How I Stayed Home as a Single Mom — the good, the bad, and the surprising

When my former husband left me, my world ended. In so many ways. I’ve written a lot about how that affected me emotionally, but physically the changes were nearly as drastic. We sold our home, the only home my kids had ever known. I had to find a place to live in a ridiculously expensive area, figure out schooling, insurance, and every kind of logistic you can imagine. Not to mention, I had been a stay-at-home mom for nearly seven years and wasn’t sure how to make ends meet. My kids were 2, 4, and 6 — going back to work and putting them in childcare was the last thing I wanted to do (not to mention the logistics of that and the cost were prohibitive). So, after losing nearly everything I had known or been, losing my identity as a stay-at-home mom was just not an option for me. I begged God for wisdom and help to figure out how to accomplish that goal. So, here’s how God answered that prayer!

First, it is hard. I have worked six+ concurrent jobs at times over the past 18 months. I don’t get insurance because I’m self-employed so that can be a nightmare. It’s hard to get work done when I nearly always have at least one kid home and vying for my attention. It’s hard to make the mental shift from stay-at-home mom to work-at-home mom. I often feel a lot of mom-guilt for not being able to do the sorts of activities that I did when I “just” stayed home and parented all day. But, God has provided work to meet my financial needs and has filled in the gaps through generous friends and family. I’ve experienced so much generosity through my church, friends, and even complete strangers who’ve gone out of their way to lower expenses and cover costs for me and my kids. All that to say, I did not do any of this alone.

Freelance proofreading
This is something I’ve done off and on since I started staying home with Parker. I was able to add a few new publishers which really helped. The plus? I mostly get to proof amazing and inspiring books since I proofread for Christian publishers. They are books I’d want to read anyway and find myself getting paid to read them. That’s awesome! The downside? It’s unpredictable work. When it comes in it’s great, when there’s nothing it’s a bummer. It can also be really hard to get done when kids are awake so that means proofing at late hours.

Working for family
The bulk of my income was from this amazing blessing. I’ve been able to do some of the accounting for my dad’s business for the past six and a half years. This last year I also added on doing newsletters and other marketing tasks. Not everyone gets the benefit of working for family, but so many companies are looking for social media managers to write newsletters, blogs, etc. It’s a really great route for work-at-home moms. I like working for a company that I know I can trust and being a part of a longer family legacy. But the accounting work can be tedious (a minor downside) and your salary isn’t really growable.

Social Media Management
On that note, I’ve also started working for a company doing social media management. This was another opportunity that the Lord provided out of the blue when I needed it most. It’s easy work for the most part, it can be done from anywhere I have a computer and internet connection, but the hours are pretty rigid. For instance, I have to work at very specific times — so if a kid’s birthday party is scheduled during that time I have to say no. Or if it conflicts with any other activity I have to alter my plans. And sometimes the content of what I have to interact with can be frustrating — because people on the internet are rude, crude, and impatient. I also only get paid for the hours I work, so if I have to skip out for any reason that means a cut in pay.

This fell into my lap in a way that only the Lord could arrange. The perfect family with the perfect need at the perfect time. I nannied two girls for about 16 months and they were just a delight. It was great because it was only two days a week and didn’t inhibit my schedule too much. This would be MUCH harder if it was full time. You don’t have the same freedom to take care of errands, do things with your kids, etc. BUT you do have the freedom to get things done around your house (especially since they still napped!), something that obviously doesn’t happen with most jobs. My kids loved these girls and that made it a super sweet time, but I can imagine if the kids didn’t get along it would be rough. The biggest downside is that when my kids were sick or if their kids were sick we’d cancel — which meant the income wasn’t always reliable. There were definitely some humorous logistical issues as well with picking my kids up from school and having to manage FIVE small kids in the snow.

I’ve done random sewing jobs for friends for years, so I knew that was an option for increased income. I advertised on craigslist and local facebook groups and got a bit of business through that. Some of those were kind of weird (making a dog backpack?!) but mostly things like curtains, pillows, and hemming pants. I also worked on a few of my friend’s quilts which is definitely my favorite. This income was always a nice little surprise but certainly not reliable. If you were skilled in alterations I’d think this would be a much more consistent source of income. And again, you get paid for the hours you work and don’t get paid when there’s no work.

