Our not so normal life…

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


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.


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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


Celebrate with Giving

Luelle is turning ONE on March 7th!


I can hardly believe our sweet girl is almost a year old. What a year it’s been. There is much to celebrate and we would like to do something special.

One of Bobby and my biggest prayers for Chale and Lu is for them to learn with us how to show gratitude for the gifts we’ve received by giving to others.

Instead of giving presents or money to Luelle for her 1st birthday, we would like to ask our family and friends to give to a special family we met this past year.

While I was admitted to the hospital three weeks before Luelle was born, I met Diane Stum and her two daughters, Jocelyn and Carolyn. Diane’s husband Zach tragically died on February 9, 2014. Days later, Diane found out her unborn daughter had spina bifida. She came to CHOP to get the same fetal surgery Luelle and I had. Diane and her sweet baby had fetal surgery on February 28th. Nine days later, Diane went into preterm labor that could not be stopped. Her precious daughter, Rachel, was born at 24 weeks. Diane got to hold her for two hours and then Rachel passed away on March 9th, exactly a month after losing Zach.

Diane shared this after Rachel died:

“The girls and I picked her name two weeks ago. The name Rachel was on a list I found in Zach’s handwriting of other names we liked when we picked Jocelyn’s name.

Then a friend shared this verse from Isaiah 40:11 with me.
“God tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young.”

Rachel means “lamb” and it was special to Carolyn, Jocelyn, and me to think of God keeping Rachel, the little lamb, close to His heart. Now we know she couldn’t be any closer to His heart. The verse also promises that God will gently lead those that have young. This verse is precious to me and I will cling to that promise as I lead my two young girls down yet another very difficult road.”

Diane and her daughters have experienced loss that most of us can’t even fathom. Diane has incredible faith in the midst of deep pain. My heart aches for her. We are honored to bless her and her family in this small way.

God never wastes our pain. He saves our tears in a bottle and knows the deepest hurts in our hearts. No matter what we have been through or what we have done, God can bring healing and joy to our darkest moments. I think those who suffer the deepest will see God more fully as He fills the depths of their pain with His light.

I feel so honored to know the Stum family. Please pray with me for comfort when their hearts ache. Pray for hope when they feel overwhelmed. Pray that God would give them inexplicable joy that gives them strength to continue on this journey. God has already and will continue to do incredible things with this family.

Please help us celebrate Luelle by giving to our dear friend Diane.

You can give directly to Diane using the PayPal link below. You can also write checks out to us and send to our address and we will send one lump check to Diane. Let me know if you have any questions.

Our address is:
130 Essex st. #438A
South Hamilton, MA 01982

Please feel free to share this. I’d love to overwhelm the Stum family with gifts, prayers, and love.
Thank you!

Zach, Diane, Carolyn, and Jocelyn


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There’s Nothing Else To Do

Honestly, I hoped to be writing a positive post of encouragement, but that’s not where I’m at right now. I thought surely after over a year I would be in a more stable place. I feel more unstable in some ways than I did last year. I have experienced a lot of physical pain in my life from a variety of surgeries and health issues. I have never quite experienced the internal pain I am battling now.

I’m still not sleeping well because Lu wakes up often through the night and when she’s not awake, I battle, sometimes for hours, to turn my mind off. I’m in counseling. My tank is not only empty but cracked and leaking. I’m so depleted that even when there are good moments, they feel like drops in a bucket that can’t hold anything anymore. Because I feel so weary from big things, I have nothing left to deal with the normal life stresses of kids being sick, meal planning, and holiday chaos. I feel a combination of exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and discouragement.

It use to bother me how isolated I was, but now I mostly avoid people because I don’t know what to say. I almost want someone to give me a hard time that Chale is still in pajamas at 4pm or that Lu’s head is getting bigger and she’s barely making any sounds yet because I just want to get angry at someone. I’m struggling right now to understand and cling to the hope I believe in.

At Luelle’s appointment a few weeks ago, we were told by her neurosurgeon that her ventricles continue to swell and she will likely need brain surgery soon. We have tried twice to get the sedated MRI that she needs but have had to cancel both times because she keeps getting sick. We feel like the clock is ticking and it’s on us to get her healthy so we can move forward with the treatment she needs.

I was overwhelmed the other day about everything and asking the Lord what to do. He told me I just need to wait. I asked Him how on earth do I trust and find peace in the waiting. His response was “There’s nothing else to do.” I was strangely at peace as I realized God is in control and has directed the steps before us. All we really can do is trust Him as we wait.

