Family, Friendship, Grace, Uncategorized

The Fruit of Patience and Grace-Filled Waiting

Weather men aren’t always accurate, we argued with ourselves, it’s the middle of April, the “storm” is probably a little over emphasized to get better news feed ratings. So we didn’t wait for anything. Planned, prepped, postured ourselves for the next day ahead. A day of fun and visiting. A day of short travel and great friends and eating out at a new-to-us restaurant.

But the next morning, we awoke to a fresh foot of snow on the ground. Wind rattled our windows and ice pelted their percussion matching rhythm against the glass panes. The house was COLD! The old farmhouse isn’t well insulated and the drafts can make the curtains dance on a stormy day. My first clue of how bad it was should have been the four year old who had snuck into our bed around five or six in the morning. He’d lost his blankets and his body type doesn’t hold any extra padding, so with frigid feet, he’d pressed himself in between his dad and I and promptly fallen back to sleep. He hadn’t waited for anything either. With just barely enough consciousness, he’d thumped down the stairs and bee-lined for down covers and adult body heat.

Four days later, after my husband had made one perilous drive across town in his diesel engined truck to load up the back with wood for heating the house, and a quick stop at the grocery store to pick-up a few essentials, we had stayed officially snowed in. The driveway was drifted over. Cold snow waved itself up across the landscaping and pushed itself under our porch door. More climbed our basement door, requiring us to literally shovel ourselves out of the house.

Let me remind you it was April. The middle of April. The time of year we typically finish the last of our maple syrup making and clean up the buckets, tubes, and boiling pots. The time when we desperately search the woods for the first signs of green shoots. We wait for spring to officially awaken. Waiting is something we northern Michiganders consider ourselves to be pretty good at, since winter takes up the majority of our calendar year. But based on the texting I received and the Facebook posts I read, this year choked out most of our patience. The waiting timetable had run out and we were left clinging to strands of what we THOUGHT was suppose to come. The renewing. The new grasses, warmer sun, lighter jackets. The ability to put away the heavy boots, hang up the hatchet for splitting kindling, and shift the windshield scraper to the trunk. Some of us, and I won’t mention any names, didn’t handle the extended wait very well.

The fruit of patience I’m painfully aware of because it almost always holds hands with, what can feel like, the idle time of ‘waiting’. And in the words of Dr. Seuss, “”You can get so confused that you’ll start to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. THE WAITING PLACE……

….for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”

Friend, I want to look very carefully at the fruit of patience and take you to a place that might be a bit uncomfortable. Waiting, for some, is one of the most painful things to do. I am married to an Entrepreneur. He waits for almost nothing. There are plans to make, codes to write, designs to draw, meetings to be held, phone calls, emails, purchases…you get the drift. He knows the existence of the business falls on him. He mostly let’s no puzzle go undone. Whatever problem arises, he WILL find a solution. And he doesn’t quit until a resolution is in hand. Having said that, the good Lord, in his infinite wisdom, has gifted my husband and I a few circumstances where the outcome was not in our control. The waiting became part of our story. And the glory of the Lord came in the quiet long suffering.

Six and a half years of infertility treatments. Yeah. Long years of doctors, medications, ultrasounds, dreams blooming, expectations shattered, a vision that seemed to rebuke us turn after turn, but still, the desire to have a baby of our own never went away. So we prayed. We cried. We spent our savings. And we waited. And if you know us personally or have ever read any of my other writing, you know how the story turned out. We have kids! However….those kids have required us to maintain a seat in the ‘waiting’ place. I think we deserve seats with our names gold plated on them for how much ‘waiting’ we have done, but that’s just me.

I’ll be brief, but the eight years after our first pregnancy (which I miscarried), became this building of patience. It seems like one should grow more impatient with all the waiting, but, I believe, through God’s abundant grace, we were gifted more and more patience that we could use to weave into the foundation of our marriage. Every hard thing required long-suffering, and each event demanded waiting.

We waited beside the isolates of our first babies. Twins born far too soon. And the waiting was different for each of them. Our son fell ill at seven and a half weeks old and the monitors went still 24 hours after his diagnosis. There has never been a period of waiting that has been harder to sit through for me than those 24 hours. Had my husband and I failed to cling to a cross baring another Son, I don’t honestly think we would have made it through that fire. The waiting for our daughter lasted 4 months in the NICU. I would never want to redo those days, but I also learned how to be a mama in those long hospital hours.

For our second son we were required to don the patience cloak in the form of adoption. The waiting felt weird, detached, and the expectations changed multiple times. But he’s ten today, and our life more complete because of our willingness to forget about ideals and instead focus on intent.

Our fourth and final child also spent four months in the NICU. Believe me, we did not WANT to redo those days, but we were called to patience, long-suffering, waiting, again. One more time we endured the days and nights of wondering if he would live or die. Our youngest son is now four. Feisty, fierce, and demands us to refresh our parenting tactics. I love them all more than my own breath.

Habakkuk 2:3 says, “Though it tarries, wait for it…”

‘Waiting’ and ‘Patience’ have different names in the Greek New Testament, but they have the same definition. “Endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance.” I believe the gifting of this fruit from the Holy Spirit is, possibly, one of the greatest. Friend, you hold it within you in two ways. First, you have the ability, no, the opportunity, to sit with those in uncertainty. I cannot begin to list the family and friends who have stopped their lives each and every time Ben and I faced a new, hard thing. We sat with our babies day in and day out, but our people formed a cloud of sacrificial witnessing around us. In so many ways waiting makes one feel helpless, but I want to go on record to say that your ‘waiting’ with us through the multiple valleys of shadow is one of the greatest, most distinguished gifts we have ever received from human beings.

The second way that makes the gift of patience so special, is that we also have the distinct opportunity to read and accept and hold onto the truth that we WAIT for Christ to come. We have a vision of something that is not just an ideal but an intent! “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5(NLT). We get to choose to step away from the arguing over causes and issues because we can choose to devote ourselves to God Himself! In His coming. In His gifting. In all the merciful justice that is His to give, not ours.

And with all due respect to Dr Seuss, I pray you won’t see the waiting place as useless space, but instead, as patience-in-the-presence.

“Though it tarries, wait for it…” Habakkuk 2:3

Purely holding onto patient endurance,

~kathy b

Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” (New York: Random House, 1990) pp. 26-28.

Grace, Love of my Savior, Uncategorized

Why You Cannot Skip The Fruit of Peace and Still Hope to Survive Life

It’s been exactly one whole year. One year ago I remember laying on my stomach, arms stretched above my head, my forehead pressed into a padded ring. I was told I would have to hold very still while the MRI hummed and snapped pictures of the inside of my chest. I remember, just before she slid me into the machine, the technician gently draping my body with a warm blanket. Eased into the metal machine, I closed my eyes. I had been so cold, chemotherapy will do that to you, but that blanket captured my chill and I felt ribbons of warmth wrap around my skin. An IV pulsed dye into my veins and I finally opened my eyes. I don’t know what I expected to see, but it wasn’t what I saw. Under my face was a mirror. And the mirror reflected a mural painted on a wall somewhere. The scene was a beautiful lake with a break-wall leading out to a lighthouse. I decided to settle in, after all, this test was going to take awhile.

This may sound strange, but I was sick, cold, and tired, so I allowed myself the simple pleasure of imagining myself walking along that pier with a very hot breeze penetrating my body. The idea of not being cold for even a moment, or worrying that the weather might change and drop the temperature, was freeing. It was also that moment that I began to pray. I prayed for a lot of things, but the quick answer, the rapid assurance, caught me in a powerful moment of peace. What I saw on that pier wasn’t real. And yet, it was. What I saw was a powerful truth. As I stood there, alone, in the hot winds near a lighthouse that doesn’t actually exist, I looked back towards shore. Three figures came towards me. Two walking. One in a wheelchair. My three mothers. We did not embrace. We spoke no words. I stood a few feet from them, but I felt their voices mix with the winds and their hands smooth out my wintry skin. I knew God had sent them. I knew, when their arms caressed my knotted hair, the hair rapidly falling out, that God had sent them to remind me to be at peace. I was not alone. I knew at any given moment, when I wanted to crumble, I would think of them, and I would stand tall and finish this journey because of who they had helped shape me to be. I would do this, not FOR them, but BECAUSE of them.

I felt, more than heard, the whispers of the Holy Spirit. And I let my salty tears fall onto the small mirror with the imaginary seashore in it.

The fruit of peace is not an easy one to write about. In fact, it’s a hard one to narrow down. What kind of peace is Paul talking about? How do we wrap our minds around something we can’t actually produce ourselves? But I had felt it inside that MRI machine, and now I wanted to understand it. Paul says, “when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in it”. Peace. Paul also writes in Ephesians 5:9, “For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” The right kind of fruit. The fruit of peace.

Good. Right. True. Peace.

One of the definitions for peace is “of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”

Whatsoever sort of an earthly lot you get, that should be where you find peace.

What if I told you, and quoted, “God loves you dearly, and he has called you to be his very own people. May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7

Again, “…you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did all Christians everywhere – whoever calls upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and theirs. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you his grace and peace.”. 1 Corinthians 1:2,3.

Does it sort of feel like Paul is out gifting grace and peace? But Paul, who had the perfect upbringing, the perfect education, three square meals a day and was the teen with the latest fashion? Why does he need to know anything about peace? Friend, he was also the Paul who, as Saul, persecuted Jesus’ followers. And, once he accepted Christ as Lord, he became the Paul who was put in jail more times than I can count, whipped, stoned, and faced death again and again. He was shipwrecked three times. He faced dangers from cities, deserts, and the stormy seas. Jews and Gentiles both shook their fists at him. He went days not knowing where his next food or drink would come from. But time after time he entered into a meeting with a group of believers greeting them with grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Could it be, always, in the tunnel of fear and uncertainties, that what IS good and right and true is the perfect gift of grace and peace? Could it be, that Paul had settled into a life of knowing and understanding how that light, the one lit within, was able to glow bright even in storms? Paul knew his earthly lot was to spread the gospel of Christ Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. But he was human too, and perhaps the need to complain raised it’s unconscious hand once in a while. Maybe the raspy voice of hunger or the latest exhaustive trial seared his ability to hide criticism. I don’t know. But maybe the greeting was simply his ability to pause before preaching. Maybe it was his way of being a gracious host to his own soul.

It’s a powerful lesson for me. My own personal lot of late has darkened my interior. But he reminds us that there is light within us. The good and true kind. We are God’s chosen people. We also read, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. Could it be, this is where we find peace? The lining of our souls might be the protective barrier for the candle burning deep within. What if we learned to pause before judgement and criticism could escape our lips? What if we actually allowed God’s grace and peace to steady our tongue or still our anguished heart?

Paul also writes in Philippians 4:6 & 7 (NLT), “ Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Paul knew that his heart was guarded and in Colossians 3:15 he points out that peace ruled his heart as well. Peace is the culmination of good, right, and true gifts, and this is what stills storms. So there IS balance in this out-of-balance world? I think so.  

Grace and Peace.  

From God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Guardian and Ruler over….

our hearts and our minds. 


And there, in the dark tunnel….


