That’s going to come out of me?

He was an irresistible week-old newborn, and it was his first Sunday at church. When his mom held him to her shoulder he bore the trademark “I’m just gonna mold completely to your body” newborn snuggle. Talk about baby fever right there!

And then I thought, “That is going to come out of me? That baby is huge!”

Now, it must be said that this little guy is a perfectly average, healthy baby. He wasn’t a 16 pounder.

Though you’ve likely read between the lines, (and noticed the picture) I should probably bring some of you up to speed. I suppose you can tell that I haven’t written in awhile. I guess there is less need for deep processing in the happy, hustling and bustling seasons. Well, I do write all the time these days, but technical reports for work don’t really seem to count.

Anyway, for those who don’t know me in real life or at least on Facebook, I am 5 1/2 months pregnant with our first child! Hooray!

And he’s a boy! We are so delighted to be having a son. He’s a gift long prayed for. The feeling of little kicks from the inside, hearing his heartbeat, seeing him move on ultrasound; these are among the best things I’ve ever experienced. We already know his name, but I’ll save that story for another day.

But I digress. I met a sweet little newborn at church. He was adorable; thoughts of awe and terror simultaneously flitted across my mind.

“Wow God you are amazing!”

“But someone that big is going to come out of me?”

Being pregnant has produced its own set of fears. Fears about labor and delivery. Fears about parenting. Fear that something would happen to our baby—There I’ve said it out loud. It’s uncharted territory, a completely new avenue in which I am learning trust.

I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those desires that had to be stripped away for me to see what it had become. An idol. It was a dream I had begun to worship, something I thought I had to have to be happy. It was a good desire I had let turn into an ultimate desire.

You may remember that my first husband and I tried to get pregnant for a year and half before he died. God did a lot in my heart over that year and half. But the battle was real and intense. So often I prayed for a child. So often I tried to hold my hands open to the Lord.

And when Jon died, all the hopes and dreams of being a mom shattered also. I remember when I started my period about a week after he died: I crumpled on my bathroom floor and sobbed.

So here I am, turning 35 tomorrow and pregnant! They say I’m of “advanced maternal age.” That makes me smile.

And I am amazed at God’s goodness and grace. In the years of widowhood He taught me much about living with open hands. He was good when my hands were empty. And He is good now.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I again knelt on the floor, tears streaming. Y’all know I have a strong relationship with crying.

“Lord, even from the very beginning this baby is yours. I hold my hands open to you. Do what you want with this little life. I pray you would give us grace to point this baby to Jesus. ”

But sometimes open hands are hard.

We’re five and a half months down this path, and already we’re trying to make decisions for the good of our son.

Am I eating the right foods? Taking the right vitamins? Drinking enough water?

Do I go get a Tetanus shot because I cut my toe on a screw?

The flu. Severe dehydration. “I think we better go to the hospital.”

In all this I’m starting to understand that trusting God with our son is life long. We can try to make the best, most informed decisions but ultimately God is sovereign.

He is weaving this little one together in his mother’s womb. Our son is fearfully, and wonderfully made. How much richer are those words now! God will do what brings himself honor and glory.

We’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes we’re going to have no clue what we’re doing. Maybe a lot of times. I’ll probably freak out. Meltdowns will happen—both from me and the baby.

Sometimes we’ll even sin against him. What?! I’m not going to be a perfect parent?

I see your looks of incredulity, but yes friends it’s true.

Therefore, as I learned to preach the gospel to myself in marriage, widowhood, and marriage again, so must I learn it now.

I’m well aware that my highly sensitive heart and strong need for introspection can lead an internal dialogue of fear. We all have our sin tendencies. So I have to change the dialogue.

  • God is the perfect parent. Therefore I don’t have to be.
  • If God did not spare His own Son, will he spare any omnipotent effort to do good to me? (or to my son?)
  • The cross and resurrection prove that the Lord is trustworthy. He always does what he says he will. Because I have been made alive, new, redeemed I can trust God.
  • My Father has promised to sanctify me. He is committed to transforming into the image of his Son. Therefore, he will give grace to admit when I am wrong. Grace to say, “Mommy is sorry. Please forgive me.”
  • God loves our baby far more than we do.

