Seven years

Well hello there…what do you know another anniversary. 🙂 This one is my 7th wedding anniversary and if my Facebook feed is any indication there are many people in my life that share a similar anniversary. I see a smiling photo or a throw back from the wedding day with a caption stating something along the lines of:

___ years ago I married the love of my life, I am so thankful for the many wonderful years. You are my best friend, my confidant, my rock. You are humble, incredible, amazing and I look forward to the rest of our life together.

They are obviously not all the same but you get the idea of the sentiment.

I am glad there are marriages out there that can make this claim. I can’t in good conscious write those words because it would not be true. We haven’t lived 7 blissful years. In fact at times it’s been a down right struggle. If I’m brutally honest with myself I know part of me got married because I was afraid of being alone (I find this incredibly ironic now). I was afraid I would never be loved. Jonathan had similar fears around being fully known and rejected. We were both operating from a very wounded place and these fears orchestrated a dance between us of control and escapism. We had good moments and a many fun adventures but for a long time our marriage didn’t bring life to either one of us. In fact it brought more loneliness, frustration and pain.

I was ashamed of the reality of our marriage. I wanted it to be better and I felt like I was failing. It was a very hard place to accept because, generally, I work extremely hard to not fail. I went into our marriage knowing it was work…I was able and willing to work hard…but was it supposed to be this much work?? Was it supposed to be this hard?

3.5 years ago I found myself stuck in the Netherlands in a dead marriage with no good practical options to change my situation…but I was done. I didn’t necessarily want a divorce but I didn’t see any other options. I was apathetic, disengaged and ready to throw in the towel…it just wasn’t working and I felt like we both deserved better.

God was consistently working on my heart and renewed my HOPE that He was the other option. He was my only option. He could really could break into this “hopeless” situation and establish a NEW marriage. It wasn’t a lost cause but I couldn’t do it…He needed to. This is the HOPE I claimed to believe and it was now time to step out in faith. I tried really hard for a really long time and got nowhere.

So, I let go and trusted that God would show up. That He would move this mountain. And boy did He ever but it took cancer…and separation…and 3.5 years of extremely painful cleansing and healing. Facing demons and allowing grace to rebuild and restore. (Side note: it’s not in my theology that God GAVE me cancer…but boy did He use it as a tremendous refining season in my life)

And even though I have been married to the same man for 7 years, I have the beginnings of a new marriage. It feels strange to write that because there were many moments I didn’t think it was possible. I wasn’t sure if people and circumstances could really change. These are lies that keep us stuck. And God doesn’t want us stuck…he wants us free.

And, honestly, my heart is the most free it has ever been. And I am extremely thankful.

So here is my version of the anniversary Facebook post:

Jonathan, 7 years ago we had no idea what we were in for. We have hung on and fought through heart wrenching years where most people would have given up…clinging to fingernails of hope and faith that God can move mountains. I can honestly say I am more free and happy for it but it was (and still is at times) an extremely difficult season. While I don’t like where we started, I truly love the trajectory we are on now and hope it continues for the rest of our lives. Our marriage has the beginning of a new foundation built on faith, honesty and intimacy. I have complete respect for the man you are and are becoming. Your kindness and generosity towards others. Your humility in the healing process. And your perseverance in allowing God to bring greater levels of freedom in your heart and in our marriage. Your playfulness and silliness helps keep my heart young. I am extremely thankful we are still together and that God really does work miracles.  I am also thankful I can write these words from an honest heart place. Happy Anniversary, I love you, but sure would appreciate it if the next 7 years are a bit more peaceful. 😉



Enjoying an afternoon in the park during this beautiful Seattle summer

Enjoying an afternoon in the park during this beautiful Seattle summer

Does time heal all wounds?

I have often heard “Time heals all wounds”. But does it really? Is it time or something more that heals wounds? I have become fascinated with how our body heals since cancer andTime heals wounds? especially since my accident in the lab 10 days ago. As this physical wound heals, I can see many parallels to the process of healing emotional wounds. But, no, time does not heal wounds. Allowing time for the “healing process” to take place is what heals wounds. These might look like the same thing on the outside but are very different in practice.

