Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: A Crowd of Witnesses in Real Life

(in) Real Life: (back row): Lelia, Marge, Karna, Sarah, MJ, Erin;
(front row): me, Deidra, Stacy, Amy, Libby, Frances, Amanda
Yesterday was confirmation Sunday at church, and I cried my way through most of the service without a shred of Kleenex in my purse. The young people kneeled straight and tall, white gowns cascading onto altar steps, scarlet carnations pinned to their chests, and as our pastors prayed over them while their parents crowded behind with bowed heads, hands on their shoulders, one word rang in my head: community.

In her sermon, Pastor Sara talked how each of us is surrounded by a “huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” (Hebrews 12:1) – those who run the race of faith with us, paving the way before us, carrying us along as we grow weary.
“The people who have gone before us and who we spend our time with now help us tell our story,” Sara acknowledged. “The spirit of people both past and present cheer us on in our faith.”
As I listened to Sara I thought about the community of women Deidra, Erin and I hosted in my home on Saturday. Some of these women I know well – friends, colleagues and neighbors – and some I just met for the first time Saturday.

Truthfully, I’d been nervous about hosting this event. In fact, I’d awakened the night before at 3:30 a.m. in a panic.  Should I buy flavored creamer? Did I have enough chairs? Should we wear name tags? Would I have to pray out loud? Would we stand around with our arms folded over our chests in awkward silence? Would people notice how sprongy my couch is with the broken springs?

How is this going to work with such a disparate group of women – women who don’t even know each other, who aren’t even in the same place in life, I wondered as I tossed and turned, sleepless and sweaty.

I worried about the fact that we were probably all at different spots on the spiritual spectrum. “What if it’s too Jesus-ey?” I worried. “What if it’s not Jesus-ey enough?” I fretted.

You know what?

It worked. It worked beautifully.

Sure, some of us had never met before. And it’s true, we were different, all of us at various life stages – married, single, divorced, empty nester, grandmother, young mother, working, stay-at-home, retired. And yeah, we were undoubtedly at various points on the spiritual spectrum, too. But despite all that, we laughed. We shared stories. We ate scones.

We connected.

And when I dashed out the door to head to work before the meet-up had even officially ended, and I saw Deidra up to her elbows in a sink full of soapy water, and Frances with a dish towel in her hand and Amanda clearing my table (two women, by the way, I’d only just met two hours before), I knew I was witnessing something beautiful.
As I stopped for a second to glimpse those three women cleaning my kitchen, I witnessed in-real-life community unfold right before my harried eyes.
Where have you found unexpected community?
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With Jen and her lovely community of Soli Sisters:

And beautiful Laura at The Wellspring:


Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

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Weekend Meditation: You Will Live



With Sandy and Deidra...


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Broken, Forgiven

Quieting the scrape of metal chairs, the conductor taps his baton with three sharp raps on the metal music stand. The reed smells faintly of mint and moist wood as I wet the cane once and then again with my lips. Fingers positioned over the holes, I take a deep breath and play, mouthpiece vibrating between my teeth.

One foot taps the linoleum floor as black notes ebb and flow on the white sheet in front of me. The brasses blast bold, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, tuba, while flutes flirt, skipping breezy through grassy meadows.
I glimpse parents and grandparents, Kodaks poised as they sit crunched knees to backs in folding chairs.

The band plays. I turn sheets on the stand.

And then...
It slips through my hands like a silk scarf, hitting the floor with a crack audible over the heavy thud of the bass drum. One black piece rolls beneath the oboist’s chair. The other rests next to my left penny loafer.

My clarinet has broken clean in two, in the middle of the sixth grade band concert.
I reach down behind a tangled curtain of long hair, retrieve the pieces and hold them together with sweaty hands, pretending to play, blowing empty air. Music notes blur through the welling.

Stealing a look at the audience, I seek out my father. I know where he’s standing. He leans against the painted cinder-block wall at the back of the cafeteria, arms crossed over his chest.  

The conductor pivots toward the crowd, bows and turns back toward the band. He motions to us, and we stand and bow, too.
I walk toward the back of the room, weaving in and out of parents and children embracing, a half of broken clarinet in each hand. When I finally make it back to where he still stands with arms crossed, I hold the pieces out to my father.

He reaches out. And pulls me in.

Do you ever remember a time when you received unexpected grace?

