Monday, November 17, 2014

[The Space Keeper]

I drove past a sign like this today for the hundreth time. Today it made me cry. There aren't many things I'm certain of right now, but this much I know: when there's a constant, gaping hole in your heart, tears are about the only thing that manage to pour out, over and over and over again.

I cried when I drove past this sign in the Target parking lot on the way to pick up my prescription for an untimely bout of walking pneumonia. I cried weeks worth of tears that had been building and building and building from a constant pace of busy. I cried because the words on this otherwise meaningless sign were a visible reminder of how the world often makes me feel in the midst of grief: don't stop, don't slow down, don't cry too much, don't remember too much, don't be sad too much, it's been more than 7 months, just keep moving.

Some days I feel like the clueless kid meandering down the aisle of a store, oblivious to the grownups around them that clearly have to be somewhere and don't have time to wander around at a snail's pace. Other days I find myself struggling to move at all, and I feel more like the giant rock inconveniently placed in the middle of someone's path. Except, unlike the rock, I'm very aware and I vasicilate between shame and stupidity and clumsiness and incompetence. No, those things aren't true. But the feelings are real. Just keep moving.

After I cried a good cry, I began reflecting on the people in my life who are choosing to walk with me on this dark road through my own personal hell. I say "walk with, not "walk through" because you don't ever forget that your brother is dead. Grief is not a pit we pull ourselves or other people out of. It's a dark, dark valley that we enter alongside of another and choose to wake up each day and keep going. These people, these friends that I was thinking of, they're the ones that look at the sign for me and say "Not today, she's moved enough". They are my space keepers. In a culture that has very little time for things that take time, they're my place to stop, slow down, cry a lot, remember, and be sad. From that gaping hole in my uncertain heart, thank you. You are what compassion looks like.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

[not the way you left, but how you lived and what you knew:::happy birthday, dom]

Today, if I could be granted one outlandish request, it would be to send a birthday hug and some of your favorite, homemade white chocolate macadamia nut cookies to heaven. I can hear you now, with that half-smirk, half-smile laughing and saying "it's just another day". It may be, but it's your day and I don't know how to celebrate without you.

I think twenty-something year-old sisters are supposed to remember their brothers' birthdays, not funerals. And so today feels like an empty space. A long, dark, empty hallway where love and life and laughter should be. I know you are more alive than ever, but knowing and feeling are worlds apart right now.
Your absence reminds me that none of us have forever; we are vapors, here for a moment and gone for eternity.  But the memory of you, and the life you lived while you still drew breath on this broken earth, helps me smile through my tears. Not because you were a saint (nor would you want to be remembered that way), but because you packed more loving and living and serving and exploring and (yes) partying into 23 years than most people do in 70.

 And in all of that living, you made time for people, including me. I don't know many twenty-something brothers that drive an hour and half at the most hectic part of the semester to have coffee with their sister "just because"; Who sit and listen and give advice and tell me it's all going to be ok but if there's something or someone I can't handle to call you because even though I'm older  and all grown up and on my own for a long time now, you'll be there in a heartbeat.

We made all these plans. We were going to ride to the graduation together after you finished your final exams. Together, we were going to make James Michael's wedding the party of the year. You hugged me and told me it wouldn't be long and you would see me soon and if I needed anything to call you...

I didn't know that "long" was going to be the rest of my life. But, really, who wants to know those things? They are too heavy. I can't carry it. No one can. It's your birthday and you're not here and you're not coming back and I'm sad. There's never going to be a happy ending to this story. But I don't believe in happy endings as much as I do hopeful ones.

Today, even though my heart is broken in a million little pieces and I would give anything to see you one more time...
happy 24th birthday
to the brother i  will always love
and never forget.
to the brother who helped make me 
a whole lot of crazy
who shared my love for
a good cup of coffee
i don't know how to send your favorite cookies to heaven,
but i'm going to make some and eat them and think about you and cry and smile and remember
and do what you would always tell me to do every time i saw you...
not forget to live.

I love you.


I, I want to wish you well.
I didn't watch you go
Cause I suppose I don't know how.
I, I will remember you
Not the way you left but how you lived
And what you knew.

I, I  want to feel your hands
I want to feel your fire burning 
Right from where I stand

I'll find my way
Cause you showed me how

I, I want to know it's you
When I hear your voice inside my head
inside my room
I, I want to touch the sky
I want to see the stars twinkle 
Like they were your eyes

I'll find my way
You showed me
I'll find my way
Cause you showed me how

I , I want to smell your scent
I want to breathe the air I did before
Before you left.

I, I want to wish you well
The only reason my heart beats
Is cause you showed it how.

I'll find my way
You show me
I'll find my way
You show me
I'll find my way
Cause you showed me how
You show me how
You showed me how.

