Am I dreaming?

It is with great joy, gratitude and near disbelief that I share these long dreamed of and prayed for words…

We are having a BABY GIRL!

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The Lord has heard nearly thirteen years of prayers and he has answered my cry. Yes the baby in my womb is a girl, a sweet, darling girl and I love her as deep and as wide as twelve years of grieving and hoping can stretch a heart.

In February of 2005, our precious Anna died, nestled snug in my womb, nearly nine months big. And when her heart stopped beating, a part of my heart stopped beating as well. Thirteen years has brought peace and a new way of living with joy…but the grief for my Anna girl will always remain.


Since then, the Lord has blessed us with four amazing sons and it is a gift and an honor to be their mama. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel the joy of getting to be a mother, their mother, and that I don’t look at Chris and realize how blessed we are to be raising these sweethearts into men.


But 12 ½ years of being blessed with sons, has not eradicated the ache and longing in my soul for another daughter. I have wrestled with guilt and shame for my longing- knowing that I am so extremely blessed. But the ache has remained and the pleading and surrendering my heart before the Lord has been a discipline on repeat for nearly all my adult life.

Once someone told me she knew why God wasn’t giving me another daughter. She said she knew it was because my story of grief would lose its testimony to those who were suffering if God tied it all up in a pretty pink bow. That seemed like the right way to look at it at the time and so I embraced it, so much so that saying yes to joy over this little one was difficult at first. I felt like I was abandoning those I have and will continue to suffer and pray with and for. But there is another message that comes with the blessing of this child-


I do not know why some prayers are answered and some are seemingly not. A pivotal turning point in my grief and healing came when someone shared with me that God answers all of our prayers with either His supremacy or His sufficiency…and both responses are demonstrations of His perfect love and goodness. I have clung to these words, to His sufficient grace for me.  Thirteen years of aching, praying and grieving has taken me deep into the heart of God and this sweet baby, even in joy, will take me deeper still. I know that my life is purposeful in both its seasons of bitter and beauty and I know that the grief for Anna will not suddenly end just because another daughter has been given.

This child is not a replacement. There will only ever be one Anna Rose Katherine. And our story will always be my favorite, because she is the one who made me a mother and she is the one who gave me Jesus in ways I never imagined possible. She is the one who in losing her life introduced me to holy comfort and I pray I spend the rest of my life sharing that sweet comfort with others.


A Hope Fulfilled

6 years ago we moved into our current home and I sat on the nursery floor and closed my eyes, trying to envision how I would paint and decorate for Elijah, just an infant at the time. But when I closed my eyes all I could see was pink and I fell to my knees in grief and shame. Of course I adored Elijah, I wouldn’t have traded him for a million girls, but the deepest desire of my heart came lurching forward in that moment and painted femininity all over my mind’s eye. I wept for Anna. I wept for the daughter I had prayed for so often. And then very gently I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Ask me.”

“Ask me what?” I thought

“Ask me what I have for you.”

And in that moment, the deepest desire of my heart, always spoken as a request, was now for the first time being timidly uttered as a question…

“Lord do you have….”

But before I could finish my sentence (“a daughter for us”) He spoke again-

“As sure as there is sand in the sea.”

It was a sacred moment. I didn’t exactly know what or how to take it- but I wept and worshiped and then I painted the nursery blue for Elijah embracing the present, with a new deposit of hope for the future.

In the days that followed, that phrase accompanied me everywhere. It felt so familiar. Finally I searched online, “As sure as there is sand in the sea” and this is what appeared…

Genesis 22:17- “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand in the sea.”

My heart dropped. Was God in fact giving me a promise, just as he had to Sarah and Abraham in her ache and long suffering for a child? Was He directing me back to age old words of hope and assurance offered to another grieving mother?

I held those words close. I shared them with very few people and continued to hope and pray even through years of guilt and punishment for the longing I carried. Honestly there were many seasons where I just wanted it to be over…the hope. It was too weighty to carry an unfulfilled desire for so long. I begged God to take it- I told him again and again that I was content, that I was satisfied with His sovereign plan, that I wanted what He wanted for me more than what I wanted.  But every time I surrendered, the desire came back even stronger. So, I continued to pray for God’s ultimate will to be done in our life, remembering that sacred morning in the nursery and “as sure as there is sand in the sea.”  I now know my hope was never rooted in anything ungodly but rather the burden of hope I carried was given to me by Jesus for the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan for me and His kingdom.

