And Then I Blinked

My dear friend Terri DeVries agreed to let me use one of her posts on my blog. It’s been ten months since I lost my dad, and I’m still deep in the valley of grief. Terri lost her husband five years ago, which is a completely different thing—and yet I draw such solace from her ...

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My dear friend Terri DeVries agreed to let me use one of her posts on my blog. It’s been ten months since I lost my dad, and I’m still deep in the valley of grief. Terri lost her husband five years ago, which is a completely different thing—and yet I draw such solace from her wise observations and the truths she’s learned. I hope you do, too.


I’m not the same person I was five years ago. There are the obvious reasons, such as the fact that I am five years older, and my energy level has changed. But those things are not the real reasons. Five years ago I was one-half of a couple. Five years ago all the major decisions were made by two people. Five years ago we were both working; my husband full time and me part time. Five years ago we went on vacations and planned new ones to places we wanted to see. Five years ago I was grudgingly picking up socks and underwear and towels and papers and dishes…

And then.

It was a phone call. And a whole string of what-ifs. Followed by a thousand why, why, why, whys. It was a thundering of blood pumping in my ears, my heart beating so fast I thought I might pass out. It was my body shaking so hard I couldn’t imagine driving myself anywhere. And it was the end of normal as I knew it.

March 17, 2013. St. Patrick’s Day. Beautiful, sunny, deceptively peaceful and perfect. You can’t imagine such a thing happening to you on a day like this. But it did. Life as I had lived it for almost forty-seven years came to a halt.

It was entirely the fault of the widow-maker, that type of heart attack that kills quickly and surely. My husband was healthy, in great shape, training for his third marathon, eating well and doing everything right. Then I blinked, and he was gone.

Reality is like a sharp knife. It cuts your past from your future with an accuracy that stuns. Like magic, what was is gone and what is to be is hidden behind a curtain of grief, the sorrow weighing you down so that you find it impossible to stand. And then in that weak moment come the henchmen; anger, denial, depression.

Wow. So where was my faith in all of this, you ask? Great question. And I’m not sure I have a clear-cut answer. Looking back over these five years since I became a widow (a word I hate with all my heart), I’ve searched for the threads that lead back to that day. Five years ago I was indescribably angry. I spent day after day ranting at the God who took away my husband. Betrayed, let down, disappointed, heartbroken, so alone, discouraged, weary, and feeling deserted, I was certain God had left me. I couldn’t find Him or feel Him anywhere. What kind of God leaves you like that? Consequently, I lost the faith I’d had in Him my whole life, or so I thought.

But here’s the thing. Anger is black, opaque, un-see-through-able. And necessary. God stood beside me, watching, loving, and protecting all the while I was ranting at Him. As the anger diminished, His presence gradually became obvious. He’d never left my side as I thought He had. In fact, He had spent much of that time carrying me as He allowed the anger. And although my faith took a real beating in those weeks, it was always there. The result of my loss was to learn that no matter what happens in your life, no matter how bad it gets, if you believe in the same God I do, He will stay with you always. ALWAYS. Especially in the hard times. Even when you can’t understand the why of it all.

The best way to explain it is to refer to an old story describing our lives as a tapestry we see only from the back side. There is a dark and ugly mass of strings in varied colors, some cut and woven back in and others continuing on. It’s messy, with knots and jumbled threads. None of it makes sense. It isn’t until we see the finished workmanship on the right side of the tapestry that we realize what a magnificent masterpiece it is.

This is what I take from that; I’m still seeing the underside of the tapestry, and for the past five years I’ve been trying to follow the threads that run consistently through the it. The thread of faith can be hard to find because it’s hidden for a time under other threads, but it always reappears at some point. It always reappears. Imagine someday seeing the right side and saying, Oh, look what the Master Weaver did with my life!

I am not the person I was five years ago. I’m older, yes. But that’s not the point. I have learned so much about trust in God, a God who loves me more than I can fathom; I have learned about my own faith, a faith which has grown and blossomed and become the center of my life. I have learned about dependence, a complete surrender to the God who planned out every second of my life before I was even born, and who knows exactly what will happen every second of the life I have left. I have learned how strong I am. I have learned how hardships and difficult circumstances molded me. I have learned how much I still have to learn.

That thread of faith that seemed to disappear right after my husband’s death? It was there all along, and now I’m learning to embrace it, holding it close and letting go of all the doubts and fears, and yes, the anger, that I used to allow free reign.

Because I don’t have the ability to see what’s ahead for me. But I know Who does.


If you’d like to read more about her journey, or know someone else who’s on this road with her, check out her book. It’s wonderful (and so is she).

Perfectly formed (guest post from Courtney Westlake)

When my daughter was first born, I thought they just needed to wipe her off. At first glance, she seemed to be covered with a thick coating of white, causing confusion and near-panic with the medical staff in the room. It soon became clear that the towel the nurse was using to clean her wouldn’t ...

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When my daughter was first born, I thought they just needed to wipe her off.

At first glance, she seemed to be covered with a thick coating of white, causing confusion and near-panic with the medical staff in the room. It soon became clear that the towel the nurse was using to clean her wouldn’t alleviate anyone’s concerns.

