O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted

behold I will set your stones in antimony

and lay your foundations with sapphires

Isaiah 54:11 (ESV)

I stumbled across this verse this morning and was immediately struck by it.  First of all, can we take a moment to talk about how God has such an incredible way with words.  He would, I suppose, as he created them to begin with.  The language of this verse is so poignantly deliberate about the worth that God places on his people.  God hears the distress of those who love him, and he is aching with the intensity of the salvation that he is bringing to take that distress away.

The thing I kept coming back to was the phrase storm-tossed and not comforted.  Storm-tossed.  What an analogy.  This isn’t wind-swept, an idea that is flushed an a little wild and maybe not perfect but better for it.  Storm-tossed is the heartbreak in the eyes of a family that returns to the shards of their house after a tornado.  This is the child who cannot cry because there is too much water already leaving lines above his growth calendar on the door frame.  Storm-tossed is the shattered  sound of a mother’s heart rending when she feels the gunshot that killed her son.  The shaking of grief.  The college student who has to fight with everything in her to conquer the smothering inability to swing her legs out of bed in the morning.  It is the man who is exhausted and raw, the woman who is worn and haggard.

But God loves the storm-tossed.  He promises to give them the strength to place one foot in front of the other, even when they are one moment away from collapse.  He promises to give the courage to take that next step across the pavement.  He promises to give peace to the storm-tossed, the security to fall onto him in total dependence.  He promises to adorn them with the very best that heaven has to offer.

The verse talks about antimony.  My Bible has a note about it, naming it as a mineral used to garnish stones.  The Hebrew word is the same as the one for mascara or eye paint.  Something beautiful.  God will build a strong place of safety and adorn it with beauty.  He promises not only the haven of stones and foundations, but also the lavish loveliness of joy.  It may not be an immediate promise, but it is a promise nonetheless.

To you who are storm-tossed,  know this: The storm will do as storms do and it will pass.  It may be a long time coming.  Storms leave damage and they don’t always wear themselves out quickly.  They take time to recover from.  But you are not alone, you are cared for, and God will set your foundations in sapphires.


The Validity of a Human (alternately: I’m Not Single)

We live on this big old world, hurtling through space around a big old sun.  Our wobbly trajectory sits in a perfect little belt that isn’t too hot to fry all life or too cold to freeze it off.  South Dakota winters are begging to differ about that last one, and yet South Dakota winters can’t keep away South Dakota springs forever.

That’s the beautiful thing, see, not only do we have life, but we have wind that burns your face and heat that burns your face and treacherous seas and unruly storms and these things inspire poetry.  Because amid the bleak palette of January, there is the promise of a June so bright that color almost develops a flavor.  The wailing storms that tantrum their way through town leave behind greens so vibrant they escape our full comprehension.  The sea is anything but safe and yet the danger only makes it more dazzling.  The summer sun is unbearably hot, but when it sets, the sky is still ablaze with sparks.  I’m not even scratching the surface of the enormity of creation and the minute detail carved into every square millimeter of it, but you get the idea.

And we haven’t even started on people.  We have eyes and noses and ears and opposable thumbs

and four-chambered hearts

and a sense of moral direction

and distinctly patterned irises

and emotions

and miles of nerve endings

and an innate need for interaction with other humans

and freckles and fingernails.  Holy cow.  When you begin to think about just how much detail God put into creating humanity, it’s difficult not to be awestruck.

Let’s go even more detailed.  God created this big old world with all of its wonders.  He created humans, weaving together a system as complex as as it is commonplace for us.  No details spared.  And he used the same method to create you.  He set your eyes at just the perfect angle and brushed them with color and expression.  He sculpted synapses in your brain to fine tune the quirk in your smile.  He etched your fingerprint with the concentration of a master artist coaxing their work to breathe as they sketch.  He planted each hair follicle in your scalp, your arms, even the tiny wisps behind your neck.  He made you a marvel.

