• looking at the expanse

    This Is How He Carries You

    It’s too much, Lord. I can’t count the number of times I’ve uttered some form of these words. Sometimes I whisper through my tears and other times I scribble furiously onto the pages of my journal—early morning thoughts after news of another hardship. Another friend’s suffering. My own difficult circumstances. A world in physical, emotional, and spiritual upheaval. I imagine you can relate. The weight feels unbearable. You try to muster up strength, but you can’t. Weak and weary, you wonder if you’ll have what it takes to survive what’s in front of you. We fear we’ll be consumed by our grief. We can’t see how there could possibly be…

  • There Are Indeed Good Things

    I am not what you would call a person who lives in a perpetual state of optimism. I am in fact a realist. Not a downer, for those of you optimists who don’t know the difference. I’ve experienced enough life to know that life isn’t necessarily smooth and easy. Quite the opposite, actually. Jesus confirmed this one, so you can take his word for it (John 16:33). So, I have to be honest with you. I’ve seen a lot of people sharing posts on social media about all the good things this year, how there’s so much to be grateful for, and come on guys, be thankful! And you know…

  • Will We Die to Our Rights?

    There was only one place in town to buy pork, and I was hungry for bacon. So I snuck into the little shop, paid the shop owner for the largest slab I could find, and then tucked it deep within my purse. As I made my way down the street, I kept glancing behind me. Did anyone notice where I had just shopped? Would a taxi driver even let me into his car if he knew what I had under my arm? I was living in a predominately Muslim country. Pork is forbidden and many Muslims refuse to eat from pork-tainted dishes. Most of my colleagues never purchased, prepared, or…

  • He Prunes Us Because He Loves Us

    When the summer heat peaked, my hydrangea bushes started to bloom again. I couldn’t believe their ability to keep going when it felt unbearable to be outside and you could hear the grass crunch under your feet. What was happening? We trimmed the new blooms, gathered them in a vase, and enjoyed the unexpected beauty.  I’ve joked before that my desire to purchase our quirky 1940’s home was largely based upon the two hydrangea bushes flanking the side of our porch. Everyone who stops by comments on their beauty. In fact, the first summer we lived here, there was a knock on the door early one Sunday morning. An older…

  • Looking to What is Unseen

    During one of our last summer days at the beach, I sat in my chair on the sand, sipping my coffee and watching the kids play in the water. Our typical sunny morning at the bay was overcast and slightly cooler than normal, but the water was teeming with wildlife. Inches from the kids’ heads, schools of tiny fish were diving out of the water and gliding back in without a splash. The kids couldn’t see them and had no idea what was happening around them, but from my spot on the sand I had a view of each one. It was fascinating.  Watching the fish that morning took me…

  • On Spiritual Growth & Cravings

    Five years ago, we planted a garden in the back corner of our yard; it barely survived.  Our tomato plants were the skimpiest, sorriest ones I had ever seen.  Cucumbers rotted before they were fully ripe, and the beans, well they didn’t stand a chance against my neglect.  Tucked away behind the garage, the raised beds were somewhat “out of sight out of mind.” It remained this way for four more summers.  Same spot, same neglect, same pitiful crop. So, last fall, when we were prepping the backyard for a shed, we decided to move our raised beds to the other side of the yard.  We nestled them against the…

  • 3 Helpful Guides When You Don’t Know What to Pray

    She squeezes her eyes shut, folds her hands, and then ever so slowly lifts up her head, reopens her eyes, and locks her gaze on his face.  She sits quietly, waiting for him to speak.   “Dear God,” he begins.  She echoes.  “Thank you for my cheese.”  She repeats.  “Thank you for goldfish.”  Again she mimics his words.  He continues to name the foods on the table, the people gathered around it, and in her toddler voice she copies every phrase.  He ends with an “Amen,” but she keeps going, “And Jesus, and Bible, and,”— my personal favorite as of the past two weeks—, “Hallelujah!” My two year old daughter is…

  • Let’s Tell Stories About Our Souls

    I’ve been thinking lately about the stories we’ll tell when this is over.  I imagine us cozied up around fire pits, gathered around dining room tables, and lingering over church pews.  I imagine front porches lit up late into the night while the kids catch fireflies in the yard. I imagine we’ll squeeze as many people into our schedules as possible, forgetting about whatever fear we used to carry about hospitality and opening up our homes.  We’ll do whatever it takes just to be in the physical presence of friends, family, neighbors, and church communities.   What will we say? There will be funny stories, ones where we admit hiding soft…

  • When The Coronavirus Affects Your Marriage: Remember, Embrace, & Endure

    I remember screaming in the kitchen, storming down the hall to our bedroom, and slamming the door behind me.  We were newlyweds, new homeowners, and had decided to work remotely from home. Bradley wanted to work late at night, using daytime for Home Depot runs and house projects.  I wanted to work normal business hours. We argued a lot. Sometimes I regretted the decision to work from home and wondered if our marriage would survive. Now, here we are, twelve years later, and we—along with millions of other couples—are being forced to eat, sleep, play, work and do everything together 24/7.   By God’s grace we’re no longer screaming in the…

  • An Unexpected Gift for the Church in the Midst of COVID-19

    I printed out bulletins and had the older girls set up children’s church in the dining room.  We gathered in the den—some still in pj’s, Bradley with a cup of coffee, and the kids in bean bags on the floor.  The sound coming through the TV was terrible, but we stuck with it, grumbling to one another to be quiet and stop moving around so we could try to hear the call to worship.  One kid asked for a snack right in the middle of the confession of sin, and another moved to his bedroom to play Legos. Live streaming church from our den during COVID-19 yesterday was an interesting…