four years

This weekend marks four years since my mom died. Both a blink and a lifetime. The bittersweet truth is that these past four years have been some of the most formative and joy-filled years of my life. And man, do I wish that she was here to share in it all – to be able to watch me grow, to meet the people I love, to hear my dreams for the future. I would have called her almost every day of college.

I can say with full confidence – with honest gratitude – that in losing Mom, I have learned more about Jesus than ever. I can tell you that my heart for Him has grown as I’ve seen the depths of His heart for me, that I’ve found freedom in the beautiful truth that it is more about His glory than my happiness, that He is always present and always good.

I can also tell you this: I miss my mom. And after four years, I’m really tired of missing her. I hate that I have to pause, to think a little bit to remember the sound of her voice, her laugh. On some level I feel like I’ve learned the lessons, that I’ve checked the grief boxes, that I’ve come out on the other side. But the simple fact is this: she’s still gone.

I have written before about lessons the Lord has lovingly taught me through everything with mom. Today, I want to do something different. Instead of lessons learned with time and distance, I want to share two moments back from the thick of it.

On January 6, 2014,  after months of battling cancer, doctors said my mom had anywhere from days to weeks to live. On January 28, 2014, she passed away. Those 22 days were the darkest of my life. Below are two moments of light.

When you lose someone, their life gets wrapped up in a box for you to carry. Their quirks and characteristics and sayings and smells, all stored and handed to you to hold on to. There’s the way my mom always called me “Sister,” or the image of her proud and apron-clad in the backyard that summer she swore she was a grill master, or the time we sprawled in the grass of a golf course looking at the clouds and talking about high school boys. It’s a box of memories and mementos and it is as beautiful and significant and unique as the life it remembers. Love calls us to carry it. Love keeps us from ever setting it down, from walking away. But oh, it’s heavy. And it gets heavier every year.

And now, four years in, I’m starting to realize that although the ugliest days may be over, I’m not nearing the finish line. By grace I’ve made it through the rawest days of loss, but the reality is that there’s not an expiration date for pain. It will be my sweetest privilege and my heaviest burden to carry the weight of missing her for all of my years to come.


I. Heaven, and Saying Goodbye

You have to tell her she can go. That you know she’s tired, that you know it hurts, that it will be okay and you will be okay. You’ll be lying – but say it anyway. Truth is, you have no idea how tired she is, how much it hurts to have your body betray you from the inside out. You’re only eighteen years old and to say you understand her is ridiculous. You don’t know a thing about what drives a mother to stay and fight and scrape out breath after breath to be there for you. She does it all for you.

And that’s why you’re here. That’s why you have to tell her.

You know she loves you, but damn it, she told you herself that you’ll never know how much until you’re holding a baby of your own. It’s hard to picture a warm bundle in your arms one day, hard to swallow the idea of being a mother without your own. You can’t think about that now.

No. There’ll be time – plenty of it, years of it ­– to think about those things. Those hoped-for, bright and future days, every beautiful thing that she’ll miss. But today is not hoped-for. It is not swathed in warmth and joy and the promise of something new. You are laying next to her in bed right now because you have a job to do, an important message to deliver.

So look at her, and try not to hate what you see. It’s hard. You take in the sunken face, the broken front tooth from last month’s fall, the wasted legs that you could wrap your fingers all the way around. It never looks this bad in the movies. It’s not something you can fake for a screen.

Lie there beside her, watching her chest shakily rise and fall. There was a time when a scene like this was reversed, you imagine. Her, tired and overwhelmed but so in love, nuzzled next to you, eyes tracking the rhythmic breathing of her newborn baby girl. Even when you were older, a teenager who let ‘I hate you’ slip out one too many times, she would still come into your room at night, perch on the edge of your bed, and slowly rub your back, feeling your breath fill your lungs. That image: a darkened silhouette, a warm palm, a whispered “I love you,” and the quiet click-close of the door when she slipped out. In the morning you wouldn’t remember if it was a dream, her coming in and softly telling you goodnight. Today it sure feels like all those nights had to be.

