What Are You Afraid Of?

She saunters out of her bedroom and it’s nearly 9 PM. She mumbles down the hall, her lowest low voice, still high and sweet as a song bird. The pony tail I twisted atop her head hours before now droops down at the nape of her neck and she whispers quiet:

Something’s waking me up.

You’re waking you up, I think to myself, say out loud. I’m certain she hasn’t fallen asleep yet, but she wants me to bring her back to her room and she wants a fresh diaper and she asks me to sing her a song: Can you sing me a song about me?

This girl who’s a mess of long strands that curl at the ends, this girl who ties strings around our hearts, she’s three years old. And sometimes there’s something, just something, that keeps her from trusting it’s okay to let go, and go to sleep.




I was standing at the sink scrubbing one scuffed old pan with wearing edges a few weeks ago when the eldest came into the kitchen with a statement that grabbed my heart’s attention: “Mama, I need to go to the bathroom.” (That wasn’t the startling part.) “And I need to tell you something.” (That was.)

I’m all ears and eyes as I lift his seven-year-old frame onto the counter, hoping to catch a good, deep glimpse into his eyes to see what his heart really wants to say. “You know that movie we watched last week?”

I nod, certain he’s speaking about a PG animated film he saw at the theater.

“It had some scary parts and I don’t want to go to sleep because I’m afraid I’ll have nightmares and my dreams are so real.”

Tears begin to stream from his eyes, and then mine, and my husband and I offer comfort, encouragement, hugs, compassion. Hero Hubs reiterates two words again and again: “You’re safe.”

He saunters slowly back to bed and I silently pray that he’ll sleep with heavenly peace.

There’s something these kids are telling me, on the edge of my heart and the tip of my tongue, and I’m trying to put my finger on it.

There are always dark places we are afraid of.

There are always reasons we would rather just ask someone to hold us like a baby and stay near a little longer.

Maybe it takes a lot of bravery to admit what we’re really afraid of.

And why did Jesus say Perfect love casts out fear?

Is it knowing we’re loved that solves the problem?

I wonder, if in the grand scheme of things the Father doesn’t look down and wish He could just “fix” the problems — but He knows better. Knows what we need and what we want are different things.


I can’t make the bad dreams go away, but I can tell the kid I love him and I’m here for him.

No one can make the fear of what people think, the fear of messing up, the fear that everyone is really just tolerating your presence, the fear that you don’t measure up… all those unspoken deep whispers in the dark that say “you are less than enough” … no one can make them magically disappear.

The Name of Jesus is incredibly powerful, but it’s not a lucky charm from a cereal box.

The message isn’t “Come to Me and I will fix it all better for you” — it’s “Come to Me because I’ll be with you in it — I already came for you, I am still coming for you, and I will come for you again.”

It’s “In this world, you will have tribulation but be of good cheer… I’ve overcome the world.”

I recently said yes to something I was afraid of doing. I thought it would be hard. I thought it would take up lots of time, lots of effort, and it could even not work out at all. Flop.

But I remembered: it’s not really about things all working out, life being easy, things going smoothly, never putting your hand to anything that might fail.

It’s about saying “You’re my Lord, and if You want me to do it, I’ll do it.” 

Those are the words that brought me to villages in Mexico where I tasted Jesus like never before. Those are the words that brought me to orphanages in Zambia — to places where I got to see poverty, and at the same time, true wealth. Those are the words that carried me over the ocean where I met the man, not just of my dreams, but also of my destiny.

And perhaps it’s knowing the Father’s love — being so sure of that love — that’s the thing that casts out the fear. That speaks brave to the heart: You can because He is…

You CAN because He IS.


YOU can because HE is.

What are you afraid of? Do you believe in a God that’s bigger? A God that doesn’t promise it’ll all be perfect, but does promise He’ll always be there?

The greatest moments I’ve lived so far started with me saying yes to God saying come.

But every time I walked on water, I first had to get out of the boat.


