Our not so normal life…

"I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."

Holding onto Hope

Almost every night after October 28th, 2013 when we received Luelle’s spina bifida diagnosis, I had an emotional breakdown. I may have been okay during the day, rationally thinking about our situation with a perspective of hope and faith. But when I would lay in bed at night and all was still, the fear of the unknown felt like more than I could bear.

Can I endure this difficult pregnancy? What’s going to happen to my baby? Will she thrive? Will she suffer? Will this world accept her, or reject her? What is God going to do in and through her? My thoughts of the future cycled back and forth between dreams and nightmares. I struggled feeling like I was either 100% encouraged or 100% discouraged. I couldn’t seem to balance the reality of our struggle with the truth of the hope we have in the Lord.  During that time, I thought a lot about Mary, the mother of Jesus. What questions must she have been wrestling with?

Mary was a young, peasant girl, misunderstood and judged by those around her. She may have had an angel come to her but those watching thought she was promiscuous. But God was faithful and somehow gave her what she needed to endure. God spoke to them directing their steps to safety and their hearts to peace. All along her journey there were people who God strategically placed in her life to speak truth and hope into her circumstances. Her cousin Elizabeth heard from the Lord, believed what he said, and in faith spoke encouragement to Mary. The Lord miraculously brought life into Elizabeth’s barren womb. God spoke to Joseph through an angel and he believed even though it must have sounded crazy. This is what it can look like to share our faith with each other. To acknowledge the difficulties we face but remind each other again and again of the truth we know and the One guiding our steps.

What a dichotomy of emotions Mary was asked to bear. On one hand she knew she would carry, birth, and raise the long-awaited Savior of the world. What an overwhelming joy and privilege that must have been. On the other hand, she had to watch Him be misunderstood, mistreated, and eventually killed. How did she carry both the promise of hope and yet the reality of pain and struggle? It couldn’t have been one or the other. She couldn’t only think of the promise and ignore the hardship. Yet she also couldn’t forget the promise and dwell only on the struggle.
It’s a dangerous misconception that following God means a life always characterized by health and wealth and happiness. We need to understand what God promises. He promises us his presence not ease.

Luke 2:19 tells us “But Mary treasured up all these things pondering them in her heart.” As I felt Lu kick, unsure of what the future would hold for her, I wondered what Mary was treasuring and pondering. What kept her going on those terribly hard days? How did she endure even when her future was so unsure? I think she was pondering the truths spoken to her so that she could hold onto them even when circumstances seemed to contradict what she believed. That she need not be afraid and that God was with her.


I love how Charles Spurgeon describes her pondering “There was an exercise, on the part of (Mary) in three powers of her being: her memory-she kept all these things; her affections-she kept them in her heart; her intellect-she pondered them; so that memory, affection, and understanding, were all exercised by the things which she had heard. Beloved, remember what you have heard of your Lord Jesus, and what he has done for you; make your heart the golden pot of manna to preserve the memorial of the heavenly bread whereon you have fed in days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either felt, or known, or believed, and then let your fond affections hold him fast forevermore…”

What courage and faith Mary had as a mother. She had no special powers or unique abilities. When the angel comes to her in Luke 1 he says, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…” God had shown her grace and promised to be with her. She wasn’t asked to button up, be strong, and figure it all out. She was told that God had chosen her and that she didn’t need to be afraid. She quickly learned that her circumstances had nothing to do with her but everything to do with God.

I am desperate to remember this. To remember that God is with us and for us not because we are great but because He is. What freedom that brings in my low moments and struggles. Despite the dichotomy of bearing both hope and pain, God is still working, and I need only be still and remember His promises. How was Mary able to hold onto hope in the midst of struggle? In Luke 1, When Gabriel came to her and shared how God was about to turn her world upside down, she asked honestly “how will this be?” Gabriel responds with a few details, but she does not get all the whys and hows answered.

Instead he replies with this in verse 37 “for nothing will be impossible with God.” Then she had a choice, to question, perhaps reasonably, the impossible, complicated, overwhelming course ahead or believe the truth spoken to her and walk in faith. This was her response in verse 38 “And Mary said, Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She chose to bear the journey in front of her in faith, obedient to God, despite her fears of what the future may hold.

My prayer is that, like Mary, as we bear the weightiness of being followers of Christ, we would cling to God amid the struggle and pain so that we can be a beacon of hope to the hopeless. That we can point others to Christ, the anchor that holds us steady no matter what storms in life may come.

Difficult circumstances make our hope shine brighter. If life was easy, our hope would not need to be deep, lasting, and unwavering. Because our faith is in God, who can do the impossible and bear the unthinkable, we can face the unknown of our human frailty; clinging to His divine power and promises. 

I want to end with Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55. She glorifies God and remembers his faithfulness through all generations. She rejoices in God, even before Jesus is born, because she knows that despite the chaos still surrounding her, God breathes life into barrenness and brings light into darkness.

Mary’s Song
“My soul gives glory to the Lord. My spirit delights in God my Savior. He has taken note of me even though I am not considered important. From now on all people will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me. His name is holy. He shows his mercy to those who have respect for him, from parent to child down through the years. He has done mighty things with his powerful arm. He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones. But he has lifted up people who are not considered important. He has filled with good things those who are hungry. But he has sent away empty those who are rich. He has helped the people of Israel, who serve him. He has always remembered to be kind to Abraham and his children down through the years. He has done it just as he promised to our people of long ago.”

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From Ugliness to Beauty

4 years ago today, Luelle and I had fetal surgery. Most of you have probably seen me post about this or things related to this often. Our life took a different course 4 years ago with Lu’s spina bifida diagnosis. Initially, it was a course we saw only hardships on. As the years have passed, I realize how much that course has impacted us in ways far beyond fetal surgery and spina bifida.

Honestly, I’m a different person now. Four years ago I thought I had many things in life, faith, and our future figured out. I felt confident in most things and understood God in a way that I was comfortable with.

We went through a season of intense pain, fear, lack of control, a future very unknown, much isolation because of being away from our family and community, and a time of sequestering myself because of feeling so overwhelmed. I experienced a season of PTSD after we returned home. I had near panic attacks and would break down weeping when something randomly triggered a memory. For awhile I didn’t know how to talk to people about what we had been through. It was so much more than fetal surgery. For awhile I felt bitter towards God for all we had experienced.

We saw children die from cancer, premature birth, and other complications. We began deep friendships with families we lived with at Ronald McDonald that are a category of community I have never known before. Our future was impacted and directed in many ways because of what we’d seen and who we’d become. I view the world differently now. I try to look at people and know they have stories and likely deep pains that aren’t seen because I’ve tasted that. I remember buying the first little piece of girl clothing and crying in the store because I didn’t know if she’d live to wear it. I probably just looked like a hormonal, pregnant women but there was so much going on underneath.

