death, faith, family, grief, gun laws, guns, hope, school shooting, sisters, suffering

Staring Down the Barrel

“Hope holds a broken heart together.”

~Ann Voskamp


I am sitting in in the thick blanket of nighttime, listening to the steady rain beating the drum roll of its sixth hour on the hollow-sounding roof.  The intense piercings of a familiar pain keep me from my slumber, and I am delicate in my constant re-positioning and pill-swallowing to avoid waking the mounds of purring sleep close to me.  My bedroom started out far less crowded tonight, but as the starlit veil fell, came the padding of feet and the tiny, emotion-filled voices describing fear of the dark, tumultuous dreams, and loneliness that needed the quiet comfort of my presence near by.  So here we all are, their chests finally rising and falling with the rhythm of their dreams, and me wondering when things will go back to normal.

This was a headline week for guns.  A few state lines over, lives were shattered as another troubled youngster unleashed explosive fury on rooms full of unsuspecting  teens and adults, cutting short the futures of many who had planned on having more time.  All the articles and bar-room-conversations and social media statuses are blasting loud the positions and rules and amendments and movements that each are convinced will bring an end to this terror. All of this buzz about bullets and laws and security and the NRA, and all I can think is how will these kids face tomorrow?  Closer to home, how will my daughters face tomorrow?



Just a few days after the most recent school shooting in Florida, my girls experienced their own kind of horror at the barrel of a gun.  My two, along with a roomful of other innocent, energetic young girls had come together to kick off the Spring season of cheer leading.  The room was full of ponytails, giggles, and camaraderie.  As they finished tying sneakers and warming up tight muscles, a new and horrifying ambiance sliced through the room.  My oldest daughter had slipped out for one last dash to the restroom before practice, and when she rounded the corner to go back into the gym, she ran right into him.  No one knew, so the coach opened up the door and let them both inside.  The next 90 seconds were so brief, but stretched eternally in the burning scars of terror that now streak the memory of everyone watching.  A few odd but indubious remarks were made to strike up a conversation with their coach as he positioned himself closer to the cash box where each parent had given the weekly dues.  Then, beneath his slouching hood, he grew expressionless and in the longest instant, the dark, round metal of a gun contradicted the innocence of the hairbows and glitter, and the giggles turned to a fear that would not be forgotten.  My girl, still the closest to him, tried to make a subtle move for a cell phone, but his instincts were fast and he tucked the metal box and dashed for the door.  Then the knee-jerk reactions of the coach slamming her shoulder into the door corner as she lunged after him, the instant tears of the little sister who felt the hysteria of watching her sister so close to a ruthless bullet, and the mayhem of the entire crowd as adrenaline was unleashed.

I am still incredibly grateful that this tasteless man had a thirst for money rather than for blood, and my girls got to come home safely that night.  What was no longer safe though, was their security and peace of mind.  Tears upon tears from the two of them and the best friend as they clung exhausted in an embrace of profound emotion in my kitchen that night.  Panic, flashbacks, sweating whenever they found themselves in a room too far from the safety of knowing a trusted adult was arms-length away.  An incessant need for the security of a cell phone pressed closed whenever they have to leave the house. Nightmares and sleep-screaming through the deepest hours of the night, peace divided by having to learn that sometimes these things happen for no good reason.


Tomorrow my girls will face walking back into that gym.  My oldest will relive the details of his coat and his birthmark as she walks through the same hallway where he first cut into her memories.  My youngest will remember the powerful emotions of watching helpless, wondering if she was going to see her sister’s future rewritten.  They will have to come to terms with these memories and these fears, and I will support in them whatever ways that they need, but I can’t help but wonder… what about the kids who watched friends and classmates and teachers gunned down in front of their eyes this week?  How will they find the courage to walk back down those halls?  I truly cannot grasp it.

Everyone has an opinion about what needs to happen.  More guns, less guns.  More restrictions, more screenings, more freedom, less.  So many different points of view.  I have an opinion too, but I’m not going to share it right now.  Right now all I can think about is the downright brokenness of it all. The terror, the pain, the distrust and the loneliness that has gone down in irreversible ways.  The truth is, regardless of what decisions are made about whether or not guns are legal and what the process will be to get one, there is an issue at the foundation that is something we all hold the answer to.   This world needs people who care more for the hearts of their neighbors than about how their status will suffer if they are seen breaking bread together.  It needs hearts that can anticipate the needs of others, and read from the eye motions and the face lines when someone needs an extra dose of kindness.  This world needs people who are wholly committed to seeing each other for what they are; other humans who are hurting and struggling and trying to make it, and in desperate need of being loved, accepted, and understood.