The Best New Mantra You Can Adopt For Today (And Tomorrow)

I had a birthday last week. You might be the type that dreads the reminder that you’re adding a year to that fateful number that just keeps getting higher, but I’ll be honest with you, that is so not me. I really, truly love birthdays. Mine included. Especially.

I love reflecting on the year that has passed, thinking about all there is to give thanks for in the present, and dreaming about what might happen in the year ahead.

And I like cake and presents, too.

I also like thinking about what I’ve learned in the year that has passed. For example, this year I observed that the comfort level of a pair of underwear seems to often be inversely proportionate to the price I paid for it.

Lesson learned.

Kids at Jockey's Ridge

But one of the things that’s consistently remarkable to me is how easy it is for me to forget some of the basics in the midst of all the “big stuff” of life. 

Yesterday, we woke up to the usual morning routine. We’re showered and dressed and have usually read the Good Word — and Hero Hubs has usually put in an hour or so of work — before the kids’ feet hit the floor. Little feet patter towards our bedroom around 7:00 am (it doesn’t happen sooner thanks to this little clock we bought on Amazon), we do breakfast and coffee and then get started with whatever needs to happen on that particular day.

This morning, I offered to read the Belle a book before getting started with homeschool with her big brothers. To my surprise, she ran down the hallway and grabbed a book off the shelf at the end of the hall — a shelf that houses some books I ended up with that were my Dad’s and some that belonged to my sister, most of which I haven’t read.

She came scurrying back to me with The Power of a Praying Woman — clearly not a children’s book. When I suggested an alternative, she insisted on that book, and then proceeded to open it up to a random page as if she intended to do the reading.

Have I mentioned yet that she’s two?

So I sort of said, “Suit yourself” and offered to start reading the random page she’d opened the book to. She clenched the book even tighter–perhaps out of concern that I intended to pull a fast one and swap the book for something else. Then she started to “read” in an adorable sing-song voice, belting out words I’d never heard her say before:

“God loves me, too.”

And on it went, over and over, just those same four words, usually followed by a giggle:

“God loves me, too.”

{You might’ve seen this already if we’re Instagram buddies or you’ve liked With Love on Facebook!}

The strangest part? I’m not sure where these words came from. We do pray, and talk about God (more so with the boys since they’re older) and we do go to church, but this little creature’s usually in the nursery with the littlest kiddos–and her most beloved nursery workers speak Spanish during nursery time. So when the Belle responds to Dora the Explorer’s promptings, she has incredibly beautiful pronunciation… but I don’t think she heard those words at the church nursery.

I decided to take a video of this precious declaration with my phone, and she was very willing to say it over and over, smiling and laughing almost every time.

And then I thought–this girl knows she’s loved, but do I? Did I need this reminder today?


You know how I mentioned forgetting the basics because of the “big stuff” on the road of life?

Man, I really do that sometimes.

And I carry my personal failures around on my back like a heavy sack of rocks with tiny little mouths. They whisper: You aren’t being patient with your children. You raised your voice again? You said you were going to get up but you slept in. This thing or that thing isn’t getting enough of your attention. You are falling short. Overspending. Overeating. Overdoing. Have you ever heard the word balance? Be honest with yourself… you’re just a hot mess right now.

It’s a lot of weight to carry. Every mistake. Every shortcoming. Every time things don’t work out how you hoped they would and you feel sure you’re to blame even if you’re not sure why.

But what did the God of the Universe want to whisper to my soul–and to yours through these words you’re reading right here–so badly that He was willing to align the stars for my two-year-old to declare it?

God loves me, too.

I am falling short in a heap of little ways. I don’t always do the right thing. Say the right thing. Make the right choice. But still:

God loves me, too.

If you can take a deep breath and really let that truth sink in friends–then it can become a truth that truly changes everything. The God who stretched out on a cross to show how deep and wide His love is? He’s not watching your performance and taking notes to send home a report card. He’s not waiting for you to fail so He can zap you in some cosmic bug zapper.