In pure peace,

~kathy b

Joy, Uncategorized

The Fruit of Joy

It was just he and I in the elevator. He must have been more than twice my age. A navy blue hat rested atop his head with the words, “Korean War Veteran” stitched in gold across his brow. He was going up and I was going down and I’m not sure which of us got on the wrong elevator, but it only took me a second, when his voice carpeted the metal space around us, that I knew it didn’t matter, because what he said next would have velcroed me to the spot anyway. He told me, in as few words as could fit into a 2 floor ascent, that his wife of over 60 years was here in the hospital because her heart had stopped. Twice. But how she was doing good. How she was too spunky to go down for long. And then he reached into his pocket at the same time the elevator jolted to a stop and pulled out something small. The doors hummed their slow open yawn and he reached across our safe stranger space and pressed the thing in my hand and as his foot propelled his small, age-framed shape forward, he said, “God is taking care of us.”

At that moment, I did not have enough breath in me to respond. Later, I think I remember nodding? Maybe I gave him a half smile in agreement? I chastised myself for not at least thanking him for his service. And yet, when the second hand of life’s moments ticked three or four more times while that elevator closed and my shoulder bones hiccuped upward because of the downward pull, I opened my gifted hand. There, pressed in, was a black leather keychain with the words, “Jesus Cares” 1 Peter 5:6,7. A yellow cross painted in the middle.

“He touched me,

Oh, He touched me,

And oh the joy that floods my soul.

Something happened and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.”

I was flooded. They were the Gaither’s words, but it was the Lord’s joy that flooded me then as I shimmied my own diseased body up onto the radiation table. Was he just a stranger, or was there something more holy going on than I knew about right then? I don’t know the answer to that, but here’s what I do know. Joy. I know what joy feels like even in the drudgery of this sin filled world. Friend, I can tell you, my heart beat hard against my chest wall for the next half hour at least! First of all, I thought of all the ways this man had loved his wife for all those many years and through all the changing of their experiences and circumstances. Was it always joy? He went through a WAR! I can almost certainly say, no. But when her heart stopped it’s rhythmic pulsing, he had called for help. He had watched staff in scrubs hustle to restart her life. Twice. And in all that crazy, he had kept his perspective. “God is taking care of us”.

The Greek word for joy is ‘CHARA’. It is defined as, ‘the joy received from you’, or ‘the cause or occasion of joy. Of person’s who are ones joy’. Nothing ties joy to love like Jesus does in John 15:9-17. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” And then He goes on commanding us to love each other the way He loves us. Read those lines again, because the flooding of joy comes from how much the Father loves us when we obey him, and we are to do the same for others. One another. Our husbands, our kids, our parents, in-laws, church members, even the stranger in the elevator. I wonder if broken hearts would even be a thing if we loved one another and spread that kind of joy around us? Even on our hard days? Because that is the obedience that God cares about.

It isn’t as if you needed one more story of joy lost, not after the recent news feed, but remember Kind David? The story is different than our modern day war cries, but it’s the same story of disobedience. You know the story, of a handsome king with everything he could want, including God’s blessing, and the beautiful wife of Uriah, one of his commanders, listed as one of his mightiest men. 1 Kings chronicles it as David’s one great sin. It WAS David’s disobedience. And the result? Everything that is obvious to us…death, heartbreak, deceit, loss, grief. But there’s one more thing, David’s loss of JOY! He writes about it in Psalm 51:8, after Nathan the prophet came to him, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me – now let me rejoice.”

It’s true, isn’t it? A broken soul cannot feel joy overflowing until the heart reaches towards the love only a Savior can give. And the only reason to look back is to remember the cause of our joy, defined by the person who brings us joy.

So let me leave you with this, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. That’s another act of obedience, friend. Choosing to see what will come! And when you see it, it will flow from YOU! This is the fruit you are capable of. This is the fruit of working together so that you will be full of joy. Standing in a faith that says, “God is taking care of me.”

Purely seeking joy,

~kathy b

Family, Joy

The Fruit of Love

It was that kind of day. The one filled with homeowner nightmares. Where adulting went way beyond exhausting and we felt driven to the point of being overwhelmed. A classic writers line might be ‘a comedy of error’s’, only I wasn’t laughing anymore and neither was he. How we both kept it together, I have no idea. Every new mess of the day, and I heard him sigh heavy. I only got quieter, just trying to process information so we could make the best move to get around the chaos and keep moving through the day. I’ll save you the disheveled details, but it ended with getting the car jumped so we could haul 3 kids to his office where we could all take a hot shower and eat dinner on paper plates. My bed felt like the kindest thing in my life that night and I drifted asleep in no time.

The next day I still had to work around the ‘broken’ parts of my life, but I had a plan and prayed for no more piling of pulverized things. I pushed through the hoops all morning, eager to reach that afternoon time that I had intentionally set aside for myself to write nearly a month before. So the moment I hit play on my Pandora pick, I peeled an orange and waited for the pinched pain between my shoulders to unwind a little. But the writing wouldn’t come. So I ate an apple and flipped through some favorite books and authors and I prayed, “Lord, I don’t even have a loaf or a fish today, but there are mouths to feed…” And here’s how He answered that, with a tap on the door my husband walked in with a grin on his face and a small box in his hand. Not a word was necessary, he simply opened the mouth of cardboard and a mechanical part of which I do not even know the name of, but I knew it’s purpose and necessity, was lying there in it’s own kind bed of bubble wrap. The long and the short? He’d called all across the nation for this one part (because the company had gone out of business) and found one, I repeat ONE, in Massachusetts, and he’d had it overnighted. He stepped into my writing space with the simple words, “I just wanted to bring you some happiness”.

Suddenly grace and peace rushed over me. You see, it wasn’t just an answer to our hot water problems, it was the small, intentional gift from my Father, God, saying “I love you. I’ve got this”. I could have wept.

At that moment, my spinning world felt steadied, and I knew love had a whole lot to do with it. My high school sweetheart of 20 years had left all of his emails, phone calls, cabinet orders, basically, his entire career, to “bring me happiness”. Love. Who does that? Who stops progress to package up happiness?

