On Rivendell and Rest

Before Dave and I got married, I had a little list of things I wanted to do. It sounds funny now, but watching the Lord of the Rings series one more time was on my list! I love the epic story line between good and evil. I love the beautiful scenery too! And of course, the hero wins.

When Dave died 5+ years later, God took my mind back to Rivendell. At the end of the story, Frodo goes there to recover after his arduous adventure. In the movie, Rivendell is a gorgeous citadel nestled in the mountains. It’s characterized by towering waterfalls, beautiful light and even soft music. There’s a sense that everything is going to be okay…

After our own trip through what felt like Hell, God used the imagery of Rivendell to teach me about His peace, provision, and rest. The contrast was striking.

I am somewhat task-oriented; I thrive on to-do lists, sticky notes, plans and goals! Right away, I felt overwhelmed by extra responsibilities, which Dave would’ve done otherwise. I felt like it was “all on me” to keep the house in working order, pay the bills, discipline and take care of Lydia—not to mention working, preparing food, and trying to sleep.
Even in my grief, I knew could not do it all.

Then, in the midst of turmoil, God’s peace filled my heart. It was a supernatural calm, one I cannot adequately describe. Rivendell doesn’t do it justice!

In my mind’s eye, God gave me a similar sense of rest and tranquility, safety and security. It was extremely comforting. I didn’t need a game plan; I just needed to recuperate.

I knew, eventually, my heart would heal enough to take on other things. But in the meanwhile, I let God do the heavy stuff. True to His Word, He gave me “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Peaceful waterfalls

Slowly, God’s grace started to change—and heal—my heart. It was as if He told me just to rest, and in His time, He would see to it that everything was accomplished. And then, God’s generous grace for me allowed me to give myself grace.

I felt like God literally moved my personality default to a more laid back disposition. I realized I didn’t have to do everything, but only the most important things. I reorganized a few systems, like responding to mail and paying bills. I asked for help when needed. God also provided friends to help with outside housework, like mowing the lawn.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

As I clung to the Lord for support—minute by minute at times—I relaxed my standards and let some things go. I decided “close enough is good enough” for many tasks. At the time, I just needed to focus on Lydia and grieving well.

I may always be a checklist person! But now, I focus on what is most important—that is, joining God in the work He has for me. No more, no less. I am glad we can live in freedom and rest, knowing God is in control!

Because of His gracious love, we can live in peace and receive His provision.

God takes it personally upon Himself to help us. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can walk in grace, peace and Victory. Thank You, Jesus!

Questions: Can you think of any epic story lines or movies that have paralleled your journey? What have you learned?

What is God asking you to let Him handle, so you can walk in Victory?


God’s Grace and Glory in Wyoming

Over the last week, Lydia and I visited friends in northwestern Wyoming! We trekked through North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. We all stayed in a little town near the Shoshone National Forest, about 80 miles from Yellowstone.

In college, I traveled to Wyoming several times with these friends. Then, Life happened, and it became more sporadic. I was last out there four years ago, a few months before Lydia was born. That’s when Dave and I enjoyed his first and only trip.

Last week, Lydia experienced her first time fishing, and loved “helping” bait the rods. We ate trout, rabbit, buffalo, elk, antelope and even some farm-raised emu. We reminisced about fun times, and watched the kids play together. It was almost as if no time had passed.


Along the way, we drove through ancient canyons. God’s glory was displayed in bright yellow leaves and rocky cliffs. Autumn came early with the cool weather. I had forgotten about how beautiful this season can be!

Perhaps God took His paintbrush and made the yellow-tinged scenery just for us? Outstanding! The mountain air was crisp, but still warm enough for snow on the mountains to melt after a few hours. Cold, bubbly water flowed over rocks in the river beds of the national forest.

During our stay, we saw many animals on the open range. Horses, cattle, sheep, deer, and a small buffalo—ahem, bison—herd roamed and grazed. A bald eagle flew along a creek, and a black bear climbed up the mountainside.

By God’s grace and perfect timing, I was able to experience His goodness and glory in Wyoming. Eagerly, I listened for anything the Lord might want to teach me.


