Midwife to the Soul

The final labor has begun.
The Creator sends a midwife in his stead.
One of compassion, strength and wisdom.
She whispers to the laborer,
Do not fear.
Eternal Peace is on the way.
New life is almost here.

Questions from anxious loved ones flood her.
When will the suffering end?
How much more must we endure?
Her tears cascade with their's as she confirms,
Eternal Peace is on the way.
New life is almost here.

Gentle hands caress tense muscles.
Melodic words coach panted breaths.
Loving arms uphold the broken.
Eternal Peace is on the way.
New life is almost here.

The midwife cradles the laborer
as the vigil stretches into hours.
Let go, dear one. Rest.
Eternal Peace is on the way.
New life is almost here.

The laborer exhales and is still.
Weeping fills the room.
The mid-wife affirms
Eternal Peace is here.
New life has just begun.

She baths the mortal body
the laborer has cast-off.
The midwife closes her eyes
and imagines how it must
feel to receive eternal Peace
when new Life has just begun.


     Without warning, the unexpected came. Grief wounds once healed were ripped open. The pain seeped into every crevice. Well-meaning friends offered words meant to comfort and encourage, but they fell on her ears as trite and judgmental.     

     In her pain, she grabbed a beautiful vase and slung it against the wall, shattering it. She screamed as she picked up a blue glass and dropped it on the floor. She continued to weep as she chose a yellow glass bowl and bashed it against the other wall. The confusion, the anger, the hurt lay among the broken pieces of glass. She fell to the ground and released hot angry tears. Her body heaved as suffocating loss imploded.
     Finally emptied of all feeling, she collapsed in silence. The sun set. Darkness came. She remained still. Numb. Spent. Exhausted. 
   Just when she thought the blackness would have her, the sun rose. Love breathed warmth on her. Gentleness caressed her. She knew the touch. It was her Creator’s. The all-knowing, forever-loving One. She sighed as He tenderly stroked her hair. Resting her head against his chest, she gazed at the broken glass that was wet with her tears.
     Her Father hugged her and then gently moved her away. She watched in awe as He began sifting through the shards of glass, discarding some while rescuing others. He worked meticulously, ever so patient. He glanced over at her, and without a word, he nodded reassurance.
      Transfixed by Compassion, her pain-etched forehead softened. Her lips slowly formed a hint of a smile. The Comforter continued to work, arranging her brokenness. Piece by broken piece. When He was done, he winked at her and miraculously all the pieces fused to create a beautiful kaleidoscope. He raised the stained-glass to the window and commanded the sun to shine through it. The beams poured through the masterpiece. Her Father invited her to dance- a dance of new beginnings. 
     Whatever you’re facing today, please know a loving God sees you. He hears your cries. He is here to hold you as He creates something beautiful from your grief and brokenness. 

“He hath made everything beautiful in his time.”  Ecc. 3:11

It's All About the Number, And I'm Okay With That

 I don’t like to focus on numbers, but this time of year it’s inevitable. This may surprise you, but even hospices obsess over numbers. Is the census growing? Can we remain a viable hospice? Most of the time, I do a pretty good job keeping first things first. After all, this number isn’t a dollar amount or quantity sold—It’s a human life. Every time our number goes up, another family is facing a heartbreaking new reality. Still, I have a year-end goal to achieve.
     As I lay in bed this morning, pondering my number—the corporate-set mark, discouragement seeps in and I become disgusted with myself. I don’t want to be this ambitious person fixated on a target. The old saying comes to mind. “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” I understand the proverbial quote is encouraging us not to lose sight of the whole by fixating on the details. But maybe, at least in this situation, it’s backward.  I should focus on the individual, not overall number. I can’t see the trees for the forest! But the tree is what’s important!  Especially when this tree has a name. It’s a person—a person with a story. 
     I smile as my church’s philosophy comes to mind. NewSpring often faces criticism for being a mega church focused on numbers. Addressing the accusation, Pastor P unashamedly says, “Yes, we focus on growth and numbers, because every number has a name. Every name has a story, and every story matters to God.” Oh, how I love these words!
     I close my eyes as I release the pressure and let the words apply to hospice and my goal. I realize it’s not about being successful through achieving a magic number. It’s about being part of someone’s story. 
     So today, I’m okay with being all about the numbers. Because every number has a name. Every name has a story, and every story matters to God. What a privilege for our hospice team to walk alongside people as they write their final chapter. 
     As the year comes to a close, what are you focused on? I pray you find a way to let go of the stress and find rest. The Author of our life story longs to fill us with peace. I pray you experience His love during Christmas--the season where the number One is all that matters. One babe in a manger, One Savior of the world. One who came to earth so our story can be neverending, because just when the world types "The End", He whispers, "This is only the beginning."

