Tuesday, October 18, 2016


How do you spend the anniversary of a death?  Is ¨anniversary¨ even the right word?  Isn´t that word overly celebratory being it´s in the family of birthdays, weddings and other such happy events?

Some people have asked us what we will do that day and it really touches me that they remember the date with us.  But it still doesn´t make knowing how to answer it any easier.

Others in our shoes seem to know exactly what they want to do:  go to the cemetery and lay flowers, host a commemorative event, visit the last place they saw their loved one alive or take a journal to a solitary place and grieve alone.  I respect all of these choices and have done almost all of them at some point myself.  Why do I not seem to know what to do on a date of such importance?

I was skyping with my daughter last weekend and I asked her if she had anything special she was planning for the 19th.  She said with some melancholy that it was a normal day of back to back classes at university and that she thought the best way to honor her sister was by doing what she loves - dance.  (She´s a dance major.)  She dearly misses her sister´s presence as she grows and matures as a dancer and know that this is what she would want her to keep doing.  She said she may get away another day to the beach (one of their favorite places) and journal.  Then she sighed and said, ¨After all, Mom, every day is October the 19th

That´s when it hit me!  If every day is a day that I miss her, think of her, wonder about her, grieve about her absence in our lives, what is October the 19th? If every day my heart catches at her photo, an old favorite song, a note from a friend of hers, the tenderness in a sibling´s voice recounting a memory, October the 19th is just another day of remembering this great loss.

Don´t get me wrong, the date is a significant one  - I can feel it unconsciously in my spirit approaching even if there is no calendar in front of me.  We have made it through two years without her.  We are learning - very reluctantly - to live without her.  But grieving is no respecter of calendars... grieving is day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, sometimes breath by breath.  And that´s why I now understand:  Every day is October the 19th.

I suppose that October the 19th is somehow more formal, more official.  You may grieve alone a lot of days, but that is a day when others may still remember and join you.  It weighs more than other days.  It´s written down, it´s recorded.  In history.  There was a starting point recorded for the world and now there is a stopping point recorded for all time.  She was born, she lived, she died.  She made a difference.  She mattered.  She was here. But now she is gone.  Her days on this earth were appointed by her Maker.  And October the 19th marks that point.

But not another day goes by that that empty space does not resonate poignantly in my heart. 

Photo by:  Peter

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


The breathtaking bride,
The handsome groom,
The beautiful decor & environment...
The ambience of love & joy,
anticipation, waiting, the vows.
Special moments, funny moments,
tradition, contemporary, memories, spontaneity -
A holy, happy blend.
God´s hand, blessing, faithfulness.
A new beginning, a new generation.

But it´s not our girl.
It´s not our family.
And in the heart of celebration,
there are quiet tears of loss.
Tears she is absent on her dear friend´s day.
Tears she is once again a missing bridesmaid.
Tears we will never see her fall in love,
walk through that mystery with her.
Her Dad won´t walk her down the aisle
or dance the father-daughter dance they had always planned.
I won´t be by her side in a million bridal secrets,
an accomplice in decisions & delights.
Her siblings won´t watch her romance with wonder
or plan some creative & hilarious surprise for her reception.
We will never know the amazing man
God may have chosen for her.
Today it hurts.

I try to be happy, for it is another´s day!
It is not my day
And I do not want to dampen it.
But my heart is torn -
and there are tears for the beauty,
tears for the joy,
and tears for the one who is absent.

¨Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.¨

Proverbs  14:13

Photo by:  Norman M.

Monday, August 15, 2016


In my mind,
August is hers.
Many, many others have an August birthday -
But to this mother,
August means Jenna.

For her first 7 years in Argentina, it was winter.
But when we came to Spain, it was glorious summer -
her favorite season!

Everything about her month was perfect -
sunny, hot, happy, carefree
Full of friends, camps & family vacation.
Late night talks & sleeping in,
The beach, her favorite juicy fruits and ice cream.

Many summers went by...
And eventually we began to be separated by oceans.
It was so hard to not celebrate her in person during those college years!
But we created ways to send love from afar.

