Our family loves to visit the state parks around us. We savor the opportunities to take a break from the noise of normal days for a canopy of trees and a carpet of crunchy leaves. While hiking through the trails, my children squeal at every chipmunk and repeatedly halt our progress to pick up each nut discovered on the ground. My children love to collect treasures.
One particular trip to the woods a couple years ago proved no exception. While hiking along the trail I reached down to grab my six-year-old’s hand but was surprised to find it bursting with acorns. Realizing I was unable to grip his hand I told him nevermind, it was ok. I could just hold it later.
But my six year old quickly thrust his hand into my own, while clutching tightly to his prizes. My fingers enveloped around his own clenched fist. He looked up at me and announced, “That’s ok, I’ll hold them in your hand. They’ll be safer.”
His comment lingered as we walked, and it’s one I come back to even today. After all, I carry my own acorns with me each day. Good treasures—worthy gifts, like my three sweet children, my husband, writing, homeschool, our home, the list goes on and on. Yet many questions, worries, what ifs, and whys circle around and threaten them. Like my son, I so badly want to keep my treasures safe. I long for the control to do it, and often as the fears knock on the door, I grip my fingers tighter. I find myself squeezing them whether it’s the small details of a birthday party or the bigger monstrous fears of diabetes and anxiety.
The building towered above me. Squares of glass stretched up and out to either side, broken only by the large symbols that gave it its name: 5255. An unfeeling name for a place that holds a trove of emotions.
I’d been here before. As I circled the crowded parking lot with my five-year old in the back seat, I was transported back in time. Eight years ago I was alone—well, not really. I scanned the parking spaces until I rejoiced to find an opening in the front. “Parking reserved for Pregnant and New Mothers.” Jackpot. I clutched my purse and slid out of the driver’s seat, eager for my first appointment with my new obstetrician.
Little did I know how often I’d return to this same parking lot—to this same building. How many times would I repeat this dance around its painted lines? A future I didn’t know ran far ahead of me, knitting my life’s events together in ways I couldn’t imagine just then.
I entered that building dozens of times as both of my boys grew in my womb. I witnessed their little flips, kicks, and growing bodies before my eyes. I waited in wonder and hope for the new blessings that would come to our family.
Yet as much as that rigid building gave, it also took. Years later I’d tepidly walk hand in hand with my husband to a waiting room before the fifth surgery of my life. I would wake up, smothered by heavy blankets while my teeth chattered and my eyes expelled tears from pain. I’d tell myself that I couldn’t do this ever again. But I would. I’d enter the very same building five years later for surgery number six.
Now, as I circle the parking lot with my five-year-old in the backseat, the building beside us shifts into more than concrete, glass, and steel. It’s a piece of my own life—a mighty oak that rises in the midst of my path that I continue to circle round. And I wonder at the connection of it all.
I love a good story. I love how it envelops me in the plot or carefully peels back layer by layer of each character. I love following the strings that tie up family members throughout generations as the author weaves the tale. I’ve grown to appreciate classic literature from the likes of Austen and Brontë, as well as dip my toes into the world of fantasy, historical fiction, and even science fiction.
My to-read list grows larger as I scroll through my Goodreads account and snag another title for the future. I read through reviews and am reminded of so many classic and modern works that I want to experience for myself someday.
If I’m honest, I’ve found myself discouraged that I won’t get to them all. My time on this earth comes with limits after all. Of course life is more than books. I have children to teach and good work to do. Yet I’ve often wondered if on the new earth we’ll be able to read the stories we didn’t have time for. Will we enjoy the gift of the written word?
It feels like the world is spinning out of control lately, doesn’t it? Each day, news websites detail the destruction of people and buildings in the country of Ukraine. I read about families torn apart, fleeing refugees, and besieged cities while I pour my bowl of Bran Flakes.
Opinion columnists foreshadow food shortages, rolling blackouts, and gas hikes that surpass the energy crises I learned about in school. All of this blankets my mind as I scroll through tips on how to declutter my home and create a better cleaning schedule with my kids. I wonder if all that fills my days is pointless.
This spring my children and I have been baking through a new cookie book, flipping through the pages and choosing which new recipe we’ll attempt for the week. I get excited when I copy down the ingredients we need at the grocery for our next treat, yet in the back of my mind I wonder how long we’ll be able to keep baking. Will rising inflation or flour shortages force our small joy into a distant dream? Sometimes I wonder if it’s silly to continue baking cookies while the world around me burns.
Our feet trudged up the dirt hill, winding through sticks and roots. To the sides of me rose dark, mighty trunks, reaching up toward the sky. Their limbs were shorn off, leaving the tall blackened corpses towering eerily in the forest. The ash-covered pillars extended for what felt like forever–a permanent reminder of the devastation that burned through an ecosystem once teeming with life. Yet at the foot of the ugly trees my eyes caught the sparkles of pinks and purples sprayed across delicate petals. They wove in and around the destruction, showing off their life and laughing in the midst of the dark.