Because the white covering was her skin.

Our daughter Brenna (our second child and sister to our now five-year-old son Connor) was born in 2011 with a very severe, very rare genetic skin condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis (har-le-kwin ick-thee-oh-sis).

This severe disorder means that Brenna’s body has trouble with things like regulating her body temperature – she can’t even sweat – and keeping bacteria out, so she can get skin infections easily. It also means that her body produces skin about 10 times too fast, leaving her with very dry, peeling skin that looks like a sunburn all over her body.

Brenna’s condition affects our lives very profoundly every day and has caused the last three years to be filled with surgeries, doctor and therapy appointments, and a lot of health issues. But my husband, Evan, and I have never questioned why – we have believed from the very beginning in God’s plan for Brenna’s life.

We are often asked what is “wrong” with Brenna, with her skin or her face. But to be wrong is to be mistaken… and I don’t believe that mistakes happen with our awesome God.

When Brenna was just a few days old, critically ill in the neonatal intensive care unit, a family member came to us and said: “I haven’t talked to God in years… but I’ve been praying for Brenna.”

It was in that moment that I was assured that God had an extraordinary purpose for her life, and that he was bringing his children closer to him through our daughter and working through her to reach the hearts of others.

And, as I soon discovered, God was also working through me, by giving me the courage to stand up and say that my daughter is not wrong, she is beautiful.

God has given us the courage to find the beauty in this life, not the tragedy. We believe whole-heartedly that Brenna was given to us uniquely and beautifully created by God, not that she was given to us broken.

Within this, we are learning every day how to discover the beauty in the different and the unexpected. Where society often mocks different, we have found God’s beautiful creation in our differences and are learning to glorify his awesomeness through our distinct personalities, talents, and yes, appearances.

And yet, as we learn to appreciate and to celebrate our differences – our own and each other’s – it also serves as a great reminder that the God who created each of us with unique purpose and talents also created us with a likeness in his image.

We are different, and we are the same – none of us perfect, but formed purposely by a perfect Creator. And there is nothing wrong about that.

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To read more of Brenna and Courtney’s story, visit her blog at www.blessedbybrenna.com.

What question should we ban from small talk?

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Philpott. I’ll share with you her bio from her website, allamericanmom.net, to give you an idea what her blog is like: Hey y’all! I’m Sarah—a farmer’s wife and mom to two mischievous little kids. I’m a lover of big earrings, the written word, traveling, hosting parties for my friends, ...

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ThePhilpottFamily-131Today’s guest post is from Sarah Philpott. I’ll share with you her bio from her website, allamericanmom.net, to give you an idea what her blog is like:

Hey y’all! I’m Sarah—a farmer’s wife and mom to two mischievous little kids. I’m a lover of big earrings, the written word, traveling, hosting parties for my friends, and sitting on my front-porch soaking up life. This blog is devoted to helping families through the turmoil of pregnancy loss. If you’ve found yourself here because you’ve experienced loss…please let me tell you that I am so sorry. On occasion, I like to give a glimpse into my day-to-day life as a millennial farm mom. Thanks for dropping by! ~~Comforting Others with the Comfort We Have Received~~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What I’ve discovered, as someone who is fortunate to have not had to face infertility or the loss of a child, is that even though I personally haven’t faced these things, I have friends who have. And the recurring theme in all that I’ve read is that when people face these struggles, they often feel alienated and alone and unable to share the truth. I think we all, whatever stage of life we are in, need to be aware of what so many people face and learn to have the awkward conversations but to do it with love and compassion and grace. This is such a good post that Sarah was willing to share. Enjoy!


So, when are you going to have a kid?
Do you want more kids?
Are you finished having kids?
Why don’t you have any kids?

When we reach a certain age, these questions come directed at us with sniper-like speed. They are asked by the sweetest, most well-meaning people ever: the little old lady who sits at the end of our church row, the older-widowed gentleman who is behind us in line at the grocery store, and the man at the party who doesn’t know a follow-up question to “what do you think of the weather.”

But, these questions are also asked in a taunting and teasing manner. You know the ones: “So, when you are you and Vanessa going to get that baby making started? Do you need me to tell you how it works?” ( wink, wink) says your husband’s business colleague in the middle of the company party.

Tisk, tsk, tsk. Neither Emily Post nor Amy Vanderbilt would approve of such banter as appropriate. I’m sure it is mentioned in their etiquette books between the chapters of “how to address a wedding invitation” and “how to fold a napkin.” To put it simply, “baby makin’ ain’t a topic for small-talk.”

IT’S JUST A SIMPLE QUESTION. WHY DO YOU HAVE TEARS IN YOUR EYES?

The reason questions related to procreation can be uncomfortable is because a large percentage of couples face the reality of infertility or pregnancy loss. For these couples, their heart’s desire and the timing of God fail to intersect at the same point. It can bring with it angst, sadness, and confusion. These couples have learned that creating a child isn’t as easy as making a dinner reservation, and they don’t necessarily want to share their personal details with the man standing behind them at the grocery line. It’s not that they want to keep this a secret; it’s just that they don’t really want to unleash real, raw emotions in the middle of Publix. A deluge of tears might spill down aisle 5.