I am normally more of a physics girl and only tolerated the biological sciences when they were necessary for my degree. Recently, I have been more curious about what is happening “behind the scenes” in my body. Cancer was a wake up call that our physiology doesn’t always work the way it is supposed to and natural processes in our body can go haywire. Our bodies are extremely complex and the more I learn the more I am surprised that things don’t go wrong more often.

When we are physically wounded (wound: an injury to living tissue caused by a cut, blow or other impact – typically where the skin is broken) it kicks off a chain reaction of healing processes as our body’s defense systems turn on. I’m not going to go into it deeply but will give a brief description of each stage. If you are more interested this was a very straightforward explanation…plus a boring and informative helpful Youtube video here. There are 4 primary phases of wound healing:

  1. Hemostasis: (within minutes of the initial injury) Constricts blood vessels and stimulates clotting to stop the bleeding
  2. Inflammation: (typically up to 4 days) Redness, swelling, warmth, and pain are typical symptoms as the first responding white blood cells clean out debris and stop infection
  3. Proliferative/Granulation: (4-21 days) Establishes the frame work for new tissue and repairing the various damage (skin layers, other tissue, blood vessels, and capillaries)
  4. Remodeling/Maturation: (up to 2 years) Increasing the strength of the new tissue

2 years!! This is longer than I expected when I started researching. It has only been 10 Healingdays and the cut on my wrist is dramatically improved. It blows my mind that my body will keep working on the fragile new tissue to make it stronger for the months to come.

My body is not passively allowing time to pass but is moving through the healing stages by actively fighting bacteria, rebuilding new tissue and repairing damage. Healing starts with the first 2 intense and painful stages…follows with creating something new but fragile…and finishes with a strengthening stage. I believe we go through similar stages with emotional wounds and time does help in reducing the pain…but without some work in cleaning and removing bacteria we are at risk of an infection and will never be able to build something new and strong.

I will leave my rambling Monday thoughts there but will write more in the days to come.



Taking the first step

Why is taking the first step the hardest? The following steps somehow seem easier.

I am writing this because I find myself in the ironic situation of…I was in much better shape Just Start cropin the middle of chemo than I am now. It’s crazy. My motivation for exercise has evaporated. I’m sure it is partly due to the Dutch winter weather and that I no longer have the structured “chemo-cise” program. It is difficult to remember where I was a year ago and realize what I need to recover. Some days it feels almost impossible to get myself up and moving. Almost.

I have been trying to be more disciplined and can feel my fitness level improve (which helps my motivation). But the biggest hurdle I need to overcome every time is just changing into my running gear. Somehow the thought of changing makes me sink deeper into the couch that I am sitting on. Facebook becomes more interesting or I remember that “one thing” I need to look up. It takes a conscious choice to move the computer and take the first step. There are days when my desire and determination win and there are days when it doesn’t. first stepBut I always feel so much better when I run.

These decisions to move aren’t limited to exercise. The first step is the hardest in almost every process. Especially the ones where we can’t see the full path. Are there changes you want to make? Do you want to learn to cook? Are there habits you want to form or break? Does not seeing the the full path keep you from starting? Identify the first step and just start…because without that first step you will always stay where you’ve always been.

Happy Monday!



Let go of the envelope

In case you missed it my jewelry website went live a couple weeks ago.

(Please consider “Liking” my Burning Brightly Facebook page to keep up to date on new posts and designs)

And I have actually received some orders. 🙂 So this past week and a half I have been frantically making trees trying to get them into the mail before the Royal craziness descends on the Netherlands tomorrow. (And I literally mean “Royal” craziness…Queen Beatrix is abdicating the throne to the crown prince Willem Alexander on Tuesday making him the first King here in more than a century. And we will celebrate that with a big party and a controversial song – if you’re interested check out “The King’s song”/”Koningslied” here )

Now once I finished the trees and carefully packaged them…I had a moment of anxiety as I brought them to the post office. If I choose to have the package tracked it increases my shipping cost by $25, which is substantial. But with standard post I drop the envelopes in the box, say a prayer, cross my fingers and do a rain dance hoping they make it to the proper destination. I am completely powerless to guarantee they reach the right person and am at the mercy of the postal service. It is not easy for me to let that go.