God does not make marvels just to sit around.  He has a purpose for you and he is using you in this big old world for big old things.  Maybe he’s leading you to be a teacher because he is giddy at the thought of children having the privilege of being shaped by your instruction and your care for them as people.  Maybe he is leading you into science so that you can discover a new gene pattern and help to predict and prevent dementia.  He might place you in the kitchen of a restaurant so that you can bring people together over the shared experience of your impeccable culinary creations.  He could use your voice and your proclivity with language to translate the Bible orally in a tribe where their native language is only spoken.  You might not know how God is using you right now, but the fact that you are striving to listen to his guidance and live in his love along the way is immeasurably valuable.

The point is this: You are God’s child, created especially one-of-a-kind with priceless worth.  You are a human, created in God’s image for his purpose.  That is what defines you.  He is what defines you.

Okay, cool.  Where exactly is this going?

In a different direction than most of what I write, so bear with me.  Hopefully it will do some good, at least for me to formulate my thoughts.

I am not in a dating relationship.  That is a fact about my life and that’s the whole story at the moment.  And that’s cool with me.

Here’s the deal.   I see all sorts of encouragement for “the girl who thinks she’ll be single forever” or “the girl who is embracing the single life” etc. etc. etc. all over the internet.  They all sound pretty much the same too: “You can take this time to get to know yourself and show the world what you are capable of.  Be patient, this is leading you somewhere wonderful.  Be grateful, God is using you in powerful ways.  Be confident in who you are.”  And this message goes far further than just the internet.  Friends and family repeat the same mantra.  They see worth and are just dying to express it, to remind me that they love me.

Which is great, really and truly without even a little ounce of sarcasm, it is a splendid thing to encourage people who are not dating other people that their lives have value.  My question, though, is this:  Why are those people the ones we feel the need to encourage?  Why are the same articles not aimed toward people in relationships?  People who are hurting and questioning and needing to be reminded that they have a  rich and abundant purpose in their Creator?  Or people who exist as valuable and valued human beings in general, whatever their situation?

Because within those noble encouragements comes the message that all of this value I have is leading up to someone noticing and wanting to date me.  “Be patient, God does everything in his timing.  (Eventually the right man will show up.)”  “It’s completely okay to be single.  (Especially because you haven’t given up on finding love.)”  “You can do so much with this time.  (You are at a different stage of life and when you finally find yourself in a relationship, you will grow past it.)”  It’s hard to talk about this phenomenon, because all of the advice and encouragement really is given in the best of intentions, but consoling me for being outside of the club only makes me feel like I should feel sad that I’m not in it.

So from henceforth, I am not single.  That phrase makes my nonexistent man friend the defining factor of my existence.  Remember what we talked about earlier?  The thing that defines me as a person and my worth in that personhood is my status as God’s dearly beloved handcrafted work of magnificent art.  I am God’s child.  It’s also true that I am not dating anyone, but that is not who I am.  Nor do I need to be assured that I have value despite that fact or because of it.  That fact has nothing to do with it.  I have value because I am God’s child and he is using me.  End of story.

I apologize if that all comes off as aggressive or affronted.  I am neither of those things.  Or I hope not to be.  I just wanted to add a new opinion into the pool.  I hesitated on even writing this post because it sort of feels like perpetuating the whole attitude that I want to change, but I hope it was a valuable perspective for you whoever you may be.

(Let me know what you think in the comments.  I want this to open the opportunity for a discussion instead of me just throwing my thoughts around.  I’d love to hear from you.)

Stained Glass Girl

My grandfather is a craftsman, always creating something or other.  I have heard fables my entire life of his homemade cinnamon rolls, though he hasn’t made any in over twenty years.  I have watched him in his woodworking shop, conducting masterpieces together out of simple wooden boards.  I have eaten the fruits of his garden, lovingly cultivated from the soil.  Many years ago, when my mother was growing up, he dabbled in stained glass.  For longer than I can remember, one of the brilliant results of that dabbling has hung in the north window of my family’s living room, a testament to the longevity of his creations.  He made it for my mother before she graduated high school and it has been a focal point in every home she’s had since then.

