It is Well With My Soul: Hope in the Healer When Healing Doesn’t Come

This past April marks one year since I stumbled into the ER, body trembling, muscles rigid, with a steady decline in coherency. Just days before I had started on an anti-depressant. I was in one of the darkest times of my life. Like I was swimming in the dark with no end in sight–no air, lungs burning, and hopelessness weighing me down like an anchor.

It seemed like an ill-fitting answer to prayer, that just two days later after begging to want to live, I was facing death.

It was just over a year ago that I sat in yet another doctor’s office as she sat on a stool, clipboard in hand, with a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

Everything she said after that faded out until the only thing I could hear was the rapid beating of my own heart pounding in my ears. At some point, she handed me a sheet of paper with a list that stretched from the tip-top of the page all the way down to the bottom.
A bullet point list of all the things I would need to do every day in order to get my condition stabilized.

Bullet point after bullet point, my eyes scanned the page as we made our way out to the car on a blistering hot day.

One after another,
like bricks set in mortar,
I felt exhaustion hit me as each item on that list thickened the barrier between me and normalcy.

And thus began the process of putting my life back together after it had crumbled down.

I haven’t written very much in the last year, aside from a few posts produced right after leaving the hospital. I have wondered why writing has become such a difficult task. Something I have to fight for. Something that doesn’t really feel right anymore. And I think I figured it out…

I cannot tell a story that is fake. I cannot write words that do not echo what is within my heart. But I also haven’t really wanted to tell this story…

…how do I tell this story in all its ugly, splintered truth, when it isn’t the story I wanted to begin with?

This story isn’t what I ever imagined mine would be.
And I think I’ve been waiting for the story to reach some kind of resolution before telling it. I’m waiting for the melody to reach a crescendo so that it can fall back down peacefully, leaving the audience with the order and precise finish of the piece. Because there has to be a better ending than this, right? Surely it can’t end with, “and she lived the rest of her life in pain”?

What do you do when God doesn’t flip the script the way you think He’s going to? The way you’ve been begging and begging Him to?

I didn’t leave the hospital in April 2022, and bounce back to the life I had before or really anything close to it.

Chronic illness was the dissonant chord that struck my life, one that has not, and most likely will not, resolve. The melody, of course, plays on, despite being a little off-beat; despite the dissonance that leaves a lingering sense of unease in the pit of one’s stomach.

Every day holds some variation of pain–always.
Some are worse than others. But it’s always there.
And every day is spent minimizing my pain; managing my symptoms.
And I have struggled with bitterness in that.

I’ve struggled with all that I have lost to this illness that I am not promised recovery from–that will most likely stay with me my whole life. I mourn the times I’ve had to decline outings with friends because I knew if I went out, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for days afterward. That was the hardest part in the beginning–the missing out. Adjusting to a new way of living my day-to-day.
But as time has ticked by, reality has shifted to a different perspective, and suddenly there are things ahead that I hadn’t thought about before when all I could see were missed events and canceled date nights.

Because there is simply so much that is unknown about this debilitating condition.

It’s easy to spend my days wondering.
What if I regress back to the state of complete dysfunction I was in before?
What will my marriage look like during longer-term flare-ups, when my husband has to support us financially and physically?

And then the even scarier, twists-your-heart-until-it’s-bruised kind of questions…

What if I can’t have children?
Will I get to be a mom one day?
What if I have children, but am too sick to be the kind of mom I want to be?

It feels like I’ve been trying for so long to figure out how to live this new kind of life, and I still feel like I’ve only just begun to figure out the routines and rhythms necessary to function at my best.

But then again, doesn’t it seem like that is the rhythm of life? That the moment we think we’ve found reassuring restfulness in navigating less-than-ideal circumstances is the exact moment we’re thrown off beat all over again?

But I realized something as I looked back at the weeks leading up to my hospitalization from last year.
I asked God to make me want to live.
And I’ve never wanted to live more.
My prayer did not go unanswered.
This chronic illness–it’s not a punishment or a curse.
It saved me from myself. It has forced me into humility as I have had to accept new limitations–physically and mentally. It has instilled in me compassion and gratitude that I wouldn’t have without it.

This story doesn’t have an ending yet. I don’t know where it’s going. Truth be told, the past few weeks have been wearisome as I’ve battled one of the worst flare-ups I’ve had this year. But it has forced me to trust the Lord with my family’s future. He has walked with me through the fire, through deep waters.

Sometimes, I find myself wanting Jesus to be my telescope instead of my compass. He promises to guide me, direct me, stay with me as I walk through every valley, and that’s fine and everything, but I just want to scan the horizon so that I can know where I’m headed and–more importantly–what’s headed towards me.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you”

-Isaiah 26:3

A mind stayed on Him is a mind steadied, a soul stilled.
His Word–His promises–guide me like a compass through every minute of uncertainty, of pain, of disappointment, of overwhelm.
I have found that even in the most unsteady of circumstances, what remains at the end of the day is the truth that He is always faithful.

Faithful to always provide me with the grace and strength, moment-to-moment. Even when I feel the debilitating pain seep into my bones, stretching its way through my muscles and joints. Even when I do all the things I am supposed to do–take the medications, follow the right nutrition and exercise plan…

I have checked off all the items on that bullet-point list for as many days as humanly possible for over a year now, and still, there are days when I can’t even get out of bed.

Even in my best attempts, I cannot escape a broken world, where bodies ache and break, and hearts are bruised by gut-punch “what-ifs,” and questions that knot up my stomach in the middle of the night. Coming to terms with that has been anything but easy.

I can often be found chasing perspective.
I will unravel myself until I can find purpose in my pain.
But sometimes… pain simply is.
And the story–the song–of my pain does not need to be put into poetic words for it to still matter, for it to have purpose, for God to be good. And I, in my pain, do not need to be a poet to matter, to have purpose, and for God to still be good.

Sometimes, the only perspective to be found is the kind found on our knees, wounded and bleeding hands wrapped around a bitter cup of suffering, right next to our Savior, The One who knows, more than anything, the bitter taste of sorrow. Sometimes, all I have to say to Jesus is that I’m tired. I’m in pain. I’m overwhelmed. I’m confused. And He listens, just as His Father listened to Him, and He weeps with me, for me; He folds His scarred hands over mine.
I want to cling to the fringe of His garment; lie in the healing power of His shadow, and beg Him to remove the pain. And I do.
But still, the cup remains.
Yet, so does my Savior.
No matter how dark the darkness gets, no matter the clouds that roll in, and no matter how deep the valley gets, still He remains firmly by my side. Not once abandoning me in my despair.

You see, I’m no longer waiting to be healed.
That isn’t to say I don’t pray to be healed, or ask daily that God strengthen my body and help it to function; to give me the energy I need for the day; to give me the grace I need to handle the pain. I do.
And I believe He does.
He gives me good days–sometimes good weeks, good months. And maybe, yes, maybe, one day I will wake up and realize my body has indeed been healed.

But it is no longer something I’m waiting on so that I can begin living.
I don’t know if this is something God will take from me this side of Heaven.
But I do know that His power is made perfect in my weakness, and in my weakness is where I find strength.

I wanted to want to live.
Now I do.

And through my chronic illness–through my disability–I have the unique opportunity to empathize and encourage those in trials.

My hope is not in a change in circumstance, it does not rest on an ending I am satisfied with.

My hope–true Hope–lies within knowing and believing that His promises are true, and that they will be fulfilled. Because it is only through Him that there is any satisfaction to be found.

I don’t know what you’re waiting on. I don’t know the limitations you face, be it a physical disability, struggles with mental health, financial stress, a broken heart, or simply a worn-out soul searching for a bit of peace. I don’t know what kind of ending you’re hoping for or what kind of “I-never-wanted-this” story you’re living.

Your hope can be found today, not in what you wish would happen, but in what He wills and promises to fulfill.

There is much to be told of this story God has been writing. I’ve avoided writing it because I had hoped for so long that the trajectory of the plot would shift a little. But I think I can write about it now because I think the humility of my disability has enabled me to see a life beyond getting the ending I wanted and instead rejoicing in the present, and in the gifts He has given me now.

Like wildflowers, I collect each blooming blessing and tuck them between the bricks of the wall I once saw as a prison, but now see as a canvas upon which buckets and buckets of grace can be poured out, turning it into a mosaic of unexpected miracles.

My gaze has shifted from the horizon to The Son.
It’s not about the healing anymore.
It’s about knowing the Healer.
Pain colliding with Peace;
hurt with Hope;
loss with Light;
all tied up with grace that always,
at the end of every broken, defeating day, sustains me.

Slowly, steadily, no matter the condition of my body, I find a soul made well.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way;
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, You have taught me to say:
‘it is well, it is well with my soul.'”

Anna Ferrill

Now & Not Yet: The Hope of Holy Saturday

The now:

Holy Saturday. 
Finality hangs in the air like a heavy fog. 
There is a tinge of wonder, perhaps even doubt. 

Will He keep His promise? 

Jesus, wholly man and wholly God–holy man and Holy God–gave Himself up for the whole of our sins. To fill in the hole that had left us aching and breaking and sinking deeper and deeper into darkness. 
He entered the grave meant for us that we—the broken—might be put together. 
That our wounds might be bound up—all the parts of us that were never meant to be broken before sin broke in to the Garden of Eden. 

Oh, the ache that must have spread so rapidly across the face of the earth in that moment. The shame, the hatred, the pain that must have overwhelmed an otherwise perfect creation. The ache that must have filled the Father’s heart to watch His creation fracture, to watch sin turn it sickly, and to know the price that would have to be paid in order to bring His children back to Him. 

All it took was one lie and one, split second of doubt. The enemy poked a single hole in the promise of God, and that tiny hole, that seemingly small, not-too-big-a-deal moment when Eve took God’s words and let a pinprick of doubt in, tore the togetherness between God and man. A single hole cracked the foundations of the world and left a gaping, festering wound in its place. And those whose souls were to follow in the footsteps of the fall would seemingly forever labor to fill the void that resulted from that pinprick of doubt. 

But then, Jesus. 
The promise fulfilled. 

And in another garden, He laid bare His soul to His Father–knowing the agony that awaited Him, the crushing weight that would come with taking on the sins of God’s people. 
And then all that happened in-between. 
A prayer. 
Lord, take this cup.
This cup of aching, bitter, sorrowful death. 
A beating. 
The heart-stopping, splintering clang of hammer against nail against skin against wood. 

I imagine Holy Saturday didn’t feel very holy. I’m sure it felt like the world was out of orbit and everything was going wrong, falling apart, dying. 
And I imagine there was numbness. 
Disbelief that He could truly be gone; disbelief that He’d truly come back. After all: there He laid, body wrapped, stone secured. Broken and beaten and dead. 
Is there anything more final than death?

I think that we spend a lot of time in the now and not yet. What lies around us in the now is dead, gone, hopeless. And though we may believe in deliverance, the resurrection to come, it can be hard to shake the heaviness of the here and now. 

Holy Saturday gives us hope that though our now is filled with mourning and grief, there is hope to cling to in the not yet. In the almost–the soon to come. 
Because Sunday is coming. 
Resurrection is coming. 
Jesus is coming.

No matter the hurt, the hole, the broken body, the broken heart–no matter the now, we know that He is faithful to fulfill His promises. 
We know this because He came back.

I watch the clock tick past midnight. 
It’s Sunday.

The woe of Holy Saturday would soon fade as the Light of the world broke through what should have been final. It doesn’t matter the doubt or the sorrow felt the night before because what was once not yet is now here: every promise of God has found its yes in Him. 
To death our sins were placed. 
New life in us through grace. 
He kept His promise.

