Life, Interrupted

You may pick up on the change in the normal flow of my writing…. though I am doing my best to dig back to where the therapeutic pouring of my deepest thoughts come from, I am finding a new struggle in finding the right words.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best… “Life is too deep for words.  So don’t try to describe it.  Just live it.”

It seems like just yesterday we were pillow-fighting among a Christmasy pile of wrapping paper and bubble wrap, the weight of my new fire department badge was hanging proudly against the deep background of my blues, and I was eagerly shifting weight back and forth to carve the smooth edges that were getting me in shape for a new season-long adventure of snowboarding.  That’s the thing about blinking; we all have to do it.

This blink, standing on that edge of adventure flashed uncomfortably quickly to the fighting for my life. I know without the lows, the highs would have no context, but I find myself surprised and restless, uncomfortable with the depth of it, and ravenous for another taste of the mountaintops.  This valley is broken, so broken.


My little sister and I long ago made a habit of texting each other every day a small although valuable list of what we have found to be thankful for each day.  Some days those lists come easily, some days you can tell that it was a harder day than most to find some good in, and some days well, some days when the list is something like, “I’m grateful I have socks,” you send back a whole line of emotion-appropriate emojis and a prayer that tomorrow will be kinder.  Nonetheless, I am grateful for this habit she has tried to ingrain in me, because when faced with a trial such as now, there is something in me still trying to make lists of the good.  I mean, not always, because it’s much easier for me to fall victim to self-pity, or fear, or anger, but let me put it writing and proclaim to the crowds that in spite of the suffering, there is very much good in my life.  Every day.  Even when I don’t feel like admitting it.

There have been gifts from friends who know exactly what I need…

There have been hands to hold on the hardest days…

There has been company to uplift me when I’m feeling isolated…

There have been bright and loving reminders of where I came from, to make being away from home more embraceable…

There have been friends who have sacrificed their time, their gifts, their cooking, their families, their sleep, and their tired, cramping hands to sit at my feet and rub them for hours…and never complain.

There has been no shortage of snuggles…. waking…

…or sleeping…

There have been friends who not only haven’t let me quit, but have also quietly let me attempt a few  /potentially unreasonable/  things, just so I could feel like a normal person who still had some sense of control in life…

There has been beauty found in surprising places…

There has been laughing…

And laughing…

…and laughing…

For every day that I have met with fearful gasps for breath, or had to cancel my favorite plan because I wouldn’t be walking that day, that ever-cheerful sun has still risen over my brokenness, and found my dearest people continuing to show up for me.  Whether I’m digging deep to use all my energy to get out for a bit, or I’m tearfully wedged among pillows, grumbling at my inability to meet the day how I wanted to, they are here, doing their best to meet my needs, make me smile, and help me learn to live with these new broken edges.

I should be counting these gifts all day, every day, but the fear and the pain and the sheer exhaustion pulls at me hard enough sometimes to shake my focus.  Help me remember, will you? Whatever the future holds, these stepping stone days of getting there are rich in beauty if I am willing to let it in.

Where do you find beauty in your broken?





There has been so much staring at ceilings lately, and so much I want to say, need to say, yet perhaps for the first time in, I don’t know,
-ever?- I am finding myself at such a deep loss I don’t know how to begin. The words start to come, gently… bravely, and then a swipe of fear and anger sends the letters swirling again into a meaningless pile. Perhaps I need one of those, what are they named? Where you hand them your disarray of crumpled papers, scribbled on napkins, and mismatched words and they turn it into a beautiful slice of neatly bound literature. Yes, perhaps I must find myself one of those. In the meantime, it’s coming. These emotions I am learning to put words to are braving the sticky ink and the foreboding pages, and they are gaining strength with the hope that someday they could be the mantra to someone else’s impossible. Someday they will be someone’s cherished slice of remembering, so I had best get to writing.

endurance, fire fighter, Paramedic, Uncategorized

Not All That Glitters

Chances are many of you have already read this, but I’m going to re-post this here so that I may reference it in the near future with a pretty important post I have forthcoming.  This was originally an essay I wrote for one of my nursing pre-req classes for school. The assignment was pretty vague; it simply had to be about a learning experience. Many of my friends and family stood witness to the deep shades of gray circles that took up residence beneath my eyes as I battled life, death, and sleepless nights, all for the right to trade mine in for one that said Paramedic. My learning is never done, but here are some of the initial boot-shaking things I learned about that sparkle patch in my earliest days.

