Train up

May is for mother’s and graduations, seedlings and birds frantically feeding and nesting, all things pointing to life.

Train up a child…
Proverbs 22:6

And yet for many, in the midst of emerging, emerald green foliage is the heavy weight of ambivalence. For many the life changes and celebrations just plain hurt.

As an empty nester, the sting of mama-release was worst when our oldest graduated high school. The transition from having him home to not home felt awkward at best. The happy orbit I’d been traveling around him for 18 years was suddenly off track, and I felt it bone deep in the echo of his empty bedroom, in the Saturdays void of his athletic events, in the favorite snacks I reached for at the grocery, then set back on the shelf realizing they’d go uneaten. 

Back then, a mother of one of his friends scolded me for my grief. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Sheesh.” 

Sheesh, indeed. 

I wish I would’ve known then what I know now–and told her so–that grieving a massive life shift is quite all right to do. 

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted…
Psalm 34:18

We’ve been studying the parable of the seeds and the sower in depth at church the last few weeks, and the garden-lover that I am has been reveling in the new, living-word perspectives. 

One thing I’ve been thinking about as I have been starting  seedlings and edging garden beds and cutting back weeds is that seeds only break open in darkness.

This past weekend I pressed papery seeds into peat-filled starters, and I envisioned the zinnias I will some day be able to snip and enjoy in a Ball jar vase. But as I folded the soil over the seeds, I thought about how impossible that day seemed. Could sunshine, water, and soil really grow up to be the same vivid plant in the photo on the seed packet? 

Did I give my boy enough sunshine?

Should I have given my girl more fertilizer?

What if he was a shade plant I forced to be in the sun?

What if she was a succulent I watered too much?

Will the sun ever lift my tender heart-leaves above the black soil of my past?

More than that, how many times have I felt like a seed, tiny and lifeless, buried in a cold, dark, lonely place? 

How many times has the watering word of God, the light of Jesus, and the soil of the Spirit worked together to bring beautiful things to the surface, things that bloom into blessings? 

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…
Phil 1:6

May is for celebrating, even if the seeds we planted in our children don’t seem to be stirring, even if the chaff of our own painful childhoods feel wasted, even if the prospect of soon-empty bedrooms causes an ache in your heart-roots, even if your family tree looks more like a weeping willow that’s lost too many branches.

Whatever season you find yourself in, whether you have a graduate, are a mama, are facing another broken holiday, or are basking in the full sun of celebration, know this: May is for celebrating, because we follow a farmer-God who plants with purpose, who waits to harvest so not one will be lost, who wept blood-tears in a garden to save us all.

*****

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
John 12:24-25 TMV

How to Survive in the COVID-19 Wilderness, via More to Life

As a front line healthcare worker, I spend my days navigating the overwhelming isolation and fear of patients in the midst of this brutal pandemic. The onset of COVID-19 was bad enough the first time around. Now with hospitals full again and re-instituting no visitation policies, patients are faced anew with fighting their diseases alone, the warmth and touch of their loved ones reduced to a one-dimensional blur on hospital issued iPads.

We haven’t even had time to recover from the spring. 

The resurgence of isolation-related blame and anger, frustration and sheer exhaustion overshadow COVID-19 itself, and no wonder. God realized as soon as He created us that we needed companionship, and He knows we need it now. He knows we need to love and to be loved, and that so much of that occurs in the presence of others. We are withering emotionally and spiritually as insidious fear and emotional emptiness slowly but steadily drain joy from our hearts—again. 

How and where can we find hope? CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article at More to Life Magazine.

Quarantine journals: April 30

When I was younger, I had a terrifying, recurrent dream. I can’t recall the circumstances, only that we were standing in a line at a school waiting for MREs, our only source of food. It was the sort of dream where your conscious is telling you in the midst that “it’s only a dream,” but you are so scared that you fight your way awake in the middle of the night.

This morning I drove by a local elementary school, and I was struck by how much it looks like the one in that old dream.

I know, it’s ridiculous, right?

We’re going to make it through this, right?

Some moments of my day, usually when I’m building or painting something, I don’t think about the virus. I don’t think about my patients at the hospital who were sick and anxious enough without COVID-19 to worry about. I don’t think about how so many of us are months, or weeks, or even days, of needing help to pay bills and get food.

But many moments–too many moments–I do think about it.

I wonder if my grandparents and great-grandparents felt like they were free-falling when the Great Depression hit. Because that’s how I feel–like I’m free falling. Like I’m in a dream and I know I’m in a dream, only this time, I can’t make myself wake up. I can’t make it go away.

I want to be able to get my nails done again. I want to get back to the treasured Saturday morning breakfasts out with my husband. I want to hug my patient who just received devastating news. I want to hug my friends again. I want to know that we aren’t headed toward bread lines and MREs and another Great Depression and things won’t get so bad that we’ll have to sell our house or go bankrupt or lose everything but the shirts on our backs.

I had anxiety and PTSD before all this, and I just wish it would all go away.

Now, I’m fully aware that a lot of the things I listed above are #firstworldproblems. By and large my family and I are doing okay. But everything is relative for everyone. A crisis to one person might appear as a blessing to another. We can’t judge the things that make each of us unravel.

We can only acknowledge that we are, each of us, unraveling about something in the midst of this madness.

So what can we do?

There are the obvious: acknowledge that your hurt and worry are real, and more importantly, valid. Seek mental help–most doctors are taking virtual visits, if not seeing serious cases in person. Do things–even one thing–to take care of your soul, whether putting up a bird house, reading a long-neglected book, trying a hobby you’ve been putting off, taking a bubble bath by candlelight.

One thing is for sure: We are not all in this together.

Some are suffering significantly more than others. Many–too many–are dying.

But we are all in this with God.

He has not changed.

He has not left us.

He has seen us through wars and famines and plagues. He has never promised us escape from these challenges, but He has promised us victory over them–either here on earth or in Heaven.

“…fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

The other day, I had the privilege of being at my cousins’ dairy farm when they opened the north pasture to grazing for the first time this season.

The gate opened, and the pretty jersey cows with their big, brown, puppy dog eyes just stood there, blinking, ankle deep in muck.

“Go on now,” the farmer hollered, encouraging them.

Still, they stood there and stared.

It’s as if they’d forgotten all the springs before and the freedom and sweet, honey taste of the emerald green pasture.

“Go out before them, walk all the way back over the bend of the hill,” my farmer cousin said to me.

The cows blinked some more, postures guarded, as they watched me walk farther and farther out into the pasture, my legs shin deep in the lush, green grass.

But then slowly, one by one, they walked toward the pasture.

They picked up their pace, little by little, until one, and then another, started to run–skip, really–their impossibly enormous frames light with glee when they finally realized what the farmer was offering them.

Freedom.

Honey sweet nourishment.

Goodness.

Love.

It was a Malachi 4:2 sort of day:

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

The sort of day the Lord has in store for each of us, when this winter, this virus, this season lifts.

Be safe, dear friends.

Know you are loved and beloved.

Know that you are not alone.


 Lead Me Home is a novel inspired by my cousins’ dairy farm. It’s a story of two families and a town faced with immeasurable loss,  and how they find hope in the midst of it. You might like to give it a try, if you’re looking for the same: