One Step at a Time

The hill from the employee parking lot to the building where I work is gigantic. It is long, steep, and, especially when it’s cold outside, the prospect of walking up to work is daunting. Most days I am spoiled because Brennan drops me off at the entrance and then goes to park the van; but, on days when our schedules do not match, I am left to climb the mountain. And I don’t want to do it most days.

The challenge is half psychological and half physical. I’m not in great shape – yet – so that’s part of it. But, when I look at the hill I also have to convince my brain that I can do it because it feels like I will never make it, like I will fail.

What I have found is this: if I focus on my feet and on taking one step at a time instead of looking up to the top of the hill, it is far less challenging. If I take it one step at a time, it’s not that bad! I make it to the top of the hill, a little out of breath, but I can do it. I succeed.


This analogy is a perfect one for our lives right now: we’re nearing the one year anniversary of Tori’s heaven-going; some days it seems like our hearts will never fully heal, that it will be forever before we are reunited with her again. We long to hold our baby girl and gaze into her beautiful eyes once more, and that time (and heaven) seems so far away.

But, when we take the journey one step at a time, focusing on the Lord and on one task at a time, it’s so much easier and we feel refreshed. We don’t feel overwhelmed or tired. We feel at peace and we know that we can take the next step. Why is it so hard to remember to do this?


Whatever your mountain might be today, focus on the next step, not on the entire climb. Allow the Lord to guide you and sustain you; He is faithful and will lead you well.

Give your burdens to the Lordand he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. – Psalm 55:22 (NLT)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Even Though…

I love when God speaks to you so clearly through circumstances. If you come across a passage of Scripture once in a day you might read it and then move on. When it appears three times, separately, in three different books/blogs, you pay attention.

Today I was finishing up “Amazed and Confused” by Heather Zempel and began reading “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore. In addition to those two books, I read an excellent post by my friend Judy about rejoicing in God no matter what comes our way.

All three of these resources referenced and spoke about the SAME passage of Scripture.

What was the common passage?

13416979_10100546623474540_7869969881009935458_o

“Even though…”


Habakkuk 3:17-19 is not a new passage to me. It’s one I considered many times throughout our journey with Tori because it absolutely applied to our situation.

Habakkuk is stating that no matter what happens, no matter how hard things become, he would rejoice in the Lord and be joyful. 

Heather Zempel’s commentary on this book of the Bible – and on this passage, specifically – is excellent. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“God is still good, sovereign, and faithful, despite the circumstances we see around us, and is therefore worthy to be praised.” (pg. 153)

“We learned that faith was not about conjuring an idea in our heads and finding ways to fuel it; faith was recognizing that God always had something better in mind than what we could see in the present circumstances. We understood that perspective might not change the facts of our reality, but they certainly changed our perception of reality.” (pg. 156)

Through it all, we trusted (and continue to trust) the God who made us all, who sent His Son because He loves us lavishly, and the One who knows what the future holds.

“What’s the difference between people who face the unknown and see fear and those who see opportunity? What makes a person look at a dead-end and see open-ended possibilities? Story. The story we have been told will set the stage for what we expect in the next chapter and will inform us of the role we play.” (pg. 157)

“When Habakkuk came to a place where God’s actions collided with his expectations, he found the only hopeful response was worship that was rooted in an unshakable and undeniable awareness of God’s character, ways, and works.” (pg. 160)

“As we see God more, we are able to praise Him more. We more clearly recognize and acknowledge the hand of God at work in our lives, and the practice becomes an act of worship and a hymnal for worship in days to come.” (pg. 164)

“Habakkuk is not just comforting himself by playing with ideas; he is speaking of the things that God has actually done. The Christian faith is solidly based upon facts, not ideas. And if the facts recorded in the Bible are not true, then I have no hope or comfort. For we are not saved by ideas; but by facts, by events.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (quoted on pg. 169)

“This brand of faith knows God can…believes He will…but worships even if He doesn’t.” (pg. 177)

“We can frame the character of God according to our circumstances, or we can frame our circumstances according to what we know of the character of God. We can let our circumstances inform what we know to be true of God or we can let what we know to be true about God inform our circumstances. As Warren Wiersbe said, “God doesn’t always chance the circumstances, but He can change us to meet the circumstances. That’s what it means to live by faith.”‘ (pg. 178-9)

God continually reminded the Israelites of the importance of remembering all that He had done for them, and yet they continued to forget. When they weren’t studying His word and their history, they lost sight of God’s goodness and plan and they strayed from His will.

