Cling Tight Dear One

When life seems to keep knocking you down and you start to wonder when will you see the sun again just remember to cling tight, dear one. This has been the four words that God keeps pressing on my heart these last few months. Oh how I wish that I could tell you that the Christian life was all sunshine and roses, but truth is that it’s not always easy. Yes, there are times when It’s full of sadness, disappointment, and hurt, but there are also times full of happiness, joy and love. Thank goodness for that, because can you image how hard it would be to even get out of bed each day if it was only the hard stuff? Here’s what I will tell you — I’ve grown more as a believer in the hard times than in the easy times. Sit there for a minute. It’s a hard truth, for sure, but it’s true. It’s when things are tough than we run (not even walk) to God. It’s not when things are going smoothly. So, what’s one supposed to do when you are buried deep in the middle of the hard times? Well, that’s where these four words come in handy…cling tight, dear one. These four words have been on my mind for months now. Every single time I cry out to God for help, relief or comfort I feel Him say to me, “cling tight, dear one”. Why those four words and why every single time I pray these days? I think I’m beginning to understand and it’s my hope that these four words will...

#honorallmoms on Mother’s Day (and a free gift for you)

Years ago, on a Sunday night, I sat in the back row of my church and watched a newly-pregnant woman walk by. Suddenly I knew: I was pregnant again. I wasn’t late. I wasn’t trying to have another baby. I didn’t have morning sickness, I hadn’t gained weight. I had no symptoms. And I’d given away our playpen and stroller. I thought I was done. This was not what I had in mind. But, still, I knew. I herded my 4- and 6-year-old daughters through CVS to buy a pregnancy test, shielding the box from the prying eyes of my avid reader, embarrassed by the imagined judgment of the teen boy working the register. I stuck the girls in front of the TV and locked myself in the bathroom. That stupid little plus sign practically leaped off the stick. Crap. I was pregnant. It didn’t matter that I was 33, happily married, reasonably financially stable. This wasn’t what I had planned for my life. Three kids was too many; I always said no more kids than hands to hold onto them. Being a mother of three didn’t make sense for someone who isn’t naturally nurturing, who doesn’t adore children, for someone who worked all the time, for someone who was educated and smart enough to not have an accident like this happen. I was devastated and not sure how to break the news to my husband when he got home at 2 am from work, but he didn’t even hesitate: “There’s enough love in this house for one more.” Seventeen years later, I see that he was right. I...

When we need to make sense of suffering

Sometimes the winds of Heaven reach us. They blow strong on our faces, carried on by accidents, disease, tragedy. And, it takes our breath away. We stand disoriented, wondering at the feel of the breeze, the smell in the air, the sudden change in temperature. Our souls gasp – is it homesickness, maybe something familiar we recognize in the air? Because, in the midst of life, sometimes the reality of eternity sweeps in like that, and we cannot look away. We, a society of distractions. We, a culture of intellectualism. We, a community with an independence running thick in our veins. Yet, when faced with our own humanity, we look up, panting for hope, for understanding, for the assurance that we are not, after all, alone in this. Because, in times like this, our souls cry out for a Father who loves us, a Jesus who accepts us. Not One who tests us with hard times, or simply observes our daily lives with disinterest, or fails to control the random acts of fate. Desperate, we need assurance that our bodies are not just made for this world, and that the Designer of our days has our best in mind. It’s not all over in an accident or a diagnosis, right? Our loved ones are not just flung into blackness, gone forever, right? There is more than all this, right? “Oh yes, there is more,” He whispers over us, the voice of our Maker, our Emmanuel – One who dwells with us and understands. People of God, may we believe that no lives have been cut off prematurely by cruel...

