The Tricksy Thing About Hope

The past couple of days have perhaps been quite a bit rougher than any other 7th or 8th of October I’ve faced in my few decades on Planet Earth. Our eight-year-old has been in the hospital for 38 days, and golly pete, I have experienced a whole new “thing” — I had no idea what it would feel like to have a kid sick with much more than a passing virus that takes them down for a couple of days. Just these two days have been a mix of exhilaration and exhaustion as we’ve watched him grow stronger and recover, but also we’ve watched as we struggle to figure out his medications and help him keep them down and get the sleep he needs… and it feels like there are wins and losses, and my heart is on a roller coaster.

Early on, certainly as the result of the prayers of many people, I had this important insight that has steadied my gaze on this journey with our sweet little Blake. I can remember the moment when it hit me and I clarified the thought in my mind, while walking the halls of the hospital and speaking with a friend on the phone. Our boy was in a medically induced coma in the Pediatric ICU upstairs, and I was downstairs walking and breathing and talking and praying and hoping when it hit me.

“I can’t put my hope in the outcome of this situation. I can’t put my hope in Blake being okay. I have to put my hope in the goodness of God — that somehow He can make this good no matter what.”

Back when we didn’t know whether our boy would wake up and still be some semblance of the child we rushed to the ER on September 1st, I was trying to clarify for the sake of my own heart exactly what I was going to put my hope in.

Yes, we pray like crazy for the outcome we long for. 

But I also had to get to this excruciatingly painful place in my own soul where I was willing to say, “Lord, I’m yours no matter what. I don’t have anywhere else to go. No one else is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Those prayers often ended with something like, “Lord, I trust You. But please, please heal my boy.”

I don’t know why, but I had to come to a place where I could say and mean it — Lord, I really do love you and I will follow you no matter what. 

I’m so grateful God has answered my prayers and the prayers of so many others. But I know that I cannot put my trust in things always happening the way *I want* — because that is not life, and that is not faith. Instead, I think the challenge is to have these two different things going on at the same time: we ask, and ask, and ask again for exactly what we want, but then we also lift our hands to a God that is wiser than we are and say, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Your will be done.” 

Oh how hard it is to live — palms up — willing to give what He takes and take what He gives, as Mother Teresa put it!

A few weeks later, I read these words in my devotional (a perfectly timed gift from a friend during this trial!) and I immediately began scribbling them down to remember:

“It really is true, that peace in times of trouble is not found in figuring out your life, but in worship of the One who has everything figured out already.” {New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp, Oct. 3rd}

So this is the tricksy thing about hope: if we place all our hope in an outcome, we are likely to be disappointed. If our hope is in getting that job promotion, or this relationship not falling apart, or yes, even in not losing this loved one, we are setting ourselves up for heartache. Because even if you get that job promotion, it will not satisfy you forever. And our earthly relationships, as beautiful as they can be are not eternal. And we cannot have each other forever this side of heaven.

So I keep circling back to this one passage that is enough:

“You will keep him in perfect peace, 
whose mind is stayed on You, 
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
{Is. 26:3-4}

Hope in God is the hope that does not disappoint. We trust His character — we trust Him to weave things together for good. We trust Him regardless of the outcome — because He is in the business of redemption, of creating beauty from ashes, of taking something that seems like it cannot possibly be anything other than horrible and somehow turning it into something gloriously beautiful. 

We have witnessed that these last 38 days.

So hope, yes, hope, hope and hope some more. Keep hoping to see the goodness of an unfailing, unfaltering Father who loves you to pieces and has incredible plans for you. With Him at the Center, you will always get more than you could ever hope for.

xCC

***

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Update on Blake: 

Blake is getting stronger every day! He is now completely tube-free — no IVs, NG tubes… just a big band-aid on the back of his head from a pressure wound that is still healing. He is relearning to walk and the therapists are so pleased with his progress. He is still struggling under the weight of a brain injury and lots of medications (and we do not know what is what and that is hard) but we do know that he has come very far! He can write his name, count in Spanish, and smile to light up a room in a heartbeat. We are praying for his continued head-to-toe healing, and specifically for him to regain strength in his left arm, and continue making progress, including the management on the medications that are a necessity for him right now.

So many of you have asked how you can help, and now that we have a grasp on what this looks like for us in terms of finance, we have set up a gofundme page as a fundraiser. Even if you can’t give, please visit it to enjoy the beautiful video Mark created to give you a better glimpse of this journey. Thank you for your prayers. Our hope is in the God who has all this in His hands!!!

 You can also follow With Love, From Here on Facebook for daily updates. 

***

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Nobody Wins When You Lose It

In a month like this one, I’ve been reminded on almost a daily basis how glorious it can be when a husband and wife have personalities that help balance each other out. There have been dozens of moments where we could’ve absolutely fallen apart, but somehow we’ve managed to hold it together…together. 

One of the challenges of having your child in the care of the medical community is being able to trust that things are being done “the way they should be.” Especially when you’re not a trained medical professional, and don’t know your ICPs from your EVDs, you’re at the mercy of trusting that you’re being given the correct information and the right decisions and judgement calls are being made.