To the heart that is heavy with grief, the one burdened with shame, the soul weary of the unrelenting brokenness of this world: there is no tomb He cannot break. There is no dead soul He cannot raise. 
The now may be agonizing and painful, and the not yet may feel so very far away. And sometimes that space in between feels like holding your breath till your lungs give out. Yet we have hope. 
Sunday is here. 
Easter is dawning. 
The stone has rolled away, and the living has left where only the dead should be. 

He is risen. 
He is alive. 
And that changes everything.

A Broken Hallelujah

It’s “Joy” week in the season of Advent. 
There’s a cognitive dissonance there, right? 
The world doesn’t feel very joyful. 
It hasn’t been in a long time.  
Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but pain doesn’t cease to be pain just because we drape it in lights and bows. 
I can deck the long, dark hallways that hold the memories and painful moments of years past with as many decorations as I’d like, but I’d still know the harsh underbelly of it all. 

“…it’s like the world inhaled when He left, and since then we haven’t exhaled. We’re all holding our breath with burning lungs and we won’t be able to release this agonizing breath until we’re home.”

The Christmas season is one of anticipation, of expectation. 
But for the past 3 years, we’ve lived in constant anticipation of disaster. Our brains now programmed to study the horizon to catch the first glimpse of tragedy before it strikes.
We’re all bracing because we’ve been caught off guard by the harsh reality of the past two years too many times. We would rather live in apathetic acceptance that everything will go wrong than risk feeling a joy that might be taken from us. 

So, Christmas feels a little broken this year. 
It feels a bit heavier. The loss and isolation we’ve endured cannot be soothed with lights and wrapping paper. I live for simple joys. I love Christmas lights and decorations. They have never ceased to make me smile. But even still, I see the pain of those around me–the people who have lost, who are spending Christmas without a loved one, who are suffering through illness (physical or mental)–and I know that those simple joys, while comforting in the moment, are not the cure-all for the deeply rooted pain caused by existing in this broken world.

I would wrap lights around every scar if I thought the warm glow would soften the sharp edges. But it doesn’t. If anything, it magnifies them. Perhaps that is why the supposed “happiest time of the year” can also be the hardest. Joy often magnifies pain. We are surrounded by joys-to-the-world and it beckons the question of whether we honestly believe that. We carry our pain every day, but it is when contrasted with joy that we feel the weight even more. 

But perhaps that is the point. Jesus didn’t come for the one who has it all together. He came for those broken, for those weighed down, for those dragging around that ball-and-chain of burdens. He came to offer grace and break open our cells. He was the joy that came to the world. He still is.

But it’s like the world inhaled when He left, and since then we haven’t exhaled. We’re all holding our breath with burning lungs and we won’t be able to release this agonizing breath until we’re home.

It’s okay to struggle with joy right now. Joy isn’t dependent on us, on our circumstances or emotions. Joy rests fully in Him, joy is fulfilled in Him, and His joy is enough for even the deepest of canyons within our hearts. The living embodiment of joy—the person of Joy—came and walked the earth. He is the balm that soothes our wounds and heals our souls. He is the song that lingers over us in our own silent nights. 
He is the exhale we’ve all been waiting for. 
And He’s coming back. 

All I have this season is a broken hallelujah. 
A quiet thank you in the car, on the way home from spending time with people who light up my heart. 
A silent walk in an empty field, knowing He knows my heart when I’m too tired to put into words the ache of my soul. 
I know He sees and hears, even when I don’t speak.
Though I wish with all my might that I could offer a praise worthy of all He has given me, all I have is the stillness of my soul. 
I’ll raise my hands as high as I can, outstretching them towards the sky to point back to Him. Because all I have is a broken hallelujah. A cracked mosaic of prayers and praises, of pain and heartbreak, all lifted high to Him. 

I’ll hold on to the hope He brought that night when He broke through the silence, and I’ll trust Him to break it again. 


*This is a reposted piece from December 2021 and may be edited/updated*

Thanksgiving for the Weary Soul

This time of year has been one filled with tension for several years now. From 2019-2021, I was sick in one way or another and unable to eat more than a few bites.
It took me a year to recover from my MALS surgery–so I spent that Thanksgiving in pain as well.

I guess in my mind, I always kept saying, “Next year.”
Next year. Next year, everything will be okay, and the holidays will be what they were when I was a child–full of wonderment.

Last year, the day after Thanksgiving, began a long downward spiral in my mental health that would lead to circumstances I’m still wrapping my head around.
But that story is for another time.

I think that deep down, we’re all trying to find that level of simple wonderment we had as kids. Back when all it took was family and friends, decorations, and helping Grandma make chocolate pies to bring joy to the surface. The excitement of togetherness.

Thanksgiving doesn’t always come easily to the heart heavy with grief or the soul battling weariness. For so many I know, this is a season of grieving, a season of recalculating their way of life, a season of struggle, of broken relationships, and of loss.

Sometimes–maybe oftentimes–it’s hard to give thanks.

Sometimes, giving thanks in the midst of sorrow feels like pouring from an empty cup. When your eyes are sore from long nights, your body aching, your soul breaking, heart crushed into a million pieces–it’s easy to feel too emptied out to look for over-running cups.

It’s a lot easier to just go through the motions. To play the part, be whoever it is we need to be for the holiday named Thanksgiving and move along into the next celebratory season.

But to take our weary hands and raise them in praise? To turn our tear-stained faces to heaven in song? To look beyond the noun that is Thanksgiving and towards the action of giving thanks? That is a battle hard fought. Gratitude can feel fake, maybe even forced.

But the truth is that gratitude is healing for the heartbroken.
To be a person of gratitude—a person who seeks to praise God for the big and small—is not to ignore or minimize the pain we may be facing. Pain remains painful, and sorrow remains sorrowful. But the heart that gives thanks is one that participates in an intentional act to live a life of joy amid trials. 

But oh, how difficult it can be to pull up those blooming blessings without yanking up weeds of bitterness along with them.
The road to healing may be one containing detour after detour, loss after loss, let down after let down. But it is not one that is void of grace; it is not a road walked alone or without aid.

When your heart is broken from grief or your spirit heavy with uncertainty, it can feel impossible to be thankful. We can so easily fall into a spiral of “if only.” But a life of gratitude surpasses “if only,” and seeks to exist in the space of “even then.” Our hearts may think that if only we had that one thing, we could be happy. However, thanksgiving trusts that even if our dreams are withheld, even then He is good. Even then He is faithful. Even then we can be thankful.

Where our minds naturally look to what lies ahead, gratitude embraces what is and seeks to praise Him in whatever season that may be. 

This year, Thanksgiving, once again, looks drastically different for me. I’m still battling my health in many ways, but in so many more ways I’ve never had so much to be thankful for.

Even still, it takes little to send me into a spiral of “if only.” It is difficult to remember, and really, that’s what thanksgiving–what gratitude–all comes back to: remembrance.

Remember the One who calls us Beloved. 

Remember all the gifts He has given. 

Take hold of your heart, and remind it of every gift, every blessing, every moment of sustaining grace. For though we cannot change the broken roads that lay behind or the ones that stretch ahead, we can preach thanksgiving to our souls.
Though we cannot see the purpose in every pain, we can see our God, who does nothing without intention. Despite how dark the night appears, there is always a break of dawn.
No matter the grief, there is always grace to be found.
Even on the days when your weariness feels especially overwhelming, still, His lovingkindness is there to surround you with shouts of deliverance.

So, we can push onward, despite our brokenness, knowing it is Jesus that holds us together. Never has there been a moment when He has not held us within His embrace; never have we walked alone. 

There are good gifts from God everywhere. 

There is joy to be found when we praise our God for all the beautiful things He has given to us. It may not change our situation, but it changes our perspective. We cannot mold life to fit what we think makes us happy, but we can give our hearts to the Potter who can mold us into joyful beings that seek to bring Him glory no matter where we are. 

To have a heart of thanksgiving is to live differently from the rest of the world. To sing in the valley and praise in the storm is to go against human nature. But we have reason to sing; we have reason to praise. We know that our Savior is worthy of all honor and praise.

We know that joy comes with the morning because we know the One who beckons the morning to come. 

In knowing our Savior and in trusting in His goodness, we can lift our hands in thanksgiving for all that He’s done and all He will do.

The pen that puts to paper the goodness of its God is the sword with which we fight the battle against bitterness. 

Our circumstances in life will constantly shift and the pain of this world will persist, but His love for us never wavers. We can find rest in Jesus, who never changes, and whose love never ceases to reach beyond our weariness. And no matter how hard we may find it to reach our exhausted arms out to Him, He has never once let us go, and He never will.

There is thanksgiving for the soul that is weary.
There is restoration of faith in a season of uncertainty.
There is simple, child-like wonderment to be found, even still.
I’m learning that by remembering all that He has done–by putting to paper the ways He has proven to make a way when there didn’t seem to be one–I can better see how He is bending what was painful into perspective that beckons praise.

I build this altar with broken fingers:
I stitch the tattered seams of my heart by tracing tracks of grace that tether
together pain and praise;
I find perspective in my pain when I draw near
to the One who pours out new mercies every morning;
and remembrance acts as a raft, a shelter, a steady hand
that guides my heart to where it needs to be to find healing,
to find peace,
to find thanksgiving–to find wonderment–for my weary soul.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

-Anna Cosper

What it Really Means to Have Courage

In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4. 
Chest rising like a barely-whispered prayer to the sky. 
Breathe in, 2, 3, 4, and out, 2, 3, 4. 
I try to take into account my body and ground myself, but my body is the very thing keeping me from being grounded. 

My body is a catatonic air balloon that pulls my soul up, up, up into the atmosphere. One arm has a blood pressure cuff and the other an IV. The familiar—albeit uncomfortable—hospital blanket is scrunched up in a pile at the foot of my bed because seizures make my body feel like it’s on fire. 

I tell myself over and over again to breathe. 
My head and stomach lurch as the world around me spins out—dimensions shift and the very ground upon which I wish I could walk loses integrity and I find myself falling, falling, down, down, down. 
I force air into my lungs, but it only makes the fire inside grow hotter and it seems there is nothing I do to fix a problem that doesn’t create another problem. 

The spinning in my head slows and I see the people surrounding my bedside. To my right, my pastor grips my hand—or rather, I grip his—holding on for dear life, a steadying force in this raging wildfire. 
I look into his eyes, then the eyes of my friend, and finally the eyes of my mother. Then the world goes dark. 

Since that hospital stay, I’ve been grappling for courage. 
Whatever that looks like. 

When I think of courage, my mind drifts to knights in moon-silver armor, triumphing over their enemies, running towards that which most people run from to save someone.

I wish I could do that. 

There is no doubt in the knights’ courage as they run toward dragons and dreadful castles guarded by even more dreadful monsters. But I think that in times of suffering, it is also an act of courage to be the one waiting in said dreadful castle guarded by dreadful monsters—watching from a tower as your only hope for salvation plunges into the thick of danger, hoping and praying they make it through to the other side alive (or without giving up and turning back altogether). 

It takes great strength to be weak. 

It takes a certain kind of bruised and broken to break open one’s soul and pour out its contents in raw vulnerability. To wait when we want to run. 

I don’t like waiting. 
I don’t like watching. 
I don’t like being trapped and dependent on someone—something—else to rescue me. 
In so many ways it would be easier to don myself in armor and take up my own fight. But I can’t. My head cannot lift itself off this pillow, let alone my arms lift a sword. My legs cannot withstand the weight of my body, let alone carry me through to the other side. The reality sets in like a heavy rock in my stomach. 

I cannot save myself. 

And then I think I catch a glinting glimpse of understanding across this cracked and crooked soul. 
Have courage, Dear Heart. 
Have courage and let go. 
Have courage and ask for help. 
Have courage and wait. 

Gather courage as one gathers wildflowers—not stopping to count the petals or measure the length of each stem, but a joyful, bountiful, bringing in of beauty with no regard for what beauty is. I gather these wildflowers—this courage—and clutch these fistfuls of bravery and strength to my chest. I breathe in the scent of soul-healing hope… and I wait. 

