Double Vision

We’ve had the blessing of healthy children this year. Agents and publishers interested in multiple of my works. I’ve stepped away from my nonprofit and ministry work to homeschool our children. We’re reveling in the delight of longer snuggled mornings, less rigid schedules, and discovering how all elements of life and education are interwoven.

Autumn is kissing the Blue Ridge with a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns. We’re loving sweater weather, s’mores, spiced coffee, hot cocoa, cousin sleepovers, fire pits, and friends. Joys and highs and blessings untold.

This year has also come with death, five significant people in my life since May, spanning from aged to young. Two vernal loved ones are being treated for ugly heartrending diagnoses and another young-to-me is being tested for words I can’t make myself utter. Beyond my immediate circle of family and friends, there’s even more suffering, parents scream-praying for children to live, children reeling without parents. End of treatment. No more clinical trials. Hopelessness that prompts unthinkable actions. Familial, social, political, and spiritual unrest.

My anxiety resurfaced, forcing recognition in the form of physical symptoms, more medical tests, and eventually, treatment for the root cause. Grief, sorrows, and depths of despair.

Driving home from church the other night, I turned on my Rich Mullins playlist, hoping his folksy voice and thought-provoking lyrics would quicken my heart for things eternal. First to play was, “Here in America,” where Mullins describes God’s creativity in natural beauty around the world. Tucked in the chorus are the words, there’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see, But everywhere I go I’m looking…”

That’s what I need, I thought, more eyes to see more beauty.

But if I had extra eyes to see more beauty, wouldn’t I also witness that much more suffering?

Living with our hearts and eyes wide open means truly seeing the beautiful and the ugly, indescribable joy and unimaginable sorrow.

I can’t carry it all, I cried. I never intended you to, I heard.

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NASB.

I settle into the truth of these words and pray for grace to release my grasp on all I cannot hold. I wrestle with the paradox of being a believer in Absolute Truth who lives with questions. One who hopes against hope to avoid suffering, while knowing the presence and peace of God in the midst of it.

God uses the words of Ann Voskamp to remind me that “Those who long to see miracles, see everyday miracles everywhere.”

“Live like God is a genie in a bottle, and we become like angry drunks.

Live like God is king on a throne, and we become intoxicated with awe,” Voskamp writes.

Again, Rich Mullins sings prayers I cannot speak. “…hold me Jesus cause I’m shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my glory. Won’t You be my Prince of Peace.”

Whether beholding beauty I cannot describe or suffering I cannot utter, a warm blanket of Grace is there to envelop. Abiding Peace that IN all things, God never leaves, never forsakes, never abandons. And if my arms are raised, praising or questioning, my head bowed in reverence or sorrow, my body shaking in joy or rage, I’m held in His Everlasting Arms.

Be THOU my vision, oh Lord of my heart.

They Know Their Sister

They know their sister by tear-stained photographs

By a worn-out guestbook from her funeral service

They know her by playing in a cemetery

Around a cold hard tombstone

They know their sister by our “Sadie Rose” friends

By support meetings and remembrance ceremonies

They know their sister by the faraway look in mommy’s eyes

By the silences, the tears, the whispers of her name

They know her by the scent of a flower

By a butterfly’s soft-winged flight

They know their sister by the cloud’s silver lining

And by the stars that light the night

How I wish they could play with her, hold her hand, kiss her goodnight

But they are content knowing her in this way

Always looking for reminders of her presence

And, as only children can, they accept that this is how they know her

And they love her, just as they know her

I bargained with God and got my end of the deal! Now what?

For most who know my family, it’s no secret 2017 has been a year of difficulties. I wrote down the “big” things the other day and came up with this list.

Husband – mono (severe) and pneumonia (still dealing with symptoms of mono)

Me – strep twice, months of intense physical pain, tested and ruled out for ovarian, colon, and melanoma cancers

Son – strep four times and mono (less severe)

Daughter – strep nine times, mono (severe), tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (still dealing with symptoms of mono)

Daughter – respiratory complications that resulted in sometimes upwards of six breathing treatments a day

Another loved one continues to suffer with memory loss/dementia and relies heavily and increasingly on my husband and I for care

And those were just the big things.

Before I go further, we have and continue to address each situation as well as bigger picture causes and possibilities, including air quality in our home. However, our one daughter seems to have been a walking germ factory with her tonsils, and since her surgery and recovery things are improving greatly. My pain seems to have been a result of me needing to take better overall care of myself.