The day before two friends hunted antelope, we wore ear protection as they sighted in their rifles. I watched the yellow leaves fall to the ground in silence. And, that’s when I sensed the Lord speak. He reminded me of these things:

1. Perspective can change over time. I traveled the same roads four years ago, but hardly recognized them now. There were few new buildings or signs along the way. I simply noticed different details in the breathtaking view. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but with God’s help, Life can be good again.

2. Only God does not change. Even as the rocky cliffs slowly erode over centuries, and as falling leaves signal a new season, God remains constant. He is always good! His love reaches to the heavens and His faithfulness reaches to the sky (see Psalm 36:5)!

3. In the light of God’s glory, everything else in all of creation is subject to change. Seasons change and bring new color, changes in landscape, and growth. It is the same with the seasons of our lives. Change can be difficult at times, but is necessary for growth.

4. In the glory of God’s presence, our hearts and lives change. With prayer and time spent with the Lord, He changes our perspective and circumstances. Sometimes those changes take a long time to come—years even. Don’t give up seeking God’s heart in prayer for personal needs and the needs of others! (2 Corinthians 1:20)

5. Don’t underestimate the impact of godly friends. These dear friends have helped shape my life for the better. Over the years, we’ve challenged each other to grow and make tough decisions. We have encouraged each other and provided mutual accountability.


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

Thank You, God, for great friends, a safe trip, and an awesome adventure in Wyoming! 🙂

Put on Your Pants!

Over the last year or so, Lydia has been doing more things for herself. You’d think I would have more time. Though in reality, I spend about as much time coaching her and suggesting ideas. Here is an example of a typical morning:

Lydia, procrastinating and playing: “I don’t know what to wear!”

Me, checking the clock: “Well, you could start with your pants.”

Lydia, starting to whine: “But, but, I want to wear a dress….and I don’t know which shoes to wear!”

Me, quickly building up steam: “I said, put on your PANTS!”

(Can you relate?!)

Lydia plays, jumps on the bed and wastes time, preferring her own agenda. I know it is par for the course—no one said parenting would be easy. But, it drives me nuts!

“I don’t know what pajamas I want to wear…”

This also happens at bedtime, so I’ve had many “opportunities” to ponder the situation.


And truthfully, there are times when I act the same way. (Gasp!) Yep. I can delay in obeying God in the most simple things—like adjusting my schedule, or calling to encourage a friend, or offering to help someone. I wrongly think whatever I happen to be doing is more important.

Often, God will ask me to do something that doesn’t quite make sense. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable or inconvenient. Occasionally, it even seems inconsequential—a tiny task that won’t make a difference. “It won’t matter if I don’t…

Yes, it does matter! Delayed obedience is still disobedience.

Like an exasperated parent, I bet sometimes we drive God a little crazy, too. Thank the Lord for His abundant mercy and grace!

I want all the answers, the whole picture. I want to know the purpose, plan, and the procedures. I want a guarantee, don’t you?!

Well, like my child (ahem), I just have to take the first step. I pray for wisdom and courage. I seek wise counsel. Yes.

But I can’t delay if it still seems unclear. God will provide the next step when needed. If I make a mistake, I don’t have to worry. His grace gives me a do-over.

(No. Grace is not a free license to do whatever we want. Sorry!)

Lots of Pants Hanging

By faith, do the uncomfortable, inconvenient thing. Even if it doesn’t seem important.
Soon, there’s momentum—moving in the right direction and seeing results. Praise God!

Is there a next step you need to take? Please stop resisting, and do it cheerfully!

Not sure what that is? Try one of these from Colossians 3, my emphasis added.

v. 12: “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

v.13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another… Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

v.14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

v.15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

**And whatever you do, PLEASE, don’t forget to put on your pants!!**

Peaches, Sno-Cones, and Unexpected Grace

Peaches are loaded with nutrients, like potassium, and Vitamins A and C. They are also a good source of fiber. And sno-cones? Ummm…Not so much! They are comprised of sugary syrup, and other not-so-great ingredients…

Now, I am not going to bash sno-cones, but as a dietitian I certainly don’t promote or recommend them. In fact, no real nutritional comparison can be made! So, why link them together with peaches? Because of grace.