We’ve been so fortunate to feel like we’ve received fantastic care at just about every turn, but in the few places where we felt uncertain or uncomfortable or even frustrated, the Hero Hubs set a precedent early on  that stuck with me through every twist and turn. He said something to the effect of:

“Blake is not going to get better care if we freak out or get angry or yell at people.”

Getting angry and yelling at people isn’t something we commonly do, but when you’re under stress and your kid is in critical condition, you might be tempted to break down crying over a dirty diaper or a nurse tripping over a stand attached to an EVD.

We quickly found ourselves in a place where we realized we were going to have to trust that somehow even the things that seemed wrong or delayed or rushed too quickly or unsatisfactory in some other way could still work out for good for Blake. 

A couple of weeks ago, Blake pulled out his feeding tube (the nasal kind) with three adults in the room standing just a few feet from him. It happened so quickly the decision was made that he needed a restraint to prevent this happening again. The reinsertion process was very difficult for him AND the people doing it.

Later the hospital decided to discontinue the restraints, but as parents we thought, “Hmm… I think we need to keep using them…” or else we will have to figure out how to hold his hand for absolutely every second of every day.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided to assign a sitter to Blake twenty-four hours a day. The ‘sitter’ is an individual responsible for literally sitting near Blake, helping care for him and most importantly making sure that (since the restraints have been discontinued) he does not pull out any stitches or tubes with those clever hands of his.

This evening Blake went to sleep and while the sitter wasn’t watching stirred and pulled out his feeding tube again. 

I wanted to lose it and freak out. I wanted to say “You had one job!!!” Or, “Why don’t you just head out and I’ll take it from here.” But in the back of my mind, I remembered that Blake wouldn’t benefit in ANY way whatsoever from me losing my cool. So I stepped out and took some deep breaths and trusted that it was going to be okay.

Do we need to speak up and ask questions if we are concerned that things are being done incorrectly? Absolutely. But won’t handling things with kindness endear us to the people caring for Blake and for our family so much more than rudeness or meanness or harshness or freaking out?

And how much of life does this principle apply to?

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Whether we feel like we’ve been unjustly treated at work, cut off in traffic or treated unfairly at any turn in our journey, we are so much less likely to improve our situation if we set out to be harsh or rude or even just dang unpleasant.

But as we’ve done our best to choose kindness and goodness and gentleness, we have received exactly that in abundance in return from the caregivers that have walked us through this rollercoaster of a month.

As I continue doing my best to learn in this hard place, I hope these thoughts encourage you that life just plain feels better when you decide to face it with a smile and kindness and a good helping of self-control.

Mother Teresa often said, “Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”

When we trust Him to work everything together for our good and His glory, we truly can live our days doing exactly that.

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Our Sweet Blake
Thank you for your prayers, dear friends. I am so happy to say Blake is making wonderful progress and we feel closer and closer to that beautiful day when our boy will get to come home with us. He is beginning to speak more and more, and we have seen so many beautiful glimpses of his personality, still definitely in tact. He still has that pesky feeding tube and perhaps some weakness on his left side, but we are watching him get stronger every day. He has begun walking with assistance, is able to write his name and guess letters and still even remembers how to count in Spanish! We are praying for his 100% head to toe healing and continue to Raise Hallelujahs for all the Lord has done and all He still will do! Thank you for joining us. 
 You can Follow With Love, From Here on Facebook for daily updates. 

The Best Thing to Do With the Thing You’re Most Afraid Of {+Blake Update!}

I have an incredible secret to share with you today. Lean in close and let me share from experience, if you will.

Sometimes the only thing you need to do to shake off the power of something you’re really afraid of?

Is say, out loud, that you’re really afraid of it. 

I can’t promise this will work for a fear of spiders or snakes or bridges or canned tuna, but when the enemy of your soul is whispering hard to try to corner you in a dark place where you’re nothing but plain scared, those thoughts, brought into the Light, seem to somehow lose their power.

If you’ve got a moment, I can explain what I mean.

So. If you’re reading this post, you may already know my lovely eight-year-old son has been in the hospital for three weeks now. A very traumatic brain aneurism unexpectedly changed our lives in an instant on September 1st, and we spent the better part of his first two weeks in the hospital just living with a scary fear that our boy might never survive, might never come home to us, might make our family of six suddenly one little fella short at the dinner table.

Once we were past the stage of simply fearing whether or not we would lose our boy, we quickly discovered (as is often the case with worry and fear) we had something new to be afraid of.

Blake has had a traumatic brain injury. And I guess in some ways TBIs are kind of like life and Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Enter the biggest, scariest thoughts possible, stage left.

Perhaps for a few days, or more than a few, the Hero Hubs and I danced around this conversation. And since we’re taking turns staying at home or at the hospital, it is easy for us to dance around conversations if we want to.

But finally one evening via FaceTime, tailored perfectly into our topic of conversation, he wisely said, “I think the thing we’re really not talking about here is that we don’t know what Blake is going to be like when he wakes up.”

That was the truth of the situation — the sum total of the greatest fear — and now it was no longer whispering in the recesses of my mind while I tried to shush it and put on a brave face.

