Notes from the Quaranqueen*, Episode 1

blog 3.19aToday is the third day my kids have been home from school and my workplace has been closed, and I think we’re handling it pretty well, all things considered. I have the benefit of previously homeschooling all three of the kids, and the added benefit of all of them being old enough that they don’t trash the house in five minutes anymore, and I’m very thankful for that.

Our days are scheduled out so that there is time for schoolwork, time for creativity, time for exercise, time for family fun. And of course time to stare vacantly at screens for hours on end, because what would a break from school be without zombie children for at least part of the day?

blog 3.19c

I decided this would be a good time to tackle some of the big projects I’ve been procrastinating, so every day a kid or two and I have headed into the depths of the basement to battle the spiders and dust and general mess. If they help me they get screen time before lunch, but they don’t have to help me. Today we found the book Rolie Polie Olie down there, so of course we had to have story time and I read it out loud to them.

I’ve been spending most of our read-aloud time reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which both of the boys have read lots of times but the QuaranPrincess hasn’t read yet. It’s pretty hard to find books that appeal to two sci-fi loving teenage boys and one realistic-fiction, graphic-novels-loving tween girl, so I’m open to suggestions. I have A Wrinkle in Time on tap but I think it might be a bit beyond my daughter’s interest level. We’ll see.

If our local stores don’t get toilet paper in soon, I estimate we have maybe five days left before we run out. So that’s stupid.

blog 3.19bIn the last two days I have washed everybody’s bedding and vacuumed out the silverware drawer, as one does. I have had red lipstick applied to me by a ten-year-old girl with a rather shaky application style. We have gone for two family walks where we studiously avoided all contact with other people. We have played games and written stories and practiced instruments and sung silly songs.

It all sounds quite idyllic, and I’m thankful because I know other people are struggling so much right now. But of course this isn’t just some extended holiday. Every morning I wake up anxious. Every day we have to figure out how to live under these new circumstances. Every day we face the fears that someone we love is going to get sick. The extroverted members of my family miss their social lives, and the introverted members miss their quiet house.

Also I had to cut my seventeen-year-old’s hair and it looks like a four-year-old who had just gotten into the halloween candy did it. So yeah. That’s fun.

In the end, it’s worth it if it saves lives. It really is. And I am learning that I really do like these people and all their weirdnesses. There are hard days ahead, but I know my God is sufficient for every single one of them, for every single unexpected need and lonely moment. He is enough. His grace is enough.

Here is where faith is tested, tried, made strong.

I still believe.

*I know that technically we are not under quarantine, but rather self-isolating. However, Notes from the Self-Isolaqueen isn’t as catchy, you know what I’m saying? 🙂

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Life is all kinds of crazy these days; I know I’m saying nothing new to anyone who might be reading this. Two days into our four-week-long experiment in required social distancing, I’m trying to find a new normal (one which suddenly has space for this dusty old blog) while dealing with how very surreal all of this is. So many voices shouting so many things. I don’t know, really, what’s true and what’s false. I don’t know what the consequences of all of this will be on our economy, on my family, on my future. There is so much I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know. Every morning I wake up feeling nervous and anxious, and every morning God faithfully reminds me through His Word of His power and His promises. I know that He has never failed me, that He has provided for me and my family through so many ups and downs. I know that no matter what, He is for me, and He is good, and He is enough.

I know all of these things. I also know that I have read far too many books about apocalypses and the ravages of disease outbreaks, that my imagination quite easily runs to the worst case scenario, that Day 2 is really just a welcome break and an opportunity to clean the basement while Day 28 might be a whole different story. That’s why every day I have to come back to the Truth, to spend the time I now suddenly seem to have so much of pouring out my heart before God and casting my cares on Him.

My word of the year, chosen before I had ever heard the terms coronavirus or COVID-19, is endure. And as I have studied the concept of endurance in Scripture over the last couple months, I have discovered some biblical synonyms and related ideas– perseverance, faithfulness, pressing on, and patience. Even waiting on the Lord is a biblical concept that requires endurance, because sometimes we have to keep waiting on Him and working for Him while He holds back His answers and direction for His perfect timing.