“Hey, Mama.”

You exhale, roll onto your side, curl up next to her, clutching yourself tight. Her eyes flutter open, revealing that faraway look that’s been there these past few weeks since she came home from the hospital. With a sharp intake of breath, you begin.


Try not to hesitate.

“It’s okay.”

Every inch of you will scream that it is not, but you have to say it anyway. Tell her that she can be done, that she can stop, that she can let go.

Lie there, and unfold your life – tell her about all of the things you are going to do and introduce her to all of the people you are going to be.

With your words, take her to high school graduation, the first family vacation planned by Dad, moving into your college dorm. Remind her that you chose your major because you love it, and she’s always encouraged you to chase what you love (even though Dad would love for you to follow his footsteps). Thank her.

There is so much to thank her for. So much of you is her. And laugh, because not all you got from her is good. It’s okay to laugh.

In that dark, quiet room, with the pounds of equipment bunched into the corner, with the January sun setting early outside the window, unfurl your dreams. It doesn’t have to be that pretty eloquence that you work hard for, and it doesn’t have to all make sense – but in a steady and sure voice tell her of all the things that you’re hoping for. She needs to know that you’re still hoping for things, that you’ll keep hoping, even after she’s gone.

You’ll have to say it more than once, again and again, this statement that you will be okay. That you all will be. Your brothers, your dad. Let her know that you’ll keep ‘em in check, that you’ll keep the house clean and the dogs fed, that you’ll dance with the boys at their weddings when they play the Mother-Son song.

Assure her that there is a difference between giving up and letting go, that none of you will ever see her as anyone that “lost” to anything.

Talk about heaven.

There’s a story you never told her, from that high school expedition trip she let you go on two summers back. She was diagnosed right after you got accepted to go, and she didn’t know if she had months or years left. But she sent you off anyway, wanting you to experience a new slice of the world. So you went. You were fifteen years old and a thousand miles from family for the first time, desperately homesick. Tell her how the first morning came and you woke up alone in a vaulted white room with four girls you’d just met, and your groggy eyes opened, surprised by the light. As the early sun poured in the window, in too poured the rich sound of an organ, and you thought for a second God himself was coming back before you realized that just beyond the glass was an old cathedral starting Sunday service. You laid there, the room awash in dazzling light, and calm settled on you like a dove. In the radiance that pierced through that quiet morning, your only though was, “this is what heaven, this is what glory, is.” Tell her about the peace of that moment, about the song, about the light. Tell her she can go there and rest. Tell her that it will be beautiful.

You have so much to tell her, so don’t forget you have time, the two of you in that room. Say you will never, could never, forget her. Say you love her with all of your heart. Say she will always be your mama. Say how grateful you are that God gave you to each other.

Until you both believe it, say that it’s okay. Give your mother, your mama, permission to go. To enter His rest. To be healed. To go home.

She’s too sick to talk. Don’t expect a response. But she’s been listening, and after a few moments she asks you in a soft voice to tell her the story again. The one about the light and peace and heaven.

When you finish, her exhale says it all.

Thank you.


II. Presence

By that day, her eyes had looked glassy for what felt like weeks. Between the tiny lesions in her brain and the wearing down of her body, her mind hadn’t been sharp and she hadn’t spoken much the whole month. There were little moments of conversation sprinkled throughout the days, each a tiny gift, the quickest flashes of normalcy, fading out almost as soon as they begun. None of it was the beautiful, wisdom-filled parting words I was hoping for. Nothing to hold on to if she were to go.

I spent most of my days laying there beside her, quiet, sometimes resting a hand on her arm, her chest. Family and friends would cycle in and out, and I’d try to give everyone a share of one on one time. Every time I left the room, even if just for a moment, I’d tell her “I love you,” longing for her to have the strength to offer it back. I was desperate to hear it, just in case it was the last time.