I will never forget the very first call I went on as an EMT Basic student. Only a portion of the way through the semester, that first ride-along was to give me a taste of what I was working toward, and put me to the test to see if I had what it took. There I was, sitting in the back of the ambulance, my pockets stuffed with all the equipment and cheat sheets I thought I would need in order to save lives that day. A quiet voice crackled across the radio, and my life would never be the same. Adrenaline surged through my veins as we flew, sirens screaming, toward the victims of a car accident that had called for help. It was in that moment, trying to reign in my fear and excitement, that I knew this was where I wanted to be. That first call turned out to be a simple scenario that would come to be routine for me in the months and years ahead. but it was the steps in between that changed me and shaped me into the Paramedic I am today.

Becoming a Paramedic seemed a noble feat, a position that was cut and dry; you call for help, I come save your life, we all go home at night. Those tinted glasses of naivety blinded me from some harsh realities and some amazing truths those first few months, but time and experience cleared the lenses, revealing the gray that washes between the black and white. Within a week of testing out of EMT Basic class and receiving my license to practice, I got my first major trauma call. It was the Fourth of July and I was hanging out at the fire station with a bunch of fellow members that were barbecuing and enjoying the holiday. When the tones went out, I was hustled out to one of the responding vehicles and wished enthusiastic “good lucks!” My own pulse thumped louder than the sirens as I went through every mental checklist I could think of, certain I was going to have this one covered.

I took in a sharp breath as we pulled on scene and I took in the horrific sight strewn across the road. First glance told us all this was a bad one, but two things changed me that afternoon.  The first was as I walked up behind the car that was being cut apart to free the mangled driver. On the shattered glass of the rear window was a faded Star of Life sticker, clinging to the broken shards. That was when reality whispered that it could happen to anyone, even those you know and love.

The second sight that sent my thoughts reeling was the driver of the other car, standing unscathed on the side of the road, frantically pulling empty beer bottles from his floorboard and smashing them on the side of the road, trying to cover up what he had done. Is this real life? Innocent people crushed by the weight of others’ deliberate poor decisions? Why is it the bad guy makes it out ok, and our young friend is left clinging to life? This was not the heroic glory I was expecting to feel.

As my career progressed, my eyes were opened to the other truths that had been so buried in the myths I believed as a child. My parents taught my siblings and I the value of 911. We learned the dire situations that would require you to dial that number, and held sacred the seriousness of that action. Bleary-eyed and hungry after marathon dashes from call to call though, I learned a surprising practice that was all too common in the real world. 911 was a convenience, not a privilege. People called for us for scraped knees, for cracked calluses, and for feeling anxious. They met us in their driveways with suitcases packed, standing next to the family car that seemed in perfect working order, even in the ER waiting room where they felt the wait was taking too long.   We raced through red lights, risking our lives and the others around us to arrive to find patients who had run out of medication and would like a ride to the emergency room; but don’t worry, your tax money will pay for it. This was shocking to me, but as much as we all hate it, there are enough loopholes in the system that this will continue to happen day after day. And we thought it was about saving lives…