I am more confident and less at the same time. I care far less if I’m understood or what others think of me, yet I also realize there is so much I don’t know about people, the world, and God. I guess I’m less confident in myself and desperately confident in the Lord.

Going through something that pushed me to the limit in every way, revealed more about who I am. I’m probably more of a friendly introvert that has lived as an extrovert for years. I have a small plate, meaning my capacity for relationships, activities, commitments, and people is not vast. I like having fewer friends that I go deep with. I’m not a great multi-tasker. I like focusing on one thing, doing it full force, and completing it. I am the opposite of a procrastinator, I hate having things hanging. I am an outward processor, getting my thoughts out in words or in writing is really important for me.

Grief is something I’ve experienced more now because of having to let go of certain dreams, abilities, expectations, and plans. I’ve walked through grief with dear friends who’ve lost children, health, spouses etc. I feel honored and humbled to weep with others and simply be with them in their grief. I used to feel very uncomfortable with deeply hurting people. Now I actually feel more comfortable with hurting people and sometimes unsure of how to be with people in the mundane. This is quite frustrating at times. I don’t want to be insensitive, awkward, or a downer but often I feel this way. I think I’ve lived in heavy things enough that I have to relearn the light and normal.

Speaking the truth all the time is so important to me now and wasn’t as much before. Saying “no” when I don’t want to do something or when someone offers something that really isn’t helpful. Telling others and God the truth about what I’m feeling. If I feel angry and bitter, I tell that to God. I don’t try to say only what sounds nice. Telling myself the truth about myself, meaning that I try to be honest and acknowledge what’s true and dismiss things that aren’t true. I may feel like a bad mom but I’m not. I try to be attentive to when my heart and actions aren’t aligned. I might feel responsible for how someone reacts, but I’m responsible for how I react, I can’t control others reactions. Perhaps this is why I struggle with small talk now, because if you ask “how are you?” I don’t want to say “good” if I’m not but our culture doesn’t really know how to handle that.

Speaking the truth is important to me because I have realized the freedom in living this way. I don’t carry around this guilt anymore. When I was in survival mode the past few years, I didn’t have the capacity to not be honest with people. If I was too fragile to spend time with people I had to tell them I don’t want to be around people right now. If someone offered to help I started to actually tell them “thank you, can you bring me a meal, or help me clean my house, or watch my kids” instead of just saying “thanks I’m okay”. I try to parent with this mindset. I try to always tell my kids the truth and teach them to always tell the truth. It’s so much more than wanting honesty when you ask “did you break that”. I ask them why they respond certain ways. I tell them when I am wrong and react wrongly. I tell them when I’m in pain, angry, tired and when I simply don’t know. I try to tell them the truth about God and the world in a way they can understand but sometimes it frustrates them. I don’t dumb it down and fit it in a neat, little, inaccurate box. I spent a lot of time tearing down the comfortable, inaccurate box I had put around God. I know that I can’t fully grasp who God is but I know He is truth, He is freedom, He is life.

4 years ago I felt numb. I remember seeing only pain, struggle, and ugliness ahead. Today, I see how there’s beauty in the struggle, grace in the pain, and countless gifts in the brokenness. I’m grateful for the physical scars Lu and I have as reminders of this journey. May our scars always share a story of hope and light to others.

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Chronic Pain and Faith

I struggle with chronic back and nerve pain. At it’s worst, it feels like a knife slicing down my leg and something crushing my lower spine.

I have experienced a lot of acute pain in my life. I broke my leg twice when I was in middle school because of a bone cyst causing weakness. I had a full leg cast from thigh to toe for months and then underwent surgery to remove the cyst. I had an appendectomy in the beginning of high school for a perforated appendix that very nearly ruptured. After I graduated from college I was essentially hockey checked while playing indoor soccer. I herniated two discs in my back and thus began my back issues. I tried all sorts of injections and nerve medications to help the searing nerve pain that continued to worsen. I had a discectomy in 2009 where they went in to clean up the herniated discs that were pressing on my nerves. I felt relief after this surgery for a short time. By July of 2010 my nerve pain had come back and was not helped by anything I tried. After more injections, medications, and various doctors, I had a 2 level spinal fusion. They went in to again clean up the disc matter that was pressing on my nerves and put in hardware to fuse my discs. This surgery was difficult and the recovery long and painful. But I did experience relief, fully from my pain. I had a few flare ups over the next few years but they resolved and I was pain free.

I had our son Chale in 2012 with no issues with my back. I continued running and felt great. In the fall of 2013 we found out we were pregnant again. At 18 weeks we were told that our daughter had spina bifida and I had fetal surgery in December of 2013. They opened my uterus to close the defect on her spine in hopes to prevent further damage to her nerves.  I was on strict bed rest for the next 4 months to prevent complications and preterm labor. I had a c section in March of 2014 and Luelle was born.

I now had gone through 2 surgeries on my spine and 2 surgeries on my abdomen. I had been through many unique medical challenges but all of them acute. I had experienced severe pain with each that was treated and resolved. In all my impressive health history with acute issues, I’ve had a problem arise, I’ve focused on the problem and had it treated, and then the problem for the most part has been dealt with and I’ve continued with my life.

But now, in 2017, I deal with chronic nerve pain due to scar tissue and inflammation from my previous surgeries. Chronic pain is a whole different animal. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about and some of you have no idea. Dealing with chronic pain means that my life continues as my pain persists. I don’t get to make it the focus like I did with my acute issues. I must carry on with the duties of life and the pain comes with me.

It’s difficult for me to talk about my chronic pain. It’s easier for people to rally around you during acute issues. There’s a beginning when the problem is identified, an in between where something is done to deal with the problem, and an end when the problem is resolved. People are compassionate when they hear about someone’s problem and want to understand and help. People want to hear about the progress and improvement. People celebrate with you when something is resolved. It’s challenging to talk about chronic pain because it’s not easy to explain, there’s often little progress, and by definition it doesn’t resolve, it just continues. When someone asks me about my pain I honestly feel like I’m disappointing them when I say it’s still there. People often don’t know how to respond. They want to help but there often isn’t anything they can do. Usually in conversations about my pain, I feel like I have to be positive because I don’t want to burden others. I either downplay my pain and say it’s not too bad or I feel like I have to end on a positive note saying I’m sure the pain will improve with time or some new medication etc. when I know it might just continue.

