Heart Scars


As many women do, I have scars from both of my daughters. In both cases, the wounds that turned to scars were the result of urgent to emergent situations and I had little warning that they would occur. As a result, when my skin was first cut, I couldn’t bear to look at it. It was gross. It was painful. It looked horrible. In fact, one of them was so ugly that my obstetrician said, “Wow, you can tell that (the surgeons) were in a hurry.” Over time, however, I grew to view my scars as cherished reminders of my children and the physical manifestations of my mother-love for them. This is especially true of the scar I bear from the daughter who died because it is one of the few physical reminders that I have of her.

In addition to my external scars, my second daughter’s death also left scars on my heart. In the month after Noemi died, I took the above picture because I believed that, just as God had turned a scarred and broken city landscape into a place of peace and beauty,  He would take my wounds and turn them into something beautiful.  A year later, I am beginning to see that transformation. I will always have sadness – we were made for eternity, not death – but because of eternity, I am increasingly aware of the gift that my daughter’s short life here on earth is.

In light of this, I should not have been surprised that, while I dreaded the first anniversary of Noemi’s death, it was truly a blessing. In fact, I had so much joy on that day that I woke up the next morning and wished I could live it all over again. Rather than making myself visit her grave, look at her pictures, rummage through her hospital box, and remember every detail of the hour of her death, I spent the day with my family and friends. We taught kids, had an adventure, and went out to dinner. Certainly, I remembered and celebrated both Noemi’s earthly and heavenly birthday, but I also felt a strong conviction that I was not supposed to spend the day picking at my heart scars and trying to feel their sting. Instead, I felt that I was meant to behold the peaceful beauty of those scars in the light of Heaven. I believed that I was meant to hear Jesus speaking the words he spoke to Mary, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you’re looking for?” (John 20:15) and to know the power of His resurrection that makes my heart scars precious beyond anything I could have imagined.


Being Desired

Being Desired.JPG

Our family theme this month has been being wanted vs. rejection. The summer weather has brought along some tearful playground moments when the other kids haven’t wanted to play with my daughter (or have yet to realize that they really can have more than one friend a day) and I would venture to guess that I am not the only mom whose own early childhood rejections come surging to mind as she watches her child walking across the wood chips with a quivering lip. Add to that the fact that writing (or more accurately, publishing) is an exercise in rejection and we’ve spent a lot of energy on being unwanted lately.

However, being wanted and accepted has also been something we’ve been experiencing a lot of. We still love trips to the playground because, more often than not, my daughter leaves with a great big hug from a new friend. On my part, being the mother of a young child has allowed me to make more friends than I have ever had and to develop those “I’ve got your back” kind of relationships that, until relatively recently, have been few and far between. And, as an exciting change of pace, I even had a break through in the writing rejection process recently!

So we’ve been learning about how it feels to be desired and how it feels to be discarded.

Interestingly, I’ve also been reading a new Bible study by Heather Holleman that just came out last month called Included in Christ. The main premise of the study is that we all have a story that we tell about ourselves and who we are. Many of us tell stories that define our lives based on painful experiences that we have had and, as I have read some of these stories, I am amazed by how many of us let our “not good enough,” “they didn’t pick me,” and “I’m so awkward and defective!” experiences dictate how we see ourselves. These stories of rejection literally zap our lives of many of the blessings that God wants to bestow on us.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, we can let the stories we tell ourselves (and others) about our lives be centered on the reality that the God of the universe thought us up, created us, and desires to spend our lives here on earth (and even our eternities) with us. I wonder what would happen if we held our earthly experiences a little more loosely and, instead, defined ourselves by how God sees His people: “The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see – a splendid crown in the hand of God. Never again will you be called the ‘Forsaken City’ or ‘The Desolate Land.’ Your new name will be ‘The City of God’s Delight’ and ‘The Bride of God,’ for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride.” (Isaiah 62:3-4). If our life stories reflected the truth that God delights in us rather than that people have rejected us, how would our lives change? How would our relationships change?  How would the way we treat even the least among us change? I suspect that the world would be a much more joyful, fulfilling and gentle place to live.

Special Announcement



Dear readers,

I very much appreciate your taking the time to read my posts and so I wanted to give you a heads-up about my summer publishing schedule. Starting in June, I will post only on the first Friday of each month. This change will allow me to spend time focusing on two other projects that I am working on and to prepare to teach my daughter’s first year of kindergarten in the fall.

