The Greater Tragedy

I just don’t want to listen to that song again.

The thought passed through my head after a second person brought up “More Than Anything,” by Natalie Grant.

It’s lyrics read:

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

I could find no fault with the song’s message or melody, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way. A prayer for Olivia’s healing is never far from my lips, and the lyrics prodded some of the most tender places in my heart:

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak
And You know I’d give anything for a remedy

So often the words we don’t want to hear are the ones that we NEED to hear most.

And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today
But even if You don’t, I pray
Help me want the Healer 
More than the healing

Months later, I am reading about the Exodus–how God used Moses to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt and lead them into the wilderness, headed for the land He had promised would be theirs. It’s a story replete with the miraculous and also with tragedy.

God parted the Red Sea so that Israel could walk between two walls of water on dry land. He guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This, after Israel had seen the wonders that brought about their deliverance from Egypt.

When I place myself in the shoes of people who were witness to such power, it’s hard to understand why the book of Exodus sometimes sounds like a broken tape. God performs a miracle. The people complain. God proves His faithfulness. The people fall away. And … repeat.

Israel sang God’s praises after their Egyptian enemies were drowned at the Red Sea, but days later the people were grumbling against Him when they couldn’t find water.

Bitter, undrinkable water was supernaturally made sweet, and the people marveled. But it wasn’t long before they were murmuring again–this time over a lack of food.

So, God rained down manna, the bread of Heaven, every day for forty years. He brought water from rocks and sent quail in massive numbers. Even clothes and shoes did not wear out. Deuteronomy1:31 says that God carried them “as a man carries his son.” The following verse reveals their response:

“But in spite of this you did not Trust the LORD your God, who went before you on the journey …”–Deuteronomy 1:32

An entire generation of God’s people wandered around in the wilderness for forty years and ultimately failed to receive the promise of God, because they could not–or would not–trust Him. Only Joshua and Caleb believed God and eventually entered the promised land, together with the children of those whose faith had faltered.

The men and women brought out of Egypt never received God’s promise for themselves, and that is tragic. The greater tragedy, though, is that so many of these same men and women never learned to yearn for God’s presence over His power.

Quench our thirst. Feed our hunger. Ease the burden. Smooth the way.

How many times have I prayed for things to be easier or for the answer to come more quickly? So often, I have made an idol of the promise and forgotten the Promise Keeper. Stiff-necked, I have looked only at my great need, not lifting my face to the greatness of God.

But the promise is worth nothing without the presence of the One who gave it.

“The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Go up from here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your offspring … Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go up with you because you are a stiff-necked people; otherwise, I might destroy you on the way.’ When the people heard this bad news, they mourned and didn’t put on their jewelry.”–Exodus 33:1, 3

But one man hungered for God more than anything, and his passion for God’s presence changed everything. Moses set up a tent for the purpose of meeting with God. There, The LORD would speak with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11).” You can hear the devotion in Moses’ words:

“If your presence does not go, don’t make us go up from here (vs. 15)”

The sincerity of Moses’ request changed God’s mind. His presence did go with the people, and the younger generation came into the “land flowing with milk and honey,” possessing the promise of God.

While the great promise of Moses’ time was Canaan land, the great Promise of our time is the Holy Spirit. He is God’s presence in the earth today, the Spirit of Christ living in and working through those who belong to Him.

“This promise belongs to you and to your children and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.”–Acts 2:39

And hasn’t that been the point all along? That God would gather to Himself people who desire His presence above all else?

My prayer for myself is this:

God, Help me me be like Joshua and Caleb, who believed Your Word, remained faithful through the wilderness and received Your promise. But even more than that, help me be like Moses, who valued Your presence over Your power.

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

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Processed with VSCO with s2 preset




Burnt Breakfast & Spilled Lunch

Yesterday, I dumped my lunch down the side of my pants and onto the floor of the teachers’ lounge. Today, I burned a breakfast corndog. In the microwave. At school.

As I stood and watched students cough their way through the smoke pouring into the hallway, it occurred to me that:

A) There is a reason why I stay out of the kitchen whenever possible.

B) I don’t have it all together.

I feel like I need to say that again.

I don’t have it all together.

Today I forgot my keys, my jacket and the charger for Olivia’s feeding pump. I’m just getting around to returning missed phone calls (days late), and will probably end up putting off my to-do list for “just a little longer.” As a person who takes pride in competency and being on top of things, the current state of my life has me feeling pretty pride-less.

