“I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit”

{Psalm 40:1-2}


Morning came so slow.  The dark lingered so long.  The silence of it all was deafening.  We cried out to God, reached for Him, we waited.  We didn’t hear Him speak.  We asked Him if this would be it, if this would be His time for us to come home.  He didn’t answer.  We clung to each other, kept each other awake, too afraid to fall asleep and wake to find the other one of us frozen to death.  We did math equations and quizzed each to check each other’s lucidity.  We both seemed to go in and out of being clear-headed.  The weakness we each felt was terrifying: we knew now that we would not be hiking out of this canyon.  We slowly acknowledged that we would have to wait for rescue.  We prayed and hoped others were already looking for us.  We talked about what everyone was probably doing at that very moment.  We talked about how hard it would be on mom and dad if we didn’t make it out alive.  We wondered if they’d ever find our bodies.

Sometime in the middle of the night, we both began to despair.  We were already feeling so labored in our breathing, in our shivering, so weary of the cold.  We began to feel like we didn’t have much more time.  It was at this point that we began to hear the faintest sound, no, actually we could feel it, too.  The faintest hum of a motor.  The slightest hint of vibration in the ground.  The sound grew louder and then would fade out again.  It was a shot of adrenaline!  We knew that sound: snowmobiles!  They were looking for us.  We yelled a few times from a small hole we made in the roof of our snowcave.  We yelled when we heard the motor stop.  Then we’d hear it again.  We clung to that sound.  It was the faintest whisper of hope, but it kept us going.  It literally sent a surge of warmth through us every time we heard it.  We’re going to be okay.  It’s only a matter of time now.

Just before dawn, the sound stopped.  The weariness set it again.  All I wanted was to get off the snow, to get off the constant life-sucking, warmth-sucking ice beneath me.  I could feel my skin prickling with freezer burn against the constant wet cold.

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The faintest hint of light seemed to filter through the snow above our heads.  It seemed to only get colder.  I began to fade a bit, whether from sleep-exhaustion, whether from cold, I don’t know.

Sometime around that point we began to hear the distant chop-chop-chop of a helicopter.  It was so faint and muffled, and I was in such a fog mentally I couldn’t identify it at all.  Jennie began to get excited again, sure that someone was looking for us, and telling me it was a helicopter, but I couldn’t grasp it.  I had no idea in that moment what a helicopter was, all I could think of was “cold…. cold… cold.”

We heard the helicopter here and there, sometimes louder, sometimes not at all, and I couldn’t even tell you for how long.  I didn’t care at that moment.  Then suddenly it was close.  Louder, louder, louder and Jennie began yelling, “Martha they’re going to find us!  They’re right above us!  They need to see us!”


The sound was deafening, and she burst through the roof of the snowcave, waving wildly and screaming at the helicopter that was then circling just a few dozen feet above us, just above the trees, so close we could easily see the pilot + scout smiling down at us, grinning from ear to ear and making hand signals, telling us they’d be right back.  Then they flew off.

Within twenty minutes or so, we heard some whistling in the trees, and two men snowshoed into our clearing.  We couldn’t stop beaming and laughing.  “Do you believe in God?  Because He is definitely looking out for you,” one said as he came into the clearing.  “YES!”  We cried.  We talked with them about what happened, as they quickly checked our fingers and toes and looked us over, handing us each a snickers bar to eat.  The other rescuer looked down into our small burrow in the snow, our shabby snow cave, and paused.  “That’s what saved your lives right there,” he said, as he snapped a couple pictures of it.  We then hiked down with them to a bigger clearing that the helicopter could manage to land in, and we jumped in and were whisked away from the wilds and back to civilization.  Back to safety, to family, to warmth, to the unexpected surprise of several news agencies waiting to interview us as we stepped off the Flight for Life helicopter at Summit County Hospital.

It was all over.

We managed to come out of it with very mild hypothermia and minor frostbite on our fingers and toes.  Helicopter Pilot Pat Mahaney informed us that we were his first live extraction in 25 years of search + rescue.  We were shocked.  We began to hear the stories from the other side.  We told the rescuers how much it meant to us through the night to hear them sweeping the bowl on the snowmobiles, how it seemed to literally keep us alive.  They looked at us confused, and said, “No one was searching through the night.  We began searching in the afternoon after we received the call (from my brother Andrew), and had to call off the search through the night because of weather conditions.  We never used any snowmobiles.  In fact, the whole pass road was shut down to any traffic, so you wouldn’t have heard any motorized vehicles.”