Nobody would ever choose to learn the lessons of endurance through an outbreak of a deadly illness. Let’s be honest. If we have to learn the lessons of endurance, we’d just as soon God open up our skulls and dump the information into our brains without any actual work on our parts. Because life experience tells us that the ability to endure comes through hard training and repeated failures and painful strengthening exercises. It has been a test of faith to say to God, yes, teach me to endure. But it has been a blessing as well.

Because the one thing God keeps bringing back to me is that I am not learning this on my own, that I have a good and loving Teacher, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, who endured the cross on my behalf.

Day by day, my God reminds me of this truth– that even when I cannot endure, His steadfast love endures forever.

Rite of Passage

20190419_150058We are surrounded by a sea of pink and sparkles, girly things covered in unicorns and mermaids (but not, much to my daughter’s disgust, bears). She is nervous as all get out, but she refuses to let me comfort her or distract her. At home, I would grab her, pull her onto my lap, hug her close. But we are not at home. We are in public, and in public, I am a barely-to-be-tolerated, sort of embarrassing hanger-on, kind of like braces or an old pair of shoes you have to keep wearing because your mom said you don’t need new ones yet and they won’t let you go to the mall barefoot.

I know she’s nervous because we just spent an hour and fifteen minutes in the car, during which she asked a thousand questions (“What if they fall out in the middle of the night?” “What if they get infected?” “What if they don’t have any cute earrings?” “Do you think the piercing person will be nice?”) and sharing the opinions of the real experts, the other girls in the fourth grade (“Sally Sue said it didn’t hurt at all but Susie Sal said it hurt really badly and then Sally Sue said that Susie Sal must be a huge baby and so then Susie Sal started to cry, but I’m not going to cry, Mom, because Junie Jo said that it’s not much faster than getting a shot and Joanie June said the piercing people are super nice and fast”).

Personally, I’m still shaking from the terrible traffic and construction on the way here; seven years in Tiny Town having destroyed me for city driving. I’m wishing the piercing lady with her arm tattoos would hurry up and put the third hole in the ears of the girl sitting in the chair, wondering why she has to give all the long instructions since obviously this teenager knows how to handle a piercing. (I know, I know, there’s regulations and stuff. But there’s only so many sparkly unicorn headbands a forty-year-old woman can stare at before you just can’t handle it anymore, and also my daughter is getting more nervous by the second.)

We watch the teenager get her holes punched, breathe deeply and then slowly let the air out just like I do every week when I give myself my arthritis shot. I’m thankful she doesn’t cry, or our traipse through city traffic may have been in vain. “You’re going to do great, sweetie,” I say to my girl.

“Mo-ommmm, stop saying that,” she says, eyes rolling. Almost ten, or almost fifteen? You decide.

Finally it is our turn, and G climbs up in the chair. Art shows her the teddy bear with its pierced furry ears that sits nearby. “You can hold her if you like,” the piercing lady says. “Her name is Claire Bear.”

“I don’t want to hold her,” G replies.

“Are you sure?” I ask. “There’s no shame. Or you can hold my hand.”

“I’m not going to hold her, or your hand,” she says, “but I guess she can sit next to me.” Claire Bear is moved to a precarious perch on the seat next to my daughter, and we turn to the truly important task of choosing earrings. On the way here, she had speculated about what ones they might have and hoped they had flower earrings, so I am quick to point out a cute, daisy-shaped, bejeweled pair. But apparently I am too enthusiastic in my endorsement because she immediately rejects them. “I like these ones,” she says, pointing to a pair of silver balls with tiny fake diamonds all over them.

We wait as the piercing lady heads to the back room to find a pair, and while we don’t have an audience I reiterate the fact that there is no shame in holding someone’s hand or squeezing a bear when one is getting holes punched in one’s head. I remind her how I always used to hold my dad’s hand when I was getting shots at the dentist.

