Advent Week 4 ~ More Love for the Hurting

I’ve been looking forward to this Sunday in the Advent season. Today we focus our minds and hearts on love. It seems like reflecting on the love of God through Jesus is its own little wrapped gift after working through the other weeks of Hope, Peace and Joy. They all lead us right here….where we try to wrap our heads around just how outrageously loved we are by the maker of the universe…. the maker of us.

When I learned I was finally pregnant with my first child, after beginning to resign myself to the idea that motherhood might not be part of the plan for my life, it was the most glorious surprise! As I felt my boy grow and learned what foods or positions made him give little kicks of protest, I responded with care. Long before I ever saw his sweet face, he was forever mine (well…my husband’s too!) Before his arrival on the day of his birth, I dreamed and cared for him with a fierce love I could never have imagined, and for the first time I saw Mary, the mother of Jesus, from a very personal perspective. This woman who is integral to every telling of the Christmas story, angel messenger and all, was also a mother… just like me. And we both were surprised by and blessed by our sons, who would forever change the course of our lives.

And this is where I am often struck by the similarities of the seasons of Advent and Lent. While we rejoice at the birth of our savior, we also know from this side of history that just as Jesus entered the world in the humblest of ways, he would leave it by the lowliest means of execution. I know that’s not what we want to picture at Christmas! But it’s what gets me to the thoughts about love that have been swirling around my heart the past few days…

The entire God story is not only full of uncompromising, inexplicable love….it is love for his creation….love for US.

And I am reminded of Mary and I, and the incredibly deep love we had for our baby boys before they had ever drawn their first breath. And I type through blurry eyes now because we also both learned that on the other side of that love is the potential of unimaginable grief…

My list of specific beliefs and ways to understand God has grown considerably shorter in the years since the loss of my son. But what remains is pure gold, and one of those core beliefs is that God loves me – and you! I also believe with all my heart that all of the pain, grief, war, violence, hatred and division that seems to have seeped into all of the broken places of a broken creation has an expiration date, and that it will all be redeemed in the culmination of the greatest love story ever told. In fact, the redemption is at work even now!

I think in her mother’s heart, Mary knew that too, and maybe it helped with the sting of loss some, knowing she would see her son again one day and get to wrap her arms around his neck and maybe even remind him to eat something. =)

If your heart is turned more toward Lent than Advent this Christmas season, that’s OK. There’s just a hair’s breadth in between, in my opinion, and both are drenched in love – in the coming of Jesus, and in his suffering and sacrifice. Ultimately, both were acts on our behalf to gather us back to what creation was intended to be all along – perfect union with God.

You are loved…. I am loved…. we are loved!

And if you are having a hard time believing that truth for yourself today, it’s OK – I’ll believe it for you until you can open up to seeing how deeply important you are to God.

So much love,


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Advent Week 3 ~ More Joy for the Hurting

This morning in church as I looked out over the congregation singing “Joy to the World”, I was struck by the number of people who are in very hard places. Many have lost loved ones this past year, some very recently, and many others are caring for very ill family members or are battling serious illness themselves. I was moved at their faithfulness to keep showing up even when staying home would be so much easier, and mindful of those who would have loved to be with us but aren’t able to and the grief that brings. I felt the heaviness of it, but there was something else, something beautiful as well that I couldn’t quite identify.

As the Candle of Joy was lit, I knew there was something God wanted to teach me about joy. And the lesson begins, oddly enough, with suffering.

The message this morning was taken from Psalm 126 and opens with a beautiful declaration of joy by people who had experienced the rich blessings of God and whose “mouths were filled with laughter” and “tongues with songs of joy”. (v2) But it wasn’t just a person who was declaring…it was the people of God returning to Zion, agreeing that “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (v3) Easy enough to understand, right? God does incredibly great things for his people, and they respond with joy!

Except the song takes a turn in the following verses that forces us to take a deeper look at joy, which seems to have less to do with what it feels like, and more what it….looks like.

I was reminded that joy isn’t a feeling that is exclusive to the happy, and the “blessed” as we typically think of those things. This passage is telling the story of a community who at one time had been brimming with dreams of the future and enjoyed laughter and singing, assured of God’s provision and presence with them as His own people.