What He’s been whispering all along is that He loves you without a thought for your shortcomings. And, because of your shortcomings, He decided to make a way for you to still know His love, for you to be forgiven and welcomed into His love.

Will things go better if you ask for His help and follow His lead?

For sure.

Will He love you anyway when you don’t?


His Grace and forgiveness are almost unfathomably deep mysteries. But we can start with this truth that’s simple enough for a two-year-old to smile at, though perhaps we can live our whole lives still coming into a fuller, deeper understanding of the incredible goodness of it:

God loves me, too.

Let it sink into your soul today, friend. And make it a mantra to remember, for all your tomorrows.


With Love for the Jerk at the Bank

It’s been a while since I gave any thought to that nice old saying, Every Person Has a Story. But a Friday afternoon incident at the bank brought it home to me again. And I thought it was a lesson worth sharing.

Here’s the backstory.

Today, on the six month anniversary of my Dad’s death, I was busy opening envelopes and recording check amounts and numbers. My Dad was a part of a ministry called Samaritan Ministries International, an alternative to traditional health care. Each month, the members of SMI send their “share” to another member who has a “need”, at the direction of the central office. I’m surprised I haven’t shared with you about this ministry already, we (the Collie family) are also members and had a great experience when the Belle was born — but it’s a topic for another day.

My Dad’s need, namely, his significant hospital bills was published by SMI this month — the significant delay related to the hospital’s delay in sending the big bill and was not the fault of SMI. This means that over the course of September, I’ll be receiving hundreds of checks in the mail, with cards and words of encouragement and prayer, and those checks will cover the hospital bills from my Dad’s final days. {I hope all this makes sense, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if it doesn’t.}


I had about 110 checks to deposit into the Estate bank account this afternoon, and after spending a good wee while opening those envelopes, recording the details and so on, I was pretty spent, so I went to the bank and hoped it would be okay for me to not fill out a deposit slip listing each individual check.

The bank was short-staffed for a Friday afternoon, but I only waited a moment before my turn in line. I explained the backstory to the 110 checks I needed to deposit and asked if it was okay for me to not singly list out each check on a deposit slip. The teller was very happy to run them through her system for me and I was totally relieved.

At the time, she was the only teller behind the counter; another was in her office with several clients sitting across the desk from her, and the third was manning the drive through window.

I’ve been in the process of settling my Dad’s estate for about six months now. There are a heap of unusual twists and turns and loose ends, which mean I’ve made lots of trips to the bank settling different accounts, and the tellers have been very friendly, and we’ve gotten to know each other a little. While we waited for the checks to go through, she asked how my children were doing. We chatted some more, she continued the process of entering the checks, and I looked back over my checklist, trying to guess what the total was supposed to be, because, really, I hadn’t gone through and made sure everything was clear.

It was the end of a long week, my third week of homeschooling, still unpacking from our move, the anniversary of my Dad’s death… for some reason the thought of the holidays without him had been looming ahead of me all week — I was pretty much just spent.

I overheard one customer waiting in line complaining to another about the wait and specifically using a few words that made me think he might be referring to me taking a long time getting my deposit done. I decided to believe the best about the gentleman and assume he wasn’t actually referring to me.

But, as the transaction came to a close and I gathered my things to leave the desk, he commented, loud enough for the entire bank to hear:

“Are you sure you don’t want to take a little more time and make the rest of us wait a little longer?”

The loud, overbearing tone and rough and disrespectful words felt like an unexpected slap in the face. I spun around on my heels and said, “Would you like to know why that transaction took so long? I am depositing checks to pay my Dad’s hospital bills… he died…”

But before I’d said three words, even louder, even more disrespectfully he chirped “NO NO NO I don’t want to hear it.”

Maybe I spend too much time at home with my Hero Hubs and children, where no one is allowed to speak to anyone in that sort of manner. But the shock of the interaction really stung,  and I walked out muttering my regrets that the world didn’t revolve around him.

I climbed back into my van and erupted into a pile of tears. Today? Really, today?