I don’t remember how much we’d spoken that day, if at all. It was afternoon, and I was back in that heavy room, watching her rest. After some time, she opened up her eyes and rustled in the bed, slowly shifting her position with what little strength she had left. I watched as she stared intently at the wall for a while. Glancing that way, I saw nothing out of the ordinary – just the plain wall, painted a light shade of brown, a few decorations hanging. But she held her gaze, eyes remarkably clear and bright.

“What are you looking at mama?” I ventured, offering my question into the silence, knowing not to count on a reply. But her brown eyes stayed sharp, so I continued. “Do you see something?”

Ever so gently, she nodded, letting out a noise of assent.

“What,” I started, “what do you see?”

A slight pause. And then, in her quiet voice, she spoke.


She said it plainly, matter-of-factly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. As if His presence should never be a surprise. Knowing Him, I suppose it shouldn’t be.

“Is He in the room? Just standing there?”

Again, a gentle nod. I searched for words.

“Does that make you feel happy? It’s probably pretty cool to see Jesus.”

“No…” She faltered a bit, as if to say ‘not quite.’

“How does it make you feel?”


“Hard to describe?”

A nod. Nothing else. Nothing more.

And so the two of us continued to lay there, together in the silence, for who knows how much longer. Time slid slowly in that room.

We sat, side by side, content to rest in a hard to describe moment with an impossibly present God. A God who does not just show up after the mess and redeem broken, ugly things. A God who was, and is there – present, loving, and redeeming – in the breaking.



God with us

“Even if I’m having a ‘meh’ day, I remember that God’s pitched His tent in it, and realize that it’s actually the most miraculous day ever.” This is what my friend Tess simply and joyfully stated over lunch the other day. We were talking about the presence and with-us-ness and incarnation of God, because Tess freaking loves Jesus, and conversations with her always seem to flow back to Him.

John 1:14 says it clearly, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And Matthew 1:23 gives Him a title, “‘they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

God came and dwelt among us. The Greek word for “dwelt” in that verse literally means “to fix one’s tabernacle or tent.” He came and moved in, pitching His tent in our ‘meh’ days and our best days for all of our days. All too often I’m tempted to give a quick nod of assent to this truth and move on. Yep, God with us. Good stuff. Definitely know that one. There’s a few nice songs about it, and the whole Immanuel thing is a good bit at Christmastime. Big fan.

But lately, the Lord’s been showing me that this isn’t an idea where you earn comprehension points and move on. No, God coming down to be with us, to live in us if we’re believers –  it’s a truth that changes everything.

Jesus, in His holiness and perfection, is the only person who has a right to keep His distance from us – to look down His nose at us as a judge, to keep a safe distance from our brokenness as a spectator, to shake His head at our failings from His exalted position high above. Unfortunately, this is all too often the posture I take towards others. Ignoring my own brokenness and mistakes, I can be quick to look down on someone else or distance myself from their mess. I turn my eyes from my own deep sinfulness, forgetting I’m forever locked on the same level as every other sinner on earth. There’s no hierarchy for us humans. All fall short. I have absolutely no authority to look down or keep my distance from anyone.

But Jesus – perfect, holy, completely without sin –  solely has that right. The plain fact is that it would be just and appropriate for the Lord to keep us far from Him.

And yet, miraculously, He came not to harshly judge or simply spectate or shake His head from a distance ­– He came to be Immanuel, God with us. And He is.

He is God with us in our biggest heartbreaks, and in our daily frustrations and disappointments. He’s God with us in every unknown and unsure about life and work and relationships. He’s God with us in our hunger and thirst and sorrow and pain. Jesus came to earth, to live fully as God and fully as man, so that He could be with us – because He knew we could never get to Him.

He came to be the God of all Comfort, with us in every hurt. He came to be the God of Peace, with us in all anxiety. He came to be the God who Heals, with us in everything that is broken. He came to be the God who Provides, with us in every need.