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The Whiny Pants Post

“Mommy, are you famous?” he asks, as I butter a bagel still hot from the toaster oven.

I laugh a little bit. “No honey, I’m definitely not famous.”

“Well, are you famous in Lincoln then?” he asks.
“Nope, not in Lincoln.”

“What about in our church; are you famous in our church?”
“Honey,” I stop buttering and turn around to look Noah straight in the eye, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not famous anywhere.”

He looks disappointed.
“Really, though, I don’t care much about being famous,” I add. “I’m happy just to write for a few people, knowing that God is glad that I write about him.”

I felt pretty good after that conversation, confident that I’d helped my son understand that there are qualities more important than fame to pursue in life.
Except for one problem...

Turns out that story I gave Noah about fame was a bunch of bull-oney.
I didn’t lie intentionally. In fact, at the time I really did believe that a desire for fame played no part in my writing. In fact I didn’t even know it was baloney until a couple of weeks after that conversation, when “the lists” were published.

It started with Kent Shaffer’s list of Top 200 Church Blogs, followed by his list of Top Christian Women Bloggers, which he published largely in response to the question of why so few female bloggers are included in the original list [a disclaimer here: I was sort-of included on that list, as a contributing writer for The High Calling].
Then, as a response to Shaffer's lists, Sarah Bessey published her own list of 50 Church and Faith Lady-Bloggers, based on the following criteria:
"Lady Bloggers that love Jesus, make beautiful art, challenge the Church, and wrestle with theology and generally influence the Church far and wide - with or without a power ranking badge on their website."

And then, as a response to that list, Diana Trautwein published a list of 21 Church and Faith Lady-Bloggers over 50 (with an additional five bloggers close to age 50) at Sarah’s place, noting that this group is even more marginalized in the world of Christian blogging.
So (if you're still with me) here’s the ugly part:

I scrolled through all the lists with the sole purpose of seeing who was included and whether or not I made the cut. 
I know, I know. It’s gross. Even admitting this gives me the hives. But it’s the truth. Worse, I scrolled through all the comments, too, to see if anyone mentioned me there. And then, to top it all off, I berated myself for not being gracious like the bloggers who weren’t included on the lists but posted encouraging, cheerful comments anyway.

I tried to climb onto my holy soapbox by telling myself that I blog for God alone, but the pit that persisted in my gut told me that’s not the whole truth. Yes, I write for God. I write because it helps me glimpse God and live out my faith in the everyday. I write for community. I write because I love to write and because I love to tell stories.
But I know something else now: I write for fame, too. I want to be included. I want to be noted and noticed.
Despite the hivey horror of this admission, two positive results have come of this:

  1. I realized I’m guilty of the same thing around here. As of 9 p.m. yesterday, Graceful included a blogroll over in the right column. I called it “Great Reads." So how did I decide who was included and who wasn't? How did I decide who qualified as a “great read” and who didn’t? Yesterday I wondered if I ever hurt a fellow writer who didn’t see himself or herself included in my “Great Reads” list. I don’t know for sure. But I’m guessing probably yes.
  2. I realized I need to pray about this. Seriously. I need to ask God for assistance on this one, to help me focus my writing on him and him alone and to let the comparisons with other writers go, once and for all.
I’m not famous. But I know now that at least a part of me wants to be. And I suspect I seek fame for all the wrong reasons.

What about you? Do you ever crave fame?

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Heaven Doesn't Feel Real


I’ll never forget the evening Brad and I walked past Noah’s bedroom a couple of weeks after Brad’s mom had died. Cat Stevens’Morning Has Broken was blasting on his CD player, and Noah sat tucked under his comforter next to the wide-open window. “I open my window and put this song on loud so Haukebo can hear it while she’s painting in Heaven,” Noah explained matter-of-factly to us.

Heaven doesn’t feel real like that for me. I know I’m supposed to believe in it, and I do, in a vague, religious kind of way, but it bothers me that I can’t wrap my head, or my heart, around it concretely.

I wish I believed in Heaven the way my kids do, but all I have is an amorphous, Christianese vision of Heaven. Frankly my view doesn’t offer much comfort; it doesn’t sustain me the way I suspect it does other people. I get some comfort from the thought of eternal life and the opportunity to spend face-to-face time with God, but Heaven? When I think of Heaven I draw a big blank.

