mistake.


You see in January we took a sudden trip to Honduras, and of course every time we visit my brother’s grave on that wild, windblown hill in Carrizal, I want to document it for my mother who has not been back to her only son’s grave since his burial seven years ago. Some day I hope she will have the opportunity to sit there again herself, but in the mean time, I always make a point of capturing her grandkids crawling all over the river rock head stone (yes, we let them crawl on it- Isaac LOVED kids, and he would be delighted to know his grave is a place we let them play) or place bouquets of wildflowers gathered with childish hands.

Instead of renting a truck to make our trip back those bumpy roads, we chose to save a bit of money and take the bus.
“Plus” I told myself, “I want the kids to get to taste real life down here…”

So we took the three kids, and a backpack and my shoulder bag and piled onto the bus.
Daniel and I both have bussed extensively, and we have traveled Central America a LOT. We know how to do it, we know to watch our bags. We knew that adding three kids into the picture would get a bit hairy with busy bus stops, long waits, nasty bathrooms.
And it did.

Either during the long wait, or on the cramped bus ride, somewhere it happened.
I have revisited every possible moment, but at some point,
my SLR either fell out or was slipped from my very carefully watched shoulder bag.

I am not an overly sentimental person.

In fact, years ago, I would have said I was not sentimental at all.
But Daniel had surprised me with this camera, a significant upgrade, for my birthday.
It was a camera for a much more qualified photographer than me, someone who still grapples with aperture and ISO. And pictures are one thing that I have learned to treasure. Moments and memories, and people forever gone from my life make pictures so much more important to me. But this camera represented what I hoped to become,
and motivated me to try harder, to reach for skills I only dreamed of.


Six months had passed since I took a picture.
But yesterday I blew the dust off and turned it on.
And I snapped. It felt good. I played with the settings and snapped again.
Such a happy feeling.
A few more images and then the age old “Error 99” popped up on the screen.

I had forgotten.
This camera and lens have issues.

Just like me.

I’ve got issues that I forget about. And they pop up in the most unexpected places.
And at the most inconvenient times.

This last year, I’ve found myself revisiting emotions and places in my heart that I thought were chapters of the past. Stuff I thought I had faced and processed long ago suddenly feel fresh and raw. When I thought I had taken five steps forward, suddenly I had to acknowledge it, I had slid three steps back. Things I had worked so hard for, now I was grappling to grasp again. Facing forgiveness and choosing things I thought had become part of the fabric of my being is just plain rough.
And I hated it. I hated what I was feeling. I hated who I was.

One evening last week I looked up into Daniel’s face and said it.

Words I hadn’t even known were there, but were burning a hole in my heart none the less.

“Do you think God is angry with me?”
He replied so fast it shocked me.
“Of course not.”

I just stared at him.
I know Daniel loves me, through my ugliest moments, through the thick and the thin.
But how could he be so sure?
How can God NOT be angry with me when I feel so disappointed with myself?
How can it be ok to take three steps back,
to have to learn to use an outdated and problematic camera again,
to face heart turmoil ages old?

Because He knows the plans He has for me.
They are plans for peace, to prosper me.
To give me hope and confidence in the future.
Because He sees the bigger picture.

Years ago, on a rare family vacation, we were playing in the pool in the hot California sun, and while I loved to splash and play on the steps, the rest of the pool was deep and scary. I’d venture out for a second, depending heavily on my orange arm floaties, but a few kicks beyond the steps and I’d be turning around and frantically heading back into the shallows.
Back to where I felt safe.

But my dad scooped me up with a twinkle in his eye, and walked to the other end of the pool; to the deep. There was not a thing in the world I could do but scream at the top of my lungs, both in delight and terror, as he pitched me into the middle of that deep, deep end.

For all I cared, it was 100 feet deep, and I flailed and kicked and somehow, amazingly enough,
I reached the side.

At the moment it seemed like a miracle that I survived, but I knew even then, in my five year old mind, that he was watching. He was ready to dive in the moment I needed him. But he loved me enough to know I needed to be tossed out into the middle, beyond any safety, where there was nothing to hold onto. Real love doesn’t always keep us safe; sometimes it takes us to the deepest element of terror. Because there we learn how much stronger His arms are than we ever imagined.
We learn He is ALWAYS there.
That He ALWAYS keeps His promises.

That feeling of terror still sweeps over me when I jump in deep, even though I can swim.
When I can’t feel the bottom of the pool and all is so, so quiet.
It’s there, the terror, the fear. But He is there too, and that makes it all ok.

It doesn’t make it safe, but life isn’t about being safe. It’s about walking with God.
It takes my breath away, His giving us this eternal treasure in simple jars of clay.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
Perplexed and confused at times, but never to the point of absolute despair.
We go through shattering times, but we are never truly forsaken, crushed but not destroyed.
It is in these times that we discover that we carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that His life may also come out of our temporal, human bodies…

Because of this, we don’t loose heart.

