What to Do in Hard Times

I would wonder later if I had hugged him tight enough before he left.

I would put in laundry and wonder when I’d wash his again.

Wonder if that plane would get him the 16,000 kilometers home again, across the jungle, an ocean, the mountains, the prairie, wonder if he’d ever find his way back here to the farm again.

What if the someone you love doesn’t ever come home again?


It’s crazy what you think of when you wash piles of denims and sort the whites.

When the washing machine whirls around, around, I can almost feel how this world keeps turning and he’s somewhere far away and on it and I am here. And how someday it will turn without us, us a vapor and us no more here. but eternal.

You can’t get time back. Is that why the saints wrestle with God — until they see even hard times as holy times?

I will not let You go until You bless me.

When I pass his room, I stand in the doorway. He didn’t make his bed before he left. I want him to come home and fill those quilts again, bare feet dangling out the end.

I want him to whistle too loud and leave his books open everywhere with apple cores here and there, and I want him to follow me around the kitchen talking about Ron Paul and Mitt Romney and American politics even though we’re Canadian. I want him to keep opening up the fridge and scouring for something more.

I even want him here to tell him to stop teasing his brother and pick up his coat and only speak words that make souls stronger.

When you might not get any more good moments – you’d take even some bad. And I’d take the ugly with the beautiful because the hard stuff is the heat that refines.

Do I think of him more now that he’s gone — than when he was here?

Why do we not know how much we love until we’ve lost?

That’s what a man I knew said the year after they put a headstone on his son’s grave.

“Now I think of him everyday. Before I did not.”

I didn’t ask him –

Did he wish he had seen the gritty chronos time as gifted kairos time?


I gather clothes up off the floor of his room and pull the blankets up. I don’t want to think about the possibility of him not coming home.

My parents buried a child.

My husband’s parents, they buried two.

My father said that the day Aimee was killed, he looked across the fields and a neighbor kept plowing his dirt. Kept going about his work, breaking open the earth and turning it over.

When we’d have to cut open the earth and lay down a child, a daughter, a sister.

My father said he was madly wild to go over there and rip the keys right out of that tractor.

How could anyone go about ordinary time when nothing was now ordinary time?

Why do we not see that hard chronos time is holy kairos time until we don’t have any more time?

The washing machine, it just keeps spinning, spinning on and on.

I haven’t enjoyed all the moments – some of them have just about killed me. And now, if he didn’t come home and it does happen and I know, I would want even those back. It’s true: One child can keep you in contractions for decades and it can hurt to breathe.

But to wake to the moments and embrace the moments, all of them, the exhaustingly hard and the wildly good and the ugly beautiful, because God only comes to us through the moments. And He isn’t only in some moments, abandoning us in others. The saved are called to spend all of their lives to Him who paid it all.

It’s how many days now until he gets home?

And what mother doesn’t think it — what if he doesn’t?


I have to ask: if he never came home – would something in me be over? Would joy be over, would gratitude be over? Would sadness no longer be islands in my day, but my sea?

I would lose him and he would lose the witnessing of the trees budding out this spring. Lose his annual planting of the potatoes out in the garden. Lose the chance to bring home a girl someday with a ring.

I have to ask: Would I still care about the frogs when they came to the pond and sang in early May? Would it matter to me if we put seeds in the ground, if anything good came out of the earth again? Would I still listen to Dvorak’s eighth symphony or is there any music in this world that could pull notes up around a brokenness that I would never want to heal?

Be present – because the present is just that – a present. A gift. No one has to carpe diem, seize the day, of everyday chronos time — we can all grind our teeth through as many of the difficult moments we want – and miss who knows how much of our life? How do you know which moments are the kairos moments to seize — and the chronos ones to merely survive?

Maybe the ones you aren’t seizing are the ones that might change you?

What if your present was giving you more gifts than you ever imagined?

But maybe it isn’t so much about as carpe diem – seize the day.

Maybe it’s about this: God uses the day to seize us. God carpe diems.

God seizes the days: God seizes time and uses it as an instrument to transform. God seizes every moment to sculpt souls and shape lives and transform ashes into glory. What if isn’t so much about seizing kairos moments and surviving chronos moments — but seeing all as Christ-filled moments? That God seizes the moment to make me more like Christ and what if I seized more of the moments, because there is something of my Savior in them?

I stack his books on his desk.

I run my hand along his shelves, trace his handwriting on a list.

If he doesn’t come home… all I could do is remember him. Not experience him.

And I think that is partly why: That is why even hard everydays are holy experiences.

That doesn’t mean I’m not a mess and don’t miss far too much. I won’t feel guilt about it.

It’s just that I’d rather wake up.

I want to be present to the gifts here — before they are gone.


Because those days he is gone now?

I check email 1378 times, hoping to hear from him. It doesn’t matter that I know there’s no internet where he’s headed in the jungle. A word, a line – anything. Anything at all.

I jump every time the phone rings. I close my eyes and can hear his ridiculous laugh. Twice, I forget and set his plate at the dinner table.