So we faced that fear head on, and talked about it. Together. Out loud.

And then a funny thing happened. It somehow didn’t seem as big or scary anymore. We thought about some important things, like the fact that Blake is still with us. We almost lost our son — but we didn’t. He is ours. We do and will continue to love him to pieces no matter what.

The next day when the fear started whispering again, I shared it with a trusted friend in a good long commuting-to-the-hospital conversation. And she encouraged me, and I eventually found myself thinking: if our sweet boy is changed by this, maybe I should be careful about automatically assuming that’s bad.

I remembered a verse I’d been clinging to during this storm:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield,
the Lord will give grace and glory.
No good thing will He withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
Psalm 84:11

Together we pondered that verse, and Romans 8:28, and how God promises that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. 

On both occasions, bringing something scary into the Light diminished its power and lightened my load. 

I decided to remind myself again, and again, how I’ve seen God’s hand in the past, in what seemed like the hardest of hard places, and I’ve seen how they worked together for my good. Like the time we were in a hard place in ministry in South Africa and felt it was time to return to North Carolina sooner than we’d originally planned, and I had eighteen months with my Dad before he passed away. Eighteen months I would never have had had we not be so hurt that we knew God was closing a door to open another.

God is in the business of making beauty from ashes. Last week, I was blessed with an incredibly sweet, thoughtful birthday party. It’s been a long time since I had an actual birthday party. This one was complete with homemade food and cake and flowers and decorations and gifts — and it was thrown for me by the nurses and medical staff right here in the Pediatric ICU, where my son currently resides. I will treasure that birthday party for the rest of my days! People who’d known me 18 days chose to so selflessly care for me at such a hard time.

Like flowers pushing their way through dirt…What glorious beauty!!!

So friend, I don’t know what finds you here, what you might be hurting from or afraid of, but I encourage you to bring those fears into the light. Remind yourself that God is good and He can strengthen you to walk through anything. Anything. ANYthing. And He is in the business of redemption — always turning brokenness into beauty.

Trust that you’ll see it. Say it out loud! Don’t let whispers of fear steal the joy you should have because God’s life in abundance is what Christ died to give you!

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to
 subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake:

Thank you so much for Raising a Hallelujah, and lifting up our precious Blake! He is still in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, but those days are numbered! Both of the drains which were removing excess blood from his brain have been removed. He was extubated last Wednesday and has been breathing very, very well all on his own since then. While having his PICC line removed today, he said his first word, “Ow!” We were sorry he was hurting, but so blessed to hear him speak!

He is beginning to give thumbs up and thumbs down to communicate with impressive understanding. Today the nurse asked if he was six years old, and he gave a thumbs down. When she asked if he was twelve, he gave a thumbs up and a cheeky grin!! (He is eight and this is totally his personality shining through!) The medical team that has cared for him (and his family) so incredibly well is working together to slowly and carefully reduce his medications, and with less and less sedatives on board we are able to see more and more of Blake shining through. 

He does have a journey ahead with regard to rebuilding his motor skills and recovering from the TBI and the time in a coma… but he’s already been in a hurry and we feel sure his fighting spirit will serve him well. He could be transferred to the Pediatric Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit later this week. (Our minds are reeling at the thought of that! Wow!)

We’d be so grateful if you’d continue to lift up our sweet Blake, as well as the rest of our family as we continue walking this journey together. Rotating nights in the hospital is a challenge, but we are grateful to say we’ve been so well cared for and supported by our community, those tangible efforts and prayers have made our burdens so, so much lighter. I look forward to sharing more news with you soon — perhaps from Rehab next week! You’re also welcome to find With Love, From Here on Facebook for daily updates. Thank you for your prayers and support friends!!!

How to Keep Your Eyes Above the Waves [Even in the ICU]

It started with me staring at the waves crossing a screen. Waves monitoring blood pressure. Pulse. Intracranial pressure on the left and right sides. Blood oxygen levels and spO2. And then there were the waves on the EEG, Blue lines and red lines crossing the screen from left to right, getting to the end and immediately starting over again. 

And maybe a song came on the radio or maybe I heard a whisper when I wasn’t even in the room full of waves, but I heard that old, familiar reminder to keep my eyes above the waves.

My mind flashed back to a familiar scene: a small boat on choppy waters, a man walking on the water toward the boat. There’s a very dramatic Hollywood version that my mind creates to envision it all. Simon who would become Peter says, “Lord, bid me come,” and Jesus says, “Come” and in a flash, he steps out of the boat onto the water.

He sees the waves and the wind and is distracted — but Jesus is right there to catch him, to grab his hand, to help him back into the boat.

Our family has been in a storm for a little more than two weeks now. Our beautiful second son is in a hospital bed post brain aneurism inside AVM rupture, post angiogram, post medically-induced coma and dose after dose of this and that and something else mixed in to try to keep him going. With dozens of lines, a feeding tube and vent and EVDs draining the excess blood from his ventricles it is hard not to watch the waves.

But somehow the Hero Hubs and I feel sure something bigger is going on. Lives are being touched. Blake’s story is somehow changing other people’s stories. Ours included.

