How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever looked at your life and tried to figure out how the plans you thought were taking you in one direction suddenly ended up somewhere you never envisioned?  I have.  And I didn’t see it coming.

On October 2, 2006, my life changed.  My husband and I were married almost 10 years.  I was a stay at home mom to 3 young kids (ages 7, 5 and 18 months). I thought we had a good relationship.  I loved my family.  Life was simple. When I woke up that morning I had no idea that before lunchtime I would become a widow, my kids would no longer have a father, and my community would face heartbreaking devastation.

My husband committed the Amish Schoolhouse shooting.  My simple, predictable life was over.  I could not comprehend how this man I loved, this man who loved our kids, was capable of killing children.  But there was no way to deny it.  Everyone asked me to answer for Charlie’s choices, but I didn’t have answers.  All I held were broken pieces of the life we built and the promises we made. I felt devastated and desperate, but not without hope. God was our constant, and I knew I could trust him. He had showed me in countless ways throughout the years that he was faithful.  To me, this was much bigger than anything I had faced before, but I knew he didn’t see it that way.  He saw our pain, not from a distance, but from the place where we stood. That day I chose to surrender my brokenness and trust him with something I could not see my way through.

God promised redemption.  And he has kept his promise.  Let me tell you about our journey.  You can see/hear me talk about it in this short video.

And if you find yourself walking a similarly unexpected road, know that the same God who writes his redemption story in my life is writing one in yours.  Nothing is impossible.  His love never fails.

To Help You Heal


Life is hard. We all find ourselves up against “it”. There are lots of things.

  • A family member is diagnosed with cancer.
  • Your child tells you that they were sexually assaulted.
  • Your spouse leaves.
  • Your kids are bullied.
  • You are bullied (because let’s be honest, it happens to adults).
  • Your dreams fall apart.
  • You lose a friend to drug addiction.

This is just a short list. There are many other things that we go through that make us feel like we’re struggling to stay afloat in a sea of trouble. We can barely get to the surface long enough to catch our breath.

And that’s the problem. We feel like we’re fighting through, on our own, barely able to stay alive. There’s no one throwing us a life-preserver or helping us to shore. But here’s the truth—everyone is going through something. And most of the time, they don’t realize that we are too. If they do perceive our agony, the other problem is that they think they don’t know how to help. Let’s be honest, most of the time we don’t know how to help ourselves, which makes us feel incapable of helping someone else.

But the greater truth in all of this is that we are not alone. God is absolutely with us. He is fighting for us, and with us. He will equip us to not only survive, but to thrive despite our troubles. And when we learn how to do this, it gives us the ability to do the same for those around us.  We can offer that life-preserver we so desperately wanted to receive.

So what do you think? Think I’m totally out of my mind? Or do you agree with me? Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, too burned out to truly believe that you’ll make it through, but too tired of fighting to surrender yourself to the thought that “this is all there is.” DON’T surrender. This stuff you’re fighting is NOT the end of your life. It’s not the end of beauty and joy and redemption that God has planned. The resurrection days are just beginning if we stand in faith and don’t give up.

David said it well when he wrote Psalm 25, verse 16 reads like the cry of a desperate heart: Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.”  Here is what I know about God: he hears, he answers, and he comforts.  

Come with me on a journey this summer. We’ll talk about the hard stuff. And we will heal.

Follow along on my blog ( and my author Facebook page for video chats.


Death Defying Dreamer

A year ago my life was distinctly different.  I had a dad.  His cancer was back, he was entrenched in the fight, but he was here and I was thankful.  In the ebb and flow of life I missed the memo that grief would nail me as the seasons changed, but it has come.  Sorrow floods my heart and my mind wanders down the road I’ve walked these past 10 months without him.  I try not to think about the way he will be missed at our Thanksgiving table, the gifts I won’t be buying for him this year, and the multifaceted way it touches us all- my mom, my siblings, my husband, my kids.  We all feel the loss and it is immense.  I try not to think about it, but the sorrow lingers.

My life tells a story of broken dreams and love that redeems them all.  I do not mourn as one without hope.  I know, that even now, God is redeeming the pain I feel and bring beauty from it.  He loves me too much to leave me in this broken place.  He will move me through it, gently taking my hand, carrying me if need be, and walking with me until we are on the other side.  In the midst of my ache, he comforts me.

