Messy, Complicated, Beautiful

Let me tell you about Mamaw and Papaw. They are Jon, my first husband’s, adoptive parents. That’s a complicated mouthful, illustrating a precious reality. It’s not common that a widow’s first in-laws stay in her life when she remarries, but these beautiful ones are another facet of a story only God can write.

In order to see the full loveliness of the mosaic, I need to back up further though.

Jon met the Neffs through his grandma taking him to church. Dad Neff was the pastor, and Jon quickly became best friends with their son, Ben.

Jon’s mom, Darlene had had type 1 diabetes, and In the 80s it was a much more life threatening disease than it is today. She had been told “If you have children, it will kill you.”

But God had other plans. Jim and Darlene were absolutely thrilled to find out Jon was on the way. From reading her journal, I learned she was hospitalized for months leading to his birth. Not easy, but daily she poured out thanks for the miracle growing inside. Her love of Christ leapt from the pages; her journal is a touching link to a lady I never met.

When Jon was five, Darlene had her first stroke. He quickly learned to dial 911. Eventually her legs were amputated, and she was a home bound invalid for much of Jon’s life.

She died when he was 14.

After his wife’s death, Jon’s dad Jim tried to drown his grief in alcohol. He had adored his wife, and Jon always told me he learned lavish love by watching his dad.

And Jon himself described sitting on the edge of his bed with a loaded gun contemplating something horrific. But the phone rang. When he answered, someone merely said, “Hey Jonathan! I’ll be there in a few minutes to pick you up for church.”

It wasn’t a request, but he always said it saved his life.

Fast forward a few years. Jon started passing out playing basketball and it was discovered he had a long missed, congenital heart defect. After open heart surgery and a heart valve replaced at 18, he was written about in medical journals.

Through all this the Neffs were there, in the background of his story, loving him though he seemed like a “rebellious” influence on their son.

The suffering wasn’t over, however. Jon’s Dad died of cancer after Jon’s first semester of college. He was alone.

Astonishingly though, God was up to something new and marvelous. Before Jim died, he asked the Neffs a big request.

“Will you help him stay out of trouble? Will you make sure he stays in college?”

But in their hearts, they knew God was asking them for more.

“Would you make him your son? Would you bring him into your family?”

And they did.

They packed up a grieving, angry teenager and welcomed him home. My first mother-in-law has said, “Even then I knew it would be more. I knew he wasn’t going to walk out of our lives after college.”

So they adopted a son. And Jon always said he got another mom and dad, two brothers, a sister, a dog, and a cat. Another family to cherish.

His brother Ben jokes that Jon held the world record for longest sleepover.

“I used to go over to Jon’s house, but the one time I asked him over to mine, he ended up staying for 12 years!”

They went through some crazy rough times together. At times he made them angry. At times he broke their hearts. But a miraculous, radiant thing was forming. Another son. Part of the family.

When he took me home to meet them, I learned later he eagerly asked, “So do you like her?”

“What’s not to like? You better not mess this up!”

They played such a huge, indispensable role in the gospel driven man he became. He was loved when he was unlovely.

At my wedding to Jon, he couldn’t help but be choked up about the beauty of adoption. Through example, his second parents taught him the reality of an even greater adoption.

Jesus accomplished the greatest adoption. His death and resurrection brought His own into the family!

As Mom and Dad Neff chose Jon, so God adopts His chosen ones. He makes them part of His family, as sons and heirs. His love is lavish.

After Jon died Mom Neff wrote,

“And my mother’s heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. ‘Wait, God, this wasn’t the plan! This is not what I expected!’ My heart mourned, and God held me close and simply whispered, ‘You let me love him through you, and that was my plan all along!’

“People ask me if I would do this again, knowing the struggles, disappointments, and hurts. My honest human answer is maybe not! (Later in the post she wrote, “In a heartbeat!”) Here’s the interesting part, however. God didn’t just change Jonathan, He changed me. The love of God is unconditional, full of grace and flowing from His heart “even while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8). Because that’s His plan, to use His children to love those around us, those who need to know the love of God as more than just a fuzzy idea they once heard somewhere, to love those who need to know the love of God in salvation!”

