Monthly Archives: March 2016

Step Forward

As a native Chicagoan, I’ve flown into O’Hare Airport more times than I can count. Sometimes, when the plane is coming in from the west, the pilot takes a curious route. Instead of heading straight to the airport, the plane passes over the city and heads east, out over Lake Michigan. To those not familiar with this pattern, flying over the lake brings some dreadful questions. “Why did we fly right by the airport? Are we out of control? Will we be landing in the lake?” Eventually, the plane will make a series of turns, head west and land safely at the airport.

When chasing a dream, we often take alternate routes like this one. We’ve been working so hard, concentrating on the destination. Just when it appears to be in sight, God bypasses around our goal. And sometimes, God takes us over rough waters instead of seeing us safely to our objective. It can be so frustrating.

I believe God plans detours in our slow march to our dreams. It isn’t because He doesn’t love us. It is because He loves us beyond belief. He doesn’t want us to just achieve our dream; He wants us to grow in character, to become more God-like, to see His glory in every step on the way to our destination. He wants our journeys to be more about what we might do for Him, rather than what might be in it for ourselves. God desires we remain focused on every step of the journey so we can feel and appreciate His power, love and wisdom.

When I face a painful detour, I spend too much time focusing on the negatives. But if I take a step back and examine the path God has planned for me, I can also spot all the gifts He showers along the way. I see the friends who have backed me up, the prayers offered over me, but more importantly the opportunities for spiritual maturity as I trust God with my life.

It is hard work, but in the difficult no’s, in the unexpected changes and in the broken heartbumpy roads, God wipes away our tears. He cups our broken hearts. And when we wail loudly from the pain, He answers, “I know you hurt. I’m stimulating growth in your life.” Isaiah 43:19 states: Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?

If you find yourself in a difficult spot, in the place of discouragement and doubt, if you feel like a dream has passed you by, take a step back and count a blessing. See the love in the face of a friend. Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Find a quiet place and pray in order to hear Him gently whisper back to you, “I came for you. I came to hold you. I want to carry you, to save you.”

Until you see your dream fulfilled, the work can be tough and lonely at times. But do the rare and wonderful thing: allow the tough times to help you experience the love of Jesus in new, different and exciting ways. Find a gift in each moment, step forward with the belief that God really does know best and His plan is truly perfect – even if you have trouble seeing that today.


My husband and I received news on Wednesday no homeowner should ever have to hear. While we were away, our house had been broken into. Because we were still out of town, we had to rely on the police, neighbors and family to let us know the status of our home. The information trickled in so slowly I felt helpless…trapped in the days of the Pony Express rather than the instant news flashes of the Information Age.

broken door 031516The moment we heard about the break in, a curious set of emotions swirled in both of us: fear, violation, grief. I kept reminding myself it was only stuff, but it was more than that. A home is your sanctuary, your refuge, a place of protection. The thought of someone invading that, even of police entering with guns drawn shattered my internal peace and tranquility.

Both of us handled the stress differently. Richard became crabby, short-tempered, guilt-ridden as if the break in was his fault. I expressed my stress differently. All I wanted to do was either eat or sleep. I walked around in a daze struggling to keep my eyes open. Heavy questions circled my brain: Would I feel safe again? Could my house feel like home again? How could I embrace this sense of violation and see some good come out of it?

I was at loose ends and I knew it.  One afternoon, I laid in bed for over an hour without moving, except to breathe. For a while, my mind was blank. I worked feverously to keep it that way because if I didn’t, it would go to the one place I dreaded: hopelessness. Sometimes when we have doubts, we turn away from even facing ourselves.

Our God, however, never leaves us. As I skirted a loss of hope and the stagnation that came with it, that evening, Richard and I went to church. Just an ordinary weekend service, but this time, the speaker focused on the resurrection. At the risk of sounding blasé, nothing new; I had heard everything before. Still, God’s truth made my heart beat a little faster. On the third day, when hope seemed long gone, Jesus rose from the dead.

