Finding Him in The Crazy

Ten weeks ago I had a baby. Ten weeks ago I was entrusted with a gift. That gift likes to cry. This mama…she likes to cry too.

I write about grief, about loss, and how we find grace, find Jesus in the emptiness. But what about the fullness? What about a life bursting at the seams with…life? Things likecrying babies, a three-year-old that poops on the floor, cavities (four of them!), and being the new kid at school. Things like…two soccer leagues (what were we thinking?) clogged milk ducts, mounds of laundry and putrid smells you cannot locate no matter how hard you try…cannot. Things like…hurt feelings, a broken refrigerator and did I mention the crying baby?

Life is full, full of life, and I am searching for Jesus in this season as well.

This is a time to simplify, not complicate. This is a season to remember whose I am and who He is and what that means for me, and not try to climb a faith mountain.

Singing Jesus Loves Me for the hundredth time in a baby’s ear to coax sleep is not just a lullaby- it is worship. It is a simple truth to swaddle myself in- a lullaby my restless heart needs, coaxing frantic feelings to find rest in Him. Jesus.

Fighting boys, a screaming toddler, a wailing baby and beeping toys all at once- the Kelty symphony. It is a sensory overload that causes me to LOSE it, adding my own noise to the cacophony. I see their faces, the scared look in their eyes, the hurt I caused. Later when it’s quiet, I fall to my knees in regret, in confession, in need. I stand up once again in forgiveness and in grace- a fresh start every time. Jesus.

And oh how they need me- the waitress, the chef, the house keeper, the counselor, the chauffeur, the secretary, the baby whisperer. It’s overwhelming. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom. I grumble under my breath with a scowl…Oh how they need me. In the bathroom, I call out His name. I repeat it a few times. I take a deep breath in, taking in peace and this time I whisper it slow, with a smile…Oh how they need me. Gratitude wins the fight against grumbling. There was a day when no one needed me. Life wasn’t demanding at all and I wept in the silence. And then a deeper thought comes- I am needy. All the time, and He never tires of me. God never hides in the bathroom. Gratitude charges deeper in my weary heart and I open the bathroom door to re-enter the noise with perspective, with joy. Jesus.

The two youngest have just fallen asleep for an afternoon nap. It’s simultaneous. It’s a miracle. I nearly trip running down the stairs, sprinting to this rare break. I find my bible in the clutter. I open to anything. I read a line. I take a sip of the living water. Another verse. Another sip. And then I hear it- the crying. Maybe I’m imagining it, I hope to myself. I look at the monitor and all lights are flashing. I feel a moment of anger rise- a moment of pure frustration. Go back to sleep, Go back to sleep, I chant. I NEED this time to myself…NEED this time with Jesus. The crying gets louder. I toss my bible on the couch and huff and puff as I climb the stairs. Half way up, I stop. I pray. And then it occurs to me (is given to me), Jesus isn’t a sentence. He isn’t a “quiet time” or a “devotional.” My God is a person and He is alive and He is with me on the stairs. I shut my eyes and am awakened to His presence. I invite His spirit to come flood my house. I pick up the baby and I meditate on the words I’ve just read. The two sips become a full glass- I chug. I am satiated as I bounce and rock and pat and shush and sway. Jesus.

In this season, the one bursting with life and sucking me dry, the well, the living water I am so desperate for is everywhere I turn. It’s not the perfect moment. It’s not a hot cup of tea or a freshly marked page in my journal or my favorite pen to underline and circle the Word. It’s so much more than that. It’s so much less contained and calculated. It’s all encompassing and it’s pervasive…if I allow it to be. He is real and He lives at my crazy house, among the noise and mess and bad smells I cannot find. In the light and in the dark, in the quiet and in the loud, in the coos and in the cries, when I call on His name and open myself to His presence, my life becomes a devotional. My “crazy” is an invitation for all that He is to bounce and rock and pat and shush and sway me. Jesus.

New Baby, New Love.

As I sit here staring at the computer, words bouncing all around this full, but tired mind, a sweet baby boy is curled up beside me. He is in a word, precious. My Jonah.

