My Journey to Joy

February 16, 2015

Not Right Now

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April 30, 2014

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“We stand on the edge of our cliff-like emotions looking into the deep cavern of our grief, and we’re sure that the jump will kill us.  For those of us who entrust our feeble selves to our faithful Creator, in way I can neither explain nor describe, it doesn’t.  In Jesus, when death of some kind comes and we are willing to take it to the cross, remain nearby, and suffer its grief, we will also experience the resurrection.
We say, ‘But part of me has died with it.’  And indeed it has.  Hear the words of Christ echo from the grave: ‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (John 12:24)  As a child bearing the name of Christ, if a part of you has died, in time it was meant to produce many seeds…Oh, Beloved, don’t give up!”
The Beloved Disciple, Beth Moore

December 12, 2013


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I love the celebrations surrounding Christmas.  The lights, the songs, the glitz and glam and excitement.  I love the “over-the-topness” of trying to make everything extra-special.  I love the planning and preparation to make things “just right,” and the reward when someone’s face lights up.  This year is different.  Not bad, just different.

This year, I feel quiet.  I am drawn to the simple and low-key.  The joy of Christmas is present, but I’m clinging to the comfort of Christmas.   This isn’t my first hard Christmas, but I wasn’t as open before about what I was experiencing.  No, I don’t intend to go to holiday parties wearing a “I’m hurting” t-shirt, but I will be honest with the people who sincerely ask “how are you doing?”

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”  Isaiah 40:1

There is both sweetness and sting to memories.  While putting up a nativity, I smile knowing Granny made it.  Then I cry, wishing she’d be here this year.  Scrapbooking memories, I see pictures of last year’s celebration, and realize it was her last year with us.  There will be no “Christmas 2013” pictures with her in them.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  2Corinthians 1:3-4

The God of all comfort.  My God.  Who cares so much for me that He left heaven.  Christmas.  Comfort.  I like what Adam Clarke had to say about these verses:

“…Who shows himself to be the God of tender mercy, by condescending to notice us, who have never deserved any good at his hand; and also the God of all consolation, by comforting us in all our tribulation-never leaving us a prey to anxiety, carking care, persecution, or temptation; but, by the comforts of his Spirit, bearing us up in, through, and above, all our trials and difficulties.”  (I had to look up “carking”; it means burdensome or annoying.)

“…for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.”  Jeremiah 31:13b

When I hear spots on the radio about “the real meaning of Christmas” being “time with friends and family” or “the laughter of children”, etc. I just shake my head.  I love those good things, but Christmas is, whether I’m alone or in a crowd, piled high with gifts or empty-handed, full of laughter or mourning.  Christmas is Emmanuel.  Only that can withstand the hard years, the unexpected tragedies, the unfulfilled hopes.  Knowing that God is with us, with me…that is my comfort.  

” Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”  2Corinthians 9:15


O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.

November 20, 2013

The Gap: On the Courage to Choose by Thelma

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This post is the sixth in a series called The Gap. Please click here to read from the beginning. I know I haven’t touched on this series for awhile, but this post has been a cautious work in progress.Something about grief we don’t often talk about: I choose when and how I step out of it.

I write a lot about grief here. I do what I can to validate and illustrate because when I was fifteen and my mom died there weren’t too many that wanted to talk honestly about grief. There was no one to tell me what I was feeling was okay or normal or temporary. That experience shaped me; that grief carved an empathy from my heart that carries forward motion: as long as it remains within my power to do so, I will speak honestly about it because you never know who needs to hear it. Maybe a fifteen year old, maybe a fifty year old.

My fifteen and sixteen year old self did the only thing that made sense: I got mad. Good and mad. I didn’t understand how a God who claimed to be good and faithful and merciful could snap a teenage girl’s life in half and rob her of her mother. All the platitudes that rained down on me during those first six months fueled my anger.

“She’s in a better place now.” – Great. I’m in hell.
“God needed her in heaven.” – Say what now?
“Her job on earth was done.” – No. No, it wasn’t. Sixteen!

