Let the Light in.

There have been far fewer moments these days to just be still. Even in my writing, while I have so many thoughts to express, I haven’t had a clue where to begin. Perhaps there’s been a pressure to have the next “thing” to write about, but really I’m still in the mud of grief some days. In between the ‘there’ and ‘not yet,’ I’m still processing emotions and circumstances and not knowing what to do with all of it.

So while I don’t have much to say, I wanted to check in and say, I’m still here.

Still hanging on, still desiring to share my story with those willing to read.

Fall seemed to sneak up on me quicker than my dog sneaks up on food. One moment, I was outside sweating on my walk, and the next I was cozied up under a knit throw watching the sun fall over the leaves until finally it turned in early for the night. There’s something about this time of year when the darkness lingers just a bit longer than I would like, and the days feel long to endure. Personally, I’m not a fan and after the year we’ve had, I’m not ready for more darkness. I long for the warmth of the light.

It’s been three weeks since I’ve been back at work after being off for three months [since giving birth]. It’s been a little draining, honestly… but I can’t lie that it felt good to have a much needed paycheck come in after so long ha! It’s a huge adjustment to go from having free time to read, write, walk, cook, clean, rest, sleep, socialize, even go to therapy (basically having no one and nothing to answer to), to barely having time to throw on a clean pair of clothes… when I work at home. I know, sad, right? Time management and I aren’t exactly the best of friends.

I will say though, God has been so faithful… even in allowing me to have time off. There was a point when I was set to return back to my job six weeks postpartum. I had to go through the grueling process of filling out paperwork for FMLA just to be met with the following phone call: “Oh, so in the event of losing your baby… you won’t be able to use the remaining six weeks for bonding leave.” That was a blow… boy, what a great system we have.

However, I do thank God that my employers were kind enough to grant me an extended personal leave. Even after our loss, God was the one to provide a full twelve weeks of leave and even though it was largely unpaid, He sustained us every step of the way. He surrounded us with precious friends and family that took care of us in many ways, so thank you for those of you, too.

It’s been easy to get lost in the darkness of this season, to fumble around aimlessly or be weighed down by the burdens of life. But it’s also easy to appreciate the light when the sun is still shining. I think of the shorter days within this season: how much more do I appreciate the sun when the days grow colder and darker? I certainly try to anyways! This season feels like that… though I might be angry, confused or heavy laden at times, I know the sun is still shining down, leaving slivers of beaming light that warms the soul.

So… I am trying to grasp onto the Son as much as I can. For it is Jesus Christ that said, “I am the light of the world.” He also extended the invitation, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened… and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Even when the days feel long and the darkness surrounds me, I am fighting to be honest. I am fighting to see the beauty in every season and to appreciate all that God has given me right where I’m at.

For those who may be struggling to do the same, I invite you to look up the lovely author Ann Voskamp. A woman well versed in gratitude, she writes books, blogs and social media posts, encouraging the weary to give thanks in all. Whether it’s the mundane, the celebratory, or even the darkness… it’s all grace. I read her book One Thousand Gifts this year and honestly hope to read it again soon. It really is like soup for the soul. For now though, she’s encouraged her readers to follow her on a November Joy Dare. Even if we are in the middle of the month, I invite you to join too. I’ll post it below.

It helps my heart to look for the glimmers of light even when it feels dark out. May we learn to still our hearts and minds in the winter season ahead and lean into even the darkest of days by letting the Son shine in our hearts.

Encouraging songs and Psalms below:
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

LORD, You light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness. Psalm 18:28
I'll be your lighthouse
When you're lost at sea
And I will illuminate everything - Out of Hiding | Steffany Gretzinger
If you’re stumbling in the dark, run your hands against the walls
Find every window, every door, throw them open, throw them open
In will flood a blinding light, and it will chase away the night
Even if you shield your eyes, let it pour in, let it pour in - Gallows | Jess Ray

Control is not Peace

Well, today’s a fun one. September 9th marks a year that our sweet Selah passed away. She was my husband and I’s first dog together, two months into our marriage with a house under renovation as “newly independent” adults. I remember the excitement of driving five hours to pick her up and finally getting to meet her as she ran out as happy as could be. That was my first glimpse of her… and in a way, also the last. A year ago, during our evening routine, she ran in the opposite direction and into ongoing traffic. The scene still haunts me to this day.

I wish I could say I’ve moved on, but with one loss after another pulling at my heart, the effects of grief have lingered in a different way. Since the loss of our first child, Joshua, seven weeks ago now, I have felt paralyzed by fear like never before. I can’t stop worrying that I will lose yet another loved one. Ultimately, I believe that God would strengthen me to get through it, but it doesn’t mean I want to handle loss all the more.

Maybe the real question is, do I really believe I will make it through even the most devastating of circumstances? Will Christ truly be enough? And will I trust him in the midst of it?

I suppose this debilitating fear of another loss is the indirect result of grief: a poisonous, festering symptom that aims to keep me paralyzed to go out and live… that keeps me from trusting that God is good and in control, and that I’ll be okay only because He is.

