Empty Tomb > Empty Womb


It’s not just the word-play, though I’ve always been a fan of those. Not puns, mind you, but word-play.

Empty Tomb. Empty Womb. I know the second one very well. I’ve written about it plenty. Much like Peter, I found myself lost on ‘Friday’, struggling with a storm of unexpected emotions.

Maybe you’ve got an empty space that’s stirred up a storm, too.

I spent a couple years trying to hold those emotions at bay. I’m not saying I did keep them at bay, but I gave it a valiant effort. But when the dam broke, I had to dig in to my empty place because you can’t heal from what you don’t first acknowledge.

I had to spend some time listening to my Empty Womb.

Because then I was able to listen to the Empty Tomb.

Which tells me that after death, life can be found.

That loss doesn’t have the last word.

That my story has a different ending than I’d expected. And a different beginning.

When Jesus rose, the grave was still the most logical place to find him. It’s where the disciples knew to go. And where they were asked one of the most philosophically-driven questions that Scripture presents: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Why indeed. I think it’s because it’s where we know to look. If we’re in mourning for something lost, for whatever is our EMPTY PLACE, then that’s where we know to go. Where we know to search. In fact, I’d say it’s where we need to start. But it’s not where we need to finish.

Yes my womb is still empty, but so is Christ’s tomb.

What about you? What is your EMPTY today? Have you gone there? Do. Even if you’re scared. Go there and search. Run like Peter did. It’s where you’ll find out where to find Jesus. And maybe He’ll be right there when you turn around, with a clear-cut answer, like He was for Mary. Or maybe you’ll just get a clue, a hint, a reminder, and later He will find you while you’re at work. Like Peter.

The Empty Tomb tells our empty places that hope may look quite different than we’d thought, but Hope is nonetheless alive. And his name is Jesus.

Happy Empty-Tomb day, friends.


Maximizer Problems [Adjustments]


Hi my name is Brooke, and I’m a Maximizer.

I want to squeeze the most out of every minute and every dollar I’ve got to spend on this green earth. I’d rather spend money to save time, but my favorite is when I can save both. I just want to make the best decisions. All the time.

This is a good thing. And also, a threat. In my quest for the-best-everything, I often sacrifice my sanity and enjoyment of what’s right in front of me.

Let’s say, for instance, that I was going to Europe. Let’s just say. Traipsing through the French Alps and Norway, for instance. Traipsing, by the way, is a word I specifically reserve for anytime I leave the country. Something in my soul ignites and I traipse.

When we traipse our way to Paris, a cooking class is on the menu (see what I did there?). There are hundreds of them throughout Paris, and I’m not exactly what you’d call a “sophisticated” student in a kitchen. They could probably teach an egg-cracking class and I’d get something out of it.

Brooke just wants to go to a cooking class with her husband. The Maximizer wants to find the BEST cooking class at the BEST price for the BEST experience to celebrate her BEST marriage. I get caught up in the frenzy of it all.

I want to know which connection we’re taking at what time and where the trains are reliable and where they’re not and oh-my-gosh-can-someone-please-tell-me-the-absolute-best-café-in-this-city-so-I-don’t-waste-my-time-at-some-chintzy-café-I-could’ve-gone-to-at-home!?!?

I don’t want to lose The Maximizer. She’s got some good qualities. I just want to maximize the right things. But the thing is, I’m not celebrating Europe. I’m celebrating in Europe.

And My Marriage is my Most Favorite – it’s worth celebrating. You guys, it’s just so true. My marriage is my most favorite. I don’t know another one like it. I hope all my married friends can say the exact same thing.

Now don’t get me wrong – this marriage has taken hard work. It will take more hard work in days to come. There are days that we don’t exactly show each other Jesus. But most days – most days this man teaches me more about Jesus than I could have ever imagined.

This is the man who drove 12 hours roundtrip to sneak in 12 hours with me just last month as I spent a week away at a conference. THAT’S SO INSANE. Crazy, whackadoo, over the top, insane. Especially since we were sleeping for 8 of those hours.