Where are you seeking courage? 
Perhaps it is to be found in an unlikely place. 
Maybe, gathering courage looks a lot like giving up. 
But isn’t that the way of Jesus? To go against what is typical, predictable, or expected?

Courage isn’t always the crescendo to the grand symphony of our lives. It does not always lead us to higher places or leave us with tales of victory. 
Sometimes, courage is letting your Love untie your sneakers when your shaking hands cannot.
Sometimes, courage is admitting you need help, that you’re drowning and you need a life preserver. When you need someone to bare this burden alongside you. 
Sometimes, courage is realizing that being dependent instead of independent is actually the harder of the two. 

Sometimes, courage comes softly. 
Not like the rise and catastrophic fall of a wave. 
But the gentle, nudging laps of water that come in after a storm. 

Sometimes courage is found at the bottom of the well we call endurance. 

After we’ve extrapolated all our energy trying to save ourselves because we’re too scared to leave such a task in the hands of someone else, we find that it is then that courage is required. 
Fighting battles is scary. 

Letting someone else fight your battle for you is terrifying.

It requires a letting go of control. 

Over and over again, I will find that I am brought to a place of inevitable surrender. 

No matter how many times I strategize and plot my way to win, I am reminded that it is on my knees—head bowed, hands raised—that I find my seas parted, my mountains moved, my goliaths slain, my tomb’s stone rolled away.

One of these days, I’ll stop looking for courage and let courage come forth in whatever form He wills it to. Because really, that’s always how courage works. It never comes in the way you expect. It comes softly. Slowly. Step-by-step. The journey to slay the dragon begins with the single act of picking up your sword. 

Laying in an ICU bed and fighting for life for 7 days taught me a lot about courage—and it isn’t at all what I envisioned. 
That was one of the scariest moments of my life, yet it was one completely change my mindset on what it really means to have courage. That courage would be desperately needed as I would face months of learning to manage a chronic illness following that hospital stay. I would find that courage was often choosing to be soft and gentle in a world that told me I had every right to be angry and bitter.  

Where do you need courage today?

Is it in a relationship? In your finances? Facing a diagnosis that has rocked you to your core? Maybe the courage you need for those things isn’t what you think it is. Maybe it is stillness, softness, a quieting of your soul.
Maybe it is asking for help when you would rather hide away. 

We all need courage to face the world around us, it just might require letting go of what we think courage is and taking up the ways He leads us down.

We win the battles ahead when we surrender our here and now to the only One who can ever, truly save us. 


Dear Me: Lines to the Person I Want To Be

Be Still.

In every season of life, you will find that your world ebbs and flows with chaos. And in your day-to-day–the wax and wane, the same old same–you will find yourself lost in the abyss of “one day.” 
So be still. For in your stillness you’ll find soul-rest, and that is where you will find your peace. 

Forever be the kind of person who wakes up at the crack of dawn just so you can watch the glorious rays of morning joy climb up over the horizon.

His world is far too glorious–His creation far too magnificent–for you to lose even an ounce of wonderment. 

Never forget the you that was alone.

Never forget how, even in your aloneness, you were found by Him–found in Him. When you find yourself feeling lonely, remember the you that was alone and still known, lonely and still loved, isolated but still seen, wandering but still chosen. Then, be to someone else the kind of person you wish others were to you. Be the one that chases down the lonely and draws them into a world of joy and community.

Chase the threads of grace throughout your life.

Never stop connecting the dots to the numerous ways He has led you to the greatest of gifts. Be awed at the tapestry He weaves in your life, even from spools of pain and sorrow–He will turn it to everlasting, vibrant joy.  

Count your gifts. 

Just as gratitude has acted as a life-preserver in the past, it will continue to be so for the rest of your days. It will be what points you back to Him and all His goodness, over and over again. In bountiful harvest or devasting famine, look to the skies, find every bit of heaven-fallen manna, and turn back every blessing as praise to Him. 

Be a praying person. 

Keep carrying around that worn leather journal everywhere you go, and keep carrying on that never-ending conversation with Jesus, spilled out in black ink across brown pages. Let your heart be carried by the One who creates a beautiful masterpiece from the broken mosaic of prayers you cling to. 

Keep finding your people. 

Even the ones you’ve already found. Keeping finding them. Keep searching their hearts, knowing their souls, pushing through all the painful seasons with them. Never stop finding your people. Be the one who shows up with a meal, be the one who shows up ready to watch the kids, or clean the house, or give a sweet gift, or write a kind note to let someone know that they are seen and they are loved. 

Celebrate mediocrity. 

Keep playing piano, even though you can’t read sheet music and only know a handful of chords. Your Father will never–not ever–tire of hearing those chords played for Him. 
You are so much more than the product you can produce. 
All He wants is your heart. 
So it’s okay if you are simply mediocre. 
If the only dessert you ever learn to make is the no-bake cookies you’ve made since you were 9, then make them with every ounce of love in your being. 
If you only kinda-sorta know how to strum out a broken tune on that old ukulele, then do so with radiant joy. 
Dance at every wedding, even if it’s only ever a combination of awkward, offbeat jumping set to music. Don’t set aside the joy of this life because you aren’t perfect at something. 

Know that you are becoming exactly what He has purposed you to become. So stop worrying about becoming and simply be. 

You don’t have to force it. You can pursue it–the way of The Way Himself–but you don’t have to worry yourself about the end of the story because no matter what comes, the end is always good because the end is always Him. No matter how many days you fall short, no matter how many times you fall flat, no matter how many times you feel like you’re failing and falling in every aspect of this life, know that He still sees you, and He still chooses you. And because of that truth, you can breathe. 

In and out 
Up and down. 
Over and over again. 

Exhale the weight of this world and inhale His lovingkindness and know this:
the only you that you need to be is the you that is found in Him. 


Finding Jesus When You’ve Been Hurt by the Church

It shouldn’t be that the words “hurt” and “church” are entangled within the same sentence, especially not with a direct correlation.

There is a kind of pain that impresses into your soul–into the fissures of your being–when you are hurt by a church. When the supposed hands of Christ are the same ones that strike you down, betray, and take advantage of you… that is a hurt that hurts to the whole of who you are.

This hurt creates a hole in your wholeness,
and this holy space now makes you wholly break,
and what on God’s green, scorched,
broken earth are you to do with

I’ve been hurt by a church–more than one, actually. And I know many others who have been as well. I’ve seen the wreckage and waded through the debris left in the wake of a church broken.
I’ve traced with my fingers the jagged scars resulting from this to-your-core kind of hurt.

I became so familiar with fire-and-brimstone that the gentle touch of Jesus made me wince.
I recoiled at His mercy; I grimaced at His love. I shunned redemption and refused His grace because it went against everything I thought I knew. I was used to Jesus flipping tables, but not nearly as familiar with the gentle and lowly Savior who came to trace these jagged scars with a healing touch that reaches to the depth of my soul. I was used to a weaponized gospel, but not with the Gospel of Christ.

I had to learn how to be loved by Jesus. I had to learn how to be beloved by Jesus.

It is hard to feel beloved by Jesus when you do not feel beloved by His people.

So what do you do? What do you do when you’ve been hurt by a church and those within it?
You look for Jesus.

The lies and manipulation I had seen were so twisted up and entangled with the goodness of God that it became hard to differentiate. It has taken time to sift through the rubble of what was to find what still remains. It has been a slow process to separate the actions of man from the truth of Jesus. But as I did, as I asked more and more questions, and prayed more, the same phrase kept coming up:
That’s not who I am.

When I struggled to accept grace and was overwhelmed with guilt, fear, and shame, He reminded me, “That’s not who I am.”
And once I began to identify who He wasn’t, I began to replace it with who He is. He is forgiving; He is gracious, with a love that wraps around our deepest failures and covers them under His righteousness. He is kind, with a gentle spirit, not quick to anger, but patiently walking with me through this journey to healing. Over and over again, He reminds me who He is and who I am, and who I am within the love of the Great I AM.

He relentlessly pursues me, covering me in grace, removing the shame that seems shackled to my feet. Because that is who He is. He is a King who kneels down to unbind and wash the feet of the children He loves.

I don’t fully understand why I pushed onward to find a community that was genuine and loving. I give that credit to God. He put the right people in my life at the right time, and helped my broken heart to trust even when I didn’t want to.
Perhaps it is because a part of me, though still aching from wounds not yet healed, believed there had to be something more. It wasn’t that I necessarily had faith in churches or in people, but I did have faith in Jesus–albeit a faith that felt fragile. I had faith that the God that designed the patterns of my palms, who made my eyes the darkest shade of blue, who shaped my heart to be one that looks for the light in every dark place was indeed a good God. The Savior who calls me by name, He is not one that condones abusive systems. The churches that stand to protect abusers of any kind are not reflections of Him.

Jesus is not an abuser.
He has never taken advantage of me.
He has never tricked me.
He has never shunned me.
He has never shamed me.
He has always loved me.

Church hurt is one that penetrates to the core of one’s being.
But His grace and lovingkindness reaches so far beyond that hurt.
He knows every crack and crevice that lines our souls. He is a God who cracks seas in two to reach you. He is the Father that stands out on the well-worn porch, scanning the horizon for His child, waiting for the shadow of your staggering figure to peak over the edge of the sky so that He can run to you. He runs to us, gathering us up in His arms, clothing us in righteousness, welcoming us in celebration.

I have found that the path to healing a heart that has been broken by a church looks different for everyone. The levels of damage vary in degree of severity. But I have also seen a kind of restoration I hadn’t before.
Restoration–rebuilding–always comes after destruction. There is a tearing down to be had before rebuilding takes place.

But our God is a God known for turning ashes to beauty, for raising up temples once fallen, and for taking the broken and bringing from it new life and light.

So, to the one who is hurting–still nursing gaping wounds and struggling to wash the taste of bitterness from their mouth–the one who feels like their sacred space was burned to the ground: our God is a God of restoration and resurrection. He beckons the weary and heavy laden to come into His rest. He has a habit of bringing life from death. It is okay if you don’t have it all figured out, if you’re still struggling with anger and hurt; it is a journey that varies in length for each individual. But it is not a journey without purpose; it is not a journey void of grace.

We can hand Him our hurt and all our uncertainty; we draw in to Him and give Him our broken hearts. We can hand over our dusty and faded hopes, no matter how long they have been shoved away.

He is rebuilding what was torn down.
He is reshaping what was skewed.
He is reestablishing my trust in Him and others.
He is redeeming what was lost.
And every broken piece finds its place in the One who binds up the brokenhearted.

I write with hands that bear the scars of words and actions that have forever impacted me. I have carried the weight of it for so long. It taints everything I do. Day after day, I just keep peeling back the layers. I think that surely I’ll come to the end of it, but on and on the road stretches with twists and turns and unexpected repercussions.

Someone I know who went through similar experiences asked me recently, “Do you think it ever ends?”
I don’t think so.
After all, there was trust that was broken.
When you’ve spent years feeling as though you–all of your being, all of your brokenness, all of your struggle–is too much, too messy, too unlovable, it leaves wounds that take many nights to heal.

2 years out and I still find myself panicking, thinking that this fall, this setback, this struggle is going to be the thing that finally makes the ones I love leave me. Like the edges of my pain are too sharp and no one wants to get cut. Perhaps over time that will fade. It ebbs and flows, this pain. I can go months feeling the tangible presence of grace in my life only to find myself dragged back down into a pit of self-doubt and self-destruction.

So, I don’t know if it ends, this hurt in my heart, the hurt in your heart.
Maybe it eventually dulls. Maybe the waves subside into gentler, nudging streams that lap against the shorelines instead of crashing down in destruction. And I don’t think that takes a way from the magnitude of His grace. Every step forward, taken in faith, brings us closer to Him–and in that there is joy.