Frederick Buechner wrote, “By believing against all odds and loving against all odds, that is how we are to let Jesus show in the world and to transform the world.” Funny how a mechanical part in the mail on a Wednesday could transform a love affair from barely getting through the day to heart pounding joy.

Friend, Jesus loves like that. The moment you’re pretty sure you can’t take another chip out of your soul, the Savior knocks on your door just to bring you happiness. It’s a real thing. He didn’t leave a career, He MADE a career out of showing you all the ways He loves you. He left everything, a manger, a carpentry shop, His family. He left HEAVEN, BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU‼!

That day of blotched belongings left me feeling like the beaten up Jewish man. And verse 34 of Luke 10 cups raw wounds in the kind of kindness that love is. It reads, “Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them.” (NLT).

Friend, I want to talk about the first of the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s love. Plain and simple…and yet complex and life transforming. Author Ann Voskamp says, “Every small gift of grace creates a love quake that has no logical end.”

Christ is like that. He loves without logic, because He creates people. And people are His art. And He breathes His very breath into your lungs. And real, genuine love cannot be stopped by broken pieces, it cannot be held back with regretful words, it cannot believe anything else except that you might love back. He loves you so boldly that He made a commandment out of it. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” (Luke 10:27 NLT). He simply wants to meet you on the other side of the door so he can bring you happiness. He wants to be the guy soothing your wounds, binding up your broken parts, carrying you to cover. Love does that.

Your Heavenly Father wants to give you good gifts. Love is, maybe, the strongest one of all. I want to explore more of them with you. I plan to write about the Fruits of the Spirit throughout this year, because the planet has a bitter taste to it right now, and I want to remind you that the news is always going to be bad, but God is always going to be good, and He’s going to love you. The evil of the world hisses with the demons of corruption and those demons are armed with quivers full of fears. They aren’t afraid to use them. My prayer is to read, write, and pray through some of the gifts God’s perfect love holds for us. I pray it will become armor for you. To give you tools that aren’t so mechanical, but genuine means to ward off lies swirling around each of us. I hope you’ll join me?

In pure love with Christ,

~kathy b

Christmas, Family, Grace, Hope, Uncategorized

2017: A Year In Review

It always takes a bit of mental sorting to write a Christmas letter. To rewind the memories of the mind. To retrace steps of a year gone by. Especially when that year held moments that fragmented the heart. However, no matter the suffering, it is always a healing balm to be able to see the flesh of a baby in a manger. The light of love come down. The warmth of hope wrapped in swaddling clothes. Christmas throws a rope of rescue to those of us needing something to cling too. And although stores fill their shelves to overflowing this time of year, nothing behind those glass doors holds the miracle of strength, of renewing. The stuff of Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays will never be able to give an understanding of journeys. Journeys of exhausting proportions. Journeys of diseases fought, marriages glued back together, depression trampled, or death knocking on or knocking over those we love. If there is anything Ben and I have learned it’s that there is a whole separate journey in witnessing the walk of a Godly King through a year of hard. See how His footsteps match yours print for print. How His hand opens doors of healing, spreads hope like a warm robe, and carries grace right through your front door!

In years past, I have enjoyed breaking down the family by individuals and bragging about their growth and development. I feel like I get to introduce them to you all over again, because each year comes with a view of someone new emerging. But this year, we couldn’t separate. This year, we printed out a proclamation from writer, Ann Voskamp, stuck it on the wall and memorized it, “Family is a VERB. It’s not just what we ARE, it’s something we actively KEEP ON MAKING!” Because, without experience, I had no other way of knowing how to get through what I knew would be hard.

The first 2 months of 2017 were spent consulting with doctors in Grand Rapids and here in Petoskey, and on March 1 I was officially diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Like my mother, my little sister, my grandma, two uncles, and several cousins ahead of me, I learned what infusions centers looked like, I learned how to give blood on a weekly basis for months, I learned how PET, CT, MRI, and MUGA all precede the word SCAN and what that means to a mortal body. I learned how to wear blue bandana’s so that people would say how pretty my eyes looked instead of how bald my head was. I learned how a husband can fall in love with a young bride in her prime, and 20 years later, still see her scarred body as beautiful. I learned how a 12 year old girl could instinctively care for a 3 year old baby brother, put lunch on the table, and clean a bathroom, and still make straight A’s, while her mama slept away the effects of chemotherapy. I learned what it meant to a 9 year old boy to have his mama at his baseball games, even if she was the one wrapped in three blankets and wearing a winter hat in the spring. I learned how a church pulls together and offers comfort, meals, care, all while their hands are raised in prayer, and how that feels like warriors going to battle for you. I learned how friends show up to stuff your kids in their cars and take them on play dates, take them to lunch, take them to get their hair cut, while you waste away a little. I learned how ‘family’ was something we HAD to actively keep up, so that cancer wouldn’t destroy us. And even when your bones ached and your skin tingled you still pulled those kids close and read them stories and said their bedtime prayers together, because you knew the ache of losing them would hurt so much worse.

This was also the year Ben altered the course of the business a little. It wasn’t meant to all happen at the same time, but for several months last year, he had been preparing to focus more on the custom cabinet business. And for the first time in 15 years here in northern Michigan, his company did not build a single home in 2017. Instead, he poured time, money, and resources into building a team, a family, at Stillwater Custom Cabinetry. It was necessary to slow down the growth to build the foundation. We pulled the purse strings tight at home and he spent a great deal of time developing a software program to help run a smoother cabinet shop. He and his team are preparing for larger manufacturing orders, as he has done the research to know that the need is out there and not being met. He’s part of a board of advisors to a software development company on the west coast. They all want to change the way computers, equipment and carpenters can communicate and produce products at a high level of quality in the most efficient amount of time. It’s been the cutting edge challenge he needed and desired. The customers are calling and the list is growing and we haven’t even advertised yet. It will be another sort of journey to see where Stillwater goes in the year 2018.