But that’s love. And that’s what I’ve learned from this man.

I gotta admit: I don’t always offer the crazy love. The Maximizer doesn’t always let me. There would have been more “calculating” in my process. I would have tallied the miles on the car, the gas, and chosen a more economical way to show love – like through a thoughtful text message. Or if I was feeling really crazy, a card via overnight mail.

But not this guy. This guy drove the miles, bought the gas, and gave both days of his weekend because he knew I needed his arms around me. I didn’t even know how much I needed that expensive hug.

This is how my God loves me too – in a totally whackadoo, inefficient, over the top way. Sometimes that’s hard for me to receive. Sometimes I’m calculated there, too. Looking to love Maximizer style – efficiently rather than fully.

But in this is love – not that we first loved Him, but that He first loved us. And gave His only son.

Talk about over the top. I mean, couldn’t anything else have done? Did he have to spend THAT much? Honestly, I don’t know. I mean, I know that theologically there was no answer that would fully cure sin aside from Jesus’ death on the cross. But I also know that it was God’s system to begin with. A bigger mystery than I expect my brain to unwrap. And I’m okay with that.

So I don’t know if He had to. But I know He chose to.

The mystery of marriage is that in the crazy and whackadoo lovey-dovey times, as well as the deep, raw, difficult moments, we are told we’re reflecting God’s truest self.

So that’s what we’re celebrating. Ten years of reflecting God’s heart in some of the most beautiful, most difficult, most surprising, most mysterious, most fun, most crazy whackadoo ways. For better and for worse. THAT is what I want to maximize. Because I’m not celebrating Europe. But I sure as heck am celebrating in Europe.Off We Go!


Bon Voyage!





Oh the Questions I’ve Asked [NIAW]


“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau

This is a week-long series to invite you to look through the eyes of infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week) (link). This is not a series about the medical condition of Infertility – you can find facts here if interested.

Instead, this series is dedicated to the heart’s awakening to emptiness – and ultimately, to life. Even without an answer. Each day this week, I’ll be sharing a letter that I penned throughout this journey of infertility, as I tried to find words to describe the silent experience. Days filled with hope, cynicism, laughter, tears – and sometimes all at once.

One in eight couples are experiencing infertility right now – about 7.3 million. We are 1 in 8.


I could dedicate a whole series JUST to the spiritual dynamic of infertility. I’ve asked more questions than I’ve had answers, though I’ve found answers to the most critical ones.

I’ve wrestled with this post because there is just no way – NO WAY – to capture the fullness or scope of this sacred conversation in one little post. The majesty and the mystery of sacred sadness fills many pages of Scripture. While my God’s character doesn’t need defending, I care very much about how He’s represented to a hurting world. I feel the weight of portraying just how good He truly is, while admitting just how many times I’ve questioned that in the midst of loss.

So I won’t try to accomplish in one wee post what acres of Scripture work to portray over generations of time. But for today, for one glimpse, I invite you to pull up a chair and listen in on one of the many conversations I’ve had with this good, mysterious God.

Dear God,

When I started this journey, questions flooded my mind. Why me? Why do you allow painful things for your children? Why are you withholding something good from me if you are my good Father?

I’m not sure those were wrong questions, but I am not sure they were entirely right, either. I think the real questions are simply this: who are You – really – and who am I – really?

I wonder if I’m any closer to knowing. Maybe in part.

Here’s what I know so far:

God, you are hard to understand. Intensely intimate and frighteningly distant. Jealous but kind. Firm but gentle. Generous yet controlled. Good but not safe. You give. And you take away. You are a mystery, yet worthy of trust.

I, too, am a deep mystery – even to myself. Hopeful yet despairing. Giving but oh-so-selfish. Jealous and bitter. Thankful and humbled. Trusting and yet suspicious.

I guess we make a fine pair. I know now a little bit of what Job felt when he realized He’d been searching for an answer for his pain and instead You responded with more questions. Not in a mean way but just, you know, reminding us both that we weren’t there when you laid the foundations of the earth and what not.