Direct Sales
Gasp! Something I thought I’d never do! Short of finding a place to live, signing up to be a distributor for Shaklee was the first big post-divorce decision I made. Given all the bad press with direct sales, I was definitely skeptical. I prayed about this decision so much and didn’t talk to anyone about it because I was afraid of what they’d think. But having a close friend who I trusted and fully knowing and loving Shaklee, I went ahead and made the leap. And it’s been the best decision I have ever made. But I can tell you from having a lot of friends in Direct Sales — not all companies or compensation plans are created equal. Shaklee happens to have a fantastic plan (with no catches, annual fees, or gimmicks), but not all companies are this way. Make sure to do your research.
It’s really the job that I enjoy the most (helping people find answers to their health problems and creating healthier lives for their families). And the most amazing thing is how flexible it is. I put in the hours now and will continue to get paid off that effort for years. It’s truly the only job out there that works like this. I can not work if I’m sick and not lose my job. I can work while my kids are playing at the library or park. I can go on vacation and still make money. Not to mention there is no limit to the amount I can grow my income. If I want to double my income, I can put in the work and know that it’s totally possible to achieve. But even more than the money, the investment that my organization had made in me as a person — wow! I’ve been encouraged, challenged, grown, picked back up, and propelled forward by the women I’ve met doing this. Truly, it has been a bigger blessing than the paychecks (which are also awesome).

So there you have it! My rundown on various ways to earn money from home even in the most unfortunate and unexpected scenarios. It’s possible! Even though I’m not a single mom any more, my husband does go to school full-time so my income needs really haven’t changed a whole lot. I’m so thankful for the opportunities to work from home — especially as we welcome another baby to our family in June!


Pain is Gritty

For those unfamiliar with deep, painful grieving, it might seem that a year or two was enough. Enough time to really delve the depths of sadness, anger, and acceptance. Enough space to process all there is to know about loss and moving on. Enough. Oh, how I wish it was. I am so ready to be done with pain and grief. So, so ready. But much like the old high school knee injury that aches with shifting weather patterns, grief does not go away with passing time. It merely changes.

Wounds are weird. It has always amazed me how the body manages to heal itself. Of course healing can be aided by doctors, medication, or therapy — but the cells repair themselves over time and the bones bind back together after a break. And yet we all know that there are often setbacks along the way. A wound refuses to heal because of an infection, rehabilitation is halted by a tear in newly strengthened muscles, or over-exertion forces a patient back in bed after a bout with the flu. I believe emotional is healing is like that as well. Over the past two years I’ve found periods of immense growth, joy, and peace. I’ve also had seasons of darkness, depression, and anger. Each time I conquer the darkness it gets a little less powerful. The depths of pain become more shallow as the tides roll in and out.

The season of incredible joy and overwhelming feeling of gratitude and healing I felt this summer was followed by a season of sadness this fall. It wasn’t nearly as deep or as dark as in the past, but it was very real and very all-consuming at times. This setback came unexpectedly. It arrived with the surprising news of my pregnancy. This joyous, though unplanned, news revived old hurts from long ago. It served as a trigger to many wounds that I thought I’d laid to rest. I’m sure the hormones and incessant sickness didn’t help my state of mind, but I found myself pretty well mired in the pit of my pain.

So, I stopped writing for awhile. I like to write when things are cemented in my mind, and the unsettledness and the stuckness that I was experiencing didn’t fit that prescription. I didn’t feel ready to move on from the pain, I felt like I really needed to feel it and sit in it for awhile. I know for certain that I didn’t rush past my initial pain two years ago — any of my friends or family can tell you how deeply I grieved. But, I am the first to admit that this pain was dulled a bit once I met Johnathan. It didn’t feel as loud to me and the need to focus on healing didn’t seem so pressing. We’ve always both known there was more healing to do, but I think some of the immediacy of it was mitigated by our happiness with one another. So this time I felt like I needed to stay awhile. That I shouldn’t just rush past what I was feeling to the happy ending.

Beauty can come from pain, but that doesn’t mean that pain is always beautiful. At the height of pain it is just gritty. I don’t think God will ever leave us in a place of hopelessness, but that doesn’t mean we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel when we are in it. I am so thankful for those who just sat with me in my pain. I know they wanted to see me move past it, and yet, they didn’t force me to just “get over it”. They just shared in the pain with me, prayed with me (when I couldn’t), and reminded me of truth that I needed to hear.

I think we love happy endings and, by all means, my 2017 collage sure looks like the best case scenario for me. I am so grateful for the ways God is redeeming the painful situations I found myself in, but even in the joy there is lingering pain. Sometimes there are no happily ever afters, just seasons of joy mixed with pain — healing mixed with reopened wounds. As the pain and healing ebb and flow, I’m thankful for a permanent and perfect rest to look forward to in heaven. Until then, I put my hope in the Healer and trust him for the healing only he can provide here and now as I walk through life. He is Good.