It still feels surreal sometimes. In a few short months we’ll be responsible to keep a tiny human alive, to meet his needs, to instruct him, to protect, to shepherd him. We pray many things for our baby, but most of all we pray he would know Jesus.  Because who’s the real Shepherd? Who’s the real Provider and Protector? It certainly isn’t me.

That I think, is the sum of what God has called us to do—point him to the marvelous grace found in Christ alone. We are channels, channels only to the one who is the answer to all fears, to the one who fully satisfies.

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A Handful of Wilted Flowers

for every momentBright yellow bursts are cropping up all over my yard. Dandelions. Some call them weeds, but I love them. I really do. Reminded of a memory from three years ago….

Happy squeals wafted through the open window. Glancing up, I studied the gleeful, boisterous play. Children climbed on jungle gyms. Some jumped rope. A fierce game of soccer was in full swing, and everywhere there was laughter and innocence. I put my head down on the desk, and contemplated crawling right under it. A tear fell, a wet circle on a stack of papers–“the new normal”.

Sorrow. I let it linger for several heartbeats.

“Pull it together Ami. They need you.”

I lifted my head, soaking up the commotion of recess once more, as if by watching I could trap a tiny part of their joy. How I longed for a return to the carefree.

Day after day I held it together for my Kinders, but melted into sobs on the way home. I’d had to return to work, however. I needed someone to need me.

I suppose I needed them as well.

Often I felt a small, warm hand slip inside mine as we walked down the hallway. Without looking I knew which child it was. He was unusually perceptive for his age, seeming to know just when I struggled the most. Comfort was intuitive.

My littles and I had also gotten to have many conversations about death. And Jesus. And Heaven. And grace. For all that, I was thankful. But some mornings it was a feat just to get out of bed.

Soon I left my quiet sanctuary and stepped into the spring sunshine to gather my gaggle of geese. Faces flushed from play, they fell in line like happy little goslings, fearlessly trusting.

“I picked some flowers for you Mrs. Atkins.”

He beamed, a handful of crushed dandelions stretched out in his chubby little fist. I knelt at his eye level. “They’re so beautiful. Thank you buddy! I love them.”

He threw the weight of himself at me in a the biggest hug a five year old could muster.

They were merely wilted weeds, a bunch of crushed dandelions. But they were more lovely than dozens of roses. Given of a pure heart, out of delight, he just wanted his teacher to smile.

And smile I did.

Thank you Lord for the small graces. Thank you for the rays of sunshine amid the clouds. 

I imagine it’s something like giving to God. The treasures I present are little more than wilted flowers. He’s the God who owns everything. He doesn’t need my dandelions.

I bring my weaknesses, my tainted motives, my sin. I bring no merit of my own.

He brings His righteousness.

So He grins with delight at my feeble, childish offerings. To Him they’re supremely lovely because they are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. He delights because He looks at me and sees His Son.

When I remember that, I can’t help but want to bring Him all the flowers I can gather. I delight in Him. And as a result. obedience and love flow from the abundance I’ve received– identity, reconciliation, adoption, salvation, inheritance, restoration. And most importantly, I’ve been given Him.

And here’s the thing. I would have smiled at my little Kinder, even he had never brought me a thing. My love for him was not a result of his behavior.

How beautifully freeing.

My Father delights in me.

Placing the flowers in a prominent place on my desk, I smiled again. My Father delights in me. He gives grace for every moment. And sometimes grace is a bundle of wilted dandelions.


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This post appeared first at anewseason.net

Here’s to the diving board.

Perfect Love Casts out FearI’ve never been a “dip a toe in the water” kind of girl. I’d much rather jump right off the diving board and embrace the chilly jolt.

Everyone knows it’s easier to acclimate if you go all in, right?

I tend to face life this way also. Decisions are all or nothing, and apathy isn’t a prominent character trait. I’ve been known to rush in, yet most decisions are actually preceded by intense thought and prayer.

But when I jump, I jump.

My husband and I had dated about a month when I told him I wanted to marry him. Indeed it was a bold statement, but I knew he wanted the same.

I like taking risks. Recently, however, a latent fear rose to the surface; I didn’t realize I was still afraid of future suffering. I thought I’d dealt with that one long ago. Apparently it crept up again.