Biblical descriptions of Heaven don’t help either. Pearly gates, streets of pure gold and a river bright as crystal sound like someone else’s vision (and I guess it is someone else's vision: it's John's). Like Brad said yesterday after we heard the description of Heaven from Revelation, “Gold streets don’t appeal to me. I think I’d prefer a softer, spongier material to walk on.”

When Noah was very young, his definition of Heaven consisted of “lots of white pine trees and mint chocolate chip ice cream all the time.” Yesterday after church when I asked him if his view of Heaven has changed since then, he told me that now he envisions “really puffy, soft clouds that you can walk on, and Ailanthus trees everywhere, growing right up out of the clouds, because Ailanthus means ‘tree of Heaven,’ you know.”

Rowan added that he thought Heaven will be a place where there’s “lots of fun stuff to do all the time.” I suspect he envisions infinite Mario Bros…without the nagging mother who puts a limit on screen time.

In the wake of my in-laws’ deaths, we’ve talked about Heaven more than usual in the last 18 months. I know I’ve used Heaven as a balm for the fear and pain that’s come with that loss, a way to offer brightness and hope for my kids in the midst of their grief. As a parent I’m desperate to ease my kids’ suffering, so I toss out Heaven as the only antidote I know. But to me, it feels like a weak consolation when they are missing their grandparents in the here and now.

I often ask the boys what they think Haukebo and Papa are doing in Heaven in an effort to create a link, a lasting connection between them and their beloved grandparents. But I think part of me is also trying to cement a vision of Heaven that they might carry with them into adulthood. While I know they won’t always believe that Heaven is comprised of mint chocolate chip ice cream, Ailanthus trees, Haukebo painting landscapes and Papa dancing to Johnny B. Goode, I hope that talking about Heaven now will somehow keep a sliver of it real for them later.

What about you? Does Heaven feel real to you?

{As an interesting side note: when I looked for images of Ailanthus trees on the web, I came across this description on the Duke University site: "More appropriately called the tree from hell, this common weedy tree is a seriously invasive species from China, most often found in disturbed areas and along roadsides." Hmmmm. Mabe Heaven really is in the eye of the beholder?).



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Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

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Weekend Meditation



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The Nudger


“So, would you ever be interested in ghostwriting?” my agent, Rachelle, asked me over the phone a few weeks ago. “Sometimes that’s a good way for writers to supplement their income.”

“Huh. I hadn’t really considered ghostwriting,” I told her. “But I already have a job, so I can’t really see how I’d have the time to work, write my own stuff and help write someone else’s stuff, too.”

“That’s totally fine,” she said. “I just thought I’d ask.”

Later, when I told Brad about the conversation, his response surprised me. “So…haven’t you been talking about wanting to become a full-time writer? And wouldn’t ghostwriting be a way for you to do that?”

Oh.

Yeah.

I guess I never considered that.

I’ve been talking about wanting to become a full-time writer for almost two years now. In fact, if you ask my husband, he’ll probably tell you that I’ve complained about it ceaselessly.

“Why’d God give me the skills and this love of writing, but not the opportunity to do it every day? What is he thinking?!” I'd rant from time to time. 

Frankly, for a while it seemed like everyone around me was being showered with opportunity, while I stood by, watching and imploring, “Hey! God! When’s my turn?!”  

Sometimes, though, I think the opportunities are there, but we simply don’t recognize them.

The problem was that I had defined “full-time writer” a particular way in my own head (i.e. writing and publishing my own books), and I couldn’t see beyond that limited image. It took a nudge from Brad – “Ah, hello? This could be great, you know!” – to get me to broaden my view of what writing full-time might look like.

The nudgers are important in this journey, aren’t they?

They are the people who know you inside and out.  

They are your trusted advisors, the ones who will help you walk through a hard decision.

They are the people who will give you a poke and say, “Hey, I think this might be it. I think this might be what you’ve been waiting for all this time.”

They are the people who recognize opportunity when you can't see it staring you in the face.

After that initial phone call from Rachelle, Brad and I talked off and on for a couple of weeks about the possibility of me transitioning from my stable, part-time job of 10 years to freelance writing. The more we talked, the more real and possible the opportunity seemed. Eventually I called Rachelle back.

“So,” I said to her, pausing, “I’m interested in this ghostwriting thing. Tell me more.”

Two weeks later, I gave my resignation notice at work.

Who are your people? The ones who nudge you when you need it? The ones who recognize the opportunity when you can’t?

