Posts tagged hope

Dear girls, I’m back at my desk after a month of mourning. Not that I’m done with sadness, but I’m sensing the invitation from the Spirit to get back to my calling to write. And so I sit, this morning, at the desk my dad made in this cabin tucked under the scented boughs of an enormous redwood tree. This spot is my refuge, a safe place where I hear God clearer than any place else.

The glimmering candle on my desk reminds me of the beauty of the friend who gave it as a gift of love. My new daughter-in-law’s mother, Natalia, is one of those rare treasures who sparkles with joy in the midst of a story she didn’t want. I am reminded of her as I do the final edits on my own story. Of how the Redeemer we follow weaves texture and color and loveliness into our lives in spite of— or perhaps because of— difficulties.

He is the Beauty-Maker and as He draws us close, we become like Him.


This morning I thought I’d bring you into my cabin to peer over my shoulder as I smooth and polish and pray and ponder over the words that will soon be put to print.

This is a glimpse of the me-I-was just before I was diagnosed with a progressive hearing loss that would eventually lead to total deafness. I was 26, enveloped in the world of babies and toddlers, homeschooling a first grader who gulped up knowledge like a starving lion.

I loved my life. But something left me empty and longing for more…

I wasn’t happy, not really. And I knew it.

And so I began to do the only thing I knew to do, the only thing a good Christian girl could do—I prayed. Every day, I asked God to do something, anything to change my heart. I prayed when I woke up, while jogging, while shopping, while cooking yet another family meal on yet another day of doing right.

I didn’t pray once. Or even twice. I prayed every chance I got, as if by begging God, I’d get Him to hear me and He’d have to give me what I craved.

I needed more. I wanted more. I had to have more!

God knew I would need all of Him to face the days ahead. He also knew that in order for Him to answer my cries for more, I would first need to let go of the pervasively self-serving idea of my own goodness.

The journey that lay ahead of me was going to be more arduous than all my rule abiding good-girl-ness would be able to handle.

I would face dark days, days of discovering that I was not as good as I’d thought, that my façade wouldn’t hold up under the pressures of life gone wrong, that a desperately “bad” girl lurked in my soul. 

That I was a woman who didn’t know her true colors until she didn’t get her way.

I was about to embark on a journey of facing the worst about myself and finding God in the rubble. In that place of desperation, I would discover that what God wanted more than all of my exhausting efforts to be good was me, just as I am. 

The real me.

And though I would flounder and fail, though I would shake my fist in His face, He couldn’t wait to gather me in close to show me what I’d been wanting all along.

As I edit these words I am praying for all of you who know the hunger that haunted me then. That emptiness, the sense that having everything I ever wanted was not enough.

I am praying that you will hear and know and experience the love of God down deep in the marrow of your bones.

That you will crave Him, longing for the beauty He alone brings. And that you won’t stop seeking until you’ve found all He has for you.

From my heart,


(image by Abi Porter)


(image by  Bethany Small) 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19

The Message

And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding…

Hebrews 6:3


Dear Dad,

There is so much I do not understand. So much that remains a mystery to me, veiled by a mist of what I don’t know, can’t grasp, don’t like.

I don’t understand why you, of all people, would suffer.

Why every breath comes as a gasp, why talking ends in spasms of body wrenching, back heaving coughing, why you must remain tethered to that tube of oxygen in order to breathe at all.

I don’t understand why we have to say good-bye.

Why, after having you always there; my stability, my fixer of broken things, my logic-minded advisor— why soon I won’t.

You, who have spent the better part of your life explaining why, showing how, teaching me over and over again the way to do life in fine, ordered, rightness— won’t be with me anymore.

I don’t understand why life ends in death, why you have to go away soon, why you can’t stay and watch my grandsons be like you, why you can’t keep holding my hand and squeezing it just so I know you’re with me.

I don’t understand why Mom will be alone.

After all these years of sticking by your side, or figuring it out, of learning and growing so that your differences are all ironed into one workable weave of cloth like a blanket around these generations to follow. Why will mom have to end life alone?