Her last August was an indescribable gift to us.
She was feeling good.
Five of her most special international friends
Flew in to spend 10 wonderful days here together.
Her last birthday party was in our front patio-garden...
Magical and memorable.
Full of music, life, precious friends from near and far,
amazing food, the smell of intoxicating jasmine and gifts of love -
songs, dance, poems, cards, paintings.
It was all as it should be...
And she was perfectly happy.

We didn´t know it then,
But she would die 2 months to the day of her birthday -
August 19 to October 19.
We are so glad we made that day so special!
Those bittersweet two months were made up of unforgettable days -
days filled with love & tears,
pain & questions,
prayers & struggles,
waiting & wondering,

I wonder:
Can you celebrate a birthday without the person?
Would that be weird?
How should we remember her on her day now that she´s gone?
What should that look like?

How could I not grieve August?
23 Augusts of Jenna.
23 times to celebrate her life, her day.
I celebrate her every day -
but August is different, sacred...
August is hers.

Now August is brimming with other things...
mystery, nostalgia, memories, tears.
A heart made light with the sun,
A heart made heavy with longing...

For August is still hers -
It will always be so.

The lovely photo was taken by Malaga friends and Daniela.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


"The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run to it and are safe."

Proverbs 18:10

Something is bothering me.

Does it seem strange to you that in these last two very difficult years I have primarily related to God as my Shepherd?  Aspects of Him as Mighty King, Judge, High and Lofty One, Creator, Cornerstone, etc., have been difficult for me to connect to.   It's not that I don't believe these things are true of Him, it's just that I have so desperately needed certain aspects of Him during this difficult process that they have become my main lifeline to Him.  To have Him as my Comforter, Counselor, Guide and Savior has been essential to my healing.  I also have not wandered far from the Psalms in this time, finding comfort in their honesty & hope.  But I keep wondering how long this lasts...

I often struggle in worship when we sing songs about these other realms of Him.  It feels foreign, almost uncomfortable and it is somewhat upsetting to me that I can't.  If I believe He is sovereignly who He reveals Himself to be in Scripture, why is this so hard for me?

When I reflect on how His names were revealed in Scripture, though, I see human encounters with Him at points of need.  And each specific need provided an opportunity to experience Him in a certain way.  It marked their life and there was often a physical place of remembrance built to recall its significance.

When Hagar, pregnant with Ishmael, ran away from Sarai and Abram, she found herself alone in a desert.  She was in a difficult place in life and only God could have found her there, seen her need and given her direction for her - and her son's and an entire generation's - future.  She named Him "the God who sees."  (Beer Lahai Roi) (Genesis 16:14)

When less-than-confident Moses was considering God's proposal to go speak to the Pharaoh, he asked, "Who shall I say sent me?"  Did he not already know the name of his fathers' God  as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He did, but he seemed to need a new revelation of God to allow him to begin to fulfill his destiny.  "I AM WHO I AM," God revealed.  (Exodus 3)

After the huge victory of the Red Sea, the Israelites began their travels and it wasn't long before there were various difficulties.  After their experience of the bitter waters of Marah, God challenged them to listen carefully to Him, to obey Him and that if they did so, they would be kept from sickness and disease: "I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians."  I'm sure they still had vivid images of the post-plague-disease-ridden Egyptians in their minds!  He reveals this to them:  "I am the Lord who heals you."  (Jehovah Rapha)  (Exodus 15)  

God has created an infinite number of unique human temperaments and personalities.  I've noticed that certain ones tend to lean towards certain names of God as their primary way of relating to Him.  We also all go through many different seasons of life and find different aspects of God especially meaningful at certain times.  I'm glad God can accommodate such variety.  He Himself is so immense and complex that there could never be one name that says it all anyway! 

Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about my limited perspective right now.  Perhaps it is still a time to enjoy the Lord as my Shepherd... It is said that that is the place where "I lack nothing."  That sounds like a good place to be! (Ps. 23:1)

Besides, as Juliet said to Romeo:

"What's in a name?  That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet."

The Lord is indeed very sweet - no matter which name I choose to use.