But the story doesn’t end there…

5Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Wait…..weren’t these the same people who had just been singing songs of joy because everything was just grand? And now they’re sowing tears like a sacred seed offering with full confidence the return will be plentiful and they’ll once again sing joyful songs?

Kinda turns joy on it’s head, right?

As I looked out over precious friends who brought their own sorrows into God’s house and sowed them in community with God’s people, I came a little closer to understanding joy in a deeper way. And I am very grateful.

I’m not going to pretend that lighting the Joy candle doesn’t also include sorrow for some, because for those with hurting hearts, it just does. I know it does mine. But this year, I’m leaning into Psalm 126 and finding joy in showing up and living life with others whose lives may also not be in a season of “everything is just grand”. And in that….in a way I can’t fully understand or express….there is great joy.

Jesus came for us, friends, not because we were doing just fine on our own, but because he knows without him we are lost. He understands our sorrows and he loves us so much he won’t for a second leave us. And I choose to sow my tears with the certainty that I am not alone and that God will redeem all that has been lost. And that’s a song of joy I can freely sing.

Hope, Peace and Joy,


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Advent Week 2 ~ More Peace for the Hurting

When our first child was a baby, he was what you might call a “good sleeper”, meaning he fell asleep with little encouragement and then usually slept through the night. And not only was he a good sleeper, (and perhaps to first-time, weary parents more importantly) a good waker-upper! It wasn’t unusual to wake up to the sounds of him playing in his crib or kicking his chubby little legs while being transfixed by the ponies floating from his overhead mobile.

When his little sister came along just 15 months later, without actually ever saying it out loud, I think we just assumed she would follow in her big brother’s sleep-steps….after all, she shared not only his cute, peaceful little room with the occasionally squeaky wooden floors, but they also shared the same DNA. Their parents obviously knew a thing or two about sleeping babies!

I think you’re probably already ahead of me on this one… Imagine our surprise when baby girl fought sleep like a cranky tiger cub and woke up demanding immediate human attention, preferably from a parent who would pick her up and provide steady interaction! I soon learned that the only way to help her go to sleep (and stay asleep) was to attend to her whimpering before a full-out squall ensued, and what she seemed to respond to the absolute best was to have her tiny little back patted as she drifted off. But as soon as I would v e r y s l o w l y back away from her bed toward the exit (did I mention the squeaky wooden floor?!) she seemed to sense a shift in the force, her head would lift up and she would look at me with quivering lips and eyes that seemed to say,

“Please don’t leave me…”

This is the second Sunday in Advent, one in which we light the candle of peace and reflect on the gift of peace brought to us in the form of the Christ child. And as I’ve been thinking about what to write for this Sunday, rather than peace specifically, the word that keeps coming to me is assurance. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that, but while thinking about what assurance might have to do with peace, I remembered baby girl and her need to have her back patted to go to sleep. What she really needed wasn’t the rhythmic sensation on her back as much as she just needed assurance that I was still there – that she wasn’t alone. And it suddenly became clear to me what assurance has to do with peace.

Sometimes the path to peace has to begin with knowing we aren’t alone. Sometimes we need to be assured that even in the chaos of life, through loss and illness, through broken relationships and stress of all kinds – Jesus is with us – right here in all of it, and he’s not impatiently looking for the exit so he can get some rest! The true peace that came when Heaven invaded earth that first Christmas didn’t promise the absence of conflict, but provided assurance that we never, ever need to face it alone, and that is where we find peace – in the knowing it’s going to be all right.

What an amazing gift that is!

Oh, how I would love for Jesus to give me some back pats to help me settle my fears and quiet my mind so I can truly find rest for body and soul, and the truth is, he has! It just comes in the form of meditating on his word, remembering his faithfulness, talking about him with other believers and most importantly, just talking to HIM, and, once assured he is still there and isn’t going anywhere….resting in his peace.

If the idea of peace seems like a long shot for your hurting heart this year, I so understand – I truly do! So, maybe the reason I found the word “assurance” to talk about peace is just for you (and for me, too.) Let’s allow ourselves to receive complete assurance that not only are we not alone, but that healing takes place when we least expect it as we rest in the assurance of his presence…and find peace.

