Why We Need To Remember Everybody’s Junk

I shuffled past the living room this morning with a basket of laundry on my hip and an empty coffee cup in my hand, on a mission to make laundry happen while all the Collie boys are out of the house capturing weddings or cheering for Pirates, when I was stopped dead in my tracks. My sweet little nearly-three-year-old was on the couch in the living room watching an episode of Diego, and the expression on her face was just about the saddest look I’ve ever seen on that little face, aside from her actually full-out crying about something.

Chirp, chirp, chirp…

I paused to listen to the TV, and a tiny cotton-top tamarin (think adorable little monkey) was singing a sad song about how he really missed his family. He’d been separated from his family, and he was inside a little cave, singing and listening to the echoes, because it made him feel like his little tamarin family and friends were with him.

Chirp, chirp, chirp… he sang, and chirp, chirp, chirp… came the echoes.

Once I realized everything was okay, I snapped a picture of her little face and carried on with my laundry mission, but I realized her little face was an answer to something I’d been thinking about all morning.

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I’m nearing the end of my fourth pregnancy, and most Mamas know that this is the part where things transition from moderately uncomfortable to dang this is hard. Some women have heartburn, some women find it nearly impossible to find a comfortable position to sleep in (and then get up six times a night to pee), some women feel like their bellies are about to split open from all the pressure. Stuff typically just starts to hurt, and even though labor is not an easy experience, you start praying it’ll come soon.

The really hard thing about arriving at this stage in pregnancy perhaps isn’t the discomfort itself — it’s that you’re this uncomfortable and you just have to keep going.

Unless you’ve been put on bed rest and are specifically told that you can’t do anything until your little one decides to make an appearance, you probably fall into the category of the majority of women who are hurting and just have to keep going. Because everyone still needs to eat, dishes and clothes still have to be washed, and children still need to go places.

But that situation that can feel so challenging for the pregnant lady? Truth is, the world is full of people who are hurting and just have to keep going.

Something recently reminded me of that fateful interaction with the guy at the bank who was brutally unkind to me when I had over 100 checks to deposit, paying my Dad’s medical bills. Afterwards, when I was in the car, trying to wipe away the tears, and a bank teller called to apologize for how that guy had spoken to me, I wrote that…

I was in a puddle again — just totally appreciative that she’d taken the time to call me and apologize for something that wasn’t even her fault. It is funny how having a witness to pain, having someone agree — that happened to you and it wasn’t right — somehow makes walking through something more bearable. {full post here}

The world is full of hurting people who just have to keep going, and we all long for somebody to sympathize with us, right where we are. They don’t have to fix anything. We just want them to care. Because if we know somebody cares, we can get through just about anything.

The Hero Hubs has been working crazy hard in the weeks leading up to this little one’s arrival. He’s looking forward to giving himself a little paternity leave when she does arrive, but this is a busy season with weddings, commercial work and other photo sessions, and as tired as he is, he knows for a little bit longer he needs to just keep going.

Instead of wallowing in loathing our individual discomforts in this season and seeing who can moan the loudest, I think we’ve done a decent job of showing compassion for each other, making sure we express our care, and even just our recognition that this isn’t an easy season for them. I try to help with his correspondence, he is wonderful and gets the groceries for me.

Our human tendency is to be the one who moans the loudest and expresses the most pain, but it’s so important in trying times to keep the perspective that the world is full of hurting people who just have to keep going.

There are plenty of Mamas who are very pregnant and just keep going, widows and widowers who feel like life is already over, but just keep going, people who show up at their job to find out the doors are closed and they don’t have a job anymore… and they have to keep going.

We all want to look down at our phones and see someone calling just to say I see you where you are, and I’m sorry it’s hard, and I wish it wasn’t.

Jesus showed up in a hurting world, and though He experienced pain that we can only begin to imagine, still His constant heartbeat was to reach out to the hurting, the forgotten, the overlooked, the passed-by. In a crowd of people, He stopped to find that one woman whose desperation pushed her through just to touch the hem of His garment in hopes of finding healing. He was a witness to her pain, and even though she’d already been healed, He didn’t want to miss the opportunity to say I see you where you are.