In spite of the grueling demands on my body and mind, I continued to further my knowledge by moving on to pursue my EMT Intermediate license, and eventually my ultimate goal of becoming a Paramedic. Years of class and hundreds of hours of clinical time later, I reached the top. My patch sparkled with the golden threads that signified my new standing, and my mind was packed with the maximum ability to perform all the skills and give all the medications I possibly could. This is it I thought. Now I can really help people. That’s what we believe; we learn as children that when there’s an emergency, the firemen and policemen and paramedics come and fix everything for us. That is where the harshest reality brought me to my knees. I was educated and rehearsed to handle every situation. I could perform every life-saving skill in the book. What I had forgotten was that it’s not always up to me. The limp body of a two-year-old boy was hurriedly lifted onto my stretcher. As my ambulance went lurching and squealing off to the hospital, my hands took over as my mind calmed into the rhythmic muscle memory I had practiced so many times . I stabilized, supported, breathed, and provided everything I possibly could for this young life. My prayers surrounded each breath I pumped into his tiny lungs as he clung to life. I watched each miracle flutter of his heart struggling inside his sunken chest, and kept on begging for one more beat, one more beat.  Later I stood at his bedside next to his parents, tears blurring the features of the cheesy grin that gleamed back at me from a photo of him taped to the headboard above his breathing tube.  He held on for a week, and then he was gone. All the fancy treatments in the world couldn’t save him. I cried. I cried because he was innocent. I cried because the faces of his family were etched deep into my memory. I cried because I, the Paramedic, was supposed to have saved him, and at the pinnacle of my experience and knowledge, there was nothing I could have done.

My road to Paramedic was long and not as straight as I had imagined. It was disappointing on numerous occasions and heartbreaking on more days than I can count. I have learned that there are only few things that are black and white, and people aren’t who they pretend to be. I have learned that innately good people sometimes die, and people hellbent on being hellbent sometimes live. I have learned that no matter how capable I am, there are times when nothing I can do will help. Most importantly, I have learned that where I am willing to change, I will grow. Being weak will make me strong, being wrong will show me right, and being willing to change and learn will keep me from growing hard. There will be call after call that leaves me scowling, but in the midst of them, there will be times when I really do make a difference. And that, my dear friends, is what will keep me coming back for more.



Christmas Every Hour

Ok, I’m a little late over here… my blog is having epic crashes trying to keep up, and it hasn’t wanted to let me put up my Christmas post!  Changes coming soon! Anyway…Christmas…

We knew we weren’t going to be able to plan much ahead of time this Christmas, so we didn’t commit to any travel or any visitors or activities.  Sounded kind of bland to me, but it turned out to be just the best.  It was a quiet and very low-key, snow-dusted day with just my closest people at home.  It was a day of playing and resting and soaking up the sounds of the bookend brothers and the middle sisters giggling and singing and thoroughly enjoying making magnificent memories.


Merry Christmas to our family and friends! 


Right Where You Are

We all long to have some confirmation in our lives that what we are doing matters, and that we are on the path we are meant to be on.  I am a facts girl, better at analyzing what’s in front of me rather than assuming things based on feelings or expectations.  This often finds me in tension, wanting that sure-fire sign that I’m headed in the right direction.  I don’t always find the evlidence that I’ve been headed the right way, but here’s a little story that gave me one of those goosebump, teary-eyed, heart-twisting, wide-smile grins that in this great big world of decisions and directions, I was standing right where I should be.

Our journey into foster care and desire for adoption has had some twists and turns that weren’t part of our plan, so as we wait we have continued to look for ways we can make a difference in the lives of the fatherless. About a year and a half ago, we decided we wanted to sponsor a child who needed it. There are several organizations that provide the opportunity where you can choose a child who is orphaned or just living with their family in poverty, and you can help with their food/shelter/education/medical expenses and expectantly make their hardship a little less crushing. Because of our sweet Ellie, we are always looking for ways to be involved with children with special needs, so when we found Morning Star Foundation, an organization who specifically cares for orphaned or impoverished children with serious medical conditions, we knew that was where we wanted to help.