Peace and love,


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Advent Week 1 ~ More Hope for the Hurting

Today is the first Sunday in the 2022 Advent season, and I was blessed to spend a portion of it in a place of worship that has become home and with people whom I love. I watched as my pastor/husband lit the Hope candle, the first of four advent candles nestled around a pine wreath encircling the Christ candle in the center, and felt comforted in the familiarity of tradition.

As I watched the flame flicker, then steady its glow, I remembered our first pastoral Christmas in the small, A-framed church in the Oregon mountains where I learned so many lessons about ministry that would serve me very well through the years. For instance, I learned to never get between a church decorator and her Chrismas doves that hung from the rafters in their annual hovering from on high and how to turn simple craft supplies into spectacular Bible story illustrations. I was taught the wisdom in relaxing the grip of expectations when my young children acted like actual children rather than iconic images of the holy family. Most of all, I learned how to trust God to take care of our little family, and the ways in which he so faithfully showed up for us still astound me to this day.

Photo by Vinu00edcius Vieira ft on

Then I began to recall Christmas memories of other churches we’ve been blessed to serve, remembering decorations, traditions and all the many pageants with 9-year-old wise men and little white-robed angels with glittery halos. So many Christmases….so many traditions….so many pageants!

And then it came….the kickback to nearly every happy memory involving church, because for us, church also means family, and family means the Warren 4. And right there in the middle of warm and lovely memories of Christmases past, came the familiar sting of loss that the 4 are now 3.

And I am once again reminded that the days of our lives aren’t divided into neat and predictable compartments like the tiny doors of an Advent calendar, waiting to be opened to reveal treats and fulfilled dreams. All too often, life also includes closed doors…dark passages…hard seasons that can feel like they will never end.

I’ve been there. Truth is, sometimes I’m still there. And in those places, when I can still my heart long enough to reflect, I am reminded of all the times in my life when God has faithfully shown up, time and time and time again. This is where I find my hope these days not in everything working out the way I expect it to or for every prayer to be answered as I want it to, but in taking a longer view of the goodness, the love and the faithfulness of God.

Hope came the day Jesus was born, and he’s not going anywhere. He is Emmanuel – God with us. That’s where I find my greatest hope and where I pray you will as well.

So, to those whose hearts are heavy and hurting right here on the first Sunday in Advent, I’m with you. I see you and I choose to hope with you in the One who has never once failed to walk with us into the darkest night.

Jesus – Emmanuel – God with us.

That’s a hope we can believe in.

So much love,


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Mountains and Marathons….

Toms Mountain

There are certain days throughout each year that are noted, observed and joyfully celebrated.

My first child, Joseph Brett Warren, greeted the world on July 9, 1988, and though he’s been gone from this earth five years now, we (along with so many others) still celebrate “Brett Day” on his birthday and hopefully always will! We remember the gift of his amazing, loving heart even as we continue to miss him so dearly.

July 9th is a good day – the day the world gained a Brett!

July 15th, the day the world said goodbye to him is not…yet, here it is once again and all the many excellent coping skills I’ve learned along this path of grief barely make a scratch on this day.

It’s hard to reframe the worst day of our lives to be anything else but just that, but today I’m not content to hold my breath for these 24 hours until the calendar mercifully turns to the 16th. Today – 5 years after what our family literally does refer to as “the Worst Day”, is going to be different.

I’ve chosen today to share a thing….a really, really big thing! I’m going to explain how this coming November 3rd has everything to do with July 15th….

On Sunday, November 3rd I’ll be joining over 50,000 others to do what will undoubtedly be the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done – I will be walking in the New York City Marathon.


It’s outragious.

It’s absurd.

I’m not prepared.

I’m not an athlete.

I don’t belong there.

But I’m going anyway. Here’s why….

Brett was granted a spot in the NYC Marathon for November of 2014, but he didn’t get the chance to complete that race.

He would have been amazing.

It would have made sense for him.

Brett would have been prepared.

Brett was an athlete.

Brett would have belonged there.

I’m SO not any of those things. But I AM Brett’s mom. And for some reason I may never understand I am compelled to finish this race for my son. ❤

For five years we have had to greet each day without the 4th Warren. It’s been its own marathon that seems to never end and a mountain far too steep to climb. And yet, with God’s strength and grace we somehow are, inch by inch, prayer by prayer and step by step.

This is a hard thing, ya’ll. But I am certain of it, and if I have learned anything along this journey through grief and loss it’s that God continues to do the impossible when I open my heart to the things He is speaking to me and just try….