There have been days when it felt like I would never really find Jesus, much less who I am in Him. Like my redemption, my renewal, and my restoration remain still in that tomb. Like maybe my chance for peace and healing has passed–the damage too great, the pain too deep.

But really, it isn’t about finding Jesus, but realizing that Jesus finds us.
We are found, Beloved.

It does not rest solely upon our shoulders to fumble our way out of darkness because He comes into the darkness. He wades through this debris, tearing down strongholds to reach His child.
So breathe.
It’s a process, this journey of rebuilding and restoring and finding your way through the mess of church hurt.
But there is redemption for all the pain endured.
So for today, you can rest.
Rest in knowing that He has found you, that you are held within His grasp, and the Savior of your soul never lets go.


Clinging to the Cross

When I open my eyes I see blurry, fluorescent lights above me. My room is quiet and cold.

I sit up and look around, panic building in my chest.

I don’t know where I am.

I don’t know why I’m here.

And I don’t know where anyone I know is.

I’m hooked to machines and I begin frantically yanking at chords, including the IV in my left arm. A nurse enters the room just as I stand up out of bed and before I can ask “What’s happening?” she’s catching me mid-fall and laying me on the bed. She calls in another nurse who works to clean the blood from my arm and establish a new IV. Just as I go into another non-epileptic seizure, they get the IV in and pump the medication that stops the searing tremors.

Everything is a blur as I lose consciousness only to be jolted back to the racing heartbeat, racing thoughts, and racing world around me.

My head and heart are swimming and brimming with wonders.
God, do you see me in all this? 
You are the words to a song I can’t remember. 
The answer to a question I keep forgetting to ask. 
You are the whisper in the wind I can’t quite catch. 
I keep grabbing for you. Are you grabbing for me?
Can you yank me back from this edge?

I would settle for the fringe of Your garment to heal this hurt. I would settle for curling these shaking, crooked fingers around the hem of who You are, letting Your shadow fall over me in healing grace.
Because it was already getting darker; my heart was breaking long before I entered that hospital. I’d been barely surviving–now my body seemed to be failing me, again.

Sometimes, I get tired of surviving.
Don’t we all?
It seems my body and mind have been in survival mode for as long as I can remember. All of this, every moment, building and building until I feel I must break. If I’m not fighting a war in my body, then I’m fighting one in my mind.

Oh Lord, I’m tired.
I just want to rest. I don’t want to fight anymore.

And He curls me up in His arms.
He hasn’t given me a clear-cut explanation for all my pain; He hasn’t laid out a blueprint of my life, pointed to the foundations of my agony, and said “This, my child, is what I’m building.”

And I want Him to.
But blueprints and plans and explanations offer little solace in the middle of a storm. Telling me why I am in pain does little to console the pain within me. So instead, I let Him gather me up because while I want to know why, He wants to know me. When I want direction, He wants to direct my heart back to Him.

When morning breaks into dawn after another long night in ICU, dragging up mercies and fresh starts, my eyes open and my mind is flooded with all that I face. My hair is a mess and my face swollen, and my eyes are red and blurry and looked glazed over. My arms are bruised from IVs and my body aches from the days of what feels like a waking nightmare.

Somewhere in that spiral, sleep came to visit, came to put me out of my misery, and grant me rest. 

When I look out the window of my hospital room, I see the evidence of His goodness. His grace manifested in golden rays that fall across my bed. 
Can I look, though, at the night before and see him?

I think that we think we are supposed to know. 
I think that I think that I am supposed to know. 
But maybe it’s okay to wake up after a long night and say, “God, it got so dark, I got so scared, and I spiraled, and I couldn’t see You. I see You now, I feel You now like the sun on my face. I know You were there, I know You are here, so give me the strength and the grace to rest in that.” 

It is only the next day when I find the picture my mother took of me as I rested. Chin tucked away in the soft, pink blanket gifted by a dearest friend, fingers clinging to my small, wooden cross.

How simple a symbol, yet how profound. That in our darkest moments, it is to the cross we cling. In our pain, we cling to the One who took on all pain for us.

All valleys of death must eventually meet their death at the foot of the cross, where all the pain and suffering of this fallen world is crucified and resurrected–redeemed.

It was late when I received the picture from my pastor of the cross in our church. Holy Saturday would soon wane into Easter morning, and they had faithfully prepared the baptistry.
It stole my breath and stopped my lungs for a moment. In the midst of rhythmic beeping and the hum of monitors, in the middle of my overwhelm, there was a break in the storm. It felt like a hand in the dark, reaching out to me in this Gethsemane, and lifting my chin to see that I wasn’t alone. That deliverance is sealed on my soul, no matter what trials I face this side of Heaven.

On Easter Sunday, I watched on video from my ICU bed as 4 people were baptized beneath that cross as I was clinging to my own.
And the image of the cross is forever burned in my mind as I am reminded that our God is a God who uses death to create life; the God whose love was displayed on splintered wood for me. And I know–I know–that it is that same God who sits beside me now. Who watches His child cling to her small, wooden cross, and takes hold of her hand as she clings to Him for healing, for hope, for life.

He takes all these valleys and builds mountaintops.
He takes all the pain and paints portraits of grace.
He takes every tainted happily-ever-after and writes epilogues of redemption to the stories that went so terribly wrong.
He tunes every dissonant chord into melodies that flow through our very veins.
I’ve seen Him do it again and again, and on the nights when it all feels like a little too much, I rest in knowing He has never once–not even for a moment–left my side.

Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
Rock of ages.
Clinging crosses.
I find myself doing just that. With nothing else to offer but a broken body and tattered soul–like a ship coming in from a storm to make port, having barely escaped the winds that sought to sink me–I cling to this cross with hands connected to tubes and wires.
It’s hard to explain the portions of grace handed down in those moments.
There are so many moments of despair.
But they pale in comparison to the grace-filled moments of peace that descend in the most desperate of times.

I don’t know what lies ahead.
None of us do.
We all have something we are facing–a change, a loss, a trial, a half-hearted hope, a whispered prayer in the dead of night that your heart longs to have answered. We all want the blueprints. We all want the map. We all want a sign with big flashing words that say, “This is the way!”
So we look to the cross and ask for answers, oftentimes forgetting that it is the very tree we look upon for salvation that holds the answer. The bloody and worn wood is a compass in our darkest nights.

At the foot of the cross, we find our despair put to death.
And beyond the cross, we find empty tombs where death went to die and Life rose again in everlasting glory.

And up and up points that cross, up towards the heavens, up towards the Father, up towards eternity. A signal fire, a lighthouse, shining in the distance, reminding us that this is not our home.
Suffering is not our destiny.
Despair is not our defeat.

What we face here on earth will one day fall away, and we will rise among the saints, our gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face. And He’ll raise us up from the ground, from the hem of His robe to which we cling, and with tender care, He’ll tend to our wounds.

No matter what comes;
no matter the winds that blow;
no matter what awaits on the other side of this Red Sea–whether promised lands of milk and honey or a wilderness with heaven-fallen manna;
no matter the scars collected along the way;
no matter the diagnosis, no matter the trial, no matter the brokenness we may face;
no matter the trials that seek to overcome us in this world, this world is overcome, and as we cling to the cross, we will find Life and Light and Love Himself–clinging to us


Holy Saturday Thoughts From the ICU

I had this whole Easter post planned out. I had the post ready to be published. I had the song ready to lead worship on Sunday. I had my dressed picked out. I was ready. I’d been praying for this service for weeks and weeks, I was so thrilled at what God would do there (I still am).
Who could have known I’d be spending Easter–my favorite holiday aside from Christmas–in the ICU?
When I went to the ER after experiencing bad side effects from a medication, I had no clue. But 6 days later, I’m still in an ICU bed, still experiencing seizure like episodes that aren’t actually seizures, every few hours, still unsure exactly what’s going on.

Putting together coherent thoughts is anything but easy at the moment. I want to be putting on my white dress and leading worship with my church that’s really more like family.
But instead, God has me here.
Once again in a hospital.
Why does God have me here? I don’t know, but I’m looking for the ways in which I can call others to Him while I am here.

I don’t really know why this is happening, after everything that has happened.

But this I do know:

The pain I feel was felt by Him as He made His way up to Calvary–where He bled and sighed and died for me. Where His holy head was wrapped in thorns and He breathed in all our exhaled scorn and He looked upon the ones that would take His life, and begged His Father, “Forgive them.” And with His dying breath He solemnly paid our debts and secured our places with Him. He ensured our final place of rest and peace for us.

This world is one of suffering.
I’ve felt that suffering to my core.
But in the midst of it all, I have felt a Savior who has never ceased to love on my behalf. He is the dawn that never stops breaking my night. He is the Father that never stops singing over me.

As I lay, flat on a hospital bed, tubes attaching me to a million moniters, my heart rate reaching nearly 300bpm, my vision and consciousness ebbing and flowing as every muscle contracts into searing pain, I’m barely aware of what’s going on, but the words play across my mind, and then my lips, in sputtered, broken praise.

“You are the voice that calms the storm inside me;
castle walls that stand around me; all this time my guardian was You. You are the light that shines in every tunnel; there in the past, You’ll be there tomorrow. All this time Your love was breaking through. It’s always been you.”

My favorite song by Phil Wickam.
And my vision blurs with streaks of the overhead lights, and I wonder why God is allowing this to happen to me again. The fear and pain is overwhelming and I find myself fumbling around in my mind for hope. The words are mumbled and the tune broken, the melody mingling with my tears as I try to reorient my mind to where I am and what is happening. And then there He is. With me. Always with me.
It’s always been Me, Beloved.
And you have never fallen beyond my reach. There is a purpose. There is a promise. And I am always with you.
Like a hand, finding mine in a sea of chaos. Like a steadying force that guides me along this way, even a way I didn’t want to go. He is the answer to all my questions, the One who comes running at my plea.

I see the rise of these waves that seem to just keep building and building, blocking the horizon. But He is there. A break in the storm. A light in the dark. Breaking meets blessing, hurting meets Healer, twisting and turning as the Healer envelops the hurt, takes on the hurt, crucifies the hurt, and resurrects what was hurt into something whole.

I don’t know where I am going, but I know with whom I go.
And I know He is the One who defeated death, who rose again, who resurrected with Himself all of His children and all of our broken hearts and bodies.

And I know that it has always been and will always be Him who sustains me.

And as strange as it sounds, I feel it coming. I don’t know what, but I feel a shifting somewhere. I know that this is going to be used for good–for glory–and I can’t wait to write it all down, one by one.

It’s still Holy Saturday.
And He is still holy.
He is holy when I am convulsing in pain.
He is holy when I’m passing out of hospital room floors.
He is holy when I’m terrified at what my body is doing.
He is holy when I wake up and don’t know where I am.
He is holy no matter what.
With every dawn and every waning moon, one truth will remain forever and always: He is holy.


Psalm 86:5-7

When Your Dreams Fall Apart

“By prayer let your requests be made known to God”

-Philippians 4:6

She’s white and made of stone. She holds her hands clasped in front of her, almost like she’s giving up something. Her head downward-bent as if in prayer. Behind her stretch out wings in all their rocky holiness. I wonder who carved her. I wonder of what she was before she was—a block of nothing turned into something. Humanity chiseled into stone. At her base is a plaque that displays Philippians 4:6, “By prayer let your requests be made known to God.”

I want to ask her, this stone-cold angel, what her requests are. She has never had to balance a dream precariously in her much-too-weak arms and lay them at the feet of the one higher than herself. Requests? I can hand those over. But dreams? The strings that tether me to who I think I am? To gently lay them down, to hand them over, to quietly whisper through delicate breaths, “Lord, please, please be careful,” seems like a difficult task.

“There is pain in giveness, an ache in surrender. To give up what we desperately long for, and hand it over to the One who longs for us.