We still have no explanation for what we heard.  But we both heard it, we felt it through the ground ever so faintly.  And it was a big part of what kept us alive and fighting.

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We later found out the temperatures dropped that night -21 degrees with windchill.  If we had chosen to keep hiking instead of hunkering down in the snow for the night, the story would have ended very differently.

There were many other details we learned from the rescue teams that were searching for us that night that cemented for us the certainty that God’s hand was all over this, that He was working in the smallest of details to ensure our survival.

In the immediate months that followed, life looked different through my eyes.  As a teenager, you truly do think you’re invincible, and our experience shattered that.  I knew with a certainty that I wasn’t just here by accident, but that God had given me the gift of life again.  That He wanted me to know He had a plan for me.  He wanted me to know that I was alive on purpose.  He wanted to save.  Reading back through my journals, I didn’t speak or write much to the whole experience.  Only one little blip about feeling it all bottled up inside and not knowing how to process it.

And then today, it’s hard to believe 14 precious, full, lovely years have passed.  I have been given all this time.  I’m more aware than ever what a gift it is.  And these three precious miracles:10384535_10153097716452605_7778622944599110811_n

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.”

{Psalm 34:4}



February 11, 2001.

It looked much like this when we set out that day.  The wind was raging wild gusts, threatening to just pluck us off the ridge and send us into oblivion.  That’s what drove our decision to hike up the peak behind the bowl, the peak in the background that you see pictured here.

The further we hiked on our usual route around the Loveland Pass bowl on the Continental Divide in Colorado, the more tracked out and ice-crusted we realized it was, so we headed to the peak behind the bowl.  It looked fresh and promising and untouched.  We wanted a hard workout and we wanted a sweet ride back on our snowboards.

That decision, that little decision could have ended our lives that day.  I was sixteen, my sister, Jennie, was twenty.

We rode down that peak after climbing as close to the summit as we dared, given the strong winds.  The sun was stretching low across the sky, we had gotten a late start that Sunday.  We strapped in to our boards and had a sweet few minutes making our lines down that peak.  We soon reached the bottom and realized it was much flatter than it had appeared from the top.  We couldn’t ride any further, so we unstrapped to hike back up to the Loveland Pass bowl.

Unfortunately, the snow was much deeper than we had anticipated.  We were post-holing up to our waists, sometimes our chests.  We quickly realized it would be impossible to hike back up where we had come from against that kind of snow with the equipment we had (which was only our snowboards).  So we attempted to follow the slope downward, hoping to meet back up with the Pass road on the other side.  The hiking was slow plodding, we were exhausted, wet, hungry + thirsty.  We had a few ounces of water between us and our uneaten lunches were waiting for us back in our brother’s car.  He and a friend were riding close to where we had parked at the top of Loveland Pass.

The sun slipped behind the peaks and within minutes our situation began to worsen.  Temperatures immediately began to drop, and we began to realize we had a long way to go and very little daylight.  We had now hiking below treeline and came to a clearing where we were able to look out and get our bearings.  We were expecting to see the white peaks on the other side of the Loveland Pass road, believing we were in the trees just above the road.  Instead, we saw a tree covered mountain ahead of us, between us and the road.  Even fourteen years later, that image is burned in my memory.

Thats when a panicky pit formed in my stomach as the realization hit like a punch: there was no possible way we would make it over that mountain and down the other side in the approximate hour of light we had left.

It was terrifying and devastating.  My sister and I were both in tears at this point, but not panicking.  We quickly shifted gears.  We had a little light left and we needed to make some sort of shelter before it was too dark and cold to do so.  We began digging/burrowing a hole down into the snow and making a sort of opening big enough for us to fit in.  A snow cave.  Jennie had heard about it on some survival movie she had seen.

While she worked on that, I trudged out a large S O S in the snow in the clearing we had stopped in, trembling from the fear as much as from the cold.  We stuck our brightly-colored snowboards up in the snow just in case someone would see them.  It was strange, but instinctively we already knew we would be needing rescue.  We were saying our plan was to get up and keep hiking at first light, but we were scrawling our pleas for help in the snow.  We hadn’t had food or water now for about 12 hours and had fully exerted ourselves hiking in the deep conditions.  We now realized we had at least another 12 hours of waiting to drink water.  We knew our brother and friend, as well as our family would soon realize we were missing (we had planned to meet back up with our brother earlier that afternoon to drive back down to Denver together).  We figured they may begin looking for us.  We hoped.