What I really need is to feel comfortable to be honest about my pain and where I’m at with it, even when it’s not pretty. To be able to say that the pain has been bad today and I’m discouraged and not feel like I have to sugarcoat it.

I must view and treat chronic pain differently than acute pain. I have good days and bad days. I have days where its tolerable and days its unbearable. I have days where it’s bad but I continue with the plans we have and days that it’s terrible and I cancel things to stay home. Just because I’m out with a smile on my face doesn’t mean I’m not in pain. Sometimes I have to ignore it and deal with life. When I get comments like “you look like you’re doing well and your pain is better” it’s difficult. I know people mean well but it makes me feel like I have to defend my pain which I don’t want to do. You can’t look at someone and see their pain sometimes. It was hammered into me in nursing school that pain is whatever the patient says it is. It’s natural for us to compare ourselves to others. To hear about someone’s situation and relate to it in some way. This is a huge part of community and friendship. We connect with others around shared experiences. But it also can lead us to assuming we understand what someone is going through. When people try to relate to me instead of just hearing me, I feel like they aren’t trying to understand what I’m going through but are simply seeing what they assume I’m going through.

Truthfully, I don’t like being around myself when I’m struggling with my pain. I’m cranky, sad, angry, bitter, and emotional. Sometimes I can keep it on the back burner and enjoy what I’m doing and sometimes it’s front and center and can’t be ignored. It seems like it would be easier if my pain number was pasted on my forehead. If it said 8/10 people would maybe understand that I’m fighting pain though present with them. Or if it said 3/10 they’d know my pain isn’t terrible but it’s still there.

How does faith impact my pain? If I didn’t have faith there would be no hope to get me through the pain. But faith doesn’t take away my pain. There have been times that God has relieved my pain. I do believe He has the power to completely resolve it, which I pray He does, but my faith remains in Him no matter what my pain is.

My initial response to pain is to enter survival mode. My perspective dramatically shrinks to me and my pain, how much I hate, trying to fix it, and all the things I can’t do because of it. Survival mode is miserable. I don’t want to fixate on myself but when my pain is relentless it’s hard to think about anything else.

This is when I have a choice. I can wallow in my pain and keep my eyes on myself, or I can go to the Lord. The challenge with pursuing the Lord while dealing with chronic pain is that I must be willing to not only plead for the pain to end. I pray that prayer still, but if that’s the only prayer I pray the conversation ends when the pain continues. I have to ask the Lord other things and listen. I can ask what He wants me to know in my pain, what He wants me to do with my pain, and what He wants to do through my pain. These questions help me think beyond survival mode, beyond the pain.

By no means is this an easy process. If I only pray about the pain ending, then I am letting the pain consume my life. I can’t help being impacted by pain, but I don’t want to be controlled by pain. I believe God is all powerful which means not limited by my pain. I believe that He can move in my life and give me peace and joy and purpose despite my pain. He doesn’t want me to be stuck in survival mode.

To live with the peace, joy, and purpose God has for me, I must go to Him in my pain. If my pain is chronic, my pursuit of Him has to be constant. I have to fight for faith through every moment of pain. I have to resist returning to survival mode and just sulking. God is patient and good and doesn’t expect me to fight on my own, but I must relinquish the battle to Him. I confess my fears and limitations and ask Him for truth.

                God, I’m stuck. I’m filled with fear and dread about the future. I don’t believe I can walk with You in pain. I feel like a burden to my family. I don’t believe I can handle the things in my life because of my pain. I’m afraid to pray for relief because I fear it not coming. I don’t know how to trust You in the pain. Either You’re cruel or I don’t understand Your love and grace in this. I’m discouraged about how many times I’ve prayed about my pain. I don’t know how to be content in Your presence while I’m in pain. What hope do You have for me in my present agony? These are some of the things I’ve confessed to God while battling pain.

                These are a few of the things God has told me in my pain. Fight for faith. If you’re pain brings you closer to Me is it worth it? I am all powerful, I am with you, and I will provide for you. Set your mind on Me. I long to give you life and peace. Remember Me when your soul is heavy and weary. I will sustain you. You don’t have to bear it all or understand it all. Fight from victory not for victory. Wait on Me, I have much to show you. I am faithful in all My words and kind in all My works. My love for you is like a well with no bottom, constantly overflowing for you to receive from. Fix your gaze on Me instead of the pain. There is never a problem without a possibility in My kingdom. I want to show you heaven’s perspective of your pain. I will keep you in perfect peace when your mind remains on Me. Rest in Me. I hold your frame, every minute detail of your body, mind, and soul. Nothing is beyond Me. I am constant, even in your pain. Your pain doesn’t change Me, limit Me, or go against My work. Choose to trust who I am even when you don’t understand Me. Your faith is growing stronger because of the challenges you’ve faced. Your human weakness can’t keep you from fulfilling your role in My kingdom. Seek Me and I will clear the way for you to fulfill what I have for you. You are in pain, you aren’t stuck or hopeless. Let Me define your situation not your pain. My ways are always good and wise. You have nothing to fear when you abide in Me. I can take the evil intentions of man and the enemy and bring goodness and redemption. In My kingdom those who are weak become strong. Anything you lack can be found in Me. Resting in Me while you’re in pain is like the trees resting in a cold, barren winter. It’s bleak and bare but there’s beauty still. The winter storms will not last forever, spring will come.

If I only ever asked God to take away my pain, I would’ve never heard His beautiful, personal words for me. I want the Lord to take away my pain, but I want Him more than anything.


From Fear to Faith

screenshot_20161026-152854Three years ago on October 28th we received Luelle’s diagnosis of Spina Bifida.

I would tell my past self this if I could…

“You are about to experience some of your darkest fears and deepest joys. Facing the fears are what will lead to joy. Don’t try to ignore them or hide them. Face them and hold them. The struggles and fears will break you. It’s painful and scary and at times you’ll want to give up. But in your brokenness you’ll have a choice. You can let yourself stay jagged, angry, and hurt. You can even try to fix yourself but I promise you won’t get very far.

There is another option. With tears, doubts, and hurt you can still choose faith. You can ask God to meet you in your brokenness. It will take time and that’s okay. He is patient. You may feel confused and hurt by your anger and fears. It’s okay, he wants you to tell him exactly how you feel because he already knows. You will question and doubt him, that’s okay because he is faithful even when your faith is weak. At times you will want to turn your back on him. That’s okay, because he will never leave you and will pursue you relentlessly because his love for you is perfect.