I would stamp FRAGILE across the side of these dreams I’ve so carefully carved out if I thought it would change the outcome. But the truth of the matter is that these dreams are but clay, and I’m handing them over to a potter—The Potter—who will do what He does best: mold, shape, contour, and shift. 

A block of nothing turned into something. 

Holiness chiseled into a heart of stone. 

There is pain in giveness, an ache in surrender.
To give up what we desperately long for, and hand it over to the One who longs for us.
But He is the Giver of good gifts, the God of gifting the extraordinary, the unexpected.

I think of the gift of the cross. The splintered, stained-in-blood tree that upheld the person of Peace, of Love. I cannot think of something uglier and more broken than innocence nailed to wood.
But from it was birthed our salvation.
Splintered grace.
A mercy pierced.
Our hope came from darkness, our life from death. Our peace came from sweat-and-blood requests laid down before the Lord in the spirit of “Not my will, but Yours.”

“A center of gravity found in our own little kingdoms will eventually fall victim to its own law–it will fall every time. “

But isn’t that what He does–this great Potter?
He takes hopelessness and molds it into something glorious.

I sat in front of that angel and contemplated my blocks of nothing–my requests, my dreams–and I wondered if I was willing to lay them down to be broken down, built up, and reshaped to fit into something bigger than myself. All that I love, all that I depend on, all that I wish and hope to be and become… can I hand it over?
Can I trust that the One who used a bloody, broken, driven-through-by-nails Son to bring forth light, life, and love to take my bloody, broken heartache and use it to bring forth something greater?

I can stand on this side of a difficult season and see the way God worked. I can see how He labored to drag that morning-joy up over the horizon of my sorrow, and I rejoice in the many dawns that have shattered my darkest nights. But it’s harder to see that in the moment, as I make my way through the ruins of a self-made kingdom now fallen.

Dreams that are built in this world are dreams founded on sand.
They will crumble and fall and collapse at the slightest of winds. A center of gravity found in our own little kingdoms will eventually fall victim to its own law–it will fall every time.

Dreams become idols the moment their direction shifts from Him.
Good things become dangerous when they begin to overshadow the One who gives us good things.

“…no matter how many times we break and ache and long for other things, He will always break and ache and long for the hearts of His children. “

But when our dreams come crashing down, He is there with hammer in hand, ready to help us rebuild something founded on the One that will never fall. He gathers up our brokenness because no matter how many times we break and ache and long for other things, He will always break and ache and long for the hearts of His children.

We can hand Him our dreams in all their fragility. We can anchor our hearts in Him. Really, it is only when our hearts are tied to the One who shaped them that we are ever truly anchored. So let your requests–your hopes, dreams, whispered wishes, unspoken wantings–be made known to your Father. And trust Him to carve your heart to curve around His and carve your dreams to curve toward Him. He knows your heart and all its longings. He knows your deepest desires, the outcomes you’re desperately praying to see.

He sees you grieving the life you thought you would have, the love you thought you had earned, the peace you thought you had won.

When your dreams fall apart–when life is all wrong and you feel like you’ve been plunged into a perpetual spiral of unexpected outcomes, and it feels like everything is falling apart and out of place–know that the One who hung on a tree that you might be His is hanging on to you now.
He sees you holding what remains of your heart and hope.

He molds and shapes our hearts–He carves out of stone this holiness undeserved. And we rise on our own, trying to make our way in our own way, stumbling and falling over the piles of heartache–and we fall from our way into The Way, who gathers our heartache and soothes our burning souls.

Sometimes, when it feels like our dreams–our lives–are falling apart, they are really falling into place.

There is a falling apart that leads to a falling in–falling in love with the One who knows even the hidden parts of you and calls you Beloved.
The One who holds you and your heart-carved dreams through every break and detour of plans. The One who holds together when everything else falls apart.
He knows, He sees, and He’s here, even when your dreams fall apart.


The Space In between

This time of year always brings about a sort of reflective period for me. It was on this day two years ago, with 2019 only barely dawning on the horizon, that I walked into Children’s Hospital for what was supposed to be a one night stay but ended up lasting 9. I would battle doctors who didn’t believe me and tried to make me admit to an eating disorder, with a plethora of painful, traumatic medical procedures, and the absolute misery of refeeding syndrome.

But there was a space in between, when standing at the precipice of despair, begging God to take this cup–take this cup and pour out the aching journey it is brimming with, because it is not one I can bear–when He stilled my soul.
My throat was too sore and swollen from the tube that stretched down into my intestines to dare to verbalize a prayer, so I just sat. Sat in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, tracing with my eyes the skyline of buildings that stretched up to scrape the darkened sky. I sat with arms wrapped around myself, trying not to fixate on the way my ribs were protruding from underneath my gown, or the way–if I wrapped. my arms tightly enough around–I could count each and every vertebrae.

I was living in a state of sustaining grace, while also balancing the ever-growing realization that I just might not get better. This cup might not be passed from me. This just might be my journey of ache to walk, and I wasn’t entirely sure how long I could do it. It was a sobering reality, but it was my reality…

“For though we are facing a world of endless tribulation, it is a world overcome, a world overtaken, a world ever-conquered.”

But God.
That beautiful sentence that speaks to the divine intervention of grace.
The grip that locks hands with us in our dark, dark nights, refusing to let us go. He breaks through our spiraling chaos and waltzes with us in our grief. He binds up our broken hearts and downtrodden souls, covering our scars with His. But our suffering is not our destiny. For though we are facing a world of endless tribulation, it is a world overcome, a world overtaken, a world ever-conquered.

“The night, however dark, however long, is always shattered by dawn.”

Suffering has never been—nor will it ever be—our final destination as His Beloved. It always, ultimately, ends in glory. It will end in joy. The night, however dark, however long, is always shattered by dawn.
He is Dawn.
Our Dawn.
The Breaker of midnights. The Conqueror of sorrows. Hemming us in, keeping us within Himself. He takes on our pain, meets us in it, and beckons us to lean on Him for hope.

But we are hard pressed for hope. We live in a world of pain, of grief, of trauma.
We find ourselves so often pressed between trials.

A Red Sea on one side, an Egyptian army on the other. Wedged between the impossible. The agonizing space in between. But the space in between is where He happens; the space in between is an opportunity to draw near.
But far too often, our only goal is to get to the other side of that space.
Cross the sea.
Escape the lion’s den.
Defeat the giant.

And the other side of a miracle is wonderful, elating even.
But we cannot live a life of constantly looking to the other side of parted seas and fallen giants.
And our hope, our joy, cannot be found on the other side of whatever it is we’re facing.
Because not all giants fall.
Not all seas split the way we expect or lead us to where we wanted to go.
Our hope must come not from the miracle, but from the Miracle Worker.

I have found that it is in the space in between pain and healing where the Healer is found. It is in that space in between that we experience the intimacy of God. 
But our natural response is often to curl up within ourselves— 


away from others, away from Him. 

There may be giants that will not fall this side of Heaven.
There may be parted seas that lead to shorelines you weren’t expecting.
But one thing remains certain: He is God, and He is good.

He is good, right here, right now, in this space in between.
He is at work, whether we see it in a tangible way or not.

The space in between can feel agonizing. Like a breath you cannot exhale, like a jaw you can’t unclench, like a knot in your stomach that never unwinds.
Turn toward Him.
Fixate on His goodness.
He is here in this space in between.

He is the peace we are all looking for.
He is wisp of a May wind, curling around the gentle contours of your face, beckoning you to breathe in–in and out, Dear.
He is the song of your soul, the unsung hymn you carry with you throughout the day.
He is the ledge that catches you as you slip from the precipice of all your overwhelm.
He is the hand that reaches into the deepest of pits to grab hold of yours and pull you out.
He is the hum of sustaining grace that fills your ears on dark nights when all hope feels lost.
He is the guiding light of the moon, wrapping its rays around your soul to cradle you through the night.
He is the edging break of dawn, slipping past the horizon of mountains and trees, breaking past every object in its path to rest upon you in warm, restoring, joy-in-the-morning glory.

Rest assured, oh weary traveler, wandering your way across this scorched earth, that you are not ever–not for moment, not even a little–alone in the space in between.

“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.”

-Psalm 3:5


Take This Cup

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

-Luke 22:42

On a dark night in a garden, with no doubt a heaviness in the air so thick it clung to everything it touched, He sat, asking for that cup to be removed from His hands. Jesus grieved so openly, so vulnerably. He was so transparent in His request. Yet, in His asking, He emphasized “Not my will, but Yours.” 

I think of the night in the garden of Gethsemane often. I think of how He endured the worst of the worst, the greatest of agonies, for me. I think of how He prayed: honest, vulnerable, and eager to do the will of His Father. I want to be eager to do the will of my Father, to lay down my meager portion of grace-filled faith at His feet. But oh-so often His will feels impossible, and the cups He passes down seem to be overflowing with pain. It seems easier to hide away from it all. Because when I go to pray that this cup be removed, I am reminded of my Jesus in that garden, who wanted to honor His Father’s will above releasing that burden. But I am also reminded of the bloody sweat and the desperate tears He cried on that night.

“Jesus wept,” oh yes, He wept. He wept that we might weep, knowing that our Savior is not a stranger to affliction, not a man unacquainted with the depths of grief and sorrow. Because of this we have hope, that even when our cups seem heavy and our souls feel burdened, He stands beside us and helps us carry the load. 

Perhaps the goal is not to convince God through tear-filled pleas to remove our burdens. 
Perhaps the goal is to find God in those burdens.

“He wept that we might weep, knowing that our Savior is not a stranger to affliction, not a man unacquainted with the depths of grief and sorrow.”

There’s one moment in particular where I held my cup before the Lord. 
It was after having my feeding tube replaced in a torturous 45 minutes of being held down as they attempted over and over again to place it correctly. My nose and throat burned as though acid were filling it. My lungs ached as I sought small gasps of air. I could feel the tube as it looped in my throat. But being unable to speak, I couldn’t tell them that they were literally choking me to death. It was all I could do to tap the nurse’s arm and try with every fiber of my being to communicate “Please stop,” through my eyes. It was, to this day, one of the worst experiences of my life. 

After it was done, I remember so clearly thinking that I wanted to die. I just wanted the pain to stop; I just wanted the certainty of further pain to stop. This was the only time I truly wanted to give up. I thought God must have made a mistake in choosing this path for me because I was not in any way strong enough for this. But the Lord sustained me with unnatural grace that kept me from breaking down every day. 

“…there is little else like the time spent with our everlasting, always-loving, constantly- gracious, overwhelmingly-good God. “

But later that night, as I laid awake, unable to calm my body down enough to sleep, my mind thought of my upcoming surgery.
1,000+ miles away, 3 weeks away from home, 6-inch incision down the middle of my abdomen, and roughly a year-long recovery period.
Suddenly, I became overwhelmed. I looked out the window at the moon as if it held the answer.
My vision blurred with silver streaks of moonlight and tears as I begged God to make it end. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t be held down again. I couldn’t go through something that made me weaker. I couldn’t go through more pain. I couldn’t feel so out of control of the things happening to my body. I just wanted rest. I was too tired to do anything more. This had to be it. This had to be the end of the road. If I had had it my way, the earth would have opened up and swallowed me whole.

I prayed that night that God would take me in my sleep.

I felt hopeless. Terrified. My heart ached for my true home. I longed to be held in the arms of Jesus, in a place of no pain. I begged for that cup to be taken. But I’m not sure I followed up with a “not my will, but Yours,” because His will felt impossible. His way felt traumatic, and painful, and overwhelming.

