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.

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

Friendship, Uncategorized

What Sisterhood Might Mean

I have two sisters. I sit directly in the middle of them. On more levels than one. I also have two half-sisters. Much older than me, and raised seven states apart. But they were sisters, none the less. We exchanged a few birthday and Christmas gifts and random school pictures. I also was raised with two girl cousins who lived with us for a time and then moved six blocks away. Another family of three girl cousins a quick five blocks away and in our little suburbia lives, that meant we were back and forth and all over town, all together, pretty much all the time. There were some boys in there, but the girls outnumbered and the streets got strewn with pink bikes and purple roller-blades while we all lived there. No one understood “county lines”, it only meant the road had a few more cars on it at 8:00 in the morning and 5:00 at night, so plan your adventures accordingly. We crossed county lines like you cross your T’s, without much thought and as often as was necessary. I never lacked for a girlfriend.


image image image image imageThe deep relief of that? I’m a born introvert. The girl who could NOT physically, emotionally, or mentally get herself up to the piano for her first recital. Nope. Cried my eyes out and clung for my very life to my Mom. Could. Not. Do it!!

So the sisterhood I was born into bore me relationships that I never had to go find. Never had to work at. Never had to introduce myself, or explain my quirks, or hide. Yeah. Hide. Shyness has deep fears. I’m working through those still.

I went to school on a regular basis, and I started with only one or two girlfriends there. But they came and went as families moved and shifted careers and in the back of my mind, I had my sisterhood already. I never needed much for a friend. And as we grew and young womanhood set in, I also steered clear of cliques, sororities, associations, you name it! Yes, there were friends, and I had the privilege of spending time with some of them last week. Got to meet spouses and children and a few parents even. And I finally realized one thing. My sisterhood, it turns out, was and is, bigger than I ever imagined!

Let me explain. My sisters, my cousins, my original sisterhood fulfilled an amazing need. Although I thought I did not need people, I actually still call one sister probably four times a week. I worry about the other sister probably four times a week. All but one cousin is still within half a day’s drive, and that one, sadly, passed away a few years ago. But I still have some of her books, and THAT feels like home to me.

But the other part of my sisterhood came in the relationships of girls-turned-women that God allowed in my life. I have always attended church and church schools and church camps. And in all of those, Christ led me to friendships that, as it turns out, played such a vital role in shaping who I am today. That “other” sisterhood has been the one to bring a meal to my door when the world fell apart. She’s been the one to call and pray me through darkness at midnight. She challenges my search for scripture and builds my backbone when motherhood strangles a bit. She’s held my hand at funerals and blown up balloons at birthday parties. And, honestly, when my original sisterhood all lives too far away? She has walked countless miles, sipped hot coffee, and filled my dishwasher more times than I can count.

She is so many of you! I wish, with all my heart, that I could reach out to every single woman who has offered relationship to me. Each time I lap another year I look at all these women who have no idea how they help build up a pretty shy, crazy, disorganized girl into a stronger, more prayerful woman.

Sisters, let’s face it, most of us need each other, in some shape or form. So please know, that when you crawl into bed at the end of the day, and you have no idea if anyone knows you exist. I know. I know, and I am so grateful for your “sisterhood”. You touch lives without even knowing.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 (NLT)

Purely Shy-turned-blessed,


Friendship, Hope, Listen

When Chamomile Isn’t Just For Tea

The boy and I, we snuggle on the couch and read. We read about a garden, tended and growing. We read about the rows of flowers. Colors, striped and assorted and fragrant with summers perfume. We read about vegetables grown to sustain a body. The body bent and pulling and sweating summers heat. We read about the fence surrounding that garden. The fence putting borders around the harvest, a safe place to grow what’s been tended. And in one corner of that garden a thin, spiny shoot pushes it’s way through earth, feeling encouraged to try, especially when it can see the results of all the others, and I’m mildly curious.

         But the story, it begins to break, and after the media reels, and the blogs moan, and the early morning phone calls cry, I begin to know it’s brokenness.

See, that stalk that barely is, is Chamomile. And although the tips eventually flower into daisy like faces, the story reads about its trampling first. So that perfect summer flower doesn’t start with a silver spoon in her mouth and my guess is, neither have you. My guess is silver, for you, is just another crayon in a cardboard box.

