He sits…

It was a quiet day and He came like He did every day.

He never knocked. He knew the door was open, but these days is was only cracked… So, He cautiously peered in before opening the door all the way.

She was too out of touch to see Him. But every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday Saturday and Sunday He was there.

Had anyone else walked in, they may have commented on the unassuming man sitting on the opposite end of the sofa where she sat.

But no words were exchanged. Utter silence filled the room.

She sat with her eyes glazed over. Unable to communicate her unspeakable pain. If tears came, they were a gift… for a least it was a little escape of the pain she felt inside.

Weeks passed and still He showed up. Rarely acknowledging His presence she often wondered why He was even there. Didn’t He know she couldn’t give Him anything. She didn’t have anything left.

Weeks turning into months and months turned into a year. Until finally she made herself look up. She saw flowers. And immediately she quizzically look at the man.

He nodded as if to say, “yes, I’ve brought flowers every week.”

A tear slipped out of her eye and rolled gently down her cheek.

She’d known this man longer than most of the people in her life and at several points throughout her life, He had been the center and more important than any other person in her life…

But in the turmoil and heartaches in the recent years, she’d become despondent. She had so many questions. Like why didn’t He fix the problem she asked Him to? Why didn’t He show up like she asked? Why didn’t He answer her like He had in the past? Why didn’t He hold her like He had in the past? And why on earth didn’t He protect her from all the heartache?

These questions spun mercilessly in her head like a merry-go-round. But every week, He showed up and He sat.

He sat in the room with her questions. He sat in the room with her hurt. He sat in the room with her grief. He sat in the room with her despondency. He sat in the room with her depression. He sat in the room with her anger….

Just like He sat in the room with her purpose. Just like He sat in the room with her calling. Just like He sat in the room with her laughter. Just like He sat in the room with her love. Just like He sat in the room in her good times…

He sits during the ups and the downs. He may not answer all the questions, but He’s not leaving… And until she’s ready to speak… Patiently and lovingly He sits…

And they shall call Him Immanuel…which translated means,God with us.”

Matthew 1:23

Read “He is Here” poem from What does the Christian walk look like when…

What Grief Has Taught Me…

What Grief has taught me is that you’re never ready for its arrival.

Grief is more than a human heart can bear.

You never get over it, but somehow you move forward.

The only way forward is through it.

Grief is intimate. For me, sharing certain aspects of it seems wrong because it is now connected to the deepest part of who I am.

Grief strips away any part of you that cares what others think…

And although grief has ripped me apart like nothing else has in life, it has also been my teacher.

It has taught me to hold a breaking heart full of sorrow and a heart full of joy simultaneously.

It has taught me to laugh through tears.

It has introduced me to the deepest kind of friendships. It the kind of friendship that meets you at a bedside, or catches you as you run away, or finds you curled up in a hospital hallway.

It has taught my to hold on for dear life the examples of those who’ve experienced grief before me. And hold on for dear life for the ones recently acquainted with grief behind me.

It has taught me to live presently in the moment because there is only enough grace for today.

It has taught me to slow down, to take a moment to appreciate people and nature.

It has taught me to give as much as I have today because tomorrow is not promised.

It has taught me to speak kind words to everyone I meet because they might be hidding their own grief as well.

So although I met grief kicking and screaming, cussing and flailing… It has been one of my most hated companions and one of my greatest teachers.

I never wanted it to come, but I refuse to see it wasted.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad 💕

I woke up at 3:45am and drove south without looking back. The only breaks I took were for gas, bathroom and food. I arrived at home 15 hours later— exhausted but so grateful to be held by people who loved me.

The transition home was not an easy one. I spent a lot of time lost in my own head. Setting up my things and having no idea what was ahead or when and how to take the next step.

One afternoon, I found myself at my Dad’s computer. He always shared it when he wasn’t working on a sermon, or a talk or a new book.

I spaced out and analyzed every book on his bookshelf and every trinket in front of those books. He had his MacArthur Study Bible and commentaries closest. Then he had little nicknacks from all over the globe (given to him by people who lived all over the world). He had artwork from one of his 3rd grade students and love notes from us kids and grandkids. And proudly displayed on his shelf was the “Best Dad” trophy we got him for Father’s Day one year. Although he was a remarkable man, that was the only trophy he ever received.