Slowly, painfully, with many steps forward and back, you will feel the jagged edges of your brokenness starting to smooth in the Lord’s gentle, loving hands. Your pain will become a new awareness of your need for growth. Your fear will lead to glimpses of hope. Your bitterness will lead you to a greater compassion for others. Your sadness will lead you to experience joy in a ways you couldn’t have before. Your doubts will lead you to cling to what is true not what is comfortable. Your faith will become something so dear to you that you can’t get through a moment without it.

You will look back and be amazed. You will look back on moments that you thought you’d never be able to think about without weeping and somehow you will see goodness intertwined with the pain.”

I wanted to share these words for myself and others. Some of you are experiencing pains and hardships that I can’t even imagine. I ache for you and I pray for God to meet you in your darkest moments as he has met me.

We all desire maturity, compassion, joy, and strength but we have to accept that these things only come through suffering. I hate this sometimes but ease doesn’t make us people of faith.

It’s like a potter molding and shaping a lump of clay. It must be twisted, pushed, and worked before it becomes a vessel with a capacity to hold anything. We need to be broken in order to receive, grow, and be used to bless others.

We all face this choice in our struggles. Do we want to stay broken and angry or do we want to be shaped into something beautiful and new? It’s not just one decision in one moment but a decision again and again that we must make. Every fear, every doubt, every pain, we go once again to God and say “I’m hurting and I need you.” God loves that prayer and promises to be near the broken hearted. He will answer us all uniquely because all of our struggles are unique. Sometimes his answers don’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like he doesn’t hear us. Sometimes his ways seem the opposite of what we need. But all his words are faithful and all his works are kind. ALL of them. I don’t know how but that’s what faith is. Clinging to truth even when it doesn’t make sense. Only in truth can fear be cast out, freedom be had, and love be fully experienced.

Though I will never forget the deep pain and fears I faced 3 years ago, I also will never forget the goodness, abundant mercy, friendships, and miracles big and small along the way.

This sweet girl is such a gift that has changed me deeply and I’m forever grateful for her life.

“In solitude, we come to know the Spirit who has already been given to us. The pains and struggles we encounter in our solitude thus become the way to hope, because our hope is not based on something that will happen after our sufferings are over, but on the real presence of God’s healing Spirit in the midst of these sufferings.

The discipline of solitude allows us gradually to come in touch with this hopeful presence of God in our lives, and to allow us also to taste even now the beginnings of the joy and peace which belong to the new heaven and the new earth.”
– Henri J. M. Nouwen

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Standing on Promises

After having a steroid injection in my back this past Friday, I had one day of pain relief. The following day the nerve pain started returning. Bobby and I are discouraged and weary. Since the day we met our life seems to barely settle before another crisis hits. Full of frustrations, questions, and tears I spent some time pouring my heart out to God yesterday morning.

The Lord brought me to the Psalms. As I read through quite a few chapters I couldn’t help but notice the dozens of promises scattered through out.

The Lord is my keeper and helper
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion which cannot be moved, it abides forever
Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy
Unless the Lord builds the house those who labor will labor in vain
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord and walks in his ways
Hope in the Lord for with the Lord there is steadfast love and with him plentiful redemption
The Lord will fulfill his purposes for me; your steadfast love, oh Lord, endures forever
Psalm 121- 137 selections

What struck me as I read through these promises is how they point to God’s unchanging character. It doesn’t always detail the solution the author was seeking. As I read, I felt like God was saying to me “boldly ask me to be who I am, but don’t tell me how to do it”. Instead of telling God how to be merciful, I need to confidently ask Him to be merciful in my life trusting He knows best how to do that.

When Luelle was nine months old were were told because of increasing swelling in her ventricles along with others symptoms, she needed to have brain surgery. We were anxious but knew God was with us each step. Before she could get the surgery she needed a sedated MRI. It was winter and she kept getting sick with fevers and respiratory symptoms. Despite quarantining our family for weeks we had to cancel three MRI’s because every time we scheduled one she ended up getting sick again. We were so frustrated. We prayed fervently for the Lord to be merciful and allow her to be healthy enough to have this MRI so she could get the surgery she needed. I didn’t understand why the Lord would not allow her to get well so she could get the MRI. I felt like He was withholding His mercy which didn’t make sense to me.

After a month of canceled MRI’s, she finally was healthy enough for the test. We met with the neurosurgeon afterwards so we could schedule surgery. We walked into his office and he said he was shocked but that the ventricles in her brain that had been swelling steadily since birth, had not only stabilized but decreased in size. He said she definitely did not need surgery.

I had been asking God to be merciful by making her healthy in order to get the surgery. God revealed His mercy in a different, far greater way by healing her brain so that she didn’t need surgery. I was so humbled as I realized I had never even prayed for that. Instead of just asking God to show us His mercy and trusting Him to, I assumed what His mercy should look like. I struggled much more for faith and peace because I thought I knew how God would work. He was never withholding mercy as I had felt but rather was revealing the depths of His mercy in a far greater way than I imagined.

As I think back on that time it gives me a deeper faith for the future. I want to ask God to work and to reveal His perfect character in situations and trust the timing and the details to Him. I want to be amazed and humbled by God’s hand in my life. I want to live by immovable faith even when the road ahead seems impossible because I know God is trustworthy and will lead us and sustain us. I don’t want what I want but what He wants.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:7-8 


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Embracing Jesus More Than Relief

I’ve had X-rays, a CT scan, multiple MRI’s (still one more needed), an EMG nerve study, and have been on so many pain meds, anti inflammatory meds, and muscle relaxers. I’ve seen specialists in MA and Rhode Island, filled out so much medical paperwork, and have made more follow up phone calls to doctors, insurance, and medical staff than I can count. I’ve mastered the art of being respectfully persistent.                                                                                                             

The doctor I saw today thinks I have something going on in the nerves in my lower spine at and below my fusion. He wants to try what’s called an caudal epidural steroid injection. They will thread a catheter into my lower spine to what we believe to be the problem area and inject a steroid and numbing medication. This injection will help us determine what the problem is. It might not help at all which will show us that we need to keep searching for the root of this problem. It may help a little and I can get up to 3 injections over a period of time. Or it might help tremendously after just one injection. They said it could take up to 2 weeks to get insurance approval and then I’d have to try to get on the schedule after that. I left the office in tears because I’m so weary of being in pain and the thought of waiting weeks for this procedure that might not even help makes me sick to my stomach.

Bobby and I combined our respectful persistence and after many more phone calls were able to tentatively schedule it for Friday April 15th at 3:30pm. I’m hopeful that it may help my pain although a little nervous about the procedure, sedation, etc. I’ve had similar injections before my spinal fusion and they were incredibly painful and not effective.