Somewhere in the intensity of the battle, I bargained with God that if we could all get well I would stop holding back and living small.

It felt like a really good deal at the time. Now we are all healing and gaining strength and health and I am processing what I meant by “not holding back and living small.”

I’ve had to confront myself this year on many occasions and came to realize that fear makes my life so small; fear of living, fear of dying (this one is more about me leaving my children or having yet another child die than me actually transitioning to my Eternal Home,) fear of upsetting someone, fear of not standing up for (insert many things) regardless of whether or not it might upset someone, fear of being misunderstood, fear of vulnerability (I have so much I write and want to share, but fear holds me back,) fear of …

Counseling is helping. Friends willing to speak truth, hard truth, is helping. Taking better care of myself spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally is helping. Taking a lyrical ballet class is helping and I can tell an immense difference in my freedom of movement and participation since I resolved to stop living small. Ironically, genealogical research is helping. Confronting the root of my insecurities is helping. Love is helping.

I hope you will join me on the journey ahead as I learn to live into my destiny and perhaps inspire you to live into yours as well. I’d love to engage with my readers more as we journey together. What have you been struggling with? What joys fill your life today? How can I pray for you?

Sharing this photo is a big deal for me. I used to loathe many things about my physical features, but the more grounded I become and the more I delve into my genealogy, the more I see the uniqueness and character that make up the whole of who I am.

Here’s to hope, health, and deeper discoveries.

Grieving and healing together, as individuals

Often there are people around us who are also impacted by the source of our grief. Certainly our family and friends grieved in their own way for the death of our daughter. Looking back, I can see more clearly how each of them expressed their grief and love in their unique ways. I am so grateful for everyone who has walked this road with us.

I flung myself to the floor, weeping, alone for the first time since Sadie died

The doorbell rang, our neighbor an awkward witness to my uninhibited grief

She brought a beautiful hanging basket and said, “I’m so sorry”

Family cleaned, weeded flower beds, and snapped buckets of green beans and shucked copious amounts of corn on the cob to feed those gathered

Their presence comforted me

Daddy went grocery shopping

I still have the green bottle of Gain laundry detergent, empty now, but a reminder of their coming together and of my sweet Sadie Rose

Not all of them came together for the happiest day of my life, but they did for the saddest

That laundry detergent bottle reminds me so

Two sisters with small infants shied away at first, but upon my request brought their babies for me to hold

They cried survivor’s guilt tears as I held their little ones and wept for my Sadie

They didn’t want to know the pain of empty arms, but they also didn’t understand why they were so blessed

I marveled at the perfection of their tiny infants and knew Sadie was perfect in her own little way

My niece, then 12 years old, brought a red balloon and asked us to write notes to Sadie

We released it in our backyard, our younger nieces and nephews intrigued by the tears but delighted by the floating red heart carried away into the sunset

We sat around her grave on a beautiful Saturday afternoon

Nieces and nephews laid stuffed toys on her tiny white casket

We sang Jesus loves me

My father-in-law coughed and rubbed his eyes, grief had snuck up on his stoic composed form

My husband looked off into the distance, always far away, I wondered if he would ever come back

But he did, he would come back for a while to find me

Crumpled in a heap on the shower floor or staring out the window into the night

We fluctuated back and forth, being strong while the other was weak and vice versa

Another sister came after her farm chores

We dunked chocolate-dipped biscotti into our coffee until our stomachs hurt, mostly silent, with occasional bursts of detail accompanied by grunts and nods

Together we grieved, as individuals

Together we remember and heal

Beauty from ashes

Nearly every day I travel the same road and turn at this intersection where a house once stood. The vacant house burned to the ground a few months ago. 


The rubble so changed the landscape that the first time I went that way after it burned, I missed my turn.

I took the familiar route for a second time today, but this afternoon was stunned to find merry little daffodils poking through patches of snow and ashes and concrete. 

If you are looking around in your life today and all you see is ashes, rubble, ruin, despair, coldness, hardness, emptiness, I pray for you glimmers of hope. 

When we are in times of great distress, it can feel like our landscape changes. Our sense of direction becomes unclear, landmarks crumble. What was familiar becomes strange. 

But God’s promises are true and he is faithful. 

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 63:1

Like the seed that is buried in the ground, dormant, lifeless, and cold, eventually the seed germinates, a sprout emerges, and a bud bursts forth. 