To those of you who have followed our journey and have participated with love, faithfulness and prayer, the words thank you simply don’t cut it. I love you, I love you, I love you!

In closing this post, I wanted to share something very sacred to me as a testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness…

I love the old hymn “Standing on the promises of God.” In decorating our little one’s nursery (the one once painted blue) I wanted to honor God’s promise spoken to me years ago by literally standing on His promises to me. My sweet niece Beth captured these images for me this summer…

Yes baby girl,

As sure as there is sand in the sea…

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Thank You Jesus!

Baby Girl expected to arrive on Christmas Eve.


The Grace to Grieve~Again

For years now, grief has been an enormous part of who I am. Walking the path of sorrow/comfort with others has been my honor. But sometimes we come to a place where we realize that who we are has become overloaded and confused. We try to hang onto a previous definition, as a new one seeks to be written. One son after another was added, a part-time job became full-time and the Lord called Chris, called us, into ministry together. Though my “Anna-story” was and is an incredibly significant part of my life, I came to a point where I realized it needed to grow smaller because everything else was growing bigger. I needed to open my arms, my heart and my home to the present. I needed to regroup and reclaim life in the way God was leading me to live it with His present, not past instruction. I took a break from blogging and my book ministry and I used that time to love my little’s, women in my community and to date my adorable husband again. It was a sweet season- reveling in all God has given me to steward which breathes in this world.

But sorrow has come back into my life. New chapters of loss have been written and so now it is time (at least for today) to dust off my laptop and to write out the grace I have found to grieve once again. I do so not as an expert, but as a humble servant of pain and words and the love of God which I am ever growing in the knowledge and experience of.

In September we flew to Mexico and had the best week of our lives with our dear friends. We celebrated 15 years of marriage (a few months early) and the blessing of faithful friendship. It was filled with intense laughter, rest and above all, love. Wonderful, magnificent love. And we left Mexico with the teeniest, tiniest, most unexpected but joyfully received souvenir.

We were pregnant.

Nine weeks later that fairy tale ended in a sterile, cold, operating room. We had lost our second child. We had lost our love baby. Our sweet, unexpected fairy tale was over. We were devastated. Our boys were heart-broken. And yet, the loss of this sweet baby gave our family a gift, a new desire for our family to grow.  We were sad and yet joyfully expectant with hope for the future.

On our actual fifteenth wedding anniversary, God answered our desire and prayer and we received another little blessing. We barely had time to celebrate a new beginning before saying good-bye again. Our seventh child, our third baby received in eternity. Once again, heart-broken. This time loss brought fear. What did this mean? What is happening to my body? What do we do with our hope and our longing now?

A few months ago when we miscarried, the Lord spoke the sweetest promise to my heart in the moment right before we learned our baby was gone-

“You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

I have clutched this promise with a tenacious grip these past few months and as we stepped with faith and trust into another pregnancy, I held this promise high. I believed we were in a new season of receiving this promised goodness from Him.

But just like that the door slammed shut. Light was boxed out. Death came for us once again.

Today as I write, I am desperately sad.

I look to my right into a storehouse of treasure, truths I have collected throughout my life, boasting of the love, goodness, faithfulness and kindness of my God. But looking to the left, I see loss after loss and pain after wretched pain. For nearly a year now, my life-long friend, mama of four sweet ones and wife of one very dear man, has battled grotesque cancer and I cannot even find the words.

I have screamed, punched, wept, ached and begged. I have the hit the floor in agony, sorrow and empathy for my dear one and her beloveds. “How is this possible” I wonder again and again. What can be done? Cancer strikes like lightening and I know there is nothing that I can do to undo the severing of disease. There is nothing I can do to undo death. There is nothing anyone can do to bring back my beloved children or to make their losses okay. It will never be okay that they are not under my wings. I am running toward the Lord begging for mercy in one breath and raging with questions and perplexities in the next. I want to scream-

Where is the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? Where is the goodness of the Lord when cancer strikes and death steals and babies die? Where and how is this promise true for me and the ones I love?