She is unmoved. She is not a baby, and she is not going to hold anyone’s hand, even if it hurts worse than when she broke her finger.

When the lady returns, she explains to G that she will mark the spots on her ears where her new bling will go. We watch her carefully do this, and then we look at her handiwork. “They look a little different, because one of her ears is bigger than the other.” It is, and it’s adorable, but I wonder how many paranoid body image conversations will arrive from that offhand comment.

I try to head it off with a smile. “Well, I think most of us are a little lopsided!”

20190419_151307Finally the time arrives. The lady loads her two earring-hole punchers with the mini disco-ball earrings. She aims one at G’s ear, and counts backward. “Three . . . two . . . one . . . ” and then one ear has a hole and an earring in it where no hole or earring had been before.

“Oooh, ouch, ow!” G winces.

“You okay?” I ask.

“Yeah, it just hurt a little.”

Second ear . . . . three two one . . . punch.

“Oooch! ow, oof ouch!” this wince is slightly more intense than the last. She still won’t hold my hand, although at some point one arm has slipped around Claire Bear.

We finish the process, and we haven’t even made it out of the store before she’s saying it barely hurt at all, how it really wasn’t bad, how she wants more earring holes now. After a cookie break, during which she spews forth words in her relief even more loquaciously than she had in her nervousness, we head back to the van. I put my arm around her shoulders, tell her I’m proud of her. She smiles, allows the arm for a few moments until she sees other girls in the vicinity, and then we’re done with that precious moment.

We are navigating these tricky waters of growing up, of fighting for independence while still being so very dependent. I am trying to meet her needs for love and affection in ways that are acceptable to her, both in private and in public. It’s hard. We grate and bump against each other, and I try so hard to respect her need for independence without accepting bad attitudes or snottiness. I pray daily for grace, for the ability to love this child well, to accept her as nearly-ten and not hold too tightly to her. I try to remember to celebrate the funny, sweet, beautiful girl she is and not grieve too fiercely over the little girl she is slowly but inexorably leaving behind.

Motherhood is so hard. It breaks me, stretches me, leaves me desperate before my heavenly Father more than any other aspect of my life.

Later that night, I am getting ready for bed when G comes into my room. “Mommy?” she says.


“You didn’t have to get my ears pierced today.”

“W20190421_082711ell, we told you we would do that when you turned ten, and it’s close enough now. We wouldn’t have time next weekend.”

“But, I mean, you drove a really long way and it cost money and you didn’t have to do those things.”

“But we wanted to, baby.”

“I know. You’re such a nice Mommy.” She comes in for a huge hug. I sit on the bed, with her on my lap, just for a minute.

“You’re my girl. I like to do things for you.”

She gets up, heading to her own room and her comfy bed and huge pile of teddy bears, not yet outgrown. At the door she turns around. “Mommy?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Thank you.”

Maybe we’ll survive this after all.


Thank Heaven for Big Kids

kids onlineIt’s summer break here in Tiny Town, Iowa, and you know what that means. It means that I have to take my kids places with me again, instead of running errands alone during the school day. This is possibly the thing that strikes the most fear into the hearts of mothers everywhere, but something magical happened yesterday when we all loaded into the van (my oldest in the drivers’ seat!) for a trip to the thrift store, the library, the grocery store, and the post office. I had a Thrilling Revelation.

Going places with my children is becoming less stressful as they get older.

I told you it was magical.

My big kids, y’all. They can try on clothes by themselves, navigate the library, meet me at the cash register in ten minutes. They can walk in parking lots without me being afraid for their lives, grabbing them, pulling them close, yelling “watch out!” and “get over here!” a hundred times. They can carry their own stacks of library books and read them on their own when they get home. They can assess whether a shirt fits correctly and sit in the van for a few minutes while I run into the post office. The boys can go off on their own without my worrying about them getting lost or stolen.