Over the past 17 days I had to get really honest with God. I almost went through a mental checklist to process how I felt about the storm around us:

I wasn’t angry, but I was sad.

I wasn’t hopeless, but I was definitely hurting.

And I started to think about what exactly I wanted to ask God in the middle of this situation. I’ve already told Him I’ll serve Him for as long as I have breath. Am I going to say never mind? Am I going to say “If you don’t give me this miracle, I will just let my heart grow cold and quietly leave faith at the door?”

I remembered again that time in John 6, when Jesus was teaching some things that were difficult for people to understand. A lot of people didn’t get what He was saying, and they took offense, so they decided not to follow Him anymore. Instead of pressing in to gain some understanding — and He does promise to give us wisdom if we ask for it — they decided His teachings just weren’t what they wanted to believe and they walked away.

So Jesus turns to the twelve and says, “Do you want to go away, too?”

And that water-walking brave and blustery Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” {See John 6: 60-70}

And that is exactly where I feel like we are right now. We have nowhere else to turn. All our faith is in Jesus. All our eggs are in His basket. In this hardest of places, maybe it would be easy to get offended. To get angry. To shake a fist at the sky and go back to fishing and decide Jesus hasn’t turned out to be Who we thought after all.

But then I remember this verse I memorized way back in college:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” {2 Peter 3:9}

And I think about that helicopter ride to the hospital, and how we pulled away from the ground and everything looked so small. And I felt like God was saying, this seems really big right now because you’re so close to it, but give it time, child, and you’re going to have a different perspective. It will not look like a mountain. It will not seem like the biggest thing you’ve ever faced.

And then I look at that verse up there again and know this: God loves my family, and He loves yours, too. And if we can walk through something hard, and trust Him to see us through it, maybe other people can somehow see Him here. What if other people see the hope we have in the toughest of circumstances — and they come to know the goodness of Jesus, and then He walks them through their storms? 

We’re all going to have storms, right? In this broken world where everything is not-yet-as-it-should-be, we’re all going to experience suffering. There will be pain. Relationships will fail. Sickness will come. 

But hope is what makes suffering bearable. Hope is the anchor for the soul in the midst of all the storms. The very thing I’ve whispered to my precious boy in his bed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is the thing I need to hear in my own soul: “It will not feel like this forever, precious. These troubles have an end.”

While we walk this hard road that has sometimes made us feel as if our very hearts would burst from our chests for the pain of it, something has been forged. In Narnia it was called the Deep Magic: and it’s a sort of iron in our veins that says, “We have hope and it’s unshakable. We will always have hope, because we have Jesus.”

I hope these words will speak to you on days when you feel like you don’t have a firm place to stand, when you’re out of the boat and you have nothing to stand on but the words of a Savior who says, “Come.” He is enough. His Word and His goodness — they are trustworthy. He is not slack concerning His promises–but He works all things together for the good of ALL of us. Our stories are an interwoven tapestry. The cries of our hearts together create a symphony. Together we Raise a Hallelujah.

Remember when you’re there, friends, out of the boat surrounded by unsteady circumstances on every side: THIS is how you keep your eyes above the waves. You keep your eyes on Jesus.

xCC

Please keep praying for our sweet Blake. He has come a long way on his journey through the PICU. He is no longer in a medically-induced coma, but is still in need of critical care and we still have decisions to make about the next steps for his healing. He still has a long walk to freedom, a long road to fight his way to fully recovered. Please pray for his peace along this journey, and for our family as we are in more than one place right now. Pray we’ll have wisdom as we navigate the road ahead — especially today. 

Please keep Raising a Hallelujah for Blake.

You can follow With Love, From Here on Facebook for Daily Updates.

***

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re visiting this site for the first time, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Faith Like a Ketchup Packet

In case you missed the news I’ve attempted to broadcast to the entire world to ask for prayer, my eight-year-old son has had a very big week. It started last Sunday (September 1st) with a severe, sudden onset headache at the pool and progressed to the diagnosis of an aneurysm inside an arterioventricular malformation that has been in his precious little brain for who knows how long. The story has continued with the insertion of drains to get the excess blood out of his brain, the constant measuring of intracranial pressure, and every other thing that can be measured about the human body from sodium to potassium to pulse, blood pressure, oxygenation, urine output… I’m not close to the entirety of the list yet.

At present our beautiful Blake is stable, and being kept in a medically-induced coma and soon we’ll be beginning the process of reducing those meds to wake him up. At which point he will still need some type of surgery/therapy to deal with the AVM that got this party started.

So friends, you’re used to hearing from me on Wednesdays. And here is the one thing I have thought of over and over this week that I think I need to tell you today.

God is very kind in helping me understand things in simple ways. And this is one of those moments where a simple analogy has spoken volumes to me.

I’ve been thinking about ketchup packets. The kind they toss in your bag at the drive thru. Mustard packets. Mayonnaise packets. The ones I like that have salad dressing. The hot sauce ones.

All those packets have something in common: what has been put into them is what will come out when they are squeezed.