It is a simple thing, only about a foot tall with a minimal wooden frame.  Inside of that frame stands a young woman in an elegant blue gown and ivory gloves.  Her hair is sculpted into a knot on the back of her head and held fast with an austere gold-toned comb.  She is turned to look out the window, her right hand perched atop the back of a plush elegant chair and her left rests lightly on her hip.  Over one curling arm of the chair is draped a different, indistinct dress that meanders to the transparent wooden floor.  In the daytime, when light streams through the window, the colors are bright and vibrant.  As the sun starts to set, they become more opaque.  The woman’s dress shifts from a crisp cerulean to a soft navy while the one on the chair changes from periwinkle to delicate lavender.  The chair that is a rich pink in sunlight turns almost white as the sky darkens.  She is constantly shifting and changing, even as she remains permanently in her post.  The light tosses waves and casts shadows around her, but she is resolute.

This young woman has become a friend of sorts over the years.  When I was younger, I spent many a sick day lying on the couch and gazing at that woman, inventing her story.  While my mother fixed me a bowl of soup and a glass of ginger ale and watched a soap opera in the background, I would wonder intently at the stained glass girl.  I studied the way the back of her dress fell in a cascade of glass fabric about her shoulders.  My eyes traced the folds and twists of her hair, wondering if my mom could ever make mine look like that.  I soaked in every detail of those glass fragments and then I began to wonder about them.  Who is the girl gazing off to a place far beyond the yard that she faced?  Why is she there?  What is she doing?  And when I began asking questions, the eagerly creative little girl that I was found it impossible to resist finding answers for them.

It always seemed to me when I imagined that young woman’s story that she was not alone in the room, that someone outside of the frame had just entered, not quite disturbing the wistful thoughts of the girl in the beautiful gown.  Something outside her window had caught her attention and held it fixed as she looked on.  Perhaps it was a guest arriving for the ball that night, the one she had been nervous enough to change her dress for.  Earlier in the evening she had been wearing her old but beautiful lavender dress, but it was too safe.  For this ball, she would need to look absolutely stunning and so she had carefully unfolded the blue dress and slipped into it, still amazed at the luxury of the cloth that clung to her.  Maybe the person outside of the window was a handsome hero, glancing up to see her silhouetted by the hazy light of her room and falling in love at first sight.  Or perhaps she has already met her perfect suitor and he is the one behind her, patiently anticipating the moment she realizes he’s caught her in a day dream, but not wanting to give up the moment of watching her at peace just yet.  He loves to see her so quiet and lost in thought, so he leaves the roses he brought on her dressing table and slips out again.  But of course, the mystery person in the room could also be her exasperated mother standing there in the doorway, talking the poor girl’s ear off, trying desperately to convince her to just come downstairs and fraternize with their guests instead of standing defiantly up in her bedroom wasting away.  She argues that all of that finery is silly and pretentious, but secretly she knows she is looking forward to it.

Countless scenarios I played out in my mind for that young woman.  Some days, her posture was hopeful, some it was weary, others she looked powerful.  No matter what the placement of her hand or the stance of her shoulders exuded in the moment, she was always who I wanted to grow up to be.  She was a fairy tale dream that I wove for myself.  My head was stuck in the clouds and every book I read, every story I heard became a part of this world I constructed when I looked at the stained glass.  Every adventure she had, I was having right along with her.

That elusive young woman will likely spend as long as my parents live in that house staring out that exact window.  That’s okay with me.  That house is where I grew up outside of the fairy tales, each stage of my life passing underneath her sentinel presence.  I have grown and changed over the years and the young woman in the window became has become a completely new person several times over just as I have.  She grew up with me.  She grew up with my mother too, carrying the workmanship of my grandpa’s hands.  Perhaps one day a daughter of my own will get to grow up with the girl in the window.  Will get to question her mysteries and copy her posture.  For my grandfather’s sake and my mom’s and mine and for the girl in the window, I hope so.  For while she is forever a mystery, she is also forever a familiar comfort and a shard of home.


In Transit

I’ve been seeing a phrase making the rounds on Pinterest and consequently general home decor lately.  You are here.  You. Are.  Here.

You are not a human in transit.  This time in your life is not merely the time between one era and another.  It is not a moment solely of anticipation, where right now is only comprised of anxious waiting for that one moment or that one achievement that will jumpstart your personhood again.