Jesus Loves Me

Her little room was nestled into a corner in the basement, the only space we could create in our small two-bedroom bungalow. To some, it might have been a glorified walk-in closet, but I had made it into a sweet baby girl’s room. The walls were painted a light grey, with white trim baseboards. Her closet was a little inlet in the wall, covered with a coral pink curtain with a white lattice pattern. There were owls decorating the walls and her crib, with a nice accent mint thrown in. My favorite spot was the glider. I had put it together when I was pregnant with Parker, but it really didn’t get much use until Avery was born. I remember sitting in it and rocking back and forth, 9 months pregnant and overdue, wondering what it would be like to have her in my arms.

Now she was two. And every night our routine was to sit and rock, read a book, and sing a song. She loved the book with ducks in it and would point at each scene, repeating words she had heard so many times: water, duck, quack, mommy duck, baby duck, flower. Without fail she requested “Jesus Loves Me” as her goodnight song. I would hold her close and sing that familiar refrain, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. YES, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so. Such simple words, not unlike the childish phrases Avery was learning to say. But that year they meant something so much more to me. It was a song I sang to put my sweet toddler to sleep. And a song to sing to my soul, to put my fears and worry to rest.

Jesus loves me, this I know. In crisis everything becomes unknown. I’d be lying if I said I never doubted God’s love for me. Wondering where he was and why he didn’t seem to care that my heart was being obliterated. Begging him to listen to my tear-soaked prayers and fix my impossibly broken life. But, eventually, I would always come back to this. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. When my feelings were unreliable and my surroundings quicksand, this truth was all I could hold onto. “He says he loves me. He says my tears matter and my pain won’t last forever. He promises to redeem my life from the pit. To be my strength when I am weak. Jesus loves me.” That, above all else, I knew.

Two years later, I could never have imagined where I am today. Never in a million years. When the reality of the impending divorce hit me I would often sit and calculate how long it would be before my life was any kind of normal. One year or more to grieve and process, another few to begin to thrive, eventually meet someone, date for a year, etc. Any dreams of having more children were gone. No hope of giving my children a two-parent, godly home to grow up in. Basically, in my mind, life was going to be hard and painful for at least the next six years. Best case scenario. I told a few friends my well-thought-out plan. My wise friend Sherah just said, “don’t limit God. We’ll see what he wants to do.” There may have been wisdom in “my plan”, but it certainly didn’t involve trusting God and finding joy in him, rather than in my circumstances.

I don’t know why I was given the gift of remarriage so quickly — or at all. I don’t know why only one year after my divorce I have a handsome and godly husband, an unexpected but very wanted pregnancy, and kids that are thriving in their new environment. I don’t deserve it. God didn’t owe me anything for the pain I went through. All these blessings don’t prove that Jesus loves me any more than the worst circumstances negated his love. Either way, in joy or in trial, God is unspeakably good. He writes complicated yet beautiful stories. I think it’s why I’ve had such a difficult time writing about this new story. Because it is complicated, it is painful, it joy-filled, it isn’t at all anything I’d necessarily recommend to others, and yet it’s utterly perfect and fitting for us. But regardless of my particular experiences, my friend’s advice stands: don’t limit God. In all things entrust yourself to the one whose love is perfect and unfailing, not in your plans, fears, or expectations. Who knows where you’ll be in a year?


The Name

There’s such power in a name. When you first meet someone, repeating their name can make them feel a real connection to you right off the bat. In serious or intimate conversations, when someone uses your name it immediately creates a moment of being seen or heard. When we pick out a name for a child, it’s a momentous and weighty thing — defining who a person is for the rest of their life by a name. Changing one’s name in marriage makes the union feel all the more real. It’s a visible sign of the unity that has taken place. Which makes signing your name after divorce all the more painful.

I was thrilled to change my name when I got married. I was excited to be his bride and to be known by his name to all I met. I think one of my greatest failings in my marriage was how much I loved being in it. I hated being alone and single, marriage was the antidote to my loneliness. I often fell into the trap of worshiping my marriage. Of being discontent when it didn’t meet all my needs and putting a lot of pressure to find myself by losing myself in my husband. So when my marriage was ripped from me, I was forced to face my idol. And I was reminded of that loss with every piece of mail, every form I had to fill out, and with every signature. My very name felt like a betrayal.