This name, Jonah, in Hebrew means dove, which represents the presence of the Holy Spirit and peace. I chose this name because in my life now more than ever I am desperate for these two realities, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and peace- wonderful, inexplicable, transcending, Jesus-only peace. And so here he is, Jonah. And I do feel a new gust of peace, a new awareness of God’s presence and the waking and rising of His Spirit within me. It’s a new season for this rattled and wanting soul.
As I sit here gazing at fragile, helpless infant life, I am wonderfully tranquil in an old truth that has come to settle in a new place in my heart and mind. It took weeks of struggling in my human experience to receive it, weeks of wrestling in the final days of my pregnancy, but now I am resting in the most excellent of truths- I am loved- deeply, tenderly, completely, without merit, without cause…simply because I belong to Him.
Here is how this came to rest within me: 
In the weeks leading up to Jonah’s birth, I was shaken, deep down to the core, shaken. I tried to understand it, to know it and name it, to apply truth to it and to conquer it- but I failed.
These thoughts chided me…

But it’s been ten years. I have a blog, a book even. I have SO MUCH TRUTH, so many weapons I have collected against grief and fear. Shouldn’t I be able to kick this? Shouldn’t I be able to lasso God’s power and peace in such a way that my emotions must heel at my command?

I expected my tenure with grief, my professional, spiritual and intentional relationship with sorrow to give me a leg up, an advantage over this painful reality of trauma and it’s gripping effects.
Not so. Not so.
In the days before Jonah’s birth, the seven days in between the gestational age we lost Anna and the day Jonah was in fact born, a torrent of feelings, grief and fear impaled me. I was stabbed with continual chest pain and had difficulty breathing, sleeping and eating. I was living on the edge of a panic attack for a week. I claimed, I clung and I fought, trying my hardest to be the best good little Christian soldier I knew how to be. But I could not seem to harness God’s truth in such a way that I was victorious over my feelings. I was humiliated and the Pharisee within me, the rule following, ladder climbing, legalistic girl that I am, graded, scorned and shackled me with guilt and shame.

And then Jonah was born. He cried. I let out a deep cry myself, a sob of relief and gratitude. Calm settled in. Was the fear now gone? Was the battle finally over?

The next day I sat nursing new life and an urgent “code blue” bellowed over the intercom and into the deepest valley of my heart. I knew somewhere not too far from me, someone was struggling to breathe…someone was dying. The next day, two different nurses came to my room to report their sad stories of still-birth in the past year. My eyes filled with tears, my heart with agony, my words with empathy.
Life and death are everywhere.
The panic returned.

The battle was far from over.

The first night home from the hospital I barely slept. How could I sleep with a brand new baby to protect? What if he was struggling to breathe?  What if he spit up and choked? What if…

The next morning, exhausted, I wept deep heavy sobs, realizing the fear I thought would end the moment the baby was in my arms was only picking up speed. I collapsed to my knees and cried out desperately, “He’s yours. I give him to you, He’s yours. I cannot maintain his breathing or his beating heart. You have either planned for him to live or die and nothing I can do will change that…and so I give up. I cannot live like this anymore.” And as I knelt there weeping and helpless, a gift, an image came to mind. I saw my mothering wings spread out over my children, and above me I saw, the vast wings of God spread out over us all.
And then it hit me like a wave.
He loves me.

I stopped crying, the winds and waves of my soul growing calm under the command of love.

He loves me….why so powerful, this thought, this truth I have known and spoken a thousand times before?

The image showed me the truth in an intimate way. The picture allowed me to encounter and not just to rehearse my God. I am covered by the outstretched arms of a tender, compassionate Father. Yes, I am an adult, a parent, charged with the responsibility of caring and protecting my babies. But the most central truth to my human existence, the identity more essential, transforming and freeing than all other identities is, I am His child.
I had forgotten.

I struggled through the end of my pregnancy trying to be a hero, a winner instead of a girl shaking in the arms of her tender God. That would have been real winning. I had forgotten that I was accepted, that I belonged and that my oozing scars evoke the tender mercy of my God…not His wrath. I had forgotten that I was a child within the watchful embrace of her compassionate daddy and in doing so, I orphaned myself from love. I assumed my time was up- the alarm had sounded. I assumed the grace period, the tender hour had passed and an expectation of robotic flawlessness had taken its place.

Not so. Not so.
He loves me.

He loves taking care of me. He loves being my dad.