 Peaches in a Basket

Peaches remind me of the grace that comes with hospitality. My neighbor, Melissa, lives across the street. She recently brought us some amazing, “juice-dripping-down-your-face” fresh peaches. Melissa had some extras, and didn’t want to waste them. So, she graciously shared them with us. It was totally unexpected, but so appreciated!

I could have made something out of the peaches, though we ended up eating them in all their fuzzy glory. They didn’t last long enough! Yum!

We’ve had great “neighbor-friends” over the years. To start, we’ve shared meals and good stories. Neighbors have helped with yard work and snow removal from time to time. Some have hung pictures or changed light bulbs around the house. They’ve watered my plants; checked the front door for packages; and kept an eye on the house when we travel. A few have even watched Lydia for me in a pinch.

I am so thankful for the help!


A few days after the peaches, Lydia and I came across a local park event. It was an outdoor craft fair with many family-friendly events. We enjoyed a horse and carriage ride, music in the park, and perusing the booths. And yes, Lydia had her first sno-cone.

Lydia was excited to be at the park, as it was a last minute decision after our original plans fell through. It was an impromptu event for us, but I realized something. Many of the best times we have are the unplanned, in-the-moment ones.

Part of the definition of grace is that it is undeserved. There is an element of surprise as well—like an unexpected bonus that yields something good that would have otherwise been missed. Grace is in the simple things we so often overlook.

Back to the sno-cone. Lydia didn’t do anything special to deserve it. I was savoring God’s goodness, and enjoying the unexpectedly beautiful and unhurried day. Buying the sno-cone was merely an extension of that.

(For the record, Lydia really wanted to slurp up the leftover liquid (not juice!) at the bottom of the sno-cone cup. But, I declined since she was wearing a white shirt, and I knew would make a mess… And of course, she didn’t need it anyway!) 🙂

Thank You, God, for unexpected grace. Thanks for wonderful neighbors and friends, delicious peaches, and even sno-cones to remind me of the beauty and joy You provide. Help me slow down and notice. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Tomatoes and Better Days Ahead

I love fresh tomatoes—they are one of my favorite foods of summer. My dad and I are the only ones in our family who will eat them. So, my mom always grows them just for us. There is nothing better than vine-ripened tomatoes in the heat of an Illinois summer. Delicious! I pluck them right off the vine, and into my mouth they go. There is little chance that they’ll even make it inside. Sorry, Dad!

Here in North Dakota, I cannot seem to grow tomatoes successfully! It could be due to the shorter growing season or having less humidity… I might get a few tomatoes, but not nearly enough for my tastes.

Check out my poor tomato plant (pictured below). Knowing I enjoy tomatoes, my mom planted it for me the summer that Dave died (2013). As you can see it didn’t fare well!

I could have forgotten to water it in my grief…or maybe it was the mighty wind that knocked it over half a dozen times.

2013 Tomato Plant

I don’t know what is worse—its pathetic, withered look or the need to prop it up against my deck railing! Day after day, I would walk by it in a daze. I often failed to water it.

In some ways, it represented my life quite well at the time. Towards the end of summer, I took a picture of it, as a marker. Dismally, I thought, “I must look like this plant, down and out, a little worse for the wear.” I had no clear plan at the time. (Grief is like that.)

Soon, I noticed there was still fruit. Despite appearances, my poor tomatoes were still hanging on! As I waited on the Lord to renew my vision…even in my grief…I knew He would make something good (Jeremiah 29:11). In a sense this tomato plant brought me tremendous hope during those dark days.

Have you ever felt Life looked a little bleak? Has your hope withered as Life pressed in?

I’m so sorry. Like this tomato plant, we all experience rough times. Circumstances can change in an instant. I know. We get knocked down for many reasons. Whatever your loss or pain, will you let God handle it? He will make a glorious masterpiece, if you will let Him.

Lamentations 3:24 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” If you feel like a beaten up, wind-tossed tomato plant, there is hope!

Have confidence in God’s timing and goodness (see Psalm 27:13).

He loves you very much.

Father God, thank You for bringing me through, and giving me new direction. Your wonderful plan includes hope for today and a great future. The best is yet to come! Thank You for sustaining us with Your grace and power.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.