Life is hard. So many of you have shared your own stories of grief, sorrow, healing and living through it all, and I will carry them with me as we face this challenge together.

With great love,



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Love for the Hurting ~ Advent Four

And just like that….it’s Christmas Eve!

Before we know it the decorations that were put up only weeks or days ago (or in my case, yesterday!) will be wrapped up and packed away for another year. But while we’re still anticipating Christmas there’s something that’s been on my heart all week and I do pray I can find words to adequately express it…..

It’s about disappointment. (I know this is supposed to be about love, but I’ll get there!)

We’ve been exploring the advent themes of hope, peace, joy and now love together this year through the honest lens of being in a place where these things aren’t easy to pick up and put on because the calendar says it’s time. If you’ve been following an Advent blog for the hurting, it most likely means you are, and it’s for you that I’ve written every word. ❤

Having back to back tragedies isn’t the norm for most families, and there are still days where I long to turn the clock back and warn everyone of what’s to come….to seek shelter and cover my children with my own life. Any mother would – but of the many choices we are given in this beautiful life, the clock-turning-back thing isn’t one of them. (Believe me….God and I have had extensive talks on this one….He patiently insists it’s not a good idea!)

So, when grief began to ease it’s clutches around my heart just a bit, there was something that seemed to grow in that place for a while, less distinguishable but just as painful. It took some time before I could put a word to it, but eventually I realized what that feeling was……was disappointment.

It’s a common emotion that everyone can identify with and one that I’ve had fierce battles with in recent years. It basically means feeling let down by an unmet expectation. (And when you’re a person that tends to plan and perhaps over-anticipate , expectations can become huge disappointments when not met.) So it’s been on my mind of late, and it recently occurred to me that disappointment is a huge part of grief. Which leads me to Mary. As in the mother of Jesus. =)

If any mother in history had reason to be disappointed, it had to be Mary. I don’t know of any other woman who had an angel sent from God to proclaim a miraculous pregnancy and that – oh yea – her baby would be the savior of the world. When she agreed to this angelic proposal I’m sure she didn’t see a manger in her child’s future….or those years on the run from Herod….or a nomadic son teaching from hillsides and causing upheaval in the Jewish community – her community.

She didn’t see a brutal crucifixion of her beautiful, kind, angelicaly promised boy.

Disappointment. So hard for her. So hard for us.

Let’s take a collective deep breath here and admit that whatever has left us hurting this season is in part an unmet expectation. We saw a different future. We believed in a different promise. We don’t know why something has happened and we want to go back and change everything. It’s OK to feel those things – it’s only when we face them that we can begin to heal. And now finally comes the love part….

God knows, dear ones, and he cares! None of the heartaches, the grief, the desires to go back in time, the disappointments….none of these are surprises to God. He knows our brokenness and he knows our questions are real, and His love for us weaves through and covers every part of our suffering. Scripture doesn’t speak of any other angelic conversations Mary or Joseph had during the whole 9 months of pregnancy, nor while whey were on the road to Bethlehem, nor while they were trying to turn a stable into a nursery. They were on their own and had to be wondering what the deal was. They had done a very hard and brave thing in agreeing to this whole arrangement and where was God now? The baby was born, presumably with the help of Joseph instead of a doula, and none of it was planned. Talk about unmet expectations!

And then something happens no one could have expected. Shepherds show up at the stable/nursery and tell Mary and Joseph that angels told them all about the birth of Jesus and they were compelled to come and see. That had to have brought such relief! Finally….a sign of confirmation that it wasn’t all a big mistake. God hadn’t forgotten them – He was at work the whole time, even when they were confused and afraid and felt alone.

I can’t explain how, but I know with everything in me….that God loves me and loves you. He’s provided all we need out of his deep, deep love for and commitment to us, and even when I don’t understand – even in my disappointment – I trust Him. I believe He is at work in my life (and in yours) even when we can’t see. Shepherds may not show up at my door tonight to remind me that God hasn’t forgotten his plans for me (though that would be AWESOME!) but I don’t really need them to. He’s given me “signs” all around me in the kindness of friends and the beauty of scripture and most of all in the ever-present, intimate relationship I have with Jesus – the same Jesus who was born in the stable/nursery and was crucified out of that same love for me. Such amazing love!