I’ve seen this fear manifest in the face of control. For me that’s looked like obsessing over the state of my current dogs and naturally, I’m anxious. Desiring control is a natural response to seek security in the face of uncertainty. But as my lovely husband likes to remind me of this gut-punching one-liner of a lyric, “control is not peace,” no matter how much I try to make it so. (Song link at bottom!)

Control is a funny thing. I wish I could make up some sort of clever analogy about it, but do I have to? One day you’re skipping along the path of life until boom! your brother dies. Whoa, where’d that come from?! Let’s keep walking… frolicking on down the road, perhaps taking a left turn eventually and bam! you have cancer. What!? That sign was NOT back there. Then next thing you know, the rest of the world comes crashing down around you too. My lengthy point is: we literally have no control in this life so why do we continuously act like we do? Control is morbidly funny in the sense that we frantically grasp at straws only to have the wind blow them back out of our hand.

Our sweet Selah

When life throws you for a loop, isn’t it best to find some sort of sense of control, if nothing else but to stay sane? Isn’t that what I’m doing by obsessing over my dogs, in hopes that they’ll be satisfied and obedient enough not to try to run away? I mean, that’s what I fear since Selah ran out and got hit. I’m obsessing over factors that I simply cannot control all of the time.  Let me be the first to tell you if no one else has… obsessing does not bring me an ounce of peace. Not the everlasting kind anyways, but the counterfeit kind that quickly shrivels up when I am triggered. And yet again I will try to control something else, and on the cycle goes.

So how does one stop this? How do I not worry over the unknown? How do I enjoy my life in the here and now? Or go into my next pregnancy not fearing every single thing I do or don’t do will affect the life of my baby? How do I, even now, not worry about bringing these words to light for fear that God would take away the source of obsession? How do I give up my control for true, everlasting peace?

Well, bringing these thoughts to the light is actually a really good first step. For me, that looks like being honest with God. When I kneeled down to pray, I waited a good five minutes because I simply couldn’t find the words to say… until I realized I was actually too scared to say them aloud. God has full authority of all the universe and everything within it, so who am I to question him? Or plead that nothing else would be taken from me?

But as soon as the words left my lips, my guard dropped. The emotions poured out. The waterworks were rolling. I could not bear the weight of this debilitating fear alone, or this curious anger of why things happen the way they do. I simply wasn’t meant to. Debilitating is defined as “tending to weaken” meaning that it literally weakens our souls. Thankfully, we can call on the one who will strengthen us. (Isaiah 41:10)

If control is not peace, then what is?

For some, this also means talking to trusted friends about our honest thoughts and that is so needed too. We were created to be in community. Whether that looks like family, friends, a counselor, whichever emotionally healthy individual you can trust, may we step outside the dark, crippling thoughts of fear together and expose them to the light.

My own therapist asked me, “If control is not peace, then what is?” And I thought of how control makes you want to hold a tight grip onto something. If that is the case, then the opposite of that looks like surrender… letting go of that thing. For me, it looks like letting go and trusting God with it. With that being said…

A good next step (that probably won’t be a favorite) is to acknowledge that you’re simply not in control — BUT you can look at who is. This may trigger more fear at first because frankly, well, it’s scary to think about! I thought over the losses I’ve faced in just the span of two years and really, they are like knives to the heart. It hurts, and it’s okay to mourn that. If all that has happened so far, what happens next?

Well, God is so good that he would never let us suffer alone. I thought of how Jesus left his throne in heaven to walk with us in the throes of life, knowing that he would be brutally tortured and that he would die. Let me say that again for the reader in the back… Jesus KNEW he would be beaten, spat upon and face the worst form of torture of his time. Nails driven into sides, he knew death was imminent and that the people he died for could read that and feel absolutely nothing.

He lived 30 something years of life knowing his fate and did not stop his mission. He did not run away from the pain. He did not let fear paralyze him. Though he prayed to God the Father pleading with him for a different way, he ultimately surrendered every ounce of control and said, “not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus could only do this as a meek human because he kept looking to God and did two simple things: trusted and obeyed. So simple, right? Ha! He never stopped communicating with the Father in prayer though. He brought his thoughts to the light. He trusted God’s character and plan and humbly followed. His character is sovereignly just, his heart is good, and his steadfast love abounds forever. He holds the world together and all things in it.

Because I know who is in control, I can have lasting peace.

We’re not meant to understand everything because we’d live in a constant state of anxiety trying to figure it out anyways. But he has promised to work out all things for good for those who love him, according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) And that’s the true meaning of the verse (ahem Manifest writers)!

Lastly, but not least importantly, is that He doesn’t leave us alone. The verse that God spoke to us at the beginning of our pregnancy was Deuteronomy 31:6… the charge to be strong and courageous. The context is that the people of Israel were venturing into unknown territory with enemy nations surrounding them, occupying the land they were looking to move into.

How can one be strong or courageous when all they’ve heard

is that the road ahead will be hard?

