How to Find Joy in the Midst of a Storm

Playing in RainLast weekend we got a call from dear friends asking if they could stop in for an overnight visit on their way to Wisconsin. Excited to see them we told them they were more to welcome.

With our friends arriving on Tuesday my week got off to a busy start. Sheets needed to be washed, beds needed to be made, and a special meal needed to be planned for Tuesday night.

On Tuesday morning we woke to a stead rainstorm outside our window. As my girls ate their breakfasts they begged me to take them outside and let them splash in the puddle that forms at the base of our front porch step.

I looked at my to-do list; reluctant to take the time to let them go out and play. I looked at the clock and considered how quickly the morning was already slipping away. I looked at my girls and their eager faces and the rain falling in long, fat drops outside.

“Okay,”I said. “Go get your swimsuits.”

“Goody!” They squealed as they raced upstairs.

What I thought would be a few minutes of fun turned into forty-five minutes of summer joy as my girls laughed, and splashed, and pranced in the rain.

Playing in Rain 2Time after time they ran around the loop of our front porch and sidewalk. Time after time they splashed with both feet in the deepest puddles they could find. Time after time they opened their hands and mouths wide to feel and taste the raindrops anyway they could.

As I sat on our front porch bench, still in my pajamas, and watched with my camera in hand I couldn’t help but marvel at the joy they were finding right there in the midst of the rain.

Sometimes the seasons of our lives seem full of rain and storms. We brave illness, loss, heartbreak, brokeness, disappoints, and all kinds of trouble while trying to find shelter, while trying to find calm in the midst of the downpour.

Shelter and peace can be hard to find and joy even harder.

But as I watched my girls at play, I was reminded of how prevalent joy can be even in the rain, and when you get down to it, when you look through the eyes of a child it isn’t hard to find.

FeetIn reality, it’s as easy as jumping with both feet. What is a puddle but a deep well of joy? When we dive in with all we have, when we meet the challenge with our whole heart, when we pounce the temptation to crumble in fear, joy splashes and ripples around us.

It’s as easy as opening your hand wide, trusting the one who sends the rain. When we trust what He has for us, and the way He chooses to give and to take, joy falls fresh and fills our open places.

It’s as easy as craning your neck so your face meets the sky, closing your eyes, and sticking out your tongue. When the rain falls all around you, when it soaks you head to toe, when you receive the drops on your skin, on your tongue, joy covers you, it seeps inside.

Aletheia Rain 2Jump.



Just like a child.

It can be that easy.

I don’t mean to minimize the pain or the difficulty that comes with life’s storms. Nor do I mean to offer a fluffy and fanciful fix. But I do mean to give an avenue to hope, a way to childlike laughter. A respite from the thief that steals and destroys.

Hand 2I want you to find what my girls found as they splashed in puddles and laughed in the storm: A moment of pure joy that could only be found in a downpour of rain.

Whatever season or storm you’re facing, look for the puddles, look for the joy. It’s there. It’s all around you.

The rain it can bring heartache but it can also bring grace.

Buckets, and rivers, and oceans of grace falling down in long, fat drops and flowing all around us.

The Truth About Braces and Beauty

Dear Mad,

So you’re ten years old and you just got braces. So far, your mom and dad tell me you’re handling it like a champ, and as your aunt I’m constantly proud of the spunk that fills you from head to toe.

But I also remember those days…my own adventure with braces…and I know in many ways this is only the beginning.

What no one seems to tell you when you’re growing from a girl into a young woman is that there are going to be days when the mirror will be unkind. When boys and even girls you thought were your friends will laugh and make you feel small. When your own thoughts will run rampant and try their best to convince you that you are too much of this or not enough that and will seek to trap you with all kinds of lies.

And this mirror, those friends, that voice…it doesn’t just go away. It’s always lurking, always waiting for that moment when you’re not at your best. That moment when you’re weak and vulnerable.

It’s part of being a girl and, believe me, it’s part of being a woman.

But the real truth?

The real truth is much more promising, and it is something You. Must. Know.

The real truth, Mad, is that braces, and mirrors, and unkind friends are temporary. But what you have inside you, what lives in your heart is forever, everlasting, eternal.