Photo by:  Jack Dorsey

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Did you know that part of Jesus´ sacred mission on earth was to care for the brokenhearted?  Did you know the whole ¨beauty for ashes¨ thing is for real?  There have been days I found it hard to believe  yet I have been struck lately with the prominence of verses given to this subject - particularly in this classic passage of Scripture about the Messiah´s mission:

¨The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me 
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord´s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.¨ 
Isaiah 61:1-3

I have highlighted the phrases directly related to grief within this sacred mission statement and they are about half!  This part of His healing ministry has great significance (not to take away from the others).  In fact, at the end of vs.3, it says this:

¨They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.¨ 
Isaiah 61:3

The powerful yet tender transformation required to take the ones who are broken and grieving, sad, exhausted, depressed, in darkness, unable to cope or function on certain days, angry, confused, in faith crises, with their whole life on hold and their physical health on edge is absolutely stunning.  The beauty for ashes thing is not a joke.  Nor is it a dream.  But it is impossible -  except for the Redeemer of Grief and Death, the Transformer of ashes and all that is grey.  Only He can turn all that into a beautiful, colored garland to be worn on our head where all can see it.

To take a hurting, brokenhearted person from the ash heap of death and transform them into an ¨oak of righteousness¨ is nothing short of a miracle!  The fact that these people become ¨a planting of the Lord ¨ shows that it is an intimate, personal work done by the Redeemer Himself.  The incredible end result of this redemptive work is ¨the display of His splendor.¨  Wow!  As he is transforming me in my grief process, he is using it as part of his sacred mission in this world to show Himself!  I get to be part of that!

If you are grieving, please know that the Savior is very near and very committed to helping you get to the other side.  He is for you and He shows it in these verses.  For your broken heart, there is a binding up. for your mourning, there is comfort, for your grief, there is provision, for the ashes of death there is a crown of beauty, for your mourning there is an oil of joy and for the spirit of heaviness or despair, there is a garment of praise.  Some days these may seem a million miles away...but they will come.

Beauty does rise and Jesus is on mission to provide for your grief! 

Graphic by distelfliege

Friday, March 25, 2016


Redeemer of Death,
you can bring life.
Even after the ugliest of deaths,
in spite of the bitterest of tears,
in the face of misunderstanding,
disappointment, confusion.
You did this already
on an Easter long ago.

Redeemer of Death,
who breathed this promise:
I will "bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair...¨
You did this already
on an morning long ago.

Redeemer of Death,
You placed on the Messiah the Spirit
and sent Him to ¨bind up the brokenhearted¨
as part of His sacred mission.
You anointed Him for this,
equipped Him for it.
You did this already
on an evening long ago.

Redeemer of death,
you can bring Life
even after my daughter´s death,
even after my own heart was broken.
In the face of the impossibility
of beauty to be found in this ash heap.
You are doing this
on Easter...and every day.

You are the only one I know
who stands crowned:
Redeemer of Death.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


There comes a time in the grief journey when grieving becomes almost comfortable.  It's familiar, it's daily, it's a loyal companion.  For some, it may be a subtle way of getting desired attention, extra space, kindnesses or pity.   Grief seems to take on a personality of it's own and becomes jealous and greedy of your healing - so much so that it threatens to become your identity instead of just your process.  In a strange turn of events, grief can become a deceptive, clingy, over-friendly enemy.  Recognizing and confronting this comfortableness at the time that is right for you is crucial to ongoing healing.

While everyone's grief experience is unique, for me I started to become aware of this certain comfortableness through two feelings I had not had for a very long time:  occasional boredom and restlessness.  Subtle tensions began to arise between the desire to protect myself from any external energy drainers outside of grief and some actual thoughts of wanting to do more.  Because of my flexible work, my overwhelmingly understanding co-workers and a little bit of prior experience with grief, I gave myself a lot of permission to grieve.  I am still in process but I can honestly say that I have been proactive with the counsel given to me.  So when these prickings of the heart and mind began to come, they were strange and not entirely welcome.

I began to have a series of thoughts in certain opposition to each other like:

"Have I been giving myself too much permission to grieve?"  "What if I start doing more and it is too anxiety-producing?" "What if I don't have the capacity for more?"  "How much is just right?" "What have I been doing with my life?!" "I don't want to do the wrong things before who I know who I'm supposed to be!"  "Who AM I supposed to be?"  "Does this mean I am forgetting her?"