I had missed it- the peace and joy that comes from being nestled in the arms of divine love.  
As I cradled baby Jonah in my arms that night, staring at his helplessness, loving him only because he is mine, I found myself aching to receive God’s love in all the starving places in my heart, those uncharted territories aching to be stormed by the presence of the Good Shepherd. What would happen, who would I become, if being the beloved of God was in fact the greatest truth about me, if my identity were rooted in being a child with her daddy? How would I relate to myself, to my family, to a world in need? Suddenly every other goal, every other ambition, every other definition became meaningless and the barricade holding back rivers of grace broke and washed over me.
Oh He loves me.
He loves me.
Weak and fragile, fearful and frantic.
He loves me.
He loves me.
My babies and I, we are allbut children under the canopy of a good and gracious God. A new chapter of trust has begun. A new chapter of being versus trying.
Oh let me never forget…
He loves me.
“How exquisite your love, Oh God. How eager we are to run under your wings.” Psalm 36:7


When My Fear Encounters My God

I remember when I was little being afraid a lot. It was conditional fear. “This bad thing will happen if I don’t do this.” It was obsessive. It was rooted in a false sense of control. I remember my mom telling me that she read in a book that 98% of the things we fear will never happen. That fact gave me peace. It was concrete- something I could hold. I remember calming myself with that information when fear reared its ugly head and the statistic often made my fear recoil. In fact, the things I feared as a child never happened.
But what happens when the thing you fear is not irrational, but rational? What happens when the thing you fear has happened before and there is no calculated or determined reason why, therefore no way to prevent it from happening again…
like the death of a baby.
I’m four weeks away from giving birth to my fifth child. I want him to live. I want to hold him and nurse him and watch him grow. I want to marvel at the unique creation he is and I want to know him. I have had that marvelous experience now three times. But my mind, my fear, reminds me of another reality. My fear reminds me of the days I cried over ashes and couldn’t get out of bed. My fear reminds me of what can happen in an instant and how when someone dies inside of you, in a way, your heart stops beating too.
The last week has been filled with nightmares- strikes of lightning, drowning, car accidents, kidnapping. Call it fear, call it warfare…my enemy is haunting me as I move toward these questionable days ahead,  these end days I have traveled before, yielding both life and death. It feels as though the waters are rising and I need something to hold onto, something unquestionable, something trustworthy. The 98% statistic means nothing to me now…now that I know what it feels like to sit in a graveyard with the 2%. I need truth, not information. I need an impenetrable rope as I hold on for dear life in these choppy waters of waiting.
I didn’t have this rope when Anna died. Or perhaps I had it but, but when the worst happened to me I assumed my rope had snapped. When I was living in the 2%, my worst fears coming true, I assumed my God had failed me. But here is what the years have proven to me: the rope had never let me go. The rope is, in fact, the strongest and only source of real rescue. There is no margin of error with Jesus. In a world filled with terror, an unavoidable margin of death and pain, He is 100% all the time. He is not a statistic to gamble on.
I will never forget the moment these words from Jesus took root in me…a rope, a chain of rescue from my heart to His.
 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When I wake up in the middle of the night panting from imagined terror or when the unthinkable in fact happens to me or the ones I love, when the enemy is hot on my trail…I can have peace, and all because Hehas overcome the world. The resurrection of Jesus from the grave broke the code on every measure of evil and dangles a rope, the rope, to us all. Peace is therefore the climate of the heart that is able to see who the real enemy is and rejoice in the One who has already overcome. 
The answer for me, right now, today, is that I can face my fears with confidence because I already know the end of the story. I already know that victory and rescue are waiting. Love is waiting. Hope is waiting. The light that no amount of darkness can penetrate is a lantern in every opaque night ahead of me. The goal is not “do not fear”, but rather, face this present fear with courage, hope and trust in the 100% totality of Jesus and let the peace of Christ transcend all my human understanding. One of two realities will always be true…Jesus will either extinguish my fear or hold me in the storm, and in both cases, my chant is clear, my confidence is singular…He has overcome! Peace is not a feeling. It is a reality you come to know when trembling in the arms of the One who is peace. Peace is a person.
A couple of nights ago, my dear friend Karla sent me a message in the middle of the night. She had a dream that I was asking her to pray for me and her prayer was that God would protect me from fear. The next night, instead of trying to pretend it wasn’t there, wasn’t hunting me, I turned and faced it- my terrifying adversary. I pulled out my weapons of truth and recognized my need to cling to the rope. Chris prayed for me that evening and my sleep has been terror free ever since. In coming honestly to Jesus, I allowed Him to chase the fear away. He chased it down with peace.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
The psalmist is essentially proclaiming, I know this rope won’t break. How can I fear the tumultuous waters when I know my rescue is eminent, my God’s grip is tenacious!