I know that some of you are faithful readers, so if you are looking for a way to nourish your relationship with God on those weeks when I will not be posting, I have a few great books/websites that I highly recommend for you!

For grief related reading:

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

-Grieving the Loss of a Loved One – A Devotional of Hope by Kathe Wunnenberg

Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff

For general reading:

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

Confessions by St. Augustine

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

-Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman

The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

For biographical information about the Saints and men and women of great faith:

End of the Spear by Steve Saint

Louis Martin: An Ideal Father by Louis and Marjorie Wust

-The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom



For thought provoking, faith-based writing on current topics and life issues:

Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean

Letters to Gabriel by Karen Santorum

The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

I look forward to continuing this journey with all of you and hope that each of you has a wonderful summer.


Mother’s Sorrow


“How long was she conscious?” I asked as the tears filled my eyes and spilled onto my cheeks.

“Are you asking did your baby suffer?” responded my perceptive obstetrician.

I thought of all the questions pounding on my heart: Was the last emotion she knew the panic of suffocation? As her body became bruised and beaten by frantic attempts at CPR, was she aware of it? Did she feel tubes pierce her sides, punching between bones and flesh? Did she wonder where I was and why I was not there to hold her? Did she ask why she was alone, why she was forsaken?

As I nodded my head, my obstetrician gently said, “No, I do not believe that she suffered.” Relief flooded through me.

–              –              –

I’ve never felt particularly close to Saint Mary. In fact, of all the Saints, I tend to be most detached from Mary. There are probably several reasons for this. First, as someone who was raised Protestant, I am wary of any honor that borders on idolatry and there is no other Saint whose veneration often teeters so close to the brink of worship. Second, pride has always wormed its way into my life by disguising itself as a tendency to dislike whatever everybody else likes (think insisting on dresses and leggings when everyone else switched to jeans during elementary school and being disgusted by Titanic when every other girl in my middle school class was swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio). Unfortunately for me, if there is one Saint who everyone loves to love, its Mary which means that I instinctively want to avoid her just because everyone else loves her. Third, I believe that the way that Mary is depicted in art makes it challenging for me to identify with her. For example, it is hard to connect with a woman who looks completely clean, put together, unswollen and calm after giving birth (without pain medication) in a place where they kept animals. Suffice it to say, I gave birth in a clean, animal-free environment with about a dozen doctors and nurses standing by and a nicely placed epidural in my back, yet I don’t have a single picture of me looking clean, put together, unswollen or calm after my children were born. Exhausted but not calm.

However, I recently realized that there was a more fundamental reason that I did not connect with Saint Mary: to really identify with Mary I would have to be willing to be drenched with her sorrows and they are sorrows that my humanness wants to avoid at all costs. Nonetheless, this week I overcame this aversion when I discovered the Catholic practice of meditating on Mary’s Seven Sorrows.  As I pondered the last four Sorrows, I felt that I had been introduced to the amazing Mother of Jesus for the first time. Here was a woman who knew my own pain intimately. In fact, her own pain greatly exceeded my own because, unlike my daughter, her Son absolutely suffered.

Good Friday is an ideal time for all Christians to reflect on the last four of St. Mary’s Sorrows in particular, because it was her Son’s death that caused her so much pain. Consequently, I share my own reflections on these sorrows below.

The Fourth Sorrow is when Mary met Jesus carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha. Even as a mother who has begged God to change His mind and restore life to my lifeless child, I can only begin to imagine the desperation and confusion Mary must have felt as she watched her Son carrying the horrible instrument of His own death on His back. How unbelievably awful it must have been to realize that crowds of people hated her Son enough to kill Him. She must have burned with longing to do something, anything, to help Him. She must have been filled with a desire to tear the crown of thorns from His head, to dress His wounds and to clean the lacerations on His back. She must have begged God for His help and intervention, for the protection of her Child. The Stabat Mater describes the scene thus: “Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, she beheld her tender Child, all with bloody scourges rent. Can the human heart refrain, from partaking in her pain, in that Mother’s pain untold?”