God commanded the Israelites not to fear because He was going with them, and he wasn’t leaving. Ever. He gives us peace as he walks with us in the uncertainties of life. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)

We can trust that no matter what we face, God is not leaving the people that trust him. And he won’t just let our lives fall apart without working it out for our good and his glory. Because I know who is in control, I can have lasting peace.


September Love Letter

It’s a new month and for some that might be exciting. Others might not have even noticed. If you’re anything like me, perhaps you too were met with grief in some way. The thing about grief is that it leaves you wondering, “how do I move forward from here?” when the rest of the world seems to be moving on.

I wish I was the type to look forward to things and have an optimistic perspective. My husband is great at that, but me… not so much. Instead of opportunities, I see mountains too high to climb. I’d much prefer to see what’s in front of me crisp and clear with definition and clarity rather than a vignette of distorted figures fading into darkness.

So here I am on the first of September, a month riddled with emotional landmines, face to face with my current reality. It is day three of waiting to hear back from a company that a friend connected me with, and by now I had hoped at least an interview would be set up.

And crazily enough, I took a pregnancy test this morning since I’m still waiting for my cycle to come back. I don’t know how this postpartum thing works entirely, but I admit the desire to try again after our loss is there and if it were up to me, I’d speed it right along. (Thank God that it’s not!) I don’t know which seems more crazy: the reality of conception occurring so quickly, or the slight hope in me that it would. (Note: it was negative people…)

Trust me, I’m scared to share that publicly, but the reason I will… is to share that I’m human. I am messy and full of mistakes, misplaced hope, stolen dreams and a broken heart, yearning to be hopeful and met with crushing reality. Life seems like a constant waiting game at this point, and I don’t know if there will ever be a time of “arriving.”

As a Christian, I know all the things… I am forgiven and free, hope-filled not hope-less, and Christ mends broken hearts. Because of Him, I can have lasting hope and peace now in the midst of my circumstances and there’s no “point of arrival” that I’ll reach here on earth, anyways.

I know all these things and believe most of them on a good day. But again, I am human and it’s much easier — much more natural — to see things from my limited viewpoint rather than one of eternal standing. It is easy to see things as they are right in front of you, and call them out for what they are, rather than believe for the things that you clearly aren’t seeing.

Belief in, or the hope for, the things that one cannot see… that is faith – it’s supernatural: to trust when nothing or no one seems trustworthy. Admittedly, my own tends to waiver. I don’t admit to being a perfect Christian, let alone person. But the little faith I have it is in the only one who can be trusted that he will show up one way or another.

The reason why? “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him.” (Deuteronomy 7:9) It’s in the text: he is faithful. On a day like today, I can murmur the smallest of agreeance and say, “I trust you,” believing that all of this waiting is for some purpose. And if not, I’ll trust that God hears my cries and will comfort me in it.

Belief in, or the hope for, the things that one cannot see… that is faith: to trust when nothing or no one seems trustworthy.

That is why I write: I hope that my words will point me to the one who is faithful and I hope it points others, too. I write to believe when I cannot see what’s in front of me. I write to remind myself of who God is and that he can be trusted. I write to reflect on my problems and realign my perspective, my viewpoint, to one of eternal standing and security. I write to allow God’s heart to flow through my words.

In a sea of unknowns, I want to choose to trust and rest. I want to give thanks for all that is currently in front of me and all that is past. I want to have faith that wherever I see problems, God sees broken things to be mended. And thankfully, He is in the business of restoration. I am grateful for the time off of work that I have. Though I’m tempted to strive to be productive all my days, I am glad to simply just focus on being and getting by, allowing myself to feel all the emotions that inevitably will come up.

What gave me peace this morning was the fact that in this amazing, vast world… God cares for me. His word says,

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" Psalm 8:3-4

The next verse goes, “You crown me with glory and honor.” Glory is a hefty word that I won’t divulge into today, but let’s think of it like God’s manifested presence and wonder. Honor meaning “full of worth, dignity, esteem.” In this incredible world where it’s easy to feel lost or insignificant, rejected or looked over, the Creator of heaven and earth who holds the stars in place says:

I am invaluable. I am marked by his presence. I am created in His image and I am lovely because he says so. I carry the heart of God within me. I am worthy.

You crown me with glory and honor.

Psalm 8:5

So if you’re anywhere in my shoes today, or perhaps you can fill in your own circumstances, I want to remind you, too, of the following:

No matter who might overlook you, or what companies reject you, God has chosen you for himself before the beginning of time. No matter what hurtful words others may say about you, God says you are worthy. Despite how big the world seems, you are seen and you are held in the arms of Love. While you are waiting for that positive pregnancy test, or whichever dream it is to come to pass, find the joy in the in-between. Whatever uncertainties you face or situations you are fearing, may the fact that our Creator is with you be a comforting balm to your wounded soul.

It’s the first of September and I’m choosing to surrender all that I long to understand. Everything that I want to grasp onto, I let go and hold loosely knowing that anything can happen and I may not have control of that, but I know the one who does. And I know he loves me and has promised to be with me.

Here goes the start of something new. Welcome.