Throughout my journey of MALS and the physical and emotional pain I endured as a result, I can only point to a handful of moments where I almost gave up, one of them being that moment. There were so many more moments of sustaining grace. A grace that latched onto me, refusing to let me fall into the deep, dark abyss of absolute despair. During that particular moment, on my bedroom floor, I was once again reminded of that grace. My body was emaciated–still recovering from my near-death experience with re-feeding syndrome. My mind overcome with freeze/flight senses. Dark canyons underneath my eyes soon overflowed with rivers of sorrow. My IV pole was next to me, holding the pump that I was connected to. As I sat there on the floor, surrounded by moonlight and heavy dread, I once again remembered Gethsemane. In that moment, I felt just a little bit less alone in knowing that He was right alongside me. Another portion of grace handed down, sustaining me from one moment to the next.

Maybe we’ve been so caught up in staring at our cups of affliction that we’ve missed the Savior sitting right next to us. With a scarred side and hands, He is there to catch our tears; He is there to hold our weak frames, and remind us that we are not alone in our suffering. We spend so much time waiting for dawn to break that we miss the scattered diamonds that light up our darkness here and now. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel known as grief, trauma, physical and emotional pain. It is no easy task to lay those before The Lord and whisper through our sobs, “Not my will, but Yours.” It is a call not easily answered, that we should hand over our ideas of what healing should look like in exchange for the healing He has for us. But it is a call worth fighting for, because there is little else like the time spent with our everlasting, always-loving, constantly-gracious, overwhelmingly-good God. 

There will be nights spent with a still-aching soul, but the same grace.  
The same sustaining melody of promise, a promise to lift us up above the ache, above the hurt, above the late nights spent asking why. 
And because of what He’s done, we can trust in what He’ll do. 
Because of who He is, we can trust in who we are in Him. 

I’m thankful He held onto me that night. 
I’m thankful He didn’t grant my wish to cease in existence. 
Because even though life was dark and scary, and it seemed as though I would never see light again, I made it. I survived. He sustained me.
And now, I’m surrounded by an army of people I love.
Now, I’m still around to write, to lead worship on Sundays, to spend time with people that make my soul glad. I’m here to hold my baby niece, be in my friend’s wedding, and trace the constellations from the shores of a beach with friends who are more like family. I’m here to eat homemade Oreo Blizzards, have midnight snowball fights, and snuggle my baby sister at night.
I’m still here to pass on my story, no matter how messy, no matter how uncomfortable–and goodness knows that the part of the story where I wanted to die is more than a little uncomfortable.
I’m here to string together words in an attempt to offer a little bit of hope to someone in that dark place tonight. To use the affliction I have endured to lift up others in theirs.

I don’t know what cup you’re holding before the Lord today. Maybe it is one of physical pain, a body that betrays you at every turn. Perhaps it is emotional, mental–I am well acquainted with the valleys of mental health struggles. Maybe it is a broken relationship, a wayward child, a job loss, an overwhelming workload, a heartbreak, grief. Maybe you’re just tired. Whatever it is, He is right there in it with you. Right alongside you in your ache. There to wrap His hands around yours and that cracked, overflowing cup. We do not carry them alone, we never have. And because of Him, because of what He did, because of the cup He drank, we never have to.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction”

-2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Paper Prayers

I keep a prayer journal and it’s one of my most favorite things to do.
My journal reflects my mind pretty accurately. It’s a mix of prayers, reflections, questions, bible verses, song lyrics, and word for word copies of text messages from people who encouraged me.

These prayers are scratched into the temporal materials of this world, but etched into the very foundations of the heavens. Written with hands so intricately detailed, down to every muscle and ligament that work to provide fluid movement. Breathed out of weary, joyful lungs. All these prayers, accumulating in the atmosphere, gathered together like clusters of stars. As intentional as the pattern of the cosmos, yet as unique and different as the details of a snowflake. Some rushed, hurried along in the busyness of life, others slow and steady.

“These paper prayers, though inscribed on delicate paper, are anything but fragile. They are the tools I use to reinforce the foundations of my peace. They are faith in physical form.”

His grace has acted as bookends to my life. 
The in-between is filled with laments and griefs that could fill novels, joys and triumphs that would burst the bindings of the book attempting in vain to contain them.

When I pick one thing, one moment, it’s hard to see the purpose or to see the good. But when I stand back, when I physically turn the pages to the prayers long forgotten, I see Him. I see Him in my laments of loneliness. The times I didn’t think I would ever belong, ever find my place. Journals later, I would carve out the words expressing my utter joy in the family I had found in my church. I look at the prayers begging God to end my physical pain, and by the end of that journal I’m praising Him for being able to eat a full meal without any.

I read my entries from years past, when I understood so little of grace and prayer—of Jesus, really–but now, I read the narrative of the God who redeemed all of that. The Savior who came and picked up that hurt and molded it into joy. He gathered the ashes of years past and scattered them like the stars that shimmer above. He turned broken to beauty.

I fasten my pain to my joy and meld them together into praise.”

There is something so beautiful in physically writing down prayers. Prayers are from the depths of our souls. They draw from the heaviest of hurts, and beckon a raw honesty rarely found elsewhere. I find it beautiful, watching my soul spill across the off-white journal paper. To watch as sorrow and overwhelming joy dance across the page in deep, black ink. I press these hardly-held hopes between the pages like wildflowers. Preserving them for later, for when they all make a little more sense.

I come away from those prayers with ink-smudged hands, proof of the offering laid before Jesus in bold humility. My prayers are smeared down the outside edge of my pinky, like the residue of hope. Liquified echoes of my surrender.

I hope to always be a person with ink-smudged hands. I hope to forever be a soul that spills to the One who knows how to carefully collect the disorganized, fragmented sentences produced by my heart.

Sometimes, when I find myself struggling to make time for Jesus in my daily life, I pull out the small chest that resides under my bed. I open the lid and rest my gaze of the assortment of journals tucked away inside. Spanning back to 11 year old me, who had no idea the pain and joy awaiting her.
There’s an evolution to my journaling, from “Dear Diary” to “Dear God.” From descriptions of my day-to-day life, to detailed prayers and praises. It’s the same scribbled handwriting, a mix of cursive and print, with lopsided letters and incomplete loops. But the person holding the pen has changed so much. She has gone through so much, survived so much, and become so much more than all of it. All because of the One who never let go.

These paper prayers, though inscribed on delicate paper, are anything but fragile. They are the tools I use to reinforce the foundations of my peace. They are faith in physical form.
I fasten my pain to my joy and meld them together into praise.
They are the melody of my life, stringing it all together in a chorus of hope and trust. They bind the cracking spines of the books that make up this great in-between called life. It’s no secret I love words. I spend most of my time constructing paragraphical structures to bridge the gap between confusion and understanding, cynicism and hope, suspicion and trust. Words are my oxygen and I exhale through my fingertips.

I know that on the nights when I don’t have the strength to verbalize my thoughts or scratch out a new prayer, I can pull out those paper prayers and let my heart take comfort in the almost forgotten moments of faithfulness. Though I, in all my humanity, remain a forgetful creature, He has never once–not for a moment–forgotten me.


“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words”

-Psalm 17:6

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

To the top of this great, magnificent mountain I climb.
The journey home has felt long and hard, and in so many ways unending. But here I raise my Ebenezer. For by Your help, I come. An Ebenezer, the “stone of help” constructed by Samuel to remind the people that “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). A reminder of faithfulness.

With shaky hands, a body marred by scars from battles hard fought, I raise this Ebenezer. Between gasps of breath and sighs of exhaustion I scratch my praise into the face of each and every brick.

Though face smeared in dirt and fingernails cracked, I work to place each stone in place.

Here I raise my Ebenezer.
On this very mountaintop.
That it may stand through wind and storm, through rain and drought, through bountiful harvest and desperate famine. I raise this Ebenezer because I have come to trust that You are good, that You always keep Your promises. Even on the nights when I feel heavy with the weight of burdens long borne, I will lay again the stones of this monument.

I lay down the loneliness of years past. This stone, so deeply carved with a knife as sharp as the feeling in my heart when I felt I’d never belong. Yet, against all odds, You smoothed over those moments, instead rearranging the darkness to light. Like sea glass, smoothed by the consistent tumble of time, You have smoothed the harsh edges of nights spent longing for a place. So I raise this Ebenezer, an altar, that I might never forget this moment of faithfulness.

“…I rest my gaze upon the trailing valley of Ebenezers raised high, climbing their way like vines up this mountain. Signifying the moments not to be forgotten.”

I don’t know if I’m meant to make my career in the world of words and literary landscapes, but I do know I am meant to write. Whether it is at the crack of dawn before work and classes, or with the accompaniment of the moon on the latest of nights. Through sleepy eyes and gulps of coffee I will perform the one task I know I must: write.

It is my worship.

And more than anything–more than anything–I must worship. I must worship in the best way I know how to. I have no doubt that He weaved literature into the fabric of my soul. I have no doubt my heart was drenched with a love for words before time began. It is who I am, and it is how I worship.

I have crooked fingers, which I find ironically beautiful. They used to bother me, the way the tips swerve off into different directions and refuse to touch no matter how hard I squeeze them together. But what a picture they are to me now. These crooked and imperfect fingers, dancing across the keys to their own symphony of praise, producing the worship they were made for. Broken sticks draw straight lines and all that, right?

So, I raise on high the gratitude that must overflow.
Even when it hurts.
Even when I’m angry.
Or sad.
Or anxious.
I must remember to worship. Not just to sing, though my soul finds music to be the perfect mingle of pain and joy, waltzing together in melody in a way that only music can do.
But all the worship.
Every worship.
I must raise my Ebenezer, even if it must be raised with crooked fingers.

The climb feels relentlessly hard, especially when I fall into that monotonous rhythm of pressing forward. But it’s when I stop and turn around that I find the strength to continue. It is when I rest my gaze upon the trailing valley of Ebenezers raised high, climbing their way like vines up this mountain. Signifying the moments not to be forgotten. The times He came through. The promises He kept. The streams of mercy, never ceasing.

“What once felt impossible is now historical. “

But it is not only for my sake that I build these altars of remembrance, though I most certainly need my heart to be reminded of the precious moments of sustaining grace.
But it is not just for me.
For the fellow sojourner.
For the ones that think they are alone in this climb.

For those whose feet are beginning to feel heavy, whose lungs are beginning to burn, whose hearts are beginning to fail.
A beacon of hope. A rough edged, imperfect, crooked hope.
Comforted by those who have been comforted. We build for the people that come alongside us, to direct their attention to what He has done. We build for those that trail behind.

These stories, with all their painful chapters, their bitter prologues, endless expositions, and well-worn pages, coming together into something bigger. These stories morph into testimonies.
Epilogues of grace.
What once felt impossible is now historical.

His grace was never meant to be silent. His faithfulness was never meant to be set on a shelf. It has always been meant for a greater purpose than we can imagine.
So we raise our own Ebenezer. We look back on them as reminders of what He has already done, that we may be strengthened in our trust of what He will do.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; He to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.”


A Broken Hallelujah

It’s “Joy” week in the season of Advent.
There’s a cognitive dissonance there, right?
The world doesn’t feel very joyful.
It hasn’t in a long time.
Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but pain doesn’t cease to be pain just because we drape it in lights and bows.
I can deck the long, dark hallways that hold the memories and painful moments of years past with as many decorations as I’d like, but I’d still know the harsh underbelly to it all.

“…it’s like the world inhaled when He left, and since then we haven’t exhaled. We’re all holding our breath with burning lungs and we won’t be able to release this agonizing breath until we’re home.”

The Christmas season is one of anticipation, of expectation.
But for the past two years, we’ve lived in constant anticipation of disaster. Our brains now programmed to study the horizon to catch the first glimpse of tragedy before it strikes. We’re all bracing because we’ve been caught off guard by the harsh reality of the past two years too many times. We would rather live in apathetic acceptance that everything will go wrong than risk feeling a joy that might be taken from us.