The temperatures dropped.  Dusk was settling in.  All was quiet. Silent.  We could barely look at each other for sake of the gravity of our situation, and the weight of the realization of how foolish we had been.  We knew once we crawled in that hole in the snow, we were committed.  We would be spending the night in our sopping wet gear with no food or water in the frigid February backcountry snow of Colorado.  

We crawled in head first.  We pulled some branches over the opening of the snowcave and packed snow around the piney fronds until we could basically seal the opening shut.  We could see a little light through the snow above our heads but mostly, it was dark.

We were shivering, talking, crying off and on.  Talking about our plan for the morning to get up and keep hiking as soon as it was light.  We were praying.  We were quiet.  We worked at staying warm and staying awake.  We sang hymns.  We cried out to God.  We waited.  It was dark.


Is there a purpose in beauty?  Why are we naturally drawn to it, inclined toward it?  Why are we moved by it?  Science has proven that an infant’s eyes linger longer on a more attractive face, long before socialization would play a role in their preference.  In other words, even before we could be “taught” to enjoy beauty, we do.  We inherently do.  Is this a result of sin?  Or is this a part of the image of God stamped on us?  Could it be, as N. T. Wright calls it, an echo of a Voice?  A beckoning within?  Given to us, implanted within us, to draw us toward Something?  These questions matter to me because I think often about the way I respond to beauty, the effect it has on me, my enjoyment of it, and the purpose of it all.  In my opinion, how we answer these questions may seem inconsequential, but in truth has a great impact on the way we live out our faith before the Lord.


I love these words by N. T. Wright:

“The Christian tradition has said, and indeed sung, that the glory belongs to God the creator.  It is his voice we hear echoing off the crags, murmuring in the sunset.  It is his power we feel in the crashing of the waves and the roar of the lion.  It is his beauty we see reflected in a thousand faces and forms.

And when the cynic reminds us that people fall off crags, get lost after sunset, and are drowned by waves and eaten by lions; when the cynic cautions that faces get old and lined and forms get pudgy and sick–then we Christians do not declare that it was all a mistake.  We do not avail ourselves of Plato’s safety hatch and say that the real world is not a thing of space, time, and matter but another world into which we can escape.  We say that the present world is the real one, and that it’s in bad shape but expecting to be repaired.  We tell, in other words, the story we told in the first chapter: the story of a good Creator longing to put the world back into the good order for which it was designed.  We tell the story of a God who does the two things, which, some of the time at least, we know we all want and need: a God who completes what he has begun, a God who comes to the rescue of those who seem lost and enslaved in the world the way it is now.”

{N. T. Wright, Simply Christian}

What do you think?  Does beauty matter?

ps.  If you haven’t read Simply Christian, it is one book you should definitely read in your lifetime.  Period.  Probably on my list of top ten books I’ve ever read.

Go on wild adventures

I see my dusty, rusty mountain bike lying forlornly in our garage. It’s crammed behind things like double strollers, a dishwasher we’re trying to sell, a radio flyer wagon + tricycles.

It reminds me of former days.

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Days when we had dogs instead of kids.
When we had freedom + spontaneity instead of nap + nursing schedules.
Days when we didn’t have to schedule a babysitter to go on a run or a bike together.
Weekends that were spent entirely outdoors on a snowboard or a bike, looking long into the sunset.. instead of weekends rummaging through massive consignment sales and looking long at piles of laundry.

And yes, Brandon had long hair:

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I don’t mean to be too nostalgic.. but let’s face it, I’m a nostalgic type.  When we were first married we were fools and moved across the country to Colorado and had the best adventure ever.  Just a newly-wed couple on an adventure together.  I introduced Brandon to my favorite mountains and got to teach him how to snowboard.  We hoped to settle down out there (idiots), but God led us back east not too long later.  I’ve often regretted those years, wishing we had been practical, gone and gotten our graduate degrees, saved up for a downpayment for a home (still working on that one).

But, listen.  You can’t buy the memories we made.  And now that we have three little minis running around??  Let me tell you it will probably be awhile before we get a season like that in our marriage again.  It was a blast.  It was the gnarliest test of faith for us in SO many ways.  We went out there without a clue where we would live or work.  We drove a gorgeous dreamy Land Rover across the country and had car problems along the way, toting a heavy trailer with all our (scant) earthly goods behind us.  We (read: I) journaled and cried and prayed the whole two (or was it three?) days of traveling. We showed up in Breckenridge, Colorado, my old haunts, and reached out to the body of Christ there and promptly were given a place to stay temporarily till we found a rental.