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The Necklace {part two...after 35 years}


Once upon a time I stole a necklace. I was eight years old, and the necklace was my classmate’s. I reached alongside her as she worked on a math problem, stealthily snatched it out of her open desk and balled it into the front pocket of my pants until I got home from school. Safely in my bedroom, I buried the faux sapphire pendant and the black velvet strand beneath Ice Capades ticket stubs at the bottom of my seashell treasure box and then stashed the box in the back of my closet.

I never returned the necklace to the owner, and I never admitted to anyone that I stole it until, two years ago – nearly 35 years after the incident – when I wrote about it here.

Fast forward to Easter Sunday 2012, when I opened my in-box to discover an email from a former classmate. She’d come across my blog, read the story about the stolen necklace – her necklace, as it turns out – and wrote to tell me that she was, in fact, the girl.

I read her brief email three times, my stomach churning more with each word as I realized that during the span of more than three decades, I had never once considered her story. Not the day I took the necklace nor in the weeks afterward as I wrestled with the fear of burning in Hell for my sin. So wrapped up in my own guilt and spiritual angst, I never once considered how she must have felt the day she realized her necklace was gone, stolen by a classmate right out of her own desk. I never once imagined how she’d undoubtedly felt betrayed, targeted, isolated and scorned.  And I never considered how she might feel should she read about the incident three decades later – how it might open old wounds, tear open scars never entirely healed.

I never considered any of that, until two weeks ago on Easter Sunday, when I opened my in-box.

We exchanged a couple of emails. She graciously accepted my apology, insisting that it was a long time ago, apologies not necessary.  “I wish you peace, love and happiness for the rest of your life,” she wrote at the end of her last email. And I know it sounds silly and stupid because it happened forever ago, but I felt gratitude and relief when I read those words on my computer screen.

The terrible irony in all of this is that I don’t remember her. I clearly remember the necklace, although I finally threw it away several years after the theft. I remember our teacher and where we sat in the classroom. I even remember the pants I wore that day, navy blue corduroys. But I can't for the life of me picture her face or even remember her real name. I gave her a pseudonym, Kim, when I wrote the story, but I couldn't have come up with her real name if I'd tried.

Still, I’m so grateful for her email. I’m grateful I had the chance to say that I am sorry after all these years. I'm grateful for her forgiveness. And most of all, I’m grateful to have heard and finally acknowledged at least a little bit of her story.

Peace, love and happiness for the rest of your life, too, "Kim." And thank you for grace.

Have you ever had the chance to apologize to someone for a wrong you inflicted a long time before?

With Jennifer...

And with Ann, writing about the power of the Resurrection this week...



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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: On Reaching 1,000

I recorded my first gift -- spring song of chickadee -- on the pristine pages of a brand-new, spiral-bound notebook six months after my mother-in-law's death, 11 months before my father-in-law would follow her. I suspect God knew I would need this tool to see. I think he knew I would need it to believe he was with us, even when darkness descended.

Today I flip through a notebook full, pages crinkled and curling, spattered with dish water and coffee droplets, pencil smudged.

I notice how many of my gifts involve food...

16 Beef Bourginon in the crockpot... 19 Coffee and biscotti... 21 Buttery bagels

I glimpse the change of seasons...

36 purple crocus buds...156 giant bumble bee...184 scent of fresh mown grass... 706 autumn sunshine on sunroom walls... 767 a husband who scrapes my windshield.

I see how my eyes have been opened in the most mundane places...

82 nun wearing a backpack at the bus stop... 738 mom and little boy watching big rigs drive by... 936 elderly man with his hand on his wife's back in grocery store.

I see how my definition of gifts has broadened and grown...

60 sitting on the front stoop...177 smiling at strangers... 969 the gynecologist... 995 tornado sirens.

I spot my kids' handwriting...

6 Dad hug... 353 sweet lime popsickle... 973 butterfly landing on my shirt.

And my husband's...

121 big homecoming hugs at the airport... 349 carbs... 993 full-court basketball.

In the end, the moments are small, but strung together, one after the other, they comprise something monumental, something transformational, something much bigger than me. I see it written right there, line after penciled line:

A life of daily thanks.

And these small moments, all 1,000 of them, are why I will keep listing. The notebook will stay open on the kitchen counter. The pencil will sit sharpened and ready. The pages will absorb breakfast spatters and our living minute by minute in God's grace.