I sat there and thought, “What a great man.” I told myself that I needed to write a blog on him, but I got sidetracked. Time passed. And then, suddenly, the same office and bookshelf I had admired just a few months prior was being disassembled. And as we disassembled it, it proved to me again that my Dad was a great man.

I wished I had written this blog when he was alive, but I know he knew exactly what I thought of him and how much I loved him. So Dad, this is for you.

My Dad. He wasn’t a flashy guy. He was the most steady, driven and disciplined man I have ever met. He loved my mom and us kids well. He always made time for us. If I ever needed him, he’d finish what he was doing and give me his undivided attention. He loved his sports, his popcorn, and his peanut m&ms. He was the smartest and the wisest man I’ve ever known.

And there was a side of my Dad that a lot of people didn’t see and I think my Dad was misjudged a lot because he was ridiculously confident. The side that speaks volumes to me and will for the rest of my life is how no matter what, my Dad never would retaliate. There was a season in my Dad’s life when he had some people against him. It tore him apart on the inside, but he persevered. I’ve never seen such a pain in my dad’s eyes. But, my Dad never spoke ill of them. Instead he just showed up day after day, week after week even though he was misunderstood and hurt by the things being said.

There was also a side that not many people saw. It was the “Doctor Dad” side. He may have lectured us on how we should have avoided getting hurt, but while he was lecturing, he’d be bandaging us up. And there was the side of my Dad who invested in us once a week during our “one on one time.” And there was the side that showed up for all the games we had that he could attend. You could never say that my Dad wasn’t present. And it’s his lack of presence that I miss every single day. But I hope that in my choice to show up every day, I honor his legacy.

You may not be able to pick my Dad out of a crowd, but you could never pick his place out of my heart. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He was a man of great character and integrity. Happy Fathers Day. I love you so much and I miss you terribly! And don’t worry you’re not missing anything with the Dolphins— they still stink.

Life Sucks Sometimes

It’s a privilege to have my sweet little sister, Jessica, be a guest writer this week!

I have seen her grow leaps and bounds through one loss after the other. She really has been like an perfume bottle that has been shattered and leaves it’s unmistakable and beautiful fragrance at the feet of Jesus. I have seen her grace towards others abound as well as her kindness despite the jabs she’s endured.

She has taught me a lot by how she lives and I’m grateful to have her in my life. I know you will be encouraged by what she has to say.

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I remember saying as a little girl, “that isn’t fair!” But my Dad would calmly say, as most parents do, “Life isn’t fair.” That never made me feel better as a child and quite frankly, it makes me feel even worse as an adult. Why do we think life is supposed to be fair? Why do we expect others to treat us as we ought? Why do we think bad things should never happen to good people?

Life isn’t fair. I’ve experienced its unfairness closer than I would like. Way too close. Actually, it’s cut my heart pretty deeply this past year. Not only have I experienced it but so many precious friends and family have too. You hurt for yourself but your pain is doubled when you see other struggling through their own trials; and, you can do nothing to fix.

Friends turn on friends. Significant others choose to not only walk away, but hurt you. As if you never meant anything to them leaving your heart utterly confused and in pieces. Others twist the truth and even discredit your character despite how much you try to make amends. Illness and emergencies hit the families who deserve the best. Instead, they have one trial after another. You’ve tried for a baby for so long and you see other mothers aborting theirs. No matter how hard you fight to get ahead in life, get the job offer, get the raise, get the promotion. You’re overlooked and brushed aside. Again. There have been many prayers that were only one sentence: God, I’m so tired of losing.

In the moments where you feel so low… do you ever crave justice? Crave for life to be fair? Crave to win one? There’s something in our inner gut that is screaming out for justification. For our situation to work out right. But knowing you’re powerless to ever make that happen? It doesn’t matter if you’ve done everything you possibly could to change the situation. You still want the person who hurt your heart so effortlessly to feel every bit of bitter pain they caused. Or, you’d like for the healing to finally come from the hundreds of prayers said in tears bellowing from trials you’ve experienced. That would make everything fair, right?

I wish I had a nice neat bow of happiness to wrap up this blog, but I don’t. Life doesn’t always give that gift. Praise God for the times and seasons of blessings and comfort. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate it now more than ever. But sometimes life just sucks. I’ve come to realize I can give all of it to God while still saying I don’t know why it’s happening. In the midst of the unfairness and the ache, in the middle of the night, in the worst of storms, in the hours spent by the hospital bed. Do we believe God can truly work it out? And much more than that, can He work it out for our good? Is our God capable of doing that? To be honest, I’ve struggled with believing it. That’s where faith becomes action. Its where the rubber hits the road.