There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grieving over the loss of someone’s baby. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not in some way touched by the panic and pain of the way death steals from the ones left behind. And there is not a day when I do not remember my sweet baby girl without some measure of ache. And in all this I pray there is not a day where my life’s anchor is ever again a flawed statistic, but a God who can be fully trusted. Peace is not the fruit of circumstance but the fruit of trusting in the one whose peace flows from the cross where His blood was shed, the peace and power that surges from the empty tomb.
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Isaiah 26:3

So, whether four weeks brings about a new baby boy to hold, or just another day to be held myself, I will know peace because I am determined to trust in the One whose name is Peace. My God has overcome. This world cannot overpower the One who overpowered it. And this, this reality, this is my stronghold, my certain rope in an uncertain world.

I am watching my fear retreat. It is backing into the shadows- the light is here. My grip is tight on this rope, this man, this God, and I will not be overcome.   

It’s a Good Friday…

Today is Friday. My eyes are filled with tears. My heart is aching, throbbing. The world is filled with poverty, hunger, abuse, death, grief and horrifying realities in every corner. But today, in spite of all of this, today is a good day.

Today is GoodFriday.

Centuries ago, God viewed this pain, the pain of a world with sin, children cut off, children suffering and evil spread heavy over us all. He saw it and He willingly went to the cross for the joy set before Him- the joy of rescuing and restoring us. I can’t see the cross without imagining myself there. Would I have fought for him?  Would I have run away? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know how I see myself at the cross today. I am kneeling, face buried low, sinking into grief and then rising in grace and gratitude for the gift that saved my life.

This week I have been pondering a scripture I love-

“And He will make the Valley of Achor (of trouble) a door of hope and expectation.” Hosea 2:15

It’s a Good Friday, because today marks the day when the door that didn’t exist before was carved into the Valley of trouble. Today as I imagine the pain, the poverty, the sickness and sin that shackles the hearts and lives of man, I am also picturing the door that invites us all into the greatest hope we have ever known- the satisfied life for all those who believe. 

The only reason I know this hope is because I have spent seasons of my life in the valley of trouble and I eventually walked through the doorway of hope myself. The doorway where even if circumstances remain the same, the heart changes- the heart fills, the heart begins to hope and sing. 

Thank you Jesus for going to the cross for me…for opening the doorway of hope in a world pierced with pain, and for granting life and peace to this weary heart. 

Happy Ninth Birthday Anna

The last time I saw Anna was when I gave her to Chris and I watched as he gave her to our nurse Alice. Alice walked over to me and said gently, “So your arms will not be empty” and she placed a small, pink, stuffed hippo in my hands. It was from my dear friend Sue, and we had determined it would be Anna’s favorite. I watched Alice walk away, and I held onto Chris as I watched my sweet baby girl disappear.

I doubt there will ever be a day when I can recall this memory and not feel stabbing pain and insatiable longing. Everything in me now wants to jump out of the bed, run down the hall, grab her back and have just five more minutes, a few more words, one more kiss…
So much regret and yet, could I have ever been ready to let go, to say goodbye permanently to my sweet little Anna?
Last night I clutched hippo as I fell asleep and woke up with her pressed against me. I thought of Alice’s words, “So your arms will not be empty.” The truth is, my arms are not empty, my heart is not empty, my life is not empty. But when it comes to February 25th, to Anna’s birthday, my heart is broken all over again. There is no other way to say it, I desperately miss and love my daughter and time has not diminished this reality. Last night as I was staring at my favorite picture of her…Chris and I both said how much she looked like Elijah. I began to wonder about how she would’ve looked, her smile, her personality- things I can never know.
Chris was already gone when I woke up this morning. I lay there alone, hugging hippo, and I prayed desperately, “Jesus rescue me. Give me the hope which comes from your promises. Open my eyes and show me your truth today.” What happened next was a pure gift from heaven, an answer to my prayer to “see.” 
My mind recalled the memory of the last time I saw Anna, but instead of watching Chris hand her to Alice, he was handing her to Jesus. And instead of Alice placing hippo in my hands, Jesus gave me my treasure box, the one which holds Anna’s ashes. I watched as I opened the box, expecting to see a smaller box, but instead papers began to fly out, hundreds, thousands and I watched as they fell on the floor, forming a path and I knew that path ended at the threshold of heaven.

