Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Springtime of My Grief

photo by Danetta Kellar
Life Emerging By the Creek

“What I would give to just go back to last week.”

These were the words of a grieving friend recently after the heart shattering loss of a child.

The sad truth is that we cannot go back, we can only go forward, whether we want to or not.

This time last year I was on the family farm, tucked away in my writing retreat, marveling at the emerging springtime around me. 

The words flowed from a place deep within me, like the roaring creek waters beside the cabin, rushing clear and crisp like hope. I was enamored with the vision. The vision of life emerging from death.

My spirit soared as I roamed the hills and roads, stopping to examine every sign of green life that persistently and heroically pressed its beauty upward through winter’s dead ground. God’s promise of life was tangible, it was audible, it was visible, it was fragrant. And my heart exulted in the future.

I have learned that God often fills us that we may be poured out for His purposes. 

The joy and vision He instilled in me last springtime on the mountain was for purposes and glory I could not imagine, still cannot fully fathom. They stand at the door of my present grief, asking questions I cannot answer.

A few months after my springtime retreat, evil broke into our place of peace and senselessly robbed the life of one who was dear. During the height of summer it crept in under the cover of darkness and changed us forever.

My uncle, the faithful, eccentric, grouchy one, the quiet helper of all who were in need, was lured from his house one night by a familiar voice of one whom he had helped. Moments later, he lay on his porch dying, the robbers taking what they could carry.  

The porch of our childhood memories, where the swing moves gently in the summer breeze, was the last thing he saw.

Our beautiful family farm became a place of horror, of terrible images we cannot now unsee. The place where we have celebrated so many of life’s passages became a place where we now grieve a life stolen and shattered. Winter has blown cold and lonely this year, paralyzing our hearts with sorrow.

It is springtime again. We know we have to go back there, for farms do not tend themselves. Fields do not mow themselves, gardens do not weed themselves, and hearts do not heal themselves. The winter is past and life is calling us to come and tend it.

Today I am wondering how I will be able to breathe that air again. Will it suffocate me with the weight of devastation? Will the birds sing a different song, a mournful refrain, in the birch trees? Am I courageous enough to believe and trust that life will indeed come out of this death?

It does not seem fair that the flowers appear and the grass grows green when what is precious is lost, taken away. But we are not promised fairness, nor are we promised a life free of loss and pain. 

We are promised life.

Life that rises impossibly out of death. It bursts forth with brilliant hues, its beauty intensified against the backdrop of our pain.

Life that rises shockingly, scandalous in its opposition to the rules of man.

Life that heals our broken hearts.

And in His great mercy, the Creator of Springtime sends his trumpet-bearers, declaring their glory-songs. Hope! Trust! Life will rise out of this desolation! 

The flowers and the trees are radiant epistles from heaven, beckoning us nearer. They call us to Hope, to knowing death is not the end, but the beginning.

I choose to set my hope upon the promise of Life right now, as the springtime of my grief emerges irrepressibly around me. 

Are you struggling to move forward from the devastation of grief? Does springtime seem an insult to your pain? You are not alone. I am praying for you, broken one, that wherever you find yourself today, you can hope with me.

Share your story of springtime hope with me.


We are not promised fairness, nor a life free of loss and pain. We are promised life out of death. (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When You Need to Hide

I grew up under the shadow of a great mountain. Rocky crags and moss-covered cliffs rose like watchful protectors above our small community, and I ran to them for the shelter I could not find in the walls of my childhood home.

My favorite place was a hiding place. Far up the mountain amidst tall, ancient oaks stood a rock face that emerged boldly from the earth, a God-built fortress beckoning me to explore, to find safety in its ramparts. 

I don’t remember the day I discovered the cleft in the rock. It seems to have always been there in my memory, and I can’t recall a time it was not my own refuge. I could just fit inside, with enough room to lean my back against one wall and rest my knees on the opposite. It was the ideal place to hide.

One day as I was exploring the mountain, a sudden storm came with high wind and heavy rain. I quickly climbed into my secret place and waited, watching with fascination the torrent outside. I was safe and dry while the world turned sideways.

When the anger was too much in our house I would climb the distance to my hiding place and tuck myself into the quiet until my heart stilled again. When I was afraid, I would run to the rock and find strength in its solid silence. Some of my earliest conversations with God happened in the cleft of that rock. 

As an adult I have often longed for the safety of that cleft. Its strong image in my memory has stayed me many times during my journey to wholeness and healing. As I have gazed back over the landscape of my life, my childhood hiding place stands like a promise, a memorial to God’s faithfulness to a wounded and frightened little girl.

Though I have since grown up, my default reaction to adversity even today is to run away, to hide. It was so easy to climb inside my fortress on that mountain long ago.

We all have moments when we need to hide.

I have come to understand that though I can no longer run to my mountain refuge, there is yet a cleft in the rock made just for me. It is a sure hiding place, a safe refuge where my heart is quieted and settled. 

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. -Isaiah 25:4

I now have an even greater Rock than the towering mountain on which to stand. This Rock is my Lord, and my God. And He is constant; a shelter from the storms and a shade from the heat, any time of day or night. 

Then the Lord said, There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” Exodus 33:21

God has prepared a hiding place for us.