My pain baffles me. Some days it’s unbearable like a 9/10 on the pain scale and others days only 5/10. I can’t always figure out what triggers it to be better or worse. It’s difficult for me to not feel consumed by it and solely focused on relieving it. I don’t want to be defined by my pain. I know many people who deal with chronic pain and serious health issues and I admire their strength and faith so much as my pain has really been for a short time in comparison. Pain unfortunately is a part of everyone’s life. Sometimes it’s minimal and other times overwhelming. I am trying to learn how to seek the Lord in the midst of my pain not only for relief but for Himself.

I believe intellectually that God is so glorious that even if our circumstances are the worst imaginable, we can look to Him and He can produce joy and a steadfast hope allowing us to endure and be at peace. Allowing this belief to inform my present circumstances is difficult. It requires patience and faith because I don’t know when or if my pain will change. I need to trust on the basis of His character not my circumstances. I mustn’t believe He is good only if may pain is relieved. I must believe He is good whether my pain improves or not. But I so desperately want my pain to go away. I constantly have to go before God and plead for His help to desire Him more than physical relief.

Isn’t this the battle we all fight as Christians? To humble ourselves and learn how to put aside our comfort, money, jobs, relationships, future etc. and seek the Lord first no matter the cost.
It’s humbling to realize this is a lifelong battle. I can be so naive and think I’ve figured it out and then another trial presents itself and I realize there’s more for me to surrender to the Lord. I’m so grateful for countless family members and friends who are examples of this genuine faith in God despite difficult circumstances.

Pray for the injection procedure to go through and for it to go well on Friday. Pray for continued wisdom in interpreting the cumulative results of all of these tests to find the root of the problem going on in my spine. Pray for Bobby to finish well with his school work, he is so close to being done! Pray for Chale and Luelle and for my family who are so lovingly and sacrificially watching them in Va right now. Pray as God continues to guide our family’s steps after seminary. Mostly pray for me to seek the Lord above all else and for Him to reveal Himself to me in deeper ways through this time.

“… (Saving) faith is “embracing” the present Jesus Christ as the glorious divine person he is. It is not simply assenting to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, because the demons assent to that (Matthew 8:29). Believing that Jesus is the Son of God means “embracing” the significance of that truth — that is, being satisfied with Christ as the Son of God and all God is for us in him. “Son of God” means that Jesus is the greatest person in the universe alongside his Father. Therefore, all he taught is true, and all he promised will stand firm, and all his soul-satisfying greatness will never change. Believing that he is the Son of God, therefore, includes banking on all this, and being satisfied with it.” -John Piper

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Two years ago we went in for my 18 week ultrasound and I was so caught off guard by what hit us, it took my breath away. We were told our precious daughter had a very severe form of spina bifida and would experience a long list of severe complications.


Most of us have have experienced things that are so overwhelming that you feel like you can barely breathe.

My favorite lecture in all of nursing school was when we discussed that the human body has three types of muscles. We have ones that are voluntary, ones that are involuntary, and ones that are both. We tell our arms to move and our fingers to point because we control their movements. In contrast our heart beats without us every thinking about it and we need not worry about remembering to consciously keep it beating. Our lungs cause us to take in air to breathe without us thinking about it yet we also can take a deep breath if we need to or even hold our breath if we want to. What perfect design and function; the human body amazes me.


When I think about these past two years, in a deeper way than ever before, I was forced to completely depend on the Lord. It was as if I couldn’t take a breath on my own and yet I kept breathing. There have been times in my life I felt confident in my faith and pursued the Lord passionately like taking deep, filling breaths. These past two years I’ve experienced God pursuing, sustaining, and filling me when I had nothing to give in return. There has been much pain, fear, and hardships but joy deeper than I have ever known. The feeling of God filling my spiritual lungs when I could do nothing but keep my eyes on Him is so humbling and beautiful. It has allowed me to experience His power, faithfulness, and love in ways that exploded the small box I had viewed Him in before.


I say this to publicly remind myself and others of a few things.

God loves us, deeply, truly, and unconditionally, so much more than we could ever fathom. Faith is about surrendering our hearts to God because we acknowledge we are in desperate need. We choose to trust God alone. God also meets us where we are and sustains us. Faith is like a voluntary and involuntary muscle. We get to take deep breaths and seek and believe who God is and what He says. God also fills us when we doubt and struggle if we simply keep our eyes on Him.

Whether I like it or not, my faith has been most stretched and impacted through times of pain. When I’m desperate, I look to God and He is able to reveal to me and others more of his power and love through my pain. I’m learning to not fear, get angry, or try to avoid struggles. Instead I try to receive them, come to God, breathe in deeply, invite Him into what I’m experiencing, and ask Him to show me his power and love in this. He will answer those prayers, never how I expect and often in much greater ways than I imagined, but He longs to reveal Himself and loves when we ask Him to.

I feel like I am finally in a season where I am able to take deep breaths again and pursue others and God. I also am much more aware of my need for God to sustain me, to keep my physical and spiritual self breathing. I pray for myself and others to believe and see that God’s love and faithfulness is greater than any struggle we face.



Moving from Fear to Hope

As I look back on things that have happened in my life, my responses are often not what I want them to be. I fight bitterness over things that have felt like more than I can bear. I feel sadness over things that have turned out much differently then I thought they would or should. I carry a sense of mourning over things I’ve lost. I burn with anger thinking about the pain I’ve experienced and watched those I love endure. There is a place of confusion over things that simply don’t make sense to me. Sometimes when I think about the future I’m afraid of the next struggle, the next pain we will endure, the next overwhelming obstacle. Bitterness, sadness, mourning, anger, confusion, fear, what if I stopped there? 

It’s a miserable place and I spend more time there than I would like. To move from there I need to understand something about that place. I create the standards there. If something doesn’t make sense to me it’s bad. If something doesn’t go my way it’s wrong. It may sound positive to define my own standards but the problem is this doesn’t work if I don’t know everything and have selfish, inconsistent motives.

Instead of attempting to create the frameworks I think life should go by, I can look to the one who truly has ultimate power and all knowledge. I believe God is all powerful, all knowing, and perfectly loving. When I let this be the umbrella I view life under my perspective changes dramatically. My pain, loss, emotions, and experiences are just as real and challenging but my responses can be different. Much of the battle for me is accepting that I can be in the midst of hardships and still encompassed by the power and love of God through Jesus. It’s not either or. When things are hard it’s easy to believe the lie that God is not present or loving. The presence of struggle doesn’t mean the absence of God. It may feel true but it’s not. I can choose to believe God is good, faithful, and always with me despite my circumstances being difficult. When I hold Jesus up as the truth I cling to and the basis on which I view everything around me, He becomes an anchor I can depend on. The storm may still rage by I am not trying to control it or explain it. Instead I am holding to Jesus, my anchor, who is in control of the storm and somehow using it for His good purposes and mine.