We don’t need gun laws, whether for or against, in order for this to happen.  We simply need to look up, and look around, and reach out with everything we’ve got in order to say, “I see you, and I know you’re hurting, and I’m going to walk you through it.”

We all just want to be seen.  Have you ever stopped to think that maybe you are part of the answer?  What is it that’s holding you back?





faith, grief, suffering, trials

Look Up

It was 4:00 in the morning when I left the hospital, and as I hit the first traffic light, the dam that had been holding back all of my fear, anger, and desperation crumbled into a million broken pieces. Tears coming from a depth beyond understanding carved slick rivers down my neck and pooled in my shirt.  I was aware my car was drifting between the painted lanes of the empty interstate, and I glanced for blue lights that would assume I was drunk.  My voice scraped raw as I screamed my questions to a moonlit sky, daring His promises to be kept.

Knowing my other little ones were tucked sleeping in a quiet house, and needing to do something tangible that felt productive, I pulled off into the only store open at this desperate time of morning.  Despite trying to slow my heaving sobs in the parking lot, hot drips still occasionally seeped from my stinging eyes as I wandered the empty aisles.  I chose a few items mindlessly, that I thought at the time would bring comfort, and I trudged my way to the lone check out stand with a flickering light.  A slight embarrassment prickled over me as I became aware of the frightening sight I must be with my blotchy face and swollen eyes.

The checker grabbed my things and began swiping them across the counter without looking up.   “How are you today?” he beamed. “I’m ok.” “That’s good,” he replied.  He continued to ring up my things and take my payment without ever making eye contact. As I grabbed my bag and turned to leave, he swung the hammer one last time.  “Have a great rest of your day!” 

If you have spent much time around me, you may have noticed that often when someone asks me how I’m doing, I don’t ask the same question back.  It may come across rude.  It is not because I don’t care though, it is the exact opposite.  I don’t ask because I either know that that person was just asking to be polite, and they don’t really want the true answer from me, or because I know that I am not at a time or place I can truly give thought and caring to their answer.  I ask how someone is doing because I sincerely want to hear their heart, and not just the glossed over “I’m fine, how are you” that we all are guilty of giving sometimes.  I’ve learned to pick out the people who honestly want to hear how the real me is doing, and the people who would be completely uncomfortable if you let them see beyond the surface.

When I am standing in line at the grocery, I know that there may not be the time for me to be a listening ear to someone’s bad day, but on the other hand I do not want to ignore the person in need of some encouragement. If I notice a rude or grumpy employee, I will leave them with an “I hope your day gets better.”  They didn’t have to share what is weighing on their mind that day, but they will know they are seen and given validation.  I will not ask you how you are doing or how your day has been unless I authentically have the heart to hear the good with the bad.  I’m ok with you taking the time to tell me what you are struggling with, and will not make you feel ashamed for not finding the good in a new day of life.  The truth is that life is hard, and we should stop conditioning each other to put on a brave face and pretend everything is fine. 

I challenge you to stop your robotic motion and your scripted lines, and look up.  There is a world out there of hurting people.  People who in the sticky messes of their daily lives may not need you to spend an hour listening to their problems, but need to know that they are not invisible, that their pain is not ignored, and that we are all in this together.

faith, family, New Year's, suffering

Hoping for More

A year of dreams and magic and smooth sailing, less struggle and more blessings; that’s what we’re all hoping for, right?  I imagine we all felt the same at the beginning of this year too; high hopes for 12 months without conflict or illness, but then not too far in, we started facing disappointments and hurts, and before we knew it we were scraping by the months, just trying to survive, determined to make it to the fresh start of a new year. Suddenly we are at the end of a string of long, hard places, clinging desperately to the fray and looking up for a stronger, longer rope, just to realize that our safe passage isn’t guaranteed.  That those hopes to slip through unscathed are just that, hopes, and the days ahead of us have just as much potential to leave us burned as the barren months behind us did.