At first I wondered if I would lose them as I had lost Jon.

“Ami you’re stuck with us. We’re not going anywhere. Jon may not be here with us anymore, but you are still ours. You are still family.”

And they have been. And they are. They welcomed David with open arms, excited for new love in my life. David, the uniquely suited for me man that he is, welcomed them too.

They were at mine and David’s wedding, Dad Neff sharing the joy of walking me down the aisle.

They are another set of grandparents for our children since my own parents are gone. Mom Neff has come after the birth of all three babies. And we see them as often as we can.

As we drove away from their house today, I prayed thanking God for such a sweet week.

From the back Hudson and Charlotte piped up with their additions.

“And thank God for the park by the zoo.”

“And thank God for the big swimming pool.”

“And thank God for Jon, your first husband because we have Mamaw and Papaw. And we wouldn’t have them without Jon.”

Little boy knows how to make both of his parents cry.

It’s a lovely, complicated, messy thing, but God has made it so beautiful.


To see more about how this all unfolded…

The Side Effects of Loss and the Gospel that Heals Them

Almost ten years have passed since my first husband died, and I’ve long left the valley of the shadow of death. I was almost crushed, but now I walk again bearing jagged and radiant scars. I’ve processed and processed and processed, and I know the beauty of a life restored. 

A second husband, three spunky children— life is rich and full again, and grief often seems like a distant memory. But even now some unexpected, long term side effects of loss remain: fear, worry, embarrassment, and shame to name few. 

Recently I needed surgery to have a painful, but (thankfully) benign ovarian cyst removed. Concurrently, my husband has an unexplained mass on his arm, and we’re waiting for MRI results and surgery. Medical concerns still raise a prickle of fear followed by its close cousin, worry. If you checked my phone search history, you’d find a list of symptoms. My fingers sought answers and my heart played “worst case scenario.” I was on the look out for that six letter word that should be a four letter word, cancer. 

Given my first husband died in an Emergency Department after symptoms were missed and mistakes made, it makes sense that I’m more cautious medically. That fear can still so easily overtake me is unexpected, however. It’s been almost a decade, haven’t I walked forward into a new, beautiful life? 

As I cried alone in my car, worry and fear spilling out, I was also surprised to realize I’m still responding to the trauma of death. Memories of emotional pain so intense it was physical still crouch in the corners of my heart…

The complete article was graciously published first by Revive our Hearts, and you can find it here.

Red Nails

Perfectly manicured nails, red, wrapped around a warm mug its contents the color of caramel. Books and journals lay piled about. I took a picture, but didn’t post it. Was it really necessary to perfectly crop and Instagram it, after all?

It’s funny how memories work. Red, lovely nails came to mind this morning as I snatched a few minutes, Bible open before kids clamored down the hall.

Widowed, I had hours of quiet— reflecting, reading, writing. I became close friends with solitude. It was a beautiful, needed, and gracious gift of God as I worked through the depths, leaning into the pain. Somehow the only way out was through. I think I’m much better for it as a result.

Some days I look back on those quiet times wistfully. But if I take off the rose colored glasses, loneliness was profound. 

The quiet was rich and sweet, a time of knowing Christ more intimately than I’d ever thought possible. But it was also a battle. I was surrounded by the best friends a girl could ask for in such a dark time. But loneliness clung like a heavy blanket. I had been part of two and now I was one. 

My days are no longer quiet. My nails no longer manicured or my hair beautifully colored. I don’t often get hours to sit and be quiet. Coffee cools down and then it lies forgotten in the microwave, cooling again.

But I am not lonely. 

Though days are exhausting and sometimes exasperating, they are rich. I prayed for these days for a long time. And they’re here. What lavish grace!

When sleep gets interrupted, when the day is a mundane slog of chores, or I deal with the hundredth sibling squabble, I tell myself “slow down.” See them. Remember, they are answers to prayer.

Sometimes the season feels long. “Even youths grow tired and weary,” (though one might argue I no longer get to claim youth). But don’t feel sorry for me. I adore these little ones close in age. 