You don’t owe me answers – though I wouldn’t turn them down if you offered them. I kind of envision a long coffee date in heaven where You walk me through my story. But right here, right now, I don’t have answers to all my questions.

I have answers to the important ones, though, like what faith in You really requires, that You aren’t afraid of Friday or honest questions, that you allow pain, and yet are the God who brings life from death.



Welcome, Friend


Easter Sunday is, to me, like welcoming a good friend. A time to throw your arms wide and say “WELCOME, LIFE!”


Sometimes it’s a fling-wide-the-door and run outside with an exuberant “welcome!” as you dash into His arms. Perhaps when we are least self-conscious.

Sometimes it’s a sigh-filled “welcome back” after a long absence. Perhaps after a particularly long Friday-season.

Sometimes it’s a shy “you’re welcome to be here”, because sometimes it’s still so surprising that He WANTS to be.

Sometimes it’s a “welcome, make yourself comfortable in the mess”, because the mess is all we have to offer.

Sometimes it’s a simple, whispering “welcome home”. Perhaps when we are most sure that He belongs.

Sometimes it’s with balloons and flowers and a long-line of friends holding “welcome” signs, because you’ve been eagerly watching.

Welcoming Sunday is about welcoming the God who took death, and made life. And who is still doing so today. Jesus, the Bible says, was the first prototype of life coming FROM death, not just AFTER death.

Whether from an empty tomb, an empty womb, or any other empty place that Friday revealed, God is – STILL – in the business of bringing forth life. What a God of mystery. What a Hero to worship. What a Friend to have in Jesus.

Welcome, Sunday. Welcome, Friend.


Infertility: Remembering Friday – My Messy Beautiful


Sometimes I wish I was still oblivious.

I wish that I didn’t know what the effects of child abuse looks like.

I wish that I didn’t know what a last breath sounds like.

I wish that I didn’t know what an empty womb feels like.


Unplanned Unparenthood

While I’ve discovered beauty from ashes …While I’ve learned to embrace the rain as much as the rainbow … While my heart swells when I pay attention to all the ways love wins …

Sometimes I’d still rather just not know about the battle love had to fight.

And to me, knowing is what Good Friday is all about. It’s about stopping, pausing, and being honest for a minute about the days that aren’t bright and sunny. The days that bring questions and sometimes shocking, painful answers.

Like the day that Jesus died.

I so get Peter. I so totally and completely get Peter. He watched Jesus be arrested and then killed on a tree. And he spiraled.

Good Friday was the biggest disappointment of all time. And Peter was an eye-witness.

I’ve spiraled, too. My big disappointment – my Friday – hit like a mack truck when infertility became part of my story a few years ago. The pain is no longer raw, but neither does it just go away. And Good Friday is simply a day to remember.

It’s interesting to me that it coincides with the beginning of  National Infertility Awareness Week this year. Just as Good Friday is a day pause and take stock, to be aware of what redemption cost, NIAW is a week of intentional knowing about infertility.

Sometimes awareness is used as an excuse to build sympathy, or worse – guilt. Lord spare me from that train-wreck.

I’m a fan of Henry David Thoreau’s idea of awareness when he asks “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

So in honor of Good Friday, Messy Beautiful Warriors everywhere, and NIAW – but most of all in honor of the story I’ve been given to tell – I’m going to invite you to see through my eyes for an instant.

Each day next week, I’ll be sharing snippets of letters I’ve written over the years as I’ve tried to give voice to a silent pain. My hope is not so much that you understand me better through it, but that you’ll be able to see a glimpse of just how sacred loss can be, and discover with me the majesty of a God who dares to breathe life into death.

Today’s letter was penned just after I got home from a Good Friday church service a few years ago. I had listened to more than just the Pastor’s words – his body language was screaming as he squirmed with discomfort talking about the day Jesus died.

Dear Pastor,

I know, I know, you aren’t comfortable with Friday. You want to rush through the devastation of Friday so you can get to your Sunday sermon.