 To be honest, I held my breath for it too.  For the clean slate, the fresh start; the promise of a year filled with goals and newness and such determination for good, that surely this would be the year to whisper about, the one that brought great good.  Well I shudder to admit, but as we rounded the corner of the end of December, 2016 kicked us in the gut before we even crossed the threshold.  Or maybe it was 2015 getting one last punch in. Either way, we already know this year isn’t starting with the expectations we placed on it.  In fact, I flat out didn’t even want to celebrate it; dreaded this night and the tears and the pain and the reality that once again we stand in a place where we have no control over our lives.

But you know what… hanging onto to our own ability to control our lives is what sets us up for heartbreak.  I have held too long. Even when I know I can do nothing to help myself, I have been hell-bent on self preservation.  That’s not what our Father asks of us.  He asks simply, gently for us to open our hands… to surrender our lack of faith and trust that even when the weight of the world threatens to crush us, He will never let go.

There are no guarantees for this year to come; our dreams may crumble, our relationships disappoint, our health fail, our people leave us, but we don’t have to be sure of the future to be sure of our security through it.  So lean with me, press into whatever is coming, walk into this new year with a brave heart and a determined faith, because we don’t need to know what’s ahead, only Who is behind us.

I knew tonight I would be standing at the edge of this new valley, looking out over the unknown, watching from the outside as everyone else was sharing the joyful moments of ringing in their new year, while I stand holding broken pieces.  I know I have a choice to let fear and sadness overwhelm, or to trust that I can free-fall into the unknown with the confidence that I will never hit the bottom.  Never.

I can be thankful for all that has happened, because in the end, that’s what my faith is made from.  I know that whatever is hard in 2016, He will work for good.

So happy New Year, my friends.  Let Him make your broken so, so beautiful.

faith, grief, miscarriage


When Mark and I were young in marriage, we had no trouble agreeing that we both would be happy with two children.  We had a strong, adventurous son for our first, experienced a miscarriage when we started planning for our second, and then were elated to bring a gorgeous, healthy baby girl into the world.  The perfect pair, a matched boy/girl set; we had what we wanted.  Then, somewhere down the line, up to our ankles in parenthood, we started itching for another, and joyfully welcomed our second daughter.  Our next baby, we agreed, would be adopted, and we started that journey, which took a sharp right turn and brought us through fostering, and unexpectedly, but joyfully welcoming another biological baby of our own.  We agreed that she would be our last.  That’s the thing though, our best laid plans are ever moldable by a God whose plans are better.  Giving our youngest daughter back to Jesus was the most heartbreaking and life-changing moment in our lives so far.  It caused a shift in our paradigm, an about-face in our priorities.  We realized that in the ranking of importance in our lives, our children are one of the most precious pieces of our story, and our hearts are drawn to gather them around us in a big, loud, challenging, loving, fulfilling clan of family togetherness. From that point, we were no longer daunted by the thought of a big family (well, let’s be real, MARK was no longer daunted; I grew up in a family of 9, he is an only child, it was more of an adjustment for him). We decided by way of biological children, and adoption, we definitely want to grow.

It’s funny how everyone else knows what’s best for us, right?  At the mere mentioning of having more children, we’ve had friends and family who immediately tried to discourage us.  We should be grateful we’ve made it with the healthy kids we have, we shouldn’t risk putting my body through any danger, we should not put our children through anymore big changes, or take on the financial responsibility in such an expensive world.  I hear ya, and I try to see where you’re coming from because surely this is you just trying to protect us. I love that someone said it’s ok that people don’t understand your journey, it’s not their journey to understand. I don’t have the answers, and I know it seems scary, or even crazy, but I’m trusting God to do it. I truly believe He is the one that has placed this desire in our hearts, and if He called us, He will equip us.  I’m resting in that.  I don’t have to know how or when, I just have to believe He has our best at heart.

After some of the responses we have been met with when we have shared our enthusiasm to grow our family, we decided to simply sit back, keep our plan in the hands of the One who knows it best, and let Him quietly take it from there.

With the physical challenges I have faced over the past few years, we had come to a place of accepting that our future children will come from adoption, and not from me.  That was a hard place to reach, not because we don’t want adoption, because we absolutely, wholeheartedly want that to be part of the story, but it’s a big chapter to finish, and I was still filled with desire to carry another baby of our own.  I spent months wrestling, in fact praying that God would take this desire from me, because it was so painful to hope for something that would never be.  I did not understand why He would let me have such strong desire, but not allow it to be fulfilled.  It was a dark and powerful struggle to come to a place where I could completely submit that, hand over my desire, and trust the outcome would be gentle to my aching heart.  It brought freedom though, and excitement for how He is going to work.