After a few minutes {okay, maybe several} I’d managed to compose myself and I was ready to run the next errand on the list before heading home.

Deep breaths, tissues. Jesus.

By the time I pulled into a space in the parking lot at Walmart, I was upset all over again thinking about the interaction. I sat in my van for a few minutes looking over my checklist and trying to figure out why the teller said there were 112 checks when I could only count 111. I looked for my phone in my bag to open the calculator and see whether we’d still come to the same total. When I picked it up, it was vibrating.

I answered with a shaky voice, and the teller from the bank was on the other end of the line. She called to apologize for how the other customer had spoken to me.

“He’s a {occupation title removed so as not to incriminate anyone} in town, so I guess that’s just his attitude all the time.”

“It was wrong and completely uncalled for and I’m sorry.”

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.

I thanked her for calling more than once, we wished each other a good weekend. A few more deep breaths and tissues and I was ready to let my tear-stained face into Walmart. Although I seriously considering leaving my sunglasses on, the first shopper who looked at me funny forced me to put them on top of my head.

Moments before, in the middle of that brief and heavy-hearted drive from the bank to the Walmart parking lot, I brought this care to the Lord the best way I knew how.

I was reminded of one very important thing: in every situation, Every Person Has a Story. The person who cuts you off in traffic, the Mom who just can’t devote an evening to a PTA meeting, the guy who seems totally disinterested when his kids are screaming on the bus. The girl who might look like she’s just a selfish and careless youngster taking up the teller’s time at the bank with small talk while people are waiting.

And, even the jerk at the bank who has something very unkind to say, after his patience is worn too thin at having to wait a few extra minutes before seeing a teller. Was he abused as a kid? Did he recently lose someone he loved? And perhaps has noone ever encouraged him to consider the possibility that God has a plan for his life that is so much better than being a walking, talking meaniepants?

Every Person Has a Story.

It was a fresh, timely and good reminder for me. As I hunted a space in that parking lot, I waved at the employee who looked down on his luck, standing outside and speaking with a friend. I smiled graciously when the aisles were too full and I had to navigate a sea of fellow shoppers and gently ask if people wouldn’t mind moving their carts for me to get through.

I waved another car that had just left the little Perfect Perks coffee hut in front of me so that she wouldn’t have to wait for all the cars behind me to clear in order to get moving.

I remembered one important thing: I’m not the only one who’s hurting. None of us are alone, facing a sometimes cold, often broken world. And the guy at the bank and I? We might actually have a lot in common. Perhaps we’ve both experienced a significant loss recently. Perhaps we both feel like there are more tasks on the to-do list than we can actually accomplish.

One thing is for sure. Love is the best answer for every broken question. Kindness is the best medicine to give a hurting world.

Every person has a story.

And today, even when it hurts, I’m grateful for the reminder, and I’m grateful this is mine.


Messy Grief

For the first time last night, I had a dream with my Dad in it, and I understood, in the dream, that he was no longer alive. But then the strangest thing happened. Somehow, in the hodgepodge blur I remember, he wasn’t alive, but I could still see him, as if he was, and we were dancing.

And strangely enough, we weren’t dancing, like I might remember as a little girl, with my feet on his, or like I might remember from my wedding day, when my fluffy dress made me feel like I was floating on a cloud, and I paused a few times in our dance to get my steps together again, with a little side to side arm action and a twist thrown in, with hopes that it didn’t look like I was a mess.

It wasn’t a classy snapshot memory at all. Instead, we were on a tennis court, but I think indoors, and I think at a party, and he was at least ten or fifteen feet away from me, and we were doing the electric slide. But that line down the middle of the tennis court was between us, and neither of us could cross it. But it was still somehow good, us both dancing.

I have absolutely no memory of my Dad doing the electric slide, ever. But I have to admit, in my dream last night, he was throwing some sweet shapes on the dance floor. And he looked younger and he had more hair, and, it’s honestly hard to believe, he did not have an ECU baseball cap on.