Sitting in front of a man who wants to date me and has embraced my widowhood with immense grace, I finally confronted the sin lurking in the shadows.

“What if I have to walk through death again? If I let this guy in, I could suffer more.” 

Through tears I admitted the fear. Pulling me close, he spoke life giving truth.

“You know God is good. You know He does all things well. He sovereignly leads and plans the best things for your life. You may be a widow again. But you may not ever be. Because of the gospel we don’t have to fear. There is so much joy.”

He’s right.

And just like that I decided to leap. I don’t know what God plans for this man and me, but it’s time to take a risk and see what could be. I need not fear future suffering or future blessing.

For “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18.

God loves me perfectly. Jesus loved perfectly, even to death on the cross. Therefore, I don’t have to fear.

In How People Change, Tripp calls all the pressures of this life “heat.” The trials, blessings, responsibilities, sufferings, joys, and challenges, temptations—all are heat that produce either thorns or fruit.

At the potential of something new, my thorny response was fear. And in this scenario, fear is sin.

It is a result of

  • forgetting who God is.
  • forgetting what He has done.
  • forgetting who He says I am.
  • forgetting that He has provided everything for a God-honoring life.
  • forgetting that He’s committed to making me holy.

Sometimes I cherish things more than I cherish Christ—

My comfort.

My expectations for a well-ordered life.

My temptations to compare a new relationship with the old.

Therefore, I turn from fear. However, to merely change my behavior would be counterfeit and superficial at best. I need radical heart change.

“At the cross God meets us in our sin and struggle with His heart transforming grace.” -Paul Tripp.

So, I ask. “Who is God and what does He say and do in Christ?’

God is good. He is working all things out for my joy and His glory. (Romans 8) Because Jesus had joy in suffering, when suffering comes I can meet it with a settled confidence— with joy, peace, rest, and even cheerfulness.

He gives Himself.

He provides.

As I view the transforming grace of Christ at the cross, thorns become fruit, and I trust my unknown future to a known God.

As for this guy?

Well, I’m a little giddy. I can’t wait to see what God does next.

Here’s to the diving board.


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This post appeared first at anewseason.net

 

You are utterly enjoyable.

You know every ugliness.-2
Stopping in my tracks, I reread the simple statement. And it whacked me in between the eyes like a two-by-four.

“The infinitely self-sufficient God has come not to be assisted, but to be enjoyed.” – John Piper. 

Enjoyed.

God doesn’t need my help. Jesus came to be enjoyed.

Questions formed. Do I enjoy God? Or do I merely enjoy His things?

How easy it is to love the marvelous gifts I receive from God—life, provision, protection, salvation, comfort, adoption, reconciliation, and on and on. It is good to enjoy God’s gifts. He is a Father who delights to give good things to His children.

But do I enjoy Him more than His gifts?

Had I merely enjoyed the things I received from my husband, I’d rightly be labeled a horrible wife.

But my relationship with Jon was much more than things. I enjoyed his goofy child-like enthusiasm and passionate pursuit of anything he set out to do. I cherished his quirks and all the things that made him distinctly JonI even came to love his “no writing in books” ban.

I adored evenings curled up on the couch together and the warmth of his hand folded around mine. He chose me and loved me despite my flaws. I appreciated his wisdom and discernment. And I savored how his smile could light up a room.

Oh how greatly I enjoyed him! Moreover, how great was our mutual enjoyment!

What about God? How quickly I forget. Often I relish His things more than I relish the Giver. I could rightly be called a horrible daughter.

Ever the writer, I set out to make a list.

“Lord remind me how I enjoy you.”

I enjoy your masterful artistry. The sky is a multifaceted painting, each day ushering a new design. You expertly blend varieties of blues, grays, pinks, and oranges. It’s stunning because you are stunning.

If I enjoy anything beautiful and good, it is because you enjoy it first. Gorgeous sunsets. Music. Laughter and singing. Love. Affection. Deep conversations.

All of these reflect your character.

I enjoy you in the quietness of a rainy day. For you are rest and peace.

I cherish our constant conversation, the ebbs and flows, the picking up right where we left off. Your words flood my heart in seasons of fear and doubt. You are trustworthy. You are comfort; scripture tells me truth when I cannot tell myself.