I cannot tell you all the fun and adventures and heart ache we had in those many months.  How God shaped us in so many ways as a couple.  It wasn’t all fun at the time, but looking back, it was GREAT fun and I’m so glad we did it.

So.. to you younger girls, maybe to you newly-weds, here’s what I have to say:  Go have an adventure with your spouse, if you can.  While you’re young.  While you have a little time to waste.  Don’t be afraid of making impractical decisions, sometimes.  Our investment in those early years into having fun together and taking risks together has VASTLY paid off in these years where we are a little more tethered to home and to the mundane.  It is a storehouse, a treasure-house of memories and laughter for us.  AND it is motivation for us to continue to pursue what we love together and to dream about a future where we can set off on those kinds of adventures again.

Don’t get me wrong.  We fasted, prayed, sought counsel.  That move was BATHED forward and backward in Scripture and prayer.  So don’t get me wrong: Be led of God.  PRAY about it.  We did, and we were convinced it was what the Lord was calling us to do.  At the time, I couldn’t make sense of it.  At the time, I thought unless we were heading off overseas for missions, it couldn’t possibly be God’s will.  I had no idea that in order for God to prepare us for some of the seasons we are facing now (and, I’m confident, that we will face in the future in the long haul and crazy faith-walk of raising a family together) He needed to take us through some of the faith-tests we experienced there.  In a lot of ways we flopped and flailed on that journey of faith, we were hurt and we hurt others.. But even that has not gone to waste.  We have learned so much about loving better.  If I’m honest, I’m only now starting to make sense of some of what we experienced during that time. I’m only starting to realize God’s infinite wisdom in using what is foolish is man’s sight to accomplish what is mighty in God’s.

It wasn’t practical.  Many of our friends went on to grad school and to secure jobs, many of them have homes they own while Brandon and I are still working toward that goal.  And I don’t think they made a poor choice and we made a better one.  We simply have to trust God’s process with each of us to be unique and different.  But I can tell you, in a culture that is wildly practical and tells you to be sure you take all the proper and wise steps (yes, even the Christian culture is guilty of this at times) and only calculated risks, you may not be hearing many voices that are telling you to trust God.  To not live in fear of making some missteps along the way.  To be wise, to seek counsel, yes, but not to be afraid to take wild risks.  To trust God’s leadership when so many are criticizing.  To be brave in pursuing God’s voice as the ultimate source of authority in Your life.  To not be afraid to be a pioneer.

Maybe for you that means pursuing going overseas when family is telling you it’s too dangerous.  Maybe it means looking into that start-up.  Maybe it means going back to school.  Maybe it means trying for a baby when you don’t have all the finances worked out yet.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not talking about just doing whatever you want and calling it God’s will.  I’m talking about that thing you may know deep in your soul that He’s beckoning you to do, but you are pushing down because the practical voices and the fear of stepping out are telling you to resist.

The wildest adventure you can ever go on is the adventure into God’s will.  The adventure of trusting Him entirely with your life.  Your finances, your education, your location, your future.  It is the scariest, most foolhardy, most hilariously terrifying and exhilarating adventure.  He is NOT boring, my friend.  Walking in obedience to Him has been the wildest ride and craziest joy of my LIFE.

The reality is, all of our journey with Jesus is just one wild adventure after another.  Some are more fun than others, some are painful and dang hard.  DANG hard.  Parenthood is the next big adventure we’re entering into.  But now, Brandon and I know each other, we know how we handle the unknown.  We learned in that early season of marriage how we each handle adventure and risk and unknown.  We fell in love leading adventures together for a backpacking organization, for pete’s sake.  God built so much into our hearts and marriage in that season where the adventure was FUN and the risks were relatively small in comparison.

And one day, we will decline and our strength will fail and we will enter the face great adventure, death.  And then we will just be carried right into His presence.  I mean, come on!  What greater joy than to know that all of our earthly experience has great purpose, is leading us onward toward Home, and is going to culminate in seeing HIM.

I adore Him so much because He is so much fun.  He loves to give us good gifts.  He calls us to seasons of walking through darkness and deep valleys.  He beckons us out into spacious places where are souls breathe huge.  He leads us in ways we cannot quite fabricate.  I promise you, He is so much the better boss of our lives than we could ever hope to be.

Trust Him.  Lean in.  Listen.  Obey.

It’s going to be awesome.