WHAT ARE WOMEN REALLY THINKING?

Let’s examine the thoughts of ten women when they are asked the innocuous question: “Are you going to have kids?” You can read how emotionally laden such a simple question might be:

??? SO, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE KIDS ???

chart for Sarah Philpott post

I say, “Enough already!”As you can read, this simple question can trigger a variance of emotional responses for many women and couples.  Fertility issues are invisible burdens that many couples bear; we should acknowledge that possibility before asking such a personal inquiry.

Questioning in the middle of the grocery store- not okay. Questioning over a cup of coffee during an intimate conversation- okay. Questioning in the middle of church “hand-shaking” time- not okay. Questioning in the middle of a private conversation at church-maybe okay.

We should definitely give grace and forgiveness to acquaintances whom inquire about such personal matters. Many have a motive of pure kindness and are not privy to inner struggles. Also, opening up to other people about struggles and fears can be extremely helpful; it is through conversation and vulnerability that we find out that others might have faced similar circumstances and might be able to offer us hope, wisdom, and kinship.

Those of us with fertility issues might also consider responding with the truth—even if the question-asker is put in an awkward position. Responding by saying, “Actually we do WANT children, but we have complications with fertility. Do you mind praying for us?” Answering this way can be powerful, freeing, and makes a social statement that infertility and pregnancy loss are not topics of shame.

But as a society we should all stop using the question of children as small-talk. Only ask if you are prepared for a real answer and ready to provide a listening ear (or a slap in the face). Likewise, let’s all (men, I’m mainly talking to you) make a concerted effort to stop teasing people (mainly your fellow guy friends) about having or not having kids.

Readers, repeat after me, “I will stop teasing people about whether or not they have children. I will stop asking acquaintances if they want more or any children. Instead, I will ask about the weather or their summer vacation plans.”

And we all say, “Amen.”

So, what’s your favorite small-talk question to ask someone? And, what’s your favorite way to answer the “Do you want to have kids?” question?

Writing lessons from my saxophone (guest post by Terrie Todd)

At the age of 53, I took up saxophone playing and, surprise-surprise, I gained insights for my writing life as well. #1. Practice pays.                      This may seem obvious, but by the time we’re in our fifties, most of us figure we’ve mastered whatever skills we’re going to master and everything else is status-quo. When I ...

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GRAPHIC frail attemptsAt the age of 53, I took up saxophone playing and, surprise-surprise, I gained insights for my writing life as well.

#1. Practice pays.                     

This may seem obvious, but by the time we’re in our fifties, most of us figure we’ve mastered whatever skills we’re going to master and everything else is status-quo. When I first picked up the saxophone, practice times were torture because I was puffing, sweating, and squawking. But the worst of it was my lips. They just couldn’t hold up through an entire song.

But I’m greedy enough that if I’m going to cough up money for lessons, I’m going to make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck—and that means a half hour every day with my sax. Gradually, I noticed I could hit the high and low notes I couldn’t hit before, I wasn’t panting, and my lips didn’t give out. How did that happen? Practice. What was true when we were kids still holds.

Think what might happen if we practiced our writing skills with the same diligence.

#2. Everybody has their unique style.

It took a year for my teacher, Ritchard, and I to notice the uniqueness of our hands. He couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble “rolling” my thumb from the thumb rest onto the octave key and back, like he does. When I watched him do it, I pointed out that my thumbs don’t curl backwards the way a lot of thumbs do. Mine are the “one-way only” kind, and no amount of practice will change their tree-stumpiness.

“Would you look at that,” Ritchard said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

It was a relief to know I’m a freak of nature. It provides a great excuse to develop my own way of compensating.

Every writer has their style, strengths, and weaknesses. Ask God to help you develop your own voice and compensate for your unique limitations, and never give up merely because you can’t write like your hero.

#3. A deeper purpose means everything.

I spent the first several weeks playing ditties like Hot Cross Buns and Jingle Bells. I was having fun. But when Ritchard set a book of worship songs on the stand and I heard myself playing the melody of I Love You, Lord, something shifted. Though no one sang along, the familiar words rang in my head and suddenly I was so moved, I could hardly read the page for tears:

“Take joy, my King, in what you hear, may it be a sweet sound in your ear…”

How this can be true I don’t fully understand, but the God of creation was hearing my frail yet heartfelt attempts and taking joy in them.

As Christian writers, we have the priceless honor of worshipping God with our words and bringing him joy. Let that truth flood your heart as you write for him today.


TerrieTodd-2Terrie Todd writes from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where she lives with her hubby, Jon, and is a part-time administrative assistant at City Hall. An eclectic writer, Terrie is a published playwright, an eight-time contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul, a weekly faith and humor columnist for the Central Plains Herald Leader, and a two-time finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. Her first novel, The Silver Suitcase, will be released by Waterfall Press in January, 2016. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of the Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. Terrie and Jon have three adult children, three grandsons, and another grandson arriving this fall! You can catch up with her latest shenanigans at www.terrietodd.blogspot.com.