It hit the hardest during worship. I remember bawling during “Ever Be” as it hit me who’s name I bore and who was the only one I should worship. I was reminded time and time again that I was still united in marriage to someone — to someone who was effortlessly faithful. I was his bride, called by his name, and loved desperately by him. These lyrics still choke me up a year later:

“Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today
Faithful You have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

You Father the orphan
Your kindness makes us whole
And you shoulder our weakness
And your strength becomes our own
Now you’re making me like you
Clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes
For You will have Your bride
Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips”

Now as a bride, the second time around, I have another new name. A name that reflects the new union I share with my new husband. The temptation is there to bury myself in this new identity. But I know it cannot be my everything this time around. There is only ONE true name that I am known by and it is Christ. I am his and he is mine, the only one who can ever fully satisfy, heal, and cure all my needs. And that name, the one that I’m united to, is powerful. It is a strong tower, my refuge in time of need (Prov. 18:10). It is a name that always abundantly provides (Gen. 22:14). It is a name that brings salvation (Rom. 10:9-13). It’s a name that will cause the entire earth to bow in submission (Phil. 2:10-11). It is a name that was at the beginning of all things and will still stand at the end of time (Rev. 1:8). And let’s not forget, it is a name that is jealous (Ex. 34:14). He will not abide by idol worship. And why should he? He alone is God. Any other worship is false and utterly repugnant to him.

His name is both a hopeful promise and a stern warning. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19) That means he’s both forever faithful, despite our faithlessness, and also that he will bring judgment on those who don’t give him the honor he is due. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Deut. 5:11). This name is both the rock to cling to in the storm and the rock that will crush anyone who opposes it. May I ever be known by His name, til death makes our union complete.



There is something so powerful about community. You’ve seen it all over the internet this past week with #metoo and sharing about infant loss and miscarriage. The pain, stigma, and loneliness that accompanies a lot of the human existence is mitigated by the reality that these are shared experiences. Not only do we feel less alone when we share with others, the power of the hard thing is diminished too. I think Satan loves when we keep silent. When we stay isolated and lost in our own shame, believing that we’re the only one who has it this hard, has experienced this much pain, or that we really aren’t worth anyone’s time.

This isn’t the first time I’ve used a Harry Potter analogy (and I’m sure it isn’t the last!), but this whole theme of sharing our heavy burdens with others makes me think of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is struggling a lot in this book with feelings of isolation. He begins to feel like his burden is just a liability to his friends and maybe he’s better off tackling them on his own. He fears the darkness inside him might taint his friends and decides it’s better to keep it to himself. He thinks no one else believes in him and that he’s better off alone. But then lovely (quirky) Luna comes to him. And she says, “I don’t think that’s true. But I suppose that’s how he wants you to feel . . . if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.”

The power in loneliness is palpable. And the relief, freedom, and warmth found in community is even more so. I had a rough week recently. I was feeling overwhelmed by a lot of life’s circumstances and began to doubt God’s care for me. I finally decided to text a few friends and be honest about some of the pain I was experiencing. And you know what? Literally every single one of them was having a hard week too. They all felt lonely and isolated. Many of them were discouraged. I went to community group and opened up my heart again. I was all apologetic about crying, but quickly found that at least half the ladies had their own tears about the pain in their lives. Not a single one of us is immune to the pain of this world. And every single one of us can benefit from that load being shared.

Of course, Harry Potter didn’t have the benefit of having Jesus’ help. Not only do we benefit from the body of Christ, we have communion with the great high priest himself. And not some far off, holier-than-thou priest, no! We have Jesus, who humbled himself by coming in human form, living on this earth, and being tempted and suffering in every single way we are. Our darkness, our temptations, our weaknesses — they are no surprise to him. He knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust. He has compassion on our pain and will right all wrongs. As we draw near to him, he draws near to us — what an amazingly, glorious promise.

We have the Holy Spirit ready and waiting to intercede for us every minute of the day. We are never truly alone because we are united with him. Jesus is always with us, but we also can’t do this whole Christian walk thing alone. God has also provided the church to help bear our burdens in tangible ways. We were created as social beings and the need for the Body of Christ cannot be minimized. We are so forgetful and our hearts are deceitful– oh how we need each other! We need each other to speak the truth to us in love: to warn us when are lazy, to encourage us when we are disheartened, help us when we are weak, and be patient with us at all times (1 Thess. 5:14).


Nuance (a follow-up post)

I’ve wanted to do a follow up post to my blog from a month ago. I’m sure you know the one. It received way more attention than I’d ever imagined. I’ve been surprised by the response and haven’t really known how to comment on it. I wrote it with a very specific purpose: to answer a question people I know have been asking me. Whenever we put out a very narrowly focused statement, there are a ton of things that we don’t say. That’s the nature of nuance, right? It’s easy to have such a vision of what we are trying to accomplish in a moment that we aren’t looking at the whole picture. That was true of my post, as well as the Nashville Statement as a whole. Just because I believe the Nashville Statement is something we need, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we need.