Morning Star’s website has a list of all the children they are caring for that are need of sponsorship.  You can read a little biography about each of them and choose a child who you would like your financial support to go to.  You are helping pay to feed and clothe them, as well as help them get the medical intervention that all of them are needing.  I looked over the list, overwhelmed at the precious small faces of each of these young ones, each with a hard, hard story at such a young age.  As I searched through the faces and the stories, there was one tiny face that quickly grabbed my heartstrings.  When I stared at her innocent eyes and her delicate, girly features, my heart pulsed with the memories of my own dark-haired little girl.  I scanned through the rest of the bios, and while I ached to make a difference for each one of them, none of them captured my attention quite like the little baby named Kate.

I decided not to tell Mark who I picked, and instead just handed him the list pulled up, and told him to look through it and see who he thought we should choose.  A few minutes later he said, “This one.  She reminds me of Ellie.”  He was pointing at the picture of little Kate.  “Aha” moment… yes, she’s definitely the one then.  So began our relationship with this tiny little miracle a couple of oceans away.  We got to help provide for her, and support her through her second open-heart surgery.  We enjoyed shopping for her, and sewing a soft blanket that would be the closest we would come to wrapping our arms around her.  We were sent frequent updates on how she was doing, and photos of her adorable smile as she grew and thrived.

As much as we would have loved to bring this little sweetling home forever, we were thankful to get to be a part of her story however we could.  Not long ago, we received news that she had been matched with an adoptive family.  Bittersweet in a way, but overjoyed to know that she would have a home and a family forever to love on her and walk her through the rest of her story. 

I opened my last email update about our Kate, a little sad that it would be our last, and wondering what the rest of her journey would hold.  I smiled at the picture of her held by her new, forever family, and as I scrolled down, there was that final evidence that she was exactly the little one we were meant to intercede for.  There, her new name chosen by her adoptive family: Ellie Kate. Goosebump, teary-eyed, heart-twisting, smile.  Yep. Right where we were supposed to be.

Don’t you love it when that happens?  So much of the time we are seeking, and using our best judgement, and hoping we are doing the right thing; it’s just so good when you feel that hand on your shoulder, that peace in your soul, confirmation that yes, I can use you, and you are part of a big, big story.

Once baby Kate was off to her new adventure, we scanned the list again for a new little life we could be a part of.  I’m not even kidding…  bright eyes, dark pigtails, meet Ellie Hope.


Turning Corners

Well, the last of the “first day of ___ grade” pictures have ticked through the scrolls of social media.  As the breezes begin to carry a slightly cooler tune, the mamas and papas have slipped (slammed?)  back into the routines of sack lunches and earlier bedtimes.  The tears have been shed over the waving goodbye to all the babies eagerly walking into dorm rooms, bravely walking into high school, timidly walking into first days of kindergarten and middle school. Ready or not, the sun tanned and flip-flopped feet have scooted into the fresh darkness of scuff-less school shoes. 


 After months of making big decisions and gathering records and researching and weighing options, we were all ready to set sail on a new adventure as each of the kids started at brand new schools. New neighborhood, new district, new schedules, new friends, new parents, new opportunities.  After such a process, I found myself mildly unamused when I received a notification from one of the kids’ old schools, informing me that my child had been marked absent for one or more class periods that day.  I was quick to see to it that the confusion was corrected, admittedly with an eye roll.  It wasn’t until later that the seemingly insignificant miscommunication sunk in.

The beginning of this school year finds me with one starting high school, one starting middle school, and one at an elementary school without an older sibling there for the first time.  (Enter, “How did I get so old? How did THEY get so old? Enjoy them while you have them.  The days are long and the years are short….etc.”) Yep, a lot of land marks for us this year.  Oh, and the one starting kindergarten.  That’s a big one.  The very first time away from mama for more than a few hours.  The very first lunch box.  The picking out of the very first school outfit ever.  The practicing of writing her name, and pronouncing her teacher’s.  Choosing between pigtails or braids for that first day, and learning what number the little hand has to get to before mama will be waiting out front with a big smile and open arms.   That is what got forgotten though;  I didn’t get a phone call about her missing class.  Because nobody missed her. 