My prayer for you today, tomorrow and in all the days to come is that you know you are loved, that you are seen and heard and that you know you are never alone. You can count on it. Love does that, ya know. It may not come how we expect it, but it always comes when we need it.

Thank you for taking this little journey with me through these weeks of advent – your companionship has been a blessing, and your stories have and will continue to be held in my prayers and my heart. God has loved me through you this season!

All the Christmas love,

Shellie ❤

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Joy for the Hurting ~ Advent Three

Joy for the hurting.

Joy……for the hurting…. 



Hardly seems fair, does it? And trust me, I can feel you across the bits and pixels and bytes (I have no idea what those things are – they just sound computer-y) but I invite you to stay with me on this one. I’m figuring it out myself! But I think I may have taken a few steps closer in understanding. So, let’s look at it together, OK?

I’ve been doing lots of reflecting lately, pondering how we get from here to there in life, and it’s still a mystery to me how resiliency works, but I am living proof that it does. The first Christmas after the four Warrens became three, all I felt, (along with a desperate clinging to the other two Warrens) was a sense of numbness and longing so deep I couldn’t see the end of it. The idea of finding joy in the midst of so much sadness was like looking for something I used to have but now had no idea where I’d left it. But time doesn’t stop for joy or for pain and mercifully moved along that Christmas season. And the next. And still another. And while joy and I are still doing that side-eye stare thing that my dog does when he wants to see if I’m still looking at him, it’s no longer my enemy. 

This has been a year of growth – of slowly learning to live again, and that no longer feels like quite the betrayal it once did. And one of the things I’ve been up to is completing the college education that I began decades ago. It’s been hard and has come with a price, not only of tuition, but of lost time for others and lots and lots of sleep! But it’s also been the pivoting point on my grief journey that has given me reason to look ahead rather than only behind……

So this past weekend I stood along with several hundred other black-robed graduates in a huge arena, listened to speeches about potential and took that walk across the stage that was the culmination of effort and much loving support. Then something happened that I didn’t expect….as the graduating class of 2018 was conferred and we were invited to move our tassels from the right to the left, I felt such a sense of… There it was, probably where it’s been all along, but like so many other things it was just hidden above the fog. It felt good to feel it again, and to know that I still could.


After a full day of celebrating and time spent with friends and family who have supported me so faithfully and graciously, I finally settled down at my computer later that evening, still feeling full of love and gratitude for the turn my life is taking. And just like that, came the quick, hot, familiar tears of grief and longing for the one Warren who was not there to share it with. Not that I’d forgotten for even a second (I’d even tucked a picture of the four of us under my cap!)  But even as I gave myself permission to have that deep cry that had been building all day, I realized that for the first time, grief wasn’t eating up the goodness of the day as it usually does in its hungry Pac-Man sort of way. Joy was standing up to grief and both were somehow present in that moment.

Because it’s hard to feel joy doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Because we grieve whatever it is we are missing this Christmas season doesn’t mean that joy still doesn’t belong to us. Much like knowing peace even when everything isn’t peaceful, I have learned that we can know joy though everything isn’t joyful. 

Oh friends, I understand that the last thing we need is stories of other people’s joy when ours is still lost…..It’s easy to believe that the lights, music and colors of Christmas aren’t for us any longer, but that’s not true.  It’s OK to enjoy what we can and save the rest for later, because the true meaning of Christmas, the reason for those lights, the music and all the rest is with us in the person of Jesus Christ, and He cares far more about us and our hearts than any of those things anyway. He is for us, on our side, always with us. He loves us and isn’t turned away by our sorrow, in fact he is drawn to it and lives through every moment with us. He bought that joy for us and is abundantly able to teach us how to find it and how to keep it.

So this is what I’ve learned about joy; it isn’t the opposite of sadness. It is what Jesus brings to us where we are even as we heal and learn to hope. Give it a chance. Let joy stand up to your grief, your loss, your pain and see if they can’t be present in the same space together for you as well.

You are never alone!

