Archive | November, 2016

Hope Does Not Reside in the White House

I’m driving the same route I travel every single morning. Ten minutes to the elementary school, ten minutes back home. The big kids are chatting in the backseat, and the little one is surprisingly quiet.

I turn onto the two lane country road—at least that’s what I call it. It still feels country to me. Stretches of nothing flank either side, but I know it won’t stay that way for long.

I love this road. It’s one of the few places left in this suburban town where cows graze in open fields. Quiet and serene, it’s my favorite part of my morning drive.

Today I smell a fire burning.

I’m not alarmed; I’m curious. With awakened senses, I strain my eyes to try and find the fire itself. Then I notice what I’ve missed every single morning since school began back in August.

I see a small white cross and think about the family who lost someone precious right here on this quiet road. A huge log wider than a telephone pole lays sideways in the ditch further down. I have no idea why it’s there.

Trash collects to the left and to the right of this strip of road. Plastic bags and paper carried off by the wind settle into hidden crevices. I’m overcome by the signs of brokenness all around me.

Sometimes, it’s easier to notice beauty than recognize brokenness.

One week later, I inhale that same smell. The election has ended but the conflict continues. The intensity of emotion I thought would fade hasn’t.  Another fire burns somewhere nearby.

Ugliness and brokenness exist outside of and all around me, especially today. Yet the Spirit of God is begging me to notice the brokenness and ugliness within my own crippled heart.

Hope Does Not Reside in the White House

Rather than search outside, this morning tears flow as I search within. I take accusatory fingers that point outward, and I lace them together tightly and pray.

As I begin to notice my own heart, it unravels me. I remember Jesus’ words I read in Revelation this morning before the sun announced a new day. 

“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

Revelation 3:1-3 (emphasis added)

I take note of relationships that appear to thrive on the surface yet I know are dangerously close to dying. I ask God to help me with that log in my eye, and I wonder how long it’s been obstructing my view.

My cluttered heart has allowed selfishness and entitlement to crowd out the work of God. And I’m reminded of my great need for Jesus here on this two lane country road with a car full of children learning to follow my lead.

Sometimes, it’s easier to be complacent than repentant.

Eyes are windows into hearts so maybe heart change begins with seeing differently, with noticing. The smell of thick, heavy smoke compelled me a week ago to look around intentionally, and today, it’s the fire I cannot see that quickens my spirit within.

Hope for our nation does not reside in the White House. Hope resides in human hearts, because Hope is alive, and His name is Jesus. We need revival to sweep through this country like wildfire.

Unity and peace aren’t our first steps. Repentance is first. Repentance is always first. Peace and unity follow.

Light a fire within us

Revival begins with repentance.

Awakening begins here. In me. In you. It starts with honesty and confession. Words like they and them become we and us. It starts with noticing what’s inside of us and begging God to change us.

I whisper a prayer that feels urgent and necessary and costly. Hope leads the way. Care to join me today? There’s plenty of ground to share as we hit our knees together.

Forgive us, Jesus.

We need you in the worst way. Spark a fire here inside and awaken us.

Help us recognize how pride and entitlement and complacency have blinded us. Open our eyes. Make us aware of what needs healing within our hearts. Show us where our footing is all wrong as we travel this narrow path.

Show us where the world hurts, and give us courage to hurt right alongside. Help us to reach far outside comfort zones to what exists outside our understanding.

We confess that much of the ugliness begins here in our own hearts. Remind us of the beauty of Your grace and forgiveness. Cover us with Your love.

Build Your kingdom here on earth.

Amen.

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The Best Invitation You’ll Ever Receive

We sit outside under a starry blanket, the evening breeze wafting the smell of burning persimmon wood through the air. After we fill our bellies and our glasses, four songwriters take the stage.

The crowd gathers to listen—some at round tables, others on bales of hay covered with blankets. The moon, just a sliver of light in the sky above, flashes a playful Cheshire cat grin.