Our bodies, and all we feel, are wasting away, but at the same time, our soul is being renewed, refreshed, made alive, day by day. And when we see it like it really is, we understand that these are simply momentary groanings, preparing us for the eternal glories that cannot even compare to anything we have ever known down here. It’s all about seeing the eternal more clearly than that earthly…

(2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18 paraphrased)

Somehow, this amazing God of ours loves us in the journey. He could have skipped this whole thing of life, and just taken us straight from salvation to eternity. But He sees something priceless about the process.

And sometimes that means letting Him take me back, to face old things, to relearn,
to accept my need afresh.

So today I’m taking a deep breath and turning that camera back on.
There are moments to capture. There are lessons to learn.
And I’m learning that’s ok. God loves me here, in my need. It’s not about my need, really.
My life is about Him.
And sometimes we learn best who God is when we see what He can do with brokenness.
When we see what He can do with us. After all, this is His name, our Redeemer.

“Let the words that I speak, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable and bring you glory today,
Oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Nine years…


I opened my eyes and he whispered, “Happy Anniversary!”
My sleepy eyes looked into his and we smiled. The brown curly headed angel sleeping between us sighed in her sleep, and he gazed at her proudly… There is something so amazing about watching the man you love father your children.


Nine whole years… Years of more joy than I could imagine.
Even in seasons of such deep loss that I could hardly take a breath, he was always there, holding me.


Daniel has been such a tower of strength and stability.
A calm when life felt so uncertain. A joy when tears were my only language.
Daniel has been such a safe, safe place. He has illustrated so well who God is to me.
Daniel, you have been God’s hands and feet to me.


Marriage gets messy.
Living with someone day to day has a way of pulling out of you those hidden issues you wanted to pretend weren’t there.

Being married forced me to see how selfish a creature I was. I am.
But this man has taken me, loved me, forgiven me, and carried me away in his passion for life, and for God.
Having kids, sharing a bathroom, a bed, a life…
It takes sacrifice. It takes grace. It takes humility.

And Daniel has done it well.


He has many demands resting on his shoulders. But he takes time to grab those little moments with the children, to make them laugh, to kick a soccer ball around. To be more than a father, he is establishing a relationship with them. He is a Daddy.



Here is to many more years together.
More camping trips, and beach trips.
To dates to Lowes and family suppers at Domingo’s.
To comfortable silence as we sip coffee together, to laughing at our crazy kiddos,
to perhaps adding a few more rambunctious ones to the bunch.
And of course, to endless love.

Daniel, You are my dream come true.

And as always, special thanks to for her skill and ability
to catch those little moments in life that are really the big ones.

Joy, she wears it well…

Goblets sparkled and candles flickered.
One hundred and twenty or more widows were escorted to their beautifully decorated places at the tables.
The meal, so carefully planned and printed on the menu was served by formally dressed young people, feeling a bit starched but smiling. Carefully made corsages were pinned on their blouses, and each one was welcomed warmly.
It was our annual widow’s luncheon, and each year the group swells a bit from the previous one.

They come dressed in their best, leaning on canes or some walking with a limp.
I always love watching how well they dress, how carefully their hair is curled, their make up applied.
The colors and styles tell how much they really care. They are women of dignity, these widows.
They have seen so much, loved so much, and lost so much.
And now here they are, for a few hours of our time; listening.
It is our turn to give back.
We serve them food. We have a speaker, one who walks in their shoes. We sing.
We want them to know how much we care, how much we appreciate them.

I’m always blown away at the thought that what brings this unique group of women together is loss.
Each has a husband buried, each has wept late midnight hours, and sleeps alone.
Most have given life, reared children and guided children into adulthood.
But here they are today, leaning hard on the arm of one our young people, being helped to their seat.
They are alone.

Of course I am biased.
My mother sits in this crowd each year,
but only after she has gone around and spoken individually with as many as she can reach.
She is beautiful, her hair has silvered with time.
She looks regal, because she is. I think she is the most beautiful widow in the crowd.
I look up from where my husband and sisters and I are singing, and she nods and smiles.
It’s a look that says, “You are doing wonderful. You sound great. I am proud of you.”
And of course, afterwards, she finds her way to my side and says all those words.
She has always been my cheerleader.


Life hasn’t been fair to her.
As she raised six lively children with the man she loved, and then lost.
And then as her life spiraled out of control and she found herself on the strangest journey ever.
A 15 passenger van loaded with all her earthly belongings and her six children headed to a land where she knew no one, and a language spoken that she didn’t understand. Then being caught, thrown in prison, the miraculous expunction and relocating to the east coast, far from Texas and the land she was raised in. And then the staggering and sudden loss of her only son.
How does one keep breathing after so much trauma?
Keep smiling? Keep living?