Eternal Beginnings

     Air gushes into Marie’s lungs, and she breathes in deeply for the first time in months. She exhales fully with no pain. No coughing. Where did the oxygen mask go? A clean fragrance of lavender fills the hospice room as her eyes peep open. She stares at a prism of light slowly dancing across the popcorn ceiling. It stops just above her head where the mesmerizing beam grows until it covers the room.
     Warmth fills Marie’s belly and travels through her, consuming her. Her contracted legs straighten, and as she effortlessly points her toes, she giggles like a dreamy girl trying on her first ballet slippers. Swinging her legs over the side of the hospital bed, she sits up with ease. Marie waves a graceful hand through the air as she stretches long, feminine fingers. She flexes her wrist to admire freshly manicured nails, shiny with a hint of pink—just the way she likes them. No, wait. That was when she was young, long before the pull of drugs and prostitution.
     Marie runs the back of her hand down her cheek—a cheek that is no longer sagging with the creases of abuse. Her skin is as soft as velvet. She inhales as much air as possible, and like a playful toddler, her cheeks swell like a blowfish. She holds the breath captive as she looks down at her shimmering, pale pink gown. Marie frees the air and it escapes in boisterous laughter. Pure euphoria!
     Giggles pour out unbridled as Marie stands. She extends strong arms toward the ceiling. Transparent glass slowly replaces the popcorn plaster. She stretches her neck and arches her back, eyes fixed above. She begins floating upward.
     A breeze teases her silky gown against her legs, and it blows around her ankles. Marie wonders how she will pass through, but there is no fear—only fascination. When she is but inches away, the glass ceiling shatters into soft translucent flakes. Marie catches several on her fingertip and looks closer. They are like snowflakes—each one uniquely beautiful. "Diamond flakes," she whispers.
     Marie gazes into the expansive sky as she glides upward. The sound of friendly whisperings grows louder and builds into a crescendo of victorious singing. A flute, violin and other stringed instruments join the symphony. One voice reveals itself, echoing loud above the others. "Sweet Nana!" Marie greets her warmly. 
     Nana beams like an angel. “You finally made it! I told you I would see you just over the horizon.” Nana is young and beautiful—absolute perfection. How is it possible to contain such pure happiness? People are toasting, singing, and dancing as they take turns hugging Marie. 
     Suddenly, everything is hushed. The sound of footsteps becomes clear. The crowd parts and Marie stands in awe as the epitome of Righteousness approaches, but there is no reproach. Marie feels no fear. No shame. The Creator casts all-seeing, forever-loving eyes upon her. She inhales the fragrance of Love and realizes how it feels to be adored. She falls to her knees in gratitude, but He gently lifts her in one arm as He sweeps the other through the air releasing pastels of yellow, blue, purple, and pink. Marie snuggles against his chest as Comfort fills her. She turns her head to watch the bursting colors twirl and dance—the dance of new beginnings. Her Father looks into Marie’s eyes, smiles and kisses her lightly on the head. He turns and nods lovingly at the crowd. The party erupts with applause as the Artist paints an exquisite sunrise to welcome Marie into her forever.

Hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of Sunlit Shadows, the sequel to Just Over the Horizon.

Sacred Space

For all the nursing assistants who show up uninvited to care for the dying.


You enter sacred space uninvited.
These are my last days and
I don't need your help.
You will push and pry,
and strip me of my dignity.
You will uncover and undress,
stealing my modesty.
My journey is almost over.
Just let me be.
You're not welcome. Not now.

You enter sacred space uninvited.
You ask to raise my blinds,
seeking the sun to cheer me.
I hear you hum a familiar hymn as
you bathe my worn-out body.
Your gentle hands caress me,
and I feel your warmth—your love.
As you brush my thinning hair,
you remind me of happier days
when my mom did the same.
Tenderly massaging my aching limbs,
you ask about my life.
You're genuinely interested in my story.
Reminiscing brings a needed release.

You entered sacred space uninvited, but now?
Now I welcome you to walk with me.
I ask you to care for me—to love me.
My journey is over and I seek rest.
Your presence gives reassurance.
I know it's okay to cross over.
I can let go.

You entered sacred space uninvited, but now?
In this moment, I trust you—I love you.
You are welcomed in my sacred space
as I say my last good-bye.

Silence Please

When grief is suffocating someone you love, what do you do?  That moment when you witness someone's life come to a screeching halt, forever changing them, what do you say?

Sometimes it's easier to cower away because of fear of screwing up and saying the wrong thing, but you can't just walk away. So what do you do?

Confession time. Back when I was green, I mean a clueless hospice newbie who thought she had a clue, I made a lot of mistakes. Words meant to comfort came across all wrong. I never intentionally minimized someone's pain, but I'm afraid my attempts to reassure did just that.