Finding peace in just the right place

I feel like I’m constantly saying the same old thing on these guest post intros… I met this lovely woman through the Facebook group my agent set up for clients of her agency, and I haven’t met her in person, but I love her… yadda yadda yadda. The thing is, though, it continues to be ...

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jayme_mansfield-069I feel like I’m constantly saying the same old thing on these guest post intros… I met this lovely woman through the Facebook group my agent set up for clients of her agency, and I haven’t met her in person, but I love her… yadda yadda yadda.

The thing is, though, it continues to be true. They’re all interesting and talented, kind and generous—all-around lovely people.

But I think Jayme Mansfield is really something special. Maybe because she wrote this incredible review of Praying Upside Down on her blog. Maybe because I love the name of her blog—The Blank Canvas: Fill it with Him. Maybe because she’s an artist. Or perhaps it’s because her book, Chasing the Butterfly, is really, really good.

Or maybe I should stop trying to define it and keep it simple: She’s really awesome and I hope you enjoy this guest post.

GRAPHIC spinning in circles

The Colorado Rocky Mountains are calling my name today. I’m fortunate—only a short drive from the west side of Denver will soon find me surrounded by forests of pine, valleys blanketed in wild flowers, high and fast-moving rivers from summer’s abundance of rain, and the remnants of last winter’s snow still capping the highest peaks.

But wait…though the allure of trading the city for a few days for a slice of mountain tranquility shouts to me to wrangle the dog into backseat and race the car out of town, it’s really God whispering to my soul to come rest with Him—“to be still, and know that I am God.”

He knows me well. Anxious thoughts have been brewing—my teaching job, although wonderful, has tiptoed closer than when vacation began. The myriad of home and garden improvements waits impatiently on the “to-do list.” Best intentions to meet friends for coffee, wheedle away at the stack of books on my nightstand, and re-start my long neglected Pilates regime, now wait like bored spectators—hoping for even a bit of action. Worst of all (for us author peeps), is my next unfinished manuscript with the self-prescribed, ambitious, end-of-summer birthday—which will not happen. Sigh!

Ah, yes, He knows me well. I could spend another weekend spinning in circles like my rooftop weather vane in a windstorm—heading north to the grocery store, south to the basement laundry room, east to mow the lawn, and then west to walk the dog. A momentary pause, when the wind is merely catching its breath, may allow me pause at my computer.

Or, I could stop and breathe. Close my eyes, and pray—Lord, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to be? And let His words play over in my mind, “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20).

Regardless of what I am doing, I do know this—He wants me with Him. Sometimes it’s among a whirlwind of people and activity—a beehive life. Other times, it is in solitude, quietness, and stillness—nestled in His presence.

Yes, He knows me, oh, so well. Today, He’s beckoning me to spend time with Him alone (okay, Gracie will tag along as I’m convinced she is one of His favorite dogs.) I’ll turn the music off while I drive, hike to a favorite vantage point to gaze upon one of His many creations—and then I will listen, soak in the inspiration, the calm, and the peace that is essential before I write.

But most importantly, I will be with Him so that I can hear the what—the answer to my prayer to be reoriented, to have my physical, emotional, and spiritual compass be recalculated. After all, I’m convinced that is when the views are most glorious.


To spend more time with Jayme, visit her at: Her website | Facebook Author Page | PinterestGoodreadsTwitterInstagramJayme’s Art Studio website

5119HhoZ9aLAuthor Bio: Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator. She provides vivid imagery as she melds her inspiring writing and artistic talents. Her debut novel, Chasing the Butterfly, released in late summer 2014, by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Recently, she was awarded the 2015 Christian Small Publishers Association Book of the Year in Historical Fiction and the novel is a 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award Finalist for Women’s Fiction. Her passion for weaving stories about women who find their strength in the Lord continues in her upcoming novel, Rush, a historically compelling tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush in the late 1800’s. Jayme owns, paints, and shares the joy of creating visual art with children and adults at the Piggy Toes Art Studio in Lakewood, Colorado for the past twenty years. After a career in both the business and creative sides of advertising, Jayme received her teaching and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Creative Arts. For many years in elementary education, she has shared a passion for literacy and the writing process with her students. She teaches at Aspen Academy in Greenwood Village, Colorado. She is married to James and has three teenage boys.

A faith journey: the real beginning (guest post by Bekah Pogue)

Bekah Pogue got my attention when she wrote such a wonderful review of Praying Upside Down (always a good way to get me to notice you!). I started reading her blog Upcycled Jane: Embracing Beauty in the Everyday, and found this post. When I stopped crying, I asked for permission to share this one here. ...

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IMG_6238-e1405574557462Bekah Pogue got my attention when she wrote such a wonderful review of Praying Upside Down (always a good way to get me to notice you!). I started reading her blog Upcycled Jane: Embracing Beauty in the Everyday, and found this post. When I stopped crying, I asked for permission to share this one here. It’s the sixth and final essay in a series about the final week of her dad’s life. She said, “Loss served as the the catalyst to my faith, and it is through this story, I see God’s invitation to experience Him as the greatest story.” Enjoy!