I have been incredibly grateful for the gracious comments from many and honestly challenged by others. In light of those responses, I’d like to provide some clarity. I don’t particularly see myself as an authority on any of these issues and would rather just keep my thoughts to myself most of the time. But I also know that Jesus has given me this story and somewhat unique perspective, so I am trying my best to use it for his glory. I’ve never wanted my life to be used as a template for how anyone else should live. In my previous marriage we were always very clear to say that we didn’t think marriage was a prescriptive solution for every gay individual. Honestly, in the majority of cases I don’t think it’s advisable. But now even more so in my divorce, I don’t mean to imply that “if you follow any of the same path Brian did, you’ll eventually walk away from faith.” I don’t mean to imply that at all. I realize what happened to me was a specific situation and doesn’t mean that everyone who takes similar steps will end up at the same destination. But I do think we serve as a warning. And I do mean “we.” As Brian changed his views, I reluctantly came along. It got to a place where I found myself in sin and didn’t feel a wit of guilt over it because I was so busy emphasizing grace over truth. The warning is this (and is there for everyone): our hearts are desperately wicked and are insatiable in their desire to justify our sin.

I’d also like to address the fact that some of the dearest people in my life came from that time. I think like Jonah, we can still do ministry in the midst of running from God’s calling. And for me, that ministry was hospitality, even as my heart was often hard towards God. Those people who came into my home became family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I don’t mean to say that looking back I regret everything that came from that time. I don’t. I just regret the fact that I allowed my heart to drift and wander in that time. I absolutely was doing the best I could with the information I had, but in hindsight feel that maybe the steps we took weren’t the wisest. I think we made a lot of choices in the guise of “becoming healthier.” While Jesus absolutely longs for our flourishing and to conquer unhealthy patterns and self-conceptions, there is a danger to define “healthy” however we darn well please. Looking back, I believe we would have done well to seek health and wholeness through oneness with Christ rather than in pursuing it however we saw fit. Brian progressively felt like he was getting healthier the farther he walked away from Jesus. There’s something very wrong with that definition of healthy.

I’d also like to address the language issue concerning identity. I referenced in my post the fault in embracing being a gay Christian. Let me clarify what I meant. I think language is tricky and people have to use the language they are comfortable with. I don’t think it’s wrong necessarily to describe one’s self as gay. It’s the emphasis on the word preceding “Christian” that I find dangerous. It’s the weight and prioritization of one’s sexuality over identity in Christ that I find particularly dangerous. But in my mind gay simply means being attracted to the same sex. If people would rather use same sex attracted, fine. Doesn’t make a difference to me. As long as all our sexuality — gay or straight — is under submission to Christ.

I’d also like to make a few remarks on what I feel was left out of the Nashville statement. I really wish divorce was mentioned or that a similar statement gave clarification on it. There are a ton of grey to not-so-grey-but-often-ignored areas in divorce and remarriage that I think would have fit well into this discussion on sexual ethics. I also wish there had been a mention of the hurts the church has inflicted on the LGBT community. Or a strong statement against bullying or mention of the high suicide rate in these communities. I believe they had a really narrow goal in writing the statement — addressing very specific questions that are being asked across the national stage at the moment. So, I give the writers and signers of the statement room and time to respond to some of those omissions. Likewise, I have not stopped thinking about all the things I wanted to add to my blog post since I hit publish. My narrow focus was to clear the air about some of my previously held views and to express my gratefulness for a clear, Bible-based theology on some of these issues. But, that is not all I want to say. There are so many other questions that circle my head and churn in my stomach. Questions that the church still needs to find an answer for. I hope to address some of those issues here.

Does the church regularly injure people in the name of good theology? Yes. It is a very sad thing that this statement, as biblically based as it is, will be used to commit all kinds of atrocities. We have yet figured out how to mingle truth and grace in a way that uplifts, offers hope, and removes the stigma of particular sins. I am no more or no less of a sinner than anyone else. I desperately need God’s grace to cover over my sins, sexual and otherwise, just like every other person on earth. We might all need nuanced help depending on our proclivities, but we all need Jesus and we are all needed parts of the Body.

Has the church failed in many cases, providing condemnation instead of hope to those who struggle with sexual issues? Yes. I have personally been a victim of gossip, misunderstanding, and ostracization just by my association to my former husband. I cannot imagine how much deeper the wounds go for others. The statistics don’t lie about the amount of LGBT individuals coming from a church background who attempt suicide or other self-harm. It is astounding. It should break our hearts as much as sin does. There may be no “third way” when it comes to our theology but there HAS to be another way when it comes to our practice. I think the church has been immobilized by fear and confusion, not knowing how to interact with people instead of just debating issues. We need to do better.