For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.  1 Timothy 4:4-5



990 Maple seeds helicoptering in the wind
991 3,200 words written for my project
992 Early morning sun on dandelion seed fluffs
993 Full-court basketball
994 Laughing with friends at dinner
995 Tornado sirens
996 The scent of air after rain shower
997 A husband who remembers to bring the patio cushions indoors before it storms
998 "A dog as big as a cow!"
999 Remembering the Holocaust victims and survivors
1000 Looking for #1001

Grateful for Ann Voskamp, for setting me on this course toward 1,000 gifts...
and beyond.



And linking with Laura...because looking for God in all the small places has been
one big long playdate!



{And thank you, friends, for grace today as I depart from the Hear It, Use It theme. Sunday was a crazy day of work events and soccer games and choir concerts...leaving little time to write!}

Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

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Weekend Meditation: Raise Me to My Feet



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The Magic Curtain


“Mommy, are you ever going to get your book published?” he asks, peering over my shoulder as I sit at my writing desk. My fingers freeze on the keyboard. This boy knows how to get right to the heart of a subject.

Well,” I say, turning to face him. “I may not get that book published, but I think I’ll probably get some book published, some day.”
Rowan pauses. I can tell he’s contemplating the likelihood of that claim.

“But it seems like there are so many books published, like in the library, and at Barnes and Noble,” he continues. “It seems like everyone else got their book published, so why is it so hard for you?” The kid is killing me bit by bit.

I sigh. Take a deep breath. I explain to him how memoirs are tricky to publish these days, because there is so much competition. “Lots of people have stories to tell,” I remind Rowan. “Not everyone’s story gets published into a book, but that doesn’t mean we should stop writing our stories.”

Rowan seems satisfied with that answer. He wanders into the living room, and a few minutes later I hear his remote-control Mario Bros. car being driven headlong into furniture.

I begin to type again.

Ten minutes later he’s back at my side. “I’ve got an idea!” he says, eyes wide. “You need to write a pretend story…something like The Magic Treehouse…but different because, you know, that story is already done.”

He pauses, thinking. A hot breeze lifts the dining room window sheers like a beach towel being shaken free of sand.

“I’ve got it!” he says. “The Magic Curtain!”

I nod my head, skeptical.

“I don’t think so, honey. I don’t think I can write The Magic Curtain because I don’t really know how to write fiction.”

Rowan stares at me, confused.

“But Mommy, you write stories all the time. It’s pretty much the same thing, except it’s a pretend story.”

"Yeah, I just don't think it's that simple, Ro," I tell him. "But I appreciate your advice, I do!" I call after him as he flops in a sulk on the living room couch.

{Truth be told, I'm a big, fat chicken when it comes to trying my hand at fiction!}

Have you ever tried to write anything outside your genre? Or, for that matter, taken a leap and tried something really new?

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Crying over Candy Land


A couple of years ago an agent turned me down after he read my query letter and a couple chapters of my manuscript. After I received the rejection, I responded to his email with a question: “So is it the lack of platform, the quality of the writing…or both?”

He answered quickly. “To tell you the truth, Michelle, it’s both. You don’t have a strong enough platform yet, but the bigger issue right now is your voice. Your writing is okay, but your voice needs work.”

Staring at that terse reply on my computer screen, I felt like I’d been flattened by a steamroller. Fourteen times.
“Okay? Okay!? My writing is ‘okay’?” I ranted at the computer. “Two years it took me to write this stupid book, and you tell me it’s okay?! Are you kidding me?!”

After the tantrum subsided I promptly burst into tears, and wept soundlessly through three straight games of Candy Land with Rowan (who didn’t notice – or perhaps he thought I was weeping over my inability to move past the Gumdrop Mountains).

The problem with the manuscript, I learned later after I paid to have it professionally edited, was that there were two voices vying for control: the personal, memoirish voice and the instructional voice. The two voices didn’t play well together. Just when the reader hit a comfortable groove with the personal voice, which was humorous, self-deprecating and a little bit irreverent, I switched to the instructional voice, which was scholarly and delved into Biblical exegesis. The switching was unsettling to the reader, according to my editor.

In my heart, I knew he was right. In fact, my best friend had told me as much months earlier, when she admitted she’d put the manuscript down when she got to the Bible parts and "had trouble picking it back up again" (another steamroller-flattening moment). I could have saved myself a few hundred dollars in editing fees, but I hadn’t been ready to hear that truth then. 