Pain brings faith to life.

Friends, I have no other hope than that. Is He able? If He is, take a breath, and remind yourself of that truth.

Even though I feel he was taken too soon, I’m glad I can still hear my Dad’s voice in my head. Especially when I’m tempted to get angry or bitter over life’s unfairness. Yes, life sucks and it’s not fair. Sometimes just saying life sucks while biting into a Klondike bar is healing in itself. Life can suck while God is still good and in control.

Listen: Life Keeps Moving On, Ben Rector

A Broken Ankle and a Dark Pit.

I looked at my phone and saw a message come in through my family’s group chat. It was from my older sister. She had been in a position where her kiddos could reach her and one of them landed on her ankle. Now, if you don’t know the back story you’d probably be confused and ask what the problem is.

Last summer, my sister, who was eight months pregnant went to a church event. She was chatting with some other moms when one of her kids asked her to tie their shoes. She bent down, tied it and trying to stand back up, she lost her balance and fell backwards on her ankle. It broke.

Within a short period of time, the pastor’s wife had taken the rest of the kids home, a couple was taking her to the hospital and her husband was on his way to meet her.

She had to have surgery on her ankle and a metal plate was implanted for stability. A few weeks later, she gave birth (in a cast no less) to a sweet little boy.

You may be wondering, why am I going on about my sister’s ankle? Because, to me, it’s a powerful picture.

You see the same summer, I may not have broken my ankle, but I was deeply wounded. And this summer, my family suffered a very deep wound. So, when my sister said, “One of my Little’s fell on my ankle” we understood how that would hurt. But had you not known my sister endured a broken ankle, and that there is a piece of metal in her body; her doubling over in pain wouldn’t make sense.

I feel like the longer we live and the trauma we face, life leaves us with metal in our heart. From the outside, just like my sister’s ankle, she looks fine. She doesn’t walk with a limp. But when someone hits it unexpectedly, it sends sheering pain up her leg.

A few days ago, I saw a picture of my Dad. To be honest, I can barely look at pictures. It hurts too much. As more time goes by, I miss him more. I saw the picture and tears brimmed my eyelids- just waiting to spill over. It reminded me of my sister’s ankle, except the sheering pain was in my heart.

Life knocks us over sometimes. We get back up and we may seem like we are fine. We may not be walking with a limp, but we know there is metal in there and any given day, we could be doubled over in excruciating pain.

My family and I know any given rain storm could end with one of us in tears. It hurts. Life without my Dad hurts. Yes, we may look okay. And, we may act okay. We may seem like we may be “handling it well”, but what you don’t see is the times we are doubled over… Crying ourselves to sleep just like any very painful physical injury.
I wonder how many people are walking around seemingly “normal” but have pieces of metal in their hearts. Part of me is tempted to just sit on a bench in public somewhere and see who might come along to share their story of when a piece of metal entered their heart.

I don’t really have a spiritual application to this… Maybe there will be a part two to this blog and maybe not… Life hurts and sometimes it feels like we are in a dark pit. A few weeks ago I came across a verse that struck me.

Psalm 88:6, “You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.”

It doesn’t say you fell in a pit, or satan put you in a pit. He’s talking about God. It doesn’t even say, “God allowed me to be put in a pit” No, it says, “You have put me in (not just a pit) THE LOWEST PIT”

Later on in this Psalm in verse 18 it says, “darkness is my closest friend”

I don’t understand why God sometimes places us where darkness becomes our closest friend. I don’t like the thought of that. I don’t like being in this pit I am in right now. Lately, things have just been hard. I’m not writing to get sympathy. I really don’t want it. I’m just writing because seeing this picture helped me and I thought it might help someone else…

Another verse that has been coming to mind too is Jeremiah 29:11… It’s says, “I know that plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future”

Lately, very little has gone “right” nothing seems to be “prospering” or even “hopeful”. However, as I was thinking about this, I realized what this verse doesn’t say…

1) YOU have the plans… No, God has the plans. If I had the plans, I’d have something lined up by now.

2) That God will prosper your career, or your health, or your family. No, He says He will prosper you. And isn’t it true we often grow, learn and prosper during adversity? I mean, if Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered (Heb 5:7-8), what makes me think I am exempt from diffilcut times?