Maddy, Brett, & Judah. Only a parent can know the slow breath of relief that this was a year of healthy kids. We got to watch them snow ski, ride bikes, play in the sand, smash baseballs across diamonds, and build forts in the woods. We let a lot of things go this year, we didn’t plant a garden, never made it to Farmer’s Market even once, and only used the boat twice. But we did read through stacks of books, finished up our fifth year of homeschooling, built an entire fort village in the woods at the edge of the property, and just basked in the company that flowed in and out of our driveway as they came to offer the support and care that they could. We felt especially grateful when the doctors stopped my chemo at the end of June and put me on Prednisone so we could make the trip on the ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, WI to witness dear friends say their vows. Then drive up and through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and across the Mackinac Bridge. One week later we packed up the camper and spent a week at Camp Au Sable for family camp, cherishing every moment with family and friends, every worship service at the lakes edge, every class taught, every song sung. And when it was time to plan for the next school year, we did what we’ve done through everything, we bowed before the Good Shepherd of our journey, and asked what we should do?

Camp Au Sable not only helped us create memories this summer and gave us a break from medical requirements, but they have now become the place for Maddy and Brett to get their education. The doors were flung open and both kids have flourished in their new environment. The teachers, the students, and the woods have all helped keep the Creator of all life front and center. So when Isaiah 42:16 says, “I will make the darkness bright before them and smooth out the road ahead of them”, Ben and I could see what that meant. Nothing has eased our minds more than putting our kids in a school that offers such light, and, though the road to get there each day is long, it is the smooth road.

If I could end this letter there, I would be ok with that, but sadly, I cannot. The year was not without its deep pain. In August Ben’s step-mom, Treasure, was diagnosed with Metastatic Cervical Cancer. For a moment, I thought that swapping hats and wigs back and forth would be something we would laugh about someday. But her battle was fierce, consuming, deadly passionate about destroying her. And on November 24, her tiny little body could fight no more. We kissed her, and held her hand and said our final good-byes and wished with all our hearts that this was a big bad dream. Losing Treasure has left a huge hole in our family. She was something special and unique to each of us. Her contagious laugh, mouth-watering meals, and blithe sense of humor will be massively missed. We are sad, but not without hope. Hope in seeing her again someday minus her wheelchair. She and Brett have a standing appointment for a foot race first thing when they get to heaven. I’ll be at the finish line hollerin’ loud and hugging both of them something fierce.

With all the hard this year, there has been so much good‼ We’ve been able to see how people really do show up. How they have heard the gospel and understand what it means to reach out and serve. We’ve been reminded of how to live not climbing ladders, but instead, pressing our knees into the floor. So with Christmas here, it’s no wonder we find ourselves pressing ever closer to a crude manger holding a baby-King.

And if you are receiving this letter, its because you have been a part of our journey. You’ve bowed low and prayed loud and helped absorb our storm and we are SO grateful for you.

The Brower Family

Ben, Kathy, Maddy, Brett, & Judah

Hope, Uncategorized

A Lament For A Lonely Heart

Dear Father God,

When the soul feels so empty, do I dare come before your throne? When my head knowledge says we’re still connected but my heart feels that somehow there’s been a breach in our relationship, do I dare still ask you for renewing? You have always been my rock, my rescuer, my confidant, but why then do I feel this hollow empty place? Why do I find myself flipping through catalogs and store windows to buy? Why do I somehow think that all that pretty stuff will fill the void? If I’m being honest, God, I feel sad. I feel…..abandoned. When you asked me to walk through the fire, did you know how lonely the hot spot feels? You promised to never leave me or forsake me, but I’m afraid to lean right now. Why? After all these years, why does your strength make me feel weak? You and I, we were going to tell this story together. We were going to show people that you aren’t afraid to create a storm to show your majesty, your power. And I was willing. But I am a broken mortal. My body bares scars. And now my heart feels heavy.

But….this heart, the one in the wrecked body of me, it still belongs to you. I won’t ever deny that. And this body, it will eventually be nothing but dust. But, Lord, in this life, I am nothing without you. So have you pulled back your hand from me? Have you placed a shadow of gloom between us? And if so, why? Is it my doubt that disturbs you? Is it my emptiness that pains you? Are you just too busy with all the destruction happening in the world that you have forgotten our story? I understand that there are guns firing loud, blood running in streams down church aisles and truck beds and, Lord, people, their cries and tears are calling loud. I hear them. But if you are omnipotent, can you not hear me too?

Lord, forgive me. I don’t mean to lose perspective. I see storms in all shapes and sizes and I wonder why any of them should exist at all? Job said it, he pleaded with you. He predicted this future time, “It is a land as dark as midnight, a land of utter gloom where confusion reigns and the light is as dark as midnight.” Humanity is frail. I am no different. Please do not meet me with silence. Please do not leave me out of your presence. I need the hope of a kingdom not shaken with self-serving agendas, dark secrets, and stolen weapons. I need to know your kingdom holds room for me. Please, Lord, light even a small window that I might see it and know that you’re in my corner, too.

Father God, Almighty, please forgive me. Forgive my self-doubt. Forgive a girl who battles depression. Forgive a girl who needs evidence of your existence. I ask that you stir my heart. Make the blood in my veins ripple with a wave of your courage. The wicked have no hope. Forgive my wickedness. Gift me with hope. Give me rest in my soul. Strike me with a match of your light, that all will see we really are in this together. That the disease defecting my body is simply part of the mapping out of your redemption story. Make me a pillar. A pillar made to withstand the agnosticism of the crowd. Heal my roots. Roots buried deep in the truth of your existence. Turn my eyes to you first, before any shop, any craft, any event that might try to pull at my meager resources.