And maybe pride-less is a good thing.

As I sit here typing, words scroll through my mind like breaking news at the bottom of the television screen.

What if God has allowed the circumstances of my life to bring me here? To the point where there is nothing and no one to rely on but Him. Not even myself.

These are my words, spoken to Robert last night as we sat on the couch–both worn down and out, praying the baby would sleep just a little longer and that Olivia’s machines would stay silent. He wants his wife back, and I want myself back.

I found out recently that my thyroid hasn’t been working correctly. They say that’s the reason for the mental fog and emotional flood I’ve been wading through. It’s why I’m tired no matter how much I sleep, and my body just doesn’t feel right.

I’m too certain of God’s love to think that He would cause my thyroid to malfunction, but I do believe that our good God has a way of using the broken things in life to teach us how to find all that we need in Jesus. In Him alone there is …

–rest, though the nights are sleepless

–peace when emotions run high

–truth in the midst of confusion and chaos.

And the strength to go on. It’s something I didn’t see coming. That at the bottom of a pile of failures, I could find fortitude. How bravery can be born out of fragility. That prideless-ness creates emptiness–making room for God’s BIGNESS to show up.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”–John 3:30 (NLT)

Seasons don’t last forever, and I do ache for the day when my life doesn’t feel as if it is hanging by a thread. When the things that used to come so easily don’t feel nearly impossible. But while I’m here in this stage of diapers that far outnumber date nights, I pray I remember:

There is such a difference between stressing and stretching, between pressuring and pressing through.

So, may the capacity of my life be stretched as I give myself fully to Jesus. May I press into Him as He carries me through.

Pride demands that we shoulder a burden we weren’t built to carry, but surrender’s gift is a freedom we were created to walk in.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.”–1 Peter 5:6‭-‬7 (CSB)

Author of Life

*I feel more exposed in writing this post than I did while lying in an operating room waiting to be cut open for the birth of our second child. My dialogue with God over the past few days has been, “Do You REALLY want me to write about that?” But as vulnerable as this feels, I am also filled with peace in knowing that trust and obedience are worth it. So here goes …

Several years ago, I walked into a teachers’ lounge and overheard a friend talking about a family she knew who had a child with a genetic disorder. The mother found out she was pregnant with another baby, and my friend couldn’t understand “how they could even consider having another child,” knowing the risk of the baby being born with the same disease.

I doubt my friend knew I was in the room, and I’m certain she didn’t know the depth of my personal struggle over that very issue. The words were hurtful, because they seemed to devalue the life of my little Olivia–as if children with genetic disorders are not worthy of the gift of life. (I know she didn’t mean it that way, but it’s hard for a mama not to take things to heart.)

Even more than hurting my feelings, that conversation I wish I’d never heard fed my fear. Years passed, but fear’s familiar grip kept a hold on my heart whenever the thought of having another child crossed my mind. The memory of sitting in a cold and sterile doctor’s office would come rushing back, and I would hear the geneticist’s words again, “There is a 25 percent chance that any biological child you and your husband conceive would have the disorder.”

It is difficult for me to describe how helpless I felt when it came to escaping the fear of getting pregnant again. I knew the Bible and that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7),” but somehow I felt like I was always on the losing side of this battle with anxiety.

The crazy thing is, as scared as I was of having a second child, I had perfect peace when it came to Olivia. I knew that God would take care of her. I also knew that the fear I was drowning in wasn’t from Him. So, I searched scripture, prayed often, leaned on my husband, and sought help from others that I trust. Even so, I continued to struggle until a little over a year ago.

That January, my extended family had chosen to fast and pray together. I kept a prayer journal, and one of the things on my prayer list was complete freedom from fear.

I still remember how it felt when the fear left. Peace flooded my soul as my heart suddenly exploded with the realization of something my brain had known all along:

God alone is the Author of life.

This was true when Adam and Eve were created, when Isaac’s birth fulfilled the long-awaited promise to Abraham, and when my little Livi was born. He is not the cause of her pain, but God is the source of Olivia’s life. He has a good plan for her.

These simple truths–that only God can give life, that He is good and His plans are good–they lit up my life in a way that banished fear. While I have felt afraid at times, the pervasive, gripping fear from before no longer has permission to stay.