As a college student, this is something that I have to wrestle with on some level every day.  College is this really unrealistic lifestyle that exists within its own little bubble called campus.  You don’t really live on your own, but you definitely aren’t living with your parents.  You don’t have to cook for yourself if you don’t want to, but if you want to find groceries when you open the fridge, you have to buy them.  You are swaddled in an environment where you are free – and even encouraged – to develop your own opinions about life and make your own decisions about how you want to live your life.  And the cool part is that everyone else is sort of in the same boat, so there is an ephemeral community created simply by fitting into that class of humans that “real adults” are slightly worried about called college students.

As apt as college is to look like a movie scene (because it really does sometimes, it’s crazy), these two or three or four years, or seven years if you’re a medical student, are real life.  The time you spend in higher education is not a single-purpose way of taking you from being a child to an adult.  If that’s all that you are getting from college, you’re doing it wrong.

Your time as a student counts.

You are growing right now.  This very moment, you are learning and changing and that is a beautiful thing.  Don’t blink and let this undulation brush by.  Today you might make the closest friendship you will ever have.  Today might be the day that you come to understand where your passion lies and what you want to do in this world.  This moment could be the one where you touch the life of someone who you didn’t even know was listening.

If you laugh today, it is an important day.  If you cry, this day matters.  If you breathe, this moment is worth more than you can fathom.  Because you, not the person you will be when you graduate or the job you will get with your degree or the surname you will have when you’re married, you, right here right now, are alive.  And you are indescribably loved by your Creator.  And that makes you priceless.

So when you swing your legs out of bed, don’t ask Where do I see myself in five years? but What wonderful things are present in this moment?  How wonderful is this life?  Savor the way that your toes brush the floor and the curve of your ankle.  Revel in that groggy moment just before you gather the momentum to rub the sleep from your eyes and push your body up into a new day.  That, dear friends is you.  And you are here.

Welcome Home

Today was a big day.

Specifically, today was freshman move-in day at school.  Let me tell ya, that looks a whole lot different from the perspective of the second time around.  Where last year, I was nervous and frantic and panicky, this year I was bustling and excited and joyful.  Where last year I was confused, this year I was confident.  Where last year I was becoming a resident, this year I was becoming a resident assistant.

That’s right folks, I am an RA this year.  Which is kind of insane.

The past couple of weeks have been absolute madness, balancing training to become an RA with the actual responsibilities of already being one.  In all sincerity, there were more than a few moments when I was seriously concerned about what exactly I had gotten myself into.  I’m going to mess up.  I am kind of an awkward human being.  I don’t know all of my resident’s names and faces.  I feel underqualified.

But that’s not what God thinks.  He blessed me with an opportunity this year, and sometimes God’s opportunities can seem a little overwhelming.  I still am not sure I quite get the whole scope of what this position is, but I am here and that is not going to change.

Beyond the trepidation though, I am so inexpressibly excited to take on this role throughout the year.  Like I said, it is completely a God thing that I am in this place and I can say with absolute confidence that he is going to do great things with me this year.  That’s not a way of talking myself up or puffing out my chest, that’s complete assurance in the power of Jesus.  He put me in this position because this is where he is going to use me to grow the kingdom, and I could not be more grateful or more eager.

Even better, I get to do this with some of the most caring, inspiring, quirky, Godly, beautiful women I know.  I cannot imagine tackling this year with a better team than the seven other women I have.  They are phenomenal and beyond God using me in great ways this year, he will use them to accomplish incredible kingdom goals.

For weeks, being an RA has been my number one super duper top priority, but even through I was getting the opportunity to meet some of my (frankly fantastic) residents, it didn’t quite sink in until this morning that I am actually, really going to do this.

This morning, there was simply no way around that fact.  Bright and early, girls started pouring in the door, loaded with futons and fridges and a full spectrum of emotions.  Soon the hallways were mazes made of all sorts of treasures that would somehow get packed into the tiny rooms.

It was chaos.

And I loved it.

I have never in my life been this excited or cared this deeply for a whole pack of strangers.  One-hundred eleven new faces, new stories, new girls moved into the place that I call home and began to make it their home too.

That is why I’m here.  Because today I got to meet one incredible human after another.  And because not only did I get to meet them, but I get to help make this place the place where they can thrive.  I get to be a part of their lives and I can’t wait because they have already become a huge part of mine.  So I guess they really aren’t strangers anymore.