Recently I read John 11, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

“So the sisters (Mary and Martha) sent to him (Jesus), saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was…

Then Jesus told them (the disciples) plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him…
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world…”

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled… Jesus wept.

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out…”
(‭John‬ ‭11‬:‭3-6, 14-15, 21-27, 32-33, 35-37, 39-44 ESV)

Lazarus died and Jesus could have intervened beforehand but intentionally did not. Mary and Martha were understandably upset and confused by Jesus. What strikes me in this passage is Jesus’ expression of emotion and His interactions with Mary and Martha. Both women individually approach Him and say the exact same thing, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” To Martha he speaks truth and encourages her to believe. Jesus saw Mary’s tears and anguish. He spoke no words but simply wept with her.

It’s incredibly important to believe that God is all powerful AND that He loves us unconditionally. If we simply believe He is all powerful but doesn’t love us perfectly, I picture Him far off with His arms crossed emotionless zapping power here and there as He chooses.

Jesus knew He was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead but He still weeps. His ways are perfect, always for our good, and in the end we will see His complete healing and redemption. I think He weeps because He knows the pain we feel in the meantime and His heart aches with us as we wait.

Jesus loves us so deeply and personally. He can handle our overwhelming doubts and our angry tears. Sometimes we go to Him and He gives words of encouragement, challenge, and reminders of His unchanging character. Sometimes we go to Him and His spirit is greatly troubled and He sits with us in our pain and tears. Jesus weeping with us doesn’t make the truth less powerful but more tangible.

I keep feeling like there must be a simple answer to all I’m struggling with. I try in vain to figure out what I’m missing and to force myself to be okay.

After reading through this passage all I could say through my tears was, “Weep with me, Lord.”

I can only imagine how confusing and frustrating it was when Lazarus was dying and Jesus said “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus didn’t come right away and Lazarus did die. But that wasn’t the end.

I’m not musical at all but I really enjoy classical music. I remember learning in my random elective music class about dissonance. Dissonance in music is a “simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.” It’s like a story unfinished or a meal that lacks salt. They are incomplete. Sometimes I need to remember that what we are experiencing now is unfinished. It’s like a song that in part doesn’t make sense but when finished will be beautiful.

Lord, weep with me as I wait and trust You in the dissonance, the unfinished work You promise to complete. I don’t understand but as Martha I want to respond with “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ and I want to see your glory.”

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…” (‭Psalm‬ ‭61‬:‭1-2‬ ESV)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭18-19‬ ESV)

My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
It’s His to lead me there, not mine, but His—
“At any cost, dear Lord, by any road!”

So faith bounds forward to its goal in God,
And love can trust her Lord to lead her there;
Upheld by Him, my soul is following hard
Till the Lord has fulfilled my deepest prayer.

No matter if the way is sometimes dark,
No matter though the cost is often great,
He knows the way for me to reach the mark,
The road that leads to Him is sure and straight.

One thing is sure, I cannot tell Him no; One thing I do, I press towards my Lord; Giving God my glory here, as I go,
Knowing in heaven waits my Great Reward.
-Frederick Brook





But this I call to mind and have hope

Last October if someone would have told me what our year was going to be like, I wouldn’t have believed them. There have been so many tears, pains, doubts, and fears. But in the midst of it all, there have been moments of joy, inexplicable peace, abundant blessings, and miracles.

“Difficulty is actually the atmosphere surrounding a miracle, or a miracle in its initial stage. Yet if it is to be a great miracle, the surrounding condition will be not simply a difficultly but an utter impossibility. And it is the clinging hand of his child that makes a desperate situation a delight to God.”
-Streams in the desert

October 28, 2013 was the day we found out that Luelle had open Spina Bifida. I was more afraid and overwhelmed than I’ve ever been. I thought about all the things our daughter may never do and all the struggles before her. I thought about how our future looks drastically different than what I had pictured. I remember every moment of that day. I remember the long list of major complications the doctor listed, the big decisions we had ahead of us, and the countless unknowns. I remember feeling so afraid I couldn’t breathe.