I didn’t know what God had planned for the future of our family–whether we would adopt or have another child of our own–but I did know that I could trust Him either way.

Six months later, joy was all that I felt when I found out I was pregnant. We happened to be headed to youth camp, and I got to tell Robert the good news at the place where we first met.

I prayed for a doctor who would do his job well while also respecting our point of view, and God answered. I trusted God with my worries about people and their opinions, and He surrounded us with family and friends, church family and co-workers who made the entire pregnancy one giant celebration.

And God sustained me with a peace that passes all undersanding–a deep sense of certainty that my life and Robert’s, Olivia’s and her new baby brother’s, are safe in His faithful and capable hands.

Five days before our new baby was scheduled to be born by c-section, Olivia was careflighted to Cook Children’s hospital. No one thought it was a good idea for me to go, so I looked on as Robert crawled into the helicopter with Olivia and immediately began to pray that God would watch over her and bring her home before the birth of her brother.

Since that moment, very little has gone as I would have planned, and there have been many opportunities for fear to move back into its old room in my heart. But every encounter with fear has been met with a stronger wave of the grace of God.

Olivia didn’t come home in time, and we brought our little AJ (Aiden Justice) into the world without her. But people that we love and trust stayed with Olivia and made it possible for Robert to come home for the birth.

AJ’s heartrate dropped right after he was delivered, and all I could do was pray and watch from across the room while they stitched me up. But he avoided a trip to the NICU and got better without any medical intervention.

My mom needed to stay in the hospital with Olivia and had to be away at a time when I badly wanted her near. But she brought my baby girl home happier than she’s been in a long time. In fact, Olivia has smiled several times in the past two weeks–something we’ve been missing for a while now.

In the end, we all came home from the hospital on the same day and got to spend our first night in our own home as a complete family. God is good!

Tomorrow I have to take AJ to the doctor, because he failed his newborn hearing test twice. It is another opportunity for fear to creep in, but something happened that has helped me fix my eyes on Jesus once again.

I was laying in the hospital bed watching the nurse conduct the hearing screening, and I could tell by the red on the screen and the look on her face that the result wasn’t good.

Mentally, I started what I can only describe as a pros and cons list–only one side could’ve been titled “Reasons to Believe” and the other “Reasons to Fear.” The fear side started to fill up with failed hearing tests and genetic probability, but then something occurred to me:

It doesn’t matter what or how much is written on the “fear” side of the list. One promise from God outweighs it all!

Abraham lived this way after he had received a promise from God about having a son:

“And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.”–Romans 4:19-21

So, fear doesn’t have a place here anymore. My childrens’ futures are secure in the hands of a God who is forever faithful.

Forever, O Lord , Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations.”-Psalms 119:89‭-‬90


I almost wrote this post as a “Letter to Me.” After all, hindsight is 20/20, and 31-year-old me now understands things that seemed painfully elusive in the past.

But to be honest, even if I had the power to deliver a message to my former self, I’m not sure she would’ve taken it to heart. You see, I am only just beginning to see the light of a truth that I either couldn’t or wouldn’t see before:

When you look for reasons to be discontent, you will always find them.

Thank God the opposite is also true:

When you look for reasons to be grateful, you will always find them.

Why did it take me so long to grasp this simple truth, and why do I still struggle at times to center myself in its clarity?

I’m not completely sure, but I think it has something to do with perception. And perception has everything to do with the direction our eyes take.

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time in gymnastics lessons. One of the first things you learn as a gymnast is that your body and all of its mometum will follow the direction of your line of sight. In other words, where the eyes turn, everything else follows.

I think this is true of life as well. Though we sometimes have no say over what happens to us, we have total control over what we decide to focus on in every situation. Life’s momentum and the way we experience it, will follow the path our eyes choose to take.

If we choose poorly, or not at all, our level of contentment will be subject to circumstances–rising and falling on a whim.

This is where I have lived for much of my life. Someone did me wrong, so I wallow in self pity. Things haven’t turned out like I hoped, so disappointment sets in and stays way too long. Hopes and dreams feel broken or far away, and I wonder if I’ll ever feel fulfilled. The waiting seems to drag on and on, and I find myself feeling restless.

Of course it hasn’t always been negative–not even nearly so. There have been many times when circumstances reminded me to be grateful.