Four ordinary cowboys, with nothing but pick and guitar, take turns singing songs they’ve written and sold to celebrity singers all over the country. Each tells the story of his song.

I’m amazed that every one of these songwriters can truly sing.

The Best Invitation You'll Ever Receive

One explains how the lyrics to a love song actually came from a game of hide-n-seek played by his kids playing in the next room.

Another talks about a writing technique I’m familiar with yet struggle to implement. He takes a common phrase and swaps the words to make it his own. I wasn’t expecting writing inspiration when I said yes to my husband’s invitation tonight.

For the rest of the evening, I listen with an attentive ear. I sense God wants to say something personal to me. The next songwriter shares that he cannot write a song unless it’s true. Every one of his songs resonate with me.

Each intriguing explanation invites curiosity.

Before the night concludes, the fourth cowboy sings a song meant to be funny. One of the lines of the chorus sounds like this: “I’ve got all this talent, but no one knows my name.”

It’s true that I know the words to many of the songs performed here tonight, but I don’t know the men who wrote them.

I start to realize I’ve been missing so much. I ask God to show me what He is trying to teach me. A few days later, I jot these words in my journal:

What happens when the story of a song is lost?

Years ago, I read a fabulous book by Emily Freeman called A Million Little Ways. In it, she talks about how we are God’s workmanship, His poem. Art can’t be separated from artist without losing something precious.

God—both Artist and Creator—writes His story all over our lives. How can we ever expect to understand what’s going on in our lives if we never stop to understand the One writing each word? God encourages us to listen to what grieves Him and what makes His heart leap.

God invites us to know Him.

Created cannot truly live apart from the Creator. There’s something inside that longs to know Him, whether we realize it or not.

Get to know the One who is writing your story. Ask Him about the lyrics He’s chosen. Listen to what inspires Him. It’s the best invitation you’ll ever receive.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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The Most Helpful Way to Encourage Someone Through the Pain of Miscarriage

Under a crisp, periwinkle sky, she flings both arms into the air with her head tilted way back so that her curls dangle in the breeze. She loses herself in unhindered abandon, lifting ear-splitting squeals and small chunky arms and every bit of childlike wonder to feel the movement of the wind.

With everything in her, she yells, “Wwoooooooooooooowwwww!”

Beaming, she gazes up at the towering pear tree, lost in her own toddler world. Leaves dance on thin, clustered branches. Their vibration creates a melody that takes me back in time.

Seven years ago, I sat in the same spot I’m sitting today, while my husband and my dad moved fresh earth with shovels. I watched as deep holes emerged, overwhelmed with all the grief I couldn’t figure out how to bury.

Back to back miscarriages had ripped my heart open and my world apart.

The two worked quietly, and I was thankful no one could read my thoughts. When each hole was deep enough, they dropped a tiny, frail pear tree low into the ground and filled in each of the three holes with the same dirt they had removed.

The trees were memorials, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to remember this pain. More than anything, I wanted to erase this part of my story, pretend I was living someone else’s. I wasn’t sure my faith was strong enough to keep trusting in a good God.

I named the babies we never got to meet. Only God and me know their names. I can’t even be sure whether the babies we lost were girls or boys, so I just went with my mother instinct on that.

I picked a girl’s name for the first. The second miscarriage was a double loss, and though I can’t know for sure, I imagined in my heart a girl and a boy. I assigned each tree with its respective name very matter-of-factly. I started with the first tree and went on down the line. A girl was first, then another girl, and next to her on the far end, the boy who would have shared the same birthday with his sister.

Today, as I watch my tiniest daughter fling her arms up into the breeze, amazed by those singing heart-shaped leaves, my heart is overcome by the silent version of the word she is yelling. Wow.

The Most Helpful Way to Encourage Someone Through the Pain of Miscarriage

Those trees have endured a hurricane and a drought, and whenever the wind blows, they sing.

Though they represent all we’ve lost, I can’t get over how much they resemble the family God’s blessed us with all these years later. I wonder why I haven’t ever noticed this before.

