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Suffering Will Find Us Wherever We Live

The poem / reflection below was written in December of 2022.

I moved seven times in the first eight years after college.

The surest way to solve a problem, I was sure, is to be where you aren’t.

And there always is the rush of a new space—blank walls, empty corners, nothing yet decided, nothing yet forgotten, nothing screwed up yet.

I started this younger, with notebooks—I still have a shelf lined with tomes starting “I’m sorry I didn’t finish that last one,” embellished with curlicues, ladybugs, and grief.

There’s beauty in a restart; there’s comfort for this brain of mine in a “clean” slate. But the beauty carries pain with it—

—Unavoidable stabs of regret over mistakes, neglect, and unfinished business.

—The gnawing ache of lost former things.

—And eventually, the remembering: that suffering will find us wherever we live.

Some of the suffering is mundane, chronic—the personal burdens I’ve been given to bear. I suffer when I forget to pay bills or make doctor’s appointments; I suffer when my temper gets the best of me; I suffer when I forget to remember what I care about.

But some is the kind of world-shaking suffering that visits us all (though in different ways): loss of family, loss of friends, death, destruction, conflict.

Because, if I’m honest, at least part of that impulse—to leave, to start over, to move to a new place and write a new story—is the fight to protect myself. New walls are a new fortress—new doors are new boundaries, and maybe, just maybe, this time they’ll keep the darkness out.

New beginnings can be beautiful. But each new beginning here and now is a step forward that will also be taken back.

Backward, forward—a push, a pull—pain, then release—a birth pang, if you will.

We yearn for new beginnings because our heart yearns for the newest, best beginning of all.

No more sorrow. No more loss. No more hate, and violence, and death.

Through each pang of this world—through each broken heart and cry of sorrow, it’s making its way here.

It’s already coming.

Already, but not yet.


But not


Stepping Into Unknowns, Season by Season

Note: I first wrote and published this post in the fall of 2016, when my oldest (and then only!) son was still a toddler. Now, almost four years later, as we navigate the Coronavirus pandemic with our THREE sons (the youngest of whom is not quite two months old), reading this post again feels at once so distant and yet also right where we are at, again and always: trusting God through each step, hour by hour and day by day.

Puddle-jumping with W, circa fall 2016

Right before W was born, people would ask me if I was SOOO excited to meet my baby. I usually lied. Nobody wants to hear, “Actually, terror, overwhelm, and complete unpreparedness are the primary emotions I am experiencing.” It was much easier to say, “YES, of course!”

It’s not that I didn’t want to meet him: it’s that as long as he wasn’t actually born yet, all of our parenting decisions could still be theoretical. I had always wanted to have kids, but the concrete reality of stepping into that new, unfamiliar territory took my breath away.

During his birth, my mind held so tightly to this fear that it tried to shut down my labor. Thankfully, my wonderful husband, mother, midwives, and doula helped me overcome my mind and let my body do what it knew how.

You can probably guess what happened next (maybe you have even experienced it yourself): by God’s grace, we grew into parents.

I found whole arenas of ability and instinct I never knew I had. I quickly acclimated to the rhythms of keeping the drawers of diapers and burp cloths and onesies stocked (if I ever had a moment that my hands were free, of course).

But that didn’t mean my fear of unknown territory left me. I clearly remember nursing several-month-old W in our rocking chair, reading Facebook posts from mothers with crawling, standing, walking, talking babies. And the truth seized me: I had just figured this part out, and it was almost over.

There was baby-proofing, and introducing solids, and arranging a play space, and learning to set wise boundaries, and so, so many other things stretching ahead of us like just an immense sea of unknown, uncomfortable, un-figured-outs.

But, of course, by God’s grace we grew our way through all of those stages and challenges as well.

By now, not even quite two years into W’s life, I have lived through so many of these seismic shifts in his needs that I’m beginning to trust I’ll also live through future ones. When I see a parent with school-aged kids, or teenagers, and begin to think, “How will I ever manage that?!”—another voice quickly raises in my mind: “You’ll manage it in exactly the same way you have so far: step by step, unknown by unknown, trusting God and learning as you go.”

Because, here’s the thing: we’re all doing this. We’re all stepping into the unknown every day of our lives. Our circumstances change, our bodies change, our relationships change, our needs, wants, and priorities all change. We all have to trust God with our future—having a child just throws this into sharp relief.

Now, at twenty months, W runs, jumps, climbs, and screeches his way through every day. His vocabulary grows every minute, and he asks for his favorite songs by name. (Over and over. All day long.) And he is still just a snuggly, delightful little boy.

But as I mentally take a step back from this current, day-to-day reality of his life, I can see all too clearly that what’s here now is simultaneously just beginning but also fading away.

Our life is always shifting, and the need to step forward faithfully in spite of the unknowns never ends—as a parent, as a spouse, as a single person, as a human being.

It’s a mercy that each little season of our lives has something beautiful about it; it’s a mercy that we continue to grow through challenges and pain; but most of all, it’s a mercy that God is so trustworthy, and that we are safe leaving our future, full of its unknowns, in His capable hands.

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