It’s easy enough to be  excited for the concept of my residents, but I had no way of knowing what they would actually be like when they got here.  They are better than I had even imagined.  I remember last year when I first moved in that I couldn’t seem to find a single unpleasant person on campus and I figured it was a part of what the school does, but each of my girls is just as friendly and sweet and unique as all of the people who have been on campus for a long time, so I know that though they are new, they are already blessings to this school long before we get the chance to return the favor.

My job today was to welcome these girls in and to help this place become their place.  But with every girl that I moved in or met, with every smile I shared, I felt them settling me into my home even more.  I have no doubt that this year is going to be a great one.

Tonight as I walked down the hallway, I heard voices behind almost every door.  Talking, laughing, bonding. It was the sound of this place coming completely alive again and by some crazy miracle, God has planted me right in the middle of it.

If you need anything to pray for today, thank God for such an abundant blessing in these girls.  Pray for our year, that we form strong, deep relationships with each other and with God.  Pray that we build.  That we are wise and joyful.  Pray that every day feels as big and as important as move-in day.  Because every day is.


This past week marked two years since I lost one of my closest friends to a disease called depression.  It is such a strange thought to realize how very much has happened since that day.  Looking back on it, everything is surrounded in sort of a hellish haze of uncertainty, grieving, and fear of losing others, but that time also seems like it happened to a different person in a different life.  Maybe it did.

After all of the chaos and sorrow of that year, several of my friends and I had almost a mantra that we used as a wearied and battle worn vestige of hope:

We have a God who knows how to heal.

Over and over again, I would tell myself this in order to get out of bed in the morning and drudge through my day.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  I clutched at it like a lifeline.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  It was never that I didn’t believe it, but I had to keep telling myself that because my only steadfast hope was the future.  At the time, life sucked.  I was living in a world where I had built so many walls of apathy that I could hardly even feel the pain, but I was miserable nonetheless.  The world was absolutely drained of color.  It wasn’t in greyscale, it was like a watercolor after a flood.  Like someone flushed a drain and all of the life, all of the color went with it.

But somehow, incomprehensibly that unrealistically resilient thing called hope stuck around.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  I knew that today was not going to be colorful again.  I knew that it wouldn’t be tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that.  But I had to keep telling myself the thing that I already knew, even if I didn’t understand it.  We have a God who knows how to heal.  One day, maybe weeks from now, maybe months, maybe years, it wouldn’t hurt so much to see the world in color again.  The future may have been far away, but there was still a future.  Little by little, each day would be a little less awful than the last until eventually I was living again.  Not just surviving, not just walking blindly though the day, not just keeping my head above the water, but really truly living.  That day wasn’t coming up soon, but it was coming, and that was a promise.

Let me say now, two full years later, that there is still a pretty enormous scar on my heart.  I am not fully mended.  Healing is a process, not an event.  And I will be going through that process for the rest of my life.  To what degree, I don’t know, but my heart will still carry the scar of that grief and all of the agony of the suicides will forever be a part of my life.  I will not be fully whole until Jesus returns and makes me new.

But let me also tell you this:  That we have a God who knows how to heal.  I’m sure you are getting sick of me saying it by now, but I cannot begin to stress the truth of that statement. I’ve been more or less okay for quite a long time now.  I know that’s a touchy word, but I really do mean it.  The world is definitely colorful and vibrant again and for that I am immensely grateful.  Life is joyful and I no longer spend every moment worrying that one more friend is right on the brink.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still bad days.  There are.  That doesn’t mean that my friends don’t still have days where they are in bad places.  They do.  But it’s not every day.  It’s not even often that I feel vaguely close to that place in my life anymore.  I am healing.

May thirteenth will always be an anniversary for me.  It will always matter.  And that’s okay.  Like I said, I will be a part of this healing process until the day that Jesus restores me to true humanity untainted by sorrow.

This particular May thirteenth I was expecting a rough day.  I know you should never anticipate bad days because the instant you think a day is going to be horrible than it will be, regardless of the circumstances, but that’s a tangent.  Whether or not it was a smart idea, I was expecting a bad day.  I wasn’t afraid of that fact; I just wanted to get through the day and get it over with so that I could go back to living life.