So, I still don’t know why so much brokenness has accrued the past two years and, quite frankly, I may never know… But I’ve got to hold on to the fact that there is a purpose. There is a bigger reason than I can see. And that even if I don’t know the plans and the purpose, God does. Is knowing the Plan holder and the purpose holder enough for me? Is it enough for you? I think this is something we each need to wrestle through in or own time.

Song of the Week: I Don’t Have the Answers by We Are Messengers 

The Faces I Cannot Forget

***This is dedicated to the Iraqi family I met in Jordan almost a year ago, and to all the refugees scattered all over the world…

I attempted to write a poem about your suffering … 

Then I realized….

I don’t know what it’s like…

I don’t know the fear you lived every time you heard the whistle of a missile. 

I don’t know the panic you endured when you’d hear the destruction of another home… praying it wasn’t someone you knew…. 

I don’t know how many tears you cried… Or how many you couldn’t anymore after you lost loved one after loved one, friend after friend. 

I don’t know how many unseen wounds you carry around on a daily basis… 

I don’t know how if feels to not only lose friends and loved ones, but also your country….

I don’t know how it feels to lose a livelihood, freedom and choice…

I don’t know how it feels to be at the mercy of another people group – another country…

I don’t know how it feel to be stripped away from the language you and your family have spoken for generations, and now having to learn a new one…. 

I’m sorry I have not understood … I cannot imagine your pain… I don’t know what it’s like to suffer like you have, but I know one who did… 

I pray that in the midst of your pain… in the midst of this dark hour… you would know you’re not alone… The one who made you… The one who fashioned your eyes, hands, feet and body…. loves you. 

And until I meet you, you are in my heart… please don’t give up… you have a story the world needs to hear… the lessons of traveling through this dark valley needs to be taught…. 

I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your courage…

A Suffering Servant — A Life Well Lived 

Life is so unpredictable.
Two weekends ago, I was at a wedding, celebrating with one of my girl friends.

This past weekend, I was at a memorial service for a beloved family friend.

Isn’t that life, though? In an instant, everything can change. You could meet the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Or, you could lose the one you thought you would spend the rest of your life with.

In the case of these two events-two contrasting life events. They have something that ties them both together.

They both were celebrations. Of course, you celebrate at a wedding; unless, you disagree with the choice.

A memorial service, is not necessarily one you equate to a celebration. The one I went to on Saturday was.

The memorial service was for a man named Bill Zink. There was an open mic at the service. However, I didn’t feel like I should take up that precious time, so I am writing the impact he had on me here.

I grew up knowing him and his family. His youngest daughter and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. I never knew a time without their family being in my life. His wife was my Sunday School teacher during some of my most difficult teen years.

Mr. Zink’s greatest impact on me was not the words he said, but the way he lived. I started to understand Jesus as a “suffering servant” by watching the way he lived. He was in no way perfect. He would be the first to admit that.

Mr. Zink suffered enormously. For eleven years he fought Churg-Strauss syndrome. His health was up and down. He was in an out of the hospital more times than anyone I have ever met. Yet, when he was out of the hospital, he always had a smile on his face, and a hug ready for everyone he greeted.

Last October I went over to Mr. and Mrs. Zink’s house for dinner. I remember Mr. Zink saying something along the lines of, “suffering is good for us”. That was his attitude. The more he suffered, the more he leaned into Christ. I never remember him complaining about his illness, but only boasting in God’s strength to endure it.

I’ve met people who believe in a “name it and claim it” health. I know God could have healed Mr. Zink. Our entire congregation prayed for his healing. But in His suffering, God shone the brightest. Through his weak and fragile body, God showed Himself strong.

Mr. Zink was a warrior. He prayed hard. Lived well, and endured graciously. He taught me so many life lessons. I pray I never forget them.

If there were a verse to sum up Mr. Zink’s life I think it would be 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’”

The suffering Mr. Zink endure was not the end of him, but it was the beginning. Through his suffering, he became, more like Christ. He became a greater witness. He became a greater friend, a greater husband, and an even greater Dad.

Through suffering, he was going from glory to glory. And now, he is home. He fought the good fight and remained faithful until the end.

That was the impact he left on my life. I saw suffering in a light I don’t think I ever could have, had he not lived it out for me and others to see.

Mr. Zink, I will miss you. Thank you for your faithfulness, your kindness, and your impact my life. Thank you for living out a godly example for me and everyone who knew you!