When Suffering Makes No Sense *Giveaway: Invisible Wounds Book*

I recently went for a long run with my sister-in-law. It’s one of our favorite things to do. And since we’re both training for a half marathon we figure we’re better together. During our run we talked about many things, but one newsworthy topic paved the way: Jacob Wetterling.

You know the story. The way it changed a generation of kids, and parents too. There was no more riding my bike to the candy store, alone, among many other things. I was a tween when Jacob was abducted. In fact, Jacob was my exact age. Dad worked for the newspaper in St. Cloud, Minnesota, close to the Wetterling home. And one day he came home with a handful of buttons: JACOB’S HOPE  written in bold, arched the famous, smiling boy’s picture. Jacob’s face covered every mind and every newsstand in America. I took the pins, handed them out to friends, and stuck one on my jean jacket. It was a constant reminder of Jacob, yes, but also, something deeper…a statement of belief in good and justice and impossible trust.

when-suffering-makes-no-senseI didn’t understand a lot about Hope back in the day. But I felt the collective ache, the longing for a happy ending.

Well, here we are, we have an ending…or so it seems. It didn’t turn out the way anyone hoped. Far worse. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. The great, black, terrible. The earthquaking stuff that causes cracks in faith.

Why pain?

Why suffering?

Why death?

Why, God, why?

“Sometimes our pain is the the result of living in a broken, fallen world. This isn’t how He intended life to be. Yet God allows tragedy or suffering in our lives for some reason or reasons we can’t always grasp.” – Melinda Means, Invisible Wounds

There is no applaudable application here. I mean there is nothing we ‘ought to do in order to set it right. To solemnly embrace our loss (and the pain of others near and dear) is to sit and hold it and feel and question and grieve. Sure, there are a host of theological answers. I’ve got a few sorted and stowed. But that’s not the purpose of this post. The purpose is to point to the future. 

Remember the button’s bold, overarching typeface: Jacob’s Hope.

Hope.

It’s a wonder.

I’ve talked about this subject a lot over the years. I’ve wrote about the difference between small (h) hope and big (H) Hope.  I love the phrase that says, “Hope: Look to the future and trust God with all of it.” I believe in it so much that I renamed my blog to Stories of Hope. I believe in it so much because, for me, when uncertainty shakes the ground I walk on I know I can depend on a Certain hiding place: It’s my house full of promises, a place called Hope.

Hope is much like a bunker house. It’s deep, hidden from the elements of the outside world. The construct is made up of an underground tunnel system. God’s promises remove barriers and clear the dark path into this vast space that is host to a starry spectacle of awe. It’s a wonder. It’s a place few find.

“God is confirmed in our experience – when He meets us powerfully and sweetly in the midst of our suffering.” -Melinda Means, Invisible Wounds

Those God confirmed experiences develop the impossible trust believers need so survive the chaos.  That His promises are good and true. Who holds all the answers? Who will stand up for true and lasting justice once and for all? Only one. So, when we wonder why He continues to allow the pain and suffering of this world to grope for us in the night we grab ahold of this great futuristic promise:

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever… Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5)

The relief from suffering is coming – soon. Our happy ending will come, if not here and now, it is our destiny. Let us hold the promise as we stand under the stars…and wait.

**GIVEAWAY**

TODAY I AM GIVING AWAY A HARD COPY OF INVISIBLE WOUNDS BY MELINDA MEANS. TO ENTER TO WIN: SIGN UP HERE.

ONE RANDOM WINNER WILL BE CHOSEN & ANNOUNCED ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH.

Wipe Your “But” & Say Your Prayers

Two nights ago I awoke in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. This is not unusual. As I laid there, I had a waterbed moment. You remember the waterbed, right? Fall into one and it’s delightful, at first. Then, strangely, it transforms, and the fluffy rolling turns thick and heavy, like quick sand. The more you squirm the more it pulls you down. When you determine you want to get out, prepare to fight. It’s a strenuous exercise. That’s how my mind works on nights like these. It rolls over a thought, fine at first, but soon the thought is replaced by a worry and whoosh, waterbed moment.