But some of us are experiencing our own Friday. Some of us are sitting here with broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken expectations, and broken plans – much like Peter was.

Peter was one of Jesus’ best friends. He walked on water. He proclaimed him as the Messiah. But that Friday, he was the guy who denied even knowing Him. That Friday, Peter saw things about himself and his God that he didn’t want to be true. That he couldn’t believe were true.

Peter saw Jesus die.

And I bet there were still days – even after Sunday – that Peter wished there’d been no Friday. I bet there were days he just wanted his friend back.

Because Friday hurt. Friday was dark, and painful, and ugly, and terrifying, and opened places of his own soul that Peter wishes he’d never seen. And certainly wishes no one else had seen.

Each of us has our Fridays. Those days, weeks, months, or years of broken dreams.

And I have to tell you – I take comfort in knowing that Jesus gets it. He gets me. He’s had other friends with broken hearts and broken dreams, and they made it through. Which tells me I can, too. But first they survived Friday.

And to be honest, most Christians I know want to jump to Sunday – to skip the pain and get straight to the celebration. I can’t help but wonder if Peter would have punched someone in the face if they’d tried to tell him on Friday just how “good” it was.

I guess the thing is, Sunday didn’t erase Friday. In fact, Friday is really what made Sunday matter.

So all I’m asking, Pastor, is to just let it be Friday sometimes. Let the dream be broken. Let the disappointment be felt. Let it hurt. Let it suck. Let it be confusing.

Let me know that there’s a place for me here, whether I’m in a state of Sunday-praise, or Friday-pain. 

*This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!


That time a little girl taught me big things


I still don’t know much of her story. But I learned more on a park bench.



Water balloons were being launched nearby, and I could hear the music of carnival games and the laughter of the bounce house. But I was on a park bench. With Amanda. The girl who had come back.

She was sullen today – a thing I’d come to expect since meeting her last summer at camp, though this year her scowl had been notably less prevalent. In fact, I’d seen such change in her that without her floppy curly hair it would be tempting to think it was a different child at camp this year. I saw her dance during the silly songs. I saw her play with other kids. I saw her control her temper. I saw her literally bite her tongue on mean and nasty words, swallow them, and extend a hand of friendship to another girl.

All week long, Amanda had shocked me. Amazed me. She’d been … nice.

But today, across the park bench from me, her shoulders slumped and her face was hard. She didn’t want to talk, which I had learned to be okay with. I heard her softly humming the Royal Family Kids Camp song under her breath, and I quietly sung along to the tune. Like a quiet tribute to another year of camp coming to an end. She would come back – we both knew that now – but there would be 51 weeks of non-camp in between.

Oh how I wondered what those 51 weeks would look like, though I’d learned enough to not ask. Camp is about taking a break from home-life, not being pelted with questions about it.

So we sat. And hummed.

With her head still bowed low, she puffed out a deep breath to blow her bangs away from her eyes, and mumbled a question about why she doesn’t have any friends and no one likes her. Oh Amanda, you have friends. I’m your friend, and I’ve watched you make so many amazing choices this week to be a good friend to the other kids.

She then told me how much she wanted to be a good friend, but found it so hard. Because she’d get angry. And hit. Because she’d get frustrated. And cuss.

I know, I’ve seen you do all of that. But I’ve also seen you choose not to.

She told me about the adults in her life who would sentence her to various forms of punishment when she’d lash out, making her feel more stuck and more angry. I can’t blame them, but I also have a hard time blaming her. Ten year olds aren’t supposed to know that kind of violence or language.

As we talked, I noticed something. A repeated motion. A nervous move. A thumbnail repeatedly pushed into her cuticle on the opposite hand.

Why are you doing that with your hands, Amanda?

Because I cut when I’m nervous.

Like you’re doing now, with your nails? (Asked in a breathy, hopeful, please-God-let-her-not-know-what-“real”-cutting-even-means tone)

No, usually with a knife.