I love seeing them reach new milestones, hearing the funny things they say, and watching their imaginations take full flight. I love being the one they run to when they are scared or hurt. There is joy in seeing them learn to clean up after themselves or put clothes in the hamper. I like teaching them life skills and watching them start to spread their wings. 

“Yes, you may pour your own milk.” 

Snuggling them on my lap book in hand; it’s one of our favorite places to be. I also love rocking my babies and even cuddling my 60 lb, gangly leg, tall 4 year old who stretches long across my body.

And I actually do like being home with my children. They’re pretty great people.

I taught kindergarten for awhile and later was a developmental therapist. Both were career paths I enjoyed, but I never saw myself doing them long term or continuing to climb the ranks.

But I always wanted to be mom. And it’s so good to remind myself. 

What a tremendous privilege to be entrusted with the shepherding of their souls, with the task of cultivating the soil of their hearts. 

And I am learning the joy of abiding, snatching time as it comes. Audio Bible in the shower, scripture songs in the car. I take advantage of nap times for reading. Index cards with truth line cabinet doors. Even the resources we use with our children stir my heart. Abiding doesn’t have to be hours of quiet with a leather bound journal in hand.

I do love to fill a good leather journal. But it’s not always what this season looks like. 

I don’t always abide well. Romans 7 barges in. But I press to know, press on to grow. I lean into Jesus. I run to find help from others when I can’t get truth into my own heart. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my actions and words, filling me with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” (Galatians 5:22)

I painted Charlotte’s nails the other day; little finger nails seem much easier to paint than my own. I place the new memory beside the old. My hands alone. My hands holding hers. 

Red manicured nails and hours of quiet. It was good for a season. 

Pink nails on tiny hands. Snatches of quiet savored when I get it. Beauty in this season.

“For every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Eccl 3:1

The Winter Coat

“You know you’re not poor when you can just go buy a coat.” 

The words formed in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Gratitude permeated my soul but mingled with memories of electricity being turned off, a furnace without oil in the middle of winter, a hole in the floor that looked right down to the crawl space (I think I was in high school before it was fixed), a bathroom floor always threatening to cave in. You could see the ground below through cracks in that one too.

This winter Hudson needed a new coat and we discussed whether it should be part of his Christmas (which would be a perfectly good Christmas present), but the big holiday was well over a month away and the weather had already turned cold. His coat from last year left inches of bare skin exposed when he bent down. So we decided I should just go buy him a coat. 

What wealth! What luxury!

And the simple decision hit me down deep. 

Growing up my family moved from financial crisis to financial crisis. Talk of loans and advances from employers sprinkled daily conversation. When my parents died, my Dad in 2016 and my mom in 2017, the tiny house they’d lived in for almost 50 years was still not paid for. They were still paying a mortgage, the house having been refinanced who knows how many times. 

I remember when I realized that other kids in my class had their own beds, more than that their own rooms. I had slept in the bed with my mom, and my dad always slept on the couch (their marriage was horrible for as long as I can remember until late in their lives). Somewhere in elementary school I figured out this wasn’t a typical arrangement. Eventually I had a top bunk in my sister’s room, and it became my room when she moved out. 

Imagine my surprise when I started paying my own bills, and I learned that utility companies don’t just turn off your water or electricity if you are a few days late or accidentally miss a payment.

I have memories of flipping on lights and seeing hundreds of cockroaches scatter. One time in high school a cockroach found its way into my back pack. As I saw it crawl across the floor of English class (boys were trying to feed it crackers), I had no doubt from where it came. Mortified isn’t a strong enough word. I buried my face in the text, shades of crimson spreading over my cheeks, and prayed no one would make the connection. I began checking my back pack before I left for school.

Not once did I have a friend come over to my house to play. Ever. My mother was too embarrassed, and later I was too embarrassed. Some of it was the house. Some of it was the state of my family. I learned to make all the excuses.

Once a possum got inside and delivered its babies in my mom’s closet. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. My dad thought it was funny, and I’m not sure what he did to dispose of them. And yet another time a lone possum found its way in and my mom killed it with a broom. 

But somehow I had a Nintendo Game Boy. Somehow we went to restaurants. Somehow I did pageants for several years (yes, the kind with tiaras and big curly hair). My little girl will never do them. But I digress. Small plastic cards, easily swiped, payment deferred— those were plentiful.