Sometimes my children’s growing independence, which seems so noticeable to me all of a sudden, causes me to catch my breath—just a little gasp of shock. How am I now the second shortest person in my family, instead of the second tallest? How am I sitting in the passenger seat while my son drives us around to our errands? How is my youngest now in the tween category of the summer reading program? How are we only a couple years away from senior pictures, college entrance exams, and scholarship applications? Wasn’t it just yesterday that they were all in carseats?

But mostly, I really just love the older kids stage. These kids are amazing. Yesterday, running errands, I never once felt stressed out (other than the obvious, continual stress of supervising a teenage driver). The kids just walked around with me in the stores, or went to look at their own things. They came when I called them, didn’t touch everything, stood quietly while we waited in line, refrained from interrupting my conversation with the librarian, and didn’t ask for all the candy in the line at the grocery store. We went in, we did what needed to be done, we came out; and that was the end of that.

It wasn’t very long ago that running errands with the kids was a highly stressful experience that I avoided whenever possible. I felt like I was taking seventeen octopi into Walmart, instead of three kids, like I was surrounded at all times by a whirlwind of grabbing, whining short people. I had to know where every single-seater bathroom in town was, in case someone had an emergency or an accident. At one point, when one of my children was potty training, I had to carry a plastic toilet around with me in the van, because said child was unable to use public restrooms for various, purely mental reasons. I had diapers and goldfish crackers and sippy cups in my purse and all over the van, and just getting in and out required more patience and agility than anybody should have to have.

We are in a new stage, now, and it has its own stresses that are sometimes overwhelming and terrifying and emotionally draining. But, man, there are good things too, and I don’t ever want to forget that. These kids are fun, and they’re easy to take places, and every one of them is capable of using the bathroom without me.

Thank heaven for big kids.

I Am Naomi

I recently finished a study of the book of Ruth, using the book Ruth: Loss, Love, and Legacy by Kelly Minter. I have heard this story a hundred times, but it was so challenging to go through it slowly and to hear the perspectives of the other ladies who weren’t overly familiar with it. This blog post is a result of my challenged thinking and our discussions on Monday evenings.


I am Naomi. Let’s be honest here. I’d rather tell you I’m Ruth, that I’m fully devoted to those who seem bent on pushing me away, that I’m held up by this unspeakably rich faith in a God I barely know. I’d like to be Ruth—hard-working, selfless, humble, willing, obedient, and trusting. But I’m not. I’ve been me for 39+ years, and I’ve never been Ruth. So let’s talk about Naomi.

I am Naomi, running away from hardship and difficulty, straight into more hardship and difficulty. I am Naomi, failing to trust God’s provision for me, failing to rely on His plan and promises, turning to what is forbidden in an attempt save myself.

I am Naomi, entirely empty and bereft, pleading with the ones who love me to leave me. I am Naomi, hopeless and despairing, unable to see any way forward, any possible redemption, any hope or help. I am Naomi, taking on the identity of my shame and despair, naming myself Bitter.

I am Naomi, depressed and lonely, but never left alone, because God is still my provider. I am Naomi, seeing a bit of light glimmering through my darkness and wildly scheming to take advantage of it. I am Naomi, unable to help myself, desperately in need of a redeemer.

I am Naomi.

And here is what I know. At the end of the story, Ruth may be the hero and Boaz may be the kinsman-redeemer, but Naomi is the one who has been rescued. Ruth was strong, but Naomi saw God work in her weakness. In spite of all her faithlessness, hopelessness, bitterness, and loss—despite her inability to see past her own circumstances and trust that she, like David, would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living—Naomi was redeemed. Her story was made beautiful.

From the beginning, God had a plan for Naomi. He was working in her life even as He took her husband and her sons, leaving her seemingly alone. God hollowed Naomi out, so that she felt empty and hopeless, but her emptiness was a place where God’s beautiful plan of redemption was soon to be seen. In her emptiness, God placed Ruth, a woman who may have been just a daughter-in-law, just a foreigner, just a woman, but by the end of the story is declared to be “better than seven sons.”

I am Naomi, and mine is a continuing story of failure and imperfection and brokenness that is being redeemed by a God who has given everything for me.