I imagined the tender words He spoke to His followers as they realized on the day, Jesus had undone sadness, disease and death itself. Compassionate words were what He was now speaking to me. I expected a healing, but instead, God invited Himself into my pain.

It isn’t easy to just let it go and I really haven’t yet. It is still too new, too close, too raw. But my pain reminds me that we Christians get to participate in daily deaths and resurrections. It’s part of becoming more like Jesus. Daily, I have to choose to lean into my pain, knowing there is a resurrection on the other side. The gift of faith means staying in the hurt and not occupying myself with busyness in an effort to erase the damage. Part of growing is learning how to grieve.

When I was at an all-time low, God entered my broken world . In a tangible way He whispered, “I love you,” so that even my wounded heart couldn’t deny His presence. 2 Samuel 22:33 tells us, It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.

Tragedy will always be with us, as will fear, abandonment and injustice. Which is why I invite you, as you read these word, to open up your heart with me. Sit in the pain of not knowing how the ragged ends of your story finish. Let’s press into Jesus, so that one day we might understand how all the heartbreaking ends are tied up into a story more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Because God will do what He always does. In some unexpected way, He will show up. Show up for me, and in your pain, show up for you. And when He does, we will walk with Him into a joyous resurrection. We are, after all Easter people, who understand safe isn’t a place you live at, but the Person you live in.

Feeling Loved

12671938_1692397524375728_1108885668533029989_oAs a child, entering my parish church’s hushed silence always made me feel insignificant. The building seemed to swallow me whole. A long center aisle, extended stained glass windows and huge crucifix hanging behind the altar made the stillness seem sacred, but didn’t make God feel approachable. Growing up Catholic, I’ve always felt God is strong, powerful and caring, yet there were nagging questions in the back of my mind. “God, do You love me? Simple, sinful me? Do You love me enough to use Your power in my life? Or do I have to be perfect in order for that to happen?”

I believed the priest when he said, “God loves us. God cares about our lives. God wants to be close to us.” But whenever I replaced the us in any of those sentences with me, well let’s just say the effort fell flat. I deeply desired maturity and intimacy with Him, yet I haven’t always been able to feel His love for me, just me alone and not as part of greater humanity.

Understanding God is strong is not the same thing as feeling His love. Believing He is powerful is not the same thing as feeling His love. Knowing God cares is not the same thing as feeling His love. The question remained: “God, do you really love simple, sinful me?” A cold shiver ran down my back whenever I imagined the answer coming back no.

If I forced myself, I could get myself to admit God loved me as an individual. Yet love was something I learned couldn’t be forced. I left Catholicism thinking I would never be worthy. That I was too messed up; it would be impossible for God to love me.

When you feel unloved by God, passively thinking about His love will do you no good. You have to do something. You have to decide to live it – to track love down by opening yourself up to being loved by your Creator. God doesn’t want us to earn His love. He doesn’t want us to beg for it. He doesn’t ask us to change so we can be loved by Him.

He pursued me even when I turned my back on Him. He consistently asked me to simply turn towards His love. It wasn’t in a building where I found God’s love. When I started to seek, He seemed to be everywhere. Watching the sunsets, red and golden. In green hues of the grass in my backyard. Under the cool shade of the trees during hot summers. Via a smile on a stranger’s face. Over a cup of tea with a friend as we shared our secrets.

He taught me my worth isn’t what the world says it is or isn’t. God finds us completely worthy just as we are. He doesn’t love us any less because we will always be a hot mess. He pursues us, every single one of us, with a relentless love. I began to realize just how deeply His heart beats for me. In order to feel His love, I had to release the idea I was unloveable.

Where you find God is as unique as you are. But remember, God’s love is never not available. It is always seeking you, forever looking for you. And even if you travel down the darkest roads, God is there right beside you extending His love for you to grab onto. God wants to passionately woo you for the rest of your days.

There are times I seek out the stillness of a Catholic church, times when I long to see the sun streaking through the stained glass windows, times when the stillness is exactly what my soul needs. I no longer feel insignificant, though. For I have learned the astonishing, breathtaking, exquisite truth that I, simple, sinful me, am the one who God loves.