Not long ago you asked Jesus into your heart and He came and He filled it. He filled it not just with His love and grace but also with beauty unending. And this beauty, Mad, it’s the real deal. It’s the real thing. It has forever changed you both inside and out and it will never be used up, never undone.

It’s in you and all around you. It shows in your words, your actions, your dreams. It shows when you sing Let It Go with all your heart, and when you refuse to give up on even the toughest math problem.

It’s in your freckles and your blue eyes just like Nannie’s. It’s in your little mommy ways, your one of a kind smile, and the way you love your family…(big and little brothers included.)

These and a million other ways are how you offer your beauty to the world and, Mad, this is what “beautiful” is all about.

“Beautiful” is about knowing that beauty dwells in your heart because you are God’s girl, because you were made in His image. It’s about seeing yourself the way God, and your Aunt Jen, and all those who love you see you.

And in our eyes, Mad, you couldn’t possibly be more beautiful.

So when the mirror is cruel, when a boy or a friend makes you feel like less than who you are, when your own thoughts whisper lies…remember.

Remember the truth.

Remember how God sees you…wholly and dearly loved.

Remember how we see you…lovely from head to toe with a heart too big for this world.

Remember that beauty fills you both inside and out and you were created by God to offer this beauty to a broken and ugly world.

And smile! (This world needs that smile…braces and all.)

Because you’re Madeline Grace. (Madeline full of grace.)

And you’ve never been more beautiful than you are right now.

With All My Love,

Your Very Proud Aunt Jen

Today Was A Fairy Tale

Lake MIOnce upon a time there was a trip to the beach that felt like a glimpse of heaven…

Last weekend I journeyed with a group of seven writer friends to a tiny blue cottage on Lake Michigan.

Throughout our weekend we talked, laughed, cried, prayed, took walks along the lakeshore, rested in the sun, worked on our writing projects and ate lots and lots of delicious food.

Coffee and chocolate were always accessible, and the weather was so perfect, and the water was so blue we couldn’t ask for a better backdrop to our weekend.

This is the first time I’ve ever gone away for a weekend with a group of ladies who love to write as much as I do. It was amazing to share this time with godly women who are in so many ways are just alike and are also in many ways different.

Flip FlopsWe were married and unmarried. Some of us had young children at home and some had children almost grown. Some wrote fiction, some non-fiction. Some of us were city girls and some came straight from the farm.

No matter our differences three common threads remained. We all love to write. We all love the Lord. And we all love each other.

When I got home and unpacked my bags I found my prayer journal tucked away in my writing bag and realized I hadn’t used it all weekend. At first I felt a pang of guilt but then I thought, no.

The entire weekend was a prayer. It was constant worship. It was communion with God.

Coming home from such a great weekend can leave one feeling a little deflated. It’s sad to realize the moment was gone. It’s easy to believe that times like these are few and far between.

Perhaps there’s some truth to that. Life is hard and it has its way of beating all things precious right out of us. But I don’t believe this is what God has for us. I believe He deeply desires for us to access this kind of friendship, this kind of prayer and worship in the midst of our every day lives.

FootprintsEspecially in our every day lives.

And friends, it can be done. A line from an old Garth Brooks songs states,

“Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s for us to find here.(Lyrics from Belleau Wood)

I do believe that Heaven exists beyond this earth, but I also believe we are given glimpses of Heaven to find while we are here.

Kingdom moments are found when friends come together to pray. When loved ones gather round a table. When children laugh silly. When beauty unfurls across land and sky.

They happen when hellos make us burst with excitement. When heart level connections make tears flood our eyes. When joy flows freely from the work you do and beauty is offered to an ugly world.

These moments can be ours in abundance because prayer is not just for quiet time. Worship is not just for church. And communion with friends can be communion with God.

BeachMoments like these…prayer, worship, and communion like this…are for every thing and every day. They are for the extraordinary and the mundane. They are for the weekends spent by the lake and the weekdays spent at the office, at the grocery, at the dinner table.

The glory I experienced during my weekend away does not have to end when I get back to every day life. And the glory of heaven doesn’t have to start when we reach our eternal home.

Every day can fill with God-glory when we seek it with all our hearts.

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess may you wake up this day to fairy tale found in kingdom moments. In laughter that feels like a prayer. In work that feels like worship. In friendships that feel like communion.

In days of heaven upon the earth.