I woke up that morning and sent a message to some of my close friends on campus (none of whom, it should be noted, were ever actually involved in this situation at all, but who care about me and my well being nonetheless) and asked them to pray for me.  Without fail, every. single. one. replied assuring me that they would pray.  Several of them sought me out to give me a bear hug during the day too.  It is always, without fail, a spirit booster to know that other people are talking to the creator of the universe on your behalf.

The rest of the day was actually kind of the best.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed quite as hard as I did that day.  My time spent with Jesus was so refreshing and uplifting.  I had a good day in classes.  I was super productive with my homework, which mean that something in my brain which usually doesn’t function was going strong.  I had a ton of fun performing in an improv show.  Got to watch Harry Potter, which is always a plus.  I genuinely had a good day.

Better still, my friends from home seemed to be living and loving life.  I cannot even begin to describe what a joy it was to talk to them and see them having so much fun.  It was as if the whole world was starting to wake up from the nightmare.  Like the sun was finally bursting forth in all of its glory above the horizon.  And what a beautiful relief that brought with it.  Did I still think about the anniversary?  Oh yes.  Was I grieving?  No.  To be honest, I wasn’t.  And that’s okay.  My friend would love to know that he wasn’t causing me sadness.  I don’t have to remain sorrowful forever in order to remember.  That, my dear friends, is called healing.  And you know how that happens?  Because we have a God who knows how to heal.  Not only does he know how, but he does heal.  He is healing.  He is the very giver and creator of life and he restores it to its fullness in him.  What a beautiful blessing that is!

A friend asked me on that day if I needed to talk about anything and I told him that I was okay.  And I meant it.  That was the most remarkable thing.  Two years ago, I had to tell myself that healing was coming.  I had to force myself to believe that there would be a day when I could openly, freely, and genuinely love life again.  It was a struggle to make myself say it sometimes.  And yet, by the grace of God, I am there.  I am not healed, but I am so undeniably healing.

We have a God who knows how to heal.

It’s not a mantra that I have to say over and over in order to remind myself to believe  it anymore.  That phrase has become a praise to God because has done just that and continues to work healing in my life and in your life every moment of every day.  It is no longer a desperate lifeline that I am clutching for dear life, but an exuberant shout of delight in my miraculous God.

I don’t know where you are at in your life right now.  I don’t know what you are hurting from or what God is blessing you with, but I do know that your Great Physician is healing you in ways that you cannot know now or understand, but that will become the biggest blessings to you.  Whether or not it feels like it now, remind yourself that in every day, in every hour, in every moment of your sin-broken life you have a God who knows how to heal and who is working constantly specifically for you.  I don’t know about you, but I would say that is a far sight better than any bandaid, any medicine, or any healing that this world has to offer.  That, dearly beloved child of God, is life at its fullest.

Coffee Shop Musings

Hello friends!  It has come to my attention that, along with being World Down Syndrome Awareness Day and Holy Monday, it is also World Poetry day.  As I am a fan of poetry, I thought I’d post a little something for you that I wrote in a coffee shop a few weeks back.  Nothing too special, just a little poem I would like to share.

Enjoy!  And be sure to tell me in the comments what you think.


The music of a band of voices, conversations, events, progress

None distinct but all individual blends or aromatic concoctions

Not Bach or Sheeran or Lennon or Crosby, but inflections of each layered

Words are secondary to syllables brewed with the chinks of glasses

Percussion flutters in turning pages and tapping keys

A symphony in its own right crescendos and billows when the sun streaks in the windows

In reality it is too many symphonies to count, each listens to its own

Smooth going down, warm in the belly

Tongue and nose and eyes listen from the opera boxes

They use their glasses to spy on the others, but it is only a habit

They are content

And why shouldn’t they be? Surrounded with such luxury

It is a blessing that the song has no melody for indeed there are too many to count

Movement as though the very creature stirs in its sleep

Never enough to wake, but always to wonder if it might

Dance together with the captive audience as it so wishes to do

And they wish it too, for they are already dancing