King David lamented that he had lost joy, I know that breaking. Immanuel, break these chains of darkness instead. Begin the repairing of my overwhelmed heart. Once I was young, and felt the satisfaction of the world. I spent my time with what looked like beauty carved to adorn worldly spaces. How fleeting that was. How small. God, you see a grand galaxy that spins in perfect harmony, and I feel small. You are master of miracles, let me not forget. Draw me close to you. To what really matters. Direct my heart back to your Sovereignty. Help me make peace with your decision of order.

Jesus. In one name you can silence loud spaces. I ask that you silence the breaking of my heart. Please help me raise my open hands once more. Turn my moaning into prayers cloaked in incense. An offering of my life, instead of a lamenting of an uninspired breath. Remind me that I am not a savior, but a servant. Amaze me once again with your greatness. Forgive me for forgetting what mercy looks like. For you could have stripped my life from this earth long ago, but instead you have blessed me over and over again. How quickly I am to forget all that.

God and King, I can hold no space except the space where I kneel at your throne. You hold grace and love for me. You are so kind. My tears flow, but only with the awe and humility at the realization of who you are. Because you brought me life. You formed me in my mother’s womb and planned my life to glorify you. You have blessed me with a husband. Strong and giving. You have blessed me with children. A daughter, quiet and quaint. Sons, flourishing and boisterous. You have blessed me by covering me with your grace and loving all of my flaws.

O God, you have never changed. You are everything you said you would be. You have freed me from this disease. Let the wounds, like your own, be displayed to show how a little dust of a human can be an arrow pointing up. When my cries come, as they most likely will, wrap me in your arms of grace. Rescue me from those who would question your knowledge. You know every space and you know time and history more than anyone, and you know what the future holds. I give you praise for allowing me to see how you hold us in the hard times. When I slip into the darkness, Lord, please come after me. Please run. Don’t let me lose hope. Keep the darkness of the night back. Take me to your mountain. To the strong place where my enemies cannot reach. Bring me to your flock. Hold my pain, and, God? Hold my heart, it is yours, after all.

Purely yours,

~kathy b

Family, Friendship, Grace, Uncategorized

When Serving Grace Became My Saving Grace

I remember the place. I even sort of remember his bearded face. And although I can still see his platform, I don’t remember the size of his audience. I remember sitting near the back, but was that by choice or necessity? I listened intently at first because his surface showcased a long list of accomplishments for the church. He was there to share all his ideas and what he was doing trying to save souls and at first I was impressed. But then I felt small because, what appeared to be a check-list of do-good deeds, I knew I had never done any of them. Nor had I stopped to grab a copy of some-said list of what we should be accomplishing for the Lord. I felt empty-handed and momentarily worthless. In a quick blink I felt like a much bigger taker than any sort of giver. Here’s something else I remember, I remember quietly getting up and walking out. I remember my mid-twenties self feeling twisted in a knot over what I hadn’t done and how I wrestled with the “pitch” of the whole meeting. Was this really how Christ was saving me? Did I miss some hidden memo, some forgotten memory verse about how to save souls for Jesus? And in saving souls, Christ would save me? For a young, true-to-life people pleaser, it was a legit worry. Thankfully, the Lord knows that mans heart and He knew where that gentleman was in his own life. And thankfully, gratefully, the Lord knew mine too. Fifteen years later, I’ve learned something else about saving and serving. I’ve also learned that, without grace, there just isn’t a point or a platform for either.

See, there’s something I’m slowly becoming aware of. That Mid-twenties wife that I was, eventually became a mama with babies and very little sleep. She learned how to become a comforter, a singer of rhymes, a stain magnet, and eventually, a taxi driver, cheerleader, and mediator of quarrels. And in all of that, I lost a lot too. Lost privacy, an actual income, and my bridal body. I also lost things that cannot be replaced. Cannot be fixed. I lost parts of my heart, and now parts of my body, that I’ll never get back. But in all that losing, Jesus still chose to save me. I have often felt Psalms 109:22 “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is full of pain.” And very few times have I allowed myself to believe that God’s grace was and is for me too. Not just those who “ not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” I have feared and I have wept and I have clenched my fist tight shut because I couldn’t see how God’s story was really going to save me.

And then you all showed up. And you taught me more about God’s way of serving and offered me grace, and your faces and your hands literally reached out and became the points of a saving grace that I never understood before. See, I could have refused you. I could have sent you away from my door, from my porch, from my life, but if I had, I would have missed the incredible journey of watching God’s daughters minister. I would have missed how serving grace was literally becoming my saving grace.

Serving grace. That’s what it felt like. A lesson in humility. A lesson in service. A big lesson in grace. Because when you showed up at my door with a meal. When you walked across my dirty floor to fold two loads of laundry and iron the boys’ dress shirts. When you strapped my kids in the backseat of your white car to get them out of the house for the day, that’s when it all became clear to me. How SERVING grace interconnects with SAVING grace. Because in a world of loud social media and fumbling relationships, you give up yourself. In a world of speed and instant gratification, you gracefully spread sheets across my beds and slowed long enough to serve. And that’s when I knew what saving grace felt like, looked like.

Showing up. Did you ever just show up because you loved someone? The situations can vary from sad and intense, to messy and flourishing. They can be joy-filled and pain based, but you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else? When, at the moment, your own life felt pretty good, but you remembered when it wasn’t, and so you were smarter and wiser about how to reach out? That’s grace. That’s serving. That’s God’s great saving grace.

Psalms 112:4 “When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.”

That was you. That was you being the light. Being the serving grace that comforts the broken, the busted, the bruised. When you show up, you are already serving. And those of us losing much at the moment, we’re actually finding comfort in the way you show up. We’re seeing how you embrace the example of Jesus and you pencil in your already busy calendar and show up. And you don’t wait for just the right time, you MAKE time. You are so gracious!