I spoke them out, my searing questions, knowing that the throne I approach is one of grace. In love and kindness, my tender Shepherd, the one who left the 99 to find the wayward lamb, spoke to my wayward heart again and again and again-

“I am near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18

This truth that swaddled me up tight and secure so many years ago when I lost my girl, was coming for me again. As I bleed and cramp with womb and heart ache…I have His presence. My crushed spirit is a beckoning call to the tender One. My broken form hurries the wholeness of perfect love to come swiftly. No matter how dark it gets, or how alone I feel, I am hovered by, invaded with and upheld in the hand of the One who made me. He is the One who knows exactly where all the pain and deception hide and He is there, in each place, whispering truth, shedding blood, rejoicing over me with singing. I am not alone. And more than that, my companion is the one and only whose love is perfect, knows no bounds and promises to be “better than life.” Do I know this, do I believe this? I certainly don’t feel it at times, but today God’s promises are stitching up my wounds and by faith I receive it.

Today the goodness of the Lord is resting in the presence of the Lord.

Again He spoke to me-

“I have said these things to you so in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Today as I weep and as I kneel weary, needy and broken at His feet, the goodness of the Lord is a reminder to not be shocked by my circumstances. “Yes this world is broken. Yes this world is diseased and pain is epidemic.”  He told me it would be so. His words were preparation for the hard I have and will face. His words offer validation, comfort and peace. And the goodness of the Lord is reassurance of the truest reality- “I have made a way through the piercing dark of death and sin and I have overcome that for which you weep and for this reason you can take heart. You can have hope. I have overcome.”  The goodness of the Lord in my grief looks like taking hold of the solution, of Jesus and clinging to the edge of His robe where power trails out and I am in some way, healed. Not necessarily the way I want or pray to be blessed, but His power is restoring me somehow.

Today the goodness of the Lord is being consoled in one reality and confident in the truest reality. The goodness of the Lord is resting in ultimate victory.

Again- the voice of the Lord…

“Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

My husband, my boys, my home, every breath I take, even the ones that hurt, all good gifts. So today as I lay curled up on my bed in grief and sadness, the goodness of the Lord looks like a heightened sense of gratitude for what I do have- an urgency to press little boy hearts up against mine and to revel in the sweet beat that they have been given and all that means for me and for the world they live in. It looks like crying tears of joy for the sweet two-year-old who incorrectly and yet very correctly thinks Jonah is spelled J-O-Y. It is pleasure and blessing for the man who stares back at me with tears streaming down his face, telling me he hates to see me hurt and then prays for the healer to comfort our hearts. It is humility and thankfulness for a multitude of friends and family who run to our rescue and make their hearts and homes and shoulders available to us. It is a mama whose lap feels the exact same as it did when I was seven, sixteen and twenty-five and who has the perfect way of brushing the hair from my face and for wiping the tears from my eyes. The goodness of God is a warm bed, thick covers and food brought and flavors savored and many, many, many, phone calls to and from my big sister in Germany.

The goodness of the Lord is all that has already been given growing brighter in the dark night of grief.

And then a song came-

“Worthy is the lamb who was slain- worthy is the king who conquers the grave.”

And on the heels of these notes a prayer- “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.” Psalm 51:12

The goodness of the Lord looks like the gospel, running hard after me, tackling me like a toddler eager to give and receive love. It reminds me that this one piece of history comes alive again and again in the present every time a prodigal comes home, every time a lost sheep is found and every time a weary heart drinks deeply of the living water. The gospel is embraced every time a grieving mama remembers that God grieved his child too and then said, “NO MORE.” No More to unavenged death and sadness. No more to separation from God and the inability to come close to a crushed spirit. By the cross the Father cried “Hell No” to Hades and permanent death and when “it was finished” the Father raised His son to life and “the Way” to restoration, redemption and resurrection was permanently paved for us. So yes, for all of this He is worthy, oh-so-very-worthy of my praise. Yes, even on the morning of my miscarriage. Even as I wipe tears from my dear friends eyes and as we process life and death and heaven and the mysterious and yet very real grace which will be sufficient for it all.  And so I beg God, “Restore unto me the JOY of my salvation.”  I meditate on all this ultimate transaction of love means for my past, my present and my future and something inside of me becomes suddenly stationary. The whipping winds and raging waves have ceased and though I cannot hear it, I know my God has commanded the chaos to bow before him and once again I am saved. The gospel has made its home in me. My babies are still gone. Cancer is still a wicked thief and our whole world is reeking with decay, but, the keys of life and death are in His hands, not the enemy’s and salvation belongs to us. In my emptiness and poverty of spirit, I have just become armed and empowered with promises that no amount of death or evil can steal.

Today the goodness of the Lord is receiving salvation and responding in worship.