I’m finding grief to be not like the stereotypical dark, hovering cloud, but more like a portion of my heart has been removed, not to grow back or forget its original whole, forever changing my  journey with a new heartbeat, a changed rhythm.

My heart beats heavy as I write. Conjuring up dad’s last day on earth is an unexplainable tug of sorrow and peace. It’s one I have to share, can’t help but process; it’s the day that will impact today, tomorrow, and every day after.

The afternoon of April 2nd, behind-the-scene momentum built after receiving the doctor’s shocking words that Dad would have to be discharged from the hospital. A shared skilled nursing facility room, or going home on hospice were our options. We made calls. We checked facility availability. It’s not unlike calling for hotel reservations, but with the realization that once you check in, you don’t check out. My years as a hospice intake coordinator came flooding back; talking with grieving families, helping them understand end-of-life-care. And here I was, on the other side, shaking my head at the horrible irony. We didn’t want Dad sharing a room with two other people, left to die in a foreign place. But we couldn’t bear the thought of watching him take his final breaths, lying in a hospital bed in the living room, near the piano. It was a lose-lose situation, and in the end, hospice at home was decided for the next day.

Before leaving, I found dad’s ear: Dad, please, go be with Jesus tonight. I don’t want mom to have to remember you passing away at home. I don’t want her to walk down the stairs every morning and re-live finding you there. Please, go be with Jesus. As much as I want you here, God would you please call him home tonight?

Leaving room 575, my dad’s breathing was regular, his deep coma almost a joke, as if he’d been taking a 5-day nap. We exchanged hugs with Michele, a dear family friend and former ER nurse, as she was planning to sit with Dad for a bit.

Ten minutes after arriving back at mom’s we received the call. God had called Dad home. He’d heard our cry. Dad was in glory. God’s timing perfect.

There are moments I’ll always remember: looking at my husband when the pastor pronounced us “husband and wife,” the elation at seeing our first positive pregnancy test, the joy at seeing it again two years later. And now this news; the reality that my dad was gone. It was a thousand emotions in the same heartbeat: relief, sadness, confusion, numbness, but blanketing them all was peace. An uncanny, undeniable peace. It was finished. Dad was no longer trapped in a cancer-infested body. He was now in eternity.

During the next few hours, time sat still. Every action became deliberate, every sense heightened. We bathed the boys, the water feeling neither hot nor cold, but wet. Food tasted like sandpaper, and moving took every ounce of energy. To bed- first Ty, then Tanner. Snuggled under dinosaur sheets in the bed he slept in when staying at Mimi and Papa’s, I cupped his face. Papa went to be with Jesus tonight, T. He got a new body, and they are having a huge celebration for him in heaven right now. My words came but tears lacked. We laid there, Tanner holding his Mario stuffed animal, his body wrapped in my arms. He was quiet for some time, and then spoke.

What about his glasses? Does he need them in heaven?

I smiled, touched by his child-wonder, a concrete question.

No buddy, he doesn’t. In heaven, he can see without glasses. He gets a new body; one that’s healthy and free of sickness. Simple faith, pure questions, that may be my new prayer. God, help me have child-like faith.

We met back at the hospital, our final visit to room 575, a building that had become our temporary home for the past week. I shut the door behind and approached my father. How different he looked in the hours since he’d passed. I’d seen death before- when working for hospice, and with my grandpa the day before he died. I’ve heard people talk about this peace but somehow thought it was a played up, spiritual emotion to make people feel better. Bending near, holding his cold hand, I can attest to the peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding. Staring at dad’s face, I couldn’t help but smile in the pain, feel joy in my greatest sorrow. I was looking at someone who was standing in the presence of God. Such a surreal and shadowy experience- like peering from behind the stage at a soloist’s dress rehearsal, seeing the lights, but not feeling their warmth as they do on their face. That’s the image I had of dad in that moment: warm light on his face, seeing His Savior, experiencing complete healing, then looking behind his Heavenly Father and seeing a familiar figure- his earthly father! Oh the hugs, and pats on the backs, and cheeseburgers that were enjoyed in heaven that evening.

And herein lies the clencher: this is not the end. Oh no! This, my friends, is the real beginning. The beginning of dad’s journey in Eternity, his journey enjoying Forever with his Maker, and this marks the beginning for each of us affected- his family and friends.

GRAPHIC my story doesn't end hereAs his daughter, this is the beginning of the story God is writing in my life. My story does not end here. I refuse to say that at 64, my dad passed away, and my world fell apart. Sure, it will for a while, really forever. But I refuse to hang my hat on that date. I refuse to say my life ended the dad my dad died. I choose instead to let this experience, this horrible, grace-threaded, full-of-heart-ache journey change me forever. Like Donna said, I will never be the same, and chances are if you’ve walked this with me, or someone dear to your heart, you too will not be the same. Good. Let this crazy grief process begin. Let the sobs and anger and questions and quietness come. But let us not forget that God is doing something beautiful in His time. And His time is every.single.day.