This morning, I saw my little girl expressing compassion and concern for a fictional character, and it reminded me that it is good and healthy, and a wonderful part of the human experience, for us to be compassionate and show concern for others who are hurting. I wonder — do we grow up and begin to feel so hurt ourselves it’s a challenge for us to keep noticing others who are hurting?

Even if you are going through a rock-bottom challenging season right now, dealing with pain in your body or aches in your soul or worries in your heart, remember that everybody’s got junk they’re walking with. That doesn’t make your pain less significant. Take comfort in knowing that you aren’t the only hurting person who feels like you just have to keep going.

Then take a moment to encourage someone else who might be walking through a hard time, struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other today. You don’t have to be able to fix the problem to say you care. Expressing compassion can keep us soft-hearted and gentle in an all-too-often rough and tumble world. We can trust God to give us what we need to keep going, and, maybe, when we need it most, our fellow humans will be kind enough to return the favor.


To Smile at the Good, and To Smile at the Bad

While enjoying new and different books with my children these first few years as a parent, I’ve rediscovered lots of favorite books from my childhood. One lovely rediscovery I enjoyed from the Bear’s kindergarten year at homeschool was Madeline.

Ludwig Bemelmans’ simple, rhyming narrative is wonderfully engaging, and his matching illustrations, which guide you through the streets of Paris are so charming:

In two straight lines
they broke their bread
and brushed their teeth
and went to bed.

They smiled at the good
and frowned at the bad
and sometimes they were very sad.

In the book, the twelve little girls who walk in those two straight lines smile at a nobleman caring for his horse, frown at a thief running off with a purse and are very sad at the sight of a wounded soldier walking on crutches in the snow.

Over the past few weeks, it seems like memories of a dozen different experiences in my life have come to mind, and I (mostly) smile at them now, seeing how good they were for my life, my soul, my walk with the Lord.

But at the time? There was a lot more frowning.



When I finished my Masters’ degree and my first job was at a Pawn Shop, or when Hero Hubs and I were in our first year ministering in a new country together, and life was hard, and we felt isolated, and it was totally unclear how we were going to make it financially… I can furrow my brow just remembering what it felt like. Frown.

No one has the ability to completely step outside themselves and see their situation from an un-invested point of view, but once each challenging season has finished, and I’ve had a chance to regroup, perhaps heal a little and catch my breath, I’ve had the privilege of beginning to recognize a few of the incredible things that the Lord was doing in my life during that hard time.

A friend of mine lost her grandmother last week, and as she shared about how she was feeling and I talked with her about that long and strange journey called grief, the opportunity to remember and think about my own grief in losing my Dad arose. While I still frown at the thought of losing him, I can also smile in thinking about how near the Lord was to me in that brokenhearted season. He gave me so many gifts, as I heard important words I needed to hear from complete strangers at the hospital, or received smiles from my four-month-old baby girl who was a fountain of joy in a season of sorrow.

While none of us knows for sure what lies ahead on the path of our lives, if there is a lesson I could permanently seal on my heart (and perhaps yours?) from watching this pattern over the years, I’d remind myself of this truth:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord will give grace and glory.
No good thing will He withhold 
from those who walk uprightly. {Ps. 84:11}

Even though our walks with God may not be perfect, because we are covered in the upright walk of Christ, we can trust that God is a sun — giving us light — and a shield — giving us protection. He breathes grace and glory into every situation we will ever face.

And the things that we would initially want to frown at — a job that will teach us a lifetime of lessons, including humility, or a season that will teach us to trust Him — are actually good reasons to smile. He knows that the difficult seasons produce beautiful fruit in our souls — and, how beautiful!,  He does not want to withhold those good things from us.

So here’s the challenge in all this, for both your heart and mine: the next time we receive some bad news, what if we just tried to smile at the bad? And to breathe words of faith through those teeth that we’re gently bringing together — God, you don’t withhold good things from Your children. You breathe life, You give grace and You make hard places glorious. I trust You, right here.

Lord, help us all to see, in our lives, Your glory.



For Erin and for Sydney

How to Choose a No Good, Very Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those days where the cares of the world (or really your small section of them) were so heavy on your shoulders, you were practically laying flat on the floor trying to carry them? I had one yesterday.

The day started off with me bringing a few things that were concerning me to Jesus, asking Him to be present in situations that concern our family, things we cannot control. My heart was heavy with worry and concern, but I did my best to lay it down.