October 28, 2013 was the day we found out our second child was a girl that God had already given us a name for. A few weeks prior I had a dream that Lu was a girl so I already knew. I have wanted to have a daughter my whole life. Now I remember the day my water broke and we got to meet our baby girl. I remember the first time she smiled. I remember the first time I saw her little legs kick and toes wiggle, something I didn’t know if I would ever see. I remember the first time I heard her laugh. Oh my goodness I love her laugh. She laughs so much. I remember the first time Bobby held her and stared in awe. I remember the first time Chale carefully kissed her and smiled so proudly. I remember how special it was the first time the four of us were back in our own apartment. We were finally home together.

Since that day in October almost a year ago, I have not slept through the night. Before Luelle was born I would lay awake for hours crying, fearful, anxious, or simply unable to turn my mind off. After the fetal surgery, the pain was excruciating for a few weeks and I slept little. I also had to take medication every six hours to prevent contractions so we had to set alarms during the night. The end of my pregnancy I was admitted to the hospital for three weeks so frequent monitoring and meds kept me up. Now, Luelle is almost eight months old and has yet to sleep through the night. Bobby and I are so tired.


Bobby and I have shared some of our sweetest moments in the middle of the night this past year. I’ve been awake crying and anxious and he would hold me and pray, talk, or cry with me. I have wept and pleaded with the Lord many times in the early hours of the morning. Many nights I would lay awake calmed by worship music or so often the constant, faithful prayers of family, friends, even strangers who were praying for us. Now, although I’m so tired when I wake up to feed Luelle, I look at her and can’t help but be amazed at the little miracle in my arms we’ve been entrusted with.


Last December 1st we packed up our apartment and drove to Philadelphia. We would either return December 2nd if we didn’t qualify for fetal surgery, or not for six months if we did. We did qualify and December 4th Luelle and I had surgery simultaneously. It was terrifying, extremely painful, and a major risk. The months following surgery were more difficult than I had imagined. Every shooting pain, I wondered if I was going into preterm labor. I was on bed rest for three months. It was so hard to be away from Chale for weeks. We lived out of bags for six months moving around to hotels, the Ronald McDonald house, the hospital, and family and friends houses.


As we headed to Philly last year, although we were leaving our community, church, and friends, we were overwhelmed by support. Friends and family from all over the world reached out to us. What a gift to experience the church and community as it’s meant to be. We were covered in prayers, were blessed abundantly with gifts, finances, meals, notes of encouragement, and so many conversations of love and truth. Chale had the time of his life with our families while he was away from us. He was so loved and cared for and has a special relationship with them that otherwise he would have missed out on. We spent such special, sweet time with my sister and her family who live in PA and our families that came up multiple times from VA and MD. During our time at CHOP, we met some incredible people. We had encouraging, meaningful conversations with the staff at the hospital and formed lifelong friendships with families we met in Philadelphia. Many were other families who have children with Spina Bifida. What a gift to meet others who are on such a similar journey. Some were families we met while staying at the Ronald McDonald house. We have been forever changed by their stories of incredible struggle, hope, endurance, and faith. We lived with a family from our church that we barely knew for about a month before we could move back into our apartment on campus. That family continues to be such a blessing to us and are now dear friends that feel like family.



If I’m honest, we’re still really struggling. As I write this, Lu has had over two weeks of diarrhea, was in the ER because she was having 15-20 diarrhea diapers per day, and now has a UTI that we are praying isn’t from bladder and kidney complications of her spina bifida. Her ventricles have slowly swelled since birth and in December she is getting a sedated brain and spine MRI to determine if she needs another major surgery. My back flared up this past week, the worst it has since my spinal fusion in 2011. We are so afraid of my back pain not resolving to the point where I can function and care for the kids.

Often I am angry and bitter about how challenging life has been. Bobby and I went through my first back surgery when we were engaged and we’ve had 6 other surgeries between the two of us since then. We are ready for a break. Often we feel isolated. Some of this is our fault because we have pulled away from a lot of people and activities because we’re exhausted and struggle to connect. I hate that now when I meet people instead of finding similarities in order to connect, I find excuses to pull away. I mentally categorize whether someone’s situation is harder than ours therefore I have no room to share, or easier which means they just wouldn’t understand me.

Another reason that I think I’ve isolated myself is that I didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of support for so long. If I’m completely transparent, it’s because of my pride. We have been given so much from so many people around us. I’m embarrassed at how many meals we’ve received, how many times we’ve needed babysitting, and how many times we’ve had to decline invitations because we were overwhelmed with life. It’s hard for me to accept that I can never reciprocate to the extent we’ve been poured out on. I think sometimes I avoid people because I don’t want them to know how much we are still struggling because I feel like I should be able to handle things by now.