Let me tell you what God did last week~

Monday morning I received a glorious invitation- a friend asked me to accompany her to the first ultrasound of her 15-week pregnancy.  I was elated. I haven’t seen a baby in the womb since I saw the pictures of my youngest (now 8 years old).  I love the mystery and wonder of life, and eagerly counted down the hours, thankful that the appointment was later that afternoon.  All babies are special, but this is an extra special baby.  My friend and her husband have 2 children on earth and 6 in heaven.  Her journey has been one of great sorrow, but amazing hope and steadfast faith.  God has woven our hearts like sisters, not just friends.

As we sat in the dimly lit room, eyes fixated on the screen, smiles filled our faces.  This baby is perfect in everyway.  We heard the heart beat, saw the profile and laughed as he/she wiggled and waved.

This appointment was one of the hi-lights of my week.  I’ve soaked in the shared joy of this precious life and thought a lot about broken dreams.  My friend has persevered through devastating loss over and over again.  Her heart has continued to believe the gentle whispers of Jesus and the promise of life over her family.  She walks toward life even when circumstances looked like death.  She refused to give up and now she is entering into the beauty of this dream and inching closer to the day when she will hold this perfect one in her arms.

She is a death-defying dreamer.

I’ve felt God unfolding this phrase in my heart; encouraging me as I move through this holiday season filled with a mix of emotions.  I want to be a death-defying dreamer too.  God has spoken promises over my life and I long to hold them.

We all have dreams that seem to die before their time, places where we’ve reached for something that never did find it’s way into our grasp.  In those moments it’s hard to keep reaching, especially when disappointment and discouragement come more frequently than fulfilled longings.  I speak to my soul—Don’t give up, don’t stop dreaming, keep pushing forward, keep reaching.  Don’t loose heart.

What is waiting on the other side of those dreams is breath taking and I want to find it.  I inhale deeply, lift my head and align my vision with the one who continues to light the fire of inspiration inside me.

Something From Nothing

Late last night I prepared to wrap a birthday present for my son, today is his 12th birthday.  The box was fairly large and I quickly realized I didn’t have enough paper to adequately cover it.  I also knew that I was out of options.

I wanted this gift to look inviting and speak the truth of my great love for him.  A plain old cardboard box was not going to convey what was in my heart.  I started talking to God about my problem. I realized that my life often feels like this—in a million ways I don’t think I have enough to conquer what lies in front of me.  Time, resources, wisdom; I often struggle to see the abundance, but I have no trouble feeling the lack.

As I sat on my bedroom floor, Jesus began speaking to my heart.  He reminded me of the day he fed thousands with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  One young boy came to him and offered everything he had.  To many, it wouldn’t have looked like the substance of a gift, but it was more than an ordinary offering.  The contents of a simple basket met the extraordinary abundance of One who came to fill hearts, not just stomachs.  I felt Jesus whisper that he would do the same for me.  My mind started to process the promise- “I will make something out of your nothing.”  My heart felt lighter immediately.  A smile spread across my face and excitement pulsed through my veins.  Ok, show me how I can wrap this gift.  The answer was simple—I took the scraps of collected paper and wove them over the box like a patchwork quilt.  Then I found a “Happy Birthday” banner and wrapped it around the box, finishing it off with some smiley-face stickers and ribbon.

This was something out of nothing.  It happened, and I thought it looked fun, albeit a bit unusual.  I’ve never wrapped a gift this way before.  I prefer perfectly creased edges, coordinating ribbon and precisely placed strips of tape.  This was different; it was spontaneous creativity where I felt empty and frustrated.

My heart felt hope in new ways as I looked at my son’s gift.  Jesus will help me do this over and over again, but I need to allow him access to my life.  I must surrender myself to a quiet place where I patiently wait on his wisdom.  He specializes in pulling something from nothing.  I don’t doubt that it may look unusual, even a bit messy to my systematical eye.  My perspective has shifted though; this is a promise, not just a challenge, and I welcome him.

Do you have places of “nothingness” in your life?   Are there areas where you’re empty but life demands you have something to give?  Join with me in asking Jesus to show you how he intends to make something from nothing.  I know he won’t let you down.  Instead, he will lift you up, change your perspective and fill you with great hope!  I promise, he is not finished with this situation, or you, yet.

The Grief Train

A freight train ran over me last week.  I saw it in the distance and tried to tell myself that we weren’t on the same track.  I wanted to deny the potential of what was looming on the horizon line.  I wanted to turn the other way so I couldn’t see the puffs of steam getting closer.  I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loud enough to drown out the constant chugging.  I wanted to close my eyes and pretend that I lived somewhere else, in a land untouched by grief and the Christmastime loss of my dad.  I wanted all these things, but they didn’t happen, they couldn’t happen.  While I saw the train coming, I was unprepared for its arrival.