So, Christmas feels a little broken this year.
It feels a bit heavier. The loss and isolation we’ve endured cannot be soothed with lights and wrapping paper. I live for simple joys. I love Christmas lights and decorations. They have never ceased to make me smile.

I would wrap lights around every scar if I thought the warm glow would soften the sharp edges. But it doesn’t. If anything, it magnifies them. Perhaps that is why the supposed “happiest time of the year” can also be the hardest. Joy often magnifies pain. We are surrounded by joys-to-the-world and it beckons the questions of whether we honestly believe that. We carry our pain every day, but it is when contrasted with joy that we feel the weight even more.

But perhaps that is the point. Jesus didn’t come for the one who has it all together. He came for those broken, for those weighed down, for those dragging around that ball-and-chain of burdens. He came to offer grace and break open our cells. He was the joy that came to the world. He still is.

But it’s like the world inhaled when He left, and since then we haven’t exhaled. We’re all holding our breath with burning lungs and we won’t be able to release this agonizing breath until we’re home.

It’s okay to struggle with joy right now. Joy isn’t dependent on us, on our circumstance or emotions. Joy rests fully in Him, joy is fulfilled in Him, and His joy is enough for even the deepest of canyons within our hearts. The living embodiment of joy—the person of joy—came and walked the earth. He is the balm that soothes our wounds and heals our souls. He is the song that lingers over us in our own silent nights.
He is the exhale we’ve all been waiting for. And He’s coming back.

All I have this season is a broken hallelujah.
A quiet thank you in the car, on the way home from spending time with people who light up my heart.
A silent walk in an empty field, knowing He knows my heart when I’m too tired to put into words the ache of my soul.
I know He sees and hears, even when I don’t speak.
Though I wish with all my might that I could offer a praise worthy of all He has given me, all I have is the stillness of my soul.
I’ll raise my hands as high as I can, outstretching them towards the sky to point back to Him. Because all I have is a broken hallelujah. A cracked mosaic of prayers and praises, of pain and heartbreak, all lifted high to Him.

I’ll hold on to the hope He brought that night when He broke through the silence, and I’ll trust Him to break it again.


I Am With You Always

“’It is winter in Narnia,’ said Mr. Tumnus, ‘and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.’” 

-The Chronicles of Narnia

Doesn’t it feel as though winter has long lasted? As though the earth were frozen through? The windows of our souls perpetually frosted over and our hearts permeated with a chill that never ceases. Our hands have grown stiff and our muscles atrophied.

It was like this before, wasn’t it?
All those years ago, when a young virgin girl and her husband came into town on a donkey. The world was dark and cold and cruel. But on that night, with nothing but the stars and the livestock to keep them company, new life—new light—was birthed.
Breaking through the stillness, the silence of the weary world. In a world whose breath had grown strained and ragged, the Savior and Messiah came to breathe life.

The world remained dark and life remained cruel—hearts still breaking, bodies still aching, souls still longing to find the fulfillment that satisfies their hunger. But for a moment, there was a break in the unending, relentless night.

The world today still aches and breaks. Our arms are outstretched to the heavens like the reach of barren tree limbs, twisted toward the light in the dead of winter. Our lungs crystalized by the constant inhale of the icy air around us. We’ve been waiting for Christmas for ever so long. Not the commercialized holiday we are so familiar with, but the Christmas our dear friend C.S. Lewis allegorized so beautifully, the final coming of Jesus. The winter of Narnia—of the world—was holding its breath for their long-awaited Christmas. The people waited for the coming of hope, of salvation, of new life, just as we do.
Don’t you feel it?
Beyond the Christmas lights and carols and decking of halls. Don’t you feel the longing in your soul for the night to finally be pierced? It’s fitting that Christmas comes at the end of the year, as we all soak in the past 365 days we’ve endured. We’re all awaiting Christmas eagerly.

I think of the night He was born, the night He came to this broken world that would break His body. He came to save the souls of the ones who murdered Him. That silent night wouldn’t be the only one to come. Soon would come another, as He drew His last breath. The light that had made its way to our world was soon cloaked in darkness. But then, as before, came new life. With resurrection, He overcame death and restored our hope. 

But then He left. 
And the world went silent again. 
A hush fell upon the stilled forrest and the ground fell asleep.
He came and shook awake our sleepy souls, and then left to prepare for us a place of rest. 
He knelt with the broken, sat with the sinners, broke bread with traitors—He loved.
He turned this world upside down and set forth an example of radical love matched by no other.
And then He left. 
And though forever changed, the world has grown colder, colder still. 
Narnia has endured winter for ever so long. Always winter, but never Christmas. 
It does feel that way, doesn’t it? For those of us 2,000 years removed from the life of Jesus on earth, it feels as though the world has grown colder and colder. Always growing colder, always becoming more dead, but never new light, never new life.

Oh, that He would break the sky right now and return to His children. Oh, that He would birth new life and light now. Oh, that Christmas would finally, truly come. Because my soul—our souls—ache for Him. But He did not leave us without hope. 

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20

My heart’s natural response to that is a pitiful, “do you promise?” 
Yes, He does. He has. He will. 
He will once again break our silent nights. All the nights spent alone, all the nights spent weeping from weariness, all the nights overwhelmed, and overcome with questions, He will break them all.

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, at the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

-The Chronicles of Narnia 

He will come and end our winter. 
He will come and end our sorrow. 
He will breathe life into these frozen lungs and restore warmth to our weary bodies. The forrest will come alive, and the ground will wake up.
And through Him alone will spring return. 
So, though we may be heavy with this long-lasting winter, we do not give up. He promised to be with us always and if I know one thing about Jesus, it’s that He keeps His promises.
And He always comes back. 


The Valley

Around 2:30 AM, if the night sky is clear enough, the moonlight streams through my window and cascades across my quilt. I say my quilt, it’s my mothers, a gift from her grandmother. It’s worn and torn and stained. Its patchwork has become threadbare. But the crisscrossing pattern made from my mother’s childhood clothing has always been a comfort to me. So, when I start having trouble sleeping, I will often hunt down this quilt and lay it out on my bed. Even at 19 years old, when I’m stressed or having bad dreams, I just want to hide under my mother’s quilt.
I know that the moonlight finds its way to my side of the house at about 2:30 AM because recently I have been up till then. Not in a night-owl-Netflix-binge kind of way. More like a desperately-need-to-sleep-but-my-mind-won’t-be-still kind of way.

My attitude towards the resurfacing of my insomnia varies, given how sleep deprived I am. Sometimes, I think that were Insomnia a person, I’d like very much to sucker-punch them. Then other times, I sit up in bed after too many failed attempts to shut down my mind and take a slow, deep breath. I listen to worship music. I pray. I talk to Jesus. I write, as I am now. Sometimes there is a peace that settles over my soul. An acceptance that I will rise in the morning void of energy, completely dependent on my 4th cup of coffee around mid-afternoon to get me through the day. Other nights, not so much. I often can’t sleep because of dreams. Dreams or memories. Sometimes they become so intertwined it’s hard to say which. On such nights I become overwhelmed. I’m not sure I can adequately describe what those nights are like in a way that does justice to the ache it causes in my soul. You know when you almost have a wreck? You slam on the brakes or swerve into the other lane, narrowly avoiding a vehicular disaster. In a flash, you can see the possibilities of how that scenario could have unfolded. Your heart skips and your seatbelt locks. For a few moments after, your heart rate remains elevated as you remain shaken, and your seat belt remains locked. That is how those late nights sometimes feel. It feels like my seatbelt is locked. I move, shifting my shoulders back and forth, but it only serves to crush my chest more. The more I fight, the longer it stays locked, and the longer it stays locked, the more my instinct to fight grows. 

Most of us here in the Bible Belt of the south are familiar with Psalm 23. 
The Lord is my Shepard. 
I shall not want. 
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me. 

I’ve known the Psalm by heart for what seems like forever. I learned it to song the same way I learned my ABCs.
Repetition does not often breed fondness. A song replayed 10,000 times eventually becomes mind-numbing. I’ve read, sang, heard, and recited that Psalm so often that its words are lost on me. But a portion of that Psalm was recently sent to me to encourage me in my restlessness. Despite knowing the Psalm by heart, I pulled out my Bible, with all its markings and sermon notes, and opened to Psalm 23. It was highlighted in bright green and purple, and I traced the markings with my finger by the light of the moon. I don’t remember highlighting it. But I have a habit of flipping through to commonly known verses and highlighting them as soon as I get a new Bible. I was given this Bible almost a year ago, so no doubt it’s been highlighted for at least that long.

“…agony turned beautiful… anguish turned song. A valley of death being so surely defied by the refusal of fear, as the Psalmist so boldly proclaims that The LORD is with them.”

I love the Psalms. If ever there were a book in the Bible that speaks to my soul, it would be Psalms. I was created with a heart that leaps at poetry. 
At agony turned beautiful. 
At anguish turned song. 
A valley of death being so surely defied by the refusal of fear, as the Psalmist so boldly proclaims that The LORD is with them. A weary soul restored. A cup overflown. A Shepherd, leading His Beloved into green pastures. A table, so lovingly laid out in bountiful feast. A declaration of the promise of eternal dwelling in the house of The LORD. 

I changed my mind about Psalm 23. I no longer find its familiarity boring. I’m thankful that I can recall it by memory. Because on those dark nights, when it feels like only the moon sees me, I can whisper it. I can pray it. I can sing it. I can ponder the Psalmist. I can allow the imagery of a pastures of peace and calming waters to fill my mind. I can picture the writer, perhaps on a dark night like this one, praying for the peace of his Shepherd to restore his soul. And sometimes, not every time, but sometimes, the seatbelt unlocks. Or at the very least it loosens, allowing me to breathe more deeply. 

I wish that I could tell you that reciting scripture is a cure-all for those nights where sleep abandons me. I wish I could say the calming words of Psalm 23 lull me to sleep. That’s not always the case though. But it does loosen the seatbelt. And it reminds me I am not alone. I never have been. 
Neither are you. 



If you sat me down and asked me to tell you about all the people I’ve struggled with bitterness against, we’d be there for hours and hours. I seem to have accumulated quite the collection of perpetrators in my 19 years of life. This time last year, my struggle with bitterness was at its highest. But fortunately for me (and I mean incredibly fortunately for me), I have found myself in a community that welcomed my struggle and patiently helped me navigate through it. 

Bitterness is interesting. Its relation to anger is undeniable. At least, as I speak for myself, I have found it undeniable. Bitterness is borne from initial anger that has gone unresolved. Bitterness is anger gone stale. I found that once the initial rage subsided, a quiet, gripping feeling grew around my heart. I felt cold. Apathetic towards both person and situation. 

Someone planted a seed through their actions towards me, and that seed was watered by my tears and anguish as I tried to cling to what stability I could. The soil around it was solidified and packed in by the pressure of my knees on the ground as I begged for understanding. For comprehension as to why I had been chosen for such a weight. The soil was nourished by the blood from my hands as I cut them, trying in my own strength to piece myself back together. Then the roots dug deep, wrapping around my heart in tight constriction. And there was birthed bitterness. 

Bitterness is tricky because in a lot of cases, and most certainly mine, the anger was justified. The wrongs done were evident, not only to myself, but to the people around me. I was reminded over and over again that anger is not a sin, that I should be angry at what happened because it was wrong. The trick with that is that it so easily spills over into bitterness. And when it does, it stains like wine on a white dress. It taints everything surrounding it. The apathy that often accompanies bitterness extends into every part of life. That bitterness—aimed like daggers at the people sprinkled throughout my life who broke me in one way or another—shifted to God.