And what’s more, I don’t like it, not one bit. I want you to stay. I want you strong, hiking in your mountains, taking me with you, talking to me about my dreams, telling me I can do this, telling me I’ve made you proud.

Oh Dad, I do not understand. 

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t have to get this right.

Maybe having you all these years as my dad has shown me that I don’t have to understand, that I can hold on and trust. That clinging is okay because the Father does understand even when I don’t and He can be trusted because He is like you… or maybe it’s that you are like Him.

Maybe learning to trust you has taught me how to trust the One you trust.

And maybe someday I will understand. Maybe someday I’ll smile and nod and even laugh at God’s audacity to take the incomprehensible and make it good.

I don’t understand, Dad, but I trust the One who does, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

From my heart,




“Therefore I am now going to allure her;

 I will lead her into the wilderness

and speak tenderly to her.

There I will give her back her vineyards,

and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

There she will respond as in the days of her youth,

as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

Hosea 2v14,15 NIV

All week I have been praying for the many women who wrote in response to last week’s faltering description of what a marriage looks like when both husband and wife lay all their wants and needs at the foot of the Cross. (Why he's not your Prince Charming)

And all week I’ve been pondering what to write next, waiting in the early stillness to hear that Voice.  In light of the cry from so many women whose hearts yearn to know more of what it means to be gathered into that kind of intimacy with God, to have their fears calmed and their needs met, I just cannot blithely blunder into a post about marriage.

So every morning I’ve asked… what should I say, Lord? I barely understand this myself, how can I communicate Your wisdom to women who crave more than concepts? Women who need to know how? Women who are awakening to Your call to come close? Is there a tidy formula I can line out? Steps 1…2…3…?

Instead of giving me words with which to tie a tidy bow around this gift of the gospel and the Cross and the way to both intimacy and dependency, I have felt His leading me to understand His love just for me…

My insistent read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year-in-chronological-order chart placed me in Hosea this week. Three days to whip through 14 chapters. But I can’t do it. Can’t get beyond chapter two and that first bit of chapter three. His words have captivated me, held me in grip of sorrow.

Because I am that woman I have so often self-righteously despised. Hosea’s wife, the promiscuous woman whose wayward wanting of more is an appalling picture of who we become when we refuse to be satisfied by God and God alone.

I know, I know, the story is supposed to be about Israel’s straying from Yahweh. But I cannot help myself. I am her!

And maybe some of you are too.

When you are sad  who do you tell first?  Your husband-who-is-supposed-to-listen-without-solving-it?  Your Facebook friends? Your mom? 

When you are worried do you first make lists? Check websites? Go for a run?

Is the measure of your worth tied up in people’s approval? Their kind comments and adulations about something they think you’re good at? Or is your value today dependent on whether or not your husband thinks you're beautiful and tells you- again?

Then maybe, like me, you are in danger of missing the greatest love of all. Maybe He’s right there waiting. Watching as you scurry and fret and work yourself to exhaustion to get it right.

And then this morning He spoke. Not in booming pronouncements or attention getting steps… but in that soft way He has of satisfying the place no one sees. That aching, wanting place.

"I will allure you to the wilderness because I love you... Because when you don’t feel good and nothing makes it better and you can’t get it right and no one is enough… I will bring you in close and fill you full… of Me."

The wilderness, my dear girls, is just where He wants us.

Not because we’re failures.

Not because we’re not as godly as that woman who seems so happy all the time.

And certainly not because we’re not good enough mothers or lovers or friends or worker-outters or whatever it is we think we’re supposed to be right now. 

That wilderness is where He wants us because it’s where we hear Him. 

He whispers there, outside the cacophony of all the sounds that compete for our attention.

Tender words.

Words of hope.

The kind of real hope that isn’t dependent on us doing more. Or being better. Or getting it right. 