Believing God is perfectly loving and then looking at things that have happened in my life result in different responses than fear, bitterness, confusion etc. I still feel those things welling up and have to choose to not linger there. As I cling to Jesus, I am able to move from the miserable place of thinking I know best to a place of peace where I believe that God knows best. Often things still are confusing, painful, etc. but there is this almost indescribable feeling of underlying hope knowing God’s ways are best even when I can’t feel it or see it. I hold onto Him without trying to figure out why things happened or what I should do. Sometimes He brings clarity and I see some of the reasons things happened and sometimes I just have to believe He is good when I don’t understand.

I struggle with wanting to hold onto challenging things I’ve been through instead of acknowledging them alongside the goodness of God. I don’t want to stay in a miserable place of fear and bitterness but I have to change my perspective if I want to move to a place of hope.

During time with the Lord this past weekend He spoke these words to my heart and they were exactly what I needed to hear.

“Rest in the promise of my goodness. Praise me in all things knowing I am good and always do good. Hope and expect good things from me even when your circumstances are difficult. Cling to me in the midst of this broken world.”

God has done so many great things in my life. I decided to make a list as a reminder to myself of how great and constant He is in both times of joy and hardship. My faith and perspective ebb and flow. God never changes. One of the beautiful things about reflecting on His great works is that it reminds me he is trustworthy and never wavers as I do.

I pray this also is an encouragement to others to remember how God has moved in their lives in great ways. I pray as we all reflect on God’s hand in our stories that it pushes us to cling to Him as our only unwavering anchor of hope amidst the storms of life.

– I have innumerable, fun memories from childhood growing up with eight sisters and one brother and two loving parents. There were beach vacations, ski trips, backyard adventures, forts, sibling sleepovers, crazy carpools, swimming in our backyard pool, holiday traditions, dress up fun, sharing rooms, bed time stories, family movie nights, epic birthday parties, fun pranks and scheming and so much more.

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– There hasn’t been a single day in my life that I didn’t feel and know I was loved by my parents. I believe they would give their lives for any of us kids and they already have in so many ways. I treasure this knowing many people can’t say that of their parents.


– My grandparents are so dear to me and have loved us in so many big and small ways. I love my Grandma Zena’s delicious spaghetti sauce and Peetie Pie’s jokes and laughter. They took us boating, tubing, fishing , crabbing, and filled our childhood with joy and adventure. Holidays with my Grandma Shirley and Pops were always special. They filled the candy jars that we “weren’t allowed” to eat from and decorated beautifully because they knew we loved looking around the house at everything. They wanted us to have fun and feel special. My grandma makes stockings for each grandchild, spouse, and great grandchild (that’s more stockings than your family has I can almost guarantee it). Grandma Shirley and Pops are some of the most generous people I know and they never make a big deal of giving, they just humbly give. I wish they could see the ripple effect of their impact because it’s greater than they could ever imagine.



– I grew up in a church where I heard incredible biblical teaching. Even as a young child I remember hearing my pastor teach and just wanting to soak in every word. Knowing the bible at a young age gave me a solid foundation that impacted my life choices. I had solid friendships that encouraged me deeply for years. All growing up I had many loving adults and leaders pour into me patiently again and again. I loved the worship at our church. I felt like I could meet with the Lord in the midst of the music.

– I had the privilege growing up to travel to many incredible places for short term missions trips. I went to China, Russia, Brazil, the Middl East as well as many different areas of the U.S. These trips broadened my view of the world, changed my perspective on life, and deepened my faith in God.

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– My family and church encouraged me to seriously considered what I believed, to hold fast to the truth, and to be willing to lovingly share my beliefs with others.

– Experiencing health issues at a young age taught me compassion, gratitude, and to let go of my “rights”.

– Having parents that truly cared about how I lived and what I was exposed to likely preventing me from many mistakes and hurts that I would have otherwise encountered.

– The LIPS ladies, my mom’s prayer group, beautiful exemplifies what it looks like to walk with God in community. Since I was young they have prayed for and loved me, and many others, intentionally and sacrificially and still do to this day.


– Through my life the Lord has provided for my needs financially through my parents, scholarships, my jobs, Bobby, friends, strangers, and gifts straight from the Lord. I can recall so many moments where I had faith (often very little) and God provided for my physical needs exactly when I needed.

– I was able to play soccer and run growing up and loved it. What a gift to have this ability and what a joy I have found in it. Running has been a special outlet for me to process, rest, and feel rejuvenated.

– I have been surrounded by loving, not perfect, Christian community most of my life. I’ve had people to turn to when I’ve needed help in big and small ways.

– I felt called to become a nurse in high school. I loved my science courses and my health issues brought interest in the field and compassion for people. I got into a great program and met some of my best friends at JMU. After school I got a job during a hiring freeze as a pediatric nurse onto a floor I was thrilled to work. I loved the position, my coworkers, and my patients. Strangely, I clearly felt God call me to leave after having back surgeries. It was such a struggle at the time to give up what felt like was my dream but I have such a peace about it now whether or not I return to work.

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– I didn’t really date until I met Bobby. I could see myself getting wrapped up in relationships and getting hurt or hurting others if I had dated more and am thankful that wasn’t the case.

– Bobby is truly a better man than I could have imagined being with. He is perfect for me in ways I didn’t know I needed. We have so much fun together doing mundane or exciting things. We can talk about the smallest things and the biggest things. Each day we have learned more about loving each other sacrificially and receiving love graciously. He is the greatest blessing I have received from the Lord.


– Our first year of marriage, Bobby and I were mentored by our friends Bruce and Donna. They met with us weekly and helped us understand ourselves, each other, and the Lord in a way that has greatly impacted our faith and our marriage. I think the Lord used that time to build such a strong foundation in our marriage that we would need to endure the great trials of the next few years. They continue to be great friends and mentors to this day.


– The Lord specifically calling Bobby and I to “set captives free” has changed the course of our lives. It has given us a specific purpose to pursue and has been a compass the Lord has used to guide us.

– I have had a number of times in my life where I was forced to be physical still through pain and surgeries. The Lord met me in the stillness in intimate ways that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. In my pain I have become smaller and God has become bigger which has been a humbling, beautiful thing.


– Our children, Chale and Luelle, are such sweet gifts. I loved them the moment I saw them and truly feel I get to know them more each day. The challenges that have come with being parents have been great. But knowing that Bobby and I get to love these two more than any one in the world is such a privilege.