If you accidentally step on a ketchup packet as you cross a parking lot, you can be sure you will not see mustard on the bottom of your shoe. Unless something strange happened at the factory, I suppose. Every analogy has its limits.

But friend, your soul and mine are a lot like those sauce packets. What we are putting in is what is going to come out when we are squeezed.

And this week? I have been squeezed. The hubs has been squeezed. We have been squeezed in a way we didn’t know we could be squeezed. Our hearts have been squeezed so tight we felt sure they were close to bursting.

But what is coming out? Well, I think what is coming out is what we’ve been putting in.

First, hundreds of people have been praying for us. And I think that has helped fill our packets with strength and hope and a sense of peace that surpasses understanding this storm.

We’ve also cultivated a life where we try to look for goodness and give thanks for it. We look on the bright side and do our best to find it.

We’ve cultivated our hearts to try to see the good in things and people and to try to see life from someone else’s shoes.

We’ve learned to look for the handprint of God in things that other folks might call “coincidence.”

We’ve also tried to put God’s Word into these hearts of ours. And we’ve tried to listen to God’s voice, to learn how He speaks to each of us, the ways that we learn to hear Him that aren’t like chatting with a friend across a table at a coffee shop, but are just as real and meaningful.

So we are being squeezed and what’s coming out is the fruit of the Spirit others have been praying for for us, and it’s what we’ve been trying to cultivate by living in and through and to the Lord. We are being squeezed and finding a deep reserve of a patience we didn’t know was there. We are finding joy in the midst of the most profound hardship we’ve ever faced. We are finding gentleness to handle each other, our children, our caregivers, our extended family and friends — at a time when your heart is so sensitive a word spoken with the wrong inflection could cause offense — we are finding gentleness somewhere in those deep wells, available to extend to those around us.

We are being squeezed. We are pressed but not crushed. We feel persecuted, but we do not feel abandoned. We feel struck down with shock and fear and pain — but we have not been destroyed by these things.

Second Corinthians talks about it this way:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

This is not because we have goodness of our own to offer. We do not have patience in our nature. These things are the fruit of living hard into faith, and leaning on the Spirit, in Whom we can find everything we need. It is the power of Christ at work in us — and I can only point to Him, and to us clinging to Him in all the hard places we’ve faced before this one.

He is the peace. He is the hope. He is where we’ve placed our faith. Not in the miracle we’re believing for itself — but in the goodness of an unfailing God with unstoppable love.

Are we scared? Terrified.

Are we hurting? Yes. In ways we didn’t know we could hurt.

But I’m so grateful somewhere in the midst of the conglomeration of things inside the ketchup packets of our souls, we made room for a faith that does not run screaming when life gets hard.

We don’t know the outcome of this journey but we believe in a good God, and we trust in Him.

Give some thought this week to what you’re putting in your ketchup packet. In ten minutes, life can change from completely normal to a squeeze you never saw coming. I pray you’ll put your hope in the Lord. We believe He is at work — calming this storm in our lives. And He is the reason we are able to walk on the water of this trial, through this storm, keeping our eyes above the waves.

We’re looking at Jesus.

xCC

P.S. You can see updates on Facebook here to know how to be praying for Blake and our family in the days ahead. We’d be so grateful if you’d take the time to pray, and Raise a Hallelujah for Blake by singing this song right here. And some amazing friends of mine wanted to do something to encourage this Hallelujah chorus and made t-shirts right here. We’ve been overwhelmed with the prayer and the tangible support of our friends and family through this storm. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If you’re new to With Love, From Here and want to subscribe to receive a weekly dose of encouragement via email, click here.

How to Look for Truth When People Shout Out Their Windows at You

Wow. Seriously, wow. I had the most unexpected experience the other day. Coming home to tell the hubs about it afterwards left me visibly shaking. Once I got over the initial shock, there was some food for thought worth considering. Let me break down the crazy for you for a second.

It was an overcast Friday morning and I realized I had just enough time to scoot to the local seafood store for some shrimp — a necessary errand because my eldest’s birthday was two days away and he requested Shrimp and Grits for his birthday dinner. Since the hubs had a shoot soon (photography), I needed to make it quick.

As I backed down the driveway, that sweet eldest kid came running to ask if he could come along. I gave him the go ahead to hop in and as we left the driveway noticed that he didn’t have shoes on and commented “You’ll just have to wait in the car while I pick up the shrimp.”

Barefoot in the fish market… or any market? No.

I left the keys in the ignition so my almost-eleven-year-old could enjoy music while I hurried in for the five minute errand, and I noticed another car that had pulled up at the same time, with an elderly lady using the wheelchair ramp instead of the stairs to make it easier to get up to the store. I waited for her to go ahead of me since she’d started the journey first and it just felt kinda wrong to scoot ahead of her just because she was moving slowly.

She made her purchase and left the store, and I did the same, only to come down the stairs in front of the store and notice her with her window down, glaring at me. Her husband honked at me and she shouted, “Do you ever watch TV?”

“Um… not much. Why do you ask?” was my response.

“That kid could be dead by now! You can’t leave a kid locked in a car when it’s this hot outside!”