I look around at the awesome number of people that genuinely love and support me, and my heart is overwhelmed. I get involved in something that I truly enjoy–something that draws out the best in me, and I almost explode with joy. A trip to a third world country makes me realize just how much I have to be thankful for. Tragedy hits close to home, and I’m grateful to be alive.

The thing about circumstances, whether good or bad, is that they change. Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote about a perplexing phenomenon: contentment that remains the same regardless of changing circumstances.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”-Philippians 4:11‭-‬12 ESV

The next verse is the key to Paul’s secret. It’s one that many know well but few put into practice consistently:

“I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.”–Philippians 4:13 ESV (emphasis mine)

Lasting contentment will never be found in WHAT we look at, because what we look at is subject to change.

If we want contentment that endures, it must not be found in something but in SOMEONE. That someone is Jesus.

When I fixate on the negative in my life, I am handing the power over to the the originator of all that is evil: Satan–my enemy and the thief who only comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

Whatever and whoever I stare at long enough will eventually become my god.

When I look to the Father–the Author of every good gift (James 1:17)–I gain the strength that I need to endure. I am filled with His peace and joy, which transcend all circumstances.

I have so many reasons to be grateful:

–A husband who loves me

–A sweet little girl who just turned six and a little boy coming any day now

–A network of family and friends that I cherish

–Daily opportunities to serve the kingdom of God, together with a church family that is precious to me

–A job that I’m passionate about in a school that I love

–Beautiful music and good books and 280 calorie pints of low-carb Halo ice cream

There are also things that could stir up discontement if I allow it. I choose not to dwell on those here, because the truth is that even the blessings I listed above exist within the realm of a broken, suffering world.

The only safe place to fix my eyes is on the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:18). I can trust Him with my blessings and with the difficult things too. So, I lift my eyes to Jesus–the only Source of real contentment.

And I am grateful.

Better than a shiny, heart-shaped balloon

Another holiday is passing us by. This time, it’s Valentine’s Day, and we’re separated again by necessity–me and our little Livi in a hospital and you working hard for us at home.

Doctor’s orders and the baby still growing inside mean no sweets for me. But heart-shaped balloons, dropped off by a volunteer, are floating around the room and I wore purple in honor of the day.

Shiny as those balloons are, I know they are not what love is made of.

Love is you on a rough night–jumping out of bed more times than I can count, making sure our Olivia is OK, and trying to let me sleep.

It’s you working so hard all day to build a company and then coming home to do more than your fair share.

It’s you–still trying to make me laugh even when my mood makes the effort seem futile.

Your unrelenting faith keeps holding on to God and His love and His Word, no matter what you see. I lean in when things get hard–me leaning on you and us leaning on Jesus.

Filled with hope, you talk about the future, and my heart is strengthened.

You pray, and fear flies away.


They say St. Valentine was martyred for performing secret weddings for Christian couples during a ban on marriage.

Whether that is true, I’m not sure. But I know real love comes through sacrifice. I know it, because I’ve seen you live the truth right in front of me–the gospel of Jesus Christ in vibrant color.

I don’t know what I thought love was going to be like when I fell for you over a decade ago. It’s been a long time, and the person I am today is so different from that 19-year-old girl.

I do know this–that my heart aches to offer you even a measure of what you’ve given me. That my prayer is for God’s kind of love to multiply in me and shower you with the overflow.

With all of my heart, I also know that if time were rolled back, I would choose you again.

I do choose the man you are now, today and every day for the rest of my life.

Hope Remains

Olivia is off the ventilator now and doing well, praise God!

These last few days–after an unexpected helicopter ride and hours spent watching a ventilator breath for my child–I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Not the fleeting sort, but God’s “anchor for the soul” kind (Heb. 6:19) .

What a gift hope can be! It’s rooted in our experience of God’s unfailing love. We know that God loves us dearly, and so we can have faith in His Word and in who He is. That produces peace that persists through the most difficult of times. Even in hardship, we can be filled with joy and expectation, knowing that God is good and faithful to His promises.

It’s amazing to me how God can use a temporary circumstance to build in us the things that are eternal. Hope. Faith. Love.