And finally the Savior reminds me…

“To all who mourn, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

Watch what I can do with these broken fragments of your life. I am making you beautiful, the best kind of beautiful for my kingdom. I will waste nothing. This will be yet another doorway of hope in a dark valley of Trouble (Hosea 2). Abide in me and discover the treasures of joy and praise that I have prepared for you.  Walk with me and see Me anew and be changed. Entrust your seeds of sorrow to me and watch as I grow you into a living, breathing display of my Glory.   

The Goodness of The Lord is knowing that the dark is not dark to Him, that the night will shine like the day. The Goodness of the Lord is a willingness to be made new. It is a Spirit that accepts and stays soft in the truth while the enemy threatens with lies that can turn a man to stone. The Goodness of the Lord is a heart on a wheel and a Potter on his Throne.

Today the Goodness of the Lord is a surrendered heart to the One who is molding me into Himself. The Goodness of the Lord is hope in the promises of beauty and joy that will come.

This Goodness doesn’t take away my hurt. It doesn’t take away my mourning. It doesn’t mean I will walk into my dark days of Anna February grief with any less ache or throb, but, it adds to it. It adds love, comfort, hope and joy. It adds purpose, peace, presence, tenderness and strength. It adds a final chapter of hope as the rest of my chapters are being written. It adds the perfect ending. An ending that is really the truest beginning, where tears get wiped away by the same finger tips that formed and fashioned me. This ending/beginning where the most painful moments on earth won’t even be able to be recalled. It adds permanent joy and for this mama, my ending/beginning has children waiting to be received.

I do hope for sweeter chapters to be written in my life- that the goodness of the Lord will look like tangible earthy pleasure and hopefully the addition of another Kelty one day…but for now, I do see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I see dross rising to the surface as I am refined by the fire, as I hopefully am becoming more like the Beautiful One and I will exalt He that saved and saves me still.

To the little ones I have lost-

Oh dear babies, you have my heart, you have each other and you have the face, heart and kingdom of the One who loves us both. Oh to be together! Until then, I am learning the balance of holding you in my heart, and yet, letting you go so I can be unhinged to the past and ever open to all He has called me to in this world. I love you, I love you, I love you, a million times over….


“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of God forever.” Psalm 23:6







Motherhood To Me

I don’t think of myself as a great mother.

I don’t.

I have my moments, but the truth is, there are days, many of them, that I am an awful mother. Days when I am embarrassingly selfish. Days when I rant and rave. Days when I crush little feelings with a thoughtless, harsh word, or perhaps worse…neglect. I ignore and make the unimportant things the essential things and relegate tiny, tender hearts to the backseat.

And yet, pinch me, I am among the ranks of the most honored troops in all the world. Soldiers with a job more important than any other, this army of protectors and nurturers- lovers and molders of little souls.

I am “mama” to four boys quickly becoming men and the fact that I get to be just that, a mother, is bringing me to my knees today .IMG_2248

FullSizeRender (3)Last night John (nicknamed blondie- but getting sandier by the minute) stopped my heart in its tracks. John couldn’t sleep and came down at 10:00 PM for what was almost a lost moment. But for whatever reason, I pushed selfishness aside and invited John under my wing. My mom used to tell me that God made a copy of her heart and put it in me. The same could be said of my Johnny. We are different in many ways, but the essence of us is stitched with the same thread. The conversation started easy and before I knew it his thoughts gave way to words and his words, abundant treasure for me.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe mom.”

I listened to these heavy, careful words, his doubts, and then he voiced another layer of pain.

“I miss my sister. She’s with Jesus, but that’s all I get to know.” He said it in a whisper, an attempt to ward off escalating emotions. The tears came anyway.

I listened and I didn’t try to fix- I couldn’t. But I did share stories. I gave John pieces of his history he didn’t know. I told him about moments in his earliest years when his panic turned to peace and I told him about his nightmares, bold prayers I prayed, and Jesus coming to him in his dreams. I told him moments where similar emotions and thoughts had benched me and moments when my most pleading prayers gave way to sacred answers that I confided in John. I reminded him that I was the keeper of his stories and that anytime he feared, doubted or forgot who and whose he was, that he could simply ask, “Mom, tell me my stories.”