My insides crumbled. Dear Jesus, she’s ten. And she cuts herself. With knives. I learned later that she had brought a knife to Camp, but on the very first day she had voluntarily turned it over to her counselor with the words “I don’t need this here.”

I don’t need this here. Not here where I’m safe. Not here where I’m not nervous. Not here where I can be my absolute worst and still be loved. Not here where I am seeing glimpses of my best. Not here where I have friends and super-heroes. But today, on the last day of this week in this safe place, I’m getting nervous. I’m returning to old habits.

Having zero training in psychology, I took a risk. I decided to give her some very direct, grown-up information, knowing that she can call an adult’s BS like no one’s business, so sugar coating wasn’t going to work.

Do you know that when you cut yourself, it’s because your body wants something called serotonin?

A shy glance my way. What’s that?

It’s a chemical that your body makes. It makes you feel better. It makes you feel safe and happy for a little while. And when you cut yourself, your body makes a little bit of serotonin.

Silence. I plunge ahead.

But there’s actually another way you can get serotonin without cutting yourself.

Still dubious, but I have her full attention now. Her eyes are full of defiance, warning me not to offer her any stupid fluffy information or one more lie in her life.

I promise I’m telling you the truth, Amanda – you can ask your therapist or any of the other Counselors here.

You can get serotonin through hugs.

Head bowed, I think I’ve lost her for now. Dang, I went too far, used too many big, technical words and made her feel like a patient instead of a kid. But then, as quiet as a whisper, with head still bowed low …

I like hugs.

Gulp. Jesus.

Can I give you a hug right now?

A tiny head nod, and I stood. This fierce, strong ten year old, whose “hugs” had previously consisted of squeezing competitions, stood in my embrace for what seemed like hours, though it was really only minutes.

Amanda, any time that you want to cut, I want you to find a safe person for a safe hug instead.

Safe hugs from safe people. Words you learn to use when you spend a week among children who have been exposed to the opposite.

While there’s a lot more to the psychology of Amanda’s cutting – and healing – than hugs, I saw this knowledge empower her. Over the remaining twenty-four hours of Camp, I saw Amanda reach out for many a safe hug. Quick, short little bursts of “I need a hug!”, a quick side squeeze from one of the safe adults at Camp, and each time I saw one, my heart squeezed a little more.

Amanda lives in a world that we can’t enter throughout the year. The adult who is responsible for her doesn’t want to allow the Christian-Camp-people to influence her upbringing all 52 weeks of the year. But for some reason, we get that one. That one week of Camp that she comes back for every year.

Camp isn’t the only healthy part of Amanda’s life – she has counselors and others who are diligently working to improve her mental and emotional health.   And sometimes, it’s easy to wonder how much good can truly be done in just one week a year. It’s easy to feel like it’s not enough.

But then there are moments on a park bench, when you know that you wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else. When you can see the power of a week. When you get a front row seat to a life changing before your eyes. And when you get to play the ittiest bittiest of parts.

I’ll never again question the value of one short week or one simple hug. It can change a life – it’s certainly changed mine.

Applications to the Royal Family Kids Camp we work at each summer can be found here.

Or find a camp near YOU.


Ringing in the True Year


There are some years that fade into the jungle of memories – When was it we went there?  Did that?  What year was it when … ? 

2013 is not one of those years.  2013 has kicked my butt.  It will not easily be forgotten.

2013 is the year we bought a house that I love more than a girl probably should love four walls and a roof.  It’s the year we “camped out” during a remodel and created priceless memories as (sometimes up to 12 people) hopscotched over skil-saws and lumber and drywall to find our way to the one operating bathroom.   The year that showed me what grace looks like in the form of an amazing construction crew.

2013 is the year my niece came into this world right before my eyes.  It’s the year I learned the art of self-injections and heard the surprise in our fertility Dr’s voice when we lost another hand of “poker” despite amazing cards.