Now my mom likes to send me inspirational e-mails periodically and right after I came home from the post office this “Streams in the Desert” email was in my inbox.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” Hebrews 11:1

Genuine faith puts its letter in the mailbox and lets go. Distrust, however, holds on to a corner of the envelope and then wonders why the answer never arrives. There are some letters on my desk that I wrote weeks ago, but I have yet to mail them because of my uncertainty over the address or the contents. Those letters have not done any good for me or anyone else at this point. And they never will accomplish anything until I let go of them, trusting them to the postal service.

It is the same with genuine faith. It hands its circumstance over to God, allowing Him to work. Psalm 37:5 is a great confirmation of this:”Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.” He will never work until we commit…

Talk about timing. It was interesting to me that I had just wrestled with the reality of releasing these envelopes and came home to an e-mail comparing that to releasing all aspects of my life. Releasing the control of reaching a certain destination. Recognizing the talents and gifts I have been blessed with and offering those back to God to use for his kingdom. Releasing my fears of judgement and apprehension about whether I am good enough.

And while I know there is a reason why I don’t fully trust the Postal Service…it is not infallible and does lose packages. I am thankful that in the things that really matter I can fully entrust them to God. I have had to put my weight down on Him in every aspect of my life this year. And His faithfulness continues to humble and amaze me…although you’d think I would come to expect it by now. 🙂

What are you holding on to? Are there things you need to release?



Koti Hu…

I had a different post prepared for today that just needed some last minute edits before hitting cyber space but changed my mind. I decided to showcase another story instead. Another story of hope that is being written in the midst of unimaginable circumstances.

I remember Koti from college and his music has always moved me. He was/is crazy talented. He has a tough story. A lot has been taken from him. He is authentic in the struggles and the hope. I have a lot of respect for him wanting to put himself out here like this. It is not easy. Enjoy.

Check out his blog here

Koti HuBlessings,


Moved to tears

Sorry in advance for the spelling grammar mistakes – I am typing this much faster than I normally do. 🙂

I spent Easter weekend in Paris with my dear sister in law  Leah. Despite the freezing temperatures we saw a good amount of the city. We ate in cafes…We went to museums…browsed through boutiques…meandered through (still winterized) parks…had Good Friday service at Notre Dame…strolled the Champs Elysees…and took in most of the highlights. But I finally admitted something to myself on this trip. I love art but find the big museums difficult.

There are so many people and so many pieces it is difficult to fully appreciate them. You wind up moving through it so quickly because there are too many things to see. We went to the Musee d’Orsay and it was amazing and beautiful but, honestly, I will remember the lunch in their unbelievable restaurant more than the art I saw. I am more naturally drawn to local artisans and boutiques…I prefer to meet the people that are still creating the art and hear the stories behind their creations. I will remember the pieces I saw by the famous painters (actually Degas is my new favorite) but I will also remember the old lady in the outdoor market who makes her own hats…they were beautiful…I bought one. 🙂

So keeping this in mind I gave myself permission to skip the Louvre. I looked at the line and it was daunting and the whole experience seemed claustrophobic. I know it is probably amazing and there is a reason everyone goes but it wasn’t the right experience for me. I was honest with myself  and decided the big reason I would go is because I should…every one does. But that wasn’t a good enough reason for me and because I gave myself the freedom to do what I wanted I stumbled into the most moving art experience of my life.

Our hotel was in the Latin quarter perfectly situated to walk to all the main highlights. Every time we walked towards Notre Dame we would pass this much less impressive Gothic Cathedral – St. Severin – sometimes several times a day. It was stuck between some modern buildings and much easier to miss. But with my free day I was on my way to explore another neighborhood and decided to duck into this church on the way. It had the same vaulted ceilings as Notre Dame on a much smaller scale. A beautiful organ in the background. But when I turned the corner and saw the stained glass windows…my heart stopped for a moment. These windows were more abstract colors rather than the clean biblical scenes you can often find….and there was one that spoke directly to my soul. Please forgive my iphone photos…it doesn’t ever do them justice. Saint SeverinI can’t explain why this was so significant but it seemed to capture the current state of my soul. This stained glass draws my eyes from the bottom to the top. It feels chaotic…a bit like my emotions right now. There are more red, yellows (hopeful colors) and then you move to a section with very deep tumultuous blues. There are a few splotches of bright colors inter mixed but the majority of the middle feels heavy. The small hopeful moments are there but they are difficult to hold onto as the tide is always changing. But again my eyes are drawn up and eventually the dark blues shift again to vibrant lively colors and I imagine there is more hope and less pain. Redemption. Hope. I am currently in the dark color region trying to hold onto the fleeting hopeful moments but I believe that I am moving towards a hopeful tomorrow. I don’t know who the artist is…or whether he is famous…I just know that it felt like it captured my soul.