That is my prayer for me and for you–especially during a season that has always been about hope:

–Hope at the words of a prophet, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given (Is. 9:6) …”
–Hope for Israel’s coming Messiah, unquenched by hundreds of years of silence
–Hope in the promise of a Savior, spoken through an angel to a confused teenage girl
–Hope that led wise men from the East to follow a star, despite the length of their journey
–Hope that spurred a group of terrified shepherds on to Bethlehem that first Christmas night

… and hope that was answered by a baby, “wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).”


“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”–Romans 15:13

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”–Romans 5:3‭-‬5

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”–1 Corinthians 13:13

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.”
–“O Holy Night”

Through the Fire

My sweet mama sang a song this morning in church that reminded me of the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is found in Daniel chapter 3 and tells how three Hebrew men–having been taken into captivity by the most powerful Babylonian king in history–refused to bow to a massive 90 foot idol.

King Nebuchadnezzar had erected the statue and then gathered officials from every province. He demanded that, at the sound of musical instruments playing, they kneel and worship the golden image. Music began to play and the people bowed–all except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

The king “flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him (verse 13).” He then offered them another opportunity to bow:

“I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”–Daniel 3:15 NLT

The words of the Babylonian king reverberate in my head.

“… one more chance …”

“… what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

You see, this past weekend brought with it another chance to cower to fear–another chance to question the heart and ability of God.

I was at a playoff pep-rally on Friday when I got a text from Olivia’s nurse saying that she wasn’t doing well and the medicine wasn’t helping. I got a ride back to school and found Olivia crying–in pain maybe, or from one of the neurological episodes that have been more frequent lately.

The episode was getting intense, causing her oxygen level to drop, so I asked the nurse to give her more medicine. It was the last dose she could have for hours, and we watched her suffer for another 45 minutes before it finally started to kick in.

This had gone on for weeks. I’d talked with the neurologist at Cook Children’s, but nothing we tried was working. So, I called Robert and we decided to take her into the emergency room in Fort Worth. I guess I hoped that if we put Olivia in front of a doctor, someone would find a way to help.

After hours in the emergency room, though, the ER doctor came in and sat down next to me:

“Neurology doesn’t have any more ideas.”

The doctor offered to admit us to the hospital anyway–if that was what I wanted. But he made sure I knew that there would be nothing new as far as treatment or medication changes. To increase the dose of Olivia’s meds would be to put her at risk for other, worse complications.

So, we came home and I faced a new opportunity to bow.


When someone you love has been given a terminal diagnosis, doctors and people tend to want to prepare you for the pain and ugliness they envision further down the road. Fearing a future moment and its potential to cause damage, they try to soften the blow early on. This is something that our family has dealt with for years now, and I get it. They mean well, and maybe they’re not wrong.

Still, I let go of Olivia a long time ago. With God’s help, that act of surrender is something I repeat each time I feel my heart being gripped by fear and my hands clenched in a posture of willfulness. But I release her to the tender, open hands of our loving Father–not to the schemes of the enemy of her soul and mine. I bow to my God–not to fear’s idols of control, self-sufficiency, and finding security in what the world can offer.

Because there is an unseen spiritual battle behind this formidable physical one, and the outcome of the spiritual is SO much more important than the one I can see.

There is much I don’t understand, but one thing I know is this: fear is not from God. In fact, HUNDREDS of times the Bible tells and teaches us not to be afraid.

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9 NLT

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”–Psalms 23:4 ESV

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”-‘1 John 4:18a ESV

… and my personal favorite:

“Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”–Mark 5:36 HCSB

Fear will become a king, a god, an idol … if we let it.

The love of God will overwhelm fear … if we let it.

So as I face “one more chance” to bow, my answer has to be a resounding no. With Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I say:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”–Daniel 3:16‭-‬18 NLT

I don’t want to walk through fire. Watching my baby hurt is heart-wrenching. I don’t want my family to walk through fire. If only there was an easy answer–a quick fix for the pain. But I believe that if we must walk through it, we won’t be there alone. Our God is with us, and I trust that we’ll come out on the other side unscathed.

“So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!”-‘Daniel 3:23‭-‬27 NLT

The same God who walked through the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is with us too. He has promised it:

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”–Isaiah 43:2 NLT

Since Olivia was diagnosed almost 5 years ago, I’ve known there is no medical cure. Yet, I have always felt a sense of obligation to lean on the knowledge of doctors and medical professionals. There’s nothing wrong with that. God has used them many times to help our sweet Livi.