Do we have a long way to go when it comes to offering hope and a sustainable, godly alternative to intimacy when it comes to those who are pursuing celibacy? Yes. I know a lot of people who struggle with same sex attraction. Many who over the years have moved towards affirming positions, some in the midst of trying to figure out what their future holds, and very few who are finding support in their churches for remaining single. Marriage and the family are often worshiped in the church. It is the holy grail, isolating those who cannot marry for various reasons, are not married for a period of time, or find themselves with their marriages ending. LGBT do a lot of things incredibly well, never more so than in creating community. No, in creating family. The church would do well to follow their example

So, those are just a few of my thoughts that have stemmed from conversations over the past month. There are so many nooks and crannies in this issue and in my story, they cannot be outlined in one or two blog posts. But hopefully this provides some clarity. And as always, I’m happy to talk with anyone in person about any of these things. Thank you again for the response to my original post and for showing me grace. I am truly grateful.


A Letter to the Brokenhearted

I’ve been asked several times, “what would you say to someone who you just found out is going through a divorce?” I’ve thought about it a lot. Of course every situation is so unique, but there are some universal experiences in heartbreak. So, I’ve put together this letter. Feel free to share it with the hurting people in your life.

Dear brokenhearted one,
Today is painful. Unspeakably so. Your heart is in shreds. Your life feels hopelessly broken. You can’t see your way through the next ten minutes, much less imagine anything beyond that. I know. Because I was you. One year ago, I was you. Everyone kept telling me it’ll get better. Hearing songs on the radio won’t always hurt. Sitting down as a family of four, instead of five, won’t always feel like daggers. Things will eventually settle in and you will be okay. Since everyone else is telling you that, I won’t. Because it doesn’t help with right now. Right now sucks.
Today, just breathe. I don’t know that anything will help ease your pain, but I know your lungs keep steadily working and your heart pounds in your broken chest. Let your body go on for you, for now, it will keep taking the next breath when you feel like you can’t. Everyone will also tell you to let yourself feel the pain. That sounded idiotic to me at the time. How can I not feel it? It is shouting at me and drowning every other thought in my head! These are the days to just let the pain be. There will be days when you want to figure out a purpose, a way forward. This is not that day. Today, let your grief be loud.
I don’t know the circumstances of your heartbreak, but I know the only one who can give you comfort. It isn’t a piece of chocolate cake or in drowning yourself in a bottle of pinot noir, though give yourself grace dear one. I know Jesus feels far away. I know it feels like the empty space next to you in bed will swallow you whole. I remember begging Jesus for some tangible comfort, to feel his arms around my tear wracked body. But he wasn’t there in that way. But he was there. He never left my side. I didn’t feel like I could pray or read Scripture when I was at my lowest, and I want you to know there is grace for that. Ask people to pray for you if you cannot do it yourself. He will listen to your angry cries, he will take whatever you throw at him. Just lean into him, whether in pain or anger.
I want you to know that there’s a reason you feel like violence has been done to your soul. It absolutely has. You were once one flesh with another human being, and that union has been ripped asunder. God describes his relationship to us in the terms of marriage. He also describes the unfaithfulness of his people in terms of adultery, and goes so far as to divorce his people. God, your God, is divorced. You are not alone. You are not hopelessly irredeemable. Your God wears the same label that you do; do not let this title become a weight around your heart that sinks you into shame.
I can promise you that in one year things will not be the same. You may not have had a choice in your divorce. It could have come unexpectedly or with years of warning, but either way, you do have choices now. You have a choice to survive. To allow the pain to make you bitter or better. But today is not for making choices. Today is a day to survive. To cry. To wail. To find comfort in friends. To sleep, feed your weary body, and to care for yourself as you can. The best thing anyone said to me during that time was this: “you cannot possibly give yourself too much grace right now.” Be patient with your wounded soul, dear one. Don’t expect anything from yourself but to keep moving forward.
Expect to cry a lot. Expect to need a lot of help. Expect to feel insane at times. But as the days go on you will find a way. Write your feelings — it really does help. Take care of the needs of the day, and you will be overwhelmed at the number of them, and then fall into the arms of your Savior. He can and will sustain you. Entrust your fears and anxieties and pains to him, you can rest because He never stops interceding for you. And know that this promise is for you: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Tomorrow will be better, eventually.

A previously brokenhearted woman


Sewn Together

My grandmother was an excellent seamstress. She excelled at almost every craft she touched, but her quilts were legendary. I always remember them hanging in her sewing room/guest room when we would visit. My sister and I would spend hours staring at her glass top cabinet filled with sewing odds and ends, searching for our favorite golden thread scissors that looked like a crane. We’d watch her sit at her sewing table, creating fabric chains that would fall to the floor in a pile. As the youngest grandchildren, we watched almost all of our cousins get married and be given her most precious gift: a custom wedding quilt.

