What is it we do with a heart of anguish? We Hope…


I bet it haunts you too. That image, you know the one?  The one of the vulture waiting. It caused a revolution at our house this week…Injustice has a tendency to do that.

We found our kids huddled together on the couch flipping through the “100 most influential photos” magazine that Time recently published. Joel sat down with them and I heard him explaining things like napalm. Famine.Vietnam. Nuclear bombs. I wanted to stop him. But they are getting older. These are conversations we need to have.

That night my daughter could not sleep. She was writhing and crying and calling herself a coward, selfish.  My E cannot shake it. She sees herself in that little girl. She knows how we are one.

Did you know the photographer that took that photo, later took his own life? Some accounts I read attributed the death to the guilt he felt, but that oversimplifies of course. I can’t help but wonder though, if we were made for more than to look and see? We were made to be hands and feet. We are active participants here, made to join Jesus in His ministry of reconciliation and justice.

I know we all feel uneasy right now, but it is not the first time the world has felt like this. I’m sure it has felt much worse. But this is when the helpers and healers, the poets and dreamers go to work. These are the conditions that breed the visionaries, the restorers, those who want to learn what it means to bind the broken-hearted. These are precisely the days we learn what we are made for, what we are to do. This is when we learn what good work is.

The difference for a Christian is that we do not give way to despair. We are the ones who subvert dread to hope. We are the ones who lead the pilgrimage in the darkness with our light glowing, the ones who never let the flame go out. We are the ones who cannot give way to complacency because this hope should move us to action.

Hope is our antidote to fear.

Hope prompts the movement from angst to action.

Hope will be our testimony and our gift.

Hope will be our dialect; our defining language.

Hope will be our reward and our calling.

Hope will be the trail we blaze and the direction we lead.

Hope will deepen as we trust Him more and Hope will be what transcends all our heartbreak and every insurmountable obstacle.

The only thing we can do with angst and fear is to set it ablaze with the HOPE OF CHRIST. We do the next tiny thing in front of us, that is all we ever have. We bring our tiny light to the dark. The small thing you can begin. It is such a relief just to start, such a release to move in the direction of hope. Fear cannot stand against such audacity. It crumbles.

And so. We hope.

(A few small ideas? The tiny things to move you in the direction of light? Below…Emilys first step. Or join us tomorrow? Our prayers never return void)

What is it you can do this week of hope, one small move, our single candle blazing that can move you in the direction of HOPE? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I blog on hope a lot. Here are a few pieces from the archives:

We Wait…And We hope

Tell Me of Your Hope

Hope and Peace

Your Fear Makes Me Wonder

Choosing Joy


The truth is, I never imagined life would be as hard as it is….even when it is not. I know, that the joy I find in life has very little to do with circumstances and very much to do with the focus of my gaze. I can be absolutely paralyzed when I look sideways, at you, at your hardships, complaints, the wars or rumours of war. I can be absolutely irritated by the mess in my home, the dog that won’t stop barking, the laundry that will not fold itself, the bills that roll in…and on. Even when the troubles are much more complex WE ALWAYS HAVE THE CHOICE OF WHERE WE FIX OUR GAZE.


My son he spends almost every waking minute laying under our Christmas tree, looking up and sighing about how beautiful it is, spellbound by the beauty. The way the tacky coloured lights twinkle. You must understand…it is the ugliest tree we have ever had. There are no branches for the first three feet and then it stands, crooked and broad and sheds needles recklessly all over the floor I just vacuumed. BUT…if you squint your eyes just so, you can see the reckless beauty in near anything. You can choose to focus your gaze on the blessings or on the lack.

This week, this advent, I will gaze upward, keep my eyes fixed on the now-and-coming hope we have. I will spread joy insidiously, laugh loudly, notice the beauty. I will look for opportunities to bless those that are in the seasons when their eyes are glued to the grief. I will mourn with them trusting that joy comes in the morning. To rejoice every chance I get. To stand back from the ordinary of life and see the extraordinary within it. To pursue love and to dwell in it. To choose gratitude and settle into it. To grab onto hope and not release it. I am going to choose JOY and keep choosing it.

Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only change your life when you begin to change the way you see.

-Ann Voskamp

JOY (advent)

Linking with She Loves Magazine &

Being Peace on Earth (Advent 6, 7, 8)


Hope and Peace. Is there anything our world needs more than these? So many of us are just plain tired. In this world of chronic diseases, betrayal, brokenness, abuse, a broken heart from a source you could never have predicted, you watch the news for fifteen minutes and you can be horrified.
But it is THIS world that our Jesus comes. Our Jesus, born in a stable, among the filth, the unmucked out animal feces, the hay that makes you itch. Born to a teenage mother, who said yes despite the magnificent mess it would make of her life. This same Jesus who dies in an equally bloody way, a gruesome death on a cross between two criminals.

“God entered our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable Glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability need”(Brennan Manning).  It makes me mad some days. The scandal of it. I want him to come in a blaze. I want him to be in ease…I want him to give me ease. Ease to the whole world. To the sad and the broken. I just want him to fix it.