The truth is this: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16). He is a God of sympathy, compassion, kindness, and comfort. He pours out grace and mercy. He came to us so that we could confidently go to Him.

He is a God who is there – and He wants us to know that, for us to see Him. Most of the time, in heartache and confusion and weariness, what we want most is to understand. We want to figure out the “why”, to learn a lesson, for things to get better as soon as possible and tied up neatly to be filed away.

But in reality, it seems that more than He wants lessons or trials tied up with pretty bows, He wants us to know that He is with us. He wants us to see His presence, with us in everything. As my friend Regan put beautifully, “I believe that more than he wants me to find lessons & golden nuggets of Truth to cling to, he wants me to find him – and his personal, relentless, fierce, intentional love – to cling to.”

Scripture is clear in saying we don’t get to understand everything – we know we’re not supposed to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), and that His peace surpasses our limited understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Understanding, and lessons, and clarity in trials are never promised. His loving presence is.

This is illustrated beautifully in what’s possibly my favorite scene in all of the Chronicles of Narnia, towards the end of The Magician’s Nephew. Digory, a young boy, has finally mustered up the courage to ask Aslan to help his dying mother back home.

“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’ 

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great.”

Digory doesn’t get a clear answer here about his mother. Aslan neither says, “not my problem,” nor does he fulfill the wish and immediately cure her. What Digory receives is a far greater gift, although it’s rarely the one we ask for. He gets more of Aslan – to be close to him, to see his love and care, to profoundly experience his presence as they weep together. The boy comes to know with certainty and grace that he is not alone in his pain. There is someone who has entered into it with him, who fully understands, and who feels it even deeper.

My prayer is that in a life of heartaches and whys?, that we’d look up and see a God who is present, who pitches His tent with us in compassion and love, and (wonder of wonders) whose tears are bigger than our own. And because we have a God that is incarnational in love, we are spurred on to do the same – to go and be with people, to stop looking down our nose or keeping an arm’s length away from other people’s messes. It’s a response and a privilege. I want to show up for you because the King of Kings left His throne to show up for me.

He is Immanuel, God with us, in all things. And He is with us always, until the end of the age. I pray that we’d see that – that we’d see Him, and be changed.

happy in my jammies

For the last half of this summer, I had the gift of working at a wonderful preschool/childcare place back home, bouncing around from 2 year olds to 10 year olds and all the wildness in between.

It’s a Christian school, so we got to talk to the little nuggets about Jesus every day and how they are each deeply loved by God. Seeing their childlike faith was a much-needed breath of fresh air for me. One day we talked about some things that made us afraid, and a sweet little gal shouted out that, “sometimes I get scared of lava monsters,” (thanks Moana), “but then I pray to God in my bed and He makes me happy in my jammies!” They seem to believe – wholeheartedly, unapologetically, and joyfully – that they are loved, that God is bigger/smarter/stronger than them, and that He is going to take care of them.

As I read back over that sentence, I’m struck by how rarely I can say that’s true of me. But wow, do I want to believe those simple, Biblical truths: that God is good, and that He’s big, and that He’s strong. I want to deep-down-in-my-bones-believe that I am a beloved child of God. And I so desperately want to believe all of it just like those kids: confidently, and enthusiastically, and simply.

As we grow up, we seem to pile unnecessary baggage on top of the simple, beautiful Gospel. As believers, we hear the truth of our adoption as children of God, but all too often feel like it’s a title we must work to gain and then work harder to maintain.  If someone tells us we’re loved by God, we may nod our heads, while a deep part of us wonders if they just mean that God loves the people that are “better” than us. Or that He only loves us when we’ve had a quiet time every morning that week. Or that some future version of me – the one who maybe finally gets over that repeated sin – she can be a fully loved daughter, but not really the me of today.

Swing to the other end of the spectrum, and there are the times where we’re still holding on to this false belief that we must earn God’s love – and are foolish enough to believe that we can, or have done so. We run to God with our list of good works and good intentions, boasting, “Look, I did it! I can be your child now!”