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– The Lord has used our experience with fetal surgery to change me in so many ways. I finally feel that I am letting go of being a people pleaser which has been a burden I’ve clung to much of my life. I’m learning to walk with people who are suffering in an understanding way. I felt the lowest I’ve ever felt spiritually and saw God pursue me again and again when I couldn’t pursue him. My view of God has increased, He is greater and more loving than I can comprehend. I’m learning the gifts and sacrifices of being vulnerable about my struggles and victories. I’m learning what it looks like to care for people genuinely and letting God move in them and me as he sees fit instead trying to change others and myself. I am learning to be more honest with people about big and small things. I feel less awkward and more able to speak my mind graciously in relationships.

– I have met people through our time in Philly who have become life long friends and I can’t imagine my life without them. I ache for their struggles and celebrate their victories almost as much as my own. I have learned much from them that I never would have learned on my own.

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– Because of Luelle, I have entered this sphere of disability that I am learning to understand in a way that I never could have before. I see people differently, I ache for people deeper, and I want to love people that others struggle to love.

– There are many great acts of God around Luelle’s life. Bobby wasn’t going to come with me for my 18 week ultrasound because Chale was sick but we decided last minute he should. The high risk doctor, Dr. Kleeman, who only came to the area we live in once a week, was in the day we had the ultrasound that showed that Lu had a severe form of spina bifida. They thought Lu had Down syndrome, which would have disqualified us from having fetal surgery, but she didn’t. I had never heard of fetal surgery, many doctors don’t know about it and therefore don’t suggest it. Dr. Kleeman knew about it and set the process in motion for us to go to CHOP to be evaluated for fetal surgery. Because Bobby was in seminary and not working full time he was able to be with me during the months in Philly and I would have struggled so much more without him there. The doctors at CHOP said that Lu couldn’t have been in a better position for surgery which is often not the case. I had severe membrane separation at 34 weeks which usually leads to labor quickly but I made it to 36 weeks and 6 days. Lu had a high defect and we were told she may have hydrocephalus and need a shunt, she may be paralyzed from the waist down and not walk, and she may have major bowel and bladder problems. She has no shunt or neuro issues, she has great strength in her legs and is walking well with a walker and will likely not need it eventually, and she has had no bowel or bladder problems. She is a little miracle.


– Bobby and I were clearly called to seminary though it seemed ridiculous to leave great jobs, our families, our house, and our current ministry. The year we prepared for seminary was one of my favorite seasons in life. I heard God clearer than ever before and he encouraged us greatly in specific ways. He miraculously answered every need we had big and small about money, housing, bills, doctors, health issues, renters, and much more.


“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and faithfulness will ever preserve me! …You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” Psalm 40:11,5


Beauty is Coming

Our circumstances don’t have to dictate our perspective. I am quick to justify a wrong perspective by difficult circumstances. I think there is Truth that can ground us so that when challenges come, we are not overcome. Instead we are able to view them through something bigger and are able to endure and even find joy in the midst of struggle. We have to choose whether we view our circumstances through our emotions or through Truth

It’s been a rough couple of weeks of chaotic schedules, not enough sleep, illness, finals, and everyday life with a one and two year old. These are all normal life things but I’ve felt defeated by them recently. I saw myself become bitter, easily irritated at the kids for just being kids, and discontent.

One morning this past week after being up since before 6am, I put the kids in the car and went for a long drive because I didn’t know what else to do. I cried and tried to pray because I felt helpless and almost fearful of how bad my attitude had become. I was focused on the double yellow lines in front of me and the Lord said “Look up.” I was driving past beautiful marshes finally starting to turn green and the sun’s reflection on the water was breathtaking. I almost missed it because my head was down and I wasn’t aware of what was around me. The Lord told me that sometimes I need to choose look up and see the beauty in the midst of my life. He also said that sometimes when I can’t see beauty immediately I can trust that it’s coming because that’s what God does. He redeems and transforms things. God is working in our struggles, big and small. I was encouraged but the day continued and I quickly returned to my negative attitude. Throughout the morning I kept trying to meet with the Lord. I read half a devotional but was interrupted. Then later I read half a psalm before someone had a sticker emergency that needed immediate attention. I felt like it was impossible for the Lord to speak to me with all the chaos.

After a stressful morning with the kids, I put them to nap and sat with the Lord. I wept and laid out my frustrations, fears, and hurts. Bobby and I had been getting into fights a lot because of stress and not having any down time together. I wanted to call Bobby and pick a fight about something and I so strongly felt the Lord call me to bring my burdens to Him and not Bobby.

I just kept saying “Lord, I desperately need you to speak.”
He said “I am with you.”
I was so overwhelmed I said, “You being with me doesn’t seem to change anything right now.”
He responded, “Beauty is coming. Everything I do is good and has purpose.”
I wish I could say I received what the Lord said and trusted Him. Chale started waking up after a far too short nap and I just became angrier.
I told the Lord,” Everything feels broken, difficult, overwhelming, and undone. I need to see your beauty in the brokenness.”

Then I slammed my journal on the table, called Bobby and started a fight, and snapped at Chale for not napping. I’m ashamed at my lack of faith and impatience with the Lord and others. But God is good and so much more loving than I deserve.

Earlier in the day Bobby wanted to get me something. He stopped at one store and looked and didn’t find anything that seemed right. A few hours later after we had fought on the phone, he stopped somewhere else to look for a gift. He said he looked at chocolates and cards but felt like he was supposed to get me something else.

As Bobby walked in the door with a beautiful orchid I wanted to weep. I was so ashamed, humbled, and amazed at God working in us both. I saw that beautiful flower and heard the Lord’s words from earlier. Beauty is coming. I still can’t believe in the midst of my lack of faith, my lashing out at Bobby, and my unwillingness to just listen and trust the Lord that God showed me such tangible beauty. I had pleaded with Him to show me beauty in the brokenness and He couldn’t have been more clear. 

I shared everything with Bobby and was able to apologize for my harsh words and wrong heart towards him. I was able to tell him that God used him to speak to me in such a profound way.

As we were talking more later we realized that that whole experience wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t asked the Lord to speak and if Bobby hadn’t been sensitive to the Lord’s prompting. It just amazes me that God spoke so clearly to us in the midst of our doubts.
All day I kept thinking that the Lord can’t even speak to me because life is too crazy. The Lord spoke to my heart in such a deep way in my disjointed time with Him because He isn’t limited by our chaos. I am more in awe of Him, knowing He can speak anytime, anywhere, through anything.