My mom started quilting when I was in junior high. I immediately was hooked. I would sit and help her lay out quilt squares on a board covered with flannel, so they wouldn’t shift in transit. We picked out the fabric together that eventually became the first quilt I helped sew: the gorgeous watercolor Irish chain. We picked out the fabric at a store in Long Beach, right off Bushard St. — the pronunciation of the street name was a mystery to us which created endless laughter between my mom and I. Quilting has always been a family affair. They are made as a family and given to family. Being a part of this sewing legacy has always meant the world to me.

Not long after my grandmother saw the finished Irish chain quilt, she decided to make a similar one. It was a watercolor pattern but in a diamond shape. My mom returned to that same fabric store and they picked out the fabric together. It was a striking, rose-colored, King size quilt to cover the bed in the guest house. It remained there for many years. I remember countless weekends of playing in the pool, being barked at by their corgie Mamie, and running into that guest house, soaking wet to use the bathroom. That quilt was always there. It meant my grandmother, a weekend with my family, listening to old classics being crooned on the radio, the desert heat, and salami sandwiches with pickles and dijon. It meant klondike bars while watching golf with my grandfather and sneaking off to play heart and soul on the organ with my sister.

By the time my sister got married my grandmother was fading a bit in her abilities. Her slow mental decline became more apparent when working with the intricacies of quilt making. My mom and I re-sewed nearly the entire quilt she had made for my sister’s wedding. A beautiful blue and white wedding ring quilt, not a quilt to be trifled with. Two years later it was my turn to get married and we knew grandmother wouldn’t be able to make me a quilt. She was starting to downsize her sizable quilt collection and asked if I’d like any of the ones she’d already made. I knew without a doubt which one I wanted. The rose-colored, watercolor diamond quilt. I was so happy when she presented it to me on my wedding day.

My grandmother died three years ago, the day before my 30th birthday. Anything that she touched has become incredibly valuable to me, not the least of which is that quilt. When Brian left I said a lot of weird things. Once in a heated moment, trying to convey how awful the whole situation was I told him, “I’m so glad my grandmother isn’t alive to see this.” She would’ve been heartbroken. Well, now I’m remarried and it often hits me how sad I am that she does not get to know my new husband. That he will never know her laugh, her Lucille Ball type qualities, her home that holds some of the most precious memories I have, or her quilts. We eloped, so I didn’t really miss the tradition of being presented a quilt at my wedding. But it still makes me sad sometimes.

This last weekend we used our normal blanket on our camping trip so while it was being washed, I pulled out that old rose-colored diamond quilt and laid it on the bed. It felt strange. It was a gift to Brian and me, but more than that it was a gift from my grandmother to me. I have lost a lot of things these past two years, but I was not about to lose this quilt. Not with all it has meant to me. I have grown to be thankful that it wasn’t made specifically for us. It was made with my mom to welcome family and cover the many people who stayed at my grandparent’s house. That’s just what she did, make people feel welcome and her quilts wrapped people in tangible love.

And now that quilt covers Johnathan and I as we sleep. It brought me to tears, feeling her love and presence in the seams of that quilt. Knowing she chose each fabric, touched each square, and sewed every stitch. Needles. Thread. Fabric. Scissors. A simple equation that adds up to something so much bigger than its parts. My broken heart and life are being sewn together by my Savior, in a crazy pattern I never would’ve chosen for myself. And yet I’d like to think that if my grandmother was here she would smile and say, “Isn’t He good?”


Little Blessings

We were having a nice little family trip to Starbucks when we came face-to-face with the way culture completely devalues children. I had taken the kiddos outside after getting our drinks while my husband had a few things to finish up inside before joining us. Now, I will be the first to admit: kids can be annoying. MY kids can be annoying. And loud. And rambunctious. But on this particular day, they were just sweet and happy. Several people had smiled at them and said “hello”. My kids are on the extremely extroverted side of the spectrum and they love talking to people, were being generally friendly, said “please” and “thank you” when ordering — you get the picture. They were cheerful, a little oblivious to other people trying to get by, but overall, their behavior was better than average.

As my husband headed outside to join us, he was walking behind a group of 20-something gals. He stopped dead in his tracks when one of the ladies, in reference to our kids, said, “don’t you just want to kick them?” She was quickly mortified when he spoke up with, “you mean my children?” She turned bright red and quickly left. But wow. My sweet and friendly kids, just being kids, somehow invited her complete disdain and even a joke about physically harming them. Yeesh.