Most days I try to avoid God. I know that’s ridiculous but it’s true. I’m angry with Him. I’m confused. I’m afraid.

I used to think if I “trusted” God, life would be easy and I would get what I wanted. I would never have said that out loud but that’s how I acted. Over the years, God gently has shown me that truly trusting Him means trusting not to avoid struggles but trusting in the midst of them.

Most genuine Christians acknowledge that we don’t believe in a health and wealth gospel meaning we don’t follow Christ to get money, ease, etc. We can be so harsh on churches that push this thinking that life should be peachy if you are a Christian. While this thinking is completely wrong and should be challenged, I confess I often believe a false gospel. I find myself pursuing an emotional health and wealth gospel. I may accept that life is hard and trials will come but I seek Jesus in order to get contentment, peace, joy, etc. not to get Jesus.

I do believe Jesus gives us these things but they are supposed to be a byproduct of walking with Him. Jesus is the prize. I don’t even fully understand it. I think part of it is accepting we will receive His gifts on His terms not ours, which is hard to swallow. Bobby and I were recently talking about contentment. Contentment isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. I hate that. I want to just feel content but choosing it means choosing it in the midst of hard circumstances. Without Jesus, we won’t be able to choose contentment.

Following Jesus isn’t a one time decision. It’s a daily, hourly choice.
Jesus walks with us and says…
“Will you follow Me today?”
“Will you follow Me even through this?”
“Will you follow Me even if this never happens?”

We have to choose each time to follow Him. So often the path looks bleak and feels impossible and hopeless. He isn’t asking us to understand the journey or even His hand in it. He is asking us to trust Him each step. To simply say yes when He asks us to follow Him.

I have so many questions. I struggle often with anger, fear, and hopelessness. But I do believe God is good. Sometimes I don’t understand it, probably most of the time. But I know He is good whether I understand it or not.

“…so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’
…But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”(‭Lamentations‬ ‭3‬:‭18, 21-25‬ ESV)




Love is a Gift

Marriage and relationships are hard. They carry potential for rich blessings and deep hurts. If love, surrender, and openness define our relationships, they will be sources of strength. Otherwise they will become burdens.

My heart has been heavy recently as I watch friends struggle in their marriages. Bobby and I have only been married 4 years, but we have packed in 7 surgeries, 2 babies, 4 moves, countless ER trips and hospital stays, and lots more chaos. We have experienced things that many couples won’t until many years into marriage or perhaps ever. We too struggle in our marriage but we have learned a few things, many the hard way, that I would like to share.

Bobby and I have much more to learn and many years ahead to grow as individuals and as a couple. We don’t have it all figured out. We fight a lot. We know how to push each other’s buttons and do so too often. We hurt each other unintentionally and at times intentionally. What I want to share is not some secret to a perfect marriage but something that has helped us learn to love, forgive, and trust in the midst of our faults and pain. My heart is to encourage, equip, and speak hope into others relationships.

Our first year of marriage was challenging, as it is for most. I felt this pressure to deal with and figure out all of our current and future issues (I’m not type A at all hah). Bobby is a great communicator and listener. We met almost weekly for a year with an incredible couple that mentored us. We acknowledged that we loved each other. Yet we still were so frustrated and defeated much of the time early on in our marriage.

For instance, Bobby would lovingly give me a card and flowers for our anniversary. Sweet, right? My inner turmoil would be as follows. “Well, that’s nice but I really want him to be creative and do something unique to show that he cares. If I tell him thank you and that I loved it he will never try to do something more than that.” I proceed to give him a weak, insincere thank you and he would obviously recognize something is wrong. I would either deny it and continue being conflicted and him confused, or I would tell him and he would be frustrated and defeated and I would feel terrible.

This sounds kind of ridiculous, and is in fact, but this type of communication continued to happen again and again. Eventually I felt I couldn’t be honest and that we would never understand each other. Bobby felt like no matter how hard he tried he would end up failing. These feelings and attitudes then affected bigger issues. For instance, when we led a bible study together that first year, I felt that instead of encouraging Bobby in the many areas he led well, I needed to criticize the few areas that I thought he could do differently. He often responded poorly out of frustration that I focused primarily on the negative and I would get hurt.