It wasn't until I started paying more attention to the significance of these things and seeing the guilt and confusion for what it was: growing pains - that I could begin to move forward again.  I am beginning to acknowledge that I feel out of practice at being busy & productive and am not at all sure I want to go back there.  I long to do things from a deeper place and this whole experience has changed some of my priorities.  Some days I feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of all the catching up I have to do - relationally, professionally, physically, personally.  So many things have been put on hold since Jenna´s illness and death.  There are so many things I have not done - let alone done well - in these last 2 years.  How will I ever catch up?

Like all fears that immobilize us, how will I know if I don´t try?  I sense it´s time to step out on some things, to begin to experiment with my energy level and capacity for people, activity & work.  The work I have done on a limited basis has sometimes been exhausting but for the most part I'm happy that they have been almost all successful even if they were short-term.

I don´t regret the choices I've made thus far.  It has had to be this way in order for me to do my most important jobs: grieve and help my family.  I have a friend who also lost a daughter unexpectedly in her early 20´s who says, ¨Grieving is a full-time job; everything else you do is overtime!¨ Who knows where I would be if I hadn´t fully given myself to the task?  I could be ahead in a lot of other things and a mess inside.

Committing to long term projects is scary...there are many what ifs in my mind taunting me.  What if I fall back into a dark time and lose my strength?  What if I fall apart at some important presentation?  What if I commit to  a trip and then find myself miserable?  What if I commit to something six months away and my kids are in crisis?  Then again, don't we all face what ifs in life?  Are mine really that different?

These growing pains have got my attention.  I know this for sure:  I do NOT want to hold onto grief just because it is familiar!  It must be in its proper place and serve its rightful task.  I pray for discernment and strength as I walk forward into the future that looks so very different now...

Friday, February 26, 2016


From the womb of the dawn
came a ray of light.
It shimmered silvery-rose
upon the dark, silhouetted horizon.
¨Wake up!¨ she whispered.
¨It´s a new day, a new time.¨

The light grew brighter and chameleoned 
into coral, red and glad orange.
The fiery ball began to rise with proud protagonism,
while the silver-rose ray of light
slipped quietly, unobtrusively, into the background.

Her short work was done.
Yet she was content.
For I had heard her.
I had seen her promise and understood:
The much-anticipated season of Light
that will crush my Darkness
Starts with noticing...
the simple silver-rose ray.

¨But the way of the right(eous) is like the early morning light.
It shines brighter and brighter until the perfect day.¨ 
Proverbs 4:18

Photo by:  Sian Monument

Monday, February 22, 2016


I have stared at this picture for countless hours since Jenna left us.  It is the last family photo of us captured here on this earth, made priceless the day she died.  Our family seems frozen in time to me here.  When I think of our family, this is still the way I think of us...Five...our perfect number. 

In this photo, the love, the joy, even the hope that is captured here with our beautiful Jenna in the middle seem stopped in time.  It´s as if our ¨family clock¨ stopped that day.  This reminds me of the scene in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes where the old family clock was stopped at the death of the much loved Ruth.  This is apparently a Victorian tradition, done for reasons from respect to superstition  to a symbolic marking of how time stood still when their loved one died and a new period of existence started without time.

Time didn´t really seem to exist or have importance in the first period of time after Jenna died.  It is extremely frustrating and confusing to grieving people in general that life stubbornly seems to march on right in the face of your devastation.  You feel like shouting to the world, ¨Stop!  Don´t you realize I just lost my daughter?!  You can´t go on like this as if nothing ever happened!¨  Very slowly, you have to step back into the world in some ways (even though you may not want to) and even more slowly, you begin to engage in time-related events with others.  But time - and life - have changed forever and your heart and entire life and future are marked to prove it.  There is a clear and definitive before and after.

None of us can describe our family without Jenna.   We are still unsure of how to answer questions about our family when we meet someone new.  It seems both untrue & almost irreverent to say I only have 2 kids...Jenna is still so very real to me!  Yet here on this earth my reality is two.  For now, I tend to answer, ¨I have 3 children, one in heaven and 2 here.¨ I recently asked Jordan how he answers if someone asks about his siblings.  ¨It depends on who it is and how much I think they want to know, ¨ he said. It´s a very difficult position for all of us to be put in.  Jenna was ripped from the anchoring middle place of our family unit, destabilizing us forever.  We are all still struggling to accept this reality.  We are still unsure of who we really are as a family.