As we said at the beginning of our journey, God has never been unfaithful to us, so why would He be unfaithful now? Because we have reminded ourselves for years of His wonderful works since the beginning of time and of those in our own lives, trusting Him with Tori came fairly easily.

“He works things together for His purpose and not our expectations.” (pg. 184)

“Whether He delivers from, delivers through, or delivers later, we know that He is always present.” (pg. 186)

‘His faith was not rooted in what he could see but in what he could not see in the moment. He anchored into the brand of faith that the author of Hebrews described: “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen” (Hebrews 11:1).’ (pg. 186)

Oh yeah, and Hebrews 11:1 (quoted above) was also the verse of the day on WordFM today so I heard it many times throughout my day.

“Sovereignty means that God is in charge. Eternally in charge. We need God to redefine our suffering against the background of eternity because eternity puts things into perspective.” (pg. 188)

When things don’t go as we had planned, do we run from God or run TO God? Why is it so easy for us to discard our faith just because things get tough? Why don’t we trust His proven faithfulness to be present in our own lives?

“I refuse to let what I don’t know keep me from worshiping what I do know.”
(pg. 190)

(I know it seems like I just quoted the entire book but I promise there is so much more wisdom to be gleaned – you should read it!)

This final quote is a great summary of our perspective on Tori’s short life.

We KNOW that there is ONE true God. We know that God is sovereign, that He is good and loving and gracious. We KNOW that there is a Heaven waiting for those who believe in Jesus and that this life is only the beginning. We are certain of these things!

We DON’T know why God chose us to be Tori’s parents, why He chose her to have Krabbe, and why He didn’t choose to heal her on earth so that she could grow up under our care. We don’t know what the future holds for us in regards to having more children. We don’t know. But, as the quote above says, we aren’t going to let these few unknowns keep us from serving and praising the One who does know!

We know that He has a plan for us and that Tori is waiting for us in Heaven. Whether or not God chooses to reveal to us His thoughts on this situation here or if we will find out in Heaven, it is still well with our souls.

Our faith isn’t blind, and it isn’t a band-aid. Our faith is the frame through which we view this entire life and it’s the source of our joy and our peace, and it’s the reason why we continue to praise God and choose joy “even though” we lost our only child. 

After all, our loss doesn’t change God’s character or His purposes for us. He is STILL good.

Removing the Sting of Death, Part Three

Disclaimer: As with anything I write, I write with the understanding that we all process death and grieving differently – even as believers – and this is not a judgment or a criticism of anyone who handles these things differently. I write about my own beliefs and understanding of death given the hope that Jesus brings to us all, and I write about how this is playing out in my own life in hopes that it might encourage others in their own journeys. 

I have broken this into three posts because of the length. You can read parts one and two here.


It is often said that we tend to only believe God when it’s easy. Afterall, it’s easy to follow God when life is going well, when we have plenty, when things are comfortable.

As Job so beautifully demonstrated, God is STILL good and His word is still true even when we lose it all. 

He is still worthy of our praise and devotion even when we lose a child. 

And, true faith follows even when the way is unclear.

We need to realize that God’s Word is relevant in ALL parts of our lives, including death and other difficult times.

Do we believe the Bible or just parts of it that are convenient and easy?

What about when life is messy?

If we believe that the Bible is the holy word of God Himself, how can we disregard the promises and hope He gives even through the difficult issues?


The Bible mentions death numerous times, and those verses are typically followed by a reminder of the hope that we have because of what Jesus did on the cross. Here’s one example:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope
Then we will be with the Lord forever.
So encourage each other with these words.

– 1 Thess. 4:13, 17-18 (bold emphasis mine)

Paul tells us to ENCOURAGE each other about death in this passage. Death was never God’s plan for us, but Adam and Eve changed the course of history and death became inevitable. One bite of an apple (disobedience) brought death into the world.

“We are geared for perfection which is why we are always so disappointed in life.”
– Rachel Gunsauls

And yet, death is NOT the end for any of us. We are all born with eternal souls and we make the choice during this life to follow Jesus or to walk away from Him – a choice that results in an eternity in Hell.

For those who have chosen Jesus, we have no reason to fear death. Death is merely the next step toward our eternal home and we will be FREE of all of the issues this world contains. This world is NOT our home. One day we will be with Jesus Himself, forever, and that is GREAT news! That alone is reason to REJOICE always.

Romans tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) and this happens when we embrace God’s Truth and allow it to transform us…this pertains to death as well!