I love to tell you who you are. Sovereign protector. Redeemer. Provider. God you are holy, merciful, and just.—At the cross they collided harmoniously!

Sustainer. Satisfier. Exalted above all. Refuge. The list is exhaustive!

Furthermore, who I am flows directly from who you are. I know myself accurately only when I first know you. My identity is thoroughly wrapped up in your identity.

  • You adopt.
  • You guide.
  • You lead.
  • You cherish.
  • You secure.
  • You shelter.

Therefore, I am adopted, guided, led, cherished, secured, and sheltered.

I enjoy being thoroughly known and thoroughly loved. You know every single ugliness, even the ones I dare not let others see. Yet you stay. More than that, you enjoy me too! What an unfathomable thing, Lord!

You are the subject of every sentence, the main character of every story.

“He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:25

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

With vibrant clarity rings the truth about God.

O Lord I do enjoy you! You are utterly enjoyable.

I don’t want to write about grief.

A post for widows, but perhaps truth for many…

comfort

I don’t want to write about grief.

I sat brainstorming for my upcoming post for A Widow’s Might. “How can I encourage other widows today? What do these hurting sisters need to hear?”

A revelation lodged itself firmly in my heart. Though I’m responsible for a post about grief, I don’t want to write about it.

How utterly marvelous and liberating!

“Why? What do you mean?”

Let me back up a moment. Two weeks after my husband died, I was compelled to chronicle the aftermath publicly, to let others see the crushing pain, to not shy away from places some fear to tread.

I’m not one to run away, so I attacked grief, aggressively processing facet after facet. I allowed myself to be in the deep places. And it was not wrong for me to be there.

I’ve unpacked layer upon layer of sorrow, filling 100s of journal pages and constructing nearly 60 blog posts. Writing is an outlet where confusion turns to clarity, where tears funnel into something productive.

More importantly, writing is the place where I preach truth to myself. I had to be raw and honest, but I also had to show the radical hope found in Jesus Christ. Writing about my grief cemented the truths God made clear in the valley:

It’s been an immensely necessary and beautiful part of the journey. I think it may yet have its place, but today my heart says, “It’s time to write about other things.”

Perhaps then, the most liberating and radical truth I can share is this: we don’t have to stay in the stranglehold. Through Jesus, grief cannot utterly destroy. Rather, He crushed death to death, and He turns mourning into dancing. He teaches us to write about other things.

Grief does not define me, nor is it my identity.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 

Christ lives in me, and He defines me. Redeemed. Chosen. Adopted. Beloved. Complete. Whole.

Now don’t miss this, I’m still madly in love with my husband and miss him daily. I’m sure tears will still come at needed moments. Yet by grace, I walk forward.

And today, I don’t want to write about grief.

Father, through Jesus there is immense hope, confident expectation. Jesus took my spiritual death, and one day even physical death will be no more. Eternity awaits, forever with You. And these things fill my heart with joy! You will turn mourning into dancing and sorrow into gladness. God You were with me in the valley of death. You wept beside me there for many weeks. But now, I’m thankful You have led me from it. 

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” Psalm 30:11-12


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

Reclaiming #Blessed

HgZuGu3gSD6db21T3lxm_San-ZenoneBlessed. It’s a word that often makes my skin crawl.

“I’m so blessed.” I cringe at the statement, hoping no one else can see the involuntary shudder.

Blessed is a perfectly biblical word, so what’s the big deal? Aren’t you being cynical? Surely, you’re just bitter because others have what you want.

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to rejoice, but there’s no cynicism here.

I cringe because “blessed” seems to be merely a trend, a cliche, another word hijacked of its rich meaning.

#blessed…

“We just closed on our new house. #blessed”
“What a beautiful baby! #blessed”
“Praise God! My husband got a big promotion. #blessed”
“My awesome hubby just gave me the most gorgeous just because flowers. #blessed.”

Yes, blessed indeed.

“I just got diagnosed with cancer. #blessed”
“I’m so lonely I could scream. #blessed”
“We lost it all in an instant. #blessed”
“My husband died. #blessed”

Blessed? In these circumstances? I can see your mind reeling…


You’ll want to read the rest. Check out the full post at Intentional By Grace

Join me. #ReclaimBlessed

God is Sovereign. I am not.