The two trees closest to the street are nearly identical in size and shape. The other, unprotected by the side of the house, is much smaller in comparison. I couldn’t have predicted this when I assigned names to each one. Back then they all looked alike.

But in His time, God gave us a boy and a girl. My Jake and Lillian share more than a July birthday; both have their daddy’s long and lean genes.

Many more years skated along before He gave us our third, a girl we named Anna Joy. It took seven years for me to see it this clearly—His goodness, His blessing, His complete reversal of all I lost.

Like a mirror I momentarily glance into, I see my deepest pain producing a reflection of profound joy.

A friend told me last week that seven is the number of completion. I have my own wow-moment right there in the same place I cried a million tears all those years ago, and a thought crescendos in my mind: God’s story is one of reversal.

Eternal life instead of the death I deserve. The Prince of Peace taking my place to make peace with God on my behalf. An upside-down kingdom where the weak are strong and the poor are called blessed. A kingdom where we’re all invited to be small and things like character and hope are born out of impossible suffering.

Today I think about the woman who could plant a forest in her backyard, and sometimes I hesitate to tell this part of my story.

Chances are, you have a friend or loved one who’s lost a baby, too.

Right now she may be flinging her arms in the air with a different three letter word on her lips, because God doesn’t let us fast forward through the years to see the rest. Instead of wow, she might be yelling, How? Or Why? She might be silently mouthing, Huh? Or praying one word over and over and over: God, God, God?

Watching someone close to you endure a miscarriage feels incredibly helpless sometimes. Look up the word miscarriage, and the very first synonym you’ll find is failure. When babies die before they’re born, it’s cold, hard evidence that we live in a broken world with broken bodies that fail.

I remember failure tightening around my neck like a noose, choking hopes and dreams, squeezing out life until Jesus reached down and rescued me. His word became my place to stand and His promise my only hope. God used the stories of others to remind me of His faithfulness.

The most helpful way to encourage someone through the pain of miscarriage is to tell your story.

Tell your story—not in an attempt to relate and make yourself feel less uncomfortable; tell your story, because your story reveals the heart of God.

Even if your story doesn’t include miscarriage, you’ve probably at some point in your life had to come to terms with the fact that you need God. We’ve all struggled, experienced loss, felt hopeless and alone. Listening to stories of God’s faithfulness helps us remember that He is good and trustworthy, and that He grieves with us.

When I was four months pregnant with our third child, a friend asked me to meet with a girl who longed for a baby. There was no way to know for sure if she’d ever conceive.

I asked if she had mentioned the fact that I was pregnant… and showing. She told me she had and that she was convinced my story would communicate hope. I wasn’t so sure.

Growing bellies were sometimes overwhelming back when I was waiting. I questioned whether this girl I’d never met before would be more hurt than encouraged. I almost said no, but something made me go.

It was easy to share what God had done in my life. Heart-breaking pain seemed to unite us somehow in that quiet corner of the coffee shop. Later in the parking lot, when we said goodbye, I awkwardly crossed my arms over my belly.

I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“Don’t you dare cover up your miracle,” she implored, with hopeful eyes and a gentle smile.

I hadn’t even realized that’s what I was doing. Too concerned I’d cause her pain, I missed how my story had done exactly what my friend felt it would: communicate hope.

No one benefits from hiding God’s goodness. Stories can’t be photocopied and mass produced, because they are uniquely personal.  Every story tells a greater story; it doesn’t end with us.

Nothing in this life is guaranteed, but Love guarantees to heal hearts and write wow-endings that are uniquely beautiful and personal. We all get the wow-ending, because in the very end, Jesus is coming back.

Our stories are powerful—and often, all we really have to give—so don’t hold back because you don’t know where someone else’s story is going. God knows.

Your story lets God tell His.

Yes, miscarriage has made its mark on my story, but even in the pain—especially in the heartbreak and sorrow—God spoke His truth over my life: Love never fails. My body failed more than once to carry a precious life into this world, but God’s love has never failed to carry me through difficult times and times of joy.