The Fifth Sorrow is when Mary watched as Jesus was crucified and died. Her heart must have shattered as they pierced his hands with crude nails, punching between bones and flesh. I could not see my daughter as she died. In fact,I struggling with my own physical responses to surgery, I did not even know that she was dying. However, my husband watched as the doctors tried to save her and, having talked with him, I can only imagine Mary’s agony as she gazed upon her child’s body, so bruised and beaten. How she must have longed to run to Him, to hold Him as he cried out to His father, “Why have you forsaken me?” She must have wished that she could use her physical touch to show Him that He was not forsaken and to comfort Him. What horror did she know as she gazed up at her son’s face, that was contorted by the pain and terror of His last, gasping breath, unable to do anything at all except to bear witness to His sacrifice? What questions did she ask her God who silently allowed her world and the One in whom she placed her faith to be destroyed?

The Sixth Sorrow is when Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross and laid in His mother’s arms. Now, finally, I truly know her heart break for I have shared it with her. I know how anxious she was to wrap her arms around her Son’s broken, bruised body, to bathe His face with her tears, to cover Him with her kisses. I know the way she explored her Child, touched His wounds and tenderly kissed them, trying in vain to make them better. I know how good His weight felt in her arms and how she thought that she would never be able to let go. I know the cruelty of time which slowly marched forward, stealing the warmth, color, and softness from the limbs and the face of her precious Child. And I know the resignation of the moment when she realized that it was time to let go of her Son’s body because the physical changes convinced her that He was no longer there and that it was truly finished.

The Seventh and final Sorrow is when Jesus was buried. There are no words to describe the torment of a parent who is forced to bury their child. Even if Mary was experiencing shock and numbness, she no doubt felt the horror of her loss. While she must have trusted that God would raise her Son as He had promised, as she gazed at the stone rolled across the tomb, she must have also felt the excruciating absence of her Son. Did she, like me, feel that her heart was weeping blood? Did she wish she could catch all of her precious tears in a bottle and save them as tangible reminders of her Son that could sustain her until the day when she met Him again? Did she feel that she was dragging mountains behind her as she turned and walked away from the place where her Child’s body lay? Did she wake during that first night, thinking she heard her Son calling for her or shaking her shoulder, only to discover that she was all alone in the darkness? And how horrible those first moments must have been for her when she woke on Saturday morning and realized anew that her Son was gone and that she had to rise and live another day of torment without her Child!

This Sorrow, this suffocating Mother’s Sorrow, all the result of my sin, of your sin, of the sins of our world.






I had high aspirations for this Lent. I planned to do a bread and water fast for one meal each day in order to physically demonstrate my love for God, remind me to petition Him regularly for a healthy baby in the future, and assist me in overcoming my habit of turning to food for comfort and boredom. I figured that God would help me to get through the fast since my reasons for fasting seemed valid, even though I had come up with the plan with little prayer and it was more something that I wanted to do than something that I felt called to do.

In light of my confidence, I was surprised to find myself getting increasingly dizzy and confused as my second day of fasting progressed. I thought I might be dehydrated so I made myself some tea and then continued with my day. An hour later, I returned to the kitchen and found the teapot removed but the stove burner still burning and realized that, however good my intentions might be, God would not want me to put my family’s safety at risk to complete my fast. Eventually, I settled on a much safer way for me to participate in Lent this year.

Still, I was bothered that I had not been able to complete what I had set out to do. As I reflected on my two days of fasting, I realized that, while my intentions had been good, I had come up with them on my own rather than prayerfully seeking God’s desires for my Lent. Then, I had relied on God to sustain me through plans that I had devised without His input. As I read an Anxiety Novena that night, I was convicted by the following sentence: “You are not sick people who ask the doctor to cure you, but rather sick people who tell the doctor how to.”  That is exactly what I was doing! I basically told God that I wanted to draw closer to Him, to have a healthy baby, and to overcome my dependency on food and then told Him that the way I expected Him to achieve those things for me was by sustaining me through my Lenten fast. Instead, I should have been asking Him how He wanted me to grow during Lent and what sacrifices He desired me to make.

I want to be clear that what I learned really had nothing to do with fasting at all and I certainly believe that fasting has an important role to play in our lives. Instead, what I learned had everything to do with our need to seek God’s will for our lives even in the mundane acts that we are called to fulfill each day. Evidently, this Lent God was more concerned about refining my dependency on Him than on eliminating my dependency on food and, while I would love to be thin and healthy again, my spiritual health really is far more important.