I had no real expectations for Father’s Day, no distinct thoughts about my heart’s well being.  I knew our schedule surrounding the day and tried to allow for a few moments of quiet time.  In the midst of feeling the loss I also wanted to celebrate my husband Dan, who is an amazing father to our kids.  We were going to spend the day together, and host a picnic in the evening for my family.  No big deal, right?  I told myself that I could do this, celebrate Dan throughout the day and honor my dad through the dinner.  Sometimes though, I lie and tell myself that I’m capable of things that are way outside the realm of possibility.  This was one of those times.  I hoped that if I said it often enough, that it would indeed be true.  In the end, a lie is still a lie.

I don’t know the precise moment when the train hit, although I would guess it was pretty much about the time my eyes opened and I took a deep breath of the morning’s gentle air.  I awoke to a day I’d never faced before, my first fatherless Father’s Day.  I pursed my lips and exhaled slowly, reassuring myself that I could do “this”.  I rolled over and said, “Happy Father’s Day” to Dan.  At the culmination of those 3 simple words, a solitary tear went streaming down my face.  I knew that the game was up, my lies were over and this was going to be a very exhausting day.

By 10 am I had applied mascara 3 times, discovering that it’s practically impossible to separate and coat wet lashes.  I wanted to look like my normal self even though I felt awful.  I’m not a “cute crier”.  My eyes get puffy and my nose gets red.  No amount of makeup can hope to mask my emotion.  I discovered this 20+ years ago, but I haven’t given up trying.

The day was filled with activity, some planned and some created.  Constant movement seemed to be my final attempt to hold my emotions in check, when what I really wanted was to throw myself face down on my bed and weep until my eyes shed their final tear.  This approach of busyness was as unsuccessful as the first.

Upon the arrival of this grief train, it parked itself in my station and refused to move.  I pushed and I pulled, but I was no match for the size and weight of this train.  It’s not like I haven’t grieved my dad’s death in the past 6 months.  I’ve spent a lot of time pouring out my heart before the Lord, my husband and friends.   I’ve gone through countless boxes of tissues since Christmas.  I’ve mourned the individual and cumulative loss over our family: it covers my mom, my kids, my husband, my siblings, my nephew, and me.  It’s complex.  I know this well.  What I did not know was that today, the loss would feel fresh and new, as if it just happened all over again.  The train hit hard, pushing me back to square one where a million memories from past days played like a movie reel in my mind.  The past infringed upon my future and spoke of all the things we would never do again.  It was a crushing blow.  My head already understood this, and while it wasn’t fresh there, I was reliving it in my heart as if I’d never felt it before.

Today there was no ability to hide behind the thoughtful processing of this loss on my family.  It was all about me.  This was Father’s Day.  I did everything I could to change the focus, to stay busy, to maintain emotional control, but I felt helpless.  I thought back one short year to a different time.  My dad was battling lung cancer, he was weak from the treatment regimen, but he was here.  I was thankful.  Last Father’s Day we celebrated with his favorite cheese steak from a local sub shop and milkshake to wash it down.  We teased that he could eat as much as he wanted—the doctor’s would love a little weight gain.  The rest of us would have to ration our bites so that we didn’t pack on the pounds.   We talked about “next year” when he would be feeling better and the world would be brighter.  There were so many memories we wanted to make together.  Now, those conversations felt like empty promises, hopeful grasping-at-straws that yielded no results.

As I stood in front of my dad’s grill, making his signature meal—burgers and hotdogs with baked beans on the side, my heart was broken into a million tiny pieces.  Smoke from the grill stung my tired eyes.  I’d finally stopped the trickle of tears that flowed off and on all day.  Now my eyes watered from my responsibility of “head chef”.  I thought to myself, “I can’t win.”  

Dinner was good, dad would’ve been proud.  This year we all laughed that I didn’t quite succeed in replicating his style—my burgers weren’t as dry as his typically were.   On the outside I smiled, inside I sternly reminded myself that there would be no tears during the picnic.

Night finally came; darkness covered me, offering a quiet place to rest my head and cry.  My responsibilities were finished and I was free to weep.   The sorrow and anguish of my soul poured forth, and like the grief train, there was no stopping it now.  I wept for hours.  Dan laid beside me in silent support.

Finally sleep enveloped me.