This moment, this image, encapsulates “beauty for ashes”…literally. I will never run out of things to write about. I will never stop having beautiful experiences with Jesus as it relates to my girl and my grief. Today I am resting in the promise that these ashes I am forced to live with will never stop multiplying beauty in my life. I am committed to sharing these pages, to laying a path we can walk together as we journey toward our ultimate redemption.     
I cannot wait to hold her again. I cannot wait for my tears to be wiped away by Jesus. I cannot wait to watch Chris holding his sweet girl. But today…we celebrate without her. Today we drench the house in pink, eat cupcakes, release balloons and do our best to love the one we long for.
To those of you have sent cards, emails, flowers, gifts, prayers, scripture and comfort…we are so very thankful. We are so blessed by the abundance of love that cushions our February fall.
And to Anna…
I cherish you sweet one. In all of the pain and longing, there is immeasurable joy. I know where you are and who you are with! You, my sweet girl, exist. You are alive, so far from gone, so far from still. And you are experiencing the fullness and freedom that we were all created for. Oh what that must be like! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Loving, grieving, and being transformed because of you has been my greatest privilege and blessing in this life. I cannot wait to step off this earthly path and to run and grab you into my arms, to pick up where we left off and to experience forever with you. Happy ninth birthday my sweet Anna girl…I love you, I love you, I love you…

Giving, Grief and Grace Anew

This month hasn’t gone at all like I thought It would. I didn’t foresee February any other way than Giving and Grieving. But Chris got sick and was out of commission for a week. The next week he flew to Columbia and got snowed in. I had anticipated lots of writing and reporting, but I was lucky just to get through each day with all three children and myself intact.

In so many ways this month has been bright. We have given and have been richly blessed in the process. Intentionally focusing on others has been an excellent tool in helping me not to fall too hard, too fast, into grief. It has also enriched my life to extend the love of Jesus to others.

And yet, there is a darkness to February that no amount of shifting focus can forbid.

Early in the month, in a sad and aching moment, I asked God to serenade me with His saving truth. My grace is sufficient for you, He whispered to my woundOver the past few weeks, I have submerged myself in this truth, letting the power contained in these words soothe and sustain me again and again.

A couple of days ago I woke up and knew that the awful grief I’d been anticipating had finally arrived. I hoped that if I could just keep it together until Elijah’s nap, I could then quietly slip away to “lose it.” I went to my room and closed the door and reached under my bed for the album, the one revealing my sacred day with my precious girl. I had been resisting these images all month for fear of what it would cost me. Just then, Ben opened the door, coming to retrieve something he had left on my nightstand. I felt irritated. I so desperately wanted to be alone and to finally surrender to my grief. I asked if he could shut the door on his way out. He turned the doorknob, looked back over his shoulder with the sweetest smile and said, “I would do anything for a mother like you.”

He closed the door and my tears erupted. I am so blessed, I thought. I felt so ashamed of my feelings toward my boy…and yet so grateful for the interruption, to be reminded of the life I get to enjoy in the midst of aching for the life I have lost. 

I tearfully proceeded to flip through and study every picture, every finger, every toe, every inch of my beautiful Anna. I stared at the faces of pain and even joy staring back at me from nearly a decade ago. I ached and yet clung to moments I had forgotten. When I closed the book, I laid down to let it all out- to let the weeping wash me limp into an agonizing, unquenchable moment…but the tears and the pain were gone. I couldn’t even will it. My breathing was deep and slow. There was a calmness, a peace that had invaded and consumed me. It was as if I was being held tightly in the arms of another- I was being invisibly comforted. It was inexplicable, except to say once again…His grace had been supernaturally sufficient for me.   

After five minutes of basking in this deep and very real comfort of Jesus, I heard myself whisper joyfully, a response to being so wonderfully loved, “I would do anything for a Father like you.”