So much love,

Shellie ❤ 


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Peace for the Hurting ~ Advent Two

A couple of years ago the vicar and I spent a cold and snowy December weekend at Yosemite National Park. We arrived late in the evening on a starless night that was very, very dark. I’m not speechless very often (just ask the vicar) but the next morning when I opened the door and stepped outside, there were no words that could possibly describe the wintery awe of snow-covered ground, snow-laden trees, snow-capped granite cliffs…well, you get the idea. It was sheer magical magnificence, and I couldn’t wait to get out and explore! For two days we bundled up and hiked trails that were “mostly” marked – when they weren’t covered with snow – and just took in the sheer beauty all around us. On the second day I wanted to spend some time alone before it was time to head down the mountain, and set out on a 3-mile hike with little more than a trail map and a prayer. There are many things I remember in vivid detail about that hike, but none of them surpass the sense of absolute quiet, the only sounds being the crunch of snow beneath my boots and the occasional plop of falling snow from the branch of a pine tree. That was it – no people, no cars, no machinery…just the occasional sound of the river, and even that seemed to be muffled in the same blanket that hushed everything under the weight of freshly fallen snow. I’ve never experienced that kind of peaceful quiet in the outdoors, and it was truly profound. 

Christmas traditions are such a large part of the season, and for the vicar’s family, there are added traditions such as cleaning up after the Christmas Eve service, which for most years ended at midnight. After the sanctuary was straightened, the candles were out, the luminaries stored away, the doors locked and the remaining bread and juice finished off by the youngest two Warrens, it was time to go home and…..finish wrapping presents! It wasn’t unusual to finally fall into bed after 2:00am, but before that, were always those beautiful, sacred, peaceful moments when everything had finally been done and I knew that the next day would be just for us – sometimes I would stay up even longer just to sit in front of the tree in the stillness of the early morning hour just to hold on to that feeling….

Recently I was blessed to be able to spend a few hours with a newborn baby, and what a joy it was! It’s been such a long time since I’ve just held one so little for as long as I wanted and to my delight this tiny guy was a snuggler! I leaned back into a corner of the couch, laid his swaddled little body on my chest, and for the next hour I just listened to him breathe and felt his tiny heart beating as he slept completely at peace in my arms.


The word can mean so many different things, and for some it’s the last thing they are feeling during the holidays. This Advent series is especially devoted to those who are hurting, and there is something I want you dear ones to know about peace….

The hushed trail I hiked that snowy December was at one time charred and devastated by forest fire.

The sacred early morning moments between Christmas Eve and Christmas will never hold the same joy when one of the Warrens isn’t here to wake up to.

That precious tiny baby boy I got to hold was born drug addicted and is being nurtured by a loving foster family.

Friends, if we define peace as the feeling we get when everything is right with the world, we may never find it. But if we can dare to step a little further and think of peace as more than a feeling we get when all is right with the world, just maybe we can learn to find peace living alongside the pain and the loss. In that place, peace isn’t just for the joyful or the mentally healthy or for picture perfect families, but for you and for me, wherever we are and however we feel.

That silent night we sing about this time of year? It came following the fear of no place to safely bring Jesus into the world. It came following the pain of childbirth. Peace didn’t come because everything was right in the world. It came precisely because it wasn’t….

On this second Sunday of Advent, when we light the candle of Peace, I encourage you to do just that. Find a candle where you are, strike a match and light the flame of peace. Not because you feel it. But because even if you don’t, it’s yours just the same. He knows, friends….he knows how difficult it is for us to hold onto peace when it hurts so much.  But the good news is that Jesus didn’t come to bring us peace. He came to be peace. And no matter what happens, no matter what it “feels” like….he’s not going anywhere. If he spoke to the wind and waves to calm and they did, he can certainly quiet our hearts. So, my prayer for all the hurting this season is to know the one who is peace, and in Him to find hope and healing. You are never alone!

Much love,

Shellie ❤ 

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Hope for the Hurting ~ Advent One

There are times when you know something makes no sense – that you can’t possibly – that there is absolutely no time – that it wouldn’t be up to your standards – that (fill in whatever excuse handed to God as though it would make any difference….).

That’s how I’m feeling about writing through this Advent season. Though I miss blogging dearly, writing for the last couple of years has been consumed with essays, research projects, and zillion-page finals, leaving little time to sleep, let alone find inspiration to write something that won’t even be graded! But I’ve learned that when a thought won’t leave, when it keeps pressing on my heart and finding its way into everything else I’m thinking about, it’s time to put aside what I “can’t possibly do”, surrender my excuses and start listening. So it is that I’m writing blog posts for each of the four Sundays of Advent.