When it comes to receiving and walking in our standing as children of God, we’re either the prodigal son or the older brother (and sometimes, we’re both in the same day).  In Luke 15:18-19, the younger son comes to his senses after hitting rock bottom, and makes the decision to return home to the father he has cruelly rejected. We see him practicing the spiel he’ll give his dad once he gets back: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” I imagine this little speech was playing and replaying in his head with each heavy footstep on the long journey home. A lot of the time, that same narrative of unworthiness drives our perspective of what God must feel for us.

And yet, the next thing we see in the text is the father on his feet, running towards his boy. There’s embracing and kissing – and yet, the son doesn’t seem to receive his dad’s compassionate display. In verse 21 the son delivers his speech. I imagine he doesn’t meet his father’s eyes as he says the weighty words.

I think if he had looked up, though, if he had met his father’s gaze, all he would’ve seen was love. I think the prodigal son would see tears wet his father’s cheeks as he looked to his servants and said, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

The beauty of this moment is that the father does not entertain or address this idea of worthiness. He does not sit his son down and begin an open conversation, where the son presents his case of why he is unworthy and the father decides whether to let him come on as a hired servant. No, the father doesn’t direct his response to the son at all. It is not a discussion.

The father gives his final word on the matter, not even to the son directly, but to the servants. Let’s break it down:

For this my son” – he declares that this is his son, unequivocally;
was dead,”– this is the only acknowledgement of the reckless and sinful living, no heaps of shame or condemnation, no talk of worthiness or unworthiness;
and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”  – the simple, beautiful truth.

The final part of the verse simply says, “And they began to celebrate.” The servants, the father, the son, partying it up. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the son kept going with the whole unworthiness bit. No, he began to celebrate, believing the father’s words – words that seem to go against all reason – and receiving love that far surpasses any deepest hope.

Outside, the older brother is angry. He complains to his dad in verse 29, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” While the younger brother distanced himself from the father out of feelings of unworthiness, the eldest built the same chasm by believing that he was too worthy, that he had indeed earned it.

The father, graciously and lovingly, again puts his child in his proper place in the final verses (31-32). Notice that when the older brother was complaining, he referred to the prodigal as “this son of yours”. In his pride, he wanted to distance himself from his sinful brother, refusing to address their association.

And what does the father do? He again declares the brother’s identity and standing as a son, and then, with the same authority, refers to the younger as “this your brother.” He puts them back – rightly – on the same level. He calls them both his sons. He does not talk about worth or deserving or the different ranks of their mistakes, or who gets to eat what fat farm animal next. They are both his sons, and he wants them to know that. He speaks that truth over them, and he tells them who they are. He is their father. He loves them both.

Friends, look up. Let go of shame or pride or some ugly mix of both, and hear the Father call you His beloved child. There is no room for discussion or argument. There is no brother or sister comparison to bring into the mix that could change His mind. There is no need to complicate it.

He just wants us to believe His words, to receive the love that He is lavishing on us, and to come into the party.

The truth is this: I am a child of God, and if you have chosen to believe in the name of Jesus, confessed that He is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you are as well.

And He is God, our Father, the One who loves us.

He loves me. Not me plus my best achievements, not me plus anything. Just me. Just you. I can’t make Him any happier or any prouder of me than He already is. He’s chosen to love me, not because of anything I have or haven’t done or could do or will do. He’s chosen to love me without any comparison or scale measured against anyone else. He’s chosen to love me because He wants to. So He does. He loves me, as me, fully. He calls me His daughter.

There are nights when we’re paralyzed by all the lava monsters of our grown-up lives – fears of an unknown future, shame from our sin, lies we believe about our self-worth. There are lots of nights where, unlike my four-year-old friends, we struggle with believing and trusting our identity, and we don’t call out to God, and we feel miles and miles away from being happy in our jammies.