I suppose it’s safe to say this little snippet of my life, this snippet of a dream where I felt confused but I think happy at the same time, is a bit like grief itself.

Strange, and messy.


I’ve cried more tears than I thought I was capable of crying. I’ve laughed harder, fuller and deeper than I thought I would for a while. And somewhere in between trying to figure out the work of settling an estate and supporting my talented hubs (you need family pictures soon, right?) and loving and nurturing and raising three kiddiddles, I am walking the road of this really messy thing called grief.

‘Messy’ is as best a term as I can muster – for when you will erupt in tears at a simple question for no particular reason, when you will avoid things you know need to get done {ahem, thank you notes} because you just know they’re going to be less cathartic than you hope, and really just downright hard. For when you find yourself simultaneously wanting to cheer and to cry when you realize your two-year-old still sometimes pretends to call G-pa on his “cell-phone” {calculator} or he cheers when he sees G-pa’s picture on your Facebook profile.

Grief is just plain messy.

At this stage in it, I’m running more errands than I want to and writing a lot less than I want to. (And probably need to.) But I’m focusing on staying focused, {ironic, hey?} and trying to make sure the tasks on the estate-settling list get crossed off, and I still get wholesome meals on the table. But sometimes it’s Dominos.

The busy is probably good, even though it’s hard. And the memories I’m making with my kids, cherishing them and creating opportunities for love and laughs and learning, this is where the best stuff, the most-healing stuff is happening.

God whispers gently: there is so much good still to come. He is also whispering hope and life and faith, through the voices of Sunday sermons, blog posts, His amazing Word and strong and solid teachings, like this gem by A.W. Tozer.

The most beautiful reminder of all, in my Dad’s absence, is the constant reminder of the Lord’s presence. I’m aiming to fix the gaze of my soul on God. {Thanks, Tozer.}

Perhaps it’s a valley I’m walking through, that somehow still has some beautiful hills to climb — it’s messy to describe, but it is a place where I know there is a God who makes every path smooth by His grace.

Next Sunday I’ll be sharing about my Dad’s faith journey at the church he called home for a good while. Appropriately, it’s Father’s Day. My heart is certain there are some stories to tell, my hope is that the Lord will give me the grace to tell those stories — and communicate the greater truth behind them — well. {I’d appreciate your prayers, and if you’re local, you are welcome.}

Right now the truth I’m aiming to cling to that I offer to you as well is this: He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.

That night, in the hospital, when the end was beginning and everything was a messy blur, this was the Word, when I opened the Bible on my phone:


He was there for me, an abiding Presence, through the toughest week of my life.

Friends, He loves us. Amen.


Free for All Friday: Poverty and Beauty

I hope your weekend gets off to a scrumdiddlyumptious start! There are a few great reads I’d like to share with you this Free-for-All Friday. Plus, I’d love to suggest stopping by to see the latest pics of my adorable niece here. I cannot wait to meet her!

Can I also suggest you enjoy the sunrise HH captured the other morning?

Lovely, hey? It’s winter here now so this was at 7:30 am.

Then bulk up your blog menu with a couple of these fat-free, but oh-so-filling reads this weekend:

Meet Cara and hear from her heart — I am with her! I feel like we’ve known each other for ages but we’ve never met!

Just for fun, and because I’ve been thinking about that rich young ruler — you know the one I told you about — Go here and find out if you’re rich! Come back and let me know, mmmkay? I might have a few special requests. 😉

Amber at the Run-a-muck is a wordsmith like few others. I thought this would feed your soul a little too. And I’m not just sharing because she featured me at NightLight last weekend! 🙂

And last but not least, will you be casting sideways glances at the “perfect girl” at the pool this summer? Hear Laura Leigh’s thoughts on that right here. This one of hers is good too! Well they’re all good, but I especially think you’ll like these!

Enjoy your weekend! Thanks to those of you who sent love my way this week, especially yesterday! My big bro will be here in less than a month, and I am joyful! I love you!