But isn’t that culture today? Isn’t it sad? Children are seen as obstructions to our days, annoyances to our plane flights, interruptions to our dinners, and inconveniences to our lives. Their value is so minimized, it’s no wonder that their rights are also next to nothing. Not unlike the time of Jesus. At his birth, there was mass murder of babies and young children. While I doubt (or at least hope!) that this wasn’t approved of by the people as a whole, it definitely revealed the expendability of children and how they were seen as subservient to achieving one’s personal goals and ambitions (in this case, King Herod not wanting to be usurped by another King).

And yet, Jesus: always counter-cultural, always bucking the system, always surprising people. He welcomes the little children. He values their faith as something for us to learn from. He declares them to be precious. He takes time out of his busy schedule to pause and hold them, finding them to be just as worthwhile of an audience as those he preached to and healed. It isn’t surprising that a culture that devalues children then devalues people — and all kinds of hatred and fighting follow. If society can’t even view small children with a bit of charity, how will they ever see value in their fellow man? How will they learn to dialogue with others who differ from them when they don’t even have the patience for childish behavior?

I get it. Kids are annoying. Adults can be irritating. Heck, most of the dialogue happening on social media these days is downright exasperating. But we have to see past the childishness and the foolishness to see what Jesus valued in other people: their souls. Regardless of how we differ and disagree, I hope we can take the time to see all people have value because all people were created in God’s image. When Jesus takes time to focus and praise little children there is a lesson for us to learn: God loves people, pursues people, takes time with them, and is patient with their nonsense. We should strive to do the same.


Eyes on Jesus

There’s a phrase I hear a lot around my house. And by a lot I mean, “if I had a nickel for every time I heard it, I’d be a millionaire.” My three kids have a variety of responsibilities around the house: homework, setting the table, putting away toys, folding laundry, etc. Without fail, I have one dawdling and hemming and hawing, trying to delay the inevitable. When I prompt them with a reminder, “Buddy, it’s time to fold the laundry.” The common refrain is, “But so-and-so isn’t doing it!” Every. Day. Most of the time is exasperates me, but occasionally it hits me as quite profound. Is it any different than the question Peter asked Jesus in John 21:21, “Lord, what about this man?” Is it really any different than what we do all day long in our prayers?

God, why was she able to get pregnant so quickly and I remain infertile? Why is that marriage blessed even when it sprung from an unhealthy start, while mine failed despite the best intentions? Why do I have to have such strong convictions while someone else seems to feel no guilt? Why do I have so many illnesses while someone else seems to always be healthy and strong? Why are my efforts to grow a business never successful and others seem to have the Midas touch? Why are some people called to extraordinary sacrifice in their Christian walk while others seem physically blessed beyond measure? Why was I born into wealth and privilege and others starve to death? Why can’t I eat whatever I want and not gain weight like so-and-so? Why are people born with disabilities and with struggles that will make their life so much harder than mine? Why are some asked to remain single and held to celibacy while others enjoy the gift of marriage?

Why her? Why him? Why me? Why not me? Why, God?

The answer? Eyes on Jesus. Stop looking at everybody and everything else and look to Jesus. And as you look to Jesus focus on what he has specifically for you. What is Jesus asking you to do? It’s the same answer given to Peter in John 21:22 “As for you, follow me.” And in some ways, it’s the same answer I give my children. “Buddy, what did I ask you to do?” In that moment things seem unfair to him, for whatever reason. But I’m asking him to trust me. Trust that I have his best interest in mind. That I will make sure everyone gets what they deserve — that if the other child really is slacking, that they won’t get the same reward as the one doing their job faithfully. My kid’s vary in age from 3 to 8, which means the oldest often feels more weight of responsibility than the others. It often feels unfair to him, no doubt. But what I’m asking him to do in that moment is to believe I have his good in mind. Stop looking at the facts as they appear from his perspective and trust ME.

Now, I’m an imperfect mother. Even as I’m asking my son to trust me, I know that I’m going to fail him. But thankfully that is not the case with our perfect God. Not only is he trustworthy because of his character, revealed in Scripture: wise, loving, gracious, forgiving, unchanging, powerful, etc. We also know he is trustworthy because of his consistent track record of faithfulness towards people. Psalm after psalm recount the deeds of God, done on behalf of faithless people. How he rights all wrongs and rewards those who seek him all their days. So when he says, “trust me, look to me, follow me,” I have every confidence that he knows better than I do. That asking “why her” and “why me” is only going to generate discontent and distrust in my Lord.

As I attempt to parent these small children, I recognize all the ways that they cannot see the big picture. They see their small slice of the pie and it feels unfair. It reminds me that I don’t always know the whole story in my life either. The piece I can see appears unjust when I am not focusing on the perfect justice of my God. I don’t know why some people will have harder lives than others, but I do know that my all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful God does. I choose to trust him and keep my eyes on Jesus when life doesn’t make sense.