Sovereign2“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

As the jet ascended, Chicago’s city lights overtook the night, light saturating the terrain. It engulfed the darkness, and I marveled at its radiance. Cars became pin pricks in the distance. A clearly designed grid, created by humans minds, glowed against the black sky. From above there was order in neat squares.

To the right I could still see the rise of giant skyscrapers. Straight ahead the light ended abruptly; Lake Michigan was ink against the line of fire. It was an ethereal beauty, a peaceful calm, far removed from the congested streets, the homelessness, the hundreds of thousands of stories, the real-life struggles. Too soon though, the city’s brilliance receded into the distance. And there was darkness. How feeble was the light of much smaller towns. Light no longer engulfed the night.

But at 30,000 feet, I understood that darkness existed only in pockets. The inky patches didn’t frighten me because I could tell they didn’t last forever. Other cities, other towns slid into view. The light of one city emanated like spokes of a wheel, illumination concentrated at a central hub. Over other cities, light sprawled without any discernible pattern but still in magnificent contrast to the night.

From my vantage point, light interrupted darkness, darkness interrupted light, a constant ebb and flow. It reminded me of life- joy mingled with sorrow, sorrow mingled with joy.

“I could stay here, removed from the grit and messiness. I could stay in the place where I can see the grand design.”

Then my thoughts funneled to a single truth. God is sovereign. I am not. He is above all things. He understands all things. He is in control over all things. He sees the beginning and the end, the dark patches and the light.

Unlike a pilot, He doesn’t merely know the final destination, He sees the entire journey at once. I cannot claim to fully understand, but I know He guides all things. Through grief, I’ve learned to mine the depth of God’s sovereignty, and I’ve found it immensely comforting. God was sovereign over Jon’s death.

God knew the number of his days. (Psalm 139) My husband was supposed to die.

A high view of God’s sovereignty keeps me grounded in the reality that nothing could have thwarted His will. There were no imaginary days. The “what ifs” don’t exist. Likewise, though I long for an aerial view, God’s mercy limits my sight to the ground-level path in front of me.

Perhaps if I knew the future I would run away, afraid to face what is to come.

Of course, I would never trade loving and being so deeply loved by my husband! But had I glimpsed the future, would I have even started down the path with him. Would I have looked across time and accepted becoming a widow at 30?

Probably not. I might I have said, “Well Jonathan Atkins, you’re a wonderful guy, but there’s too much pain in that path. I’m not heading toward a world shattered and turned upside down.”

I might not have cared about the magnificent, radiant light that is following my the sea of ink. I may have said, “That darkness is too big, the night encompasses too much.”

Praise God I cannot see the aerial view! At ground level, He teaches me to trust Him. The One who sees the final city, will lead me safely to it.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” II Corinthians 4:17

Because I know God is sovereign, I know He has purpose. Nothing is arbitrary. No circumstances are futile. His plan is good, even when it includes immense, dark patches of suffering and trial. I know that’s a hard thing to hear. I’m right there with you! But let our frightened hearts rest in radical truth. For the Christian, darkness is swallowed by light. Through deepest black, Jesus is incomprehensible light.

He is peace that passes understanding. He is joy even in sorrow.

Though He is transcendent, He is also imminent. He is here. He is close. My Lord is not content to dwell far removed from the grit. Rather, He is also personal, deeply intimate, and close at hand when darkness seems to overwhelm. In His goodness He gives seas of ink. And In His goodness He gives cities of magnificent light.

Lord you are sovereign. You are in control over all things, and no one can thwart your plan. You are transcendent, but you are also personal. Thank you that my Savior is intimately acquainted with grief, and walks through darkness with me. You are radiant light. You are joy. I rest here today.


This post by Ami, appeared first at anewseason.net.

This Clumsy, Broken Thing

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 

I’m really clumsy.

If you knew me, you’d laugh because that’s an understatement.

I call the phenomena “Drop the book.” It’s like my brain decides, “You’re done holding that. Drop the book.” Then the book falls. It’s real.

I have a friend who calls me “Trip,” not because I’m funny.

And I think there are things in life that happen only to me. I mean, it takes a special person to cause a spectacular splatter of gooey chocolate all over her wall and stove.

Once I accidentally flushed $150 down the toilet. You don’t even want to know.