The story threads the beginning of this Chamomile reaching up towards a life. But pain, the destructive kind, nearly takes the very breath of an herb meant to soothe. And the truth is, we’ve all felt the naive gardner’s knee press down on our dreams, nearly breaking the progress of what and where we thought God intended us to journey. The truth is, we’ve all been landed on by an out-of-control dog, jumping over our neat little fences. Those fences protecting our neatly processed faith. Those fences put up intentionally to keep out stray dogs, stray golf balls, and stray words. Words that break us down at the stem. The point where we are weakest. The spot where, when trampled on, there just isn’t much left of us. The point where pain points us straight down and the dark of the earth is our view and maybe that looks more appealing right now?

But I want to let you in on a remarkable truth. A real thing. God designed the Chamomile with this amazing resistance. Every time it’s trampled and broken, it’s reaction? It spreads. It doesn’t hole up and pull the covers over it’s head, it holds on. And it just keeps growing. It spreads to the point of overtaking that corner of the garden. And for a woman with a field of acreage, I can tell you it can take over all of it. All. Of. It! All of this life. Do you hear the truth in this herb? It’s prayer is never, Why Me, God? It’s instead silent. Waiting to hear God give direction. Cause God can take pain and spread relief.

Oswald Chambers says it like this: “Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to our prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer.”

And so the Chamomile teaches me to look not at how to grow the garden, but how to turn my bruised and beaten heart towards it’s Creator and keep my focus. ‘Cause the Master Gardner knows each seed, each life, each plant. He also knows each pain, each loss, each journey, and He knows the remedy. And He intends to grow you beautifully. He intends to turn you into this amazing flower who, because of your experience, can now bring a soothing tea to sit next to those who also have felt the heel trample.

Keep your focus, friend.  We’re intended to lift each other. Soothe each other with prayer. We’re intended to look not at the donkey and the parade and the palm branches waving, but on the face of the Redeemer.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

You. Are. More. Than.
Purely relieved,



Being Careful of Staining Words

The cats cry wakes me early and I stumble blindly to let her out into the dark.  Crawling back into a still warm bed, I soon realize my body may want more sleep, but my brain is working already.  These are times I know the Lord has something to say.  Flipping back over to the edge of the bed, I shuffle to the door, closing it carefully so Ben can catch his last remaining 45 minutes of dreams.  Stove clicks three times and then blue flame jumps.  I rearrange mugs, wait for the teakettle to whisper at me.  Her face and words, those unfallen tears shining in her eyes, she’s the reason I’m up.

IMG_3196 IMG_2954

There had been food and coffee and laughter.  We stroll, circling blocks of shops and commenting on the stillness of the lake.  We subject hop from weekend agendas to resale shopping to Mothers day plans and back to weekends when she slides in, “Do you want to see the tattoo I got?”  I knew it was coming.  We’d wrestled back and forth for two months this decision, desire, to have skin punctured with the staining needle.  She’d gone and laid herself down, let the pain try to make her beautiful.

See, there’s a list she still carries.  He’d written it all down right before he walked out the door.  All this falling of her failing.  Two years spent drafting, but never revealing until he’d packed his bags.  Months of tears, fear, starving, buckling boys into a car made for four, but searching for ways to say why there were only three now.

She’s laughed through her justification of this body marking and I’ve cringed at the smearing of perfect skin.  She’s saying the words like “moved on” and “this is who I am”, but all I hear is the name of another woman now sharing dinners and a bed with the one she gave her heart to.  And the pain has rooted so deep I stand with her and my heart prays hard, because it’s so bold how words stain!

Every conversation now is a quiet walk.  My chest pulls tight when I see her battling to be beautiful, to be noticed, to want someone to care!

And this is what I tell her, that I love her.  I cannot know what her shoes feel like right now, but I know the beauty of the woman she’s grown to be.  I tell her I’m going to love her through these great big bounce houses of declaring herself “better without him”.  We talk openly about the love of the Creator and his desire to bring us great joy, and I remember scripture that says “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving” (Psalms 100:4).  He didn’t design a life of grumbles and complaints to bring you to those gates, but moments of grace and forgiveness, gladness and joy!  This I know!  And she chuckles and says what’s true.

I watch her change her top, slip gold dangled earrings through holes in her ears and smooth out her hair, putting on what feels beautiful and I wonder if it’s worth noting that it’s a dark bar she’s going to and maybe her pampering won’t get fully noticed, but I say nothing.  I hug her tight.

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I know she’ll be back, and I’ll say it all again.  Because words that stain don’t have to stain ugly.  They can stain beautiful.  And Psalms were meant to sing, and love was meant to last, and God’s makings are perfect!  And I will tell her that too.

In pure search,