Okay.. enough rambling, I have to wake the kids from their naps.  And just in case you were wondering, yes, I’m planning on getting back out on that bike SOON.


Favorite Reads of 2014


Some of my favorite reads from this past year.  This stack is missing a few that greatly impacted me this past year, such as Eric Metaxes’ “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prohpet, Spy,” and Jerry Bridges “Transforming Grace.”

I sheepishly admit that I have historically been careful not to venture too far in my book choices into places that would disagree with my firmly held convictions.  I have begun to challenge myself to read some things that might intrigue, provoke, and even irritate me.  To read some things that I think I will probably disagree with.  I have been afraid to do this in the past, not trusting my mind + heart to weed out truth from lie.  As my favorite professor from school once counseled me, we can engage in content that may make us squirm because we can trust that God will separate what is wheat from what is chaff.

The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see that He continually leads us into more spacious places.  He always leads us on to greater freedom (2 Cor. 3:17), and that He will increase our awareness of the great freedom already won for us in Christ Jesus.

Some books that made me squirm and were out of my comfort zone to read were Sarah Bessey’s “Jesus Feminist” and also Barbara Brown Taylor’s “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith” (not pictured above).  I have to tell you: I am SO GLAD I picked those two up.  I’m not sure I can tell you that I agree with everything written therein, but I can tell you that I am better off for having read and engaged in those two books.  Well worth the journey and the squirming.  I think I’m finding that when I read things that are outside of my comfort zone, I am reminded of how much bigger God is than I can possibly wrap my arms (or mind) around.  I am reminded that it is in the diversity of the body of Christ that His incredible, unfathomable largeness and otherness is expressed.  No one denomination has a corner on all Truth, and we are wise to remember that.  I am reminded that Christ’s final prayer with His disciples centered around pleading for them to be ONE (John 17).

I have a big stack already waiting for me to dig into in 2015:


And since I am now reviewing books for fun (pushes nerd glasses up bridge of nose) this stack will definitely grow over the year.  Of course, I will share the best with you here, as I firmly believe in sharing good resources and in reading, reading, reading.  Not just to stuff our heads with knowledge, but because we want to learn, to change, to have a conversation with the community of brothers and sisters of our faith both in the current day and in times past.  What a beautiful privilege that is!

This season of being a mother to little ones has taught me that the best things in life must be fought for.  The path of least resistance is not the way of Jesus.  I have so little time as a momma for reading, and yet I’m passionate about squeezing it in.  There is so much I want to learn and have yet to learn!  This year I am convicted afresh that my focus needs to be on my marriage and my children.  So I’m hoping to fill my shelves (figuratively speaking) with words that build up and strengthen my marriage and my calling as momma first and foremost.

Of course, I’m hoping to squeeze in some fiction as well.  Sometimes a momma just needs to get lost in a good story.

What are you hoping to read this year?  What books would you recommend?

Longing For More

A brand new year unfolds before us. How many of us find ourselves restless, longing for more? The holidays are behind us now, and we are tired of all the activity, the rushing, the memory-making + merry-making, the feasting and the getting.

Now we start again, we re-set, we look into what is both ordinary and fresh at the same time. We’re back to our usual work. Laundry piles, dishes stack, children squabble, bills accrue again. How can we enter into the sameness and the ordinary and yet become different?  

What are we so restless for?

Timothy Willard offers us companionship in our restlessness and offers a soul-remedy: God.


The month of January is a clean start, a time when many of us are thinking about change, the changes we want to make to become more of who we desire to be.  We go into a new year and bring our old selves into it; but how can we be changed?  How can we be transformed?

Scripture tells us we can be transformed by “renewing our minds” (Rom. 12:2).  We renew our minds by immersing them in the Truth and abandoning the lies that have taken root there.  Willard’s book is just one more weapon in our arsenal to immerse our minds in truth and meditate on it.

In his book, Willard offers us companionship throughout the year with daily readings organized into 52 weeks, each week offering 5 meditations on scripture and short prayers.  The readings are fairly concise, leaving you often hungry for further exploration on your own into the scriptures.  The weeks are arranged topically, giving you the option of either following allow chronologically or using the book topically as it suits you.  The topics are things such as love, joy, confession, family, worship, beauty, forgiveness, faithfulness, etc.  Willard arranged the book around the natural rhythms of life, understanding that we experience and relate to God in the ordinary and often mundane activities of our days.