It’s so easy to forget who we are. Last year my brother wrote my mom a mother’s day card and in it he said, “Mom, I know who I am because of you.” And I thought, could a mom receive any sweeter or more sacred praise from her child? And it’s true- we Sloop kids have that kind of mom. I know who I am because my entire life, Gwen Sloop has been telling me. She is the keeper of my stories…and when life is overcast, my mom is ready to dissipate the fog and send high the sun with the truth of who I am.

Life is messy and our emotions and experiences sometimes take us on a wild ride, sometimes very far from home- the home where we rest at the feet of our Father. The home where we can be at peace in the knowledge that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Sometimes, we are taken very, very far from home where we find ourselves suddenly at war- the battle field of “this present darkness.” These are the front lines where arrows are accusations and rapid gunfire is a vicious devil who makes target practice of our hearts. I am watching my son be pulled onto that battle field now. “He is too young” I want to scream. “Too young! Hands off! Put your weapons down!” And the tears come hot as I feel both fierce and fearful. I want to lock the door and keep him from this brutal world…this relentless enemy. But then the strong voice of the indwelling spirit reassures and exhorts me, “These days are boot camp for the fight ahead and YOU are Mama! This world needs warriors…unlock the door.”

I am a messed up, weary soldier who gets to suit up these boys and whisper daily the battle plan in their ears. I get to listen and tend their hearts and prepare them for the war. Some days they will be badly wounded. They will bleed hard and wince. But with a shield of faith and a helmet of salvation, even on the bloody days, they will be winners. Belief in Christ will guarantee that. But I don’t just want my boys to be winners. I want them to be heroes because of their devotion and dependence on Jesus! I want them to take a hit for another. I want them to chase down scared lambs and bring them back to the fold. I want them to run hard, shouting their battle cry, the name of Jesus, scaring demons away with mighty courage and authority. A Purple Heart, that’s what I want for my boys- badges of honor reserved for heroes.

But there will be those days, the 10:00 at night moments, today, or 30 years from now, when restless hearts can’t find peace and just like my mama…I will be the keeper of their stories. I will remind them who they are when the smoke on the battlefield clouds their thinking. When the sting of the arrow makes the only feeling they can feel, pain. Yes, I will live to tell my children who they are.

I want to be great. I really do. But most of the time what I have to offer is far less than that. I can either sit down in shame for what I cannot be, or I can reframe it…

Some days striving for greatness looks like letting grief wash over me and allowing my children to see what it looks like to reach for Jesus, for rescue amidst the thrashing waves of suffering. And in this, I am giving them an opportunity to practice empathy and compassion, to be stewards of comfort for a day when their wives and children and the sheep all around them will need it. For a day when they themselves will need to know how to fight feelings with faith. And they will remember: This is a path well worn. We traveled it with our mama.

When I grieve…I will teach my boys to be heroes.

Some days striving for greatness looks like stumbling and falling again and again in my selfishness and sin. It looks like being wrecked by the Spirit in conviction and dropping to my knees to meet their little eyes and asking forgiveness. In my failure I model, “we all make mistakes.” In my humility I model, “I am not perfect.” And as I let their forgiveness and His forgiveness wash over me and as I stand in grace and smile and begin again, I show them perfection is not what is required, but drawing close and receiving from the perfect one. I show them that just like the heroes of our faith, (David, Peter, Paul) their mom is a modern day example that mistakes don’t disqualify us, but rather, shape and lead us by grace to the next good moment. Yes, when I fail I am giving my children a path to follow, an example to emulate for the days ahead when they will fall hard with the ones they love most and they will remember: This is a path well worn. We traveled it with our mama.

When I fail…I will teach my boys to be heroes.

I am messy- there is no doubt about that. But this is the “mom” my boys get and I will take every day, even the days I wish I could erase and use them to teach my boys about the One who molds, heals and forgives. I will teach them about the One who loves, empowers and guides. I can’t be the greatest mom in the world, but, I can point them to the greatness of our God and perhaps my imperfection is stewarding greatness in them.

As I finish this post my heart is swollen full with pride and joy. I’ve spent all afternoon writing, meditating on the person I get to be day-in and day-out, to John Christopher, Benjamin Kyle, Elijah Andrew and Jonah Davis. And then there’s my girl, my Anna, the one who made me a mama to begin with. The one who devastated and redefined my life and made motherhood my most urgent plea.  Yes- five children have been given to me, one to long for and four to raise. I am the fallible, forgiven and fierce woman who wipes their brows and kisses their boo-boos. I am the one who cooks their meals and launders their clothes. I am the one who grounds them and praises them, disciples and diapers them. I am the one who scratches their backs and feigns interest in Star Wars and baseball. I am the one who buys their pull-ups and deodorant. I am the one who prays for their souls and their wives. But most importantly, I am the keeper of their stories, and what beautiful stories they are to tell.