But oddly enough, now that I’ve heard the doctors say, “We have no more ideas,” I feel a sense of relief and freedom. Like I can give myself permission to throw the full weight of my trust on God.

“I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord , who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.”–Psalms 121:1‭-‬3 NLT

My hope is in Him alone–by necessity and by choice. And I believe I will hear the Nebuchadnezzars of this world proclaim:

“There is no other god who can rescue like this!”–Daniel 3:29 NLT

Bucket Fillers

I was a “bucket filler” for Halloween this year. Problem is, I didn’t know what a bucket filler was until after I had already covered my shirt with confetti shapes and climbed into my very own bucket–a spray painted laundry basket with the bottom cut out.

“What are you Mrs. Chapman?” asked a curious student decked out in a Bulldog helmet and full pads.

“You’ll find out soon!” I answered, secretly hoping that I would too.

In retrospect, I really should’ve Googled the phrase or asked one of my fellow bucket fillers to explain. (Our fourth grade team of teachers dressed alike.)

But I was soon enlightened when we sat down as a grade level to read “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud:

“All day long, everyone in the whole wide world walks around carrying an invisible bucket. You can’t see it, but it’s there.”

As the book progressed, I learned that bucket fillers are those who consistently pour into the “buckets” of those around them through kind words, actions and generosity.

The story was perfect for elementary students. It made me feel inspired and also a little overwhelmed, to be honest. All I could picture was my growing collection of spinning plates.

The author’s words were soon buried beneath a pile of unfinished tasks, lost in the busyness of work and home.

Until I was scrolling through Facebook a couple of days later and came upon a blog post by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp. The article was about … buckets, of all things:

“Maybe empty buckets — are the fullest kinds of buckets.”

And …

“Christ poured Himself out — to make us new vessels. And as we pour out the Christ in us — Christ makes new vessels all around us — and in us.”

Her words fell like raindrops on a thirsty heart. See, lately I’ve become keenly aware that my bucket is not emptied near often enough.

I’ve watched noble examples of the many people in my life who give of themselves until it hurts …

• The teacher who’s plate is over-full, and yet she makes time to mentor others.

• The hurting ones who set aside their own grief to comfort another.

• The pastor’s wife who takes the time she doesn’t really have to offer a listening ear.

• The husband who gives and gives some more, with no thought for himself.

• The mom who is generous, almost to a fault.

At the same time my eyes are being opened to the immense need that is present in my own circle of influence …

• That young student in a class of 18 who really needs some one-on-one time, and the other one who takes my attention by force for reasons I haven’t been able to sort through yet.

• The sweet daughter who needs everything, yet asks for nothing. I would do most anything to make her smile.

• The teenagers who struggle with identity and self worth and finding their way forward in a messed up world.

• The hungry ones and the broken. The hurting and those who struggle.

It is so easy to feel helpless. Then there’s me and my own great need.

I think sometimes the pain in our stories makes us want to hold onto what we have–especially those things that seem the most fragile and fleeting.

And when we fear we won’t have enough of something–whether time or money, moments of peace or the strength to go on–we start with the stockpiling and secret stashes.

It’s hoarding really, but that’s hard to recognize if you’re the one doing it.

Of course there is a balance to life that only God’s sweet Spirit can teach, but holding on for fear of running out just doesn’t feel like trust.

And in the deepest places of my heart, I so badly want it to be said of me, “She trusted God.”

I think of the widow in I Kings 17 who had “only a handful of flour” and “a little cooking oil.” She was asked to give the last she had, and through her obedience, God provided more than enough.

So, I’m beginning to believe that the answer to my need, and “theirs” too, is found at the bottom of the bucket.

That weakness makes way for God’s strength, and emptiness is where grace is found.

I remember that this is God’s way.

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.”–Luke 17:33


Teach me to be a bucket filler even when it’s scary. Help me trust that You will always be enough. When I’m tempted to hold on for dear life, show me how to let go. When my own story hurts and it feels safer to build walls, remind me that those walls will keep the love from flowing out. I believe that You are able to fill me up anew, even as I allow my life to be poured out.

In Jesus’ name,


“Pouring out your heart — is what will actually hold your heart together. Pouring out your life — is what will elevate your life.”–Ann Voskamp

“And remember, when you fill someone else’s bucket, you fill your own bucket too.”–Carol McCloud