This summer wound down with our minds refocused on the legwork of adoption. We started drawing up plans and timelines and praying for the fatherless that we hope will someday be part of our quiver-full.  Imagine our surprise then, when against all the odds that had been given us, we were staring at the very realness of another little one… of our own

Coming in 2016

As we drove to Kansas to throw a baby shower for my little sister, who was expecting in a few months, I squealed with delight at the thought of finally getting to share a pregnant picture with someone so close to me, something I had dreamed of.  We would get to raise our babies being the same age for most of every year; we were so tickled.  Even Mark, who is usually slower to give to giddiness, was openly excited and marveling at this miraculous blessing that had been given to us. 

Pregnant Together

I am terrible at keeping surprises, and t was difficult for me to wait until we thought it appropriate to share with the other kids.  They eagerly shared our enthusiasm and excitement. You can watch that hilarious conversation here:

We began to shift our thoughts to planning for the big changes we would find in 2016, with Mark retiring from the Air Force at the beginning of the year, and then welcoming the little one we affectionately began referring to as “Sixlet.”

Being pleased that I actually felt better during early pregnancy than I had in a very long time, I was a bit alarmed one day when my hot flashes came back with a vengeance, and I started cramping. I already had an appointment with my OB the next day though, and she eagerly assured me everything looked great, and shared excitement that this truly was a special gift.  I was happy for the good report, but something still didn’t sit right, and I couldn’t shake a feeling of unease.  I whispered prayers through the moments of my day, praying protection and health over our little one. 

The deep of that night woke me with excruciating pain in in my back and legs.  Terrified, I ran to the bathroom, but besides the pain, nothing seemed unusual.   I was awake most of the rest of the night, unable to lie still or get comfortable… moving from room to room trying to relax the pain away.

The next morning, Mark was away early, in a mandatory course preparing him for retirement.  It was in the early hustle of breakfast and packing backpacks that the crimson slashed through the hopes of my future.  Somehow the kids knew.  They read the shadows of my eyes and the sigh of my spirit on the drive to school, and one of the oldest asked the brave, unanswered question… did our baby die?  My heart knew, but I kissed them away and told them to pray, and reminded them that no matter what, Jesus would walk with us. 

The only communication I could have with Mark was by text that day; he couldn’t escape his class, and for the second time, I sat alone in a cold room staring at a dark ultrasound, void of the flicker of life.  While I waited to be taken back to my room, they sat me in a hallway outside the ultrasound rooms.  I sat in paralyzed agony, watching woman after woman stroll to the exam rooms, plump, ripe, life-bellies cupped beneath pregnant hands.  I bitterly scowled inside, already hurling the questions that I knew I probably wouldn’t get answers to on this side of eternity.

Hours huffed by, as it seemed everyone was avoiding being the one to tell me what I already knew.  I grew restless and frustrated, and by the time there was nothing left to do but tell me, there was no comfort, no apology, just facts, and all I wanted to do was run.  I texted Mark the words that spilled his glass half-full, and drove mindlessly into a gray afternoon to gather up my little people and begin a life without Sixlet.

I was having an impossible time sorting out my emotions, knowing that if I dwelt in anger, bitterness would take me places I didn’t want to go, but finding it very hard to accept that another loss, another shattered dream was part of a great, good plan for my life,  Knowing I had to take a stand against letting this destroy me, I sat alone in my car and loudly starting repeating, “I trust You.  I know You are good.  I know there is a reason beyond my understanding.  I trust You.” I hoped the enemy could hear me, but not see my heart, because in fact I was preaching to my own battered soul, trying to convince myself.  That’s when the song “Blessings,” by Laura Story came on the radio, and I turned the corner to see a brilliant, color blocked rainbow streaked across the gray horizon.

Watching precious life bleed away, tiny footprints slid from safety, never to grow bigger, is a soul-stopping grief, but my God has not forgotten me. He has promised not to abandon me, and to give me the future I hope for.  It’s inexplicably hard, and some days, I hear the lie that it’s only fitting that my story end with loss, but I refuse to believe that. If this is the journey I have been called to, then I am going to walk it out, and I choose to believe that what He has for me is greater than any of the pain.