I don’t have to be the hero in this story. My Redeemer already is.


Thanks to my Monday Night Bible Study Girls and our fearless leader Deb. 🙂 Y’all make my life better.


God My Comfort

God is my comfort, and not only when my troubles come from outside my control. God is my comfort when I am mourning or afraid, and He is my comfort when I am sick or wounded, and He is my comfort when I am broken and messy and covered in the dirt of my own destructive shame. He is my comfort when I lose my job, when I lose my keys, when I lose my mind about the mud tracked in on the floor. Nothing is too great or too small for His loving eye, His mighty hand, His comforting arm.

He is my comfort no matter what has caused my fear or sorrow or wild heart. He comforts me when I stand over the grave of a loved one, and He comforts me when I fall flat on my face in my own sin. He comforts me when I am weary and He comforts me when I sting from the consequences of my own actions. He is a good Father who comforts with tender care the child He has chastened, for His chastening is just as much a sign of His love as His comfort is.

God is my comfort who never stops caring for me, even when I shun His comfort and care, even when I turn to my own worldly means of comforting myself—when I fall back into that same old pit of sinful passions because somehow I think that this time it will satisfy and rescue and comfort my scattered soul.

He is my comfort because He is mighty to save—stronger than anything I fear, anything man can do to me, anything I can do to myself. He is stronger than my loneliness, than my sin, than my faithlessness, than my weakness, than the enemy and accuser of my soul. He guards my life, fighting for me as a mighty warrior defends his most beloved possession. He is stronger than death itself, stronger than the grave, stronger than all the terrible powers of darkness. God is my comfort because He is able to rescue me from every attack, every pit, every foe.

God is my comfort because His steadfast love endures forever—endures patiently when I wander away, when I cower and hide, when I fling myself like an angry toddler on the ground because things have not happened as I wanted them to. His love does not fail or change, and He daily offers me grace, mercy, acceptance, forgiveness, and nearness. His love overcomes my sin, my fear, my disgrace, my failure, my childishness, my wildness, my shame and brokenness. His love comforts me as a mother comforts her flailing child, gently, tenderly, patiently. God is my comfort because His love is always for me and nothing can separate me from it.

God is my comfort because He is wise and all-knowing—because He sees the end from the beginning, the depths of my heart, the hairs on my head. He knows my name and counts my tears, and He sees my future and knows the end of the way I take. He leads me as a good and wise shepherd leads his sheep through green valleys and dark ravines, always knowing what’s ahead, always making a safe way even when the way is hard. He comforts me with His wisdom, for He is my Maker and He is my Savior and He is the God of all my days. He knows what heartaches I will face and how to use them for my good. He knows the way out of every pit I find myself in. God is my comfort because He has given me His Word of wisdom and His Spirit of wisdom, and He understands even when I can’t.

God is my comfort, and His comfort is always there for me, His arms always open wide. He never leaves me or forsakes me. He is with me always. He chastens me, yet He comforts me. He walks with me through every sorrow. He comforts me in all my affliction, even self- affliction. He comforts me with truth and with mercy, with power and wisdom and faithfulness.

My God is who He says He is, and He is my comfort.

Never forget or doubt– He is able to comfort you.


I’ve been thinking about Israel lately, and how they sinned against God over and over and over again, until, after many generations of terrible faithlessness and iniquity, God sent judgment on them. The book of Isaiah talks in great detail about the judgment of the Lord on His people for their sin, but then it also promises a Redeemer. And it promises comfort. I think we fall into a way of thinking that says God only comforts us when our hardships are not of our own making, but I don’t see that story in Scripture. God loves His people, and though His ways of dealing with His people have changed over time, He has never changed. Still today, when I struggle with my own sin and its consequences in my life, God  offers me comfort. His love is beyond description.

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.”
Isaiah 49:13

Hollow But Not Empty

It was ten years ago this morning that the Doppler couldn’t find my son’s heartbeat. A decade ago, I discovered that you can survive being emptied entirely—gutted and destroyed within—that you can be hollow and still walk around breathing, make arrangements for the kids, call your dad and tell him that terrible news.