But our Jesus. He now lives in an even more grotesque place. An even bloodier mess. Perhaps the goriest place you can find. The human heart. Mine. Yours. Those of us that invite Him, have the Holy Spirit in us now. And this holy spirit invites you into the mess of this world. Jesus bids you to step into it with him. He could have done this so many ways, redeemed us, reclaimed us. It could have been so much easier, so much more magnificent. But our God invites us to the depths, to the real, to perhaps the only authentic place where there is no hiding. There is no more facade. There is no social media to bolster you, no friends to protect you, no reputation that proceeds you. No. Our Jesus is willing to get his hands dirty. He draws in the dirt, heals with the mud…
Jesus has many things for you in this life. Life to the full and abundant. But it will likely not be a pinterest perfect love story, a picture perfect family, never a problem free existence. Even when things are really falling into place, the monotony of this old world can wear you down (just wait till you have to make school lunches). I was watching breaking bad the other night, and I see why so many are intrigued by it. The truth is people are bored. They are chasing a dream that doesn’t exist. Hedonism for its own sake. Anesthetic to try and drown the mind collapsing from the boredom of it.
Lots of us throw around words like calling a lot. But what I see in scripture is Jesus calling you to be hope, light and peace. Calling you to speak un-retractable hope to the hopeless. Peace to the tormented. To embody joy even in the most broken of days. It is this that a broken world needs. People think you can get it done right and things will just work out. I don’t see that in scripture. I see us stepping into the broken with him. Our spirits softening, our hearts being wrung with his BUT still we cling to hope, to peace. We enter into it.
Nelson Mandela died this week. And we have sterilized him into an icon of peace haven’t we? We trapped his face into quote photos like a cartoon. He was not. There were times in his life were he was named terror. He was imprisoned for 27 years and he let the mess and the torment shape him into a man of Peace. He maintained hope in the face of atrocity. He said
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying”. The very worst face of humanity. He found out what it meant to pursue reconcilliation…PEACEMAKING IS NOT SITTING ON YOUR HANDS. It is active and it is hard work. Hope does not flourish when we are selfish. These are traits that we need to pursue.

So tell me church. As you wait for Gods redeeming work to complete where can you join him??? This week…pray about where you can be peace. Look for the subtle cracks in broken relationships, the fissures that could explode into anger. Where can you join in the work that He is already doing? Where can you stand against the gap maker?

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
James 3:17

(My kids lit the advent candles tonight…I near died it made my heart ache in the very best way.)

The first candle of Advent is the candle of Hope; the second is the candle of Peace. We light this candle to remind us that our Lord Jesus brings peace to all who trust in Him.

Let us pray:

Loving God, thank You for the peace You give to us through Jesus. May Christ’s light shine in our lives, showing us the path of peace between God and all people. Help us to prepare our hearts to receive His peace. We ask in the name of the One born in Bethlehem. Amen.

PEACE (Advent)And every time I try and speak someone says what I want to say about 8000 times better. OH Ann Voskamp. THIS.

The Glory (Advent #5)


The Glory
by Madeleine L’Engle

Without any rhyme
without any reason
my heart lifts to light
in this bleak season

Believer and wanderer
caught by salvation
stumbler and blunderer
into Creation

In this cold blight
where marrow is frozen
it is God’s time
my heart has chosen

In paradox and story 
parable and laughter
find I the glory
here in hereafter

How to Breathe (Advent 3)

It was one of those mornings. You know the ones? You wake and your house looks like this, your children don’t like the homemade muffins you made and it is ‘too cold for smoothies’? You know those mornings? When they won’t get out the door, when the home reading book is missing and the communication books are scattered? You know those ones right? It isn’t just me?Image

I have 1 million things to do today. Actually.

So as the children leave I start rushing. Running. DO ALL THE THINGS. GET THEM ALL DONE.

But then.

What if advent this season is more than talk? What if I actually join in the waiting? The stillness? What if I hunt beauty instead of burden? What if I slip outside and breathe deep? What if I kick fresh snow and look at heavy branches, the way they shake off that snow before they break under the weight. What if I breathe deep the cold, and think about the smallness of these moments, the way my tiny story isn’t the only one? What if I turn my eyes up, out? What if I can watch the clouds shift and the trees sway?


What if I really can keep my tiny story wrapped into His? What if I can learn to hold this tension with an open hand? The longing for more, the expectation of restoration, the extraordinary beauty of the RIGHT NOW.  The now and not yet.

I breathe. I stop my hustling. God is most pleased with our BEING. Not our doing. Our being that breathes him in…that senses Him. That seeks Him. That settles in on the waiting, the hoping, the promises.

2013-12-03 08.58.19

And then this…

“As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at His infinite goodness, wisdom and power” (John Calvin).

Ravished with wonder.