It was so hard to tell our little people that the little brother or sister they had been waiting for had gone straight to Heaven.  There was much sadness and questions we couldn’t answer, but we did what we do, we celebrated.  We worked together to make cake and special balloons and thanked Jesus for holding our hearts, for holding our babies, for making us stronger than ever through our weakness.  We celebrated for the reunion to come, because friends, it is going to be amazing.

       Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

child loss, faith, Jill Buteyn, Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts, Mundane Faithfulness

Showing Up

In the haze of my aging and windblown mind, there has always been a particular message I heard in a church years ago that has come crisply back to the forefront of my thoughts.  It was a guest preacher, and he spoke about endurance.  He told of his wife in the ending years of her father’s life, how each time she got “the call” she would pack up and drive through the day or night to be there, to sit at the bedside and bring presence and comfort to her sick father in what were surely his final hours.  The thing was, this happened again… and again, and each time, instead of hesitating, or complaining, or doubting that he was really so ill, she would pack up and drive.  She was in for the long haul, unselfishly dedicated to endure for the love of her father, to be there when he needed her most.

For years this has challenged me, boldly questioned me— Am I selfless enough, brave enough to be the one to Just Show Up?

As I read through Jill’s challenge to write my own “Just Show Up” story, there was no delay in the sweet faces that came to my mind as I pondered who it is that has run with endurance to come along side me in the painful, most desperate moments of my story.

I first met Lily and Colleen when Isabella was about 3 years old.  Although she was growing strong and healthy after a precarious start to her life, we had noticed she seemed to fall often, and wanted to make sure we weren’t missing something. Her pediatrician agreed she needed to be evaluated, and as happens often in the military healthcare system, we were given a referral to be seen off base by a pediatric physical therapist.  We were immediately impressed with Lily’s skill and wisdom.  She watched Bella moving around for 5 minutes and knew right away what was going on and what needed to be done.  She also recognized a sensory processing disorder and was able to get Bella into occupational therapy with one of her therapy partners, Colleen.  The small, house-like building where the smiles of these two women greeted us weekly began to feel like home, and at the same time Bella grew stronger and we saw her start overcoming some of the challenges brought about by her 30 week delivery.


Water therapy with Lily

During this same time, we learned we were expecting our fourth child, and our Tuesday therapy visits came accompanied with a growing belly to count the weeks. One of the first questions in the door was always how me and the baby were doing, and then a pleased smile as my pregnancy progressed smoothly week by week.  Then, one cold day in March, I missed our appointment.  That morning Mark showed up with Bella instead, and as Lily came to the waiting room to get her, she teased with Mark, “Where is Hannah, that baby didn’t try to come early did she?”  I’m told Lily was taken aback, feeling badly when he admitted that yes, in spite of everything having gone well so far, I had emergently delivered our youngest daughter at only 29 weeks gestation.  At the time though, we were feeling confident; she was well taken care of in the familiar ambiance of the NICU, and we expected a similar, long, but positive outcome through another journey with a premature baby.

As hours faded to days, and Ellianna’s stay in the NICU became punctuated with hard news and complications, Lily and Colleen became more than our therapists, and their familiar faces and kind spirits grew friendship beyond the purpose for which they had first come into our lives.  We looked forward to seeing each other, kept in touch by text throughout the weeks, and sneaked in coffee dates when we could.  When we learned that Ellianna would have cerebral palsy, Lily knew what we didn’t, and pushed to have her enrolled to start physical therapy as soon as she was discharged from the hospital.  This teeny, tiny, 4 pound little girl, showing up to flex her muscles on the big red inflatable ball.  Who knew? Lily and Colleen also jumped in to help with her feeding difficulties, and Colleen was even willing to drive out to our home to get her started in occupational therapy so she didn’t have to be submitted to the noise and chaos outside the house so many times a week.

These two women were so steadfastly in our corner, fighting for the best for our little girl, and encouraging us through the frightening unknowns ahead.  I remember Lily saying perhaps Bella wasn’t even the reason for our meeting, but  that we would already have this in place when our littlest miracle came along needing it so badly.


As Ellianna’s brain bleed turned to hydrocephalus and surgery and shunts, I wanted to keep her home in the protection of my arms, comforting her pain and keeping her from more.  Lily knew better though, and she urged us forward, pushing Ellie to her limits to help her grow strength and gain weight, and even though my heart broke watching the tears of the struggle, I knew Lily pushed because she loved, and she wanted so much more for my little girl.