After Mama buried her little one, she said she’d see a blonde little girl in a cart at the grocery store and just for a moment, she’d think she saw Aimee again. For a moment, it didn’t hurt so bad – or it hurt worse.

If the plane doesn’t ever bring him home, would I say it was God? Or would I say it wasn’t God, that something was beyond God, and He slumbered or was indifferent, or was powerless to do anything about it? Why would either answer seem to raise more questions?

Or — what if I had the questions all wrong?

What if all that mattered was to live with the scars of the unanswered questions, leaning into the answer —leaning into the God with the scars deep in His side and my name nail etched into the palm of His hand?

Our wounds may be our unanswered questions — answered only by the wounds of our God.

There were six teens from our chapel who flew half way round the world to serve in an Indonesian jungle. I count their six empty seats on Sunday morning. How do we know how this story will end? And maybe because of the Cross we always already know and all is well

Sunday after Sunday, our pastor has us open our Bibles to the book of Habbakuk.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

And I run my fingers again under these lines in Habbakuk. Could I do this? What would I do if He asked this? And doesn’t He? Though the fig tree does not bud…. I may not enjoy every moment but every moment I can joy in God. Does He ever leave us?

That’s what it says at the top of the page: Habbakuk. The name means wrestler.

To wrestle with God because the hard times are holy times. To not escape time, but stubbornly, fully embrace time, because this is how we stay engaged with God. When we don’t know how to hang on in hard times, to just grip hard to God.

The only ones who can rest in God are the one who have wrestled with GodI will not let you go until I you bless me.

That is what the pastor said: There is no tighter embrace than the grip of the wrestle.

Will he come home and I get to hug him long again?

Will get to rib him again and hear his laugh?

Will the fig tree bud or not…


Outside the church windows, the trees stand leafless in winter.

It’s there if I feel along His rib —  His wounds. And in the wrestle, in this God-embrace, I rest my hand there, in the deepness of the gape — in this grip of grace.

I let go and hold on to Him and all the holy moments just as they come, as many as He gives —

Watch it there out the window, how the wind winds itself tight and long around all the grey, bare trees, this wind sounding like a song….





So continuing to count 1000 Gifts in 2012, counting more of the endless, One Thousand Gifts…

Taking The JOY DARE to Fully Live — even when hard times come, because I don’t want to miss my life:

# 3110…  the way he’d come looking for me late: Mom?

#3111… the bare trees in the orchard

#3112…  her asking why and us simply praying because His presence is always the answer

#3113…  apologizing to sons for blowing it … again

#3114…  teenagers as wondrous as brand new babies when I have eyes to see

#3115…  us falling asleep with our sides hurting from laughing

#3116… eating lunch with my brother before he flies with two friends to Holland

#3117… red shoe polish

#3118… popcorn everywhere

#3119… would it be dishonoring to not murmur thanks to Him for using the broken down anyways?  #8 this week on the New York Times, 25 weeks

#3120… today: regardless of how hard it is, even now is holy because He is here and I believe…


Unspeakable, unending thanks be to God…

the book button

Take The JOY DARE for Februaryand Count 1000 Gifts in 2012 (maybe winning the NikonD90 camera would be a gift too?)

Thank-you is a word that can change you, your world — the whole world!

Share the joy?

oneThousandGifts-February{Download to print here}

{P.S.: Some were wondering where/how to chronicle their #1000gifts in 2012? Any way that works best for you:

in a private journal, with the free app, on your blog and join us in linking up here on the blog every Monday, on the free Year of Graces calendar, or on facebook or twitter (#1000gifts). I’ll be sharing thanks to God each day, Lord willing, on my personal facebook page and on the One Thousand Gifts facebook page — the community there is profoundly encouraging. You are more than welcome to join us! And yes, we will post a new Joy Dare Calendar here on the blog, the first of every month, Lord willing — you can use the Joy Dare Calendar for each month — or not at all.

The point is? Just count any 3 gifts a day — to count 1000 gifts in a year. That’s all. Any way that works for you! Just count your blessings!

And yes — we’ll be updating the blog with more information about the draw for the Nikond90 camera for those who complete the dare and count 1000 gifts in 2012! Open our eyes, Lord, Open our eyes! The Whole Earth is fully of Your Glory! }


Free Printables : 3 Ways to Find Joy this week

1. A Year of Graces {A Free 12 Month Gratitude Calendar} Click to print here
Picnik collagePicnik collage


2. Count all His Gifts Wherever You Are: {One Thousand Gifts Free App}:

Click here for the free #1000gifts app : The gift of joy for a friend? Print this card about the free app for a friend Picnik collage

3. 1 Paper = 1 Week of Joy
Tuck 1 sheet of paper in a pocket & jot down 7 gifts for 7 days:
(perfect booklet to cultivate the habit of the joy hunt for kids)

(folding instructions for booklet here)

Picnik collage


Join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts?

Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post.

Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!