Christmas! It is beauty and light and tradition and story and family and baking and gifts and shepherds and pine trees in the living room and presents that we may or may not be able to afford. But above all, Christmas is hope. And the reason I believe God has pressed me so to share these few hastily written words is because many are just not finding it. So many friends come to mind….too many….for whom Christmas this year holds little more than pain, and hope seems so very far away. It feels like a betrayal to see what we believe to be everyone else’s perfect everything….they seem happy and healthy and full of blessings with homes spilling over with family and friends, feasts and laughter.

They are full. We feel empty. And where is the hope in that?

So, this first post of 2018’s Advent season won’t be for everyone. It won’t even be for most. But it is for those who feel left out and lonely. It’s for those who are struggling to make sense of life in general, and for whom the holidays just seem to mock what they are already feeling (or not feeling.) So if you’re still reading….it’s just for you. ❤

There are some things I’ve learned about suffering. True, they are MY things, because no two situations and no two hearts are exactly the same, but there are things that are common to the path through pain and it’s so important to know….really know, that you aren’t alone.

  • No one knows how you feel, even if they say they do
  • It’s OK to feel whatever you are feeling, even if it’s anger at God
  • It’s OK to be bewildered as to why God isn’t fixing everything as you know He could
  • God holds every tear – not just those of sorrow, but of bitterness, envy and disappointment
  • Even though you can’t see it……hope is here.

I remember one Christmas when I was about 9 or 10. All I really wanted was a Barbie (don’t judge.) I didn’t care if she was sporty or glamorous, I just wanted a Barbie to dress up in the evening gowns I had crafted out of old knee socks, so that was what I asked for that Christmas and hoped beyond all hope I would find her under the tree on Christmas morning. When it was my turn to open a present I went straight for the 12 inch tall, rectangular box that could only ever be a Barbie! With fluttery heart I unwrapped the paper, wondering if she would be blonde or brunette…..and what she was…..was a “Fashion Doll”.  ’70’s girls know what I”m talking about. It was the doll that was the substitute for Barbie when you couldn’t afford a Barbie, usually purchased in drug stores. I tried to hide my disappointment but I’m sure it was all over my face. The Fashion Doll was the same proportions as a Barbie. She had clothes and tiny shoes that never stayed on and a purse to hook on her permanently outstretched hand. So close to the real thing. But she wasn’t a Barbie. She was a Fashion Doll.

When God saw the world that He so lovingly and passionately created suffering in ways that were never intended, He sent a healer. And hope was born. I love that from the very beginning Jesus was a revolutionary. He turned the world upside down and started the process of setting things right again. He started the process…..and that’s the tricky part, isn’t it?  The nature of hope is that you can’t see the thing you’re hoping for, and when you are hurting it can seem to take a very, very long time for things to feel right again.

For many, maybe for you, this is a Fashion Doll Christmas. There are lights and trees and carols and pine trees in our living rooms and so much is almost like the things we remember and wish we had……almost. But it’s not. And it hurts. And it’s hard to find hope when we’re struggling to get through the painful days that used to hold so much joy.

But the thing about Jesus being the Healer who came to set things right again is that he gets it. He knows suffering. He knows despair. He knows loss. He knows us. And he’s come to not just offer hope but to be hope.  I’ve prayed a thousand prayers that my heart could feel whole again, that there would be an end to the sorrow. That hasn’t happened yet, but what I’ve learned is this; my hope can’t be in things or people or plans, because those aren’t guaranteed to last. At best, they’re substitutes for the real thing. My truest and only hope is in the one who knows me best and loves me most, and I don’t have to wait for the perfect day when all is right again. Hope is here. Hope is here, for you and for me….for all the brokenness in this really big world.

At the beginning of this Advent season when we aren’t really sure what to anticipate, but we know that nothing feels the way we want it to be…..know that you aren’t alone. You are seen and held and dearly loved because Hope isn’t out there ahead somewhere.

Hope is here. He is here.

And that’s something to hold on to.

So much love,

Shellie ❤


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Giving Up Fear

Tonight marks the fourth of the forty days before Easter commonly referred to as “Lent.”  And I’m not writing a daily Lenten blog….and that feels….strange.

