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. 

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.

You can Help!

This post will be short.  I am nearly speechless. I am sitting here at my computer with tears streaming down my face- washed over in so much grief and yet so much love and hope all at once.  

Here’s why…

I just watched this video:

It is my extreme honor and privilege to be able to share this intimate portrait of my friend Raegan, her husband Mike, their precious, beautiful son Theo…and well, I will let the video do the rest.   

Please, dear friends and readers, we need your help to support this family. Please click the tabs on the right that will allow you to share this post to facebook and twitter.

I love you Raegi and I love you Theo….you have forever blessed and changed my life.

Old Truths for A New Year

A few nights ago I was laying with my youngest Elijah to coax him to sleep.  He was restless and a little afraid, lying on the pallet we made for him at the end of the guest bed in my mom and dad’s basement.  As I lay there I began processing, as I often do, about the ways the day went wrong, the ways in which I could have done it better, and I felt sick with regret.  I have always seen life in pictures, always been a visual learner, a dreamer and a visionary. And so as I lay there, stewing on failure, thinking about the ways I had let down the people I love most, I saw myself staring into a mirror with my reflection scornfully and shamefully staring back at me.  The image was a perfect and frightening reflection of the spirit of dismay and disdain I was inflicting upon myself.  I lay there tormented for a moment and then I heard myself pray, as if my spirit were lurching out for the help my mind was too berated to reach for…

“Lord what do You want me to see?” 

Instantly I saw my reflection in the mirror once more, but this time, I was in the embrace of Jesus and He beamed as he looked at us, as He looked at me.  In this reflection there was nothing but the joy of ownership and the unconditional love of a father with His daughter. 

In my sin, my failure, my wishing and hoping and longing to do it right, to be better, to be perfect and hating myself for all the places where I fall short, Jesus is clutching me with delight.  As an answer to my prayer, “Lord what do you want me to see” He is calling me away from self-hatred and into the awareness of being the beloved of God.  My truest reflection at the most despicable and self loathing moments of my life will always be grace.

Why do I share this with you?

Every year I come up with a mental list of how I will achieve and become that Kate I have always longed to be…the one I can’t ever seem to reach, the one standing right past the mirage of perfection.  I come up with all the ways I will be a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, a better home maker, a better employee, a better…and on and on and on.  And every year I look back with a sigh of shame.  And then I grab my gusto and resolve and pray to be and do better.  But twelve months and four seasons cycle through once more and I find myself standing on the border of December and January with the cold winds of remorse whipping through me once again.  As much as I achieve and accomplish, I always wish I had been more gracious, more loving, more tender, more nurturing, more passionate, more forgiving… 

But this year, this year hasto be different.  This year my eyes have been opened to two simple truths, truths I have always known, and yet their power has been locked behind the bars of self- righteousness.  Those truths are, I will never, ever be perfect and I will always, always be clutched in the arms of the One who is.

So this year my resolve, my to-do list is different than ever before.  Instead of seeking to become someone new and better, I am seeking to consciously be the Kate that already is, the one clutched in the arms of Jesus. The one who is already approved, already made new, already forgiven and loved.  I am seeking  to live out the only perfection that has ever been and will ever be. I am seeking to rest in the arms of the One who died and rose again to redeem me, to set me free from the perfection I can never attain apart from Jesus. At the very heart of being a Christian is the cross- the dying to self perfection and resurrection to the truth that Christ’s life, in and through me is the only perfection I will ever need. And yet, I keep striving, keep slapping myself silly at failure…all the while Jesus is holding me and enveloping me with His unmerited favor and perfect love. The grace of God is calling me to go deeper. It is calling me to surrender the idea that my worth and value are measured by my performance and to float in the grace that has already once and for all stamped me approved. 

Today as I awoke in these new thoughts and resolutions, another image came.  I saw my roots digging deep in the soil of grace and I tapped into this stream of glorious living water, the presence and power of God and the branches of my life began growing rapidly.  The truth here is, the growth I have always longed for, will in fact come as a result of resting and delving into the identity I already have as the beloved of God.

So, friends who make resolutions and hope to be better this year, I urge you to ask the question, what does my truest reflection look like? And I urge you to pray, “God show me what you want me to see.”

So here’s to 2014, that we would each grow deeper in His magnificent grace and therefore fuller in freedom, love and purpose than ever before.