Jesus told not to worry (Matthew 6:34), to not be afraid (multiple times), and to remember that He has overcome the same world from which we wish to hide (John 16:33).

We are instructed to dwell on things above not on earthly things:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world,
you will share in all his glory…
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn
to know your Creator and become like him.

– Colossians 3:1-4, 10


The world has no hope, but we do. And how are they going to find the hope that we have if we don’t live it out?


Here’s my advice:

Trust the Lord FULLY, even when you can’t see what He’s doing.

Don’t wonder what might have been, don’t have regrets.

Live life to the fullest NOW and focus on what matters – loving God and loving others.

Then you will have greater peace when a loved one goes to Heaven before you.


I long for Heaven more than ever before now that Tori is a resident of that wonderful place, and I am enjoying learning more about her current (and our future) home.

I know that someday we will be reunited FOREVER and will never be apart. The anticipation of that day brings such excitement, even though I have no idea how long it will be until we are reunited. All I know is that it will feel as if no time has passed at all since Heaven doesn’t operate within the time we know.

Does all of this mean that I shouldn’t cry when I miss her? Of course not. Grief is natural and I will never stop missing her.

However, I do believe that having a biblical perspective on death and Heaven eases the blow of her absence, and it brings me peace that cannot be otherwise explained.

Set your minds on things above…choose joy…be grateful…trust God.

Heaven, along with the knowledge that we’ll be reunited with our loved ones (who also knew Jesus), removes the sting of death, one thorn at a time.

Praise Jesus for His grace and mercy that make any of this possible.

Security in the Mystery

I have found that God will often use a lesson or a specific scripture passage that you read long ago but had forgotten; at just the right moment He will bring it to mind and speak to you through it.

My One Year Bible reading this week has been going through the book of Second Kings. When I got to the passages for yesterday and today, I remembered that I had heard Beth Moore teach on this lesson in September 2012. 

Looking back, everything about that conference – song choices included – was perfect for what we are facing now.

And Beth’s teaching was relevant then, but it is even more relevant today as we walk through this struggle with Tori’s health.

I found my journal with the notes from the conference and will share them below along with my current thoughts as it pertains to our journey now.

2 Kings 4:1-37 focuses on two women – one who is poor and has almost nothing, and one who is wealthy and has almost everything.

The first woman has gone through much and is now facing another tragedy. She is honest about what she’s going through. 

The second woman says that she’s perfectly fine, even though deep in her heart she has a longing that has not been fulfilled. 

The first woman is willing to ask for help and acknowledges her need. 

The second woman doesn’t ask so that she will not be disappointed. Essentially, she says “don’t mess with me” because she is so afraid that she will be disappointed.

I want to focus on the second woman today as I can relate to one of her struggles so well (not the wealthy part, haha, though we have everything we need and more. We are content.).

Here is the relevant passage:

One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.

She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”

One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared, Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’” “No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”

Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?” Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.” “Call her back again,” Elisha told him.

When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”

“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”

But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.

One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.” So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap.

But around noontime he died. She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there.

She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.” “Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.” But she said, “It will be all right.”

So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.” As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”

“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”

But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the LORD has not told me what it is.”

Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”

Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.”

But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her. Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life.

He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.” When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed.

He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the LORD. Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again!

Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes! Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said.

And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!”

She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.

 (‭2 Kings‬ ‭4‬:‭8-37‬ NLT)

My first thought when I read this was “wow – that’s me.” 

God changed my heart about being a mother when I least expected it; Brennan and I prayed and tried for two years after that heart change before becoming pregnant. 

Those two years brought monthly disappointments as we struggled to conceive. It became difficult to hope. I never took pregnancy tests because I didn’t want to see the negative result.

As I have said before, fear is easy but hope is excrutiating. Hope requires vulnerability and trust. Hope requires faith.

Very few people knew we were trying to conceive; much like the second woman, I kept our struggles inside because I didn’t want to face our failure time and time again. I was “fine” on the outside.

When I took a pregnancy test on December 1, 2013, I couldn’t believe my eyes. God had given us a child!

My heart was so filled with joy during pregnancy (which I loved!) and especially when Tori was born (July 30, 2014). God so richly blessed us with her.

And on February 13, 2015 we found out He might be taking her away.

It has been a tough six months since she became symptomatic, and an even tougher five months since she was diagnosed with Krabbe.

And yet, our faith has only increased through this trial – not because we are certain that God will heal her here on earth, but because He has proven to us over and over again that He is good, He is faithful, He is trustworthy. 