Monday dawned, my eyes opened and yesterday’s emotion resurfaced.  I tried to shove it away and hoped this day would be better.  To some degree, it was.  I still felt Sunday’s sting and wished that it would go away.  As the day wore on and my emotions remained unstable I had a life-giving realization.  Once again I’ve been looking with eyes of disgust at grief, when really, it calls to me as a friend.  Grief offers the opportunity to validate my feelings and the legacy of the one who has left me behind.  The piercing of my heart reminds me that I’m vibrantly alive; I still have the capacity to feel pain and loss, and this is wonderful.

I knew from past experience that brokenness is beautiful and suffering produces deep peaceful joy within me.  So I yield myself to feel the pain completely and will allow this loss do its complete work.  I will not shield my heart or turn away.  Grief is like a mountain that I overcome only by tunneling through it.  I step aboard this grief train.  I’m not afraid of it anymore.  I see the conductor give the signal—it’s time to leave the station.  Methodical shoveling fuels the engine’s fire.  The resulting steam puffs over my head, the chugging begins its gentle lullaby and my heart awakens to a different perspective.  This train did not come to run me over; it came to take me somewhere.  I don’t know where we are going, but I trust the One who’s in control of the adventure.  There is a mountain that I must go through.  God knows my heart, he sees the pain and he promises beautiful redemption for my pain.  This knowledge doesn’t make the loss any easier, but it promises that loss is not the end; it is the beginning.

As we depart the station and head out of town I settle into my seat.  I look out the window and see familiar places; I wonder how long it will take to get through the mountain.  I lay my head against the glass and close my eyes.  The gentle bumping of the tracks settles me.  Shallow breaths become deep and steady.   I feel a new invitation come as Jesus extends his hand and offers me a place of rest.  He sees my weariness; he knows I need stamina for this trip.  He asks me to close my eyes and lean into him.  Jesus offers safety and peace.  I don’t have to figure it out.  I simply have to trust that he is holding all the pieces in his hand and that somehow he will make a beautiful mosaic out of my tear stained shards of glass.  His rest envelops me, this time it’s different.  This rest does not simply cover my sorrow; it infuses me with strength and a promise:

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 NIV

Joy in a Million Drops of Rain

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the day my word caved in; the great collide between good and evil.  In my life, good is winning.  I’m held within the continual embrace of Christ, who thrills my heart, renews my mind, and restores my spirit in a variety of extraordinary ways.  Yesterday afternoon, as I thought about my journey—the harshness life and death, mixed with the beautiful reality of God’s redemptive plan, I saw a picture.  One solitary page lay before me, a journal entry etched in tones of black on white, the substance of my days, the minutes of each hour.  Drops of rain, my tears, which left a watermark behind, framed the page.  As I considered the analogy of this illustration my heart began to pen a script, the story of my life, in simple stanzas, releasing sorrow, receiving joy.

Upon the margins of my heart etched in a thousand drops of rain,

Frames life and death, black and white, evidence of what remains.  

These droplet ribbons run, as dappled colors collide,

Fallen from green pools of sorrow deep inside.

Tears cascade, meandering upon my face, 

Ever flowing from a seemingly endless place.


And somehow as these tones converge,

I stare in wonderment; joyous glimmers emerge.

For there, flowing forth from salty pools,

Runs a rainbow of gloriously brilliant hues.

His promised declaration covers me,

Permanency gleams, alluding to what will be.


The words he speaks are ever true, 

No shifting, no changing of these 7 hues.

As I linger in the vibrancy of Rainbow’s embrace, 

Death’s shadow departs, vanishing without a trace. 

Gazing once again at the marks upon this page,

My eyes are drawn to beauty, by the One who eclipses pain.

The One who eclipses pain.  This phrase became the anthem to the rest of my day.  Jesus, in his mercy, passes between me and the pain.  He covers me, he heals me, he envelops me.  In the softness of his embrace, sorrow melts away.  I see it no longer.  In past years I’ve learned not to run from pain, but to run towards Christ, anticipating a tangible release of new life.  Always available, he takes the substance of my wound, and in return, gives the essence of true love.  It is The Great Exchange!  He took the weight of yesterday’s burden, painted a picture with it, and released amazing joy.  Redemption displayed in beauty for brokenness.

And so, on this 6th anniversary, the sky pours forth it’s million drops of rain, quite fitting, as He proclaims his poetic life inside my heart. I look, with expectation, toward the pools of color running across my story.  Dappled drops of varying shades—each moment proclaiming redemption, provision, grace, mercy and love, they flow over me washing away the black and white.  As I look in the mirror radiance greets me, beaming brightness, a divine display.  I am adorned with His rainbow, covered by His promise.  My heart knows joy, not trumpeted on center stage at high volume, no, this joy is different.  It is clothed with mercy, in a million drops of rain.