“Ma’am, it’s 80 degrees and cloudy,” I responded. “And he’s eleven years old! If it’s hot he’ll roll down the window.”

“If it isn’t locked! Isn’t he locked in there?” she shouted again… and I felt frozen in surprise that she was so angry about this.

“No, he’s not locked in there! And it’s not hot outside… or sunny!” I gestured toward the sky with bewilderment.

“It’s hot!” she hollered again. Her husband piped up from the driver seat, “I was about to smash your window in!!” 

I was so caught off guard, I had no idea how to reply. A man in his seventies just threatened to smash my window in. I think I repeated, “He’s eleven years old and knows how to open a window…” but before I could finish the lady huffed, 

“Whatever! Let’s go! She doesn’t care about her kids!”

I climbed into my car and sat behind the driver seat, bewildered for a moment that someone could so quickly make so many judgments — and feel perfectly right in addressing them so vehemently.

Meanwhile, my son looked at me, obviously disturbed, and explained that before I came out, the lady and another customer were standing and talking and pointing at him, and he was afraid they were going to try to take him.

We had a conversation about what had happened, what he should do if anyone ever did act as if they were going to try to take him, and he reassured me with 100 percent certainty that he knew how to roll down a window if he felt hot. But for goodness’ sake, it was overcast, had rained half the morning and was barely 80 degrees outside!!

Last week, I shared some thoughts about The Best Time to Find Out Who You Are. And this? This was a moment for discovering a few things about who I am:

  1. I don’t like it when strangers yell at me.
  2. I will argue with strangers about dumb things and when they yell at me I’ll feel as if I’ve been physically assaulted and shake for ten minutes.
  3. Everything is cool until you accuse me of not caring about my kids. That is obviously a major source of pride for me because I don’t often want to throw things or cuss at people but I sure did want to for a minute or two. Or ten.

An encounter with ridiculously ornery strangers is not necessarily the best place to find truth. But it illustrates an important point that bears highlighting.

Sometimes the world will literally SCREAM what it wants you to believe. Voices will scream to convince you to agree with them — whether there is a shred of truth in what they’re shouting or not.

If you’ve read more than a couple of posts from me, I hope you get the idea that I’m a devoted Mama. I set aside some dreams and some desires and even some scholarship funds to take on the calling of motherhood, and I have no regrets. I’m not amazing at it. I fuss and huff and puff and probably spend more time with eyes on a screen and less time with my feet in the grass pushing a swing than I want. But I feel pretty confident that the comment “She doesn’t care about her kids” is false. A lie. Not true.
What is the world shouting that you might be believing?

Do you believe there’s a correlation between the number on the scale and your worth or value? 

Do you feel like you’re falling short as a parent because your kid’s birthday party didn’t look like a Pinterest post?

Do you feel like you need more completed items on your to-do list each day to be adding value to this world?

Or is the mirror lying to you — whispering falsehood to snuff out the truth of who you are, who you truly are?

Can I encourage you? Catch your breath for a few minutes today and just listen to the talk in your mind. What are you telling yourself that is true, and what are you believing that isn’t?

While I can’t lean out the window and honk the horn to shout to you today, I want you to let this sink in, just as if I did: 

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life. {Isaiah 43:1-4}

God wants to shout: I’m crazy about you. You are precious and honored in my sight! Don’t be afraid — I have redeemed you! You are mine! No matter what today brings, or tomorrow, or the next, I am with you! I love you so much I’d give the world for you!

And the King of the Nations, the Lord of heaven and earth, stepped down from His throne and demonstrated it — that He loved you so much, He would die for you. You’re worth it.

This crazy world will honk and scream with so much emphasis, and sometimes downright vehemence, it will be hard not to believe what they’re hollering. 

So listen closely to the Voice that tells the truth about who you are, what you are capable of and what you were created for. Listen well and listen often. Hold the truth in your hands and frame it on your walls, bookmark it on your phone and hide it in your heart. 

He may not shout the loudest, but He will whisper the longest, and travel the farthest to set His unfailing love upon you.

xCC

***

Psst! If you’re encouraged today, you can subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here and never miss a post by clicking right here! I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox every week (and my new Five Steps to a Fantastic Meal Plan System.) Definitely a win/win!

And pssst…. yes, this really happened. Last week. Scouts honor.

Also, some posts on my site contain affiliate links. Like this one. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

The Best Time to Find Out Who You Are

It began as a little whisper. 

I think most of the best things in life probably do.

It was first thing in the morning, when I had the choice between pulling the charging cord out my phone and pulling my legs out from under the covers and sauntering to the back porch with my Bible and journal in hand. I’ve been working on making the latter of those two choices a habit these days as best I can, but the phone sure does want to talk, too.

And that’s when I heard that still, small voice whisper: “Let me tell you who you are before the world does.”

Just a few days before, I’d shared some new content online and had new subscribers signing up to receive emails With Love, From Here.

I’m not dying for huge numbers and have tried my best to rather focus on writing clearly to the hearts I think I’m supposed to be writing to with the words I think I’m supposed to be writing, but I’ve also been learning a bit more about what the journey of publishing looks like for the average non-fiction writer. Turns out “How many followers do you have?” and “How many subscribers get your emails?” are actual questions that I’ll be answering as I continue to pitch ideas and take the next steps on the journey.