Our last hospital admission, when things were the darkest, bleakest bad… it seems silly, but I suppose I needed things to distract my mind, and I remember calling Lily’s office to tell her Ellianna was in the hospital and we wouldn’t be able to make it to therapy.  In hindsight, I’m sure we could have no-showed and no one would have blamed us, but there I was, trying to keep a calm voice as the receptionist told me Lily was with a client and couldn’t come to the phone.  When she asked to take a message, I must have been out of my mind, because I think I said something like, “Just tell her we won’t be at therapy because Ellie is in the hospital and the doctors don’t know if she is going to make it.”  I guess that seemed normal in the numbed hysteria of my mind, but I was told to please hold, and 10 seconds later Lily’s voice was on the other end of the line.  My explanation was jumbled, and probably less than a sentence long, but that’s all it took and Lily was saying “I’m coming up there,” and the line went dead.

This woman, assigned to us for her livelihood, to straighten crooked ankles and weak hips, dropped everything, walked out on whoever she was with and showed up in a way that may have saved my life.  I’m not sure how she got there so quickly (knowing what I know of Lily now, I probably don’t want to know), and I don’t know who she walked out on, though I hope they understood.  She burst into our tiny room in the Pediatric ICU and she stood there in the middle of a situation most people would not want to imagine, let alone wade right into.  She was there when someone came in and told us the CT scan showed 50-60% of our daughter’s brain was already destroyed.  Instead of fear or “I’m sorry’s,” she turned to us and said, “Don’t let that discourage you, there are plenty of people who live with half a brain and live well.  Don’t let them make you afraid.”  So I tried not to.  I knew if anyone knew this, it would be Lily, and she was the one from the beginning who knew what our little girl would need to fight and overcome, and had given her the means to do that.  Lily left that day with a hug that spoke more than words could, and the promise of continued prayers.  I don’t know that either of us believed yet that we would be saying goodbye.

As reality gave voice to my internal fears, and we watched Ellianna slip from this life to claim her true royalty, I sent a simple text to Lily, telling her Ellie was gone.  I don’t remember if I got a response, but what I do remember is that just as quickly as she had come before, she was there again. Walking into the palpable pain of a room split by this life and the next, Lily and Colleen were standing on that sacred ground with us, tear-stained cheeks and weary eyes.  I didn’t know what to do or say, maybe nobody did, but presence was enough.  I stood up, my lifeless daughter wrapped in a blanket in my arms, and I held her out to Colleen.  I cringed at remembering this, because really, she hardly knew me at the time, and here I just thrust a most uncomfortable situation right at her… but she leaned right in.  She took my daughter in her arms, this stinging, beautiful, scarred, and perfect reminder of the common thread of our lives, and she looked on her with every love a mother wishes for her child.  She didn’t complain or turn away from the discomfort of it, but she opened her arms wide, and in that moment these two women made a choice to embrace my hard story, to become characters in a heart breaking plot from which many others ran. I do not remember any of the words spoken there that day, maybe there weren’t any, but it doesn’t matter because what I do remember is that they were there, and that was all my soul could and needed to hear that day.

In the days to follow, as I avoided people and places and questions and awkwardness, our hour-long, twice a week therapy appointments dropped to half an hour once a week, and it was still a safe place to land. There were days, and still are, that I have to push myself because walking in to see the tiny room we used to nurse in, and the big red ball Ellie used to perch on is just so fresh and raw and I feel as if my million pieces will fall apart again, never to be gathered.  But these women, they see that in me; they read the gray or the green of my eyes and they know my heart without pressing me for words.


Colby, on the same big ball Ellie used at therapy

I wish I could say that was the only big trial, and the last few years have been a smooth sail of strengthening friendship, but what I can tell you is that again and again…and again, Lily and Colleen have shown up, both in the happiest celebrations and the devastating losses of life.  They have always given me the freedom to grieve, question, cuss, or withdraw without so much as a judgmental word.  They have never pressed me with advice or timelines or ultimatums, but have supported me wherever I’m at.  They cheer me on even when my dreams seem crazy, and pray me through the days I don’t believe I will make it through one more blow.  Lily and Colleen have chosen to see deeper into my story, to see that it is not just a story of loss, but one of healing, of beauty, and sustaining grace that can only come from the One who wrote my story.  They choose to remain in the cast of people throughout the chapters of my life, without expectation, without apprehension, but simply to Just Show Up.

Colleen and Colby

Lily working with Colby

OT with Colleen

    Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

faith, grief

I Can Do Hard Things?