There have been times in my adult life when money has been extremely tight. I know it happens, and there’s no shame. I have seen the miraculous provision of God on more than one occasion—stories for another time. But I think my parents were trapped on a hamster wheel of debt and and didn’t know how to get off.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the daily messes, endless loads of laundry, and piles of dishes to wash. Sometimes my home and heart feels chaotic. But from a certain corner on a certain couch, I can almost always remember how beautiful our home is. Handprints framed, family pictures, meaningful art. You might call our style eclectic. That’s a nice way of saying that we’ve chosen to embrace the mismatch so it looks purposeful. And from my cozy corner I admire shelves lined with books, and gifts of rocks and pinecones also proudly displayed. 

I’m kind of amazed our little family is doing so well on one income since I choose to stay home with the kids. Yet we have a lovely, comfortable, enough room for us, house. Our needs our met, and we even have many of our wants.

I don’t know why buying a coat affected me so deeply; I don’t have memories of not having a coat. Perhaps it is that my children have never known a home without heat in the winter, holes covered by duct tape, appliances broken for months, sagging floors and the like. I pray they never know it. Profound gratitude flooded my heart. 

Perhaps it’s also that it wasn’t just the house. A few months ago a friend and I had the blissful opportunity of a couple hour car ride without children. The conversation was deep and beautiful on both sides. After some childhood stories she remarked, “Ami, there are at least several reasons DCFS should have been called.”

I had never thought of it that way. But I think it’s true.  

There are millions of people in the world who have far less than I had growing up, so many in far worse conditions. But maybe the deep emotions of providing a coat for my son are tied not only to physical circumstances but to the turmoil they represented, a family tossed about, more than just finances insecure. 

Objects flew across the room, a fist went through a window, a piano crashed to the floor. Shouting, only ever shouting– there was never calm conversation during anger. I dialed a number seeking help from my grandmother, but hung up when she answered because I was afraid. Mercifully she called back.

I recall habitual, denied affection, “I don’t want to see you. Just walk away.” Still cuts deep.

I pray my children know they are secure, as secure as they can humanly be. They have a Mom and Dad, though sinners, who love each other. They have clothes to wear and food to eat. They have warm beds and a roof over their heads. They are drawn in instead of pushed away.

Isn’t that the heart of every loving parent, to provide for their children? 

I know my parents wanted to provide. I know they tried with the resources they had. I have plenty of sweet memories also.

Sometimes I’m still astonished I’m a Christian. But I look and see the bold red ribbon of grace winding its way through the years, through the circumstances. 

I have a Father who has provided so much more than a winter coat, one who lacks no resources, no ability, or follow through. 

He is lavish. He is kind. He is gentle to his own. He always does what’s right. He always does what is good. 

He restores. He redeems. All the hard memories and dysfunction become clay in the Master artisan’s hand to shape and remake into something lovely.

He secures. God does what even the best of human parent’s can’t do—makes the soul secure.

Every Christian parents longs to know their children believe. But it is God’s work. Oh that the bold red ribbon of grace would wind through their lives! That they would meet the one who is the real Provider!

Oh that their burdens would tumble off as they gaze at the cross.

This is my prayer for them

It was just a winter coat, not that extravagant really. But the grace it represents is abundant, lavish and overflowing like waves.

And my heart worshiped.

Holy Work

“It’s holy work,” my heart whispered to my mind as I walked down the hall toward screaming siblings.

“It’s holy work,” the Spirit said as I knelt down to empathize.

Holy work.

Sometimes I get it right. Perhaps my children smell the fragrant aroma of the riches and grace of Christ. Perhaps their subconsciouses catalog the beauty of a redeemed life.

It’s holy work to show them Christ, to be their first and deepest exposure to the gospel, to give them their first constructs of what God is like.

Sometimes I get it wrong. They surely smell the stench of sin.

The trenches of daily life are the litmus test. Does the Jesus we proclaim on Sunday permeate our days on Monday?

We take the call to make disciples seriously. The work of shepherding, a holy calling. Jesus, the gospel-they are not add ons, not once a week “gave my tithe, filled my pew, did my duty.”