So when those little numbers started pinging that day with the happy little news from MailChimp that someone new is “Picking Up What I’m Putting Down”? I was pretty darn happy about it.

And that is all fine and well and reasonable to celebrate.

But I think the whisper came that morning with a few different reminders attached. Numbers can come and numbers can go. Fans can quickly change from cheering to sneering and jeering. (If Jesus was a hipster teenager right now, I imagine Him rolling His eyes and commenting, “Um, yes! Ask Me how I know. Anybody remember Holy Week? Most. Epic. Cheer-to-Jeer experience. EVER.”)

Sometimes people will love you for what you do. How you navigate the complexities around the office or improve the ROI. How you love on the kids in your classroom wholeheartedly even when all kinds of crazy seem to be busting out of every corner. Sometimes people will love what your art, your words, your heart brings to the table.

And sometimes they won’t.

Sometimes the hard stuff you’re doing is the unseen stuff. It’s cleaning the toilets. It’s making the PBJs. It’s the 3 am diaper change that no one sees and no one cheers for. 

Or worse: sometimes you have to do the thing that you know in your heart is the right thing to do, and the folks around you don’t like the idea. They disagree with your principles. Don’t understand why your heart is set. Don’t get that there is a fire inside of you that you just can’t suppress.

Crazy enough, what we should do when the world is cheering and what we should do when the world is jeering? It’s exactly the same thing.

We keep letting the God Who created us tell us who we are. We keep asking Him to guide our steps and tell us how to live. 

We aren’t always going to get it right. And perfection isn’t the goal, is it?

The goal is to consistently turn to Jesus and ask, “What does faithfulness look like today? What would it look like to run the race well today?” 

Maybe today it is steering a Fortune 500 company in the right direction. Or maybe today it’s being the one who’s there to change that diaper at 3 am. 

Neither of these two actions will carry greater weight in the light of eternity if they are both done to honor and glorify God.

We do what we can, and then we invite God to turn our mistakes into confetti.

When we wake up in the morning, we really don’t need to let the voices come roaring in that say, “Yes, you are awesome!” or “Look at all these people who are more awesome than you.”

We really need words like these to make our souls brave, and to remind us that it’s not the world’s applause or approval we’re after anyway.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday. {Psalm 37:3-6}

The world is full of voices. Voices so eager to tell you what theythink, they might decide to shout at you to let you know. {I have an actualstory about that I’ll share next week…}

But I’m sharing these thoughts to give you this sermon in a nutshell: Who you truly are has very little to do with what the people around you have to say about you. Your skills or abilities or failures or disabilities. All these things pale in comparison to the Imago Dei of you… the uniquely wonderful you, created not only by God but also in His Image.

So even if it’s going to just be the first five minutes before your feet hit the floor, or maybe you’ve got an hour you can spend with the Lord and the Word on the back porch, either way, aim to let God have the first say and the final say. Be reminded, and remind yourself again and again to Trust Him, do good, feed on Hisfaithfulness. Let Him bring the good things to pass, and let your heart be warmed with the knowledge that nothing you say or do changes His incredible, unstoppable everlasting love for you.

xCC

***
If you’d like a little help finding some words to tell you who you are every morning, these are two of my favorite devotionals that can whisper gallons of truth in ounces of words…

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I was just given a Scripture Journal like this one and I’m really excited about it!! (Thanks, Emily!!!!)

If you’d like to chat more with your children about finding their identity in what God says rather than everyone else, I love…

You are Special by Max Lucado

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

And in case you missed it? After two and a half years of great dinners, this week I shared some thoughts about the Instant Pot for friends who are on the fence! View that post here!

*******

Psst! If you’re encouraged today, you can subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here and never miss a post by clicking right here! I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox every week (and my new Five Steps to a Fantastic Meal Plan System.) Definitely a win/win!

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Four Things to Consider If You’re Still Thinking About an Instant Pot

I know. If you haven’t decided to ride the Instant Pot wave you’re probably tired of hearing about it and ready to move on with your life.

I would probably feel exactly the same way if I was in your shoes. I like not being a joiner sometimes.

But two and a half years ago, the hubs read a blog post by a prolific tech blogger friend of ours raving about the Instant Pot. And the hubs, being the Hero Hubs that he is, thought “If this guy, who sees all the new tech that’s out there, is raving about this thing, I believe him.” So he bought me one.

I, on the other hand, was terrified — daunted by the idea of pressure cooking, daunted by the idea of learning a whole new appliance in my kitchen and maybe? Just downright scared I was going to blow something up or I’d forever have a red stain on our ceiling and scars to boot.

I finally got brave enough to get it out of the box and read the manual. Then read some step-by-step recipes online until I felt like I understood how the thing worked. And when I finally got to that step, and gave it a shot, I discovered that truly, it is an incredibly easy way to go from ingredients to dinner’s ready quickly. Win.

A friend texted me this week to let me know she was still on the fence about the Instant Pot and I thought I’d share here some of the thoughts I shared with her (and some extras) for why it has been a game changer for our family.