And so, for a year and a half, I went to bed each night asking God to let me die and when I woke in the morning (still alive, obviously) I pulled my cloak of anger tightly around me and carried my way through another pointless day. When, in the summer of 1996, my brother broke his neck in a brutal car accident, I sat under a large tree in the back forty of the family home and God and I had a long talk about the rage that fueled me. I left my cloak there that day, though I had more learning to do, but He helped me step out of grief and allow healing to begin.

In retrospect, my brother’s accident should have left me furious. It should have been the jerry can of evidence that made my anger explode to a new level of hot rage. Instead, it broke me. It broke me enough to allow God to open my eyes to see a new perspective: gratitude. Deep, soul-shaking gratitude that my brother was still alive.

I look back on those years with regret. Those years informed (though not perfectly) the grief of walking through infertility. I didn’t make all the right choices. I still pulled away, sunk into anger and fiddled with the fringes of bitterness but my heart never forgot the mind-numbing grip of a grief that made no sense.

What’s all this got to do with infertility? With choosing to live a childless life if God is calling you there?

We can talk about calling and miracles and healing as things ethereal and unquantifiable. We can bandy them about and wait for that moment we feel something special that tells us we’re where we need to be. But ultimately? The thing about grief that we rarely talk about it is that I must choose when and how I step free of it.

Grief is real. Brutal. Raw. It carves deep wells of memory into our very being and leaves us changed. Sometimes we allow it the power to move in. We put on anger or bitterness or denial or bargaining on like a cloak each morning and we allow it to envelope not just our hearts but our lives.

At some point, however, we must trust that God gives us the courage to choose.

A few months ago, my father sent me this beautiful quote from Mike Mason’s book Champagne for the Soul:

Do you have a favourite chair, a place you feel most at home and comfortable? So does joy.

Joy’s favourite chair is your sadness, your weakness, your grief. Wherever your wounds are most tender, joy finds a soft place to settle. A lighthearted person may rejoice, but no one has greater capacity for joy than one who is like our Saviour, ‘a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering’. Joy loves our brokenness best.

Finally I saw that if joy does not arise out of the midst of tragedy, it will not arise at all. Christian joy is rooted in darkness, chaos, meaninglessness, sorrow.

Joy loves our brokenness best. Chew on that for a bit and remember this: joy is a choice. Stepping out of grief is a choice. The courage to make that choice comes from a God whose very character is goodness, faithfulness and mercy; a God whose grace is soul-shaking and gratitude-shaping.

I’ve written this series to shed light on the process of moving from the grief of infertility to the deep joy we have in living this life as a family of two. It’s not a guide book, it’s a story: our story. There may be similarities and shared sorrows to work through, but in the end, you must choose when and how you will step out of grief into life.

It’s not easy. Sometimes you need to make that choice many times in the space of a week, day or hour. It requires a personal honesty and a courage that, in the end, isn’t even your own. But God’s not in the business of leaving people buried in grief when their desire is to break free.

Grief may leave you broken, but joy must arise there. And grace? Well, grace cannot – will not – leave you there.

“For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty Savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

~ Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

November 15, 2012


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In December 2009, my sister & brother-in-law asked if they could speak to us.  We sat down in my parents’ basement, and they told us they were expecting.  I smiled, said congratulations, then went home and cried.  We had just received definite confirmation that we would not be able to have biological children.

A few months later, the ultrasound pictures were shown around.  A girl.  Again I cried.  She got three beautiful, healthy children, and the girl that she wanted…I got what?  I’m not proud of my feelings, but they were part of my journey.  I was perilously close to missing something precious.

Proverbs 14:30 “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

The day my niece arrived, I packed up her brothers, gathered up my courage, and headed to the maternity ward.  A year before we had eagerly toured the same rooms, as we planned our family.  Now I knew that would never be.  Little Miss was being cared for by a nurse, and we weren’t able to hold her.  Back at home, the boys begged to go see their sister again.  I barely got out of their sight before breaking down.  I sobbed to my husband, “I just can’t go back up there!  I can’t do it!  I just can’t.”