Jesus is our life.

In the same way speaking to a hundred women or leading Bible study is holy work, so is wiping another bottom, reading another book, washing another dish.

And loving them when they seem unlovely is an act of grace, a gift of worship.

I push back against mediocre, “Mommy needs a glass of wine” parenthood.

This much unseen, soil cultivating, seed planting work is valuable and important.

The messages they receive at home become a part of who they are. What am I telling them about their identity?

At a recent medical appointment the practitioner spoke about his young son, “I love him, but sometimes he’s a total expletive.”

I switched my next appointment to another doctor.

Because the little ones are image bearers also. They are gifts of grace.

They are sinners in need of Savior. But they were created for good and honorable things.

They were created to know the One who shows them their true selves.

So I do holy work, and pray they will know him.

Let the Children Come

She was a sad puddle of two year old, face down on the floor.

A combined Good Friday service with another church wound down in the background.

“I want more water!”

“Come here sweet girl. The cup is full. We filled it all up.”

The puddle remained. I held a sleeping Henry.

People flooded through the auditorium doors, and I felt the stares at the screaming child, now stomping her foot.

The puddle turned into a tree, rooted on the spot. And I didn’t want want to wake her brother.

“Charlotte I’m going to go get Daddy and come back.”

I looked back, and she poured the water on the floor.

//

I rocked Henry reflecting on stares and looks from people I don’t know. Church can be a hard place for small people (and their parents).

But stares and looks are trivial compared to the cross.

And the cup.

I offered her clean, cold water. It was there, but she couldn’t see it.

I’ve been the two year old.

“But Lord I want more water!!”

“I am the living water.”

The best, thirst quenching water. It’s Him. And he’s always full, overflowing. He gives and gives and gives.

He even gave himself.
And looked into another cup not full of cool, clean water, but overflowing brimming over with wrath.

It was there, and he could see it. But he drank it all.

Wrath satisfied.

He died for those little stomping feet.

//

“Let the children come,” he said.

There is room for puddles on the floor.

Gospel Thoughts on Re-wiring my Brain

I love light bulbs, the “aha” moments when all of a sudden two truths align and things make sense. I’ve been pondering a big one that feels life changing, or at least brain changing.

But first, a little background. Sanctification is becoming what you have already been declared to be. (Through Jesus, and only Jesus, you are justified or declared righteous.) You could call it spiritual growth or growing in Christlikeness. It’s a life long process. The Holy Spirit works in the heart of a believer, and the believer responds.

Here’s the flip of the switch.

What if sanctification isn’t just heart change but also literal brain change? What if “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is in part re-wiring neural pathways?

What? That’s crazy!

Ok, I see you scratching your head. Don’t write me off just yet.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Neurons that fire together wire together?”

I have in several contexts, but I confess I haven’t really gotten it.

During my brief CrossFit days (I wish I still did it) I heard it in context of weight lifting; the more repetitions you do, the more automatic a movement becomes.

I’ve also heard about firing and wiring from occupational therapists as they provide deep pressure on arms and legs, from head to toe, and across the body. By activating those neurons together, they are teaching a child to regulate his nervous system so he can calm and focus.

Recently I heard it in a “Discipline that Connects” course (from Connected Families) David and I are taking. And this time all the bells and whistles went off in my brain.

Messages sent to the brain create neural pathways, and repeated messages fire faster and travel more easily. The more we use a neural pathway, the more it becomes a super highway.

Therefore, the more I am “large and loud” or angry and frustrated with my children, those responses are more easily triggered.

If I want to change the pattern, I need to change the pattern. My brain needs new messages. And it needs the repeated messages of interacting calmly and connecting with hearts before discipline.

My heart exploded with understanding and praise to God for a few reasons! Over the last four years I’ve been on a mission to seek God’s heart regarding shepherding our children. I have ready many books and studied Scripture as David and I have built our overall philosophy.

I have also been “putting in the work” to understand and process my own childhood trauma.

All of this creates and reinforces neural pathways.

As I have learned strategies to remain calm in high pressure parenting situations, I am literally re-wiring my brain. And the more “reps” I do across different circumstances, the more I’m becoming who I want to be.