“Throughout the Scripture, we see that God sometimes does His most powerful work in wilderness settings. Therefore, if you’re in such a place right now, take heart and take hope. As He did with His people, God has drawn you there in order to humble you and prove you— but also to do you good.”  (Jon Courson, Hosea)

Do you know what this means?

That very feeling of failure that nags at you is His whisper to come…

Your inadequacies are your beauty. Because in your weakness, He is so strong that He becomes all you need and when He becomes your everything, you finally become who you really are.



Wholly His.

Will you let Him lead you into that wilderness place?

Dare you stop trying to solve it and just listen?

Will you trust Him with the tensions in your story, knowing the real happily-ever-after ending will be worth it even if the right now is not the way you wish it was?

The wilderness never lasts forever, dear ones. He draws you there, speaks tenderly to you, and then causes you to blossom, producing hope in the midst of the “Valley of Achor”, that place of trouble.

And then… then He becomes all that you ever wanted.

“I will make you My wife forever,

showing you righteousness and justice,

unfailing love and compassion.

I will be faithful to you and make you Mine,

and you will finally know Me as the Lord.” 

Hosea 2v19,20 NLT

Hoping… and praying… that we will grasp this kind of love…

From my heart,


P.S. Are you in that wilderness place, wondering why? Or have you been there in the past and found Him faithful even when life hurts? Will you tell us about it?

Next week I’ve got another story I can hardly wait to share... it's about our first fight... and what I know now that I wish I'd known then... because, dear girls, he's really not your Prince Charming!



 “And the angel of the Lord…came…and sat upon the stone.” 

Matthew 28v2

The stone stood as a silent sentinel, blocking the entrance to the cave. On the other side, or so she thought, lay Jesus, her Lord. And wrapped up with Him lay all her shattered hopes and dreams. Dead.

She’d come to say good-bye - farewell to faith.

She’d come to grieve - to let go of the hope that had held her in such wild expectation every time He talked.

It was over now. Best to be done with it and cope with reality…

deal with drudgery…

face her future…

But that stone blocked her way.

Falling to the ground in a heap of defeated despair, pulling her knees tight against her chest, she rocked back and forth, back and forth, as her sobs filled the early morning air.






Waves of grief shook her. Years of hurt overwhelmed her reason, spilling out upon the unyielding realities of that stone. There was nothing to do but die.

Somewhere in the periphery of her mind she sensed movement, but her sorrow was too great to stop and listen. But there...

A sound...A scrape.

Was that a cough?

Her sobs slowed, again a noise.

Fear froze her. Oh no, what now?

Slowly, hesitantly, as if she could wait away the next disaster, she looked up.

An angel sitting on the stone,

that gargantuan…


uncontrollable mountain of impossibilities

And the stone was moved…just like that.

Is a stone blocking your way to life? To peace? To joy? Have you worn yourself out trying to push it away? Have you exhausted your soul trying everything to change your circumstances? Are you sweaty and angry and defeated and discouraged? Have you lost hope?

Sit still awhile. Sit at the tomb of your tomorrows and let yourself grieve what might have been…should have been. Cry it all out.

And when you’re done,




be still…

In the ashes of your grief, in the failure of your fantasies of how life ought to be, sits Jesus. In dazzling white He sits atop that stone…

immune to impossibilities…

with a different idea of the ideal.

And while you’re there, let Him fill you with His hope and His dreams. Let Him store those tears away, pack up your past, relinquish your regrets, and give you a new start, a new life … a renewed hope.

After all, He rolled away that stone.

From my heart,


Can you tell me what hope has come out of your ashes? Is there a story you really need to tell to point all the rest of us to His hope? Please do.


Ruth 3v1-18

The Proposal (Part Five)

Click here to listen to the fourth teaching of Ruth)

The Verse of the Week




More Words From the Father

Revelation 22v17

Isaiah 53-54v5

Psalm 46

Mark 12v29-31

1 John 1v1-5

1 John 3v1-3



From my Heart 

Pages from the Past: September 1998 Memories Well Worth It

Yesterday, I took my son to college. With a quick hug and “See ya at Thanksgiving, maybe,” he turned to begin the next stage of his life.