“Writers worry a lot about this, about voice. They are always wondering if they have one, and if not, how they can find one,” writes L.L. Barkat in her book, Rumors of Water. “The truth is that every writer has a voice. It is probably best heard by listening to oneself speak.”

A completed manuscript and 713 blog posts under my belt, and I still worry about voice. As I prepare to begin a second book, that same editor’s comments from an email he sent me recently ring in my head:  “The strength of the first book was how you wove truth and humor into a natural, engaging writer-voice.”

“Great,” I think when I read his email. “Now I have to be funny. No pressure there.”

Fingers poised over the keyboard, frantic questions bubble to the surface: What if this new book isn’t supposed to be funny? What if it’s serious? What if I don't feel funny anymore? What if I don’t have a voice if I don’t use my “truth and humor” voice?
Always a glass-half-empty, it didn’t occur to me until just recently that perhaps I have more than one writer-voice. After all, according to Barkat, if I listen to myself speak, I’ll discover my voice. I don’t always use self-deprecating humor and irreverence when I talk; I have a serious side, too. So it stands to reason that I can find that serious writer-voice when I need it.

As I’ve hemmed and hawed over all this in the last couple of weeks I’ve reached one conclusion: there’s no better way to find my voice, again, than to start writing. Again. In the end, sometimes we have to trust the process and have faith that something good will (eventually) come out of it. Sometimes the voice begins to speak clearly along the way.The key is simply to begin.

I'm joining Lyla and the folks over at Tweetspeak for the Wednesday discussion of Rumors of Water. Click over for more thoughts on voice.


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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: With His Death


When I was 25 and working as an editor at an art magazine in New York City, I came down with a mysterious illness. For several weeks doctors couldn’t figure out what it was – test after test revealed nothing, despite my worsening symptoms: searing headaches, blurred vision, twitching, aching muscles, extreme fatigue, severe nausea. Once a long-distance runner, I didn’t have the energy to walk to the mailbox or lift my arms to brush my hair. Riding Metro North for an hour to my job in the city and working 50 hours a week was out of the question, so I took a leave of absence from work and moved back in with my parents.

Each night, limbs splayed, window open to the stifling August heat, I’d lay gripping the sides of the twin bed in my parents’ guest bedroom, paralyzed by the fear that I was dying. I was convinced I’d be dead by the end of the year. In my mind there was no other explanation – no one, I reasoned, could feel like I did and survive.
The absolute low point was the night I crawled into my parents’ bed and slept between them. I was 25 years old and sleeping with my mother and father like a three-year-old.

I eventually recovered from the illness, but the fear of death that had dogged me since childhood and intensified during the year I was sick never abated. More than ten years after that illness, married and the mother of two children, I continued to lay awake nearly every night gripped by the fear of death.
I didn’t pray about it, because I didn’t believe in God. I didn’t hope for a reprieve from the ever-present fear, because I didn’t believe that hope existed.
“With His death, the power of death over us is no more,” I heard Pastor Sara exclaim yesterday during Easter service, and as she spoke those words, I nodded yes, yes. It’s true. I believe it now.

I still think about dying from time to time, but not the way I used to. I don’t obsess over it any more. It doesn’t keep me awake at night, sheets balled in my fists, eyes wide at the ceiling. Nor do I believe that when I die, I will simply cease, that my body will be put into the ground, end of story. While I can’t quite envision what eternal life will look like, on most days I believe in my heart that it exists.

I tell you this story today, the day after Easter, for one reason: to give you hope.

It may be that you know someone lost, unmoored, hopeless. Someone who feels the talons of death grip tight. Someone who doubts or downright doesn’t believe.

It may even be that that someone is you.

My story isn’t dramatic or exciting. There’s no sky-splitting, fall-to-my-knees conversion. I never heard the voice of God or felt the presence of Jesus come suddenly into my life. I didn’t escape death or overcome insurmountable odds. This transformation from fear to hope, from death to life, unfolded slowly and uneventfully over a period of years. Truth be told, it’s still unfolding, this process of God replacing my heart of stone.

My story is pretty mundane, as far as conversion stories go. Yet it’s a story of hope and truth nonetheless. I am free from the power of death. With His death, the power of death over me is no more.

I pray you know that hope and truth in your heart, too.



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