I feel such a weight lifted after seeing God move so clearly in our lives. All it took was us listening. My heart was far from perfect as I listened and even after I listened but God longs to speak if we are willing to hear Him. He just wants us to invite Him in. If we try to fix or tidy things before we ask Him, we may never ask Him because our hearts and world are far to broken to be fixed by our own attempts. He wants us to invite Him into our chaos, our pain, our fears about the future, our exhausting parenting, our impossible jobs, our struggling relationships, our hidden insecurities, our mess. He wants to speak love that heals, truth that sets us free, and hope that spurs us on.

Bobby and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. He has given me dozens of flowers in our years together but none have been as meaningful as that orchid. It revealed God’s beauty and faithfulness in such a special way exactly when we needed it.

“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you…” 
Jeremiah 31:3

“God gives where He finds empty hands.” 
-Saint Augustine 

“God cannot put His fullness into our emptiness if we conceit ourselves to be filled and in need of nothing.”

-Alexander Maclaren


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A World of Hurting People

While we waited for over an hour on the psychiatric floor for one of Luelle’s appointments this past week, I saw a 7 year old boy with his mom. The boy was spunky and the mom looked tired. I smiled as they walked passed and they smiled back as Lu awkwardly waved at them. Twenty minutes later I saw the same sweet boy screaming and flailing near violently. His mom was calm and escorted him away from the waiting room towards the elevator. The staff at the desk asked if she was okay and she said she was. A bit later security was called because she wasn’t able to control her son. They restrained the boy and I think administered medication to help calm him down. The mom looked even more weary as she shuffled away with the boy. My heart ached for them.

There are a number of challenging things about having a child with a chronic medical condition; the long days spent at the hospital, the heartbreaking appointments full of bad news, the worries about how the normal things in life are going to get done in the midst of all the health stuff, the what ifs about the future, and the fears that even when things are going well something is just around the corner. Lu’s appointments are in Boston so we have to stay all day because it’s too far to drive back and forth in between. We spend a lot of time walking around the hospital waiting or trying to get Lu to nap. As we walk I see so many faces. I see parents afraid, exhausted, angry. I see children fearful, deformed, in pain. I see doctors heavy with patients and procedures on their mind. I see siblings antsy, bored, and feeling neglected. One of the hardest things about having a child with chronic medical needs is walking around a world of deeply suffering people. 

As I sat in almost two hours of traffic on the way home, I wanted to be angry and frustrated. Poor Lu only napped for 20 minutes the entire day and was so cranky. Chale was beside himself when I left him with the babysitter, I never had lunch, and I had banana smeared all over my clothes from letting Lu feed herself as I tried unsuccessfully to keep her from melting down through her last appointment. Instead I just cried. I kept seeing that sweet boy’s face, and hundreds of other faces that I had seen at the hospital that day and so many other days. 

I thought about some of my darkest days of pain, suffering, and fear. I have experienced moments that felt physically and emotionally unbearable, but I have always clung to hope. I believe God is all powerful, that He is ever present, that He sustains us through all things, and that He is all we need. Those promises haven’t fixed my circumstances or made life easy, but clinging to God who always keeps His promises is what has gotten me through my darkest moments. My heart breaks for those faces knowing many of them don’t have hope. They don’t know those promises that bring peace in the midst of pain.

Then I got angry. I thought about how people, myself included, harshly judge other’s actions without caring to dig deeper. Unfortunately, Christians can be the worst offenders. How dare we judge someone for lieing, divorce, stealing, abortion, sleeping around, suicide, even murder and not first want to know the condition of their heart. If someone has no hope why wouldn’t they do any number of things? My point is not that these actions are good or bad. My point is that our actions are an overflow of what is going on in our hearts. We can be so quick to judge others but do we realize the reason people do these things is usually because they are hopeless, afraid, alone, or hurt? I confess I have so wrongly judged others before and I also have been wrongly judged. How can we look at our lives and surmise that our problem is external when truly the problem lies in our heart. Many times in the Bible Jesus condemned those whose lives were outwardly clean but their hearts were far from Him. He called them white washed tombs. If we saw that mom and boy in the grocery store and the boy started having an episode, how would we respond? Would we assume he is spoiled and that she is doesn’t discipline or would we ask if she is okay or needs help?

Jesus came to bring hope into a dark, suffering, dying world. Jesus can impact our past, present, and future. Jesus can redeem even the most terrible things we have done and the horrible things done to us. Jesus can give us the strength to get through whatever we are facing. Jesus promises to usher us into His full presence after this life. There we will experience freedom, no pain, and perfect joy because we see and know Him completely.

Through my angry tears I asked the Lord what I should say to these hurting people? If one of them stops me as I walk by them in the hospital and desperately says they are hopeless and afraid, how would I answer them? The Lord brought this passage to mind.

“As he (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (‭John‬ ‭9‬:‭1-3 ESV).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

I love that Jesus so quickly dismisses the notion that this man’s blindness was because of something he or his parents did wrong. Jesus’ explanation of the man’s blindness is not warm and fuzzy. He doesn’t say that the man’s blindness is going to bring riches or ease. Jesus says the reason for his blindness was so that the works of God might be displayed. If you stop and think about this, it’s incredible. This man was chosen by God to be blind so the glory of God would be seen through him. What an honor. God never wastes our pain. He hand picks us and tenderly, knowingly orchestrates our lives in such a way that His work may be displayed through us. It’s messy, scary, at times might feel unbearable, but ultimately if we believe in Him we can be confident that God will do more than we could ever imagine through our struggles. I don’t say this lightly. It takes a divine perspective to hold onto both struggle and hope.

Jesus was willing to suffer incalculably because He loves us unconditionally. He could not save us from the punishment of death we deserved, without giving His life in exchange for ours. The punishment needed to be fulfilled by someone otherwise there would be no justice. Our options are either to spend eternity in hell as we deserve or accept His death as our own and entrust our lives to Him.

 Jesus knows what it’s like to hold both suffering and joy. We can hope in Him because He has gone to the depths of suffering for us. Not only did He die in our place, He wants to give us His goodness. When we entrust our lives to Him, He gives us His joy, peace, wisdom, patience, endurance, and so much more.

As I remember and continue to see faces of hurting people, my prayer is that God would reveal His glory to their aching hearts. I pray that we would not judge eachother’s actions but would look into people’s eyes and be willing to get to know their hearts. I pray for that sweet boy and his mom that the depths of their suffering would overflow with the vastness of God’s glory. 

“He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace.” ― Joni Eareckson Tada

“Jesus went without comfort so that you might have it. He postponed joy so that you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so that you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow. He had no real fellowship so that fellowship might be yours, this moment. This alone is enough cause for great gratitude!” ― Joni Eareckson Tada