By 8:15 am, I’d picked it up again. And, as the day progressed, I — unaware of what I was doing — had three or four other concerns that I also allowed to weigh me down. I’d been sick with a cold and had barely a whisper of a voice with which to manage the children. I had a babysitter back out and had to scramble to find a sitter for a commitment the next night.  One family member with health issues was constantly in my thoughts. I ran out of cloth diaper detergent and refused to put three children in the car to go and fetch some.

It was turning into a terrible horrible-no-good-very-bad-day.

I was aware that I was feeling low and moving slow. And I pretty much did the opposite of what I should’ve done: I just wallowed in it.

Boys at the Beach

{There was indeed a trip to South Africa that I’ve told you nothing about so far… and I promise to share some photos and stories from it with you. But you don’t have to be at the beach to have a happy day!}

Fear has this funny way of sneaking in a side door. Often, we don’t even realize that fear is at the root of an issue or situation that we’re discouraged about, meanwhile, it’s busy building all sorts of traps and snares in our hearts and minds, meant to keep us fearing instead of trusting.

And fear can be terribly paralyzing. If we don’t allow it to draw us closer to Jesus, you can be sure it will be quick to pull us away, and we will struggle to make our way out of it.

I moved slowly and laid lowly throughout the day, and just sort of chalked it up to “having a lot on my mind” and “feeling a little under the weather,” but truthfully, I was making a conscious decision to allow fear to have its way, instead of choosing to hope, to trust, to have faith.

When we choose to cling to a care or concern in our lives, we are often choosing not to bring it to the God who can remind us of Who He is, how sovereign He is, and how much He loves us.

I’d written Psalm 16:11 in my journal that morning, and (obviously) promptly forgotten it:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

If I had chosen to turn back to the presence of Jesus, to share my cares and concerns and allow Him to rescue me from fear, I would’ve found joy in His presence. And for the believer, the joy of the Lord is a strength like no other.

Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

I chose to sit, sapped of strength, because I chose not to go back to the source of joy: Jesus.

This morning, as I reflected on why yesterday was lousy and what I could have done differently, I read Romans 8:5-6 and had an Aha! moment of enlightenment:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Why did I feel a little like warmed up death yesterday? Basically, because I allowed all the cares of this world to be the place where my mind dwelled pretty much the. entire. day.

When we set our minds on the hope that we have in Jesus and the truth that this world is just a shadow of what’s to come, we can find life and peace. 

Is there anything God can’t handle? Anything He can’t walk you through? Absolutely not!

We can trust Him and we should trust Him.

So don’t be a ninnymuggins like me and exchange the joyous gift of today for a pile of cares and concerns that won’t change just because you’re worrying about them.

Find life and peace in God’s presence, and let today be an unexpectedly wonderful gift.


The Christmas Story: Oh Night, Divine

Hi guys and gals! As we count down the days to Christmas, I’m looking forward to writing about The Christmas Story. Not “A Christmas Story” with Ralphie in the bunny pajamas, although I love that movie, but The Christmas Story, the coming of the long-awaited Messiah nearly two thousand years ago. 

But first, I need to ask your forgiveness for my delay in picking a winner for the {Minted} Giveaway! We were traveling back from Thanksgiving in Atlanta and it totally fell off my radar! So, powered by Rafflecopter and Random.org, here is the randomly-selected winner of $50 at Minted:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Debbie!!! I’ll be emailing you the details so you can head over to Minted and enjoy choosing something from their beautiful collection!

And a big thank you to all who entered! I hope you enjoyed checking out the unique stuff on Minted’s site and please keep dropping by, I think we’ll have another giveaway soon! Now on to The Christmas Story…


It’s funny that the stories of each of my small people’s births start in the night, or perhaps, more specifically, the early wee hours of the morning when it’s still dark. The Bear’s marathon labor all began with my water breaking very early one morning, and the Belle’s sprinting arrival jumpstarted with contractions around three or four AM.

Most especially our darling Tank was a late night arrival — and we were so grateful. The empty streets at 2 am were what allowed us to rush to the hospital, and what made it possible for me to give birth in the hospital instead of in the car on the way to the hospital, which seemed like it was going to be the case.