I’ll never forget that image–of death next to life. I’m transported there often. Last night, I stared at it all again, looking intently at the torched trees, and praying the colors of the forest floor would just envelop it all.
Yesterday I met a friend at a park and watched my three children play, while another mom got the worst phone call of her life. I laughed and joked, and felt the sun’s rays as my kids showed off their playground skills, while another mom faced tragedy I can’t comprehend. I watched the drips from their ice cream cones cover my kids’ faces and hands, while another mom walked into an empty room that would stay that way forever.
What are you starting over this week? As the weekends inch closer to Monday, brand new promises begin to cycle through our heads. Our diet begins today. Our workout plan starts now. Since the slip-ups of our weekend are past, we can start again with our early bedtimes, dedicated cleaning schedule, home-cooked meals; the list goes on and on. The fresh week pushes us to hope the habits we threw out over the weekend were just a fluke. This week we’ll get it right.
Fresh starts aren’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, the turning of each season and the New Year gives us needed time to reflect on the past and think of the future. Yet I wonder if we can take the desire for new starts a little too far. I’ve spent too many of my own weekends convincing myself Monday will be different, and I’ve been exhausted by the process. Who wants to live in a state of perpetual stop and go?
Not only do we throw our diets, health choices, and habits on this exhausting cycle, but Christians can likewise lump their spiritual life in the same manner. How many times have we promised ourselves this week we’ll conquer our Bible study? This week we’ll be more patient with our kids? This week we’ll not fall for that temptation? This week we’ll pray more consistently? It all starts today!
Every other Monday evening, I hastily move through our kids’ bedtime routine, and grab for my phone as the minutes tick closer to the hour. More often than not I’m late—when bedtime questions, stories, or melt-downs take over. Yet in that routine hour from 8 to 9 PM, I prop my phone to my ear and experience the kindness of the Lord through his church on the other end of the line.
It all began during the lockdowns of COVID-19. As the isolation from the Sunday gatherings wore on me that first spring, I reached out to a friend from church. I wanted to connect with someone. I wanted to pray with an arm, a leg, or maybe a foot of the body that lately felt severed. Yet doubts and insecurities swarmed my head before I texted the question. What if she says no? What if she won’t have time? What if she doesn’t want to get that close to me?
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We all know the spiel. We hear it on countless YouTube ads we’re desperately waiting to skip. The words scroll past our phone as we scan the internet. Lately these kinds of messages have found their footing in the world of social media. The magical elixir of our pains and aches seem more believable when it comes from a “normal” person on Instagram than a fancy actor in an advertisement.
MLM distributors, life coaches, and fitness gurus constantly attempt to form a connection to the problems we battle, because they have experienced it too!
I’ve dealt with my own share of chronic ailments through the years, and the hope of these offers remains so enticing. I’ve scrolled through Amazon reviews on another medicine, just hoping to see someone share the same symptoms I have. I dream there might be hope that this product could cure me.
It’s crazy what can change in a moment, isn’t it? An innocent stretch of my thirty-four year old arms can pinch a nerve and leave me flat on my back popping Ibuprofen all day. A slip of my fingers can void all the work I’ve done preparing a meal that now lays sprawled across the kitchen floor. We’ve all experienced these inconvenient moments, but far more threatening ones pepper our lives.
Maybe we’ve listened to the words of a doctor redirect the course of our life in a handful of syllables. Perhaps a moment of distraction while driving shattered a future we believed we were guaranteed. We scroll through our phone and go from peace and confidence to anxious fear in seconds as the news ticker reveals the ominous word: war. The future becomes less tenable. It all happens in a moment.
These moments punctuate our lives. Like gnarled roots they burst from the soil, altering our path forever. A beloved friend—no longer on this earth. A broken relationship. A job lost. A piercing word we wish desperately to take back. One day we live and move with ease, the next marks the beginning of chronic pain.
The sudden onset can leave us terrified. It’s easy to expect life to continue on as it has. If we’re honest, we take for granted the way the Lord sovereignly guides a million details throughout our bodies, relationships, and the entire world that enables our life to “go on like normal.” These climactic moments remind us of the fragility of it all. We are left to ask: If so much can change in a moment, how much more will change in the many moments of our lives?
All week our family has been talking about Holy Week. We’ve taken time at dinner to discuss the events of each day–leading up to the somber pinnacle of Good Friday, where we then wait expectantly for Resurrection Sunday. Yet what of Saturday? Saturday was always a day I didn’t quite know what to do with. I would consider it a day of quiet sorrow, impatient waiting and—to be honest—a little confusion.
What happened to Christ on Saturday? The Apostles’ Creed tells us Christ descended to the dead, but what does that even mean? Did he go to heaven? Did he just sleep and wait? Was he actually tormented in Hell for my sake and—if that’s true—how could Jesus claim “It is finished” on the cross if he still had more punishment to bear?
I recently finished reading Matthew Emerson’s book “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday and it has shifted my perspective on the day in-between. I’ve come to believe it’s not a day to hurry over, but as with Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, it’s a day that offers Christians great hope and encouragement.
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