Most of the time I just laugh at myself.

After some manifestation of my clumsiness, my husband always cupped my chin in his hand, grinned, and said, “Oh Lovee, what am I going to do with you?”

“Just love me,” was my coy reply.

A friend told me that it really is a cute elegance. I’ll go with that.

I also break things, but not on purpose.

It always seems to be something with memories attached, though–a coffee mug my husband and I bought on vacation–a hand-painted spoon rest from when we were dating.

On our first anniversary I even broke one of our personalized wedding flutes. You can imagine the tears. We never got around to replacing it either.

To date I haven’t broken a dish in anger, but I’ll admit, when Jon died I often wished a box of cheap dishes would magically appear so I could smash them to the floor.

And had they appeared, I’m almost certain they would have ended up in smithereens.

Even then I had sense enough not to hurl the Fiestaware.

Recently I broke my special spoon rest…again. I don’t remember how I broke it the first time, but I’m sure I was distraught and Jon his usual calm. We carefully fixed it with super glue, and its flaw was barely noticeable.

I think I’ll be able to mend it again, but I this time the scar will show. When memories are all that’s left, a shattered one pierces that much deeper.

So, I’ve been thinking about how God speaks of broken things.

Often being broken is a mark of humility or surrender.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

I’ve been broken so many times. The process is painful, but it’s a sweet brokenness that teaches me to understand the fierceness of God’s tenderness. He draws near the broken hearted.

Being broken and restored also reminds me of Kintsukuroi, a Japanese repair method that infuses broken pottery with gold. How ironic that the shards are mended with scars of gold! The result– a piece far more exquisite and costly, not in spite of the scars but because of them.

In other places, broken things represent extravagant love.

“…as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.” Mark 14:13

A familiar story, but don’t lose its radiance.Ultimate broken thing

A woman, identified elsewhere as Mary the sister of Lazarus, took a flask of ointment worth almost a year’s wages, broke it (for there were no screw tops in those days), and used all of it to anoint Jesus.

Others around the table were outraged at her ridiculous waste and flagrant behavior.

But her broken thing was an avenue for lavish affection and worship. She knew what was most important.

Finally, sometimes God combines these three: humility, scars, and extravagant love.

They intersect in the ultimate “broken thing,” Jesus.

He humbled himself even to death on the cross. Now alive, He bears the scars as a mark of His extravagant love.

He heals broken things. He mends them with something much more valuable than gold.

I marvel that He loves this clumsy, broken thing.

Father thank you for spiritual brokenness. Thank you for bringing me often to a place of surrender and humility. Keep my heart ever tender before you. Use my brokenness to manifest your extravagant love. I have scars, but you heal them with something more precious than gold, that is, Yourself. 

This post appeared first at A Widow’s Might.

 

So why do I? Write, that is.

compelled to“I have always been fascinated by bloggers, but never considered becoming one. Ever. I’ve written for myself for a long time, but not published for others to see…”

These were the opening lines as I ventured into the land of blogging about a year and a half ago. At the time it was the introduction to my raw thoughts and emotions, merely two weeks removed from my husband’s death. I wrote then because I was compelled to. I needed an outlet, a way to make sense of the tsunami around me.

At first writing was just for me. Then it was to confront stereotypes and show the reality of grief. Now it’s morphing into a desire to equip and encourage. Over the months I remembered just how much I LOVE to write. God stirred a passion that had lain dormant till tragedy forced it to awaken.

Today writing takes another step.

A couple weeks ago, my sweet friend Kit Hinkle from aNew Season asked if I’d like to be part of a blog hop.

“A blog hop? What is such a thing?” said I.

“Well, another blogger will hop to me and then I’ll hop to you and two others. It’s a chance for all of us to write about the same topic.” I was intrigued.

I’ll get on to “hopping,” but first let me tell you about Kit. She’s a lady I value as an “older sister”, one further down the path of widowhood. She is the mother of four teenage sons and also leads the team at aNew Season and A Widow’s Might. She and her team write for thousands of ladies about everything from divorce, to an empty nest, to a new baby, to widowhood. They desire to point to women to Jesus in all of life’s seasons.

The first time Kit and I chatted on the phone we talked for over an hour. I was overwhelmed that such a busy lady would take time to encourage me! It’s been priceless to talk to someone who knows. 