The sad reality is we can't rescue the grieving. Trying to say or do the right thing to make the person feel better is wasted effort. Those who mourn need time to work through the pain, but being a bystander to the process is uncomfortable. As Americans we shun pain. We avoid it at all costs. So it's no wonder we fail when it comes to supporting those who are in the throes of grief.

From my experience, here's the top three things people say at the time of death  but shouldn't. There's always an exception, but for the most part, these are not helpful.
  1. Don't bring God into it or quote Scripture. Gasp. There may come a time, once grief has settled, when there can be a conversation about God's peace, comfort and sovereignty, but when one is in shock or deeply anguished, the words come across as trite. So keep religion out of it when the pain is raw.
  2. Don't try to frame things in a positive way. I'm the queen of positive reframing, so this one is tough for me. Yes, he may be in a better place. Yes, the suffering is over... But it may not be time for these reassuring words. There will be days and weeks following when these affirmations may bring peace but perhaps not now.
  3. Don't say, “Let me know if you need anything.”  Haven't we all done it? And sincerely meant it. But how often does that person call? It's hard for the grief-stricken to breathe, let alone anticipate their needs. Picking up the phone and asking for something? How is that possible when they are under the sheets weeping?
So what can we do?
  1. Be fully present without words. Simply hold their hand or wrap them in your arms. No advice. No words of wisdom. Just be present.
  2. If you just can't stand it and must say something, keep it simple. "I'm so sorry this happened" or "I'm here" is all that's needed.
  3. Offer concrete ways to help. Anticipate their needs. Don't expect them to know. “I'm going to pick your children up from school tomorrow.” “I will bring dinner tonight.” Ease their stress by doing the practical things that must be done without being asked.

    Above all, be honest. Be real. Be transparent. It's okay to say you don't know what to say or do. After twenty years of hospice care, do you want to know the words I say most often?
“I'm so sorry. I wish I knew what to say, but there are no words.”
That's it. No magic formula. No struggle to find wise words to comfort. No perfect verse to bring healing. Not now. Not in the midst of raw emotion. The best gift to offer the grief-stricken is to simply bear witness. Sit in silence as they weep. Hold their hand. Offer your shoulder. But do so without meaningless words. Never be afraid to simply offer your presence.

A Shattered Spirit is Loved

When I hear of someone ending his own life, my heart breaks. Whether it's a person of worldwide fame whose beloved by millions, or a nobody college kid, the question is the same. Why?

From mansion to dorm room, suicide doesn't discriminate. The act of a coward? Those words make my blood boil. No it's not the act of a coward, it's the final act of a desperate soul. A shattered spirit.

A shattered spirit seeking escape. To disappear. Cease existing. Stop the pain. Silence the fear. So much fear. Fear of never being understood. Of being lonely. Isolated though surrounded by many. Fear of failure. Feeling as though you never measure up, even in the presence of fame and accolades. Fear of never being truly, deeply loved.

Fear that boils so hot, there's no other answer. Alone. Engulfed in darkness. Fear lies. Fear consumes. Fear destroys life.

But what if? What if fear is covered by Peace?

A peace that flows right down to the core of your being, warming your innermost spirit. Quieting your restless mind. What if desperation is blanketed in Love? An agape, no-strings-attached, eternal love. A love that offers security, a place of complete acceptance. And what if once you're consumed by this Love, you feel hope? Hope that life can have meaning. Purpose. A divine destiny. A destiny in which you are loved by your Creator.

If you are struggling today, even if your spirit is shattered, I pray that you will reach out to God. He is there with you. I pray that you will feel his loving presence consume you. But please know, even if you don't hear his voice, if you don't feel his presence, He is still there. He is accepting you. He is hovering over you. He is cradling you in his arms. He is loving you. He is mending your broken spirit. He is loving you. No matter what. Always and Forever-
He is loving you.


Unshakable Faith

Squeezing my hand, the frail voice whispered, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”  The nurse rolled him further on his side, he groaned, “For you are with me."  His grip tightened around my hand as he gasped, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

I glanced over at the nurse who was packing his wound with gauze. Tears were streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry, almost done.” She looked at me, her eyes filled with despair.

It was the worst decubitus ulcer I had ever seen- a gaping, five inches wide, to the bone, bed sore.  Nursing home neglect had taken its toll and now Tom had been moved to our hospice house to die.

As the nurse kept working, Tom’s jaw tightened, his voice strained. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." His voice weakened to a labored whispered, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I don’t know if the morphine finally took effect or if he passed out from the pain, but he fell unconscious. I loosened his hand from mine and looked at the frazzled nurse.  I asked, “Have you ever seen such faith?”