I am a binge blogger, and when much is on my mind, much spills out.  Writing spells the words I can’t find to speak, and sometimes they’re words of encouragement and hope, and sometimes there is nothing to overflow but yuck.  If you’re not up for yuck, or will fear for my faith, or need to correct my doubting, just skip this post…

I tell myself I can do hard things.  I tell others I can do hard things.  And maybe in the night of the doubting I am really saying that phrase to try to convince myself of something I fear I am not capable of.  Truth is, I am tired of doing hard things.  I am tired of facing valleys and begging for rest.  I am weary of feeling like I have spent it all just to face a new day of having to rally for “more” that I don’t have.  What is it God is asking of me?  Does He know what I’m up against?

I want to be whole.  I want to wake not sinking, drowning in pain.  My voice is worn out from screaming for help.  I don’t want another battle; to be surrounded from all sides.  I want the peace, the restoration of ashes that is promised… even for just a short time.

It is hard to trace the hand of God in it all.  Restore me. Pull me from this shadow.

The uplifting Ann Voskamp speaks reassurance through my inbox today… “It isn’t about maintaining control of everything.  It’s about maintaining your gaze on Him in the midst of everything.  It’s not about getting through everything.  It’s about letting Him carry you through everything.”

Ok, ok.  I believe no trial comes except with His permission and for some wise and loving purpose which perhaps only eternity will disclose.  Armor up.  I can do hard things.

Friends, please tell me there are days your valley is so deep that you are screaming too… that my tears aren’t the only ones falling… that we can get through this together?

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!


Runaway Bunny

My dear son,

In this chunky, well-worn boardbook there’s an echo from this story that used to be our snuggling, whispering bedtime.  The tale of little bunny who’s gone running from his mother, and she chasing his silliness to keep him near… now these sticky-fingered pages have some tiny salty stains, because that childhood tale has deepened in its meaning. 


I remember the first moments of looking at your squishy, heaven-kissed face, and wondering what the future would hold.  I knew what I had planned, but didn’t allow my mind to wander to the places that weren’t included in my dream. 


From the second you made me a mom, I knew motherhood was my favorite.  I knew I would serve to you every wisdom I could impart, and stretch myself to be the springboard for your greatest opportunities. That was it, right? You raise them right, and they grow up to be everything you dreamed for them.

I never realized how many times my heart would break for you, how many tears I would swallow in the late hours of your innocent sleep.

Your years have taught me many things, like how invincible I’m not, how much patience I still have to be grown, and how desperately little control I have over this life.  I have felt how love can be so big it doesn’t even fit into the boundaries of a soul, and how a proud mama’s heart can seem to swell so big it’s spilling out the exhales.

I have always convinced myself that if your dad and I were doing the best that we knew how, God would work out the rest; that you would be kept in His grasp and the chasms of my shortfalls would be filled.  I will never stop believing that. 

I won’t ever love you any less than that first time my lips met your cotton candy cheeks.  I hope that deep down there is a part of you that knows that is truth.


 I was vastly unprepared for this season in our lives.  Unprepared and quite possible very naïve.  My supermom strategies seem worthless puffs of air in the gravity of these days we have staggered into. 

In every uncertainty, I maintain a hope that these shatters are pieces of bigger and more beautiful picture; a healing of your wounded heart, and a redemption of your deepest dreams.  I know that I know that I know you will always be held, no matter where your heart is leading you. 

Don’t ever think my prayers for you have ceased… on my knees, in my shower, in the dusting, and the laundry; there are prayers whispered earnest, tucked in towel folds, stirred in soup.

I will continue to be your harbor, ready to anchor whenever you need a safe place.  I will still be your favorite cook and your biggest fan.  I will listen to our song again and again, and remember you dancing me around the living room to its words.  Jacob and Mommy’s song

I will love you.  Forever.  Always.  From the bottom of the ocean to the top of the sky. 



“If you become a bird and fly away from me,” said his mother, “I will be a tree that you come home to.”                           

– Margaret Wise Brown, The Runaway Bunny

faith, family, love, marriage, sisters

Once in a Lifetime

When I was young, I prayed for a little sister.  Brother, after brother, after brother I prayed.  I would open my window to breathe the thick freshness, and spill the desire of my heart.  I scrawled prayers out on paper and buried them deep in the earth.