In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus lays it out for us: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Working at a preschool made one thing clear: kids know they’re kids. They simply and humbly live out of the knowledge that they are limited and small, and they trust in those who are bigger. My prayer is that we would do the same: trusting in the One who is infinitely bigger, who is immeasurable in goodness, who is boundless in majesty, and who – wonder of wonders – chooses to call us His children.

God, that we would see You rightly. When our eyes are on You and the Father You are, we see ourselves rightly as well – as Your unconditionally beloved sons and daughters. Help us trust in what You’ve already finished, and not run around trying to bring our little accomplishments to You, or to hide from You under piles of shame. All You want is us, at Your feet, empty handed. Like a child. Everything else will come out of a response to knowing You and Your love. And oh, what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

So we are! That’s some Good News. That’s enough to make me happy in my jammies.

grief and hope

A few summers back, I wrote a post about the beauty of the word “but,” specifically the phrase, “but God.” The Bible is brimming with these moments of contrast, these turns that bring hope and redemption when we are so desperate for it.

Recently, however, I’ve been considering a different conjunction: and. While the “buts” of the Bible are true, necessary, transformative, and soaked in hope; it seems that all too often in life on this side of eternity, we’re going to be working with a lot more “ands.”

This shows itself most clearly in times of suffering, loss, and disappointment. When my mom died, my family was flooded with condolences from well-meaning Christian friends looking to offer us some encouragement. It was common to hear people say things along the lines of, “I know this is hard, but God is still in control,” or, “I know you’re heartbroken, but God is still good.”

Without really realizing it, I came to understand these things – my grief and God’s sovereign love – as distinct and separate entities that I couldn’t experience at the same time. It was like every few hours, or every few days, I got to pick one – feeling the loss and helplessness, or believing in God’s goodness. It was never explicitly stated, but there seemed to be this sort of false dilemma to Christian grief. If I was sad about my mom dying, then I wasn’t trusting God. If I was trusting God, then I couldn’t be really sad, right?

On some level, this is true. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says that as believers, we’re not to grieve as those who have no hope. Knowing Jesus – believing in His death, burial, and resurrection – equips us with a hope and peace that surpasses all, even something as seemingly final as death. We know and rejoice in the fact that Jesus is victorious over everything – all grief, all loss, all addiction and brokenness and pain.

What I love about that verse in 1 Thessalonians, however, is that it doesn’t say that we are not to grieve. It’s not a choice between grief or hope. Because of Jesus, it’s grief and hope, every time.

It’s not, “I watched my mom die of cancer when I was 18, but God is good.” Because the Gospel is true, because of God’s great love for us, I can say that my mom died and that suffering is hard and ugly and that God is sovereign and He is good. Deep pain, sure hope, and true joy can all exist in the same moment in the same day while we’re here on earth. We don’t have to choose one at a time.

Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That verse, quite frankly, used to piss me off. With my limited perspective and hurting heart, I read it as God telling me my pain was small and unimportant. I took the “not worth comparing” to mean my heartache was “not worth feeling.” But that’s not who God is at all.  The reality of this verse is that our sufferings in the present time are real and true and deep and wide – God knows the depths of that pain, and He isn’t minimizing it.

What I hear Him saying to me is this: Hannah, you know how deep your pain is? You know how big and vast it feels? Even deeper than that, even wider than that, even bigger than that, is my love for you. Your pain is real – and what is even realer, and even grander, is the glory that is coming. It’s not that your grief is small and insignificantit’s that your grief is big, and my love and glory and goodness is astronomical. Your pain that feels so huge, even in its hugeness, simply does not compare to the depth and vastness and greatness of Who I Am and what is coming.

There is so much freedom in that realization. Freedom to continue to miss and mourn my mom even 3.5 years later. Freedom to love on my friends going through their own loss and suffering, reminding them of who God is without minimizing their pain. Freedom to sing “Great are You Lord” with confidence and tears streaming down my face at the memorial service for the precious baby son of some of my closest friends.