I remember just laying on my bed so very devastated. Never before had I experienced grief like that.

In so many ways it feels much longer than ten years—a whole lifetime ago. Back then I had two little preschool-aged boys, a husband in seminary, a job in a daycare. Today all three of my kids are well past the preschool stage, my husband is a pastor, and my job is trying to keep track of all these people who are counting on me. Back then it was all marble runs, story books, and learning to hold scissors; today it’s driver’s ed, essays, and learning to handle girl drama. It’s amazing how life changes in a decade.

Always there will be this tiny hollowed-out place in me, shaped like the son I lost in 2008, the baby I lost in 2011. The wounds have healed, but those places will always be hollow, carved out by grief and loss and the sharp painful knife of sorrow. But hollow is not necessarily bad. The hollowness in me is not empty—not anymore. I serve a God of mercy and grace who fills hollow places with His fullness and abundance of mercy and grace, of hope and love and life.

Perhaps my daughter is the most physical, visible evidence of God’s abundant filling of my hollow places. My daughter, who never would have come along if it hadn’t been for the loss of my third son. She is a loud, messy, unexpected, opinionated, affectionate, every-single-day reminder that when God fills our empty spaces, He does it in ways we didn’t dare to imagine.

But there are other, less physical ways God has filled those hollows in my life. He has given me the gift of empathy with those who are suffering loss. He has given me the ability to weep with those who weep by softening and tenderizing my heart through sorrow. He has shown up in His mercy and steadfast love in ways I never knew I needed Him.

I believe that the tragedies of life are no surprise to my God. I believe His love never stops for me. I believe that every terrible sadness, every loss, every painful experience is a new place for His beauty and joy and life to be found. I believe that just as the ground has to be broken for a garden to grow, just as a bowl has to be emptied and cleaned before it can be used to make something delicious, so we have to be broken and emptied and purified if we hope to see God’s beauty and grace coming forth in our lives.

In the years since January 30, 2008, since there was no heartbeat, no movement on the ultrasound screen, I have been emptied again and again. I have lost another child and have walked through losses with friends and family members. I have been to funerals of grandparents and church family and strangers, and I have held my husband when his dear friend passed away. I have struggled with loneliness and depression and fear, and I have made hard decisions and watched my kids get on the bus for the first time and every single time I have been hollowed out a little more and every single time I have found God to be faithful and good and sufficient for my need.

We named that little lost boy Elijah, before we knew he was lost, because of the story of Elijah in the Bible. This man of God waited by a brook during a famine, and God caused ravens to bring him food. Slowly but surely, the brook dried up. And God let Elijah stay there by that tiny trickle and watch it disappear completely before telling him where to go next. And then He sent him not to a wealthy person, but to a poor widow who was down to her last handful of flour and drop of oil. And God did a miracle, providing for both Elijah and the widow and her son.

Sometimes it feels like we watch the last trickle of hope flow away and are still waiting for God to step in. I’m here to tell you, He always will, if we will keep opening our hands for the blessing.

I’ve been reading the Old Testament to my kids at breakfast every morning, and today of all days, by the grand sovereign coincidence that makes my God so very awesome, I came to the story of Elijah by the brook.

And I was reminded, again, that God is faithful, still. He is enough, still.

He filled up the widow’s empty jars with enough flour and enough oil, and He daily fills my hollowed-out spaces with life abundant. And He can do the same for you.

An Update of Sorts

I’ve had people ask how the kids are doing with our new school routine this year, so I thought I’d post a quick update.

We’ve made it past the first midterm period, which according to math means that we’re more than 1/8 of the way done with this school year. I do this with everything. I like milestones. We have basically adjusted to having school on Mondays– not saying we like it. I mean, who likes Mondays anyway, right? I personally have adjusted to packing lunches, buying things like snack cakes and juice boxes and so many zippy bags that I’m sure we are personally responsible for the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in Tiny Town. We’ve fallen into a routine.