It´s inevitable and natural that family changes.  The kids move on, move out, grow up, start independent lives, new families - it happens.  I had already begun to experience that with both girls stateside at university.  But being ripped out?  That is different.  It is violent, traumatic, sad...we are still reeling some days, still adjusting, still struggling with our new number of four... Four!

So many days I look back longingly at our "frozen family."  The family we have known is captured whole in this precious moment.  I can still remember that day - the weather, the sound of laughter, the different positions we stood in, the dear friends we were with and their voices and clicking cameras.  It is stopped in time in my mind yet full of life and the present at the same time.

Although I cannot relive or restore this captured moment except in my mind, I do have this memory  to treasure.  This paradox of the juxtaposition of past and present is a tender reality I hold in trembling hands.  While in some ways still ¨frozen in time¨, thankfully, we are indeed very much alive.

This photo may always capture the essence of our family to us.  It will always be precious and irreplaceable.  It may always feel both past and present to our hearts...both are very much a part of us, infinitely important pieces of who we are.

Family picture by the lovely Becca Brown


Thursday, February 18, 2016


We are really not sure if Jenna can see us or not but 
we often feel like she is a part of the cloud of witnesses cheering us on.

In your moments proud
on your biggest days
when your heart is heavy
yet you rise again
when your courage spurs
others on to good
when you celebrate loudly
or quietly love
when you cross a finish line
at your life events...
I'll be watchin' you.

When you love Him well
when you pour out your heart
when you whisper prayers
or bless with your art
when you fall in love
or you graduate
when you learn something new
or new vision create
when you live victorious
and of course, when you smile...
I'll be watchin' you.

When you write that book
when you dance on that stage
when you kick that goal
or a new nation engage
when you make a new friend
or forgive one that´s old
overcome a weakness
or cover someone´s cold
when you give ´til it hurts
and you love to the end...
I´ll be watchin´you.

When you cry for me
yet persevere
when you wonder and question
 but trust Him to be near 
When you rest in love
and choose to walk forward
when you follow your call
in spite of your sorrow
when you mourn honestly
yet look for the beauty...
I´ll be watchin´ you.

When you change the world
as you live bigger than I
when you blow others away
with a legacy 10 times mine
when you see me in yourself
and it brings a smile
yet you freely live as you
embracing that unique profile 
when you make Him relevant
and bring Him to the unloved...
I´ll be watchin´ you.

When you find ¨the one¨
who´s all you´ve dreamed
when you have your babies
and they look like me :)
when you carve out your life,
live adventures & dreams
when you love your new family
yet honor your old team
When there´s the gift to be together
sharing lessons & laughter...
I´ll be watchin´ you.

When you finish each season
and live each moment
full and rich it stands to reason
you draw closer to me, to all eternity
and when your yearning grows
and your story is told
When your work is done
and the witnesses´ cheer is bold
when you finish your race
and you cross through the veil...
I´ll be watchin´ you...
and waiting for you...
and hugging you...
and introducing you...
to your new eternal friends
to your new perfect home
and bringing you to the One
who loved you first and best.
And then we will live...
really live...
...happily ever after.

Photo by:  Jan Jespersen

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Oh! how I miss Your voice!
I miss hearing your secrets,
hearing your insights,
even your warnings!

I sit and listen again but hear nothing.
The silence echoes & reverberates...
Sometimes it mocks me.
Sometimes it tells me it will always be like this from now on -
that pain & grief deafen your senses,
mess with your mind,
dull your abilities,
darken your capacity.

I hate to admit that in part it´s true...
That is many people´s experience.
But I am clear on this:
It will not always be this way!
It is a season.
And every season passes.
And every season has its beauty.

I used to hear Him easily...
Listening was my ¨go to¨ way to experience God.
His voice met me in various experiences & places;
I find myself lost without it!

Yet like a person struck suddenly deaf,
I am slowly learning to depend on other senses to a greater degree.
I am sharpening them as I learn to use them,
learning to compensate.
And I realize that I can experience God in so many ways!
He is not limited to my diminished senses
in this time of grief.
This is part of the beauty to be discovered in this season.