When we grieve, God isn’t up there judging our pain as small, tapping His foot waiting for us to get over it. No, He comes and meets us in our pain, and reminds us that He’s bigger than it. He tells us our greatest hope is this: that because of Jesus’ work on the cross – because God came down and put on skin and felt the depth of all of our pain – one day there won’t be buts or ands or anything. There’ll just be us with Him, in heaven, in glory, in fullness of joy, forever. And nothing compares to that.

and we back

The following is more for myself than anything, but here it is anyways. I just wanted to put to words some of the reasons I haven’t written in so long, a little background on me, and my intentions with this ol’ blog of mine moving forward.

I am sitting here with a blank Word document and I am honestly scared. I haven’t written on here in months, and every time I’ve thought about it I’ve felt a knot in my stomach and believed countless little voices throwing countless little jabs. I make myself believe a wide spectrum of lies, that I have no right or authority to share anything, that I need a seminary degree under my belt before daring to talk about the Lord, that the world doesn’t need another girl writing about her life on the internet. Then add on that because it’s been so long since I last wrote, I feel like whatever I post next must be some huge, amazing epiphany that ushers me back into the blogging game. And lastly, sprinkle in the hesitancy to self-promote anything I write – the tension between wanting people to read what I feel like the Lord has given me words to say, but not wanting to make it about me.

When I started this blog when I was 16, there were no deep motives other than I loved to write and a friend encouraged me, saying l would have funny stories to tell. At about that time my mom started her battle with melanoma, which led me to use this site as a space to process some of that journey through words, which was extremely cathartic for me. Through Mom’s fight and eventual passing, Jesus lovingly drew me closer to Him than ever in my life, and this blog soon transformed into a place to talk about things that He’d been teaching me as I walked through my grief and entered college. I started seeing Him as worthy of my words, of my all, and wanted to write about Him, for Him. Yet at the same time, I really enjoyed receiving praise for my posts. As I published paragraphs about His glory, I waited for some comment, some text, of someone giving a little bit of that glory to me.

In the past year, I’ve posted twice. As someone who truly does love words, who feels writing in some form/fashion is a gift I’ve been given, and who sincerely experiences a special closeness to God while writing about Him and His Word, the simple fact is that I should write more. And yet, I’ve let all these insecurities and doubts – most founded in an ounce of truth, but dangerous when taken to the extreme – keep me from doing something that I not only love, but feel called to do.

And now I’m a senior in college and I’ve had this ridiculous url for almost six years, and the two biggest things I’ve realized are that I know so, so, so much less than I ever thought I did, and that God is so, so, so much bigger/worthier/more faithful than I will ever understand.

So, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I don’t think anyone other than some sweet family members have really cared. No, I don’t have a theological degree, but as my wonderful friend Marissa reminds me, the Gospel and Word of God are for everyone, and there is space for me. We all, as believers, have been entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation. Yes, there are a lot of women out there with blogs about Jesus. And well, this is mine. My prayer is that I would use this space to speak with clarity and submission to the truth of God’s Word, writing about things that bring glory to Him in a way that is encouraging to those who – like me – are simply seeking to see God rightly, love Him, and love others. Thanks for reading.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to it.

take heart

I won’t pretend a blog post shared on Facebook carries a ridiculous amount of influence, but the truth is that I have a voice and I want to use it.

In case you’ve missed it, the Syrian city of Aleppo has become a hell on earth over the last few years as varying forces battle to take control of the city. The past few days have seen heavy escalation of fighting, and there have been hundreds of civilian deaths. I won’t get into the details or politics of it all because admittedly, I don’t know enough to comment on all of that. Just know this: what is happening in Aleppo is ugly and evil and people are dying.