So a blog hop with Kit? Yep. Sign me up. Here goes, writing about writing, a little metacognition if you please.

What am I working on?

At the moment I have some thoughts brewing about the word, “blessed.” I think American Christians often buy into the lie that being blessed means life is going well. The new house. The awesome husband. A great job. But I think Jesus had some different things to say on the topic.  I want to reclaim the word we know it’s so much more than #I’mblessed on Facebook…

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well in every post, you”ll see the gospel woven throughout. The gospel is a diamond with many facets. It’s not merely a buzz word. It’s for all of life, and is the power to become like Christ. The gospel reminds me of who I am, lost and found in Him. So, you’ll see the struggle to believe, the pain, or the story, but you will always be pointed back to the main thing– the life, death, burial, resurrection, and reign of Jesus. You’ll see redemption, adoption, reconciliation, propitiation…You’ll see gospel application to the messiness of daily life.

Also, I’m writing from within. When I first started seeking resources for grief and suffering, much of what I found was written several years later in reflection. Well, I thought it was time for the perspective of one who’s in it. Blogging is my journey with grief from 2 weeks to where I am now- a year and a half.

Why do I write what I do?

“I surrender my life to you Lord Jesus. Take it and do whatever you want with it.

I was 14 and didn’t know much about what it meant to be a Christ-follower, but I did get that I needed a Savior. I didn’t know that He had chosen me before the foundation of the world, but I knew I wanted to follow Him. I knew He loved me. I knew He died for me.

That prayer of surrender has tumbled from my heart many times. In joy and in sorrow, He’s taught me to say. “Take my life. It’s yours.”

He’s asked me to count the cost often, and still my heart says, “Yes, Lord. Make me a disciple.”

So, I guess that’s why I write. This life is not my own.

“I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. 

I write out of praise and thanksgiving. I write because I’m compelled to. Any talents I have are gifts from God, to be developed and used for His kingdom, His glory. I write from a place of delight in Jesus, in all He is and all He’s accomplished.

I write what I do because I want to make much of Christ.

How does my writing process work?

Most often writing comes from the daily occurrences that stir my soul.- my husband’s shampoo, playing a board game, or going to the fair. I write to process the struggle. A few weeks ago I felt bombarded with a million lies, so I have a post coming soon about fighting them. I also write to nail down the BIG truths and crossroads moments.

I find that when I write something real to me, the thoughts come quickly, taking shape in about a half hour. Writing to instruct takes much longer, though. I wrote and rewrote a post about applying the gospel in sorrow for several weeks before I felt satisfied with it. I often let close friends preview my writing to help edit and refine ideas. I’m still learning how to be a writer, so I’m sure my writing process will continue to develop!

Mostly, I pray. I pray that the Holy Spirit would lead. I pray that He would encourage the ones who need it. And I pray that Christ be magnified, and that I fade into the background.

So why do I write? Because I’m compelled to. That’s the simple answer. 


Well are you ready for some more FUN? Let me introduce you some ladies who are both stellar writers and sweet friends…

246dcfae6b7565db310ea3829d517ddbTrisha White PriebeI first met Trisha in college as part of a student work program. I recall her beautiful smile and vibrant joy. She seemed like one of those people who could light up a room. Trisha and her husband published a book called Trust, Hope, Pray: Encouragement for the Task of Waiting. She is also currently co-writing a novel with Jerry B. Jenkins. It also seems like she has a “dark secret.”— She’s addicted to home management. But I think I’m supposed to keep that on the down low. You’ll just have to hop over to househoncho.com to get the rest of the scoop!

blogprofileRachel B. – Rachel and I go way back, but some of my most beautiful memories of Rachel surround her using her talents sacrificially to help my wedding day come off without a hitch. Jon lovingly called her our “Wedding Nazi.” The day wouldn’t have fallen apart without her! Rachel is a wife, a mother of three, with one on the way, and one in heaven. She writes about the every day joys and challenges of motherhood, and just the beauty of life itself. I love the way Rachel crafts words! My heart is always encouraged by her beautiful simplicity. Even just the blog name Une Bonne Vie intrigues me to read more!

bkaser_1404360317_4Becca Kaser Becca is a new friend to me, but one of my husband’s friends from college. She recently created her blog Daily Joy, but it’s already a refreshing blessing to me!  I love the reminders that daily joy comes from satisfaction in Christ.