2013 is the year my husband’s job loss opened up some deep ugly inside of me.  It’s the year I scrambled and clawed to grab onto just one more dollar and collapsed into bed each night hating myself for it.  The year my husband has never worked harder, and never worked truer.

2013 is the year I actually got paid a few pennies to write and speak and each time felt like I was getting away with something.

2013 is the year five sets of beautiful friends moved far away.

2013 is the year that life changed oh so much.

So this year, maybe more than most, the idea of a New Year is tangible.

There’s a question that started burning in 2013, and it’s illuminating my way into 2014.  It’s this:  Who is the truest version of myself?  When I’m stressed, is it about things that the truest me really cares about?  When I am successful, is it in things that the truest me really wants to succeed at?  I’m convinced that too many of us live with only hints of our truest selves.  

So what I’m looking forward to most as we turn the page to 2014 is a True Year.  I want 2014 to be the truest year yet.   The year of making decisions that give life to the made-to-be-me-me, even when that may be surprising.

So instead of new year resolutions, I’m making some true year resolutions.  Because I don’t need to be newer, I need to be truer.  And I’m only choosing five, because anything else is just absurd and I won’t do it.

1)   Stretching ignored muscles.  Not just my physical ones, though that’s where I will start.  And not just for the jean size, though that will be a welcomed benefit.  But because as my lungs expand I’m convinced that my perspective will too.  Truer, not newer.

2)   Spiritual food.  My true self can’t live on bread alone, but this year I’ve kinda tried.  I need some spiritual filet mignon.  Truer, not newer.

3)   Adventuring in story – mine and others.  For me, this means picking up neglected projects.  Not only accepting opportunities write and speak but even pursuing them (yikes!).  Creating space to tell story and create story and live with a view towards adventure, knowing adventure often requires more bravery, and that my true self knows how to be brave, even though sometimes she forgets.  Truer, not newer.

4)   Telling the dollar no.  This is a tough one.  But the almighty dollar is not the boss of me.  Truer, not newer.

5)   Savoring.  Rich doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel when I think of the people that fill our lives, whether from near or far, and 2013 allowed me to celebrate them and their truest selves.  I want even more of that in 2014.  Truer, not newer.

So those are my true year resolutions.  I’d love to hear some of yours.

Happy True Year, friends.  #truestself





Ten summers ago, I said a scary-good prayer.  At the time it was just scary.  Now I know it was good.

It was through grit teeth.  Have you had those?  Fingers initially clenched but released with this first sentence  “Fine, God.”  So eloquent, right?  Fine, God.  Those two words essentially shape all theological history.   Fine, God.  Your way over my way.

The next sentence of that specific prayer went:  “I will go home and marry Jason Miller.”  Jason Miller was a boy I’d not spoken to in nine months, had never dated, and to be honest, didn’t want to.

A little back-story, if you will.

It was the summer of 2003, and I was in Nashville, Tennessee.  No, not to find myself in a country music career, but certainly to find myself.   As a good start, I decided to go by my middle name.  And I accepted a job way outside my comfort zone.  I pulled up to Belmont University and introduced myself as Mardell, on the Creative Arts Team.  A world removed from Brooke, Attorney at Law.  That summer, I would discover that both were the real me.

I joined a staff that would transform me.  Each of them uniquely spoke into my life that summer in ways that they’ll never fully know.  And Jesus was in hot pursuit.  With a specific mission in mind.  Mission-Marry-Jason-Miller.  While we’d been friends for nine years and flirted on and off for three, I had closed that door long ago.  I had my reasons, and none of them were scandalous, but they were valid.  So I closed that door.  Closed the way that you close a shipping box, not expecting to ever see the stuff inside again.

But unbeknownst to me, there was a “return to sender” label snuck on there.  And that summer, it came back.  It came in unexpected ways.  In dreams, in random thoughts, and even through friendships that pointed me back to thinking of this man I’d left behind.  My heart was stirred, but it bothered me.  It bothered me because this boy was outside my plan, my idea.