She wiped her wet cheeks. “No, it seems impossible. How does he do it?”  

didn't have the answer then, and I still don’t. His family had abandoned him in a nursing home. He must have felt unwanted. Unloved. Tom never regained consciousness and died a few days later. In spite of his physical pain, emotional suffering and unanswered questions, the last words on his breath,"I shall dwell in the house of my Lord forever."

I wish I knew his life story, how his unshakable faith was forged. How he still felt the love of his Father in spite of pain. Thankfully, I look forward to asking him one day when I see him whole and in perfect health.

As I reflect on the end of his journey, I’m reminded of others who chose praise in their darkest hour. Jonah, Daniel, David, Paul... the list goes on. In fact, I think it's harder to find a Bible hero who didn't praise through his hardship than ones who did. How reassuring to know Tom is now in a circle of these great men of faith.

Makes me think twice next time I grumble about insignificant nuisances and temporal inconveniences. I pray for an unshakable faith so that in spite of circumstances, even during tragedies and crises, I will be able to praise in spite of pain.

Dudley's Demotion

Saturday morning. 

A mountain of laundry stares at me. The neighbors are probably on their way to take  pictures.

Dust bunnies have grown into annoying rabbits. 

I think I'll name him Dudley.

It's the perfect day to scrub down, sweep out, and polish up. The house is quiet. Hubby is fishing. Jess is living her missional dream in Uganda. Nathan is working, and Katie still slumbers. 

I glove up and jump in, but as I run a feather duster over picture frames, a bittersweet nostalgia trickles in. Pausing, I stare into three little faces. Is it possible that the precocious toddler smiling at me will be moving away and starting graduate school in just a few weeks? Can the snaggle-toothed girl sitting atop her pony really be starting her junior year of college? And Katie, my baby, is it possible that she’s no longer a baby at all but a blossoming tween?

Then... reality slaps me in the face. In ten years, will I look back and feel remorse because I didn't have a tidy, Martha Stewart home? Doubt it. Is it possible I may regret not spending time with my children? Quite possibly. A sense of urgency replaces the nostalgia. Cleaning supplies are quickly put away. The dust can wait. The laundry will keep. Plans have changed. 

I bound into Katie’s room and declare, “It’s Mommy-Katie Day!”

Groggy eyes open. “Really?” She squeals in delight. Her bear hug takes my breath.

After shopping, lunch, a movie and playing at the neighborhood pool, we drag home.  I open the door, and Dudley Dust Bunny greets me. I don’t care. Dudley doesn't bother me one smidgen. He's been demoted to the bottom of my to-do list.

Top of the list: Family. Our little ones leave the nest way too soon not to keep first things first.
Photo by Katie

Three Words

Three words. Three words to describe myself. Well, what day of the week is it? Am I at my best or worst? Am I refreshed with creative optimism or petering out after a high pressured week?  Am I polished and ready to take center stage or wallowing under the covers, feeding my insecurities while unsuccessfully comparing myself to others?

If you haven’t guessed, I’m struggling with this whole time-to-promote-your-book thing. One of the author spotlights asked me to describe myself in three words. Three words! I admit, I can be overly analytical, (oh, that should probably be one of my words) but this is a daunting task. Should I be transparent and admit that at my worst, I am impatient, cynical and smart-alecky? No, that won’t work. I’m supposed to be likeable. Transparency has its limits.

How about my best day self? I can honestly answer with empathetic, capable and creative. No, now I sound like I think I’m all that. When clearly, I'm not. Humble? No, people who claim to be humble, usually aren’t. Perhaps I should go with my ideal self, the woman I aspire to be. Genuine, compassionate, accomplished. No, that's my dream self. If anything, I need to be honest. Integrity? Should that make my list of three?

What about you? What three words would you choose to describe yourself? If you rattled them off in less than five seconds, I’m jealous. Maybe I should add envious to my list.

Okay, it only makes sense to go with an average day. I am warm, caring and sarcastic - not biting sarcasm, the fun, bantering- I like you so I’m going to say the opposite of what I mean- kind. Oops, I broke the rule, I can’t elaborate on my words. Conundrum.

Time to wrap this up. Three words! Just three words! Pressure is building. . .THREE WORDS. . . The Jeopardy tune is playing as I peck out words on my keyboard only to watch them disappear as I hit delete.

Sigh. Pause. Throw my head back. Eureka!

Grateful! Yes, grateful. That should be number one, top of my list. I am grateful that I don’t have to fret over being defined by three words or a whole long list of words for that matter.  Why? Because I just realized my three words: Forgiven, Free, Redeemed. Oh, I have three more. Covered by Grace.  Oodles of Grace to be exact.