Some things have been more of a struggle. Finding one on one time with the kids. Figuring out how to keep family a priority. Figuring out when to do the grocery shopping, which has been surprisingly complicated with our new schedule. Dealing with the shakeup that this change has brought to the way our family relates to one another. Having one kid homeschooled and two in public school brings relational changes I hadn’t expected, and we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with that.

R is doing really well in his first year of high school. He enjoys his photography class and is doing well in his classes– including an aced history test this week. He has gradually been immersing himself in the life of his high school and dressed up every day this week for spirit week. He helped decorate his classroom door and rode in the homecoming parade and generally seems to be doing well socially and academically. I’m pretty proud of my boy. 🙂


S is learning so much this year, thriving in the quieter atmosphere of our home. He is loving his general science class and is making good progress through math. I feel like he’s making really great strides academically and am praying that he will continue to do so. We participate in a homeschool cooperative twice a month, and he is taking an art class and a writing class (taught by yours truly). We’ve only met twice but I think he’s having fun, and we have been pursuing our writing every school day with half an hour of designated writing time. So far he has filled up many pages of his journal with a fantasy story involving a castle.


G is my most communicative child, and also my most dramatic. Sometimes it’s hard to sift the truth about school from the midst of the drama. But generally she seems to come home happy and relaxed, once she has decompressed a little. She is struggling some with the long days away from what she really wants to be doing (PLAYING ALL THE TIME), but I remember how bored she was last year and am convinced that she’s going to be okay. She walked in the homecoming parade yesterday with the confidence of a movie star on the red carpet.


As for me, I know I keep promising to blog more and then neglecting to do so. I have a lot of things happening right now– good things, hard things, big and small. Things that deserve to be written but I’m too much in the middle right now. Things that are tiny and mundane and unimportant but take up a lot of space in my life. I am here, though, growing.

I guess we all are. And it’s good.  🙂

Of Prayer, Waiting, and All Kinds of Answers

Sometimes life is breathtaking. We find ourselves in joyful mountaintop seasons where our prayers are being answered, where there’s enough money in the bank and the kids are happy and our jeans fit just right.

And sometimes life is gut-wrenching. Grief, trial, hardship, and stress pound us like waves with seemingly no break, so that we can barely catch our breath. We cry out and it seems like nobody hears.

I’m not in either of those seasons right now. Right now is this almost bewildering mix of good and bad, joyful and grievous, exciting and stressful. I see prayers being answered and I see prayers not being answered. I see God so clearly at work in situations I’ve been so burdened for, and in other situations– situations that feel dire and desperate— He remains silent.

Lately, instead of answering some of my prayers with a yes, ma’am, here’s just what you asked for, God has been saying here’s what you need: I am faithful. I am good. I love you. I will take care of you. And He asks me to trust Him in the circumstance I’m praying for.

Y’all. I’m just going to be honest. I would really just rather have God give me what I want. I mean, faith is great and everything, but when it comes right down to it what I want are more items in the praise column. I want all my financial needs met. I want the thing that is hanging over my head to just go away. I want my kids to thrive in school and I want clear direction for the writing I’m trying to do. I want victory over an ongoing struggle with temptation. I want our church to grow and I want to sleep well at night and I don’t want to wait for God’s perfect timing and God’s perfect answer.

Honesty can be pretty ugly.

I’m so thankful that God is my good Father– that He can see what is best for me in spite of my childish tantrums and demands that I want what I want and I want it now. I’m so thankful that He knows me in all my crazy mood swings and my bewilderment and He knows how to give me good gifts. Not only that, but He loves me– He desires to give me good gifts. And He is able to do so.

I went to a conference with some ladies from my church this past weekend, and that was the summary of the speaker’s messages: God is able, He is aware, and He is good. If you only have two of those things, you have an incomplete picture of God and how He deals with us. But if you understand that God knows our trials and our needs, that He desires good for His people, and that He is able to do that good thing– well, what you have there is a trustworthy God.