As I reflect on that week in the hospital, in the music God brought to mind, the prayers, the texts, the visitors, the clinging of Dad’s arm and the clutching of one another, in the questions and in the answers, one thing stared me head-on. Not once in that week did I think about my schedule. Amazing how I worry about the calendar and to-do lists and the entertaining of dreams and concerns of what if or if only…How quickly in an emergency, do the extras dissipate and priorities come into focus. Friends have asked how losing a parent affects my day-to-day and I say this: the small stuff doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. We are given today, and that in itself is a gift.

Busyness or distraction is my tendency and I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to sit in every feeling, taste every tear, be present in every second of this process. God is calling me, as He has for some time now, He is drawing me to the edge and asking me to jump. He is asking if I trust Him to be my everything or if I simply sing about it. It’s the scariest act I’ll ever do. But this is where His peace is made perfect, and I jump into waiting arms- the same arms that hold my dad, that hold all who know Him and have passed from this life to Glory.

If I live to be 64 like my dad, that means I have the next half of my life to experience this peace, God’s perfect love, this freedom in letting Jesus reveal His story day-by-day. And each day I’ll whisper, God, don’t let me miss you. Give me ears and eyes, hands, and a heart to see you everywhere. I’m here.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

Do it scared (guest post by Laurie Coombs)

Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what ...

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header_1Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what a divine gift it is. This story reminds us how profound and magnificent God’s forgiveness can be.

Let me set the stage a little with some info from her bio: In 2010, Laurie Coombs was called to love and forgive the man who murdered her father, which led to an exchange of letters between she and Anthony, her father’s murderer. During their correspondence, Laurie was healed from her past wounds, was given grace to forgive Anthony, and witnessed a powerful transformation in Anthony as Jesus brought him to repentance. And now, here’s an excerpt from her new book, Letters from My Father’s Murdered: A Journey of Forgiveness, published by Kregel Publications.

GRAPHIC Christian life passivity

One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.” I have it posted beside my bed, and every so often my girls ask me why I have those two little words there. I tell them, “All through the Bible bad things happen—people sin or something goes wrong—but over and over two words make it all okay: ‘but God.’”

You see, no matter what happens in life, no matter how bad things seem to be, God is still the constant. He is still working all things for good. The psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26, emphasis mine). Joseph echoed this sentiment when he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20, emphasis mine). Yet in my mind, the ultimate “but God” statement in the Bible is, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, emphasis mine).

Jesus truly is our Redeemer. Seeing Him as such allows us the freedom to trust and surrender ourselves to Him. We need to know our God. We need to know who He is and what He has done. It is only then that we are able to understand that He is for us, not against us, which frees us to obey, knowing He will work all things for our good and His glory.

Coming to understand God’s heart toward me—that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He is my comforter and my guide— suddenly empowered me to live life differently. Sure, I was a newbie at this whole Christian thing, but I knew I served a faithful, loving God.

81u-FkusLHLI knew I could trust Jesus, for He had proven Himself trustworthy. That didn’t mean God’s call to love and forgive Anthony was easy to embrace. I was scared. I didn’t know where this was going. And I certainly didn’t know how it would end. But I also knew I had allowed fear to motivate me far too long.

Fear is a God-given emotion. Its purpose is to protect us from harm. This kind of fear is good. But so much of the fear we experience is irrational fear—fear that holds us back from living the full life Jesus died for us to have, fear that holds us hostage, never allowing us to see true growth of character. This kind of fear never brings good. And if we choose to live in irrational fear, we will never see the promises of God fulfilled to the extent they’re given. We will never follow Christ into our hard places and come out greater on the other side.

Here’s the truth. Sometimes, we simply need to do it scared. Over and over at this time, well-meaning Christians told me to “follow peace.” I wasn’t to move forward if I didn’t feel peace about taking a step. But the whole “follow peace” thing can be a ploy—shrouded in holy words—used by Satan to bind us and keep us from following God. Jesus calls us out of our comfort zones into places of discomfort. And in these areas, we’re not going to feel peaceful all the time. Yes, there is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and is available to believers at all times, but often our propensity to rely on ourselves and do things our own way hinders us from experiencing that peace, which means sometimes following Jesus feels a bit crazy. A bit unsettling. Oftentimes we will feel scared to do that which God calls us to do. But make no mistake—fear does not negate the call. Fear is simply a by-product of our desire to control. When following Jesus into our unknown, scary places, God doesn’t usually clue us in on the big plan. And this can feel anything but peaceful at times. But still, we must move.

Following-Jesus-Can-Feel-CrazyIn my prayer journal at the time, I wrote, “I am seeing more and more that the Christian life is not a life of passivity, but a life of choices empowered by the Holy Spirit. I pray, Lord God, for You to help me to walk in Your Spirit.”

I heard it once said we can choose to live each day motivated by fear or by faith. It’s a choice we must all make. Christian reformer Martin Luther wrote in the preface to his translation of the epistle to the Romans, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it.”* I needed this kind of faith. I needed great faith to move beyond my fear and follow Jesus where He was leading. I needed the kind of faith that allows us to step out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus when He beckons, knowing that we can do all things through Him. The kind of faith that confidently says to Jesus, “Only say a word, and I shall be healed,” knowing full well that all things are possible with God. The kind of faith to follow Jesus into the unknown—into my scary places— regardless of the cost, knowing He will work all things for good.