We continued through so much of that first year defending our own needs and blaming each other when they were not being met. This left us both frustrated, insecure, and at times distant. When my back and nerve pain became unbearable and I needed a second spine surgery, Bobby pulled away because the stress and his fears about the future were overwhelming. He recognized that if something didn’t change, he would continue pulling away. We both went to counseling for a period of time. Because of my insecurities I hadn’t acknowledged his strength as a husband and leader nor his patience and love in pursing me. Often I wasn’t willing to forgive sincerely when he did let me down because I felt that meant he would never change.

Our second anniversary we had a fun weekend away together and on the way back got into a terrible fight. I don’t remember what the fight was even about but what resulted was one of the most influential conversations of our marriage.

Bobby pointed out that we both had become so consumed with ensuring that our own needs were being met. Our focus was ourselves not each other. That day we committed to change. We decided that we were no longer going to focus on our own needs but each other’s. This may sound simple but it radically changed our marriage.

This was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. We both chose to lay aside our needs and make the other person’s our focus. Letting go of our needs meant they may not get met. We had to trust each other and be willing to forgive when we failed.

My focus was no longer on watching my back but his.
I stopped asking myself do I feel loved and started asking does he.

Our marriage slowly became so much more fun and freeing. We (mostly me) started to let go of my expectations. Instead of expecting Bobby to love me exactly how I thought he should, I just let him love me.

We have to revisit this again and again. For instance, when Bobby started seminary and had long days on campus, I began assuming he was not using his time wisely. I started to get bitter that I was stuck at home with the kids and he was doing whatever he wanted. Bobby began feeling deflated as he was trying his hardest to balance his intense workload and family life well and I was making him feel as if he were failing. After multiple fights, I realized that it is much more encouraging and motivating to tell Bobby I trust him with his time then to nag him and try to micromanage. Bobby didn’t need added pressure from me, he needed my support.

None of us are responsible for perfectly meeting each other’s needs. We will fail. God’s love alone is going to fulfill us and perfectly meet our needs. Because of this, Bobby and I don’t need to demand love from each other but can freely give it. We will continue to let each other down in big and small ways. We can deeply love, but we can’t perfectly love.

Marriage is about commitment not perfection. We have to accept that we will fail but are committed to forgiving and growing together.

Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Jesus’ heart for His people. He doesn’t want us to follow all the rules and learn how to perfectly live. He doesn’t want us to love Him with strings attached. Jesus doesn’t love to get, He loves in order to give.

My advice to myself and others is this.

Surrender to God and acknowledge that His love is perfect and all consuming. You can trust Him fully because He alone will fully love you no matter what.
Surrender to your spouse and choose to seek their needs and forsake your own. Trust that they will love you instead of trying to manipulate them into loving you.

Love God above all else. Anything or anyone you love more then Him will become a vice that rules you.
Love your spouse not to gain something for yourself. Love is a gift that should be given selflessly not demanded selfishly.

Be open.
Be open to God and your spouse about your fears and struggles.
Be open to those around you. Keeping our struggles hidden gives them power over us. We feel stuck and alone when we isolate ourselves. Marriage is a battle that if not fought for will be lost. We need to acknowledge within community that relationships are hard. Instead of hiding or putting up a facade, we need to be real. We need to pray, talk, and encourage each other instead of judging, gossiping, and making assumptions.

I have seen marriages fail that at one point seemed so strong and loving. I have seen marriages that were hanging on by a thread flourish and cold hearts softened when couples are willing to humble themselves before God and each other.

Bobby and I commit to not be that couple that pretends to have it all together. We want to be real with each other and those around us. We want to fight for our relationship and pray that you will join us.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

-Stuart Townend

Photo credit: http://www.strawberrykissedphotography.com



Life has calmed for the moment since our adventures in Philadelphia getting fetal surgery and welcoming Luelle into our family. Our transition back into “normal” life has had it’s ups and downs. Physically, we are settled back into our home and enjoying our time as a family. Spiritually and emotionally some days we still feel overwhelmed.

The past few weeks have been challenging. Nothing terrible has happened but I feel like I’m failing as a mom, struggling as a wife, and missing the mark as a friend, daughter, and sister. No one is telling me that I’m failing but that’s what I’m believing about myself.

