Showing posts from 2018

The path we cannot see

It has been said that hindsight gives us 20/20 vision, but what are we to do when we are in the space of difficulty and blind to the path in front of us? What are we to do when we feel hopelessly trapped, and cannot find our way forward?

There are seasons and situations in our lives that threaten to overwhelm us. They last too long and hurt too deeply. They wear us down to the place of brokenness, and we loosen our grasp on the hope that anything will ever change, that anything can be redeemed.

And we forget.

We forget that God is working all things towards our good. We forget because when life doesn't feel good, it doesn't seem good. We forget that we only see the smallest part of the workings of an omnipotent God, and He has not lost control of any detail of our lives.

For centuries the enslaved Israelites were living under the cruelty of the Egyptians. Each hopeless moment passed as the one before. And then one ordinary day a hesitant leader shows up with his rugged staff and a…

Hope will rise

I’ve been in that place. That place where hope is dwindling. That place where dreams of change seem to lose all of the prayers I’ve blown into them, and they float empty to the ground. And I feel alone. Alone and empty holding onto my deflated heart with vague wonderings of where my miracle is. I have been there. I have been there with my brokenness. I have been there touching the pieces of my sorrow thinking that God could have stopped this ache, but he did not. And I’ve wondered if he sees me. I’ve wondered if he knows, if he might care how deeply I hurt. In grade school, I had to memorize scripture verses for a portion of my Bible class. Occasionally we would be allowed to pick the verse we wanted to commit to memory, and on one such occasion I cleverly chose the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” I never knew the context that surrounded that verse. I had always assumed it was written around the time that Jesus was going to be crucified, because who isn’t going t…

How brokenness can lead to thankfulness

I am flat on my back watching the rotation of the ceiling fan give off a low hum. Around and around and around it spins. My mind is following. I tilt a bit to my side to release the ache that is beginning to form near my spine. Blessed relief! For now. I think about the dishes in the sink, and how I had to skip my workout this morning. Then there’s that pile of clean laundry on the floor beside me that promises to wrinkle if I don’t fold it soon. The bills need to be paid, counters wiped down, floors cleaned. The list grows and I wonder how long I will allow myself to lay in this pain free position before I tackle it. It has been six weeks since I noticed the dull pain in my back. What started as an annoyance has turned into an ache that keeps me from falling asleep at night. I have tried ice and heat, chiropractic manipulation and TENS units, steroids and muscle relaxers. It still hurts, and my frustration is growing. My body can’t do what I want it to do. I wonder if I …

Even if. . .

I remember the accident.  I remember it like it happened yesterday.  I remember it because it was a day that changed me.  In truth, it changed a lot of people.  It was August 11th, 2004.  It has now been 14 years since my little girl, Emma Grace, came face to face with death.
I was working in Chicago that day, and called home during a break to check in on my husband Chad and our two young girls.  Emma, our oldest, had celebrated her second birthday 5 days earlier and Rylee was 6 months old.  
When Chad answered the phone I knew immediately something was wrong.  “Nancy, Emma fell and hit her head.  Her eyes keep rolling back and she is in and out of consciousness."  I could hear the panic and fear in his voice.  
“Keep her awake!  Don’t let her fall asleep,” I yelled in desperation.  I heard the sirens in the background.
Looking back, I can remember that surge of fear and the anxiety, but my mind was focused on the distance that separated us.  I knew I needed to be there for my f…

The path to surrender is the road of the cross

It was early, but the birds were awake to witness our departure.  I'm sure they sang like they did every other morning, but I was in no frame of mind to hear them.  The sun was throwing pale yellow rays through the fronds that hung over the uneven road to our neighborhood known as Colonia Becklin.  And just beneath the height of the hanging coconuts grew a Plumeria tree displaying Nicaragua's national flower.

I wonder, sometimes, at how the earth still spins and pushes forth beauty when a world can stop short, caving in from the weight of sadness and disappointment.