So, yes, I skipped the Louvre and spent 3 hours in St. Severin…in stillness…in quiet…with tears and only with this one window…it was the best decision for me. I have never had art in church move me the way this did and I am so thankful. This experience was made possible by letting go of the “shoulds” and letting my heart lead. I am going to try that more often.

I will be writing a bit more sporadically over the next week and a half due to travelling so I may not be able to get my storm survival posts out…but I will try.



PS Here are a few other fun shots from the weekend

I will wait

I am often encouraged by music and the latest Mumford and Sons album Babel (released September 2012) came at a perfect time for me. I enjoy this band with their folksy banjo riffs and indie rock vibe. The song I keep coming back to is “I will wait”. They are not a “Christian” band (Honestly, what is that anyway??) but their lyrics are deep, spiritual and often bring tears to my eyes. When I listen to this song I think of redemption and restoration…and it inspires me to wait for Jesus and his timing.

There is a lot I could say (and honestly probably will 🙂 ) but here are some of my favorite lyrics.

Well I came home like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun

I can physically feel these words. You know those days when you are so exhausted it takes all the energy you can manage just to collapse on the couch? I imagine my body feeling like that and my heart/spirit heavy like a rock…barely able to take tiny steps forward…then I imagine using my last bit of strength and collapsing…not onto a couch but into God’s arms. There is strength and protection there. I picture the cares and concerns weighing me down blowing away like dust in the wind…sometimes the “blowing” is more like a sandstorm but eventually the sun comes out and reveals the new life underneath. I love this image.

And I’ll kneel down wait for now
And I’ll kneel down know my ground

I don’t know if you are a “kneeler”. 🙂 I am at times. I find it to be a posture of humility and recognition that everything I have in my life is a gift. It is a peaceful posture. It is vulnerable. You aren’t going to be moving anywhere quickly. Sometimes it hurts a little but somehow praying on my knees helps me to recognize more deeply how desperately I need Jesus. I love the next line about knowing your ground. It is easier to wait when you know what or who you are waiting for. It is also easier when you know what or who holds you up during the process. What is the foundation beneath your knees? What do you rest on while you are waiting? Is it solid? Is it quicksand? Do you know it? My ground was remembering who God is…and becoming more familiar with his works and promises. Knowing my ground. He has been faithful through the generations…He loves me more than I can hope to comprehend…He promises to heal and redeem me. His character is constant and doesn’t change with me or my circumstances. I can kneel and wait on a firm foundation…my rock.

So I’ll be bold as well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh and fix my eyes
A tethered mind free from the lies

When I find myself “waiting” I can be very reactionary. Most of the time I am waiting because I am not able to have something I want. Sometimes I know the timeline…most times I don’t. And when I don’t know the timeline I can grab onto the first thing that may move me closer to what I want. Often that is not the best idea. So using my head AND my heart really resonates with me. When you just react it is mostly emotional. Also, the image of taming and tethering makes me think of a young horse in the process of being broken and trained. It is initially wild and out of control…fighting for its own way against the will of the trainer…slowly, with time and discipline it submits and allows itself to follow commands. It lives a much more peaceful life without the intense struggle. We can be like that horse and fight very hard for our own way. But ultimately we fight against God because we have wrapped ourselves in lies. Lies of entitlement. Lies of idols. Lies of identity. Lies of value. As those lies are broken and we begin to see the truth and fix our eyes on Jesus…our lives will become more peaceful and free…and it also becomes easier (Note I said easIER…not easy 🙂 ) to wait and trust. 

Here is a simplified overview of the story the lyrics tell…it’s basically a Psalm. My spirit is heavy and weak…I fall into your arms and need you to transform my life…I remember your faithfulness and trust you as I wait..I will remember everything I have been forgiven….as I kneel and seek you I will be transformed more and more into your likeness and freed from the lies of this world. My hands will be raised and my spirit will be gold.

Good stuff.