The words whipped the air right out of my chest, and my eyes stung fierce.  That lone elementary student of mine? She shouldn’t be alone; she should be the older sibling this time, holding that nervous little 5 year old’s hand as they walk into school together.  But just like the rush of cars in the drop-off line quickly dwindles to silence, the rest of the world has moved on.  Her teacher still stands in front of the class and introduces herself with a welcoming smile, and her friends still dash pink-cheeked around the playground looking for one more to join their game of tag, but her teacher will never know she is absent from class, and her friends will not know they are missing her brown pigtails and her easy smile. 

There will always be these breathtaking moments in the ebb and flow of grief I suppose; some familiar, some untraveled, and all of them needing to be stared in the face and acknowledged and felt.  Each of these hashes on the blank timeline of my life brings the juxtaposition of experiencing wonderful new adventures coupled with wrenching absences that cannot be called in and excused.  Never will hurt obscure my ability to seize the joy in these life moments, nor will the presence of great excitement mean that the potency of my empty spaces has diminished.  Because I have chosen to open my heart to love, it has also been lain bare to the things which scar.  These moments which steal breath and threaten to break souls may leave me grasping for words and understanding, but the dark will always be at my back at I turn my face up to wait for the sun that always comes.  Always.

brain bleeds, care packages, cerebral palsy, child loss, Child Loss Grief, endurance, family, hope, losing a child, picu, VP shunt

PICU Pick-Me-Up

As anniversaries and birthdays tick by,  I will never stop believing that those beautiful, inspiring, powerful 4 and a half months were meant for so much more; that such a short life was meant to be a catalyst for something exceptional.

So here I stand in the heat of another heavy July searching for ways I can use my little girl’s story to encourage kindness and inspire hope.  Well guess what, this one is not just on me… I’m laying this all out there because each one of you reading this has the power to make a terrible day a little bit better, to bring a flicker of hope to a hurting heart, and to keep on shouting that kindness matters.

One of the most trying things you can go through as a parent is having a critically ill or injured child.  Your world stops, and all your focus goes into every detail of the fight for more time with your little one.  I remember it uncomfortably clearly, but because of that, I can see a need that’s easy to meet.

On the 5th anniversary of standing in a crowded PICU room, watching my whole future change, I took a solid breath, and pressed the familiar button in a quiet elevator to be whisked to the 3rd floor.  Stepping off was a shock to every part of me as the colors and smells and sights all came screaming back.  I was on a mission though, for my brave daughter who fought on the other side of those doors, I could help bring a breath of grace to another parent shouldering the weight of the world.

My kids had helped me gather things throughout the weeks that we set aside for this very occasion.  It was easy to remember being a parent pacing across scuffed tiles between a stiff vinyl chair and a bed that contained a piece of your very being.  A parent who when asked, couldn’t actually remember the last time they had eaten an actual meal, a parent that spoke toward the ground so as not to exhale too deeply the breath of stale coffee that had sustained the 72 hours of numb awakeness  preceeding the current sunrise.  I could clearly remember being the parent that in each hurried bathroom break had wadded up wet, scratchy brown paper towels drizzled with disinfectant smelling hand soap and had desperately scrubbed at salt stained cheeks and sweat soaked shirt seams in hopes of concealing the fact that they dare not leave their child’s room long enough to run home for a shower.  I shook my head at remembering the emotionless nurse that had told me they weren’t allowed to spare me a Tylenol for my pounding head, but that I was welcome to check myself into the ER downstairs and have some prescribed by a doctor.  I acutely recalled the desperation coupled with simply surviving without having time to think about your own needs.  Well here is where WE can make a difference.

The kids and I put together care packages meant for the parents of each of the children in the PICU.  Took time to think through all the things I remember needing or wishing for during our long hours there, and tried to put together a smattering of things that would actually be used and appreciated.  I’ll share with you some of the things I came up with, and I hope some of you will run with it from there.  You can do as much or as little as you want.  It could even be just one good care package; I know that you will be making a difference in someone’s life during one of their hardest days.