It was strange to consider: while the world around us was sleeping, this big event had taken place. Our friends and family would wake up to hear the news: the six-days-overdue little Tiger of ours, or the Bear who arrived exactly on his due date, or the Belle who definitely took her time and then made haste, each finally made their lovely appearance.

Luke’s account of the Birth of Jesus tells us that He made a similar appearance, that while they were in for the census, “the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Next, “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” And to them, the angels appeared, declaring the Good News of the arrival of the Messiah, the Lord.

It is worth stopping to wonder — why was Jesus born at night? Why not during the day where more people might’ve been awake to hear the news or see the angels?

Perhaps it was partly for His own protection — knowing there was a King waiting to find this very child and put an end to the beginning of the change of history forever. The less people who knew about the Christ’s arrival — in this fragile, early stage — the better.

Perhaps it was protective for Mary and Joseph as well — the animals in the stall serving as the only witnesses to this miracle-made-flesh.

I wonder if it wasn’t also for you, and for me, too.


Jesus was born at night and it’s easy to notice the symbolism. The stage was set on one dark and Holy Night for the Light of the World to arrive into a world of darkness. A world that deeply and desperately needed a Savior.

Many of us would say these are dark days — we fear the decisions of our governments, we see children starving halfway around the world or around the corner, we watch the news of how 10,000 people can lose their lives in a single day, due to a single Super-Storm crashing onto their shores.

But those days were dark, too. The people of Israel waited, desperate for a Messiah to deliver them from political oppression. On the throne sat a king willing to wipe out a giant mass of baby boys in order to secure his place of power.

The Light of the World didn’t just arrive into the literal darkness of night. He also appeared on the scene of a dark night of the collective souls of the people He would deliver.

And the truth is right there: He didn’t just set the stage for the greatest life ever lived. He set a pattern for how He first operated, and how He continues to operate.

Jesus arrives in the dark night of the soul. He arrives in the dark places where we see no hope, we see no way out.

He brings His powerful presence into the situation. And though we might not at first perceive that He has arrived, or that He is at work, yet things have absolutely changed forever — already.

He arrived, with Presence, as I sat on the floor of a hotel room on one of the darkest nights of my soul — knowing that, short of a miracle, the loss of my Dad was imminent. His Presence didn’t immediately change the reality of the situation, 2,000 years ago or seven months ago.

But His arrival was a sign of Hope that brought great Peace. Like a voice declaring:

Behold — deliverance is at hand. Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices.

Something spectacular is taking place.

Perhaps that first arrival is also an important foreshadowing of the second: one glorious day, He will come again. On that occasion there will be no mistaking Who is making an appearance. And everything will be set right for all eternity.

But for now, let’s not miss the meaning of that great Light, arriving in the darkness.

Remember, dear ones, when you are in the midst of a dark night of the soul, when you’re in a dark place, the stage is set for His arrival. Turn your gaze ever so slightly — like a shepherd looking up at the sky at night — and I trust you’ll get a sense of the One who can bring Peace into every situation, the One who is always with us.

The One the named God With Us.

He was with us, in the dark, long ago, and — glory, glory, absolutely Hallelujah — He still is.



Day 31: Reflections on His Goodness

Day 31: Reflections on His Goodness

Hi there! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by! This post is the LAST post of a 31-Day writing adventure I jumped into this month! If you’d like to see the fruits of this labor, you can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” with links to each day, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in! I hope you’ll be back soon!

31 Days Banner

Here it is folks… the last of 31 Days of (continuously) reflecting on the goodness of God! {Without a doubt I’m certain I will continue to think about/write about His goodness for as long as I’m allowed to keep breathing.} The challenge to get up early and write my heart out before breakfast this month was great starting out, but definitely got harder as the month went on.

It was never much of a struggle to find things to say about the goodness of God. I was a little surprised by that, but not very — He is so good, I am quite certain I could spend the rest of my life writing about His goodness every morning. Every morning itself is a reason to write!

Here are a few reflections on what I’ve learned out of this little exercise, that I hope will be helpful for you, too.

While I hope and trust this adventure in writing was an encouragement, and even a challenge to others, to consider the glorious goodness of God and live life accordingly, I sense it might also have been about me seeing what I was able to do (and less about the words on the page). For a long time I’ve had bits and snippets of larger writing projects tucked away neatly in folders in My Documents, and there they have stood quietly without progress.