Whether I was willing to speak it aloud or not, I was angry at God. I was angry about what had happened. I was angry that He knew what happened. I was angry that those who had done it had not been punished. I was angry at those who stood by and watched as I, in all my defenselessness, was broken. I was angry at the burden of shame on my shoulders that I shouldn’t have had to carry. But mostly, I was angry because I felt ashamed. I blamed myself and I lamented the fact that I carried that shame when in the presence of the Lord. I was terrified that it changed how He saw me. I had taken that shame and weaponized it. Because it’s so much easier to be angry than it is to feel the weight of shame, my friend. It’s so much easier to let that anger subside into a steady flow of bitterness than it is to admit how much pain you’re in. 

Though I’m thankful for the godly counsel I have received in navigating this, the ultimate turning point had to come when I sought the Lord with it. Over the course of many months, I have grown in my prayer life. I am more comfortable in prayer. I am more confident in prayer. I am bolder and more honest in my prayers with God. So, I told Him all of it. I told Him, with a cloud of grief looming heavily, that I was angry at Him. That I didn’t want to be, but that I simply didn’t understand. I was quiet and still. Whispering as though it lessened the weight of what I was admitting. I didn’t want to tell Him that I felt alone or that I felt like He had seemingly dissipated in the moments I needed Him most. I didn’t want to tell Him of the lies and doubts I was having. But I did. 

“But He reminds me that the roots of His grace reach so much farther than the roots of my shame. He reminds me that no matter how strong I think those roots will cling to my soul, His love clings so much stronger.”

I realized something. I can’t point to a specific moment of revelation, but instead a slow unfolding of comprehension over a long period of time (A growth that has not stopped and will not any time soon). 
You see, He met me there. 

He caught my tears in His hands as they mingled with His—because our God is grieved by the consequences of sin.
He knelt beside me in the dirt and showed me His own bloody hands. 
He sat with me in my shame, the Man of sorrows. Jesus—scoffed at, betrayed, hurt by those closest to Him. Jesus—far from a stranger to suffering and shame. He reminded me of His broken body, of His tears, of His shame. Because we do not have a Savior unable to sympathize with our pain. He took on our pain. And slowly He has raised me up.

I stumble and fall and get frustrated by how often it seems to occur. But every single time—every single time—He raises me back up. He helps me as I seek to rip up the roots of bitterness. It’s a long, grueling process. Because they are deep and have had years to weave their way into the ground. But He reminds me that the roots of His grace reach so much farther than the roots of my shame. He reminds me that no matter how strong I think those roots will cling to my soul, His love clings so much stronger. While the roots of bitterness seek to invade and poison, the roots of His mercy seek to surround me with peace and trust. 

Tonight, as I write this at 2AM—unable to sleep—I read and reread my very own words and pray that my heart finds a way to trust in them. To trust that He can reach farther than my expansive pain. To trust that He sees me and is not unmoved by my suffering. That He saw the darkest, cruelest moments, and He stood by me through it all. I take a deep breath and say a prayer. The tension in my body remains, and the knots in my stomach barely loosen. Despite my most eloquent prayer, my heart still aches. Mostly though, at this time of night, I’m too exhausted for eloquent prayers. My prayers are whispers. Single words. A general cry for help, sent out into the seemingly endless night surrounding me. But it is not without hope. Because my hope isn’t here. It never was. My hope is in the One who holds my bloody hands in His and sits with me in the dirt that so often resembles my life and the memories that encircle it.
Slowly, the roots of bitterness are being uprooted. 
Slowly, the roots of redemption grow stronger, and from them grow small buds of hope. Small, green, delicate buds of hope. 

“He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:8


An Unexpected Healing

A year ago today I was wheeled into an ice-cold OR room to have a major surgery to correct the problem that had caused me unimaginable pain for over a year.
I remember my mom almost crying as she said goodbye to me.
I remember being very, very calm. I knew it wasn’t me, that only the Lord could bring that kind of soul-stillness in a moment where the rest of my life hung in the balance.

I won’t lie, I was in a weird place spiritually around this time in my life. I had never felt more abandoned by my community, never felt more lost in my faith, never had more questions than I did right then. But the Lord was gracious. He allowed all of that to remain in the back of my mind until I was ready to handle it. Once I returned home, began the healing process, and began searching for a new church I would have to deal with all that pain. But in this moment, He was kind to just be with me. I was able to set aside all my confusion about who God is and who I was. I was able to rest in the peace that regardless of what I did or didn’t understand, He was there. That was all that ever mattered.

Physical healing wasn’t the only kind of healing to happen over my year of recovery. I wasn’t just recovering from surgery. God was bringing me into a new community. I was still hurting from the last community I had been in; my trust in people was limited and my fear of them overwhelming. I was relearning how to study my bible, relearning how to pray, and relearning how to worship. I was learning what it meant to be a daughter of God without all of the legalistic rules and judgement. I was learning about grace, and The Holy Spirit, and forgiveness. I began devouring book upon book in an attempt to grow and understand more.

I look back and see the beautiful way God arranged all of it. How He used my illness to bring new people into my life. How He used it as an opportunity for people to minister to me, to pray over me, and begin the process of building trust with me. I see how the years spent in an unhealthy environment made me appreciate where I am now even more. The years of deep loneliness and isolation make me appreciate the moments of deep fellowship and community I now have.

See, I thought going into surgery that the next year of my life was going to be all about healing from surgery. I wasn’t expecting healed relationships. I wasn’t expecting healing in my relationship with God. I wasn’t expecting healing in my relationship with myself. I wasn’t expecting healing in my relationship to The Church. I wasn’t expecting to go from feeling isolated and alone, to being surrounded by people who have quickly become like family.

I didn’t even know I needed healing in those places.
I was in a dark room that I didn’t know needed to be lit up–my eyes long adjusted to the darkness, and confident in my ability to make my way through the shadows.
I was in chains I didn’t know needed to be broken–their rhythmic clanking had become a melody my soul found familiar.
I was in a prison cell I didn’t know needed to be unlocked–I had mistaken those brick walls for shelter.
I didn’t know I needed to be rescued. I thought I was doing fine on my own. I thought I was strong enough to survive without community, without people to back me–having learned the lie of self-reliance many years before.
But God knew better. He knew I needed rescue.

Physically, I’m doing great. It has been a long road, but I’m feeling better than ever. I still have my moments, but I’m able to live. I can confidently say that God healed me miraculously. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for how well I’m doing now, despite the intense year of pain that recovery brought.
But my body wasn’t all that He healed.
He healed me in so many ways this past year. In some areas I’m still healing, but I’m trusting Him with that process.

I can’t talk about my physical healing without talking about all the other healings.

I can’t tell you about the long nights in the hospital being sick without also telling you about the long nights on my knees, questioning everything I thought I knew about God.

I can’t tell you about feeling isolated because of being sick without telling you that I had already been feeling isolated for the better part of 10 years.

I can’t tell you about how I’m finally able to live now that I’m not in chronic pain without telling you that I’m also finally able to live in the fullness of joy found in Christ.

I can’t share with you the times spent being prayed over before going up to lead worship–because I was so nauseous and in so much pain that I wasn’t sure I could even stand through the service–without also telling you that the healing that happened in my worship life changed me far more than the physical healing that took place.

I can’t tell you about how I can work and go to school now that I’m not sick without also telling you that I’m able to sing, and pray, and spend time with people I love without fear of judgement.

Because while my physical healing was a miraculous act that I love to share with people, the healing He brought me spiritually was even more so. I can talk all the day long about the healing I prayed for, hoped for, and longed for.
But I also have to tell you about the healing I didn’t know was coming. The healing I didn’t know I needed, and definitely didn’t think was possible. I have to tell you about the healing that was completely and totally unexpected. Because our God is a God of radical rescue. He is saving us when we don’t even know it. He is working in the unseen. He is there in the unspoken. He is present in the unknown. He is healing the unexpected.


Above All Else

Around this time last year I made the choice to stop commenting on Facebook. If it wasn’t a comment that exuded genuine love, I didn’t comment. I also made the choice to stop posting about political things until after my initial uprise in emotion had ceased. I had fallen into the trap of angry posting and the conviction I felt from that became too much. I had gotten to a point where I was angry all the time. I was angry at people I thought were my friends, or at the very least shared the commonality of being a child of God. I was angry at people for posting and commenting things I fundamentally disagreed with. But most of all, I was angry at how Christians were treating other people. Comment wars and long winded posts meant to discredit and mock the “other side” just didn’t feel right to me. It was confusing for me to see all the anger and insensitivity coming from people who were supposed to have the love of Christ in them. It begged the question: is this the point? Is this what God intended us to be doing right now? Are we living, speaking, or acting in the way Jesus called us to when He left this earth?

Christian, we were not called to be right.
We were not called to be politically correct.
We were not called to win debates and to get one over on the person on the other side of that screen.

God did not send His precious son to spill His blood in our place, be buried for three days, and be raised from the dead to ascend into heaven for us to spend our time ranting on Facebook.

I think we’re missing it. We are missing it. We are so caught up in our culture that we are missing out on the greatness we could be living in. We are missing out on the joy and love and community and peace we could be having if we laid down our verbal swords and realized our true purpose.

The Painter of sunset skies. The God who lights the moon to shine on the darkest night. The Creator of E Minor. The Maker of dandelions and mountains. The Master of the oceans and winds. The God who laid out the stars and beckoned the rain to fall from the sky to give life to the flowers below. He is our God. There is a life beyond all of this. There is a kingdom beyond all of this. There is a God beyond all of this. Beyond the pandemic, beyond your opinion on masks, beyond your thoughts on CRT, beyond what you think about your political opinion. There is so much beyond that. There is an eternity beyond that.

I would give anything to be home right now. To be at peace with my Savior and to not have to worry about the insane and chaotic world around me. But on this side of eternity, I have to stay focused on why I’m here.
Why are we here?
What is our purpose?
It cannot be to simply live. It cannot be to run about to our 9-5’s and try to live decent lives. It cannot be that. Because when our Jesus left this world to remain with the Father, He left us a mission. He left us with specific instructions.
You can rant all the live long day about constitutional rights, and the left, and the right, and up, and the down. You can be right in every political endeavor. You can be righteous in all your opinions. But without love, the life you’re living is useless. You can have a defense prepared to destroy anyone who dares to argue against your beliefs, but without love you are defending a paper-kingdom. A plastic fortress with foundations that will crumple unless precariously tiptoed around.

I don’t want to live like that. I can’t live like that. The thought of living like that makes me feel suffocated.

I want to be so filled with The Spirit that people can’t leave a conversation with me without thinking about Jesus.
I want to be so focused on loving people with the love of Jesus that I don’t have time for comment wars or heated debates. I want to be more worried about how I treat the people I disagree with than I am about how much I disagree with them. I want the first question to come to mind when met with someone I fundamentally disagree with to be, “How can I love this person like Jesus does?” When people bring me up in conversation, I hope to God they don’t immediately think of where I stand on a political issue. I pray to be the kind of person known for making Him known.

Above all else, love.
Above all else, treat people the way Jesus would treat them.
Above all else, spend your life doing what matters.
Spend it studying His word. Spend it worshipping. Spend it serving other people. Spend it learning and growing in your knowledge and love for Christ. Make your life so about Him that it can’t be about you. Be so concerned with speaking the way that God wants you to speak, that you can’t get caught up in being right and proving someone else wrong.
Because being a Christian is more important than being a Republican. It’s more important that being a Democrat. It’s more important than the Right and the Left. Because being a Christian isn’t about any of those things at all, not even a little. Being a Christian is about Jesus. It’s about love.
This is not to say don’t be informed or have opinions. This is not to say that the world isn’t frustrating and we won’t get annoyed and angry at the people we disagree with. This is to say that if any of that takes place before a life filled with the Spirit of God, there’s an issue. There’s an issue when Christians are considered to be the most judgmental, insensitive group of people.

We were made for more than this.

Don’t be so caught up in your own conspiracies that you miss the chance to be a witness to someone else.

And above all else, love one another.
It’s what He wanted.