If you decide to go spread some “Ellie Love” on your local PICU, I would so love to hear about it! You can reach me in the comment section, or by my email displayed in the sidebar.  Remember that whole “ripples in the pond” analogy?  This is one of those opportunities!  Get out there and spread some kindness and encouragement, make those small but meaningful moments spread joy in a way that’s contagious; that shouts the victory of the short but mighty lives like Ellianna Grace.


I grabbed an “adult” coloring book for some mindless distraction.  Something to keep you occupied that doesn’t require much thought.  Crayons break, colored pencils need sharpening, so I tried to play it safe with markers.  BONUS was coming across little LED clip on book lights. No more straining your eyes trying to use the dull glow of your phone because you don’t want to wake your sleeping kiddo.


Tissue that is not made from recycled sandpaper.  Or whatever it is that the hospitals use.  I realize they probably get a discount, but after the 37th time of scrubbing at your teary eyes and runny nose with those things, people start asking you how you got rug burn.  And seriously, look at th sweet message on this package of Kleenex.  They get it.


It’s safe to say a good majority of the meals a PICU parent has consumed were rattled from a vending machine with various pocket change, chased by some carbonated mess of sludge which is going to give them the mother of all sugar crashes later.  Its hard to be portable AND nutritious when doing this, but do your best to think outside the box of cookies, pop tarts, and potato chips.  Peanut butter and a spoon perhaps?  We love these fig bars because you get a decent serving of fruit, and they tend to fill you up for a good stretch of time.  Also think what you can do other than soda… something they can’t get from the hallway vending nook.  Again, not going to be the healthiest choices out there, but it is a good change to have something refreshing to snack on. The Werther’s?  Well those are just all out comforting, and perfect for keeping your mouth moist and your jaw doing something besides clenching.


GOOD gum.  Many of these items I was able to get at my dollar store, but a few things I specifically hit up the grocery instead, because quality mattered.  Imagine your breath already reeks from days blending into nights blending into days of eating whatever you can wherever you can, and usually washing it down with a steady flow of whatever coffee is most readily available.  Well then you’re talking to doctors and techs and asking questions of the nurses, and let’s just not have to worry about whether or not they can smell that you haven’t brushed in 3 days.  Splurge for a gum with a powerful flavor that’s going to l a s t.  I love the 5 brand flavors.  Especially their mints are super strong and not only wake you up and freshen your breath, but you’re more likely to spit it out because you’re tired of chewing rather than the flavor having worn out.  Again with the eating and the coffee comes along these handy little disposable mini toothbrushes, pre-loaded with toothpaste.  Come on.  Those have to have been invented with the hospital parent in mind.  CHAPSTICK!  Basically my security blanket, I think most women and some men would agree it’s always good to have some within arms length.  Excedrin tension headache is what I picked, but any similar product that’s going to fight a headache or an ache or pain could be a daysaver for one of these parents.  As I mentioned before, the hospital is too legally bound to slip you a few Tylenol, and most parents are probably just going to suck it up and fight through the rest of the day trying not to think about their throbbing head or aching muscles from standing vigil for 11 hours.



