Nothing shakes the foundation of our lives like experiencing pain. I don’t mean the stub-your-toe-and-a-bad-word-might-slip-out kind. I’m talking about the gut-wrenching, life-altering, never-the-same-again, questioning-all-you-know variety.

The visit to the doctor. The phone call from a parent. The funeral. The discussion with your boss, your spouse, or even your child.

 
 
The sky filled with dark, billowing smoke. My car sped closer as I realized the smoke rose from the direction of my house. Not again, my soul whispered.

Logic told me it was just a controlled burn, a way to manage the density of trees & shrubs and restore new growth. It was, after all, that time of year in the Midwest.

My heart, however, didn’t accept that logic. It stirred up memories from ten years ago, back to the day I came home to find my house on fire. A fire that destroyed all we owned and snatched away the life of my youngest daughter.

 
 
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there’s a ratty old hoodie i think about throwing away. the cuffs are stained from bleach spray. the sleeves no longer reach my wrist. more than once a kind soul points out the small stain just right of the zipper. i’m quick to explain its origin, and just as quick to dismiss the notion that it shouldn’t be there in the first place. the hem is fraying and it no longer holds its original shape. i’ve had it for more years than i can remember and while i know black sweatshirts are easy to come by, i just can’t get rid of it. why?


 
 
She stood among the sea of people, eyes closed, arms lifted high. The music swelled and her arms stretched farther, higher, as if trying to touch heaven itself.

My eyes drank in the sight: this brave woman who stood alone even though she was surrounded by others. Drawn to this tender example of a heart turned toward the Father, I witnessed her boldness and courage, her strength and her faith. She stood alone, but that’s not the reason I noticed her. It was the life she lived as she stood.

She chose to worship even though her child was dying.

 
 
She had no idea what she had done. Tears filled my eyes as she spoke.

Life had been like a slow dripping faucet filled with discouragement and uncertainty as I tried to figure out life in this land of in-between. Memories of my past clouded my vision for the future, and I desperately needed evidence of God’s love.

 
 
She looked at me with those big, dark brown eyes. “It was a horrible day.” Tears of frustration flowed as she poured out her disappointment and struggles over something that happened during school.

Partway through her tale of woe, the conversation shifted from sharing about a specific circumstance to creating a litany of all that was wrong in her life. That’s when I knew it was time to ask the question.

 
 
I’ll never forgive you as long as I live!

Her shouted words revealed the depth of pain that filled her little heart. She was only nine, yet the sting of anger was evident as she and her brother argued. Declaring those words, she gave voice to the feelings festering inside her and sprung open the door for bitterness to set in.

Have you ever felt that way?

 
 
What comes to mind when you think about Easter? Frilly dresses, baskets overflowing with candy, hidden eggs. Conquered death. A celebration of new life. A time to remember the suffering that Jesus endured to make us right with his Father.

What about the day between Good Friday and Easter? What about Saturday? It kind of seems like a waste, a day of waiting for the grand celebration of Easter. But what if there’s more to Saturday than we realize?

 
 
I’d been planning the trip for weeks, physically preparing for months. This ride was one step closer to my ultimate goal: a century ride. A hundred miles meandering through two states.

When I first started riding, I was a hundred pounds overweight and peddling a bike for even a couple of miles felt overwhelming. If I’d thought about riding a hundred miles then, I would’ve laughed, and quit. But the more I rode and the stronger I became, the more I began to see the possibility could become reality. My perspective changed.

 
 

Today is an important day for my family. As I write these words, it’s the tenth anniversary of a house fire that not only destroyed our home, but snatched away the breath of my youngest daughter and set me on an unexpected journey of loss and sorrow . . . as well as hope and faith and trust.

I never imagined death would interrupt our lives quite like this. I certainly didn’t expect the devastation that would spiral through my family. I never saw it coming.  I suppose no one really does. No one expects those moments when the rug gets pulled out from under our feet and there we lie, flat on our backs, staring up at the ceiling, wondering how in the world we got there.