Nine years ago today I received the horrid news that my completely developed, full-term baby girl had died for no apparent reason. For three days I hugged her still body in my womb, both dreading and anticipating the moment we would behold her…the moment the count down to letting go would begin. This morning I awoke, reeling and restless. A night of haunting dreams left my heart and mind throbbing with fear and grief. A couple of miserable minutes passed and then I received the following text from my sweet sister-in-law Melissa…

“He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4- “I am praying this verse for you all day today Kate. Tuck into His wing and get through this day.”  

And so I closed my eyes, pulled God’s wing over me and found refuge. I took a deep breathe, inhaling the grace I needed to make it through the day and I got up. As I write this evening, my eyes ache from all the tears that have been shed…but my heart is so full from all the ways God has met me with His comfort and love.   

There is a thorn in my side that will not be removed until I enter the kingdom of heaven. It is a thorn of grief and longing. It is permanently affixed to my heart, and yet with it comes what I now know to be the greatest, most cherished gift of my life- the sufficient grace of Jesus. I take great comfort in knowing that my present pain and all the pain I will suffer in the years to come settles peacefully under the covering of His glorious grace. His death and resurrection will always be enough to save me. Nothing else is needed but to lie down, weeping and helpless under the cross, and to let the power that originates and exists there, lift me from the grave of despair and resurrect me to new life and hope, yet once again.

For the ninth year in a row, February is knocking me down, while grace is lifting me higher…

Just a few days more and a lifetime to go…

Yes, His beautiful, wonderful, undeserved grace, is sufficient for me.

I miss you and I love you my sweet Anna…

February Once Again…

February. I can hardly believe my Anna would be nine this month. Nine. Nine years since I held her in my arms. Nine years since I kissed her sweet face and sang to her one last time. Nine years since we let go.
Even now, February makes me nervous, as if something awful is getting ready to happen. This is the dread that comes with anniversary loss. It is the unstoppable fear in grief.
Of course we celebrate. The children love Anna’s birthday- the balloons, the pink, the traditions and special annual ways of honoring her. But there is so much more to it than that. It’s painful and I am not a sweep-it-under-the-carpet kind of girl. I allow myself to go there, to acknowledge and feel the reality and to give it a home, at least for a season. It is an unfriendly part of my life, but a part of it, all the same. To deny it for me would be denying a person that has had a greater impact on my life than any other. To deny it would be to reject the sacred moments of divine comfort, strength and truth that come on the heels of my pain. Anna Kelty is a treasure worth every ounce of suffering I must feel as I engage in fully remembering her.  
In February the box comes out, the one holding all of her treasures. In February the pictures come out, and I study our moments together, her nose, her eyes, her uniqueness and yet also the likeness to her brothers. I watch the video and for a brief moment, I am there. I can nearly feel her. And when the video is over, I am left with an insatiable ache to hold her, to know her and to love her. But in my lifetime, this will never happen. Anna is dead. Yes, February brings pain. 
I cannot stop this present wave of grief and yet, I cannot allow fear, dread and sorrow to take me out this year. What am I to do?
At the end of every February, I sit back and look at the cards, the emails, the gifts, the flowers, the encouragement, the meals and all of the other kind, creative and precious ways so many reach out to my family. I sit back and marvel at the new ways I have come to know the grace and love of God, uniquely experienced in suffering. And it always occurs to me that this month of so much pain is also the month where we feel the most loved. And so, this year I want to add giving to the grieving. I want to combat the dread with joyful anticipation, comfort and love. My family’s mission, “Give Love Back” is our way to attack the heaviness of February with some intentional love and light of our own. And I feel…excited. I can’t remember the last time I used the word “excited” to describe my February feelings. There are meals to cook, prayers to pray, cards to mail and friends and strangers to bless. My life is filled with those who are poor in spirit, those who are in need of the richness of God and the compassion, generosity and support of another. I have a general plan and an eager heart to be led by God’s spirit in this endeavor.
I will be recording our journey here and updating the blog as often as I can this month with whatever God lays on my heart. I can’t promise it will all be roses- but it will be honest and I pray it will once again be a journey to greater hope and divine love.
So now I have to ask:

Does anyone reading this feel sad? Does anyone feel dread or pain over circumstances outside of your control? Does anyone feel like a hostage to a season you cannot put the brakes on? Why not join me in adding joy and love to the circumstances you cannot change. Why not take this month and add giving to your grieving and see how being the hands and feet of Jesus might radically effect your own sorrow? 
To all of you who have loved our family over the past nine years, I thank you. You have ushered light into the darkest spaces of our lives and comforted us beyond measure and we love you.
Nine years.