Hygeine.  Well, let’s take a poll about how many parents are stepping away from a PICU bedside to indulge in a hot shower.  That’s going to be basically… none of them.  Having a few things available that allows a parent to take a quick bathroom break and come back feeling a little fresher is  a valuable investment.  I grabbed packs of disposable body cloths (basically thick, better smelling baby wipes that you can essentially take a sponge bath with), hair ties or clips… because any woman like me is never going to be able to find one when she actually needs it, and dry shampoo.  That’s one of those inventions I would like to shake someone’s hand about.  It can go for guys or for girls, and when you’re skipping out on your shower for a few days, it’s really refreshing to be able to get your hair looking and smelling cleaner without much effort.
A deck of cards…. realizing no one may be in the frame of mind to be concentrating on a game, but they can just as easily be a stress relief used to shuffle and shift through idle hands.  ALCOHOL FREE HAND SANITIZER.  We have all noticed that around pretty much every corner in the hospitals is a handy dandy machine quick to eject a foamy mess that will kill most every germ, as well as the texture of your hands.  For a parent that has been in the hospital for several days or longer, that stuff starts getting really harsh on your skin.  If you can find an organic, non-alcohol hand sanitizer, get that in your care package pronto.  Of course I pitched in the brand I stand behind, which is Young Living’s Thieves anti-bac.  It smells amazing but not overpowering, and leaves my hands feeling smooth and refreshed in contrast to the goop so readily available around the hospital.
I packed each care package into a gift bag with a hand written note, not sharing the details of my journey, but letting them know I have stood in their shoes and hope in some small way these packages can make a few things simpler while they are fighting a bigger fight.  So get out there, find a PICU or a NICU near you and reach out.  It may seem trivial, but standing on those broken grounds, it’s the little things that fix the big picture.
In honor of my Ellie Grace, I will never stop saying your name, sharing your story, and spreading the love that you so easily coaxed out of everyone who met you.
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.


When Mama Can’t

There is this moment when you first look upon the fresh, new face of your newborn and you instantly know that you would do absolutely anything to protect them, to keep them well and happy. Honestly, in that moment it is hard to believe anything bad could happen to them.

When Jacob was a toddler, he was very sick.  We were young first time parents sitting in the children’s hospital in a city far from home, watching the sunken eyes of parents shuffling in and out with fragile, bald children, and we were terrified.  As we checked off each appointment and treatment though, we grew confident in what could be done for our son.  We knew that the hours spent watching him be poked dozens of times, and the flow of medicine that left him cranky and sick was serving a bigger purpose.  We knew that the pain he was going through was helping him, and so we pushed through it to get to healing.

I never imagined there coming a day when we wouldn’t know what to do for him, or that there might not be an option to help him get better.  Parenting is a scary venture, but I think to some extent we always believe that with God’s grace there will never be anything we can’t find hope in.  We believe there will always be some kind of answer, something we can do to protect our children and help them heal. Until there isn’t.

I am standing in this hard place, wondering what it is that God wants me to understand through what seems an endless season of uphill battles.  I’m looking at myself and wondering if I will still see Him as good if we don’t get the answers we are asking for. It’s a painful thing as a parent to offer empty hands, to stand knowing that there is nothing you can do to fix this, that this pain they are enduring might be a path to healing, but this time, it might not be.  We might endure this agony and still not get  the outcome we pray for.

I can keep praying for the situation to change, and I may be crushed by the answer. Or I can pray for God’s nearness, whatever the answer may be.

Please add your prayers to ours; we will never stop praying for healing, but most importantly let’s pray that pain would not be wasted, that the story of grace would triumph in our hard, and we would be gentle and gracious as we are changed.



The Bottom

“When you think you’ve hit the bottom, then the bottom gives way… when you fall into a darkness no words can explain… you don’t know how you’ll make it out alive… Jesus will meet you there.”

The words to this song by Steven Curtis Chapman are the groanings of my heart right now.  I fight, claw my way to the light to grasp hope, and still sometimes in the struggle I let my ear be bent that it is hopeless, that the shuddering gape of pain is stronger than the will I have to fight for more.  It is rare that I don’t have words to illustrate my soul, but somehow, that’s where I’m finding myself right now;  speechless, burning, afloat in a sea that renders me flailing, gasping, waiting for rescue.

We are facing things I never dared to imagine.  We get like that, don’t we?  Confident in ourselves that certain things will never touch us.  Thanks for the dose of reality…

How would our hearts even know what to pray?  Mine doesn’t, and people don’t want to hear that.  I am in one day at a time mode; focusing on the next thing, and then the next thing.  There are promises I am clinging to; I know I won’t be left here in this valley alone. I know He will meet me there, but the waiting is tough.   

Please, dear community, pray us through this.  We know in our hearts that beauty comes from ashes, but we have a hard fire to battle first. 

                 Steven Curtis Chapman~ “Jesus Will Meet You There”