No, I can’t tell you the specifics of the international relations within the mess that is Syria. But I can tell you this: this summer, I spent 5 weeks in Germany, hearing stories and meeting friends in various refugee camps. So many of the kind and gracious people that I met were Syrian, forced to flee their homes in the face of unimaginable violence. Their heartbreaking stories are hard to forget. But even harder to forget is their strength, their generosity, and their stubborn hope.

As I sit here, reading the news from the battleground that is Aleppo, stomach turning, one face stands out. A beautiful, bright, 9 year old girl that I spent an afternoon laughing with at one of the camps this past July. Let’s call her S. She and her family had fled from their life in Aleppo earlier in the year.

I can tell you she was wearing a dress with purple flowers, and that we ran around together and played volleyball for a few hours. I can tell you that through some beautiful act of hope and resilience, little S was brimming with laughter and couldn’t stop smiling. I can tell you she had a butterfly painted on her hand.


I can tell you she’s just a child – no different than us, than our children – who by the grace of God was able to escape her city, her home. Her home, where in just one day this week at least 13 innocent children have been killed, and possibly more than 100 children were trapped beneath a collapsed building under heavy attack.

These are hard pills to swallow. We see the headlines, the heartbreaking news stories, and we almost have to distance ourselves, to compartmentalize it all as “someone else’s problem.” We tell ourselves that someone else will help, that there’s nothing we can do.

Friends, we have to stop feeding ourselves those lies. This crisis is not a distant problem, affecting a faceless group of people somewhere far away. These are human beings, our brothers and sisters – and we have to stop looking away. We have to stop looking away.

I think of my friend S and her smile and her dress and the butterfly on her hand and I praise God that she is safe in Germany – but there are so many just like her who are not.

Here’s the thing we must realize: Aleppo, and Mosul, and Raqqa, and all of these broken and hurting cities across Syria, Iraq, and beyond are not hopeless. They are not helpless. 

In the face of unimaginable tragedy and evil, we ask ourselves “what could I even do?” and too often end up doing nothing. But the good news is this: there’s a lot to do, if we’re willing.

You, person reading this, can help. And I really hope that you do. Even if you’re a poor college kid stressed about finals, there’s something you can do. Even if you’re someone who knows nothing about what’s happening in the Middle East, there’s something you can do. This last part I’ll borrow from Ann Voskamp’s post because she presents it perfectly:

We can look you, the kids of Aleppo, in the eyes right now and do just these 3 things:

1. Donate to Relief Efforts:

Preemptive Love Coalition is on the ground, feeding fleeing families. 

2. Support Global Refugee Efforts:

Because when we’re pro-life, pro-human — we are always pro-refugees

If we say that we stand with Christ — now is the time to stand with the fleeing.

Because the Christ Child who came to this pale blue marble in the cosmos, He was the Child who knew violence and fleeing, who knew bloodshed and bodies of children laying in the streets, and how can we celebrate Christmas and not stand with the refugee — because that is exactly what Jesus was?

Now is the time, the world needs you to stand as one of the  10,000 people needed to take a stand with the refugee by January 20, 2017 —

 Sign your name as one of the 10,000 on the petition at WeWelcomeRefugees

3. and be one of the ones who Welcome, Jesus, the Refugee: 

Welcome/sponsor a fleeing refugee family in the United States 

How but for the grace of God go I — go all of us? 

Our  children are breaking in Aleppo and there isn’t one of our hearts that shouldn’t be breaking too.

So please, take a minute to not just be shocked or scared or saddened, but to be the hands and feet of our King. To pray. As in actual-get-down-on-your-knees-right-now and pray for an outpouring of His mercy, His peace, His rescue and comfort and strength in Aleppo and beyond. We need Jesus. The world needs Jesus. This is the season of celebrating our Savior’s coming, celebrating that He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is a King that came to us, as a baby in a manger, to be a rescuer and redeemer – so let’s pray for rescue and redemption. What a perfect time it is to love and give a little more, because He loved and gave it all first.

There is so much to be done. We cannot do it all, but we can do something. So please, take a minute, and do something.