Originally, the readings began as a series of emails written over the course of two years to fellows in an entrepreneurial incubator program for founders of social justice organizations called Praxis.  Willard says, “I wrote weekly devotional emails crafted to inspire, challenge, and engender transparency among those in the program.  I wanted the writing to reflect the rhythms of daily life but also point to the heavens, to God…Why God rhythms?  Because life is anything but formulaic.  Though I try to implement systems to help organize my time and relationships, these life buckets tend to mix and gel, clash and explode.  I experience life like you do, in the whirlwind of reality’s rhythms.  But I do not despise the whirlwind.  Instead, I look to its creator, the author of life, the poet of the universe who holds the ebbing and flowing of life like a valley holds its rivers and streams and trees: in the beautiful cadence of balance.  The storms interrupt, the rains nourish, the sunlight quickens, the fires purge, and the seasons create of cycle of anticipation.  We are always looking to the daffodils, to the picnics, to the harvest parties, to the Christmas trees.”

Willard’s writes as a fellow-sojourner and the readings carry the sense of the dailyness of life, symbiotic with my own feeble heart each day.  His writings stir up my affections for Jesus and always leave me longing to dig deeper into God’s Word and to linger in His presence.

Pick up your own copy HERE and visit Timothy Willard’s website HERE.

*     *     *     *     *

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  As always, the opinions expressed are my own.

Hello, 2015!

Welcome to a new year, folks!  How have you been spending New Years Day?  After almost rushing to the ER this morning with a rambunctious boy that seemed to have a possible broken arm, it’s been an otherwise usual Thursday.  No time off around here.  I’ve been begrudgingly taking down Christmas from around the house, while listening to more Christmas music.  That’s ok, right??

Meanwhile my little ones have been doing this sort of stuff:

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It was a late and exhausting night for my husband and I both last night and there was No. WAY. we were staying up till midnight voluntarily.  I mean, when you have a newborn… WHO DOES THAT?!  Who volunteers for less sleep?  Not us.

We tucked the kids in bed at usual bedtime, made chocolate chip cookies, snuggled by the fire and watched “Life Below Zero,” our latest hulu addiction.  I awoke startled to a ruckus at 12:03 am, realized it was fireworks, rolled over and said “Happy New Year, babe” to Brandon, and back to sleep I went.  So that was that.

I fully intend to spend a chunk of time, when I have one (a girl can dream, right?) journaling about this past year and looking forward to what I sense God is up to in 2015.  Some goal setting will happen then.  I have already had quite a few goals rumbling around in my heart but I need to sift through and see what is reasonable to pursue this year, and what is just going to make me feel like a big fat failure.

For the past number of years I have asked God to give me a word for the year, a focus for He and I.  Last year (2014.. last year?  that feels weird to say already) was the “feast of grace” year.  I feel like for the past year or two God has been taking me back to the very basics of our faith.. the Gospel.  Grace.  And as I’ve been trying to listen to the Lord in the busy work of this season, bustling around, asking Him for a word for this year, all I can think is: JESUS.  I just want Jesus.  I want to know Him better.  I want to adore Him more.  I want to see His glory every day.  I want Him in the worst way.  Desperate for Him.

Motherhood has a way of paring you down, paring life down to the essentials.  The basics.  The absolute necessities.

Motherhood has a way of making you desperate for Jesus.  Maybe I’m the only one.

I don’t know if that’s my “word” yet, I’m still sitting on it and laying it before the Lord.  But I can tell you that I will be placing myself deeply in the Word with renewed efforts this year.  The first number of weeks with a newborn interrupt our routines in the best of ways, but my soul has been starving for deep and prolonged time in God’s Word.  I’ve been carving time out for that this past week and already the soul-numbness and apathy that creeps in when I neglect time in God’s Word is being replaced with sweet hunger.

A friend wrote me today asking about some ideas/ways to stay in God’s Word right now, and it made me think.  I want to share these simple ideas + tools with any one else out there like me who is hungry for more of Jesus in 2015.

1.  Timothy Willard recently published a book called Longing for More (which I am actually reviewing on the blog sometime this week hopefully).


This would be a wonderful tool, with daily readings for the entire year, organized around the seasons and rhythms of daily life.  More on this book to come in the next few days, but for now, I recommend it to you as a devotional-type read with scriptures, prayers and meditations.

2.  I’ve recently begun following along with the lovely “She Reads Truth” community during the Advent season.  They are starting a study of the Gospel of John as of today and you can follow along for free on their blog here or through their app!