In her words…

Hello my name is Rebecca Kaser and I struggle with anxiety. Phew. It feels good to get that out. But, I’m learning I am not the only one. So, instead of letting my anxiety absolutely destroy my joy, I am going to strive to find joy in my daily journey. I am a new stay-at-home momma just trying to figure this whole new role out.

So, this is a blog for women, and not just women who struggle with anxiety, but for women who want to find joy in the mundane – the diapers, the cooking, the cleaning. How can we fight the battle going on in our minds and find daily peace and joy?”

Thanks for hopping with me friends!

Adoption and the County Fair

fair 2My in-laws love the county fair. It’s one of their FAVORITE family traditions. Did I emphasize favorite?

They don’t just go one day, but every day. They love planning out their fair food- kabobs, corn on the cob, elephant ears, turkey legs, cherry limeade, tacos, donuts…

When I came into the family, I readily embraced this tradition. Bring on the fair food!

I remember my first time at the fair with the Neff clan. It was the Sandwich Fair, in Sandwich Illinois. I was a little disappointed there were no free sandwiches. But I digress.

Jon and I had been dating several months and it came time to bring me home to meet the family. I already loved him, but I quickly fell in love with them too.

I loved experiencing their joy over something so simple as the county fair.

Jon’s sister, Megan, was 14 at the time. Of course we had to ride the Zipper. I found out later that as soon as the ride started, Jon and his mom had a conversation…

“So? What do you think? Do you like her?”

“What’s not to like? She’s lovely.”

Then eyeing him with a look that only moms have, “You better not mess this up.”

How those words make me smile.

I think I got to have five county fairs with Jon and the whole family. Then Mom and Dad Neff moved away. And then Jon died. It was not the same. A place that had been fill only with joy, now met me with tears.

But this we year got to go to the fair again! How we laughed, and reminisced. It was just “right” to be there with them again. My mother-in-law even gave me a quarter to feed the animals. Happy. As we relished our fair food and took in the sights, my thoughts turned to adoption.

Adoption? Well there are some more things you need to know…

Jon understood the beauty of two sets of parents. His first mom was a type one diabetic to whom the doctors said, “If you have children, it will kill you.”

Yet she was a believer in Jesus. When she knew she was pregnant, to end a life was not an option.

She spent months of her pregnancy hospitalized. During that time she kept a journal for her unborn son, Jonathan. I have this journal, and it’s a touching link to a lady I never got to meet. Her love of Christ leapt from the page.

The doctors were right. Having a child debilitated her. When Jon was five, his mom had her first stroke. He quickly learned to dial 911.

Eventually, she died after multiple strokes and after having both legs amputated. Jon was 14.

In Jon’s words, he learned how to love by watching his dad lavish affection on a wife who was an invalid for years. Jon said his dad always adored her. I can’t wait to meet that man someday. and thank him! For I was the beneficiary of those lessons in love. Lavish, extravagant love.

I so wish I had gotten to meet Mom and Dad Atkins, to know the parents my husband cherished so dearly. Some day I will!

But, Jon’s dad also died. At 19, he was alone.

Astonishingly though, God was up to something new and marvelous: giving him another family. Before he died, Jim asked his pastor to watch over his son.

“Would you help him stay out of trouble? Will you see him through college?”

So the Neff family prayed. “Can we take on such a role?

By grace they said yes. They packed up a grieving, rebellious teenager and welcomed him home. My 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 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, beautiful thing was forming. Another son. Part of the family.

They played such a huge, indispensable role in the man he became.

At our wedding, Jon 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.

Ever since that first county fair, I have understood adoption too. I have a beautiful family, but I also have a second family.

“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.”

Praise God for adoption. Praise God for an even greater adoption!

Adoption, one of the most tender facets of the gospel, causes me to marvel at the love of God.

I am a daughter of the King. I’m a child of the Most High. I’m an heir with the Son. My Father has every resource at His disposal. Because I’m in the family, I am never alone. My Father will only ever do good to me.

Who knew the county fair could produce such magnificent thoughts?

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