Certainly God is unlimited in His ability to communicate.
I am the one who is reaching out through human limitations,
through my wounded heart & senses,
asking Him to build my awareness,
asking Him to enhance my creativity in order to connect with Him.

So I open my heart -
to taste His goodness,
to touch His hem,
to smell His perfume...
soon enough I will hear Him,
Soon enough.
For now, the others are enough...
And they are beautiful.

But oh! How I miss His voice!

SOUND OF YOUR VOICE by Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo by:  Tangent Artifact

Monday, February 1, 2016


“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

C.S.Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

To my un-safe but good King....  :)

Praise comes
from trembling lips
Gratitude stumbles
from mustard-seed heart
Wisdom emerges
from a terrible, yet sacred journey
Trust is budding
from this pilgrim walk.

Tears, miles, hours, prayers
all done with Him.
He has not left me.
Yet neither He has explained Himself.
He is Love and Mystery.

The storms, mountains & valleys
are not over.
I thought they were!
But this trek still has more
break-points, look-outs, summits and precipices.
It is all mapped out in tender, yet stubborn love.

I breathe in, I breathe out,
take the next step.
I stop to take in the view
And He whispers
and smiles.
If I don´t pay attention
I will miss it!
So I pause often
To see the sacred in the terrible
to find beauty in the shadows
to embrace joy in spite of 
to kiss velvety petals.
lay on green,
listen to quiet waters.

And in those moments, praise comes 
from trembling lips...

Photo by:  Jesús Pérez Pacheco

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I spent 3 hours this morning with two of my besties here in Spain talking, praying and reflecting as we like to do.  We express our hearts about what life is bringing at present while the others listen intently first to the sharer, then to God.  Insights, scriptures, word pictures and phrases often catch in our souls for one another and we talk about them and pray for each other.  I frankly don´t know what I´d do without them.

After a rather emotional time for me this morning expressing my present dark phase, they were undaunted and listened intently to God on my behalf.  They heard some amazing, encouraging things and ministered to me with such compassion that I left sensing light and also, a literal turning point. 

Later in the afternoon, one of them wrote to me and said that while she was driving to an appointment she noticed that the almond trees are blossoming here in Andalucía.  I had noticed it, too, the day before; they are the first to bloom here.  But today it caught her attention because we had talked a lot about vineyards and pruning and seasons; I myself expressed that I was definitely in a ¨winter¨ season with little progress to notice at first glimpse.  But we reflected on the well-known fact that winter, while to the eyes seems like a barren time, really has some profound things going on.  This is the time of year when, underneath the soil, the roots are going deep.  During the sometimes long, dark, cold season of winter, there is much more than meets the eye!  It is a time to trust and believe in what is really happening  - and in what is to come.

But to think that some things actually blossom in the winter!  That was a fresh thought to me today. To think what it must be for almonds to blossom earlier than everything else!  What must their secret be?

The almond tree is the first to blossom and the last to bear fruit.  Almond trees are present in the Scriptures and are particularly associated with ¨one of the earliest prophecies of young Jeremiah.¨* 

¨The word of the Lord came to me:  ¨What do you see, Jeremiah?¨ 
¨I see the branch of an almond tree, ¨ I replied.  
The Lord said to me, ¨You have seen correctly,
 for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.¨    
 Jeremiah 1:11, 12

It gets even better:  The Hebrew word for almond, shaked, is also translated ¨to watch¨.  By seeing the almond branch, God assured Jeremiah that He is watching over His word to bring it to pass, no matter the passage of time.¨*  Almonds are clearly associated with God's watchful presence and promises for future fulfillment of His promises - even during our most wintry of times.

The almond trees around Andalucía where I am blessed to live are just coming alive this week and I am so touched to see their faith-filled prelude to spring.  The Almendros and their flowers are a symbol of awakening and hope - to all that God promises to watch over and fulfill.

May your day be blessed with (literal and/or figurative) almond blossoms! 

Photos in order of appearance:  Sydney and Theophilus Papadopoulos

Quote from:  Dr. Juergen Buehler, ICEJ (Int´l Christian Embassy in Jerusalem) Executive Director

Sunday, January 24, 2016


People think I should be in a different place -
be doing more things,
engaging & reacting,
committing & applying,
running & attending,
producing & processing...
everything in a way they imagine to be normal or right.
Maybe it´s how they think they would fare
if they were in my shoes.
How they would do it better, faster.

