Getting Out of the Way

Getting Out of the Way

I watched my girl this weekend as she began grasping new ideas and learning new skills. She is so close to pulling herself up to her knees, given the chance. And she has realized that when she throws something, she just has to look over the arm of the chair to find it again. I love being witness to each new trick, each developmental leap. Ah, object permanence is such a wondrous thing!

But as I watched, I witnessed something that both amused and struck me.

Playing gleefully with her basket of toys, Fiona found a cloth book that unfolds into one long succession of “pages”. It’s a bit unwieldy for a baby when it’s all open, but she loves it anyway. Having pulled it out earlier, she found herself sitting next to the end of the book. She picked it up, but the book wouldn’t budge. She pulled and pulled on it, thinking surely she could lift it to her mouth to chew on (that’s what 7-month-old babies do, after all), but it wouldn’t work. She look plaintively at me to fix the problem, as though it was I who was keeping her from her desires. Or at the very least, I wasn’t helping fulfill them.

Unbeknownst to her, though, she was sitting on the book. Her own weight kept it grounded. I tried not to laugh as I watched her try with all her might, yet fail because she didn’t notice that she herself was the obstacle in her way.

It struck me just then, that perhaps that’s how God feels. Read more

God’s World

God’s World

The sunrise over the Nansemond River on my commute this morning.

God’s World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
     Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
     Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
     But never knew I this;
     Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

Source: Renascence and Other Poems (Harper & Brothers, 1917)

Learn more about Edna St. Vincent Millay.

God’s gift

God’s gift

Sometimes life is heavy and hard. And it feels like Husband and I have had more than our fair share of that lately. The days of laughter and joy seem so far gone. But I take courage, that while Christ warned us of the trouble we would face in this world, there is hope.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33


And today, these verses that remind me that it is not only in heaven that we will find happiness, but even in the rhythm of life.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 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. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:10-13

I used these same verses in a post about rhythm in early 2012, but my focus was on other portions of the passage; somehow I managed to skip right over the part where we are told that being happy, doing good, and finding satisfaction in our work is God’s gift to us.

God’s gift.


I began writing this a few weeks ago…but it was so raw and new at the time I couldn’t bring myself to dwell on it long enough to finish writing about it. It’s still difficult and hard to understand and even painful. Because I’ve never been in this place, and I never wanted to be in this place.

My whole life I have experienced an unwavering trust in God. Complete. Without fail. Not just in His sovereignty, but in His goodness. And today, I struggle with that.

When we were at the beach house in May, Ginger took a little adventure of her own. One moment we were making breakfast, the next we were frantically searching for her. We still aren’t sure how she managed to get out, or where exactly she went.

But we know that Husband and I very nearly panicked. Amid a flurry of running around calling out her name, searching desperately for any sign of her, and splitting up and driving in opposite directions around the community, I was praying fervently.

Most of my prayers were hardly more than “Lord, let us find her” and “Lord, keep her safe”.

Ginger at First Landing State Park.

Then, somewhere in my head a doubt, a question crept in. Would God keep her safe?

Trust has taken on new meaning since we lost Michael. Deeper meaning in some ways. Harder in others. Just different in so many ways.

I hardly had the wherewithal to examine where the doubt came from in the midst of my panic. Even now, with Ginger safe at home, it confuses me. It’s not that I don’t trust God anymore, I do. I fully and completely believe that He is Lord and He is righteous and holy and perfect. And nothing will change that.

But my naivete is lost. I no longer feel like I have that unwavering, unshakable trust that God will work it all out.

At moments, it becomes painfully obvious that I know that God doesn’t always “work it out.” God doesn’t always step in to our lives in the way we want. God doesn’t always keep us safe and free from pain.

Ginger escaped again last weekend. I followed her through fields of young corn and across acres of harvested wheat. We went about three miles; I was rarely more than 20 or 30 feet behind her. And I prayed–frustrated, fear-driven prayers.

I hope, over time, I will learn to restore my trust. I hope that it becomes as strong as my faith. It will never be the same–never like it was before we lost Michael–but perhaps it can be even better, stronger, truer. Perhaps trust in spite of loss is more real, more meaningful, more effective.

I was encouraged today when I read about another woman’s struggle with trust after loss. I’m not alone in this. And it’s not a failure of faith. It’s just part of the process of grief.

What horses have taught me: God is in control

What horses have taught me

People sometimes relegate horses to the status of an expensive hobby,
but I want to show you through this series that the life lessons they teach are priceless.

In my very first “What horses have taught me” post, I gave a little background on how I came to own horses in the first place. But today I want to explore a significant lesson I learned in the midst of that story.