Now that I realize I could start getting up and putting 1,000 words on a page before breakfast, progressing toward a particular goal, it is time for me to stop making excuses about why I’m not writing more. If I know there’s something in my heart I’m supposed to be turning concentrated effort toward, I can no longer make excuses for why I’m not doing what I’m called to do.

This has also led me to the observation that my children have become one of my greatest excuses. Sometimes, it is completely valid to say I can’t go to this event or do that thing because it just doesn’t work with my small people, but other times, I am almost blaming my kids as the reason I can’t get up in the morning and exercise {although I will admit — it is HARD when you’re nursing a baby and you don’t know when said baby will wake up and you don’t want to leave your hubs at home with a time bomb — extend grace where grace is due}. But really? The baby might also be just the excuse I need to stay snug and warm in my bed instead of getting out there.

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{“Mom, stop calling us excuses… we’re opportunities!}

Instead of following some sort of schedule of writing about this on this day or that on that day, I chose to simply write what I felt led to write about during this 31 Days. It was absolutely an exercise in taking life one day at a time. I had to trust as I woke up each morning that I would have something worthwhile to say. And if I was planning on exercising in the morning and needed to write the night before, the Lord, in His glorious goodness, gave me the words in the evening and I wrote them down then.

Like the manna in the desert, the Lord keeps providing:

Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. {Exodus 16: 21-22}

Another lesson from this adventure that MANY of us might need to learn? I am not making rest the priority it should be. Why it is so hard for me to get up in the morning? Because I’m not getting into bed early enough the night before. The Hubs and I almost always have something else Quiver-Tree-related to do or to discuss. There’s probably laundry waiting for me to fold it, or switch it over to the dryer, or a fresh load that needs to be started. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty nice to enjoy those brief and fleeting hours when the wee ones are all sleeping and the house is peaceful.

But did you know that the sleep you get before midnight is actually the most important? And here’s some really great information about your sleep cycles, how to get the most out of your sleep, and why you should NOT be hitting that snooze button…

When I reflect on this, I recognize places in my life where I would like to be further disciplined. If I set the alarm for 5:30, I want my feet to hit the floor at 5:30.  I only have a finite number of hours on this Earth, and man, I really want to use them well. Those who accomplish big are often those who “go big” — and give all-out focus toward a singular task as much as possible.

Louis Blériot, has a cool story. He spent countless hours, francs, and years working on building an airplane. He succeeded, became the first man to fly across the English channel in a “heavier than air aircraft,” and is now remembered for his MANY accomplishments.

The conclusion? If I rise up early to meet with the Lord, and spend my days with an ear to His Presence, I am likely to accomplish more of what I was created to accomplish with my life than if I stayed in bed those extra thirty minutes, and felt worse for it.

And about the goodness of God?

There is still so much to say.

Many of you know, have read already, that earlier this year I lost my Dad. The challenge of settling his estate has been significant. The challenge of facing the rest of my life without him, so unexpectedly, even more so. But this month, I think I’ve come alive like never before. I have consistently pondered the many, many reasons I have to be thankful. I’ve celebrated milestones, big and small, like never before.

At the end of the day, almost every day, (there have been a few rough ones) I’ve been teary-eyed, or nearly in tears, with gratefulness, as we put our children to bed.

Life is good.

Do I still feel like the number of tasks on my plate is daunting (I think I said this at the beginning of the month)? Well, kind of, but, taking a moment to reflect, around the house a lot has been accomplished this month, and I’m slowly working toward some strategies that will help me subdue this household management gig, continue to homeschool very well, and enjoy time with my kids and my husband where I am not thinking about the other stuff that needs to be done.

Even in losing my Dad and gaining a part-time job I didn’t ask for, I can see the goodness of God. The people He has connected me with through it. The wisdom I’ve gained from walking through it. The growing closer to understanding my Dad by learning how he did business? A gift from a very unexpected package.

The truth is, we can spend a lifetime on the what-ifs and I-wish-it-were-like-this’s in our lives, or we can accept the cards we’re dealt and learn to recognize the goodness in them. Our lives are not the random dealing of a deck of cards, and good observation and thankfulness will help us see that.

Stop and look for the good today. And tomorrow. And the day after that…