When I kneel down and talk to my children instead of shout at them, neurons are doing some important highway construction— in my brain and in theirs.

I am encouraged that something physical is happening. Maybe if someone measured brain activity there would be a difference.

There is growth even if it feels SO slow sometimes. There is growth even if it feels like construction is at a stand still or an excavator dug a hole across the path.

I know my understanding of brain science is simplistic, but maybe, just maybe I’m also dismantling some neural pathways related to my own abuse and neglect.

But there’s better news! For a Christian, it’s even bigger.

If the strategies I am learning are rooted and grounded in the gospel, this is not mere behavior modification.

As I repeatedly remind myself of the truths of the gospel related to parenting (or any other struggle), those truths send neurons firing across my brain. The resplendent reality of the gospel physically changes my brain. What I actually believe about God, myself, and others physically starts to change.

Over many years a highway (among others) called “Identity” has formed. Construction on it will probably never end—an I-90 in my brain—but it’s getting bigger and better.

Perhaps brain change and heart change are connected.

Only God changes the heart, but as thinking changes so does the heart. What a complex mystery. Sanctification is God’s work. But I respond by recalling truth.

When I tell my small people…

“You are made in God’s image. Jesus loves you and died for you. He came to save sinners like you and me.”

Or
“Mommy needs Jesus also. Let’s stop and ask God for help.”

Or
“I know you are having a hard time. But I love you.”

Or
“You are called and capable. You are responsible for your actions.”

Or
“God created you. He can use your big heart, persistence, and determination for his glory.”

Or
“I’m on your team. We can figure this out together.”

…perhaps those repeated messages, will one day lead to heart change. Perhaps they will internalize the truths firing across the super highways in their brains.

That’s really good news.

Maybe all of this is a little too nerdy. But imagining neurons racing across my brain, is immensely encouraging. Some things are rewiring, some past highways demolished. God is a work in me. And I will keep actively repeating messages of truth.


Ephesians 4:20-24

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”

Six Years.

At six years since his death, the life I had with Jon is an ebbing memory. This anniversary is markedly different than the rest; death feels like different lifetime ago. It may have much to do with hands full with a cute chunker named Hudson. At six years some memories remain vivid, but many of the mundane, insignificant days are gone. I can still watch our wedding video and hear his voice on the 30 second voicemail I have memorized. I can read his emails and listen to his sermons. But these are memories still. The nuances of our days have faded. I used to be fearful of the day when my days with Jon became less sharp, less clear in my mind. But they’ve arrived. And it’s ok.

Of course I miss Jon. Sometimes sorrow is still there. But I live in the beautiful now; I’ve been given so much joy. This is the first anniversary of his death where I have not had a strong need to process what I feel about it.

Suffering was a gift I never wanted. But I’m thankful for it—

“God has walked me through the valley of the shadow and shown me what true beauty really is. He showed me what love really looks like, and he built a depth of beauty in my story that a life without suffering would never have known.” – Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace

This year with our vivacious little buddy, I’m acutely aware of God’s sovereignty. I’ve said it before; if Jon had not died, I wouldn’t have David, and I wouldn’t have Hudson. And I cannot imagine life with out these two. They’re delightful. And they’re supposed to be part of the story.

Before Hudson’s birth I worried that I would have mixed emotions and sorrow because I never had a child with Jon. On that day there was sheer joy. But I’ll not lie and say that there haven’t been moments since then when I’ve missed the curly, dark headed, blue eyed copy of Jon that never existed.

Yet the imaginary baby isn’t the one I needed. My little boy with fine, straight, sandy hair was the one God had planned all along. Hudson is the sanctification I didn’t know I needed. Boy is he sanctifying! And I’m so thankful. Keep transforming my heart, Lord Jesus.

I’ll admit though, Hudson’s gorgeous blue eyes are a cherry on top.

Days with Jon may be fading, but there are fresh joys and new mercies every day. He has left an indelible imprint on my life in many ways. I will always cherish him. Jon is in part why my marriage to David is rich, deep, and strong. He taught me to discuss without shouting or slamming doors. And the work God did in my heart flows over into life with David. I think were I still as combative as I was in the early days with Jon, I might try and run right over my strong but gentle giant, David. 