Congratulations to Melanie, Alice, and Robyn  for winning the I Like Giving Giveaway. Your copy of I Like Giving will be on its way soon!

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my blog and/or shared a link. Be sure to check back soon for more fun giveaways.

Books from Dad: A Father’s Day Post

Books from Dad

Books from my dad.

For several years, too many for me to remember, my dad has given me a book on writing for Christmas.

Most of them I’ve read. Some I’ve skimmed and others I know I may never tackle (Vladimir Nabokov Lectures on Russian Literature falls into this category…sorry, Dad!) But one thing is certain: I love these books.

Every volume in my “Books from Dad” collection is of precious value to me. You see, my dad started giving me these books long before I ever started taking myself serious as a writer. And likewise, my dad believed in me as a writer, long before I ever did.

I remember the first few years when I’d open his Christmas gift. While I loved the idea, I hated the feeling it put in my gut. The reminder that I should be writing. The conviction that I was ignoring my dream. The fear of disappointing my dad.

But at the same time there was such comfort, such hope found in the act of unwrapping those books. The promise of someday. The gentle reminder of what my heart was for. The knowledge that no matter what my dad was never going to stop believing in me.

I don’t know when my dad started to see me as a writer. Perhaps it was in the third grade when I started keeping a journal full of stories, poems, and random entries about my family and friends. Or maybe it was in high school when I gave up basketball for a spot on the newspaper staff. Regardless of when and how, my dad saw something in me. Something worth supporting anyway he could.

Through all the years I played ring-around-the-rosie with my desire to write. Through all the years I believed I couldn’t be a writer. Through all the years I procrastinated and barely wrote one word. My dad sat on the sidelines and waited in my cheering section, patiently prodding, refusing to give up, convinced to his core that I was a writer.

Dad Pic 4

Reading together.

I can’t begin to describe how profound this is for me. To know in some deep, deep place of my mind and my heart that even when I didn’t believe in myself, my dad was always there believing in me. To not feel forced, coerced, or beat over the head with my father’s demands or expectations but lovingly coaxed, creatively encouraged, and faithfully believed in, beyond what I deserved, has played a massive role in making me the writer I am today.

I share this with you on Father’s Day because I think it’s a great reminder for dads (and moms) to carefully observe our children. To watch them. To notice what moves them, what makes their hearts sing.

What brings light and life to their eyes?

What fills them with laughter and joy?

What makes them jump with excitement?

What do you find them doing when no one is watching?

All of these are clues. As your children learn and grow, keep watching, keep observing. Look for ways to nudge and guide. Take advantage of opportunities to support and encourage. Always, always let them know that you love them no matter what and that you believe in the person God created them to be.

I am so blessed to have both a mother and father that have done this for me. They watched me, observed me, and supported me beyond my own belief. And now I get to do the same, to carry on the tradition, for my girls.

At five and two I’m just beginning to see my daughters’ passions and pursuits shine through. Their dreams for tomorrow change almost daily and vary from marrying their daddy to having one hundred children someday. But you can bet I’m watching them. I’m watching for that spark in their eyes, that joy in their heart.

As for my dad, I realized long ago that the real gift he’s given me each Christmas isn’t a book but the tangible reminder of his belief in me, even when, especially when I didn’t believe in myself.

I wish I knew how to thank my dad for his love, support, and encouragement. For his refusal to let me quit and his faithful confidence in me. But I don’t.

All I can do is write.

Don’t forget, today is the last day to enter my drawing for a copy of I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. (A great gift idea for dad!)  For more info click here.

Thank you to everyone who has entered, shared a link, and/or left a comment. I have enjoyed reading all your great ideas on how to keep giving going! 

What Every Dad Needs to Know this Father’s Day…

IMG_1370A couple weeks ago my husband, Chris, had to be out-of-town for work. No matter how much fun my girls and I have when Chris is away there always comes a time when his absence begins to wear on us.

This time in particular, my four-year-old, Aletheia, seemed to struggle the most. By day four she was totally not herself. Despite my frustration with her behavior I knew she wasn’t being defiant or acting out-of-line. Instead…Today I’m posting over at The Blog Pile. To keep reading please follow this link…

Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. (Makes a great gift for dad.) For information on how to enter my I Like Giving Giveaway please click here!