The Already, the Not Yet, and How to Set Your Compass Accordingly

If I had to describe the past 52 days, I might use a word like hurricane.

If I had to describe the past three days, I would probably liken it to holding your breath for as long as you possibly can, and then coming up for air at the last moment possible.

Air is filling our lungs and we are breathing again — glorious good air, air full of hope and joy fills our lungs — but we are also probably exhausted.

There’s a hard thing I’ve observed about life. And it’s that I do the most learning when things are hard. I do the most growing when I’m being stretched. It’s as if maybe the strongest trees are the ones that get started in adverse conditions and have to push through hard dirt, or drought. And maybe they also learn to intertwine their roots with the trees around them, because they know somehow they’ll be stronger if they stand together and grow together.

Our precious eight-year-old son is home after 48 days in the hospital. We’ve been eating meals as a family. We’ve been cuddling on the couch and reading books again. We’re in the early stages of figuring out a temporary new normal as we watch our boy progress day-by-day and it is nothing short of glorious to behold. To think just a few short weeks ago we really weren’t sure who would wake up — and what he would remember, what he would be capable of, how his future might be severely limited — and instead to find it seems there are no limitations. No boundaries. No ‘no’s’ or ‘impossibles’ even being whispered. 

Instead we are experiencing what we fought tooth and nail to believe all along: With God, nothing is impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
{Matt. 19:26}

We don’t know exactly where our story is going. We don’t know how God is going to author the chapters yet to come. We have already seen the beauty of knowing that so many people have been encouraged out of this journey, and that is a gift we are incredibly grateful for.

Today we watched the video of a precious seven-year-old that wanted to send $11 to help with Blake’s medical bills. I am confident in the kingdom of heaven, that is the very biggest gift we have ever received.

We are fully confident our precious Blake is moving toward 100%, and he will get there. We are fully confident God will provide with exceeding abundance for our family and those medical bills. We will get there.

And all of life, all of our existence as fragile, amazing human beings on planet Earth? Is exactly this — we live in the already, and we live in the not yet.

Christ has already died for us. We are already forgiven. We are already blessed, redeemed, chosen. But we are not yet who we will become when we are fully, face-to-face with our Creator, the heavenly creatures He intended when He first dreamed of you or me at the beginning of eternity.

Already, Blake is so very healed. But in some small ways, not yet. And in truth — even our beautiful eight-year-old is going to live his own precious life and grow old and his days will come to an end. He is not yet the glorified creature he was created to be.

The best is yet to come!

How do we settle into this already and not yet way of living? It reminds me of being at the beach and letting your feet sink into the sand as the water washes over you again and again. You stand for a while. You soak in the sun, the cool of the water, the splash of children nearby, the good salty air that fills your lungs. You let gratitude be what you feel and breathe more than anything else. 

And then, you wriggle those feet out of the sand, and you keep going. You keep going because not yet. You keep going because you are still here for a reason and there is still so much for you to live. There are even more storms for you to weather. You will learn more. You will grow more. It will be hard and it will be beautiful.

And you’ll return to sink your feet into the sand again. You’ll stop and smell those roses and give thanks. And then you’ll start walking again. 

Set your compass in the direction of faithfulness and you will not get off course. Can you really live a faithful life? Can you really do it all for the glory of God?

Well, with man, this is impossible. But? With God, all things are possible.

xCC

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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.

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Thank you for your prayers for our precious Blake! He is adjusting so well to life at home. Sleeping better. Making great progress. We are watching him do something new with his left hand every day! He is more and more steady on his feet every day. He is more lucid, more himself, more sure of himself all the time. We’d love to ask you to pray for his full healing, his vision, his headaches and tummy aches, the further treatments that may be necessary (that we pray will not be necessary!) and for the Lord’s hand on our family as we continue to navigate this journey together. We have so many hallelujahs to raise! God has been so good to us! We want to live this story with faithfulness.

You can get regular updates on Blake at With Love, From Here on Facebook or on our GoFundMe page. And if you’re looking for an awesome new t-shirt, I think there’s about a week left on our t-shirt Fundraiser right here. Please keep lifting up our family, and please Raise a Hallelujah to the God who is so worthy — He has done such great things for us!!