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Dearest Jesus, thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for blessing me with these souls to nurture and mold. Father, for my friends who are hurting today, for the ones who grieve the babies they lost or the babies they never had, bind up their wounds and place abundance in their hands. For the mama’s who are weighed down with the guilt over who they have not been to their little ones, flood them with the grace and power of a new moment and reframe what being a great mother really means. And Lord Jesus, for my friends who are struggling with children who are on the battle field right now, teach them about the power of a moment and that a bended knee is the most powerful weapon of all. Thank you for writing their stories, for entrusting them to us and for letting mothers be the ones to tell our children who they really are. Thank you for the grace to do the hardest, most important job in all the world…


Welcome Home Grief

Sorrow is encroaching, like dark vapors pushing in to dance with the light. This wretched yet exquisite duo of sadness and joy that belongs to me. And this is a choice, seeing it as a dance instead of a wrestling match because it has a place here- grief. I am tired of treating it as an unwelcomed guest. I bear the scars from years of mishandling it. It’s not an enemy (though it sometimes feels like it) and this is not a fight (though I bear wounds). This is my life and grief is the price of love. A price I am willing to pay over and over again because a sweet little girl who traces the hills of heaven with dancing feet, wearing a smile similar to mine, is missing from my life. How can I not grieve? How can I not weep, sitting here with indescribably enormous love for Anna which cannot be wrapped around her nearly eleven year old body? How can this mama not ache with ferocious ache? [Read more...]

John, ashes and thanksgiving

He waited until it was just the two us and then timidly asked,

“Mama, what did you do with Anna’s body?”

My John. Only nine, but an old soul. Lover of deep things and smart things- this boy keeps me on my toes.


He immediately apologized when the car was filled with silence.

“Did I upset you mama? Is it too hard to talk about?”

My heart was pounding. I had dreaded this conversation.

I quickly validated and affirmed his question and told him I really did want to answer, but asked if I could have a little time to think about how I wanted to respond. I didn’t want to mess this up. How do you tell your son that his sister is a small box of ashes on your dresser?

Oh death…I hate you.

Chris and I talked and I prayed it through and researched “How to tell your child about cremation.” A few days later John and I were alone again and I explained. I stayed away from scary words like, fire and burn and hugged tight to the truth that our bodies are just a shell. The moment our hearts stop beating, our spirits, the real part of who we are arrive in the place we were all created for. A place where no pain is felt. I then explained that two choices are available to caring for a deceased body, burial and cremation. I explained that both choices are sad because death is sad. There is no way to feel good about either of these choices. The only way to feel good about death is to focus on the new eternal life that has been given and the one in whom that life will be spent with. I explained that Anna was cremated, that her body went through a special process and that at the end of that process her body became a fine powder…ash. I was careful to speak with confidence, so he wouldn’t feel uneasy and scared about what I was sharing. And then he asked,

“Where are her ashes now?”

I told him that the small treasure chest on my dresser he had seen everyday was the home of these precious ashes. I explained that some people place ashes in an urn and some people may choose to scatter them. I explained that for me, there was no comfort in seeing them, but that wrapping the box in a gown Anna would’ve worn was a greater comfort to me. I explained that sometimes when I felt sad I would curl up in my bed, hug the swaddled parcel tight to my chest, cry, focus my thoughts on the hope of seeing her again and the comfort of God for those who mourn. John was satisfied by that answer and asked me once again if I was upset. I encouraged him that anytime I got to speak Anna’s name and anytime I got to connect with him, I felt great measures of joy! I thanked him for asking me his questions. He smiled, hugged me tight and that was that.

A few nights later he came into my room and said,

“Mama, I want to see the box now.”

“Of course” I said, once again my heart was pounding.

What was sacred to me was getting ready to be shared. When I opened the chest, a picture of Anna was on the top. And here’s where it gets hard. My girl, well it took three days for her to come into the world after her heart stopped beating. Her body was beginning to show some of the signs of deterioration. Her skin was peeling – like a sun burn in several places. The tissue around her right eye looked like it was bruised. John had never seen these pictures. We have been careful to crop photos to protect their hearts. I tried my best to explain what he was getting ready to see and then I handed him the photo. He stared at the picture for a little while.  And then looked up at me nodding, smiled and said,

“I can tell how pretty she was.”