If you’re looking for an online community of women who want to be in the Word and are looking for kinship and accountability in it, this is a great resource!  I plan to follow along as I can.  If you want to dig deeper into John, they also offer an optional/additional study pack here.

3.  The best years are the years when I’m committed to a year of Scripture memory.  Anyone else?  It’s hard to commit at the outset of the year, but those are the years when I have drawn the closest to the Lord and seen the greatest fruit.  I’m nervous, as usual, to commit this year with all that I’m juggling, but if I don’t have time to meditate on God’s Word, some other things are going to have to be eliminated.


I have journeyed with Beth Moore’s blog community (called “Siesta Scripture Memory Team”) every year since she began it (she usually offers it every other year).  It is a very doable amount of memorization, two verses a month, on the 1st and 15th of the month.  Beth posts the verse she is memorizing on the 1st and 15th of each month, and you go and post your own or borrow hers if you need inspiration.  She shares a whole lot more about it on her blog, and the very first post is up today!

Of course, there are a lot of lovely bible studies available out there as well!

What are you doing to keep in the Word this 2015?  I’d love to hear what you’re studying or what resources you may have to share!  Let’s encourage one another in this great and beautiful pursuit of Jesus.

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

The book drew me, beckoned to me, really, from the bookshelves at Barnes + Noble. I was looking for a gift for my sister, and it wasn’t what I was searching for. But something about it spoke to me. Maybe because the title and theme speaks to something I continue to struggle with and seem to learn over and over again with God: Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.


How can every bitter thing be sweet? Truly, can we say every bitter thing? Can we really taste the goodness of God in our darkest of days and trials? Will God hold up under the weight of that, under the weight of our darkest questions and scrutiny?

Sara Hagerty is familiar with bitter trial and circumstance. In this precious book, she explains some of her story, her struggles in early marriage, her struggles for many years with infertility. Her struggle with a God who spoke to her and gave her a vision of a child toddling across her bedspread, and then closed her womb to this possiblity. The struggles through multiple foreign adoptions and the seemingly endless setbacks and disappointments. And all the way, she traces the glory of God shining brilliant in these darkest moments.

In her book she reveals how God took her, a child who believed in a God whose love was best displayed in blessing, and transformed her into a desperately hungry soul. She writes her story of encountering a God who cares to carve out spaces in the soul, empty, hungering spaces that He can fill.

“A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
{Proverbs 27:7}

What if our places of discontent and brokenheartedness, what if we discovered that these places are the very holy + sacred ground of God’s deepest riches, the “treasure of darkness” that Isaiah 45:3 talks about?

Here’s a little excerpt from the first chapter:

“The Bible resting on my chair showed wear–how could it not? My friend, my best friend in this hour, was the Author. The book I’d once used to plan youth ministry talks, the book I’d once used to quote pithy sayings and to confirm opinions I’d already formed, that book had found its way into my deep.

The God behind it was proving Himself to be fundamentally different than what I’d supposed for at least a decade, maybe more. But I was finding Him. In the places I had feared most and spent a lifetime avoiding, He was meeting me. My worst, my very worst moments were getting rewritten without circumstances changing. I was getting acquainted with the kind of deep satisfaction that bad news can’t shake. He was showing me Himself as strong enough. He was letting me hide in Him, letting me find a safe place.

And so I cradled my midnight questions while mamas cradled their babies, and I let God’s psalms tell me He cradled the answer in Himself. I felt forgotten, but I heard God speak that He had not left me. I felt weak, but I heard Him promise an overshadowing. I felt anxious that my constant fumblings would annoy Him, but I heard Him say He delighted in me.

And I felt hungry.

I wasn’t this hungry when God was a distant coach, forcing me to perform.
I wasn’t this hungry when I had a life easily explained, easily predicted.
I wasn’t this hungry when everyone understood me.

Pain had created space. Space to want more. Space to taste a sense of being alive. An alive that would grow to be my favorite kind of alive: secret, hidden to all eyes but mine and those nearest to me.

This had to be the hope of a lifetime, Him and Him alone.”

If you’ve ever wondered about this God, this mysterious God who both gives and takes away, and how anyone can love a God who gives the strange gifts of hardship and hunger at times, you would be helped to read Sara’s story.

If you’ve ever battled fiercely with hard circumstances and painful seasons and have wondered how to make sense of it all, you would be helped to read Sara’s story.

Essentially, if you’ve ever lived the human experience, you would find sweet company in Sara’s poetic prose.