Slowly, deliberately, the Spirit was relentless.  Slowly, painfully, I surrendered.  One thing at a time.  Yes, yes Lord, you can have the pen to write my love story.  Yes, yes I trust you to make better decisions than I do.  Yes, yes fine, I would be willing to date Jason, and you know, see if there’s anything there.  It wasn’t enough.  I got no rest.  None.

Until the day that I prayed the most transformative prayer of my life to that date: “Fine, I will go home and marry Jason Miller.”  I actually had no idea that I really would, in fact, go home and marry Jason Miller the following summer.  I really truly thought the issue was surrendering even to that extent.  I had no idea God would take me up on it.  But finally, finally I had rest.  I finally wasn’t trying to write my own story anymore.  I was totally and completely surrendered.  I’d never felt free-er.  I’d never prayed such a scary prayer.  I didn’t yet know how good it would be.

Last weekend, ten summers later, I again walked the Belmont campus in Nashville.  The specificity of memories overwhelmed me.  Flooded my senses.  All at once I remembered the battle and the surrender.  All at once I could see the faces and remember the conversations that had shaped me that summer.


With the benefit of ten years hindsight, my tears flowed freely as I thanked God that I did, in fact, go home and marry Jason Miller.  That in so doing, I received the best gift I could have ever imagined.  Better than I imagined, actually.  Our ten years together have been rich, and deep, and powerful, and playful, and painful, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything at all in the entire world.

And as I walked, I was soon brought to my knees as I realized God was asking me to speak another scary prayer.  More terrifying to me than the last, really.

You see, ever since I opened my hands up to what God wanted to give me, I’ve been afraid that he would take it away.  I don’t know where that fear was planted, but what I do know is that for ten years I’ve lived in this tension.  I know first-hand that He is a God who GIVES.  I also know first-hand that He is a God who TAKES AWAY.  A God who gives an around-the-world experience, but also takes away health.  Who gives family and light and love, and takes life through cancer. Who gives a beautiful marriage, and takes away fertility.  Who gives a house, and takes away jobs.

I want to worship this God who gives AND takes away.  But too often I’m left paralyzed and confused.  At a stalemate.

There, back in that place where I’d prayed ten years before, I knew the words Jesus was asking me to say.  The words to end the stalemate. Jesus, please take only what you must take, and please give all that you are willing to give. 

This prayer is a game-changer for me.  I have focused much on His taking in the last few years.  His taking has hurt me, wounded me, and left holes in my heart.  I have thought He might arbitrarily take something away if I gave Him this kind of permission.  Or worse, that He might take something away to teach me that He can.  Well, He has.  He has taken.  Dare I trust that He only takes away what He absolutely must?  I’m choosing to trust just that.

But the bigger shift is here:  I have never asked Him to give all He is willing to give.  I don’t think I can even comprehend all He’s willing to give.  I’ve been too afraid to ask for it because the more He gives the more He can take, right?

Take what you must, but please give all you are willing to give.

This is my new prayer.  I am so excited.  I am so terrified.   Just as I was on the day that I uttered that scary-good prayer agreeing to go home and marry this man I’d never dated.

In 2023, what will be the tale that came from this prayer?  What will He be willing to give?  What must He take?  Oh goodness, just typing those words fills me with exhilaration and fear.  So. Scary. Good.

Have you dared to pray such a scary-good prayer?  Tell me …


From Friday to Sunday


In the beginning – yes, the very beginning – a path began toward a Sunday in Jerusalem.  The Sunday to end all Sundays.  The Sunday to begin all Sundays.  The Sunday that we celebrate this weekend.  The Sunday that we celebrate because our Savior rose from the grave.

But before Sunday came Friday: the day he was placed in the grave.  I have to confess that I’m rather fascinated with Friday because we coin it “Good”, and yet it is one of the darkest days for Jesus’ closest friends.  And in my many years of church attendance I’ve always felt the tension from the services that aren’t quite comfortable ending on a dark note.  Something makes it hard for us to talk about what happened that day.  We’d so much rather talk about Sunday.