It is hard to see time wear at her.
To see her fingers touched with arthritis. To see her go to work to pay the bills when I wish she could just stay home and cook meals like she loves to do… I wish Dad were here to care for her.
To delight in his lovely little wife. To see how well he had chosen.
To grow old with her.

But God has been good. He has been gentle. And she has been faithful.
He asked, and she followed. He took, and she said, “Blessed be his name.”

Nineteen years ago yesterday, my Dad entered eternity, and my mother began this journey of widowhood.
She smiles. She cries too, at times.

But Joy is her name, and she wears it well.



If my mom has blessed you in your loss, or carried you in a special way;
feel free to join me in blessing her by leaving a comment below.

“Don’t be afraid of your hard…”

The light above the stove glowed warm, and pots clanked as we cooked together, this sister and I.
“Is Kara still alive?” she asked quietly,
about a woman who neither of us have met, yet whose story has become very dear to us.
I nodded, “But it won’t be long…” My words trailed off.
We hate this thing of dying, all of humanity does.
We fight for life with all we have. Life is so, so, dear.
It is all we know. Or we think so…


She has been shaped by death, this little sister of mine.
Grew up with just flashes of memories of Daddy, the kind man in scrubs who would throw her high in the air, and alway be there to catch her. He would be there for us, making Sunday lunch when we returned from church, since he had been on call and couldn’t drive far from work to church.
He was there. Good, loving and kind.

Except then he wasn’t.
My childhood memories take a drastic turn to cancer treatments and beeping monitors and then kind hospice nurses training me how to flush his feeding line. I helped keep him alive a little longer, but he wasted away before my eyes. His strong arms that were always there to catch me shrunk to just bones and skin hanging.
His eyes got that distinct “deer in headlights” look that only the dying carry.

I was naughty, even at his bedside.
I remember I had been outside playing, but it was my turn to come in and give Mom a few minutes break.
It was just to sit by his side and read some verses of comfort, but I was in dress up clothes and the game outside went on without me. I pouted and read hurriedly.
He looked over at me and said something about reading cheerfully.
I tried, then.

I wish I had understood more fully what was really happening.
Does a child ever really understand death when it happens daily in front of their eyes, to their Daddy?

This morning Kara’s four beautiful children woke up for the first time knowing that Mommy was not there anymore.
Yesterday her long struggle with cancer ended, and she opened her eyes in heaven’s glory.
It is such a mixture of emotions, this joy for her, and the ache for her family…

The road ahead is not easy. I wish I could spare them the years of growing up with just memories. A child craves the physical presence of their biological parents. But my daddy didn’t choose to leave. And Kara wished to stay and watch these four grow into beautiful adults who would love God more than anything.

Last week I was at a family reunion and Daniel and I found ourselves in a conversation with a couple who lost their only son to cerebral malaria.
On the mission field. Far from family. It is shattering.
But in the same breath, we smile. Our eyes glitter with the reality of Heaven pressed deep into our core.
We dream. We wonder. “Do you think in Heaven they…” We are changed.
Eternity becomes the new reality. It is where God dwells with us.

“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
-Revelation 22:3-5

Yes, we have lost. Death has changed forever who we are. And really, it is a priceless thing.
You see, when the dagger of death pierces our life, we never recover. In an instant, our lives are forever changed.
This rushed and crazy life down here slows and looses its importance as we see through new eyes.
Eternity is just as close as Kara was yesterday, here in our arms and hearts.
And suddenly, we realize that life is more than we knew.
That eternity is looking over our shoulder, and it is to be embraced.
That here, in our tears and shattering, God IS.

I stood there, in that room bustling with people, tears persistently sliding down my cheeks.
I felt a tad ashamed. After all, I hardly knew their son.
It seems strange to feel so passionately the loss of a stranger.
But really, in loss, none of us are strangers.
His mother and I both stood there, hot tears dripping off our chins, together.

We cringe from this place of our shattering, and long to be whole again.
But it is here, in our brokenness, we find we are not enough.
And it is only here that there is room for God to fill us, to truly carry us.
Our strength comes in being channels of His presence, not in being enough.
We are strongest when we learn how to weep with those who weep.
For here it is not our strength at all,
but His.

Today my sister and I, and you and each of us have questions bigger than our answers.
But here in the not knowing, in the missing and the journey, Kara’s words remind us of reality:

“Hard and suffering is not the absence of God’s goodness…
Don’t be afraid of your hard.
Let it encourage you to know God’s goodness even more in your life.
And look for it. ‘Cause it’s there.”
-Kara Tippets


Photos from Kara’s Facebook page, Mundane Faithfulness

You can read more about her story by purchasing her book, The Hardest Peace.