Triumphant, encouraging, beautifully crafted. Sara Hagerty not only shares with you her journey to a deeper hunger for God, she stirs up your own hunger, too. I highly recommend it!

* * * * *

Book Look Bloggers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I am not required to give a favorable review and the opinions expressed are my own.

The Way to End Idolatry: Look Through

“This is how our souls climb out of their weariness toward You and cease to lean on those things which You have created.  We pass through them to You, Lord God, who created them in a marvelous way.”



“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.  To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.  Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance.  These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun.  These are but streams.  But God is the ocean.”

Jonathan Edwards

“Christianity is not religious escapism, nor is it overindulgent secularism.  It is not escapism — we do not run from the world, for God has given us all things for our enjoyment (1 Tim. 4:4).  The creation is ‘scattered beams’ — God’s artwork, full of glory and dignity.

But Christianity is also not secularism — we do not run to the world.  We don’t feast upon the world for its own sake, because these are just ‘scattered beams.’  They are not the sun, and thereby are unable to bear the full weight of our worship and interest.

To be a Christian means we don’t look from the world, and we don’t look to the world.  To be a Christian means we look through the world.  Idolatry looks at the world in amazement.  Worship, true worship, looks through it in amazement.  To its source.  To the One who is infinitely more amazing.  More interesting.  These things God has made — these shadows, these scattered beams, these shallow streams — are good.  And God is better.  This is what the universe is all about.  This is the end of idolatry.  This is the glory of God.”

Matt Papa, Look + Live

On Worship


“I see three stages of movement toward the ideal experience of worship.  We may experience all three in one hour, and God is pleased with all three — if indeed they are stages on the way to full joy in him.  I will mention them in reverse order.

1. There is the final stage in which we feel an unencumbered joy in the manifold perfections of God — the joy of gratitude, wonder, hope, admiration.  “My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).  In this stage we are satisfied with the excellency of God, and we overflow with the joy of his fellowship.  This is the feast of Christian Hedonism.

2.  In a prior stage that we often taste, we do not feel fulness, but rather longing and desire.  Having tasted the feast before, we recall the goodness of the Lord — but it seems far off.  We preach to our souls not to be downcast, because we are sure we shall again praise the Lord (Psalm 42:5).  Yet for now our hearts are not very fervent.

Even though this falls far short of the ideal of vigorous, heartfelt adoration and hope, yet it is a great honor to God.  We honor the water from a mountain spring not only by the satisfied “ahhh” after drinking our fill, but also by the unquenched longing to be satisfied while still climbing to it.

In fact, these two stages are not really separable in the true saint, because all satisfaction in this life is still shot through with longing and all genuine longing has tasted the satisfying water of life.  David Brainerd expressed the paradox:

Of late, God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry almost continually, so that I have been filled with a kind of pleasing pain.  When I really enjoy God, I feel my desire of Him the more insatiable and my thirsting after holiness more unquenchable.

3.  The lowest stage of worship — where all genuine worship starts, and where it often returns for a dark season — is the barrenness of soul that scarcely feels any longing, and yet is still granted the grace of repentant sorrow for having so little love.  “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee” (Psalm 73:22).

E. J. Carnell points toward these same stages when he says,

Rectitude, we know, is met in one of two ways: either by a spontaneous expression of the good or by spontaneous sorrow for having failed.  The one is direct fulfillment; the other indirect fulfillment.

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth.  This is the ideal.  For God surely is more glorified when we delight in his magnificence than when we are so unmoved by it we scarcely feel anything, and only wish we could.  Yet he is also glorified by the spark of anticipated gladness that gives rise to the sorrow we feel when our hearts are lukewarm.  Even in the miserable guilt we feel over our beast-like insensitivity, the glory of God shines.  If God were not gloriously desirable, why would we feel sorrowful for not feasting fully on his beauty?

Yet even this sorrow, to honor God, must in one sense be an end in itself — not that it shouldn’t lead on to something better, but that it must be real and spontaneous.  The glory from which we fall short cannot be reflected in a calculated sorrow…

Neither God nor my wife is honored when we celebrate the high days of our relationship out of a sense of duty.  They are honored when I delight in them!  Therefore to honor God in worship we must not seek him disinterestedly, for fear of gaining some joy in worship and so ruining the moral value of the act.  But instead we must seek him hedonistically, the way a thirsty deer seeks the stream, precisely for the joy of seeing and knowing him!  Worship is nothing less than obedience to the command of God, “Delight yourself in the Lord!””

-John Piper, Desiring God (p. 85-86, 87)