God’s ways are good.

I’ve been reading Psalm 18 recently, and it’s one of those stop you in your tracks, slow down and marvel at our incredible God kind of Psalms. I can’t read it without a few tears.

“The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” Psalm 18:4-6

“He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:16-19

In this Psalm I see a penetrating metaphor of deep grief. I see myself when death was fresh. I was there encompassed by the cords of death, some days wondering if I’d make it out alive. But God always heard my cry. He drew me out of the waters of deep sorrow, tended my wounds, and healed them by the power of the gospel and his own dear presence. He has restored, redeemed, and renewed.

But let me never forget that this Psalm is actually about Jesus. And without redemption of my soul, all other redemption is futile. Ultimate deliverance and rescue were accomplished through his death and resurrection. I’m enjoying so many blessings right now, but Jesus is the abundant place. He would still be the “broad place” even if there weren’t any other blessings. Grief was not my real enemy. Sin and death- these are the enemies too mighty for me. And Christ already and forever defeated them.

Praise God!

I’m thankful for the years I had with Jon. His passion for Jesus was magnetic. It was a spark that spread to everyone around him, and I hope it always burns bright in me.

At all Costs

Boy, has it been awhile friends!

It’s hard to believe Hudson is already seven months old. Today! Today is his seven monthiversary. Let’s just say, life with a baby is wonderful, radically new, sometimes crazy hard, and thoroughly life altering.  I adore my new role, but it is not without challenges. I’m learning much, and God is refining me in new ways. There’s a whole lot of sanctification going on over here.

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like (I hope to rectify that soon), but today I have a piece featured at Risen Motherhood. Hooray!

You can find the article, At All Costshere. Hope it encourages.

Love, Ami

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https://www.risenmotherhood.com/blog/at-all-costs

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5 Years. Grace and Mercy.

Last night I tossed and turned, waking up bleary eyed and running on fumes. Pregnancy has a whole lot to do with it, for sure. Sleep has gotten weird.  But that wasn’t the main thing really. I couldn’t turn my mind off. The tired hamster in my brain ran in circles all night. Today is five years since Jon died.

Five years rings with the sound of a definite milestone. For whatever reason our brains are wired to view the multiples of 5s and 10s as more significant than others. These are the years folks throw parties or take vacations to celebrate. I don’t know, it’s just the way we think.

So, I was feeling a little stressed about today. Life has been busy preparing for the baby. Birth class, the great purge of miscellaneous junk, wrapping up work, etc. etc.  There hasn’t been much time for the quiet reflection I always crave.

I was stressed about what I was thinking and feeling because I didn’t know what I was thinking or feeling about today. And if you know me at all, you get that it’s just not how I function. I think things through with a mortar and pestle, till they are a finely ground powder. It’s a milestone year. I should have this figured out. But I haven’t had time to journal and nail down the themes.

So here we are this morning, and I’m rambling away. Five years is what I say every year, both an instant and an eternity.

The day before he died I was driving to work, very early before the sun rose. Not my favorite thing at all. But as I drove east a radiant sunrise burst across the horizon of empty fields and endless sky. I jotted down a thought later that day, “Reminded by a gorgeous sunrise that light comes after dark. Spring comes after Winter. What mercy and grace the Father gives!”

How much more significant are those words now. Looking back, I can see ways God prepared me for Jon’s death though I had no idea at the time.

What mercy and grace the Father gives. These are never ending themes that only grow bolder with each anniversary.

There’s been a lot of life since Jon died, some of it insanely hard, some of it marked by piles of kleenexes, some of it full of belly laughs, some of it overflowing with redemption. And it has all been saturated with grace and mercy.

My little hamster can lie down and take a rest. Grace and mercy, some of the most beautiful words on earth, are sufficient to describe what I think about this milestone.

My God does all things well. His glory he will not share with another. And justice must be satisfied. Enter Jesus. “He bore the wrath reserved for me, now all I know is grace.”

All I know is grace.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You”

Music and words by Jordan Kauflin. © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise


What has gone before…