 

 

Those fiery darts (guest post by Debbie Wilson)

At some point soon, when things are official, I’ll be telling you about some exciting news regarding what I’m working on right now. But for now, suffice it to say that A) it is exciting news! and B) I am going to be extraordinarily busy the next couple of months. I’ll still post once or ...

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At some point soon, when things are official, I’ll be telling you about some exciting news regarding what I’m working on right now. But for now, suffice it to say that A) it is exciting news! and B) I am going to be extraordinarily busy the next couple of months. I’ll still post once or twice a week throughout the summer, but I’m going to supplement that by introducing some of my writer friends. Every Tuesday I’ll be sharing posts from someone new. I hope you enjoy and I hope these posts resonate with you. Check out their blogs if you feel so inclined… these kinds of guest posts have helped me find some of my favorite writers, so hope they do the same for you :-). Enjoy!


Today I’m honored to share with you a post from my friend Debbie Wilson. If you enjoy it, check out her Bible study mentioned in the bio… someone you know got to design the book cover!

In my book, at the end of chapter 7, I mention the fiery darts that we are inundated with:

My friend Suzanne often talks about the fiery darts that Satan shoots at us. We can’t stop the darts (of accusation, shame, temptation) from coming our way. But we do have a choice—to grab hold of these condemning thoughts and gnaw on them awhile, or to move aside and let them sail on past. Unpleasant memories will jump out at us from time to time. Temptation will come our way. We don’t have to feel guilt when the thoughts flash past—but it’s up to us not to catch them and carry them with us. We can certainly use the darts to our advantage, though, because knowing where we have been, where we are now, what we’ve carried, how far we’ve traveled, and what we’ve learned gives us the ability to pray with fervor and insight for another person.

There’s more, but you’d have to read the whole chapter to make sense of it ;-). And now, here’s what she has to say about it…

GRAPHIC Jesus infuses us w courage

5 Tips for Dealing with Doubt

Time was ticking and I had to give my decision. I knew what I wanted. But every time I thought about saying, “no,” doubt assailed me. You’re wimping out. If you had faith you’d say yes.

I thought my doubt was a nebulous feeling that sprang from uncertainty. But, I’ve learned some doubts have a diabolical side.

What feels like paralyzing indecision may be a taunt from the enemy. Just like the devil gave King David the idea to take a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1-3) and Ananias and Sapphira the idea to lie about a gift they gave to the church (Acts 5:3-5), he plants thoughts in our minds too.

Jesus called the devil a liar (John 8:44) and the thief that comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The Bible also says he’s a slanderer and accuser (Revelation 12:10). The better we know Jesus, the better we’re able to identify Satan’s influence.

Have you received emails from friends asking you to send cash to help them because they lost their passports? I have. Even though the emails came from my friends’ accounts, the messages didn’t sound like them. I spotted the hoax because I knew my friends. The better we know someone the less likely we are to be hoodwinked by an impersonation.

Jesus said His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Below is an acronym to help you distinguish between the devil’s darts and your Shepherd’s leading. Protect yourself by learning to recognize the message or intent hidden in your doubts.

DARTS are:

  1. Destructive: sent to rob and destroy. Their purpose is to draw us away from God’s good and satisfying will. They push us toward something we feel uneasy about by causing us to doubt the validity of our reservations. Or they pull us away from something good. You’ll offend your neighbor if you invite her to Bible study.
  • Jesus’ words bring life and peace.
  1. Accusing: condemning, criticizing, and blaming. They tell us how selfish and rebellious we are to want something or how cowardly we are not to do something. The devil misused Scripture when he tempted Jesus. If a verse oppresses you, the enemy is twisting it against you. If you weren’t so—selfish, cowardly, or unforgiving—you’d…
  • Jesus never uses guilt, shame, or bullying to motivate us.
  1. Rule-oriented: relying on standards for righteousness instead of Jesus’ imputed righteousness. These thoughts tell us if we don’t obey their bullying command then we aren’t being loving or good Christians. For example: Good Christians must always… If you don’t help him how will he ever come to know Christ?
  • Jesus reminds us that our righteousness is found in Christ, not in our performance.
  1. Tempting: offering ways to meet your needs apart from God. People will respect you if…or Hurry, you’ll miss out.”
  • Jesus infuses us with courage to stand alone, to wait, to be still and know.
  1. Slanderous: maligning the character of God, other people, or yourself. God doesn’t care about you. Or, Your spouse is so stubborn.
  • Jesus reminds us that He is with us, for us, interceding, and guiding. His Spirit bears witness with ours that we belong to Him and empowers us with love and patience.

When God showed me the nature of my doubts, I was able to say “no,” with confidence. The next time you’re faced with confusion, ask yourself, “Is this legitimate doubt or a diabolical dart?” Then follow your Shepherd with confidence.


Debbie Wilson bookBio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. She is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Discover the Secrets to God’s Rest. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and four decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help believers discover relevant faith. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries of Raleigh, NC in 1991. Visit her blog at www.debbiewwilson.com.

 

 

Are you jaded?