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24 (NLT).

Purely learning to serve,

~kathy b

Family, Friendship

What Women Really Crave After Mother’s Day

The table held 14. It was full. There were five mother’s and one baby boy to represent mother number six whose lungs had filled just two days before with pneumonia. Some of those relationships went back forty plus years. My history with them was shorter. Only 15-20. But when heads bowed to give thanks for the food before this crowd, my thoughts crowded right up with the cherishing companionship that had brought us here. Brought us to this Mother’s Day brunch.

The fact that we have a day to honor mother’s is all because of a woman named Ann Jarvis. Ann’s senses heightened during the Civil War when homes were void of men. No more Dad’s, Husbands, Brothers, Uncles, or man-sons. Homes held Mama’s, half-grown kids, babies, and the elderly only. Trying to make family into a verb was crumbled. However, what woke Ann up were new, sudden, quiet friendships among all the women. Companionship, turns out, was essential to survival. She watched another kind of family form when women began sharing letters, food, and conversation with each other. These women began to gather, especially when a son was lost. No matter the North or the South of the side, Ann watched these women cross lines to pull themselves out of the darkness of loss, desperately seeking to fill empty spaces with friendship. And when she began making the trek through war torn camps holding the typhoid fevered skeleton’s of all these sons, she found them again. All these Mama’s. Holding the wretched leftovers of what a fight for freedom looks like. And she knew she had to do something other then serve brunch. She wanted to make a public war-cry on the bleeding hearts of Women.

She wanted to bless them. To honor them. She felt it deep in her core. How a woman’s womb could empty right out and when her umbilical cord was severed from her son it would sever her ability to protect his life. So she would sit there. She would sit and read his letters, patch his clothes, peel his favorite potatoes, and one day, maybe , sit by his broken body and feel whole parts of her separate.  

And loneliness could literally clamp tight across your core and dare you to breath.

Ann wanted to win something for them. Something to acknowledge their offering, their loss, their stoic ability to keep walking upright. She watched them reach for each other again and again. Put the teakettle on, shake out the laundry and clip it tight across the line, and move one shaky step forward. Pick each other up and hug tight and weep deep and pour hope into each other’s pain.

Ann’s gift was a calendar day to honor these women of war. To shape a day out of rigorous routine to honor their sacrifice. Girls who dreamed romantic dreams of weddings and babies, now turned into women of loss and death and diseases. Oh how she admired them!
Turns out, in the end, Ann needed her own companion. She did not get Mother’s Day accomplished on her own. Her daughter, Anna, had to experience her own loss when her Mama died. But Anna was that friend that took what was left behind and continued to push forward until President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day a national holiday.
Friend, it was the companionship that held these women up. Held them together. Held each other’s hands. Maybe that’s why Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stood together at the tomb of Jesus? Maybe it was in the helping that these two women found healing. Maybe it was the comradeship of common heartache that found them walking towards a rolled rock on a dawn lit Sunday morning. They NEEDED each other!  
Maybe that’s what we all still need. Companionship. For the holding on while the world spins and the loss hits and the agony catches us? And in a personal way, I know this it true. You showed up when I needed you! You never questioned whether my hard was easier than yours. No. You just showed up. I love you for that!

Searching for pure companionship,
~kathy b

Hope, Uncategorized

When Hope Is All You’ve Got

I’m going to start today being completely honest. I have struggled hard knowing what to write about this month. Inside, I’ve been my own complete mess, and I came to the realization that some of you might be feeling the same way. I pawed through to the bottom of what the real issue[s] were and one word became bold. H.O.P.E.


Because, really? Isn’t that the pinnacle between success and defeat? Aren’t we all holding some fragmented thread of hope?

Hoping to lose weight?

Hoping for an easier schedule?

Hoping to come through surgery ok?

Hoping for a new baby, a proposal, a new job?

Hoping to hire the right person, to clean out the basement, to make a little more money?

Hoping to not let them down, not lose your temper, not disappoint?

Anxiety weighs in and we toss in our sleep. All this hoping….makes one feel hope-less at times. Doesn’t it?


But if God is a God of love, then hope is real. Hopelessness is a form of worry, and when was the last time we abandoned worry because we felt deep confidence in what God was planning for us? See, I was reading King David’s Psalms again, and he wrote this,

“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praise.” Psalm 57:7

Kind David is singing! My worry has not left me singing! Snarling…yes. Teeth clenching…for sure. Distracted…positively! So how can a song well up in a God-breathed soul when worry keeps beating on your chest?

Is that it then? Worry has taken over hope? We worry we won’t get the desired results and the loss of hope reigns a near blow to our value? Because we want to be valuable? We want to mean something to someone? We want to be noticed, admired, cherished, loved unconditionally?

God is love though. Isn’t He? And love encourages and fosters hope to grow. And wouldn’t a Father who formed you so beautifully, love you so deeply? So then, isn’t He the master of hope? Paul felt that He was. After all, he wrote in 1 Corinthians the love chapter. Chapter 13, which ended with three things. Faith, hope, and love. These three form a braided rope absolutely unbreakable by any worry the devils hissed in your ear.

I have to get you to look a little further back in that chapter, though. Because after worry has been pretty vigilant in forming her new home in my ever beating heart, God is working to alter the blueprint. Verse 7 threads it’s way into my soul amnesia, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I’m letting out one big ol’ shaky breath.

God is love. He put himself in some unbelievably difficult circumstances, because His whole hope is based on the thought of you loving Him back. He’s hoping you’ll choose relationship with Him over stuff in stores and stuff in bottles and stuffy people. He’s hoping you’ll grab on to that one braided rope and know the strength of a tied up cord.