Grief. Grace. Gratitude.

It’s time to be a blessing.

New Baby. New Fear. New Plan!

When John was little he struggled a great deal with fear and anxiety. Dropping him off for his first few days of pre-school was like dropping him off in the woods alone at night.  He was terrified of what would happen in my absence.  I was his complete security.  So I developed incentives.  I came up with enticing rewards.  I cut a piece of his childhood blankey for him to keep in his pocket.  And we talked a great deal about battling fear and how God is always with us and how He can be trusted.  I wrote one of my favorite scriptures down on a piece of paper and put that in his pocket too. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” Psalm 56:3.  But can a four year old really understand all of this?  Can he really put his trust in God?

On the fifth day I began gearing myself up for the typical screaming and flailing, but John looked at me confidently as we began walking up the sidewalk and he said, “I’ve got this mom.”  He let go of my hand and walked off before me whispering a chant, “When I am afraid I will trust in you….When I am afraid I will trust in you!”  

Suddenly, after days of talking about how we are never really alone, that God is always with us and that His truth gives us power and peace, I watched as my four year old took truth in his hands like a sword and slayed his fear.  I was stunned.  I was proud.  I was speechless- swollen shut with love.

Where am I going with this?

I am walking along the pages of an exciting chapter of my life right now. My book will be birthed this spring and a baby this summer.  I am thrilled.  I am elated.  I am terrified. 

For weeks I have been having nightmares.  Most of them have terrorists and guns and I hover over my three children as guns fire, as evil launches destruction at us.  I wake sweating, knowing a battle is surging all around me, a battle between myself and the enemy, joy and fear.  Who will win?

I don’t want to be afraid.  I don’t want this present joy to be stolen by an invisible fear, by a tormenting and taunting that comes from memories and worse yet, from a dark pursuer. What can I do?

I laid on the ultrasound table this week, clutching Chris’s hand, hoping for life, fearing death. I saw our baby, but I couldn’t see that thumping gesture of life and so I asked frantically, 

“Do you see a heart beat…please tell me you can see it?” 

“Yes Kate, I see it…I see it,” was the stranger’s gentle reply. And then patting my hand gently she said…”I read your chart.”

At that, I released a breath I think I had been holding onto for a month and the tears started to come.  I sat in my doctor’s office after that and I shared the fear that has been swelling and she said to me, “Every time that fear comes Kate, you have to give it to Jesus.  You can’t give the enemy room to work.” (Yes my doctor is a believer and a family friend).  At her words I realized I had been trying to ignore the fear instead of facing it…and the fear was growing. 

In the days since, I have been praying and meditating on my fear and the peace I long to have and the memory came of my four-year-old John John marching up the sidewalk chanting power.  Chanting peace.  Chanting the presence of God and the trust it requires to expel fear.  And it worked.  Truth bought his freedom that day and the rest of the year.  I want to march with that kind of confidence up the sidewalk of my life.  I want to claim peace and live forward with my fears bowed to the One who is good, the One who is perfect love in the midst of all uncertainty and even disaster.

Yesterday as I was praying about all of this- an image came that seized me. I saw an enormous, venomous looking monster staring directly at me. Blood was dripping from his mouth and I was his next victim.  But then he twitched in such a strange, mechanical way that I realized, he wasn’t real.  His feet were firmly planted- he was an object, a statue.  I began laughing and I tipped this monster over and kept walking joyfully along.

Fear is a road block, intended to keep us from moving forward with the life God intends for us to live, in the way He wants us to live it.  I once heard a preacher say that fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real…how true.  Fear is a thief and a robber to the joy, peace and hope God intends for His trusting children to be upheld by.