Our Rock is a place chosen for us, a place near the Lord. A place right by Him, appointed for our steadfastness and security.

For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock. Then my head will be high above my enemies around me; I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord. -Psalm 27:5-6

This Rock is a hiding place, a shelter, the Lord’s own tabernacle. His presence protects us there. 

His way is in the whirlwind and the storm… Nahum 1:3

My Rock and your Rock is a place where hearts learn His secrets. It is in the cleft that we learn His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and our hearts are trained to look for Him above the noise and fear.

…the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
...It is I, do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:24, 27 

And our Rock is the place where Jesus comes to us in the darkness of our fears, when it feels like everything is against us, and whispers, “It is I, do not be afraid.”

If you are facing a storm today, run to the Rock. Hide yourself in the cleft and listen to the silence. Be stilled by His strength and be calmed by His presence. Trust Him, lie down, and rest. 

Though the world turn sideways outside your hiding place, you will find peace and safety for your soul.

What makes you want to hide today? Enter the conversation and encourage another.


We all have moments when we need to hide. God has prepared a hiding place just for you. (Click to Tweet)

If you are facing a storm today, run to the Rock. Hide yourself in the cleft and listen to the silence. (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Space In Between

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  Matthew 16:18

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  Luke 22:61

The eyes of Christ burn with a holy knowledge of exactly who we were created to be as He speaks life over us, into us, through us. His declaration of who we are is a statement of the most complete, truest things about us. The Omnipotent speaks the known to the unknown; the Creator decrees purpose to the creation; the Lover proclaims promise to the beloved.

We are known. We are purposed. We are promised.

And, like Peter, we stand in the space between soaring promise and crashing reality. We wonder if we can ever really be who He said we truly are.

On that early day of proclamation how Peter’s heart must have quaked in the physical presence of such power and authority, such love and intimate knowing of himself. How loved he must have felt. How inspired, how determined to rise to those great words.

And how must his heart have suffered a thousand deaths as he stood later in the place of betrayal while the eyes of Promise and Purpose looked upon him straight again, again knowing. Knowing his failure. Knowing his weakness. Knowing his inability to be who he was created to be. Peter surely knew the deepest kind of agony in his soul that evening.

The space between the promise of who we are meant to be and the reality of who we are right now in this moment is an impossible chasm. It stretches beyond our sight in its limitless distance, shrouded in fog and beset with traps. 

The other side, the goal, the promise, sometimes appears brilliantly through the clouds like a towering mountaintop, only to elude us again when the thunder of life claps us to the ground of our weakness and inconsistency.

Lent reminds me of The Space in Between. 

The space between who I am and who I want to be. The space in between the vision I cherish for my family and the reality of our struggles here and now in today’s real world. The space in between heaven and the red clay dirt of this earth.

This space is frustrating and doesn’t often feel glorious. It requires hard work and determination, tenacity and discipline.

This space makes me tired.

Peter was ignorantly blissful, for a time. He seems to have taken Jesus’ promise words with confidence at the start. He believed it, and he knew he was important. He believed so much in his own ability to be great that he declared he would never, ever, deny Christ. 

But in the end, Peter learned what we know.

We live in the Space in Between. We live and move and serve and drive carpools and work at desks and wash dishes and eat the wrong stuff and say things we wish we hadn’t right there in the space in between who we want to be, who Jesus says we were made to be, the Truest Things About Us, and who we are right now.

Peter became painfully, acutely aware of the Space in Between in that fateful millisecond when he breathed the bitter space between himself the betrayer and the Lord our Redeemer.  

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  (Luke 22:61)

Jesus looked straight through the Space in Between and crossed the distance instantly. 

Immediately the chasm was bridged, the impossible was made possible. Because in that moment Peter remembered. He remembered that the One who made him knew him.

He knew him and yet He still promised.

And He keeps every promise.

Peter’s real journey began then. He began the impossible journey across the Space in Between, the journey only made possible by the One who Promised.

And Peter became what he was created to be. Jesus built His church, the church you enjoy this Lent season, upon the one who failed, the one who betrayed the Lord. And the One who Promised guarded His promise, and fulfilled it.

He will do this for you, and for me. He will help us live in the Space In Between, and He will build in our lives what He has purposed, even though we fail him and we betray him. 

Later in his first epistle, Peter is much more mature. Here we see the Peter who has crossed the chasm, and stands on the other side beckoning others over. 

He greets us with these significant words, “To God’s elect… who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ…” (from 1:1-2) 

Those words were engraved in Peter’s heart with painful experience. No longer do we hear the proud voice of the old, pre-chasm Peter. 

Peter learned what we all must: God knows us and yet He still promises, purposes. 

And it will be accomplished through God's Spirit, not our strength.

In the meantime, we are made small by the absurdities of daily weakness and irritations in the here and now of who we are. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “The great discrepancy between what we envisioned and what we’ve got forces us to be real” (Keep a Quiet Heart, 228). 

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, AMP)

This Lent season, I want to learn to better live in the Space in Between. I want to meet Christ here. I long desperately for the rest that comes from letting go of my own attempts to be all that and just let His Spirit work through me. Won’t you join me?

What has strengthened you in this space? Someone else needs to hear your story.

You are known and loved,

We live in the space in between who God says we were made to be and who we are right now. (Click to Tweet)