Our home for the past year, with its concrete walls and leaking roof, its dusty floors and roach filled kitchen, stood in stoic silence as we passed by for the last time.  Our call to missions wasn't suppose to the end this way, this soon.  The guards had given us a bored, sleepy wave when we drove through the gate.  We were one of many missionaries who had lived in that neighborhood.  I doubt they remember ou…

To know, is to love

A few months ago I was asked to consider speaking at a ladies' gathering.  My initial reaction was curiosity, but that was quickly followed by nervousness and finally dread.  I gave a quick verbal decline, "Thanks, but no thanks."

It was my mind that held onto the idea, turning it over and looking at it closely.  What could I possibly say that people want to hear?  Who am I that people would care to listen?

I pump detergent into a tattered blue sponge, and began to wipe clean the pile of dishes in the sink.  From the window I look over our fence to see the backyard of my friend Maria.  She reached out to me before I moved into my house six months ago, and in the midst of that crazy, busy, strange time, I felt a flicker of hope for acceptance and belonging.  I wonder what would Maria want to hear?

I rinse and stack and wipe down counters.  My phone pings; a text from one of my sisters.  I dry my hands to send and receive a few messages back and forth, then return to the …

The gift of fathers

I'd wake before the sun, and follow the hallway into the yellow light that was thrown from the kitchen.  My bare feet padded across the cool linoleum floor and stood waiting until I was invited up onto his lap.  There were remnants of runny eggs streaked across the white plate before him, and a lukewarm cup of coffee that I knew from experience tasted more like sugar and cream.  When he left for work, the mug would remain in my possession; a gift for early risers.

The remembering of him during my childhood flows in and out of my mind.  Moments emerge and collect into categories.  My adulthood analyzes, organizes, assigns.

We didn't have a lot of money, but we were never in need.  My Dad would leave us early in the morning to drive 18 wheelers until late in the evening.  Mom nurtured us kids.  Dad provided for us.

Before I reached my teen years, he managed to work as a truck driver and go back to college.  After graduating, he began to pastor a church and for decades he never t…

The secret to finding God's will for your life

I once held preconceived ideas about the character of missionaries.  Being raised in church all my life, one would think I had met several, but I had not.  I think in some ways they are thought of as being on a higher spiritual plain, possessing the most beautiful of Godly principles.  Surely they are selfless and sacrificial, driven and adventurous, bold and fearless, visionaries and leaders.

But then I became one.

I know who I am, and who I am not.  People can look at the outside and assume they know the heart, but they cannot.  Maybe I managed to make some tough decisions on the way to serving as a missionary, but every single one carried its own dark fear.  I have never been bold, and certainly not thought of as a leader.  I am admittedly selfish too.  But somehow none of these things disqualified me.

In the four years since I first set foot in Nicaragua, I have learned a great deal about the character of God and His perfect will for my life.  I used to believe that His plan had e…

In the morning, I rise

I get up after hitting my snooze button on my phone for the 3rd time.

I get up for many reasons – reasons I’m not quite sure of yet as I stumble out of bed from my sleep/sleepless night.

I steady my off balanced footing and stomp through my motherly garments that I have rightfully earned– the comfy pants, slippers, t-shirt, and oversized cardigan/ know the one you wore the past three mornings – that one.

I trip out of my bedroom into the hallway that could have landmines of legos, tape, open doors, babydolls, matchbox cars, chair-legs, etc. I sacrifice myself to get one step closer to the aroma of delayed brew coffee – thank the Lord every morning for delayed brew coffee.

I pour my cup, open up my devotional app on my phone and begin swiping and scrolling through readings and verses and quickly write down in my journal the thoughts that float through my brain so that I might actually remember them at the end of the reading.