*If you would like to try the fasting rolls, you can find the recipe here: http://catholiccuisine.blog-spot.com/2011/03/fasting-bread-for-lent.html. Even if you are not fasting, making them is a great activity with kids because of the symbolism of the ingredients that is described at the end of the recipe. 

The Good Shepherd


Today marks six months since our baby died and I am beginning to understand what people mean when they say that your body remembers anniversary dates, even if your mind isn’t aware of them. For the last week or so everything has felt just a little bit harder and I am tired so much more quickly. The tears come easily again, as do the surges of anger at the pregnant women I see at the library and at the new mom who complains about her baby’s lack of sleep.

Perhaps it is because of this that my mind isn’t working well this week, though I am sure it does not help that we were up with a sick four-year-old last night. Suffice it to say, I feel like I am back in survival mode which means that the only thing that runs through my mind is “God is making everything okay. God is taking care of it,” and the image of Jesus, the tender shepherd who gently cares for all of the needs of His sheep. However, there must be more going on in mind of my sick four-year-old because she stopped watching Beauty and the Beast long enough to say, “Mommy, Noemi is dead to us because she is not here, but she is alive to Jesus.”

The truth is, if the only two things that my family gets out of this six month anniversary are the knowledge that “God is taking care of it” and that “she is alive to Jesus,” then that is sufficient grace and evidence that we are deeply blessed. This week, I pray that each of you will also be blessed with the confident assurance that The Good Shepherd really is making everything okay.

Apple Seeds, Pirates and St. Bernards


God is a master story-teller. The life-stories that He writes are frequently unpredictable, contain unexpected twists and turns, and leave His people breathlessly murmuring, “I never saw that coming!” Yet, like any good story-teller, God knows where each one of His stories is headed before He even begins writing it.

Have you ever felt the awed satisfaction of hearing a finely crafted story? Despite the hardships that the characters face and the conflicts that drive stories along, truly good tales leave their readers with a sense that every unexpected turns was necessary and even worthwhile in the end. In fact, the unexpected and undesired parts of the story become valuable parts of an incredible work of art. The lives of God’s people are full of such stories and reflecting on them can offer us a glimpse of the often overlooked Church that C.S. Lewis described as “spread throughout time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners” (The Screwtape Letters).

This week, I want you to delight in the masterful story-telling of our Father and to see a tiny sliver of the triumphant Church that He is creating. I would love to be able to offer you these stories over a crackling campfire, but, since this is not possible, please indulge me as I spin a few of the tales that have recently astounded me. The first takes us back almost 1,600 years ago to a prominent household in Europe…

  1. St. Patrick

The patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick was born in Britain. Although he was born into a Christian family, St. Patrick was not particularly interested in Christ during his early years. He certainly did not aspire to be a great religious leader! One day, when St. Patrick was only sixteen years old, he was kidnapped by pirates who took him to Ireland as a slave. Things must have seemed bleak to St. Patrick as he labored away tending animals that were not his own. He had been ruthlessly torn from his family and all of the dreams that he had for his future had been shattered. Yet, somehow, amid the agonies of slavery, God moved into the center of St. Patrick’s life. Eventually, St. Patrick escaped from slavery and began his studies in a monastery. St. Patrick could easily have spent the rest of his life living in relative comfort and ministering to friendly, god-fearing people. However, God had other plans for him. One night, St. Patrick had a vision in which he heard the voices of the people of Ireland calling for him to come back to them. Ready to do God’s will, St. Patrick returned to the land where he had been enslaved in order to teach the Irish people about the God he loved. The rest of the story is, as they say, history. As the Bishop of Ireland, St. Patrick helped to draw the Irish people away from pagan worship and introduced them to the one true God. Because of his work, his saint day is still celebrated, 1,500 years after his death. Yet, none of the stories that we know of St. Patrick would have happened if God hadn’t thrown a few unexpected twists into the life that he had originally envisioned for himself.