At just the right time, when it seems there is nothing left to live for and despair seems to have the final word, hope springs forth from the ashes of our lives. 

These “dark nights of the soul” are potential times for great transformation. 

I am reminded of this “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie A Sleeth. 

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

May you sense these blessed promises in your own life today! 

Ready to rock the big 4 0

Yep. That’s right! I haven’t given it much thought before. Age isn’t a big deal to me, but when someone ask the age difference between my cousin and me and during that conversation we concluded I turn 40 this year, I started ruminating. 

I spent most of my childhood with a broken heart. With love and respect to everyone in my life, the pain and (seeming) rejection of a mostly absent dad left a gaping bleeding wound. (I’m so grateful to be close to him now.)


Along with that, I always felt like a misfit among my peers. It wasn’t their fault. I was raised in a faith community where roles and rules were clearly defined and again, with all due respect, I did my best to fit the mold outwardly, but inwardly I could never find my place. 


During my teen years I made regrettable and unfortunate decisions that only further wounded my already scarred soul. 

My early twenties were wrapped up in unhealthy relationships.

In my late twenties I met and married my amazing husband. 



In my early thirties we buried our first-born child. 



I gained a lot of weight. 



I lost a lot of weight. 


With the addition of two more biological children and becoming a foster mom, these littles and these past few years have given me purpose and mission. (Though none of them will ever replace our daughter, nor would we want/expect them too.) My husband has loved me imperfectly, but oh so beautifully, scars and all. And the love and mercy and grace of Jesus has overwhelmed me, completed me, seeped into every broken crevice and  healed me. 

I think about the clay pot I keep in frequent eyesight. The pot was broken, shattered in some places, and left lying in what seemed like ruin. But carefully, lovingly, the pieces have been glued back together. This pot is a beautiful analogy of my life; broken, scarred, pieced back together. The holes where the light shines through are where I pray my love, my joy, my empathy, and the light of Christ radiates into the brokenness of others, sharing the same healing and love I myself have received. 



I have finally found my place, my loves, my identity, my life. I have embraced my uniqueness and realized I’m really not that different than most people afterall.  I feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually, than I ever have. I’m totally down with being me, having my own voice, singing my own song, writing my own script, without trying to fit into a box or mold others might expect for me. 

I have earned every laugh line on my face. The emerging wrinkles and creases are “character marks,” each one has a story all their own. 


My actual birthday isn’t until August, but I see this fortieth year as my “year of jubilee” and I plan to celebrate all year. 

I am not celebrating the absence of adversity or without the awareness of the frailty and uncertainty of life. I am celebrating the abiding, comforting, healing presence of Jesus, knowing that he has held me through a lifetime of pain and sorrow and he will continue to walk with me throughout my life journey. 

I am celebrating healing, joy, peace, contentment, and fulfillment in spite of continued uncertainties, worries, and fears. 

I’m glad someone reminded me early in the year that this is the big forty for me so I can live it up. I am ready to rock the big 40!

Risking love and loss… Again

Emotions swirl like a whirlpool in my gut. Thoughts circulate my head like a tornado. We have found ourselves at a place we never really thought we’d be. As foster parents, we knew that any number of circumstances were possible, but subconsciously I think we really only saw two outcomes; adoption or return home.

But now we have this precious little human that has been with us for several months. Home is not ready at this time, but we must let them go. We never anticipated a pet allergy severe enough to become unmangeable. We never saw ourselves too busy to give all that some little ones might need, but that is also the case.

There is relief on one side, that this little pumpkin will no longer have to suffer ongoing severe allergy symptoms. There is hope that a new home will be able to provide them more attention than what our already busy schedules allowed. But there is sadness, a deep sense of loss, and absolutely no regret for saying yes to the initial placement call. I can’t see through the tears to type these words. Writing them makes it all that much more real.

We can only pray that our time together has been productive, fruitful, and life-giving and affirming.  Releasing a child I’ve grown to love into the system, outside of the perimeters of my mothering heart, is requiring more faith and trust than I ever dreamed. My heart feels broken and fragile.

If you are so inclined, please breathe a prayer of blessing over this little person, unknown by most of the world, but created and deeply loved by God, and for the new home. Pray for the biological family as well, and for our own dear children who will grieve this loss deeply.

Our hearts will need time, our souls, reflection.

“I guess by now I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone-you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.” ― Alyson Noel, Evermore