For me fear is both an inward and an outward battle.  Inward because, the worst has happened to me before.  It’s therefore not an irrational fear.  It’s now within my realm of possibility to lose a child.  But it is also outward:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they can have life.  I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.” John 10:9-10 (NIRV)

In both instances of fear, I must call on the name of Jesus to rescue me.  I must stand up to the enemy and proclaim whose I am and to tip over the mechanical devil that uses fear to paralyze me. I must present my fears to Jesus, and I must walk away from my nightmares and day terrors running in the direction of the cross, because perfect love casts out fear! (1 John 4:18)  When I embed myself in His presence and envelop myself in His arms…I am safe from all of the fears that aim their venom at me. Of course this doesn’t mean I am free from all calamity, or suffering.  That is obviously not true. But living in fear of those things is a debilitating and caged way to encounter life.

So many of you have written to me, and so I know, I am not alone in this fear battle.  Perhaps you fear every moment your child is not in your grasp or sight.  Perhaps you fear being alone or being abandoned.  Perhaps you fear, like I do, the loss of a child.  Perhaps you fear depression and seasons of great sadness that rob you of yourself.  Perhaps you fear a diagnosis. Perhaps you fear your own grief or anger at God.  Perhaps you fear a physical enemy…an evil strike against you or your loved ones.

It’s true, there is so much to fear and yet, what does fear add to our lives?  What protection or avoidance can we achieve over circumstances outside of our control?  My answer to this type of fear is this: trade knowing fear with knowing the One who gives peace and provision in the midst of this poisoned world.  His perfect love expels fear (1 John 4:18) and that is how I want to live- so immersed in His love that fear cannot reduce me.  But it does take aggressive measures. We do have to be willing to fight. We have to be willing to face it, not bury it.  We have to be willing to pursue and to intimately know Jesus, the giver of peace!  

So with a nightmare hours behind me and a glowing piece of paper tucked in my pocket, my chin is lifted high and I am marching ahead, marching into the second trimester of this pregnancy, chanting with John…

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you…”

The Jesus of My Grief

A story. We all have one, don’t we? In fact, we are all in the process of being written- all in the process of birth, formation, downfall, crisis, pain, rebirth and renewal. We are all characters in this novel called life, immersed within the forces of good and evil…of true life and certain death. Yes, we all have a story to tell with our lives.  [Read more...]

The Jesus of My Grief

A story. We all have one, don’t we? In fact, we are all in the process of being written- all in the process of birth, formation, downfall, crisis, pain, rebirth and renewal. We are all characters in this novel called life, immersed within the forces of good and evil…of true life and certain death. Yes, we all have a story to tell with our lives. 

About five years ago it was impressed upon me that in order to live well with the story I’ve been entrusted with, I must live my life out loud. I must be ready and prepared to give a reason for the hope that I now have (1 Peter 3:15). With that conviction harnessed tightly around my heart, this blog, The Grace To Grieve, was born. My hope is that as I lay my life down in raw words, that others with similar stories, similar pain would find comfort, encouragement and ultimately, a direction to head. Don’t we all in some capacity or another find ourselves grappling with life? Don’t we all find ourselves coming to the end of our ropes wondering “what next?” or “why me?” My soul shattered the day I lost my daughter. But perhaps for you it was the day you received your diagnosis, a betrayal, a heart wrenching loss, infertility, divorce, or terrible loneliness. 

When grief entered my life and overtook me, I became lost within a big huge world and God seemed like a puppeteer pulling and jerking strings whichever way He pleased. It was in my grief that this very distant God became the Jesus that laid on the floor with me as I soaked the hardwood with my tears and robbed my knuckles of skin from pounding hard. In my grief I met Jesus and I will never be the same. I can’t help it. I can’t. I must share this God. I must proclaim this person- the author of my story- the hero of my dark night.

This spring I will be releasing a book, my story, The Jesus of My Grief. I am so honored to have an endorsement and the encouragement from a dear soul, author and speaker, Ruth Graham. I long for others walking through their own painful stories to hear from one wounded soul about what it looks like to fall hard, scream at the sky, wail at God…and get back up again triumphant. I will continue to post here with updates on when my book will be available. 

For today, I am excited, to literally live out loud with this special opportunity that came my way last month. I was asked to share my story on Water Through The Word Radio and it will be Broadcast on Sirius/XM family talk channel 131 this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. I was so blessed to spend the morning with Erin Campbell of Erin Campbell Ministries and her Director of Broadcasting, Angela Cox- two women with beautiful stories of their own. Thank you Erin for embracing me and allowing me this opportunity to share the Jesus of My Grief.

I would love to invite you to listen to my story…to listen to the reason for the hope I now have.