Saturday, January 10, 2015

When is God still good?

It somehow seems unfair that pain, grief and suffering are already present just days into the new year. These unwelcome guests have showed up in the lives of those dear to me and plan to stick around for a while.

Thursday night, I received a call that a precious friend whom I love deeply has an aggressive form of cancer that has spread. The man who taught me how to fight now has quite the fight ahead of him in the days to come.

Also Thursday, another friend and former co-worker was taken off life support and all medications and we now wait. Wait to see if she makes a miraculous recovery even with no brain activity. Or wait to hear the unthinkable. How a stomach bug became a heart attack makes absolutely no sense to me.

I don't get it. It's in times like this that I wonder: is God still good? Is he still kind? Can he still be trusted?

Some hard truths I've discovered over 30-some years of living:

We live in a broken world.
Bad things happen to good people for no reason.
Good things happen to bad people for no reason.
We pray for people and they live.
We pray for people and they die.
Life is a beautiful mess of pain and suffering and joy.
We are all going to die -- a realization that should prompt us to live in a way that matters.
Life sometimes doesn't make a lick of sense.
Losing people sucks.
Life is hard.
Life is good.
Life is still worth living and fighting for.
God doesn't promise us a pain-free life.
Photo by Suzanne Stelling

I don't know many things right now. But here's what I do know and have experienced from 20 years of being a Jesus follower:

God cares and weeps with us.
He is near.
He *loves* us extravagantly.
He uses family and friends as tangible expressions of that love.
He holds us when we can't hold on.
It's OK to be angry and confused.
God is with us in the midst of the mess.
He comforts.
He carries us.
He is kind.
He sees.
He is faithful in the hard places.
He meets us exactly where we are.
He can still be trusted.
Weeping and sorrow may endure for some time. But joy WILL come.
God is still good even if the worst happens. Even if.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Year, New Focus

Happy 2015, y'all.
Suddenly, the years are zooming by the older I get. Crazy!

My theme for 2014 was "Be Free." I learned how to live more authentically and honestly. I learned (and I'm still learning!) what it meant to be free of and not be ruled by my own expectations of myself, my expectations of others and their expectations of me. (As a people-pleaser, this was huge and hard to do but so good!)

In the midst of all that living last year, some big things happened: I finished grad school; I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; I met a good man.

I've been thinking of what I want my theme to be for 2015. It came to me as last year drew to a close: Be Aware. This year, I want to be more aware of God's presence and what he's up to in the world; to be more aware of the people around and in my life; to be aware and really *see* with new eyes the wonder in the mundane and routine things, in spite of the hard and crazy things life may throw my way.

I also want to use my words well this year. Use my words to breathe life into people and not death; blessing and not cursing; healing and not destruction. I want to say hard things in love when the situation calls for it. I want to love people well. I want to live more authentically. I want to love Jesus fiercely.

I have great anticipation in my heart as I wait to see how this year will unfold. I have a sneaky suspicion it’ll have its share of joys, uncertainties, hard things and adventures. To these I say, bring it! Because however the year shakes out, I know one thing will remain true: God is still good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mt. Kilimanjaro and other life stuff

Day 3 on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; Courtesy of teammate Michelle D.
Life has been full, y'all.
One moment I'm writing about how I'll be hiking East Tennessee trails all summer. The next thing I know, I'm getting off Mt. Kilimanjaro in October. And now, we're eight weeks from the end of 2014. Um, what? Not sure what happened there but there's been a lot of life-living in between.

My inner writer over the last few months has often lamented my neglect of this blog. I meant to write and all. But a strange thing has happened: I haven't quite figured out how to distill into bite-sized chunks all the good and hard and beautiful and strange and amazing things that have found their way into my life these last few months. So, I just...stopped writing. Publicly, anyway. But I've been journaling. A lot. And processing. And learning. And living.

Lots of stories to tell and posts to be written. For now, I'll leave you with what is perhaps my favorite photo from this fall. The above was taken on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I climbed the mountain with 23 other Americans in early October as a way to raise money for a Compassion International water project to bring clean water to a community in Arusha, Tanzania. Definitely not your average fundraiser. It was one of the most butt-kicking and awesome experiences of my life. Here's a bit more about the trek.

Thank you for stopping by. I'll be back again soonish.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Tennessee, how I love you!

Seen tonight at State Street Garage in downtown Knoxville
Favorite definition of nekkid: naked with intent.
(Hat tip to my friend David for this definition!)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hittin' the trails!

I've started a new chapter of discovery and adventure now that grad school is behind me.
First on the list is hiking -- and lots of it. This summer, I plan to explore much of East Tennessee's woods on foot with friends and with the lovable Plucky Alapo, aka Plucky dog.

Plucky on House Mountain in East Knox County
The first Saturday in June found Plucky and me on top of House Mountain, the tallest point in Knox County. The roughly four-mile trek was moderate -- although, there were many spots where Plucky dog took the lead and literally pulled me over boulders and large fallen trees. He was like a nimble little mountain goat.

I packed us a lunch and I took my journal and we had a picnic at the top (well, Plucky watched me eat, mostly). I spent about an hour drinking in the sight of the lush valley below us and journaling. Then it was time to go home and we trekked back down. Fun times! It was my first trip to House Mountain, even though I've lived in Knoxville 11-plus years and it's is just 15 minutes from my house.

More to come on future hikes. I'm always in the market for friends to hike with me so let me know if you're available!

Friday, June 6, 2014


Say hello to "Grace."
My friend John McRae completed this piece for me this week.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When cancer sucks.

At Rebecca's wedding in 2008.

I lost my sweet friend Rebecca to cancer this morning. She was 38.
Rebecca discovered last summer she had stage 4 colon cancer and underwent aggressive and painful treatments. She slipped into eternity at 8:50 a.m. today.

Right now, I want to spin-side kick cancer in the gut and in the face! It all seems so unfair. Life is hard and full of sorrow sometimes. Gah! But even in this craziness, God somehow constantly turns my heart toward hope. Sweet HOPE. Hope to live fiercely today because tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

I've been chewing on Romans 15:13 for a few days now. It somehow seems very appropriate today: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound with hope."

I'm praying that God turns the hearts of Rebecca's family--her husband, her brothers--toward hope. And peace. And one day soon, joy again.

Posted by Rebecca on May 25

I'm so thankful to have known such a vibrant woman. Rebecca and I met in 2003 when I moved to Knoxville. I was on assignment for the News Sentinel to write about Market Square Booksellers, a new bookstore that had opened downtown. She was behind one of the counters that displayed her jewelry. I asked her about them and Rebecca, who was deaf, signed. I signed back and pretty soon, we launched into a conversation and made a lunch date. We became friends.

She eventually married and moved to Washington D.C. She came back to East Tennessee a few weeks ago to be near her family. I'm glad she was surrounded by those she loved when she passed.

Rebecca signs "I love you" this morning.
Photo is courtesy of one of her Facebook friends.