Our desperation has brought us to a new place in our relationship with God and with each other. Do we understand why He has allowed this? No. Do we like it? Definitely not. But one thing remains true – He is loving and faithful! We choose to believe His Word and His promises, no matter what.

I don’t know if our story will end up like this woman’s story did, with her son being restored. But, I trust that God has only good things for us even if we can’t understand what is happening now.

Back to Beth’s teachings. Here are some of my notes from the points she made. I’m not sure which quotes were directly from her, so just assume they all were 😉 :

1 – Personal desperation can jar us out of secondhand stories. 

Don’t live in someone else’s story – get your own story. We were all meant to have our own miraculous story of how God has rescued and changed us. Our faith should be our own.

2 – God didn’t call us to “fine.” He called us to faith. 

Do you want to live a life that is humanly explainable, or do you want to live a life in the supernatural provision of God? Your need is your invitation to supernatural provision! If you have everything you need, you need a bigger life (this does not contradict contentment).

The woman doesn’t ask so that she will not be disappointed. She wants to be safe. She lives a little life because she will not ask. We are not called to a little life – we are called to an abundant life (Acts 4).

– We try to be faithful without the faith.

– We want to be safe; we want to be given something He won’t take away.

– We choose to live a humanly explainable life to be comfortable.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” – Hebrews 11:6


3 – Faith trusts that every call to forsake is also a call to take.
 

We forsake sin and take a life of peace and freedom. 

We forsake bitterness and take joy. 

We forsake fear and take courage. 

We are called to participate, to act, in God’s plan. Don’t let people stand between you and Jesus. 

“Don’t waste the harvest of failure. You will never have a better teacher.”


4 – Faith faces the fact that there is no formula. 

Formulas are our way of trying to control God. He knows we would go after the formula and results instead of the relationship.


5 – Faith rests its case on the resurrection of the dead. 

There is nothing God cannot do.

“Oh, my God, He will not delay, my refuge and strength always. I will not fear, His promise is true. My God will come through always!” – Kristian Stanfill 

Do I have enough security in God to trust him with the mystery?

Trust that He is good among the waiting.

“If God doesn’t part your sea, He wants you to walk on it.”

_____________________________

Thank you, Lord, for your living word through which You speak to us in fresh ways just when we need it.

“Love is Life”

Leo Tolstoy once said:

 

“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.”

 

My relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life. This relationship has led me to spend two summers in full-time ministry in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (where I will most likely be moving next year)…it has led to countless hours in youth work, worship ministry, etc. But most importantly, this relationship has shaped who I am and all that I strive to be.

Lately, due to many extenuating circumstances, my time with God has taken a backseat to everything else going on in my life. Last night, as I sat alone in my apartment, I decided to spend time with my Maker…and I did. I spent 2 hours praying, singing, reading, etc., which made me realize how much I have missed this time with Him. This post is a reflection of what I learned last night, because this is going to change many aspects of my life over the next few months.

 

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” –Nehemiah 8:10

 

My strength, my joy, my serenity comes from the Lord. I have never been content with the ways of this world. Yet, lately, I haven’t been seeking my refuge in the arms of the Lord as I used to…and this needs to change. For, as MercyMe so eloquently put it,

 

“I have not been called to the wisdom of this world but to a God who’s calling out to me. And even though the world may think I’m losing touch with reality, it would be crazy to choose this world over eternity.”

What really matters in life? What is worth living for?

Love.

“Healer heal me

Savior save me

Maker change me

Lover love me

‘Cause I’m so tired of living for

The kind of love

That only lasts for a while

The pain, the shame

Tear me up inside

So I fall on my knees

To get back on my feet again

And I cry out for You

Would You please speak to me…”–Ten Shekel Shirt

Love is the most important thing. Not the kind of love that is fleeting, but the love that is eternal. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all we are and have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is there anything more important in life?

1 John tells us that because God first loved us, we can more fully love. If I am relying on the love of my Lord for my strength and for my fulfillment, then I am able to love freely, without worrying about what I will get in return. I will be able to care for my neighbors, for those in need. And, when I love this way, God gives us life abundantly.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshall and direct our energies wisely.”

–Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

Love is life…love is everything. And I want to love more…more freely…more abundantly…I want to fully embrace the “greatest commandment”, for that is all that really matters in life. I want to live unapologetically, and how better to do that than to serve God with all that I am?

I don’t know how this is going to play out in my life practically, but I know that I have decided to once more live as my Lord has called me to live, which is to love.

“He’s everything to me, more than a story…”