But I did.  I walked into the  room full of nerves and emotions, trying to hide my distress from my very observant sister.  My brother-in-law gently handed me a tightly wrapped bundle, and I melted.  Sweetness.  Utter sweetness.  This time I cried for a different reason.  My niece has held a piece of my heart ever since.

It’s frightening when I look back to think what I could have missed.  What I could have so easily allowed infertility to steal from me.  I’m not trying to speak for everyone; I can only tell my story.  And the bitter has enhanced the sweet.

She looks so much like I did at her age.  And bless her, she acts a lot like me, too!  And when she says “I wub oo too, Aunt Hoddy” and plants a sticky kiss on my cheek…sweetness.

Psalm 127:3 “Children are a blessing from the Lord…”

I now have two nephews, two beautiful nieces, another on the way, and a precious son God gave us last May.  So many blessings to celebrate! 

April 3, 2012

Songs for the Journey- In Brokenness You Shine

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March 14, 2012


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This is for several dear friends, who are going through their own agony.  I love you, ladies, and I’m praying…


It has different names. Yours might have been cancer, affair, lost…mine was infertile.  I’m guessing it feels a lot the same.

At first, you think of it constantly, rolling it around in your head.  Examining it.  Looking for solutions, or a way out of this hurt.  Sometimes you talk about it, sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you cry until you feel like your head will explode.  Sometimes you sit and stare, with dry eyes, feeling completely empty.  Depleted.  Hollow.

Forgetting it for a few moments, or even hours is wonderful…until you remember.  In that awful moment, it’s almost as if it hits you again, fresh, like the first time.  You grapple with thoughts of “did that really happen?”  It can take your breath away, and make you want to double over to somehow survive this onslaught in your own mind.

Then there are the triggers.  They’re everywhere!  I have a roll of return address labels that I bought years ago.  They say “W_____ Family.”  I don’t use them.  We’re almost out of the ones that say “Daniel & Holly.”  Today I opened the desk drawer to get a stamp, and it hit me again.  When I went to vote, a volunteer asked me where my other children were.  And I said: “I don’t have any children.  I’m just a nanny.”  Celebrations can be excruciating.  An innocent comment can tear a rip right across my heart.

And then there are the decisions.  You feel as if your world has collapsed.  You don’t know how to keep breathing.  And people want to know what your plans are.  And you wish you could just go to sleep and have someone take over your life and steer until all of this is over…

And you question yourself.  What could I have done differently?  Is this something that I’ve earned, that I deserve?  Is there something wrong with me that I’ve just never noticed all of my life?

And you question God.  How can He let this happen?  How can He ever “work this out for good?”  Where is He, and why can’t I feel Him?

And then, eventually, You see Him again.  And you remember what He did for you, and how He loves you.  Oh, how He loves!  And your friends learn how to help you.  Your vision broadens beyond this one hurt.  You begin to see beauty.  And slowly, oh, so slowly, you begin to taste hope again.  And now you know to savor it, as the beautiful thing that it is.  You’ll never take it for granted again.  And you live…

Disappointment- His Appointment

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“Disappointment — His Appointment”
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing,
Tho’ it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
Whose? The Lord, who loves me best,
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test;
For, like loving earthly parent,
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts, UNQUESTIONED,
All that from His wisdom flows.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
“No good thing will He withhold,”
From denials oft we gather
Treasures of His love untold,
Well He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller, deeper trust,
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
Lord, I take it, then, as such.
Like the clay in hands of potter,
Yielding wholly to Thy touch.
All my life’s plan in Thy moulding,
Not one single choice be mine;
Let me answer, unrepining —
“Father, not my will, but Thine.”

Edith Lillian Young

Job 23:14 For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me:
and many such things are with him.

February 7, 2012

Songs for the Journey- Thought You’d Be Here

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January 31, 2012

Songs for the Journey- Glory Baby

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