I’m Thankful

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Thanksgiving” in the past week and the many things I’m thankful for, and even things I’m not.  I’ve mulled over this post a couple times in my brain and am finally getting it down on “paper”.

There are many circumstances in my life that I’m not thankful for (in the initial event kind of way) but I’m beyond thankful for what God’s done with them. In Romans 8:28 we read: “And we know that in all things God works to the good of those that love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  In a moment of devastation it seems impossible, but it’s true. I’m not thankful for the choices Charlie made on 10/2/2006.  I’m not thankful for the way my life changed that day, the brokenness I endured, the way I had to stand and fight.  BUT, I am thankful for the depth of intimate relationship I now have with Christ- he came to my rescue, he stood alongside me and he gave me courage and strength when I was empty and alone.  He gave me freedom to walk in victory above my circumstances, not buried under the weight of them.  He showed me how to lean in to him, to rely on him, to watch him come through…to trust, to have faith, and to hope.  When He’s all you’ve got, He is all there is!  On the day I became a widow and single mom of 3 precious children, I faced a startling reality full of hard choices.  My dream of a shared life together forever had come to a sudden and tragic end- I was left to handle everything on my own.  I had no idea, at the time, how God could possibly redeem any of it, but I gave my life to him, yielding myself and offering all.  I don’t say this out of pride, but for the point of reference- I knew that I had nothing and I could do nothing on my own.

As much as my heart still mourns the loss of that day for my family, the other family’s impacted and first responders, I also celebrate the ways that God reached down and touched my natural with his supernatural.  I wouldn’t have ever dared to dream that a man would choose to share my life- there are so many complications and hard places, but it happened.  God had this amazing plan that he started unfolding quickly after Charlie’s death.  I met and married my husband, Dan, in less than 8 months following my loss.  I know that this is not typical or advisable in many cases, but God did something extraordinary for my children and me.  He knew that we couldn’t wait, the time was now and we needed Dan.  I say often that he is like “Jesus with skin on”.  I’ve never met anyone so self-sacrificing, thoughtful, and intentionally loving.  He has given me the courage to believe in myself and go after dreams buried deep within my heart.  He calls out my destiny; he’s my springboard.  If you stand along the side of a swimming pool you can jump in, dive and do tricks, but think about how much better it is if you’re on the diving board!  It sends you higher; the board provides a bounce, a distance, beauty that you can’t get on your own.  That’s what Dan does for me.  As I think about the treasure of love he gives me every day, from the abundance inside of him, I’m thankful.  I’m thankful that he shares with me, but more than that, I’m thankful he has given himself to the master-craftsman, the one who fills him with rare and priceless jewels.  Dan has also walked a difficult road- his life has had it’s own share of broken dreams and shattered pieces, but in the midst of those he has chosen to yield himself to God’s plans and purposes.  I’m not thankful for the heartbreak he has endured, but I’m thankful for what he has allowed God to do in and through it.   In the places where he has suffered he now has eyes that see my pain, a heart that bears my hurt and tears that mourn my scars (not just for me, but also for the kids).   Instead of choosing bitterness of the events of his life he chose God’s grace, he chose to not understand why in the moment, but to allow God to be bigger than what he was going through.  In each one of those places, although he didn’t know it at the time, he chose to allow God to prepare his heart to love me.  Dan’s love is just what I need: the gentleness of his arms is just how I must be held, the softness of his heart soothes the pain in mine, the tenderness of his words is the voice of the Father in my ear.  I wouldn’t want to think about life without him!  I can only imagine that as I was grieving my loss in Oct. 2006, God was whispering, encouraging my heart that I would bear this pain for a little while, but he had a beautifully glorious light coming at the end of my solitary tunnel.  It wasn’t going to be long, he was bringing redemption and restoration, so amazing and completely that it would blow my mind.

Dan yielded himself to be “Jesus with skin on”…and through him, God has provided for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.  (Isaiah 61:3)  Dan is an oak of righteousness, and thankful doesn’t begin to express what’s in my heart- for who he is and how he gives life to me.  God has purposed to work out a majestic “good” in Dan’s life that has beautifully impacted the “good” in mine…what greater purpose is there than that; to allow the devastation and destruction in our lives to become part of the tangible blessing of God to another…His rich, deep, unending love.