The Beauty in the Dark

To love beauty is to see light.        -Victor Hugo Some may say there’s no beauty to be seen in the dark . . . perhaps believe that darkness is the absence of light . . . or preach that only dark things happen in the dark. But not me. I’ve found a secret place in the dark…where sorrows, pain, and grief burst forth in a melody of tears that only God hears. An alone place, a hidden-from-view chamber of the soul, where only the Spirit sustains breath and heart. Dark is not empty. Dark is not where only evil and despair dwell. No… Dark is where I’ve seen the brightest light, inhaled the whispered revelation of an eternity of hope, and been embraced by the unseen beauty of a transcendent love. Once fearful of the dark, a girl with a broken innocence and a woman determined to conquer her own pains, I was blind. I wanted faith to be birthed in the light, for transformation to follow my clock and calendar—to be quick, on time…methodical and pain-free. I spent years avoiding the darkest places of my own history, my own sorrows, and my own heart. The very places where the vision to see The Light could be developed. Faith is not rational. Scripture tell us it is the evidence of things unseen. In blindness we see light. In death to self we receive the life of resurrection. Fear tells us to avoid the pain and the dark, yet faith is not the antidote to that fear. Love is. Faith becomes faith here, where Love lives. In the arms of the One who embraces...

Surprise Sally

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you…In God’s hand  is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7 and10) “Eating words has never given me indigestion, and I never felt discomfort in my abdomen after I chewed and swallowed,” Winston Churchill once said. I have to agree. Some of the sweetest words I’ve ever eaten were, “I will never have a dog live in my house.” God spoke to my heart in July 1996, and this non-puppy person had an overwhelming desire to surprise my son, Eric, with a basset hound on his 15th birthday. We chose Sally from a litter of ten adorable puppies who tripped all over their ears as they ran and played that sunny summer day. We brought that trembling puppy home with us, and my maternal instincts kicked in. I held Sally close to soothe and comfort her, and surprisingly felt my heart being soothed and comforted in return. Looking into brown puppy eyes, I discovered what I’d missed over the years by not having a pet to love, and a pet to love me. Sally was the wonderful distraction my family needed as my beautiful daughter, Emily, dwindled away from us and into an eating disorder. We tried to maintain our lives through counseling sessions, doctor’s visits, and extended hospital stays. But the days were long and dark as Emily’s condition deteriorated. Sally, with her heart-shaped spot, loved and comforted us through those difficult days that turned into weeks and then months and then years. Many changes occurred in our lives over the next twelve years. But...

For Those Left Behind {a prayer for the mothers of the victims in Aurora, Colorado}

Last Friday morning lives changed in Aurora, Colorado. Making sense of such a tragic event isn’t possible and yet we find ourselves struggling for answers. Perhaps the only answer is that we pray. Today, at ICDevos, we pause and we pray for the victims and their families whose lives are forever, in a moment, different. Many of those killed in that theater had such lives to live, they were the “young” among us.  They had, by all accounts, so much life yet to live. We will never understand such senselessness. We will simply never understand. But in the wake of such a tragedy, we must turn to the only place where peace and comfort rest, we must pray. We must pray from the place we’d rather not go. When the Lord made it clear that we needed to honor the lives of those lost last Friday in the wee hours, He laid on my heart someone who has walked the journey of losing a child in the prime of her life. Lisa Harris graciously opened her heart and penned these very personal words from her own broken heart for those left behind. The ones who themselves have a long journey ahead of them. It’s for those mothers we pray today. Join us as we pray… Most Merciful God … I pray for the mother’s heart.  I pray for the one that carried, and labored and loved this child that you now hold in your arms.   I pray that the depth of her pain will seep slowly in and not crush her. I pray that her family and friends stay...

Family Loss

This weekend, between the picnics and games of horseshoes and badminton, we hope you’ll join us at ICDevos in remembering the ultimate sacrifices made by our soldiers in times of war—and by the family members who survived that loss. In honor of both today’s holiday and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we’d like to share an excerpt from Jocelyn Green’s book,  just released: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front. There was rarely a family in the North or the South, who did not lose at least one loved one due to illness or injury during the Civil War. In November 1862, an Iowa woman learned from a single letter that her husband, father, and brother had all been killed. South Carolina’s Mary Chestnut knew a woman whose sick child died just before she learned that her husband had also died at war. “She did not utter one word. She remained quiet so long, someone removed the light shawl which she had drawn over her head. She was dead . . . Grief and anxiety kill nearly as many women as men die on the battlefield.” While Mary overestimated the number of home-front deaths from grief and anxiety, she surely felt surrounded by loss. Her diary included long lists of deaths of both soldiers and women at home. One wife in the North had the awful task of informing her soldier husband, a patient in a Cairo, Illinois, hospital, that their two children, ages three and five, had both died. She hid her own grief in an effort to console her husband: I do not...