The app I use allows you to see what your friends hav…

This letting go

I am looking back on life and wondering how I have lived so many years.  The lines of my face age me, but inside I feel just shy of twenty.  My children are the reminders of all the time I have passed through.  The fade of the sun and the rise of the moon have transformed them.  I remember their beginning and many of the moments that have brought them to where they are now.  I have been there savoring the gifts that time brings, and loving the journey of being a mom.  And through all of these years I have come to believe that the hardest part and the most beautiful is the letting go.

My son had surgery last week that prevents him from putting any weight on one of his legs for at least six weeks. He has been hobbling his way through our home, up and down the stairs on crutches.  He is still the boy he has always been, pushing the boundaries of his abilities, full of confidence and lacking the fear that could keep him safe.  All of my warnings of the consequences that will follow a fall…

To the one not chosen

Recently, three of my children auditioned for the same choir at school.

When I see the posted list of those accepted, my heart slips slowly to the floor.  I recheck the names once, then twice, and a third time just to make sure there wasn't an oversight.  But nothing changes.

The three walk through the front door from school and hear the news that only two of them are chosen.  Their faces tell me how the by-passing of one makes them all feel left out.  I whisper congratulations in one room, and bind up wounds in another.  I see now how you can belong to the contradiction of both joy and sorrow.

I considered this scenario days before when they were all a tangled mess of nerves.  I wished, I hoped, I dreamed with them.  I looked them in the eyes, and told them how proud I was that they were doing this brave thing.  And no matter the outcome, they had accomplished all that they could to realize their dream.

But here in this space of hurting, my words fall lifeless.  I feel the pain…

To choose a life like that

A cool and rainy spring break lingers on through the Monday after Easter, and all but one of my kids sleep late.  Eliza, my little shadow, is up and about and ready to hit the grocery with me by mid-morning. A few moments after entering the store a familiar scent hits me.  I literally stop mid-aisle and question Eliza, "Do you smell that?  What does it remind you of?"

I don't wait for an answer, "It smells like Nicaragua."
The store has been under construction for the past few weeks, so I can't place the exact source of the familiar aroma, but it flies me back to our home in Central America.  It is a clean scent, like fresh laundry or newly mopped floors.  I'd forgotten it was ever a part of my life until now.

It's morning there with the windows propped wide behind the black metal bars.  The screens are popping away from their corners having been cut too short by the owner of the house.  We haven't bothered to fix them because the mosquitoes are…

It isn't well with my soul

In the year 1871, the Spafford family tragically lost their only little boy to an illness.  Horatio, the father, was a successful lawyer and businessman in the city of Chicago, but later that same year, he also lost many of his investments in The Great Chicago Fire.  In the pain of personal and financial tragedy, the family decided to take a holiday to Europe following these events, but Horatio had to finish up some business before leaving.   He sent his wife Anna and their four young daughters on a boat with plans to meet them in England.

Four days into the voyage, their ship collided with another and Anna was the only Spafford who survived.  She sent Horatio a telegram that began, "Saved, alone."  On his way to meet Anna, Horatio's ship passed over the place where his daughters perished beneath the dark and mighty sea.  It is said that these events inspired him to write the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul.

The first notes play out, and I recognize their tune before the w…

The power of words

I receive hand scratched notes on a regular basis from my youngest child.  They are often apologies written in marker and hand-delivered in tears.  Each one is some variation of this, "Dear Mom, I am sorry I made you mad.  Will you forgive me?  Yes or No?  (Circle one.)  Love, Eliza"

I always feel a flash of sadness as I remember some small thing I may have reminded her to do or scolded her for.  It is a rare occasion that I am actually upset with her, but her sensitivity to my tone of voice and her desire for my approval prompts these little messages written by a broken heart.  She has opened my eyes to the tenderness that exists inside of her, and the care I need to use when disciplining her.

I think a lot about the words I speak.  I frequently leave conversations wishing I had kept my mouth shut, and regret the potential error of my words for days.  Seriously, days!  I analyze the back and forth of the exchange, and wonder how my words were received.  Have I offended?  Di…