Today, all I can remember is the past.


Just yesterday, it seems, he was born. Not squalling and screaming, but wide-eyed and silently staring at these two strangers who would love him, and discipline him, and teach him, and wipe away his tears for the next 18 years.


I remember the moments.


His hand resting on my breast as I nursed him. His first flinging steps as he raced from his dad’s outstretched hands to mine. His squeal as he ran naked down the sidewalk.

I remember the first time he opened his Bible and read it on his own. Listening as he led his little sister to receive Jesus. His ear-to-ear grin when he was baptized by his dad.

I remember playing army, dramatically dying, imitating machine gun fire, throwing waterfilled grenades. I remember playing hide and seek when he thought no one could see him if he covered his eyes.

I remember matchbox cars in the bathtub and G.I. Joe in my purse. Melted crayons in the car and rock collections in the washing machine.

I remember skinned knees and stitches, pimples and braces, loud music…and soft serenades on the piano as he waited for the carpool. Late night talks…and tears. Silly jokes with no punch line. Artwork on the fridge.


Eighteen years of memories.


One thing I know now - one thing I want to pass on to every mother of every little boy - all that work, the lost sleep, the worry, the spankings, the cooking, the cleaning up of little-boy-messes, the reading and rereading of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, the hours of listening, the carpooling, the cuts and scrapes and trips to the emergency room…


Every moment is worth it.


When you kiss him good-bye, when your job is done, when you send him off to his future, you too will remember the moments. And you will agree…


It was well worth it.


From my heart,




Saving Ruth

Redemption is at the heart of the story of Ruth. Some would say it is the whole point - the very premise of the book. It is more than a rescue, for Boaz lifts Ruth out of a precariously uncertain future and hands her hope. He rewrites the rest of her story by redeeming her from a life of poverty and rejection and loneliness.

In one breath-taking scene, Boaz concocts a plan to combine two ancient Hebrew legal institutions into one brilliant strategy. He takes the premise of property redemption by a close relative (Kinsman-Redeemer) and mixes it up with an entirely different concept which involved a brother providing for his widowed sister-in-law (levirate marriage).

Kinsman-Redeemer (go’el)

This was a way by which property would be guaranteed to stay within the tribal divisions set by Moses and Joshua as they divided the Promised Land. Families descended from the patriarchs in Genesis stayed together in an assigned vicinity within the boundaries of Israel. Further, families stayed together in close community, caring for and looking out for each family member in a sort of preemptive welfare approach.

When one head of a family died, the closest relative was required to buy that man’s land and take the dependents under his protection and provision. He got the land, but he also inherited all the responsibilities that went with it. The go’el took on hero status as he redeemed the land from the possibility of hostile take over by someone outside the family (see Leviticus 25v23-25).

Levirate marriage

This concept comes out of the latin word levir, which means husband’s brother. Simply put, it meant that when a man died without leaving an heir, a single brother or next of kin was expected to marry his widow in order to carry on his name and family line2 (see Deuteronomy 25v5-10).

Read the story in Matthew 22v23-33 when Jesus takes on a crowd of Sadducees (a group of religious scholars who refuted the idea of life after death) over this idea of Levirate marriage. Trying to trip Him up, they twist this simple concept into a complex argument. Rather than enter into the fray, Jesus urges them to see the big picture: God’s redeeming love for His people throughout the ages. In response, the Sadducees were silenced and the multitudes who were listening in “were astonished at His teaching.”





In Boaz’s response to Ruth’s proposal, he calls her a “woman of excellence” or “woman of noble character.” The Hebrew word is hayil, meaning a person of wealth, character, virtue, attainment, and comprehensive excellence. This is the same Hebrew word used to describe Boaz in Ruth 2v1, translated in most versions as “wealth” or “man of standing.”

Clearly, Ruth and Boaz had both gained reputations as people of integrity and spiritual strength.