Everyday I compile evidence against myself. I seem to ruin Lu’s nap at least once a day because of an outing and when she’s screaming in the car I feel terrible. When both kids finally go to sleep and I should clean or read something meaningful, usually I just want to turn my mind off and play candy crush or watch netflix and I feel so guilty. Our bathroom is always a mess. I have hundreds of thank you cards that I should have written months ago. I am more out of shape than ever in my life. My time with the Lord is extremely inconsistent. I regularly get anxious thinking about actual or potential health issues for Lu or our family. The list goes on and on.

Then I think about all the people I know who have three, four, five plus kids and I’m embarrassed that I’m having such a hard time with two. I think about my friends who desperately want kids and can’t get pregnant. I remember my friends battling cancer wondering if this new treatment will work. I think about people who are going through far more difficult trials, health issues, etc. and feel guilty for not handling things well. I feel like I shouldn’t be having a hard time so I don’t want to share with others that I’m struggling.

I keep willing myself to not feel a certain way but that hasn’t helped. Then I put all my energy into changing my environment in order to change my feelings. I just need a cleaner house, a better schedule, to lose more weight, to sleep more, to read more, to spend more time with Bobby, etc. and then I will feel better. This leaves me feeling so much pressure and eventually like more of a failure because I can’t do all these things and even if I could it wouldn’t change how I feel. I felt hopeless.

I finally went to the Lord and confessed that I’m believing I’m failing in all arenas and attempting to fix it on my own. I begged for God to show me how to deal with these feelings of inadequacy. He told me to just come to Him, to be in His presence. I realized that when I try to change my environment to impact my feelings it’s impossible. The Lord reminded me of all these promises of being in His presence.

In His presence is wisdom (James 1:5), fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), rest (Exodus 33:14), freedom (2 Cor. 3:17), hope (Psalm 62:5), healing (Psalm 147:3), steadfast love and mercy (Lamentations 3:22-23), forgiveness (Acts 13:38), peace (Philippians 4:6-7), and grace (Hebrews 4:16). Notice how all of these are the opposite of the feelings I’m battling of guilt, worry, fear, discontentment, etc.

The beauty of Christ’s presence changing us is that we can ask God to enter into whatever we are going through. His presence has no limits.

Instead of stressing over a new sleep schedule for Luelle or vowing to keep my house clean, I’ve been practicing asking God into my moments good and bad. When I’m up at 3am with Lu and exhausted, I ask God to meet me. When I see someone running and feel jealous and frustrated, I ask God to meet me. When I am watching Bobby carry Chale on his shoulders pointing out the frogs in a beautiful, quiet lake, I ask God to meet me. When I think back over my day and feel like I accomplished nothing, I ask God to meet me. When I’m holding Luelle and she’s looking at me peacefully smiling, I ask God to meet me. When I watch those I love suffer with their kids, health, marriage, etc. and I don’t know what to say or pray, I ask God to meet me.

When I ask God to meet me, to help me focus on being in His presence and not my current situation, that’s where I find peace. God’s presence is the only place I can deny my own feelings and receive truth and healing.

In thinking through all this, I realized that comparison not only steals our joy but prevents us from meeting with the Lord. If I think my struggle is easier or more difficult than someone else’s, all it does is make me prideful or falsely humble. It’s about our hearts not our circumstances. Our circumstances simply reveal what is going on in our hearts. I can struggle with pride in longing to be married or in trying to parent five kids. No matter our trial we all need to seek God’s presence.

In entering into God’s presence, He gives us strength and peace in our hardships and allows us to see the good He is working in them. When we ask a God to enter into our good moments, He reveals to us even deeper joy and peace. There’s no moment that won’t be made richer by His presence. I’m challenging myself when I’m experiencing moments of joy or pain to go to the Lord first, not take an Instagram pic to broadcast it or write a Facebook status to whine about it.

Mind you I’m writing this after Lu just screamed for 15 minutes refusing the bottle and as I’m thinking about Bobby’s pending shoulder surgeries. I’m fighting being frustrated and fearful. I certainly haven’t mastered this. Bobby and I have agreed to remind each other of this truth in the hard moments. Asking God to meet you isn’t a one time-fix all solution. It’s a choice we make when we are struggling whether to go to Him and hear truth, or resist Him and miss out on what He longs to give us in His presence.