Somehow I managed to keep the flood of emotion and tears from sweeping us both away. I smiled and said, “Yes she was Johnny. Thank you for saying that.”

Then he picked up her carefully wrapped box of ashes.

“Is this okay” he asked as he unwrapped the gown.

“Of course” I said.

He handed the gown to me and held the tiny little box wrapped in brown parchment paper. He stared for a moment and then declared,

“I think you made a good decision. I am glad you kept her ashes like this.”

John slowly raised the box, closed his eyes and pressed it against his cheek, an embrace, and my heart melted. He took the gown and carefully wrapped it back up and handed me the box. He turned away and laid down on my bed. He was quiet for a moment and then he looked up at me, clearly wrestling with emotion. John does not like to cry.

“I need to say something,” and then the tears spilled out.

“Of course you can say anything and Johnny it’s okay to cry.”

“I kind of feel her presence with us mom. Like she’s still a part of our family. I am sitting here wondering about who she is and what she looks like and I feel so sad. I miss her.” The tears continued.

I wrapped him up in eyes and arms of compassion and explained that sadness was absolutely what we should feel when we love and miss someone and that grief is hard to feel. After a few more moments he looked up at me again and said,

“But then, I am also thinking about how many good things have happened because she’s not here. Mom you would never have had her story to tell and you wouldn’t be able to help other families who are hurting. Is it wrong to feel thankful that she’s gone? Did God want this to happen because he knew he could make it good?

Beauty for ashes, the glory of God taking the hard, the sad, the dead and breathing new life, new good and new joy into them. I love that my God works all things, even the awful, together for our good! My John was working this out in his heart and mind as he wrestled with both sadness and thanksgiving over the life of his sister.

I stared at this toe headed sweet heart, almost a decade old and my heart swelled with awe and gratitude. The truth is, my John is a part of the beauty for Anna’s ashes because good-bye to my daughter, as excruciating as it was, became hello to this precious boy I call my son.

I explained to John that God takes what Satan intended for evil and He alone can use it for our good. (Genesis 50:20) This is why we can feel both sad and thankful over the same thing. Anna brings both grief and joy. And I explained, “This is life. As you continue to grow you will experience sad things all around you. And as you cling to and trust Jesus with these things you will experience both His comfort for the sadness as well as the beauty and goodness He can bring forth from each painful circumstance. Yes, this is life, holding the good in one hand and the hard in the other, giving thanks while you juggle and wait for his power and love to resurrect and redeem all things.”

I am so grateful for this conversation with John- I needed it desperately! I needed to be reminded as I feel my own hurts and disappointments, as I struggle under the weightiness of pain all around me, that God works all things together for our good, because He is good! And thanksgiving is like a ladder out of the pit of despair. With each rung, you are lifted higher and higher out of the dark and into His glorious light. Can you picture it? Yourself in the pit- climbing the ladder of gratitude into a brighter moment?

Thank you for saving me.

Thank you for forgiving me.

Thank you for giving me a second, a third…infinite number of chances.

Thank you for loving me like no other.

Thank you for healing my hurts and redeeming my losses.

Thank you for my family, my husband, my boys, my girl.

Thank you for faithful friends who never give up on me.

Thank you for a home and warmth and food.

Thank you for my country and those who serve to protect it and me.

Thank you for life and laughter.



Are you hurting today?

Are you holding something hard?

Are you pressed upon with stress, sorrow or pain?

Are you in the deep down darkness of a pit?

Can you will yourself to look in your other hand and call good gifts by name? Can you climb the ladder of thanksgiving and be infiltrated with the light of all that makes you blessed?

I am praying this season of intentional thanksgiving will bring greater joy and healing to every hurt. I am praying that as we hold both the good and hard together that we can also know that we are held in the hands of a God who specializes in beauty for ashes.

 ”Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.”

Psalm 107:1


My Girl, My Grief and My God.

Losing a baby- it leaves a cavernous space in our lives, in our souls, doesn’t it? Today, after a six month hiatus from writing (a season of rediscovery…more to come on that later) I am writing to and for my grieving friends. Today is the day that gives national recognition to the sweet little ones we have lost. Our precious babies who came to live within us, but never in the world.