June 27, 1992, I got that sister I had prayed for.  We were instant friends, she my sidekick, and I her protector.   We shared faith and opinions, secrets and dreams.  The years separated us through our parents’ divorce, but as we faded into adulthood our friendship rekindled.

 Through many joys we have traveled, as well as great trial.  She has been my trusted friend, my faithful confidant, my unending anchor.

 Tomorrow I get to walk one of the greatest joys with my sister.  I get to stand beside her as she becomes one with the man of her heart.  I will be there as the rest of her life begins.  In some ways I know this is a landmark; a day which will change the shape of our friendship, as she clings to her one,  and will share secrets that even her sisters won’t know.

The “smolder”

I’m proud of the woman my littlest playmate has become, honored to be part of her life.  Her faith runs deep, her kindness eternal. With tears in my eyes and thankfulness in my heart, I will stand  by as she moves from girl to wife.

 Please leave me a comment; it lets me know you’re listening!
child loss, faith, hope, VP shunt

July 14

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~Winnie the Pooh

My precious, beautiful Ellianna Grace,

This day has been written in the scars on our hearts.  The fourteenth of July will always remind me that it was the last day I got to smooch your scrumptious cheeks.  I can’t help but remember the deafening fear that rose when I saw you slipping away.  That last kiss, last breath, last holding you in my arms.  I still remember the feelings of helplessness, and whispering screaming prayers that you would get to stay.  This day, this beautiful summer day will forever inflame the lasting scars that were torn in my tender heart.  But tucked within what’s left, the fourteenth of July is also an Ebeneezer, reminding me of the graciousness of our God in welcoming you into His arms; His healing of your every pain and struggle.  I can celebrate in knowing that you are whole, and well, and safe, and that after all my waiting is done I will get to see you again.  My story is not a story of loss, of heartache, or pain.  It is one of absolute Grace.  Pure blessings.  Answered prayers.
I love you indefinitely, my little girl.  Sometimes I touch the things you used to touch, looking for echoes of your fingers (Iain Thomas).  I long to breathe the essence of you, trace your delicate features, and tie ribbons in your hair.  Someday, my sweet Ells.
I will revel in every joyful memory I have of your precious life, and will live with the purpose you inspired me towards.  Someday I will hold my treasure again, and I am so excited to hear your giggle as I pepper your face with kisses.  The veil is thin, my sweet.
You are adored, cherished, held dear.  Your little, magnificent life has left a beautiful impression on so many hearts.
Until Forever, 
Mommy xoxo

                                    Please leave me a comment; it lets me know you’re listening!

endurance, faith

Broken Hallelujah

The Lord has promised good to me.  He has promised, and yet sometimes I feel so… so disappointed.

My story, the story of grace and forgiveness and hope? It’s not the story I imagined.  I struggle to accept the wearisome battles I am facing.  I wrestle with the painful realities that have replaced some of my dreams.  Is that the point; reach the point of giving up? Perhaps only in my giving up, He will make something beautiful of my story.  I am weary. So weary.  Searing tears have brought me begging, “please take this, carry it for me because it’s too heavy right now.”

Will He gather the sharp fringes of my story, until I can bear this chapter?  My desperation to see the beauty woven with these threads runs deep. I want to believe there is loveliness beneath the turmoil.  I want to see that the salty burn of tears has watered to life something magnificent, and that the conclusion of my story will be something to cheer about.

I know He knows the story of every tear, and even in the deep raggedness of these chapters, I have not walked alone. I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain, and oh my weakened soul may you not forget the mountains you have stood on!  It is so easy for me to see the darkness swallow the light in the epicenter of my brokenness, but hasn’t He promised:

“A bruised reed<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> he will not break,

   and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”

Isaiah 42:3

That’s me; I am bruised, I am smoldering, and He is faithful.  He will vindicate my inmost hurts and soften the sharp points of my disappointments.  Hold on soul! Don’t let go of His promises; they are true even in the murk of these hard, hard days.  Sit back, and let God be the one who writes your story. When life is filled with things you don’t expect, respond with trust, worship, hope.  He wants your praise, even your broken hallelujahs.

Have you ever seen the back of a piece of cross-stitching?  It is messy! Messy and confusing and not pretty to look at.  But the front of the piece? It’s beautiful, every stitch placed perfectly.  Without that messy back story, that work of art wouldn’t exist.  I hope that will be true of my story; disheveled magnificence.


How do you find peace in the difficult pages of your life?