Right now, there are prayers I’ve been praying for years that He is answering, and it feels like a miracle, like something unspeakably beautiful and precious. Something fragile and treasured.

And honestly, there are prayers I’ve been praying for years that, as far as I can tell, God is not answering. Prayers that I believe line up with God’s will. Prayers for good things.

My God is growing my faith, and He is doing so both through the answered prayers and the unanswered ones. He says– Look. Now is the time. See how much I can do? See how much I love you?. You can trust me! And He says– Wait. I know what’s best. You have seen me work before, so hold on and keep working and keep praying. You can trust me.

I truly have no idea what God is doing right now, because it feels wild and all over the place. But I know this– I may fail to trust, but He will not fail to be trustworthy. I may be faithless, but He remains faithful. I may not understand, but He does, and He is good, and He is able.

And as I wait, He renews my strength, so that I can keep doing the work before me. He promises this: In due season I will reap, if I don’t give up.



Of Comfort, Mercy, and the Mighty Hand of God

Right this very moment, I have two dear friends walking through deeply painful times with their parents. Their stories aren’t mine to tell, but as each of them face the very present reality of mortality and loss, I hurt with them. I wish I could do more– my words seem empty. Every night my daughter and I pray, and it is terrible and beautiful to watch her and listen to her sweet voice as she tries to grapple with the reality of death.

That a daughter could pray for her father to close his eyes and breathe out and wake up in heaven, my daughter cannot comprehend. Honestly, neither can I, but I can more than she can. She is so young, and death– even eternity in heaven– seems terrible and far away and unreal.

Today I read Psalm 139, and I found my eyes drawn again to this verse I underlined last year sometime:

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

These words speak such comfort to me, as I think of my friends and their loved ones, tenderly held safe in the hands of a good God. As I think of my children, off at their school without me there to carefully control all the influences in their lives. As I think of my own crazy week and the calendar that seems full to bursting right now.

I am held safe.

But there have been times in my life when I have felt hemmed in by God, with His hand upon me, and it has not been a sweet, positive, comforting experience. Sometimes God hems us in and says you will not go any further down this road. Sometimes He keeps us stuck in what seem like pointless or painful places. We wonder if we are making any progress at all. Sometimes His hand is heavy upon us because of sin in our lives. David experienced this after his sin with Bathsheba–

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.   Selah

These times feel anything but comforting. They feel terrible, painful, and confusing. Sometimes we know exactly why we are under the hand of God, or why He is hemming us in, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we just feel trapped and miserable. We cry out and it feels like no one answers, or we don’t get the answers we’d hoped for.

But I have learned– and undoubtedly will have many opportunities to keep learning– that God’s hand never rests on me for any reason other than my good. I have learned that to be hemmed in by God is always to be protected from what is harmful, even if it feels like I am being prevented from doing a good thing.

God’s ways are wise and merciful. He kept us trapped at Bible college and seminary for so much longer than I wanted to be there, with no way out. And you know what? We needed every one of those long years to bring us to a place where we could minister competently in the place where He has called us.

When I was a teenager, rebelling and traveling down a very deadly path, He hemmed me in and refused to let me keep going. I screamed at Him and raged against my parents, but looking back all I see in His hemming actions is mercy. Where would I be if I had gone down that road? I don’t know, but He did, and He wanted something better for me.

In David’s life, when God’s hand was heavy upon him, it was also an act of grace and mercy, because it brought David to repentance.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

My friend, wherever you are today, whether God’s hand feels like a loving Father’s tender hand rubbing a child’s back or like a hard hand of discipline, know this– you are dearly loved by the God whose hand is ever upon you. His hand is always a hand of mercy and grace. When He hems you in before and behind, it is always an act of protection and fierce Father-love. He will protect you from your enemies, even when your enemy is yourself.

This is the God who made you, who saw you and loved you before your mother even knew you were growing within her. Every part of you is precious to God, and He will do whatever it takes to bring you near and keep you safe, to comfort you and show you His mercy.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God . . . , casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.