The second tale is much more recent. It begins not far from where I am writing this, in a little, colonial town called Leominster, Massachusetts…

  1. Johnny Appleseed

Most adults who were educated in the American school system would recognize that a picture of a wild-looking man wearing a cooking pan on his head was an image of Johnny Appleseed. Most would also remember hearing stories about Johnny Appleseed’s wilderness adventures and legends about his prolific apple orchards. However, many would be surprised to discover that Johnny Appleseed (born John Chapman) was a real man who grew-up in a small farmhouse with his eleven siblings. When Johnny Appleseed was in his early twenties, he decided to leave his home and to explore the frontier, though he had no idea what he would do when he reached the wilderness. At some point during his exploration, Johnny had a vision of angels who showed him a wonderful place that was surrounded by apple trees. The angels told Johnny that his mission was to travel around the United States and to plant apple trees wherever he went. Now, I might be wrong, but I imagine that Johnny Appleseed never expected that his life’s mission would involve scavenging apple seeds from cider mills and rowing two canoes full of apple seedlings across a newborn nation. Nonetheless, he committed himself to carry out his calling while continuing to live his life in a way that reflected his love for God. His generosity towards struggling families was more legendary than any of his animal adventures and many pioneers  remembered Johnny Appleseed reading to them from his Bible on evenings when he stayed in their homes. In short, because Johnny Appleseed was willing to carry-out his unlikely calling, he became a blessing to countless settlers and a bearer of God’s truth to those who welcomed him into their houses.

My next story is relatively modern, but requires us to journey back across the Atlantic Ocean to the city of Alencon, France, known for its beautiful lace…

  1. The father of St. Therese of Lisieux

Apparently, St. Louis Martin did not set out to be the father of a Saint. In fact, as a young man, he traveled to the Alps and attempted to join the monastery of the Augustinian Canons of the Great St. Bernard Hospice, where he hoped to embark on a life devoted to religious devotion and thrilling mountain rescues. However, St. Louis was turned away from the Hospice because he did not know Latin. His plans dashed, Louis began a business as a watchmaker and eventually met a woman named Zelie Martin who had also been denied a religious life. The two fell in-love and decided to marry but determined that they would not consummate their marriage and would instead use their relationship only to further their religious devotion. Shortly after their marriage, however, the priest who counseled them suggested that God had other plans for their marriage and that they should be open to all aspects of marriage. Taking his advice, the Martins went on to have five living daughters, all of whom pursued religious lives. God used their love for one another and their careful, faithful parenting to shape their youngest daughter, Therese, into one of the most well-known modern saints. In fact, because of the way that St. Louis and St. Zelie loved one another, raised their children, and lived their lives, they were canonized as saints in 2015.

The final tale begins in a dusty settlement in the north of the Fertile Crescent ten generations after the Great Flood…

  1. Abraham (the patriarch)

While nomadic living was common in the ancient world, the Bible tells us that Abraham’s family had settled in a particular place. For a while, Abraham and his wife lived with them, however, God eventually told Abraham: “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others” (Genesis 12:1-2). I would imagine that this was a big change of plans for Abraham who, until that time, probably was not expecting to become the famous father of a great nation. It also required huge sacrifices – Abraham had to leave his family, his way of life and many of the comforts that he was used to in order to follow God’s plan. Nonetheless, we are told that Abraham, “Obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in tents…” (Hebrews 11:8-9). It took God a long time to fulfill His promises to Abraham. In fact, it took so long that when He finally blessed Abraham with a son, his wife Sarah laughed in disbelief (Genesis 18:12-14)! Then, just when Abraham must have thought that he could finally see God working out His plan, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. God waited until Abraham had raised the knife to kill his son before He intervened by providing him with a substitute offering (Genesis 22). Yet, even with all of the surprises in Abraham’s life, God was faithful to Abraham and eventually gave the Messiah through Abraham’s family line.

Do you see what I mean about God being a master story-teller? The life-stories He writes are absolutely beautiful, reflect His glory, and are utterly unexpected! It makes me wonder, what kind of twists and turns does God have planned for our lives and are we ready to embrace them as part of the great story that He is writing for His Church?



Moses, Will. Johnny Appleseed The Story of a Legend. Philomel Books, NY, 2001.

Welborn, Amy. Loyola Kids Book of Saints. Loyola Press, Chicago, 2001.

Wust, Louis & Marjorie. Louis Martin: An Ideal Father. Daughters of St. Paul, 1957.