For the first time, I truly learned that God is in control–of everything. And I didn’t realize until recently what a treasure that lesson was to learn early in my life, and what influence that has had in my adult life.

After I had spent three long years scrimping and saving every penny (literally, I regularly checked the couch cushions for loose change), at 13 I had finally earned enough to fund my half of the purchase price of a horse. We were ready.

Riding Chappy

At the beginning of that summer, we began buying the local swap sheet and I circled just about every ad for a horse in our price range. My mom made the calls–one after another. Most of the time, the call was as far as it got–the horse had already sold, or needed an intermediate to advanced rider, or there was some other obvious issue.

But a few times, we actually made appointments to go see the horse, to ride it, to evaluate. We often brought along our neighbors who knew far more about horses than we did.

I remember several of the horses distinctly. Whitney was a gray standardbred, she was calm and quiet, pretty and perfect for a kid like me. We loved her. We put an offer on her. I dreamed about the day we would bring her home and make her ours. Then she was sold to someone else.

I was devastated.

My parents consoled me as they told me the bad news. God is in control, they told me. If it was the horse that He had picked out for us, she wouldn’t have sold to someone else.

We kept looking.

My horse, Chappy

Soon, I fell in love again–harder this time. His name was Mister Mighty Miracle. He was a 16h thoroughbred and absolutely beautiful. At only 6 years old, he was incredibly calm and just loafed around with me as gentle as could be. This was it. I was sure. I wanted him so much I ached for it.

But our neighbor noticed something about him, one knee was slightly larger than the other. He wasn’t limping and it didn’t appear to be swollen, most likely just a congenital defect that would have no impact on him. But we wanted a vet to do an x-ray just to be sure, as part of the usual pre-purchase exam. But the owners said no. They would not allow an x-ray.

We don’t know why they did that, but we couldn’t in good conscience spend $3,000 on a horse of questionable soundness. So we had to be the ones to say no, to walk away. I was crushed. I cried so hard that night. I didn’t want to walk away, I wanted to bring him home, to love him.

But if he had been the one for us, the owners would have let us x-ray his knee, my parents said. God is in control. He won’t allow anyone to take away the horse that is for us.

The summer wore on and our barn remained prepped but empty. It was one of the hardest lessons of my young life.

Riding Chappy

It’s funny how often that lesson comes back around. How often I think of it. Just recently Husband and I thought we may have finally found the house for us, we were ready to put in an offer. But when we arrived at our realtor’s to put together the paperwork he told us that the house had gone under contract just that afternoon.

He looked at me and asked if I was disappointed. Of course I was, but not devastated.

I told him that we came into this journey of house hunting with the perspective that God has just the right house for us, and He will not allow that house to be sold to someone else while we’re doing due diligence to research it and crunch numbers before diving in. So, it just wasn’t the house He has for us. And more than anything, we want what He has to give.

*A BIG thank you to my parents for teaching me something so crucial in such a tangible way.

**To learn about Cocoa, the horse we ended up buying that summer, read this.

Other What Horses Have Taught Me posts:
Delayed gratification
“I can do this”

On my mind, in my heart

On my mind, in my heart

I don’t think I’ve talked about it much here in the past few weeks, but the still-recent loss of my brother-in-law is very much on my mind and in my heart every day.

Does that ever really fade? The constant knowing…knowing he is gone, knowing we won’t see him again until we too are in heaven, knowing we must live and grow old without him in our lives. It’s a knowing that wears away at you.

First Landing State Park
Husband helped me up into this tree, but it was Michael who helped me down…he was always there like that, always willing to help.
Sure, the thought of Michael doesn’t spark tears as easily as it did a few months ago. It isn’t as much an overwhelmingly fresh wound. But it is still so very present.

Husband and I have been attending Grief Share at a local church every week. It’s hard, because even on good days focusing in on the pain and heartache makes your chest tighten and your throat swell. And on the hard days? Well, it’s just plain hard.

I struggle when I hear people say that it’s all in “God’s plan”. Because, is it really? Is death really in God’s plan? Is the brokenness of the world God’s plan? Is sin God’s plan? Because I don’t think it is.

I think God’s plan was for a perfect relationship. He created a perfect world with people whom he could talk to and walk with as companions and dear friends. Then we messed it up. We brought sin into this world. We are the ones who ushered in death and devastation. So, really? Michael’s passing is part of God’s plan? How?

Sure, He knew it would happen when we were blissfully oblivious. In fact, in some ways He even shaped those last few days of Michael’s life to help us deal with his passing. And, yes, He welcomed Michael into his arms and ushered him into the Kingdom. But I have a hard time believing it was God’s intention when He created Michael. He knew, for sure, Scripture tells us that He knows the number of our days. It also tells us that He has good works prepared for us to do even before we are born. Good works are in His plan.