Piecing Together Who’s Behind the Curtain When Affliction is on the Stage

My days as a Theology student wrapped up at the University of Edinburgh a decade ago, but the circumstances of life being what they are at the moment, finding the Theology to help me to process and understand the hard things has been a part of the process of dealing with what my family has walked through. {If you don’t know what circumstances I’m speaking of, you can glance at this post on the blog for a recap.}

I’ve been wrestling with understanding how the Lord fits into the puzzle of hard places in life. Not exactly the “Where are you now?” question, but more like the “Lord, are you the Author of this affliction, or are you more like the Incredible Being who saw this coming from the beginning and knew how you would catch the ball when it was flung, and how you would begin juggling it and turning it around for good, and still not drop any of the other millions of balls you are juggling?” 

I thought about how Job’s affliction seemed to get started when God said, “Have you considered my servant Job?” to the devil. So I wrestled and prayed and asked — Are you the Initiator of the sufferings? 

And my reading led me to Lamentations:

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.

Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
{Lam. 3:31-33}

That word willingly — in the Hebrew it has to do with the heart. Another translation could be “from His heart, He does not afflict.” 

And I found my way back to Theology that comforted my soul years ago: that God has a sovereign will. There are ways He moves. Things He ordains. And He also has a permissive will. Things He allows but doesn’t necessarily prefer. If He took the complete control He absolutely has the power to take, and everything happened exactly the way He wanted? We would be automatons, robots — beings without the free will to choose, for better or for worse.

John Gill commented on those verses above, “For all afflictions are from God, but they do not come from the mere motion of his heart, or are the effects of his sovereign will and pleasure, as the good things he bestows upon people do, without any respect to any cause or occasion in them; but sin is the cause and occasion of these…”

What does this mean to me and why does it give me comfort? 

I’m reminded of two things. One, we live in a broken world. And the consequences of the brokenness that started right back there at the beginning with the fall, are the things we tend to dislike very much in the world. Abuse, Neglect. War and hurt. Poverty and hatred and racism. All these things are born in brokenness. We are the hurting people who hurt people.

But Two! Two, there is a God who loves us. Who shows compassion and has unfailing love. Psalm 92:15 says, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” My dear friend Shelley loves the translation that says, “There is no wickedness in Him!” And it is true!

The fall has affected us right down to our DNA. We are not the creatures we were created to be. Before sin, there was no death! No hatred, no sadness, no eight-year-olds with inexplicable AVMs that cause intracranial bleeding. The fall set into motion the proverbial chain of events that led to every hurt you or I have ever or will ever experience on this Earth.

But God! He is in the business of using everything for our good and His glory! So when an eight-year-old does have an inexplicable AVM, He may answer the prayers of thousands of people and show up in a mighty way to bring healing and miraculous goodness in ways that will change many, many lives for good. I’m pretty sure He might do that — because in our situation, He already has.

So hold onto these two truths for whatever you’re facing, friend. First, that we live in an imperfect world and God’s permissive will allows things that are not His sovereign will — not His plan or what He wanted or how He hoped for things to go. But second, and more important, He is just. He a rock to hold onto through every trial and storm, and there is absolutely no wickedness in Him. 

Hold on, and hold on, and keep holding on. Know that whatever valley you trudge through, you will see glory if you do not lose hope. It is in His nature to answer prayers, to show compassion, and to make everything beautiful, and He cannot do otherwise.

xCC

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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.

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Update on Blake

Thank you dear friends for praying for our sweet boy lots and often! He is doing so well. He has regained control of his left arm and hand, is walking with more strength and less assistance, and cognitively is improving in leaps and bounds. Counting in Spanish. Reading aloud. Writing in short bursts. He is still on a number of medications that are slowly being weaned, and he is working hard through lots of therapy to give him the best possible outcome. That has been hard for him, but we know the best things in life usually come from hard work! The best part of this update has to be that he will get to come home with us on Friday, October 18th. We are absolutely ecstatic to have gone from uncertain of his survival to excitedly planning his homecoming 48 days later. 

He will need continued outpatient therapy and we will begin to figure out what life looks like in this temporary new normal, but we are so excited by the very promising steps toward recovery he has taken so far, and we continue to pray for his 100% head-to-toe healing. Please join us in praying for Blake, specifically for him to continue to regain motor function and balance and strength on his left side, for wisdom for his doctors, for 100% healing, and for his AVM to completely disappear and need no further treatment. 

We have a gofundme right here with a little video documenting a snippet of Blake’s gorgeous personality and our journey here in the hospital which we’ve created in hopes of fundraising to help with the very significant costs associated with living at the hospital for 48 days!

My friend Katherine also designed Raise a Hallelujah t-shirts as a fundraiser, and we are hoping to have a big fat celebration wearing those t-shirts and rejoicing sometime after we have our sweet Blake home!

Thank you for your prayers, friends!!

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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