My friend Marcia, talking about why she loves writers and books and the writing process so much, said, “Books change me.” And they do. Or they should, if they do their job well. I’m possibly the worst book reviewer there is. Really. Because I always take the book and make it all about me. All ...

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GRAPHIC God can soften

My friend Marcia, talking about why she loves writers and books and the writing process so much, said, “Books change me.” And they do. Or they should, if they do their job well.

I’m possibly the worst book reviewer there is. Really. Because I always take the book and make it all about me. All Kelly, all the time. I’m so sorry about that.

But when I read, I want my thoughts to be engaged. I want to come to a new understanding. I want to puzzle through motivations and emotions, and I want the people (whether fiction or non) to become real to me. Therefore, when I review a book, I tend to talk about where it took my thinking more than the actual book itself. It’s the best endorsement I can offer, really. When a friend recommends a book to me, I want to know what my potential take-away is. So that’s how I review.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.23.16 AMIn Jaded by Varina Denman, Ruthie and her mom were shunned—completely ostracized—years earlier by their church. Ruthie’s wounds ran deep and she was brittle and bitter. She didn’t want any part of their religion, and all she really wanted was to run from all of God’s people and go far, far away. The story is complex and real, engaging and moving, and immediately after finishing this book I downloaded the next one.

Know what I loved? That in spite of it all, Ruthie still believed in God. Although she felt that He had let her down, she couldn’t let go of that connection entirely. Ruthie understood what I think so many people do not: that God and church are not necessarily the same thing. And Ruthie wanted God. She wanted people to behave like they were supposed to, and she’d witnessed firsthand the cruelty that can be perpetrated in the name of religion. And in the story, she faced countless people who were willing to unquestionably believe lies proferred by a “Godly” man.

It’s a danger we in the church face, and we need to be wary. To turn to God, to beg Him, for discernment and wisdom in all situations. To stay in touch so we can see Him, hear from Him, respond like He would. I also think we need to remember that although churches should be the places where we see God most clearly, the two are not interchangeable. And God doesn’t live only within the church. I know that genuine faith can exist outside of that framework, and it often does. And that only serves to deepen my faith in the sustaining power of a relationship with God.

But sometimes the church itself is the thing pushing people away from God. Because God’s people don’t always behave as God would have them behave. In their passion and fervor, throughout time, men have used their belief in God as a trump card, twisting their religion to line up with their personal agendas. I don’t have to tell you this. We see it almost daily in the news.

But here’s the important thing to remember: God is the ultimate and final judge.

I can’t imagine how my faith would suffer if I didn’t have a body of people with whom to share my stories. People who pray with me, stand behind me, teach me, inspire me, and help guide and direct me. I’m fortunate. I know that everyone does not have this kind of support in their churches. And if you do not, can I encourage you today? Maybe you can initiate that—reach out to someone at your church. Intentionally develop friendships. Pray for one another. Try to create what you long for.

If you’ve been hurt by a church, pray about how to find reconciliation. Take the first steps if you can. Or if the wounds run too deep, take that leap of faith and walk through the doors of another church. Remember that people there—anywhere, everywhere—will be flawed. We all make mistakes, no matter how well-intentioned our motivations. It doesn’t excuse the wrong-doing, and I am not belittling the very real things you may have experienced. When we focus our attention on man, though, we miss out on seeing One who is so much bigger than all of that.

Because there is One who never makes a mistake. One who can bear the weight of the pain you’ve been carrying. One who will meet you wherever you are, whenever you reach out. One who longs to heal you, comfort you, reveal Himself to you. One who really can mend. Who can soften hardened hearts and open closed minds.

Dear Lord, help us to see You. Help us to represent You in truth and generosity, in love and kindness. Continue Your healing of all those who have been hurt, and strengthen our faith. Help us understand that You are worth whatever we have to go through in order to find You. And give us the resolve to keep searching. Surround us with bodies of people who are also seeking to find authenticity in their faith. Help us to find You. In the sweet, sweet name of Jesus I pray, Amen.


I received a copy of Jaded in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase it anywhere books are sold (including here). But don’t stop there: Justified, the next book in the series is also now available!

 

The problem? It’s not your prayer life.

That much-anticipated day is here. My book is officially available everywhere. So while I’m scrambling around getting ready for my book release party tonight, I wanted to share with you one of several posts I have on other blogs today. This one is at (in)courage, a site full of beautiful writing and lovely writers who ...

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20150420-Stanley-PrayerChanges

That much-anticipated day is here. My book is officially available everywhere. So while I’m scrambling around getting ready for my book release party tonight, I wanted to share with you one of several posts I have on other blogs today. This one is at (in)courage, a site full of beautiful writing and lovely writers who live authentically and continue to seek God. I’m humbled to be included among them today.


Calling all prayer warriors! I’m talking to you—yes, you, the one who knows what she’s doing.

Hey, where did everyone go?

I used to think I knew how to pray. I had some glorious times, late at night while my husband worked second shift and my kids slumbered upstairs. I could pass an hour or two, face down on the floor, pouring out my heart and feeling God’s presence as a tangible weightiness in the atmosphere.

And then I didn’t have those times anymore.

My excuse? << read more at (in)courage >>


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