But is death really in His plan?

Hosea 13:14 tells us that death is something to be overcome, to be defeated, redeemed from…

I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?

And 1 Cor. 15:54:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

I wrestle with all of this almost daily. I struggle to understand–to wrap my mind around something that is so unfathomable, to grasp concepts we were never created for.

More than likely, it’s the not knowing that I will have to learn to live with. Scripture tells us that we can’t understand the ways of God, and so how could I understand something like this?

Just a few weeks ago something very small changed, and brought with it both relief and regret. For a long time, when Husband called me at work, Michael’s name showed up on the caller ID, it had to do with their joint cell phone plan. Even after the plan was switched into Husband’s name after Michael’s passing, it still showed up the same on my caller ID. But then it changed. I don’t know why. Now it just says “VA cell phone” when he calls.

A part of me wanted to stop seeing the reminder of Michael every time Husband called. But another part of me now misses that little reminder, that presence. Funny how these things happen. How trivial they are, and yet meaningful.

Last weekend my MIL and I were laughing as we told the story of when Michael was house-sitting for us and we had warned him not to let the sugar gliders out when he fed them, not without one of us around. But he did it anyway, he let them both out, and they escaped him and had a grand old time scurrying about the room and hiding in the bookshelves while he desperately tried to catch them. It was good to laugh about something, to enjoy a memory. I know those times with become more and more common, and that one little moment of story-telling gives me hope.



Coffee Dates with God - Rhythm

There are so many encouraging verses in the Bible. Ones that tell us to be strong and courageous, ones that exhort us to have faith and move mountains, ones that tell us we can do everything through Christ. But while I love the strength I can gain from meditating on these, there is a different part of Scripture that brings me more comfort and peace.

Ecclesiastes 3 starts out like this:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 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. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”

You see, while we sometimes need our courage and faith bolstered by grand, empowering verses, I have found that my biggest struggle is simply with daily life. The ups and downs, ins and outs. These verses bring so much hope and comfort that the Lord understands our need for rhythm. That life has rhythm and life is rhythm.

I used to think that I needed a routine to be productive, rested and content. So I tried taking my usual patterns and forcing them into a strict routine carved in stone. But all that did was add more stress to my life as I tried to perform this routine in vain.

That’s when I realized that it isn’t routine I crave, but rhythm.


I eventually came to realize that God doesn’t just understand our need for rhythm, but He created it. Morning and evening. Work and rest. Planting and harvesting. Ebb and flow. Rhythm is apparent throughout all of creation. Why would we be any different? Because our fancy alarm clocks can wake us up long before the sun rises? Because energy drinks can keep us going long after our minds should be resting?

I am trying to grasp more of the concept of rhythm and apply a new vision to my life–with hot tea, more rest, a little yoga, leisurely mornings…

Inexpressible charm

Inexpressible charm

Inexpressible charm

This morning I was reading Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, a book of incredible revelations from the preachings of Chambers throughout his life.

And this one part truly struck me: “Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to ‘go out’ in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus.”

I want to have a sacred and inexpressible charm about my life today and always.




Husband and I haven’t even revamped our budget for 2012 yet (I’ll let you know how it goes…), but one thing we know–we need to spend less. Oh, it’s not like we spend a lot. We don’t, actually. But we spend a little, here and there. We go clearance rack shopping on Sunday afternoons (Husband affectionately calls it “hopscotching”). We can always think of just one more thing we need for the house.

But it’s time to stop. It’s time to get serious about not spending. And, really, that means it’s time to get serious about “things.”

Husband likes to point out all of the “stuff” we have in our house. And as I have already stated, I am on a mission to purge this month…year…or however long it takes. But really? Much of our “stuff” is what makes our home, home. It’s the furniture, the cooking supplies, the little knickknacks, the dishes and vases and things we use to host and make our home a welcoming, restful place for others.

Our living room and dining room

And the blankets, movies, slippers, books, and things that make our home a welcoming, restful place for us.

Our bedroom

None of that is bad.

But God has taught me a valuable lesson over the past few years as I have collected these things, moved several times and built several nests. I can’t hold on to any of it too tightly.

I can’t grip MY things for all I am worth. The Lord has blessed me (and Husband) with more than we need to set up our home and open it to others. And really, it all still belongs to Him. So, in the end, it really isn’t mine to hold onto anyway–I’m just the steward, taking care of it while it is in my home.

If God says give, I want to give. And I want to do it with a cheerful heart. So as Husband and I move into a new phase (a not spending phase), I pray that the Lord will keep me humble and accountable to that.