I’ll be candid. I was worrying about my oldest chickling. It’s a regular thing for us parents; to worry, to obsess, to fight fears with swords. But something happened this past year that sent this mama’s worrymometer skyrocketing into the red zone. And ever since, sleeplessness is my pal. Here’s the scoop: the chickling spread her wings and flew the coop. This is great, you might say, the natural order of things. Except, it wasn’t that great for me. She left before I hoped. All the things I dreamed we would share during her final year at home were suddenly gone. She left before the smoke dissipated from the candles on her 18th birthday cake. That was 10 months ago.

All year long I’ve been peeking between two fingers at parents of chicklings ruffling their feathers. I’ve watched them prepping to reach the blessed Day of Pinnacle and send their precious cherubs into the world. I’ve watched many put their basket (baby) in the water and send them off. Although I hoped to put my basket in at the same time, that’s not how it worked out.

This is a tiny glimpse of my story this year. I wonder about your story this year. At some point, now or later, our hopes get dashed. Although my deferred hope might look different than yours I’m certain the feeling is pretty mutual. It hurts. Maybe you’ve found yourself peeking between two fingers too.  We all have unfulfilled longings:

The happy marriage

The healthy body.

The successful business.

The popular person.

The beautiful new baby.

The privileged countryman.

We tend to peek at the world through our lens of hope. We desire. We dream. We pray. And when our hearts ache with longing we peek with wonder as we wait for the passing, the healing, the fulfillment.

Perhaps someday I’ll draft a fancy blog post title like Five Lessons I Learned on Parenting a Prodigal. Maybe not. All I really know, for today, is that this little midnight story is one I should share.

So, it’s the middle of the night and I’m laying in bed worrying. I’m talking to God. This is not unusual. It’s conversational. I keep rewording my worry in new and different ways. It feels as though I’m shouting into the Grand Canyon and I can hear my voice echo, reverberating against the Rock. It’s not very quiet in my head. And I find myself responding to each echo with “But what if…”

But what if…

But what if…

But what if…

I’ve created a chorus in the canyon. A crescendo. Then clear as a Sunday morning church bell I hear God say, “Wipe your but.”

Huh?

I stop thrashing in my waterbed. Everything stills. Wipe: Get rid of, remove it, cleanse and dispose.

Oh.

I roll over in bed. The bathroom’s night light filters into my room through the darkness. I stare at the particles of light that fall like dust upon the fixtures in my room. Everything looks different, darkly. I see my shadowy lamp and the light transforms the image…these birds…and the Voice reminds me,

“Look at the birds, see how I take care of them…you’re worth way more!” 

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The reminder is a promise. And I think I understand what I’m supposed to do. Stop worrying. Keep praying. Recycle each and every “But what if…” with a promise. It’s an exchange, of sorts. As I lay there I begin to think of other promises:

For I know the plans I have for your chickling, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans of hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased)

Seek God first and then he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 paraphrased)

You are chosen and belong. (1 Peter 2:9 paraphrased)

This I know: I am not a daughter with out hope. My God sees all, knows all, and loves more fully than I can comprehend. Heart sickness may hurt for a while. But “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” I believe it. Do you?

So, for today: Relinquish the worry. Replace with a promise. Wipe your “but” & say your prayers.



Book Lovers: My Top Reads for Summer

I’m on a summer reading adventure. This season it’s all about Memoir, for me. Here’s my stack, recently checked out from the library. If you need me, I’ll be reading (among other things).

 

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Memoirs I’m Reading

 

Summer is a wonderful haven for book lovers. But no two readers are alike. So, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. First, my fiction list. These are a sampling of novels that stole my heart in some way, shape or form. Among this list you’ll find romance, historical, triller, biblical (yes, it’s a thing), and young adult.

 

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My Fave Fiction Titles

 

And now, here’s a stack of some non-fiction loves. Some are newer than others. Each have inspired me during different seasons of life. I hope you find one that meets you in your place, too.

 

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My Inspiring Non-Fiction Picks

 

Aside from reading, I’ll be writing. I’m spending time on crafting something new. So, I’m going to give this blog space a little vaca break…for the summer.

Love to you, enjoy a good book. xo



Fooled by hope. Let go & live!

First, there is hope.