That the earth outside your window is tilted right now at just twenty-three degrees. So there are seasons and the vapors of oceans don’t simply amass continents of ice, so the planet’s bulk of six sextillion tons (that’s twenty-one zeros) spins perfectly balanced on an invisible axis, spinning you around at one thousand miles an hour, nine million miles a year. Hurtling you through space even right now in this sun orbit at nineteen miles per second, 600 million miles a year. YOU held in this moment by this unseen belt of gravity and turning pages slowly…

Christmas begins here. The Christmas story, this LOVE story – the whole blue marble of the world spinning right now on the Cross-beam axis of Love.” -Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift p. 13-14

Join me today? Slip outside and go on a beauty hunt. Look up at the clouds shifting, the trees swaying, that gorgeous creation sitting just to your right.  Breathe it in deep, it is a gift for you today. Feel small and ordinary, admit you can’t do it all. Don’t even try.

Take a photo and send it to me? Love to encourage each other as we #beautyhunt


Linking with:


Ornament (Advent #2)

(A repost from the archives)


There you go running and tossing and breaking and shattering and I gotta tell you, the way I imagined this day to go is just not what it turned out to be. I wait for Christmas Tree day. I imagine us, in the woods with all our friends, sipping hot drinks, eating too many sweets, finding the perfect tree, taking photos in front of it. Instead, and suddenly, chill settles into little fingers, someone has to poop.

I want things to run on rails. This family, I want it to run like a well oiled machine. Pumping out symmetry, clean edges, pictures perfect. I want this night, gathered round the tree, decorations to hang, carols on, me in plaid, in scarf. I want you smiling demurely, hanging the ornaments gentle. I want mistletoe and candle light, but you keep blowing them out.

All my talk about otherwise? I still want our family to look like an ornament. Sparkled and spackled and flawless. And instead, God keeps whispering something about being an instrument: of peace, of reconciliation. He keeps on whispering about how very broken we all are, how he has plans for us this season it is true, but none of those plans involve our perfection. Just His. Made flesh. Because of our brokenness, like the nutcracker I glue back together (sorry Michelle…). He says “That is the point of this thing child. Relax”. Look for the cracks, the fissures, lean into them. Bring that peace on earth, be it.


I sigh, pull you into my lap and we read quiet and slow and we start our advent readings and you seem to get it. And I do too. The beauty is right here. In your soft skin (because you took off the coordinated outfits I put you in), in the soft glint of Christmas lights I hung (though they are clumped, and cluttered), in the pine boughs on my mantle (that snapped off as we dragged the tree in the door).

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.-St. Francis of Assisi 

We Wait…And We Hope (Advent #1)

Mary’s “How can this be?” is a simpler response than Zechariah’s, and also more profound. She does not lose her voice but finds it. Like any of the prophets she asserts herself before God saying, “Here I am”. There is no arrogance, however, but only holy fear and wonder. Mary proceeds – as we must do in life – making her commitment without knowing much about what it will entail or where it will lead. I treasure the story because it forces me to ask: When the mystery of God’s love breaks into my consciousness, do I run from it? Do I ask of it what it cannot anser? Shrugging, do I retreat into facile clichés, the popular but false wisdom of what ‘we all know’? Or am I virgin enough to respond from my deepest, truest self, and say something new, a ‘yes’ that will change me forever?

(This post inspired by a beautiful piece by Kathleen Norris, and especially this quote from “Watch for the Light” p. 44)


We hop onto the quad, all four of us. We head out into the woods, we find new trails, spot the tracks of rabbits in the stand of birch trees. There are spots on the trail that surprise us, dips in the road, the cold wind whips our faces, all of us turning our faces skyward to the pines, the breeze blowing them and we feel small. We sense the mystery of this place, how anything could be just around the corner, the elk I passed on the highway, the wolf our neighbor spotted, the moose tracks we’ve passed here before. We know this and we chase out anyways; the adventure is in the mystery.

We say yes, even when we don’t know what is before us. We, as the Christmas people, we choose hope OVER fear and we chase the hope bringer down paths uncharted. We  trust Him enough with our lives that we say YES even when we are unsure what we are accepting.

This is the season we think about Mary, “let it be to me as you have said“. Without any assurance of what is to come. Even if the path before us is unmarked. Even when we are uncertain of what we are saying yes too, we go.

This first Sunday of Advent is named HOPE. We are the hope people. We are the ones waiting what is to come. We step into and wait on the mystery of the God incarnate. We don’t understand it all. We join in the mystery anyways. We become HOPE to the dark world. We walk in the mystery and we say YES to the things of God.  We choose the adventure of life in Christ over the stagnancy of life unmoved. We choose the HOPE of the world over the anaesthetic that so many of our generation choose. We let that hope infiltrate us and change us. We push that hope past our usual boundaries into the dark spaces. This advent we wear that hope like a merit badge…despite how foolish we may seem.

This month, this advent, we move into the mystery of Christ, and we plan to say YES every time. We plan to choose hope every day, believing that,

“He begs us to spend the attention of Advent on the little, the least, the lonely, the lost.” –Ann Voskamp

We are the hope people. Tell me how you hope?