Shaken to the Core

On January 12, 2010 the foundations of the earth shook as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. The already-poorest-country in the Western hemisphere suffered unthinkable destruction. News reports confirmed the ruin, chaos, grief, tragedy. By all accounts Haiti was devastated. Period. Did you know earthquakes foreshadowed major plot shifts in the Bible? Before Moses received the Ten Commandments, “the mountain trembled violently.” When Jesus was crucified and took his last breath, “the earth shook.” When the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb, “there was a violent earthquake.” When Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison, “there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.” I imagine the witnesses focused on the chaos, shock and ruin of the earthquakes. But knowing what came next, I hear God saying, “Don’t focus on the shaking earth and get stuck there! Look at me. Watch what I’m going to do!” I’m giving you The Law. I’m overcoming death. I’m giving you eternal life. I’m building my church. The earthquakes weren’t the end of the story; they were the beginning. It’s been said, “Don’t put a period where God intends a comma.” In the two years since the earthquake in Haiti, futility, hopelessness and despair abound. Each news report draws circles around the period at the end of the story called Haiti. But God.  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their...

Standing Faithfully on Wobbly Legs

“Mom,” Whitney said with just a bit of wistfulness in her voice, “Would you play with my hair?” I sat down beside my 25 year old daughter and wove my fingers through her thick dark hair, combing and twisting its silky softness until I remembered that I had something to do. “That’s all, Whit,” I said after only a few minutes, “I’ve got to get going.” Whitney stuck out her bottom lip like a two year old and got up to go back to her house feeling, I’m certain, quite shortchanged of her favorite thing for me to do. I, however, didn’t think a thing about it and went on to do my forgotten errand. A few months later, Whitney died instantly in a horrific car accident. The almost three years that has followed since has been a journey of release. From the moment I hung up from ‘the call,’ I heard God clearly tell me that He had her, she was with Him. I had complete peace that she was in the arms of her Father, but my heart cried out for her. To never see her face, hear her voice, feel joy over her laughter and dry her tears as they shed has been difficult. She was my oldest and my only daughter and I would never get to share the many mother/daughter moments that I had looked forward to. One of those moments was her wedding day, when we would have shared the joy of planning the day she would become a bride. It was while I was standing beside her casket grieving her short-lived life...

The Flight of Dollar

My son saved his money for a year and a half to buy two parakeets, a cage, food and accessories. I remember when he first started saving; he thought he would never get enough money. But finally the day came when my husband took him to the pet store, and my son walked through our door with his prize and a gigantic smile. He named his blue bird, Icey, and his green bird, Dollar. We taught our son how to take care of his pets, and we showed him how to clean the cage and change the food and water. My son especially enjoyed feeding the birds a certain plant covered in seeds. He would open the cage door, hold onto the yummy treat and stick his hand toward their greedy mouths. The birds would peck at the little plant, thoroughly enjoying their snack. However, I noticed that the birds were very messy eaters, and little seeds fell all over my floor and furniture. I told my son that he would have to clean up all the seeds or feed the birds on the deck in the backyard. He decided to feed them outside so he could alleviate any extra cleaning he would have to do. I thought this was a good plan….at first. One afternoon, my son decided that his birds deserved another tasty treat. He took the cage outside; and as he opened the cage and pushed in his hand, Dollar swooped down into a two inch opening under my son’s hand and flew into the heavens. Watching Dollar fly was breathtaking. It was obvious that he...