[wish you well, katie herzig]

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

[when all you can do is breathe]

when you can't fight anymore,
He is (and always was) the God who fights for you (Exodus 14:14).

when familiar melodies are far from your lips and every time you hear them you sob and shake and wonder if you'll ever sing again,
He's (always been) the God who rejoices over you with singing and quiets you with His love (Zephaniah 3:17). 

when you lose all your fancy, grown-up rhetoric and the only prayer you can manage to pray is "Jesus",
He (did and does) intercede for you in words you can't express (Romans 8:26).

when your best effort to start your day is met with failure and you lie there, listless and weak,
He (because never has there been a day you've done it yourself) is your strength (Psalm 28:7).

when deep sorrow carves caverns in your heart and tears become the dew that christen the ground you walk on every morning,
He keeps them all for you (because they are precious to Him). (Psalm 56:8).

when you can't do more, you can't do better, and you can't go deeper, 
you have no choice but to embrace the hope of His steadfast love
and forfeit the worthless idols (comparison, titles, good works, all the things that make our "Christian resumes" shine) that made for a good story but were never a source of life (Jonah 2:8) 

when a flood of grief rips away the legs of self so you have nothing left to stand on;
when all you can do is breathe, a weepy-sad-barely-hanging-on-i-made-it-through-today kind of breath,  
You are precious in His eyes 
You are honored
You are loved (Isaiah 43:4)
(and that is all you will ever be) (Romans 8:38-39)

Friday, December 6, 2013


bent, weighed down, and pressed deep into the earth,
this is all you've ever known.

shrouded in darkness, your heart beats but you are still;
life is static. unmoving.

possessed, but never belonging.
longing for one final breath,
for your eyes to close and never open.
to slip away in the same way you exist: unnoticed.

against your will, they open.
waking shame and silence are your death.
inescapable, link- by- link they have bound you.
the weight of living strangling life.

how i long for you to be free.

chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.
[O Holy Night, Franz Gruber]

from oppression and violence He redeems their life, and precious is their blood in His sight.
[Psalm 72:14]

...and they were lovely because He loved them...

[Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones]

Exodus Cry (global)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

[[It wasn't a number]]

It wasn't a number; an overwhelming statistic rattled off with great emotion, a sense of urgency mixed with a touch of despair.

It wasn't a face; worn by the deep cares of this life, marked by sufferings I may go my whole lifetime and know nothing about.

It wasn't a book; an author that scared me into Kingdom living.

It wasn't a conference, a mission trip, or weekend retreat; it wasn't a song, a sermon, or a prayer.

It was Jesus; the One who, in the middle of a routine praise band rehearsal, whispered “Surely there's more to my Kingdom than this”.

It was Jesus; the One who said “Come away with me and be awed by my beauty, by my power to save.”

It was Jesus; the One who knew the mess that I am, that there is no good in me, yet said“Give me the pen. All those gaps and broken places in your story? I will redeem. I will reconcile. I will make beauty from ashes”.

It was Jesus; who stripped all of those other things away so I could learn what it meant to know Him and not just know about Him; so I could feel the weight of the decision to pick up my cross and follow fully or not at all; so I could know joy and not just temporary satisfaction.

It was Jesus. And it still is. And now it is by Him that I see all of those other things: the overwhelming statistics, the weary faces, the books by brothers and sisters who challenge me to keep walking a narrow way, the conferences, the retreats, the mission trips, the songs, the sermons, the prayers.

He is not “The one who modifies my behavior and makes me morally acceptable to my culture”
He is not “The one who overwhelms me with statistics and guilt until I become disillusioned in humanitarian relief efforts”
He is not “The one who scares me into His Kingdom”.

He is Wonderful, Counselor, the The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Reconciler, Holy, Beautiful, Merciful, Just, Redeemer, Emmanuel.


God with us, revealed to us.

So we can see. And by Him, we now see everything else.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written,
 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 
 [1 Corinthians 1:26-30]

Monday, September 30, 2013

Good Things Happening Here: Life in Apartment 4

I live with some amazing people who love in extraordinary ways. We laugh, we cry, we pray, and we celebrate. Here's a glimpse of some of the life that has happened here recently. Pictures explain far better than I ever could.

P.S. The links that follow all belong to my awesome roomies. Please check them out :)




P.P.S. We specialize in hospitality. By that we mean we love visitors. We like to share our meals, our lives, and our living space. So if you haven't come by in awhile, or ever, or even if you're a frequent flier, please visit us :)

And, in the words of Robert Frost "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane".

Thankfully we can. So we do. A LOT.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Painter of Light

“Does it ever end? Dear God, does it end?” Her voice cracked and the tears that had threatened to spill over came gushing out like floodwaters after a storm. Subject to a lifetime of abuse and desperately searching for a way out, she trembled like the little girl she'd been years before. I know it ends, Father. I know it does. But when? And my heavy heart echoes her cry and the cry of a hundred others “How long, O Lord, How long?”.

Knowing how is not the same as knowing when, and while I know that You will come, it doesn't keep us from hurting in the spaces between. Those spaces that can be so dark. So lonely. So Heavy. But if I'm going to weep for something, if something is going to keep me awake at night, I'd rather it be this.
I'd rather mourn together and come to know The Man of Sorrows than be drowning in my own.

The more You teach me to love and walk in the light, the more I see the depth of darkness, craftily blinding captives yearning to be free. But even in the seemingly impossible there is hope. There is victory. There is closure. There is a God who sees and a God who sends: Sees the chains and sends us running into dark places, not to open the door or loose the chains, but to tell them that if they choose, they can get up and walk because You've already broken the lock and You hold the key.

Sometimes it takes a sunset to remind me that in the midst of our cries for justice, in the midst of the weeks that are heavy on tears and light on answers, in a fallen world full of darkness, my Redeemer still paints beautiful pictures of light. Not only in the sky, but in our lives.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be give to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.

[Isaiah 35:1-4]