I first began the blog site in 2012 in response to a challenge from a young woman fighting cancer to “do something hard – something you’re pretty sure you can’t do” to stand in solidarity with her as she found the courage to undergo treatment.  Thinking of something to write about for 40 straight days – and then posting it for the world to see – seemed to fit the “pretty sure you can’t do” criteria, and so it began.

I wrote another series of 40 days in 2015, a year following Kelsey’s accident that changed all of our lives.  Daily I sought God for a word – a thought – a hint of something that might be useful or meaningful first of all to myself, and then hopefully to anyone reading.  It was a transforming and powerful experience as day after day God came through and met me in some very hard places with hope and healing.

Then in 2016 – less than a year after the loss of our son, Brett – I once again found myself blogging through the days of Lent.  This time it wasn’t as much to encourage others as it was for my own personal spiritual survival.  I was lost.  I was lonely.  And I was oh so desperate to feel God’s presence and guidance as I daily sought – and many late nights all out fought – to hear His voice and find my footing.  And you know what happened?  Once again, He showed up.  The God of heaven and earth, the creator of all things and the savior of the entire world – met me in the dim light of my Dell laptop night after night as I cried out to Him for hope – for healing – for some word that would get me to the next day.

2017 is a different kind of year for me – transitional would probably be a good word.  Even as recently as a month ago I had every intention of writing another Lenten series – in fact had been really looking forward to it!  But in the blink of an eye I’ve gone from exploring the idea of going back to school to actually being IN school and with that has come lots of demands on my time.  So, though I am a bit disappointed at not writing again this year, I am also kind of in awe at what God has managed to do without my even being fully aware of it.  I’ve been praying for so long for hope – for something to make me look forward to the next day and the next chapter in my life.  And suddenly, here I am…so busy I don’t have time to do something I truly love because I am doing other things that I have always wanted to do!  (How do you do that, God?) 

So, once I became reconciled to the idea that writing this year wasn’t the best idea, that left me wondering just how I was going to observe this time that has come to mean so much to me.  After spending some time thinking of things to “give up” or things to “add to” my life for 40 days, nothing seemed to feel quite right.  So as I was out for a long walk recently I was asking God what He would like for me to focus on for this season and my mind kept wandering to the future and what might – and might not – happen to my little family and myself.  Then I would shake my head – pick up the pace – refocus and ask God again for an idea for Lent.  Again, I felt the anxiety and fear of the unknown creep into the deepest places of my heart and interrupt all the great intentions of my “what do to for Lent” prayer!  Ever been there?

It was out of that frustration of not being able to focus in prayer because of all of the anxiety and fear of the unknown that kept invading my prayer time that I finally heard God speak quietly but firmly:

“Give that to me.”

“What?  Give what to you?”

That….the worry – the anxiety – the fear of things you can’t see yet.”

“Um….I don’t think you understand how this Lent thing works, God.  You see, I give up something like coffee or chocolate or my time.  Or maybe I add something to my life like a specific service or act of kindness.  See?”

“Those are your ideas….not mine.”

“But how in the world do I give up fear?”

“Trust me….I’ll show you….”

So, there you have it.  So often my mind and heart race ahead to all of the “what if”s and before I know it my heart is pounding and fear has taken me to ridiculous places that I know God doesn’t have planned for me.  But when you’ve lost much you worry about losing more – about the other shoe that feels destined to drop – and it’s so easy to let fear rob you of peace.  So, though I don’t know how exactly, I’m committed to at least try.  That’s all God wants.  Just to try – to come to Him first with my concerns about family and future and faith….and to trust Him.  And so, I’m giving up fear for Lent.  For the remainder of these 40 days whenever I feel that familiar dread come creeping into my head and heart like an unwanted pest I’m going to grab it, hold it up to God and let it go.  Faith over fear.  Trust over anxiety.  Peace over chaos.  It was God’s idea….so I leave it to Him to supply what I’ll need.

Oh, friends….life can be so hard!  But God knows….He’s been there before us and is with us and goes beyond all the suffering that ever has been or will ever be.  He really does love us and wants to teach us a better way to navigate and overcome.  Will you join me?  Let’s let our faith be bigger than our fear!


Shellie ❤

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear….”

I John 4:18


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