Our stories are all so different, but every story is authored by Love. And Love will remain long after this world and everything in it fades away.

Kelly

 

For those who grieve…

I wrote this post for those who wonder how to encourage someone through the pain of miscarriage, yet I know there’s a chance that you are grieving your own loss today.

You are not alone.

No words can adequately explain or even ease the pain you’re experiencing. My prayer is that you find comfort and hope in the following words. 

What I Wish I Had Known About Infertility

Allow grief to do its deep heart work. Don’t be tempted to say you’re ok when you’re not. Find a friend you trust, and be honest with her about your pain, your anger, your struggles and questions. Invite her to just sit with you and not say anything.

Find ways to experience closure. Planting trees, naming babies, or setting up some other kind of memorial acknowledges something was lost. It is such an important part of the grieving process.

Seek out a Christian counselor or a support group, like Hannah’s Hope.  Many churches offer a counseling and support classes. Hannah’s Prayer Ministries offers an online support community.

Start a thankful journal. Nothing produces joy quite like a thankful heart. Someone I love suggested this to me just days after we planted those trees.  I didn’t quite understand the power of gratitude back then, but time has a way of making hazy things beautifully clear.

I’ve written a bunch about my own journey through infertility and miscarriage. You can read more of my story here. Most of  all, I hope you know today that Jesus loves you dearly.

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Four Questions I’m Loving This Fall

Listening is hard.

Just take note as the conversation unfolds at your own dinner table this evening. In our house, one kid raises her hand the entire time her brother is speaking.  She waits her turn to speak at school, so she truly believes this is polite. The other one finishes his sister’s sentences and can’t seem to understand why this gets underneath her skin.

When conversation becomes waiting our turn to speak or finishing someone’s thought, I think we have lost something fundamental in the way we communicate.

Listening is a demonstration of how we value those around us.

I used to think I was a pretty good listener, but then God invited me on a crazy adventure called HER STORY, and I’m discovering how difficult listening really is. He is slowly turning this story-teller into a story-listener, and I’m loving it.

What I'm Loving: Fall Edition

When I began interviewing women who had a story to tell, I knew each one. I knew her story, too. Or so I thought. Listening unbiased to someone you know really well is so much more challenging than listening to someone you just met. This entire process has helped me pay more attention to the questions I’m asking.

Whether you’re conducting an interview or chatting with a friend or introducing yourself to a stranger, questions bring depth and purpose to ordinary conversations.

Questions allow us to tap into that sacred space beneath the surface.

In The Listening Life, Adam McHugh writes, “Listen to the voice of the Spirit while you listen to the other person. Don’t listen for what truth or insight you should speak to them. Listen for what questions to ask.” This is a slow and gentle process, but an important one, I think.

Since we could all use a little conversation make-over, I want to share four questions I’m loving.

Four Questions I'm Loving This Fall

These questions have added insight, depth, and beauty to everyday exchanges in my home and in my community. I am just now beginning to see how much I’ve been missing.

  1. Instead of “How are you?” try asking, “How can I pray for you?” This one even works well with strangers.
  1. When you think you know exactly what the other person is saying, ask this one: “Can you tell me more about that?” This question gently draws out what’s underneath that first layer of conversation.
  1. “What do you need right now?” has the capacity to completely alter our most precious relationships.
  1. Adam McHugh says a listener’s best friend is the “why” question. Rather than disagree, relate, fix, or solve, let a “why” question jump-start a better conversation. Here are some examples:

“Why do you hold that belief?”

“Why is that important to you?”

“Why does that bother you?”

“Why did that hurt you?”

“Why do you feel that way?”

As our questioning improves so will our listening.

Questions offer a simple way to communicate that we care while reminding us that we have so much to learn. Better questions will revive our dinner table conversations and breathe life into our everyday connections.

Do you have a favorite question you like to ask? I’d love to hear from you…

Kelly

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