The best part is that there’s no secret formula or qualifiers to being in God’s presence. He simply asks us to come.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13

“Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years. Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you. You cannot make yourself different. Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body. Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.” -Henri Nouwen

We’re reaching out to welcome You, God
Fill this place again with Your song
Flood our thoughts with wonder and awe
Give us a greater glimpse of a never-changing God

All we want and all we need
Is found in You, found in You
Jesus, every victory
Is found in You, found in You

Open wide, our hearts now to Yours
Every fear, bowed down to Your love
That we would see like never before
Give us a greater glimpse of a never-changing God

In Your presence there is freedom
In Your presence we are made whole
In Your presence there is freedom
In Your presence we are made whole
-Vertical Church Band




The Presence

We have been together as a family of four back in our apartment in Massachusetts for almost two weeks. It’s great to be home. We are thankful for Chale having his own space to feel comfortable and goofy again, for soft toilet paper, for space to cuddle, play, and relax as a family, and to be able to walk around the house in our underwear if we so choose.

It’s been hard being back too. We feel like we are starting over here in some ways. It’s overwhelming to have lost all our momentum. Bobby had been doing so well in his classes and had found a rhythm of studying and learning. Because all that halted so abruptly last October, it’s going to be difficult to start again in the fall. We had been so involved in the community here and we’ve missed so much after being away for so long. We struggle knowing how to enter back into life here when we have been dramatically changed. We have seen life and death. Our hearts have been broken and softened in ways I can’t explain. Some things that seemed so important to us before no longer matter. We see people differently. We pray, endure, parent, grieve, and rejoice differently.

How do we share what we’ve experienced the last 6 months when we don’t even understand it?

Luelle is almost 11 weeks old and doing great. In fact, she really couldn’t be doing better. I still struggle with how to handle this. Her initial diagnosis was overwhelming. I’m overjoyed that she has feeling and movement down to her toes and her bladder and brain are functionally completely normally so far. I’m trying to accept and be thankful for how well she is doing but at times feel so afraid of the many issues that can still occur because of her spina bifida or complications from the fetal surgery.

I don’t want to have that attitude. Why do I expect the Lord to explain everything to me or to work in accordance with my plan or expectations?

What should matter most is to know that He is present with me in the midst of my hardest days and my best. What, why, or how He works really is up to Him. If I believe He is good, just, and loving, then I can trust Him to work however He chooses. Allowing this truth to permeate into my thoughts and emotions each day is what is challenging.

A few weeks ago, my mom and I were talking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to the king’s idol.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV)

The fire was so hot that the king’s men who threw them into the fire were killed. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not only unharmed but they didn’t even smell like smoke after the whole ordeal. Something else happened while they were in the furnace. In Daniel 3:25, while watching the men in the furnace, the king says, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Perhaps the real miracle is not the absence of the fire but the presence of Christ in the midst of it. I’d guess that’s what they remembered most from that experience. That Christ in His perfect power and love entered into the fire with them.

As I continue to let truth and faith impact my emotions and experiences, I’m reminded again of the passage of Jesus and the disciples on the boat, (Luke 8:22-25). When Jesus speaks to the disciples in the midst of the storm, He asked them “where is your faith?” That’s the big question. If their faith was in the boat then of course they should be panicking. But if their faith is in Jesus then it doesn’t matter the magnitude of the storm or the stability of the boat. What matters is what they believe about Jesus.

Our circumstances do affect us. We experience real pain and heartache. God grieves with us over suffering. But our circumstances don’t need to define us. What defines us is who we put our faith in.

Jesus presence changes things. It not only changes us in our trials but determines our outcome. If Christ is with us, whether we are rescued from the fire or consumed by the the storm we will not be overcome. As followers of Christ we may be rescued in this life or delivered into eternity with the Lord. This is our hope. That with Christ we are secure no matter what.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39 ESV)

We all have known or unknown trials ahead of us. My back has been bothering me lately. After having two major spine surgeries it’s really hard not to be anxious about the possibility of major issues. Bobby still needs one possibly two shoulder surgeries. Luelle has more important follow ups this year and for life will have to be aware of possible complications of her condition. But focusing on all these obstacles is like putting all our energy in preventing the fiery furnace or fortifying the boat. We need to put our energy into knowing and being with the One who is with us in the fire and the storms. The closer we are to Christ the more we are overwhelmed by His power and love and not the magnitude of the trials before us.

His love in time past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last, in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review
Confirms his good pleasure to bring me quite through.
-John Newton

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. (Psalm 135:5-7 ESV)

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20, 21 ESV)






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