Oh, and did I tell you that other part? The part about the origin of words? Words like ‘hope’? Turns out, the Hebrew word for hope is tiqvah (tik-vaw’) and it literally means “a cord, as an attachment”. Zechariah 9:12 uses it poetically, “Turn you to the strong hold, you prisoners of hope…”. Friend, there have been a few times where circumstances have been very prison-like, but how could my hope possibly run out if I was imprisoned to, well…hope?

If any of you are mothers out there, do you remember that deep down maternal instinct kick in when that baby was forming inside you? Do you remember the constant worry of whether you were doing any of this whole ‘creating’ thing right? Do you also remember when you realized just HOW connected you were? There was that life line between you and baby called an umbilical cord. Tried and true cords that have been feeding and growing babies clear back from the beginning of baby-making time. That’s a pretty irreversible commitment.

What if hope, love, faith, looked like that? What if I told you, steeped in Christ, it does?

Attached. So.very.attached. Love.Faith.Hope. Always. Tried and true.

Turns out, hope isn’t all I’ve got. And it’s not really as fragmented as I thought, either.

~kathy b

Christmas, Family, Uncategorized

Our Family in 2016

Dear Family and Friends Everywhere!

I’ve been mulling over the past year wondering how it ended already. I wonder if I’m dangerously close to standing in a blurry spot. That spot where life races and you’re head down trying to stay one step ahead, but you’re the girl in the kitchen behind the party and you just may have missed the events. The kids have sure grown like weeds. I haven’t missed that! Maddy is 11 and in the 5th grade. She grew three inches this year and stands at 4’11! Ben has admitted to confusing the two of us out of the corner of his eye on more than one occasion. I realize the high likelihood of looking her directly in the eye in another year and am grateful that her chocolate brown eyes are usually so kind to look into. She is doing very well in her schoolwork, and still finds time to read a stack of books every week. We redid the guest room last Christmas and moved her into it, so her favorite books and trinkets are now in her own space and the boys are much less likely to destroy her set-up. It definitely felt like we had literally moved Wendy out of the nursery‼ I didn’t understand how apron strings can get loosened and how a bit dizzying that can feel. Some of you are nodding and giving me the ol’ “Just wait!”. I know. But I’m grateful for the girl she still is. I love the girl who studies hard and works hard. I love how she hangs long across her bed and reads into the night. How she loves all things horses. How she loves downhill skiing and snowmobiling, but is happy to leave organized sports to Brett. I love how she offers to bake cornbread to go with our chili and how she volunteers to dress Judah on Sabbath mornings when Ben’s showering and, honestly, I just want a dress that fits! I love all the good that she is and is becoming!

Brett is taller too. Just turned 9, and in the 3rd grade. He’s stronger and smarter and has taken to sports with an overwhelming leap! Suddenly his body and mind put all the rules and moves together and his high energy and need to move took over and the old farmhouse feels too small to contain his run. It doesn’t hurt that he has a high level of competition flowing through his veins. I love what a big picture thinker he is. I love how fast he gets his chores done, and how he insists on memorizing every new piece of music the piano teacher gives him. I love how he loves to go to the coffee shop for a hot drink, a fresh pastry, and a moment of my full attention. I love that he’s already planning next summers fort in the woods and I so admire his forward thinking. I don’t know what company he’ll run one day, but I’m almost certain he will.

Judah is 3 and my most independent kid. He lives in a complex world of wanting to play hard, but never quite keeping up with the older two. He still requires a nap every day and loves sharing a room with an older brother. He pushes his way into Maddy & Brett’s chores, into their piano practicing, and into their board games determined to take over or at least be included. It all sounds brash, but really, with his shining blue eyes, soft sweet dimple, and his seriously infectious giggle, it’s hard not to want him around. He’s easy to entertain. A few Hot Wheels cars, a couple of books, and some music and/or musical instruments, and you’re set for hours. It also doesn’t hurt to include the great outdoors and his little Strider bicycle. The kid is an adventure just to watch and be around. We love him like crazy and wonder how our lives ever spun without him.

Ben and I spend a great deal of our time parenting these three with less sleep, more grays, and an endless supply of God’s grace. On top of that, Ben is still a devout entrepreneur. He is still building custom homes here in northern Michigan. We also have seen huge growth in the custom cabinet business, Stillwater Custom Cabinetry. He also continues to be heavily involved at church and still finds time to work around the farm, pull kids around the lake behind the boat, and camp a handful of weekends during the summer months. I love his passion for both family and work and how he prayerfully moves both forward, taking us where only God could reveal.

And as for me? Well, most of you know or can at least guess at what I have spent this last year doing. Three kids growing, learning, and playing, and I watch them and guide where I can, teach when their listening, and pray without ceasing. I teach them school, taxi them, tickle them, and time their math fact sheets. I read them great books, feed them bread for their bodies and their souls, and I pray feverishly that I won’t completely mess them up. I also try hard to grow edible things in our garden on a hill. I preserve, freeze, and dehydrate fresh foods while the dryer spins, balls bounce high, and the piano pounds loud. And in the midst of all that, I make time to love my husband and serve my church and write.

So this Christmas, between all the busyness of the season, we want to stop and slow down and see each of you for who you are. We want you to know that we’re rejoicing over here about this baby Jesus. This Son-King. We’ve been reading for Advent the story of the family tree of the Christ Child and how it grows in the most unexpected ways, and we feel the same about our family. We also look at each of you and see the special way you’ve each woven your way through our family and how only a God “who holds the wind in his fists, who wraps up the oceans in his cloak, who has created the whole wide world”* could have done all that. Please know that we Browers want to wish you the very Merry Christmas that you deserve. Because He came for you. Special you!

With love,

Ben, Kathy, Maddy, Brett, & Judah                                  *(Proverbs 30:4 NLT)