Friends new to this path of grief and friends who have traveled it for a long time, I am so sorry, so deeply sorry for your pain. I wish I could invite each of you to come sit in my living room for a cup of something hot and we would sip and sob together, exchange stories, feelings and questions and the tight muscles of our grief would relax a bit in one another’s company. Can I at least invite you into my heart today as I share today on my girl, my grief and my God? [Read more...]

Reeling and Reaching

“Kate. I have bad news.”

Before my sister said anything else, my heart had already melted under the intensity of her words.

“No Kristen. No.”

I wanted whatever it was to be untrue. Whatever pain I was getting ready to feel and face, I needed it to not happen. All I could muster was a frantic and urgent “No.”  But words can’t stop reality. The next few moments as she spoke, a stabbing pain and empathy took over my body- pushing out breath- pushing out peace. I fell to my knees as I began to picture my old friend (the rescuing kind) pierced with a shocking and viscous cancer diagnosis. My mind was filled with images of his reeling, his precious wife, his three young children. Unbearable. Unreal. “Please Lord. No. No. No.” [Read more...]

Ten Years, Grief and The Joy of the Lord


I thought I would want to write. In fact, I started many posts in my mind and at this computer through the month of February. The truth is, I just couldn’t get past the sadness. I couldn’t pull a cohesive thought together, just a jumbling of words that amounted to a sad girl and her gracious God. I wanted to tell you, I did. I wanted to tell you how I felt under the covers and how the ground felt under my knees and how the Savior cradled and sustained me in in both places…but I couldn’t. [Read more...]

Ten Years

“I want to be ten years from now.”

I will never forget uttering these words in the days, months, and even first couple of years after losing Anna. I was desperate for a decade to pass, to be thrust a good milestone away from the pain.

And now, here I am.

One morning last week, in the countdown days to my dreaded month, my sister-in-law Melissa sent me a text. It was simple. “How are you?” I knew this question we ask each other almost daily was fully loaded and aimed at my heart. These three little words dug a hole right through the protective barrier I’d been building and drove love into my ten-year-old wound.

I choked back tears and responded.

“I’m fighting for joy.”

I have four healthy boys that are regularly blessing me, hugging me and telling me I am the “cutest mommy in the world.” I have a husband who is the most gracious, loving guy I know. I have a home I love at the end of a cul-de-sac that backs up to farm land, perfect for boys to romp and roam. I have family and friends I thank God for every day, a job I truly enjoy, and my story is now in print with the name of Jesus on the cover. There is no other word for this life I am living, than blessed.

I chide myself…

Really Kate, “fighting for joy” ? After all this time and with so much blessing?

Every year at the end of February I write myself a memo:

“I will not be harsh to myself next year.”

And every February the same thoughts and feelings beat me up, leaving me battered and bruised in the to and fro of anniversary grief.

This year I will not do it to myself.

And here’s why:

I cannot control the pain I feel, only what I do with it. And pain, in every form and fashion I experience it for the rest of my life, will always be a doorway into sacred encounters with my Savior. I will not curse the grief or the capacity to which I feel it any longer.

So yes I freely confess, I am fighting for joy, in the midst of so much blessing because I love my daughter that much. I miss her enormously and it still takes my breath away. February takes this love and longing, hoists it up on the flagpole of my heart, and strong and painful emotions fly high in my February sky. Ten years has not changed that fact. I suspect ten more won’t either.

This month I plan to open my heart to you. To share with you what it looks like, at least for me, to “fight for joy” and to encounter the saving and satisfying love of Jesus in the process.

We all have something we long for- wish were different. We all have seasons where we find ourselves impaled with things like- disappointment, stress, discontentment, regret. I invite you to face it with me this month, to face whatever your pain is and to allow your infirmities to be wrapped up and bandaged in a saving joy that intimacy with Jesus alone can bring.

Ten years…

Ten long years.

February 2015- I’m ready for you.


Thank You Kara Tippetts

Tears have been streaming down my face since morning. This New Year is well under way with sorrow. It is January 7th and my heart has already been languished of strength. It is anniversary grief over the death of a brother and the death of my sweet friend’s son to leukemia. It is grief over the death of my dear, dear counselor Jim, the one who ushered me into a relationship with the true Jesus. It is grief over the email that came to me this week, the one that ignited a burning pain in a shared wound. And finally, it is grief for someone I have never met, someone who is changing my life…

Kara Tippets is dying. [Read more...]