My fascination with Good Friday started several years ago as I sat in a church service listening to some beautiful (and appropriately dissonant) choral music.  It struck me that Friday, when it’s boiled down to its essence, is this:  utter and complete disappointment.  Shock and devastation.  With seemingly no room for a happy ending.  The biggest possible let-down of all time happened as the disciples watched their Messiah be arrested, crucified, and buried.  As I realized this simple truth, I had no idea that I was on the verge of a season with God that would absolutely rock me.  That would strip down my theology just like Friday rocked Peter’s.  I had no idea that I was entering a season of death, disappointment, frustration and loss.  I had no idea that my very own “Friday” was on the horizon.

Sitting from our vantage point in history, I think we’re quick to want to jump to the answers that Sunday brought;  but Friday brought the questions, and the questions are what make the answers matter.  Even though some of the answers are devastating (like Peter realizing that he WAS in fact capable of denying Christ), I think we have a lot to learn from Friday.  My Friday opened up the real questions for me, the ones that were too deep and too dark to look at until I was forced to.  Questions like Is God really sovereign – as in, over ALL?  Is God really and truly good?  Is it possible for something ugly to still be “good”?  Is it possible for life to come out of death?  On Friday, Peter had to decide whether he’d actually take God’s answers over his own expectations.

If we’re honest, I think we all know what Friday looks like in our own worlds:  when we thought our theology and our faith was enough to get us through (Peter: “I will go to the death for you!”) turns into fear and confusion and maybe even denial (Peter: “I don’t even know him!”).  When we had to face some hard things about our God, who does in fact let pain and ugly coincide with beauty.  And then we have to face some hard things about ourselves – like how we respond when we don’t get our way.  Like discovering that we had a way of our own after all.

Some of you are there now, on a Friday.  A time when your theology is clashing head-first with your heartache.  Let me just say this:  There’s no way to make Friday un-painful.  We can call it Good Friday now, but I have a suspicion that if we had walked up to Peter on that fateful Friday and called it good, he would’ve punched us in the face.  Friday hurts.

As I sit here today, I’ve come further in reconciling the truth of both Friday and Sunday.  Of both pain and beauty.  Of both loss and Redemption.  I’ve learned that the Gospel is both.  I wonder what would it look like if we could embrace both with more freedom:  the lows of Friday-disappointments and heartaches, and the highs of Sunday’s restorative work.

Redemption is what happens on Sunday.  Redemption is Jesus conquering every disappointment.  Redemption is what we will sing about for all time.  But for something to need redemption, it means there is something broken.  Friday is what we need to be Redeemed from.  In fact, redemption means very little if we don’t take stock of what needs to be redeemed.  So today, take stock.  Be honest and real with your Savior if there are disappointments crowding out your heart’s space for joy.  And take stock if there are broken pieces that have already been redeemed.

And then share.  Maybe share here.  Maybe share at Church.  Maybe share with a close friend.  But share.  Share if you’re on Friday, because you’re probably not alone.  And share if you’re on Sunday, with a story of redemption and beauty coming out of ugly.


He > I


Last week at Church I had a great reminder (thank you Megan Fate Marshman) that when you dare to do something great – no matter what your scale of greatness – it can be easy to forget Who it is that’s actually Great.  I doubt I’m alone in needing this reminder, especially among those  daring to tap into The Creative and The Creator.


I heard a song in the wind,

And so I sang it out.

This song is great,

They said.


I lived a story,

And so I wrote it down.

This story is great,

They said.


I saw a picture,

And so I painted it.

This picture is great,

They said.


And as they said

This song is great

This story is great

This picture is great

I thought

I must learn to be great, too


But I am not great


I got lost

And lonely

And quite sad

Trying to be great


You see,

The song I sung was composed by another

The story I wrote was crafted by another

The picture I painted was designed by another


When they said

This song is great

This story is great

This picture is great

They were speaking of His work, not mine


I just forgot


I am not great

But I get to sing His songs

I get to write His stories

I get to paint His pictures


And those are great

Because He is great