An interesting note: The ideal woman described in Proverbs 31 is also named a woman of hayil.

“An excellent (hayil) wife who can find?

For her worth is far above jewels.”- Proverbs 31v10



Give thanks to the LORD

and proclaim His greatness. 

Let the whole world know what He has done. 

I Chronicles 16:8

I met, just the other day, with a young woman to hear her story. We lingered over a late breakfast, sipping tea and nibbling sweet potato home-fries.

How do you share a lifetime in an hour?

How could I listen to without weeping?

And yet she did and I didn’t. I held back those tears until this morning. Now, in the dark, with my Bible open and my teapot steaming, my heart won’t stop the flow of tears.

Why does so much pain happen?

And I don’t know the answer, not really. I just know that it does. People choose and their choices hurt innocent little red-headed girls.

But something happened as we sat across from each other in that little breakfast place not far from here. Something powerful, something… wise.

As this woman shared her story-full-of-awfulness, she just refused to give in to pity. Instead, she wove hope throughout each chapter, noticing God’s goodness and His people’s beauty towards her just when she needed it.

Hers was not that annoyingly fake kind of “God is good” parroting of what no one believes— but a wide-eyed discovery that, indeed, God showed Himself good in the midst of terrible bad.

And I think that’s why I didn’t break down and choke on the tears pushing behind my eyes… because she wouldn’t let me.

Her hope was contagious—her deep down belief that God stood with her every hurtful moment of her the-way-it-shouldn’t-be story.

That is how I want to live my days…

Overflowing with hope,

caught up in God’s goodness,

choosing to sparkle with the joy of His care for me in spite of—

well, in spite of the bumping and bruising and unavoidable badness that happens some days.

From my heart,


Do you have a story you can tell us? Maybe let this corner of the world know about His goodness to you?

RED, GREEN, YELLOW: how marriage is supposed to work

I received this delightful note from one of our women who is a teacher in a school in Salem. I was struck by the wisdom of a child. I’ve added a few comments of my own to his essay… not that it needed one bit more! I think this little guy pretty much says it all.

Hi Diane

I have so enjoyed reading your blog on marriage lately.  I’ve also been listening to Mars Hill’s sermon series on marriage.  And then yesterday, I came across one of my middle schooler’s art projects while grading.  The assignment was to create a sculpture that represented a human relationship, emotion or attribute.  He chose marriage.  And he is in 6th grade.  My heart was so glad, after reading his essay on his sculpture.  I don’t work at a Christian school, so to hear this from a child was priceless!  Just wanted to pass it along to someone who appreciates what God does through marriage as much as I do!

Art and Primary Spanish Teacher

Abiqua School

The reason behind this sculpture is happiness or marriage.

This is a feeling that first time marriage people will never forget. This feeling for most people is the best feeling they will ever feel in their lifetime.

In the painting you may see that if you picture their faces together as one,

they look half and half.

That is what married people should commit to.

I chose red as a color because red represents all of the arguments and problems and miscommunication that will be a part of marriage but the two people will stay strong and carry on.

I chose green as a relaxing color because you now work as a team and everything you do is now one.

I chose yellow as a color because it represents how much you want to do this and how enthusiastic and happy you are about your decisions.

Red, green, yellow.

Red because conflict is a reality when two people choose to become one. Because becoming one takes a whole lot of dying to self and forgiving and covering over all those irritants that threaten to undo us. And because for most of us it’s an embarrassingly messy process. And life intrudes and things go wrong and we have a million opportunities to choose- grace and mercy or disapproval and rejection?

Green because a great marriage creates a space that is so restful and refreshing that a whole family- and indeed an on looking world- can find peace and hope and rest there. And because green is a symbol of growth and newness and that’s what a God centered marriage between two people creates in this whole crazy process of becoming one.

Yellow for the sheer joy of participating in a miracle. Like my daffodils blooming in the midst of a dreary day, a marriage done right brings delight to everyone who gets to glimpse this outlandish idea of God’s.

And I think that’s enough said…

From my heart,