  1. The Triple/Double Effect
    This has probably been the biggest game changer for me of all. I have carefully worked my way through dozens and dozens of IP recipes online, and have consistently discovered that I can double or triple SO MANY of them with amazing results.

    And I treat those leftovers like gold, y’all. I’m a homeschooling Mama of four and we have 24 Tuesdays of Community Day in our school year. I’m FOUR meals away from having the base for 24 meals in my freezer. That means the main thing, the hard work, is stored in my freezer (in a labeled yogurt tub, mind you) and all I’ll need to do is heat those leftovers I thawed the night before, throw the rice in the rice cooker (I love this one) and throw together a salad, or bake the tacos or cook the broccoli — you get the idea — and dinner will be ready. Even on Tuesday. {mic drop, gasp, huzzah!}
  2. The One and Done Effect
    I can be a pretty fancy lady in the kitchen. Shrimp and Grits with sautéed peppers and bacon fancy. Chicken Piccata with Angel Hair Pasta and a delicate salad with homemade dressing fancy. I can tell you which of my kids like capers. But I don’t like the thirty pans and bowls I mess up to make that glorious Chicken Piccata. It can stay in the rotation, sure, but I also need some meals where I get to just throw everything into the IP and walk away. Like Erin’s Instant Pot Mexican Casserole, where everything is right there. Meat. Rice. Veggies. Yes!

    I hear you asking: CC, Isn’t that the same as a slow cooker? Well, yes and no: the slow cooker requires my attention at 8:00 am for things to work out between us. But so do my kids and our homeschool routine. The Instant Pot, sweet gal that she is, will wait for me and when I dump everything in at 4:30, walk away and can still shout, “Come get your dinner, kids!” at 5:30, life is just that lil’ bit sweeter. Or spicier.

    (And by the way, the Instant Pot is a slow cooker, too… so for recipes where you need to sear a big pork loin before it slow cooks, or cook the bacon and sausage for Zuppa Toscana, you can do that on the sauté function, take the meat out and switch gears for slow cooking, and put it right back in the same pot to slow cook the rest of the day. Can you tell I don’t like dirty dishes?)
  3. My Fast Food Goal is HAPPENING
    My goal with fast food? Is to pretty much never eat it. My little town doesn’t have a lot of healthy fast food options. I don’t like how much trash a family of six creates when consuming fast food either. So I make a plan (more on that below) and already have the week’s meals on the calendar. Tripling or doubling means I can grab those leftovers in emergencies. Real emergencies! But if I just forget to thaw the chicken the night before, I know I always have a handful of ingredients on hand, and there are recipes where I can start from frozen, throw in those totally frozen chicken breasts, and an hour later have chicken that is falling apart with deliciousness.
  4. Brave is Good. And Can Be Tasty.
    I think it’s really easy to get comfortable — stuck with what makes sense, what’s easy, what doesn’t require extra effort. At the outset, I didn’t like the idea of trying this new thing. But as I’ve consistently worked towards healthier lifestyle choices, especially in my kitchen, I’ve realized that the Instant Pot could be a really great companion for the journey. There are so many fantastic websites full of great, healthy recipes just waiting to be discovered. Hiding veggies, and making them palatable in plain sight, has been taken to another level. And I never would have found my new favorite recipe (Moroccan Chicken Bowls) or my sweet Blake’s new favorite (White Chicken Chili) if I hadn’t set out on a path to discover some new and fun ideas for us to enjoy as we gather around the table.

So friends, especially that one friend who asked and is still on the fence, if you’re considering the Instant Pot, I think it’s worth your dollars and your time. Save up for it and save a ton of money by eating out less. Look forward to discovering you can make amazing Greek yogurt at home or take a spaghetti squash from raw to perfectly stringy in less than twenty minutes. And then google a recipe to find out why you would want to do that. (One answer is this Paleo Spaghetti Pizza Pie.)

Convinced yet? You can click here and grab an Instant Pot on Amazon right now.

You can also enter your email here and I’ll send you my free Five Step Meal Plan System and a Month of Weekday Recipes including of course… lots of Instant Pot Favorites. (And a weekly dose of food for the soul for good measure.) THIS is the aforementioned meal planning that has made the IP work for me hard, and often. Having a plan is KEY, y’all!

Regardless of what’s for dinner, I hope you’ll remember to keep the main thing the main thing: enjoy gathering around a table with the people you care about. Share food. Talk about life. Encourage each other. Hopefully this one tool will make it a little easier for you to make the time, and make those relational investments that happen in the presence of food like nowhere else. That’s the real sweet stuff anyway.

xCC

Psst! Don’t forget to grab the Five Step Meal Plan System freebie and stock up on unlimited free weekly encouragement… right here!

In case you’re wondering, Instant Pot did not sponsor this post. I would totally welcome their sponsorship but ya know, I just haven’t heard from them yet. My posts do sometimes contain Amazon Affiliate Links. When you click those links to make a purchase, I receive a teensy bit of compensation, which is a blessing to keep With Love, From Here posts coming! Thank you!