The pain lasted only twenty-four hours; slow and steady, beginning with a dull ache, increasing with time towards a series of sharp, breathless exchanges. I pushed hard for nine minutes. Only nine. Then, there was love. A bundle of new life; not my own, swaddled, purposely placed upon my chest, flesh upon flesh. My own; but not my own.

Visions of glory cyclone like a wand of colorful ribbons. In the beginning I can only imagine glory to glory to glory for this flesh upon my flesh. The years drop like rain, passing quickly. I’ve seen other visions through the years too; from the corner of my eye some come darkly. And when they do I draw my sword, I swoop, and I slay. For that is what I must do, my duty to keep the love alive.

A million little hopes have lolled in my mind, through the years, with these little loves. Oh, small “h” hope, I’ve learned so much from you. What shall I tell the wise world about you? Things I now know: That you are an imposter, fooling around. That you are but a leaky cistern. That your un-fulfillment hurts like hell. That though I’ve rather enjoyed looking to you for oh-so-many-things, you are now becoming dead to me. Small “h” hope cannot hold my love, no more.

 

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Then, there is Hope.

That’s right. Two kinds: One is proper, the other is not. Both are like mirrors reflecting light, but neither are the same. One is everlasting, the other is not. Capital “H” Hope is living and active and without end. It is Rock solid trust in an honest God. A house unmovable where disappoint and disillusion and cultural approval shall not enter. Capital “H” Hope is for holy things; set apart from the temporal, circumstantial, and systemic flow.

Man alive; coming to terms, defining these Hope filled and hope fueled worlds have cost me something greatly. Pain galore. But I am grateful. Because now I know. I look down and see my feet, dry. I’ve crossed over Jordan, the cut -it burns- so I’ll wait… and heal. Hallelujah. The Promise is still alive, I see it glimmer on the horizon. The manna is gone. It’s only produce from here on out. Stepping out and moving on, keeping Hope alive.**[Joshua 3 – 5]

Take it from little me, I pray you’ll see…

Let go of dashed hopes – set them free.

Choose the bigger Hope – and live.  



Open Letter to the Woman Hearing Voices

Dear Sweet Starbucks Lady,

I accidentally overheard your conversation with a friend at Starbucks: the one about your marriage. I didn’t want to listen, but there was so much trouble quaking from your voice that the fingers of my spirit wouldn’t uncurl themselves from your tiny square table. I successfully looked away. But my ears did not. It seemed there was trouble in Candy Land. He was no longer the person you’d married oh-so-long-ago. The children infused distance. The job cultivated tired bones. Oh, and the money too. He was no longer the same person. You are trying, though. The both of you: counseling, is what you said.

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Still, I was listening without looking.

Then your voice shifted to low tones, just as your chair shifted against the floor. You told your friend that you’ve been hearing voices: A word, actually. This one word: Divorce. At first, it was just playing in your head like a record stuck on the same song. But then, the other day you said you heard it quite audibly. Loud. Distinct. Real. Two times you said you heard the words, “Divorce. Divorce.”

I am now listening and looking.

I watched you inch closer to your friend, you shake your head and your eyes slant in confusion. You said, “I’m not making this $*!T up!”

I felt the current of something mystical fill the air. And my stomach flips. I want to pull up a chair and tell you that you’re not crazy. Despite your friend’s advice to consider the prompting of this pushy word and move toward embracing divorce, I might lovingly encourage you to consider a few other thoughts:

  • Is the voice speaking life or death?
  • What seeds will be produced by the outcome of listening to the voice?
  • Can the Living Word back up this counsel?

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I want to encourage you, sweet Starbucks lady, that you are not alone. We all live in this world that is both physical and spiritual. And in the invisible realm there are forces of light and forces of darkness. Always at work in our lives because they have a plan. One is to bring death and destruction and confusion. The other is to bring life and fruit and freedom. If you’re feeling confused about the voice, just look at the fruit it will produce.

I pray that you will open your eyes and gain clarity, turn your head towards God and really gaze, then, listen for His voice to lead you.

Peace and Blessings,

Your Fellow Coffee Drinker

[Note: I know first hand the death of divorce. It is from this painful past that I lovingly write this letter.]