¨Just give me my grief!¨
I want to yell at them.
You can´t take it from me, or rush my process.
You can´t change my pain or do it for me or
impose your ways on my process.
Only I can do it.
I must walk this road alone,
in my own way.

It´s not that I want to be here.
It´s that I must be here.
And it does not mean I don´t need you.
I do need you -
loving, cheering, encouraging.
Not preaching or rescuing or pushing.

Just hold my hand.
Just be quiet.
Just be there.
Just love me in spite of this sadness,
this loneliness, tiredness, confusion, depression, fear.

I know I am hard to love right now.
I am sorry!
Please forgive me.
Please believe in me when I cannot believe in myself.
Please believe in who I will yet be,
in who I am becoming
on this road.

And please, help protect me from all the ¨shoulds¨ -
both my own & those imposed by others.

Photo by:  Connie Smith

Saturday, January 23, 2016


In these shadows
I read
looking for inspiration, hoping for revelation...
but there are only words on a page.
I speak
looking for understanding, hoping for compassion...
but there is only empty advice.
I sleep
looking for sweet rest, hoping for refreshment...
but there is only restlessness & continual fatigue.
I pray
looking for light, hoping for relief...
but there is only a void.
I listen
looking for the Voice, hoping to hear it...
but there is only silence.

Oh God!  I cannot see you or find You!
Please reveal Yourself to me!

And if You are here in disguise,
present in ways I have not known before,
please open my eyes, my heart
to perceive, to believe.

In these shadows
help me to read words of life,
find compassion,
sleep the sleep,
see the Light,
and hear the Voice.

In these shadows
help me see past the camouflage of perceptions of God,
past the veil of sadness blinding me,
past the smoke screen of emotions dominating me,
past the illusions of who I should be...
past the veneer of how and where I think I should find You.

I don´t ask You to remove me from these shadows -
just that I can find You here among them.

Photo by:  Sundaram Ramaswamy

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


(On differing styles & paces during grief in marriage.)

There used to be a certain comfortable pace to ¨us,¨
A togetherness of steps in this life journey.
There were, of course, out-of-step times occasionally,
But as a whole, we moved forward together in stride.

When our world crashed
and grief moved in,
our Stride was Broken.
For a while, we were both immobile
and time didn´t exist.
But as we began to move again,
everything was different;
as we began to stir,
we could see that our whole world had changed.

They told us that grief was a ¨two steps forward, three steps back¨ kind of thing.
But his forward steps were her backwards steps,
and when he was going backwards, she was moving forward.
Alignment began to elude us;
And we struggled, trying to recover our former rhythm.

The tempos were offbeat,
the gaits contrasting,
the pain distinct,
the headway disparate.
When he experienced acceleration,
she crashed.
While he rejoiced with new momentum,
she retreated to barely standing.
When she spoke of their grief articulately,
he struggled through tears to make sense to others.
When he marched or ran or on occasion raced,
she trudged, plodded or stumbled.
Sometimes he crashed -
and she lifted him up...
only to watch him catch the wind and fly off again.
Sometimes he slowed
and tried to gently carry her with him.
She travelled for a short stint -
but struggled out of his arms to walk her own necessary path.

There are two unmistakably distinct (and necessary) strides.
They are strange and scary to us both.
So the question is:
Can we be ok with this for a while?

Can we adjust to this unfamiliar divergence of paths?
Can we shoulder the loneliness of it?
Can we - for the sake of love & healing -
carry the weight of the frustrations and comparisons inherent in it?
Can we hold on to hope that we will learn a new pace -
possibly very different from the one before?

Each stride carries different scenery, experiences, relationships, emotions.
Neither stride is wrong -
but they are different.

Can we learn to find rest points together along the way
to regroup, listen & learn?
Can we respect the other person´s need for a different style and tempo?
Are we willing to take time & energy from other things to readjust?
Are we willing to live for a while with a Broken Stride?

There used to be a certain pace to ¨us,¨
A togetherness of steps in this life journey...
Our pace has changed & now there are two.
We may look awkward, we might not understand,
but we are moving -
and for now that is victory.

Photo by:  Billy Wilson