Eager For The Tree

There is an energy and an excitement in our home that is unmatched to any other time of year…Christmas is coming.  Traveling and movies in the car, snacks all day, way too many Happy Meals and plastic trinkets, staying up late, grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins, 3D movies and of course, Christmas morning is coming. Presents are coming.  What could they be? 
The list keeps growing.  Every time we go to the store, new toys invigorate the senses and I hear, “Oh I want that for Christmas too.”  But the presents have already been bought.  All four of them for each kid and I fear, will Christmas disappoint?  The expectation of wildest dreams coming true and this wanting for anything you could ever imagine.  Why do my kids (our kids) posses this fascination, this deep down longing for having it all?   
Usually by the time I make it to Ben’s bed to tuck him in, he is already half asleep, clutching his blankey and sucking his bottom lip.  But last night was different.  He had gone to the store late with his dad and his imagination got stirred. By the time he was under the covers we had a full blown Christmas miracle wrapped in paper, tied with a bow and stamped with BEN.
“I’m just so excited!”
“Why is that Benny?”
“Don’t you remember…what I told you about when I got home?  The exciting thing for our family?”
I tried to jog my memory. What was it he was rambling on about as I was cleaning up and thinking about a million other things?
“Five whole Star Wars costumes. One for each of us with real weapons, like real ones we can actually fight with.  I can’t believe this.  Isn’t it exciting?”
Ben’s new Star Wars obsession somehow got married to Disney’s Fantastic Four family with a little sprinkling of magic Christmas dust and wha-la, He thinks on Christmas morning he is going to be opening a whole new world of becoming the Kelty family heroes.  How do I let him down?  How do I deflate this belief he has to “transform and conquer?” And who can I blame for escalating this little boys imagination for the impossible?
I was tired.  I didn’t know what to say and so I said, “Benny let’s talk about this tomorrow.”  I knew the truth in that moment would yield a disappointment my exhaustion couldn’t handle.
But five o’clock in the morning came and I awoke with sadness and a desperation to rein it all in.  To lasso my little boys who seem to be caught up in the current of American Christmas and to pull them back into reality.  Bring them back to the star, the stable, the baby, the king. I ponder, and then I realize, I’ve done just that, so intentionally this season.  We are reading God’s word.  We are hanging our Jesse tree ornaments.  We are talking constantly throughout the day about the coming Messiah, about Jesus birthday, about the true meaning.  We have been loving, serving and giving to others.  So what happened, where did it all go wrong? How did I fail them?
At that thought, another recent conversation with Ben comes to mind:
“Mom come quick. God’s promises are shooting straight through our front door.  Come quick mom, God’s promises are here.”
As I made my way to the front hallway, I found Ben sitting on the hardwood floor smiling at the rainbow of light reflecting off of the glass from our front door.  I watched as Ben tried to hold the rainbow in his hand, tried to scoop up the promises of God.
And then suddenly a new Christmas perspective was born.
I don’t want to condemn the wonder, the fascination for more and the eagerness for abundance in my children.  I don’t want to blame Target.  I don’t want to blame our society.  I want to thank God for breathing life into them and for their eagerness, for their God generated want, their God birthed longing to transform and the God initiated yearning they have for battle and conquer.
Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?  A God who transforms into a baby- a baby who transforms into a king. A carpenter who becomes a conquerer.  A story of good versus evil and death that ends in resurrection and a God who takes the souls of man and fills them with abundance, the kind of satisfaction that matches that little boy longing of wildest dreams coming true.  A God who can take an ordinary family and give them a new identity and weapons to fight with.  The truth is, we are in a war.  We are in a battle and I don’t want to squelch my son’s dream to transform and conquer.  I don’t want to rein him in.  I just want to tell him which way to run. 
The tree that counts is the one that is decorated with the blood of Jesus and adorned with His victory over sin and death and I can assure you that the promises of God are waiting there to be opened.  In my minds eye I can see myself sitting under the grace shade of that tree just as Ben did on our hallway floor, scooping up all the promises of God for me and for my boys.
On Christmas morning as they open their presents and squeal with delight, I will be opening salvation for them.  I will open hope and strength for them.  I will open Jesus and pray that their God given longings will one day be fulfilled by the sweet promises of God and that they will be men transformed by grace and equipped to fight and conquer.
Yes, we are eager for the tree.  Eager to open the gifts that have come through our front door.  Eager to behold and to become.