Tag Archives: tragedy

Be Inspired — Faith in and through Tragedy

be inspiredNext in this month’s be inspired series is another great conversation from the archives — a 2011 interview with Christina Schofield. She’s an illustrator and a writer; her book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes — An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Faith, tells the story of how a tragic motorcycle accident radically changed the trajectory of her life and challenged her faith.

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Chris, I’m so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

I was born the youngest of four to a gentle, humble Swedish preacher in a tiny Midwestern town. I doodled and passed notes all through my school days, so kind of stuck with it for a profession. The last fifteen years or so, I’ve illustrated and written stuff for mostly Christian publishing companies. I’m married to a campus minister (Allen) and we have a seven-year-old daughter, Lily. If my days were a pie chart, it would look like this: Taking care of the fam’ (including two cats that hate each other and a neglected beta fish): 30%, Driving people places—30%, Making sandwiches—30%, Work, house-cleaning, and pretty much everything else combined—10%.

I’m very excited about your book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes, that is coming out this summer. For my readers who don’t know your story, can you tell us what your book is about?

Not quite four years ago, my husband and I were in a motorcycle accident. I was okay, but he broke his neck and was left paralyzed. The book is kind of a walk through that ugly-faith journey — picking up the pieces and saying that God is good even when my life is bad!

This month we’re looking at the discipline of life-change. I imagine that the extreme difficulties you and your husband have lived through recently have been a catalyst for some serious self-examination. What has God revealed to you about yourself through this challenging season?

Initially, came the question, “WHAT? How could you let this happen, God? I thought we were friends!” There was instant perspective — a lot of things I had desired goal-wise  I immediately realized didn’t really matter compared to the pursuit of God and getting my family well. The next challenge was coming to terms with the fact that God still loves me even when I have nothing to offer him in return. I’ve spent most of my life struggling to “perform” for him, do my best stuff to win his approval and/or impress people. There is a sort of peace that comes when you hit rock bottom and realize, “Wow. He loves me still.”

What else has God revealed to you about himself through this painful journey?

His love of broken things. We avoid brokenness at all cost, but God views it differently than we do. Psalm 52 says a broken spirit is what He actually desires. Psalm 34 says he is near to the broken-hearted, and I’ve found that to be totally true! He is much closer than I ever realized! If you let that get in you good, if you let God open your mind to what he thinks is a big deal I mean, it helps you see people through new eyes.

Scripture tells us that God’s grace is sufficient. Of course this doesn’t mean the difficulties in our lives go away if we trust God! How have you experienced this promise?

Allen was in hospitals for about two months. Shortly after we got back, I had a phone call on the answering machine from an old friend who had been struggling with addictions and family problems and spiritual problems. I had really kind of been overwhelmed with our friendship before Allen’s accident because I didn’t know how to help her. I put off returning her call and she died shortly after of a drug overdose! I felt terrible! I confessed to God, “How do I do this? How can I help others when I feel so burdened myself?” I felt like He was urging me to “do it broken.” To let His strength pour through my smallness, weariness, brokeness (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). He has done that in some really cool ways!

 How can we be praying for you and your family?

Please continue to pray for Allen’s healing, strength, rest, and peace! For wisdom in raising Lils, that she will grow up to love and worship God. Lately, I’ve been praying that God will get all the stuff out of us that keeps us from being completely his. I pray it with hesitation because I know that can be painful! (But necessary.) Thanks! We love getting prayed for!

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Check in each week this month for more stories from women whose faith, ideas, and love will inspire you! 

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A Fresh Look

I love the fresh feel of this day: a blank page, a new year, a symbolic fresh slate. Of course, it is just a normal 24-hours like any other 24-hour cycle. Yet we join to acknowledge it is “New Year’s Day.”

future lookLooking ahead into a fresh year can be hopeful and exciting. So many goals to pursue and dreams to reach for! Like a great big shiny platter overflowing with inspiration and determination, 2013 gets served up to us to relish with joy.

Yet in all the joy, determination, and goal-setting (which I “get” as an obsessive goal-setter myself), I must play Debbie Downer for a second. Because, if you’re like me, you’ve come to know that our hope isn’t some fairy-tale world of goodnesses. Because, if you’re like me, you may start to wonder on a day like today, “What heartache or tragedy or trial will befall me in 2013 . . . that I cannot even imagine now?” Not pessimism but realism forces these questions, because heartache or stress often blind-sides us. That’s part of the horror of tragedies — those who suffer often have had no time to prepare, no notion of what was coming.

Jesus offers us a big dose of this “downer” realism when he tells his followers, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). (That’s not the most seeker-sensitive message, Jesus, we may want to whisper. That’s not the most strategic slogan to brand your Way!) But there’s no hokey, slick, sparkley-toothed salesmanship around here — no “just trust Jesus more to get a problem-free life” garbage. Jesus will have none of it. That’s simply not the gospel.

As we look forward into 2013, squinting to glimpse what may take shape, we face two realities. The first: What we cannot control. Continue reading

When Christmas Hurts

Last year my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by this blog to share some thoughts about the spiritual discipline of celebration and what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. Advent & Christmas can be very painful times for those who are suffering, who are depressed, who’ve walked through tragedy. If that’s you — if you’re hurting while the rest of the world is celebrating — find encouragement in this interview with Holley as she shares a bit about her own approach toward holidays during difficult times.

[From December 2011]

YHolley-pic-NEW-2ou may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading

Meet My Friend: Christina Schofield

This month it’s a privilege to introduce you, my friends and readers, to Christina Schofield. She’s an illustrator and a writer; her upcoming first book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes — An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Faith, tells the story of how a tragic motorcycle accident radically changed the trajectory of her life and challenged her faith.

Chris, I’m so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

I was born the youngest of four to a gentle, humble Swedish preacher in a tiny Midwestern town. I doodled and passed notes all through my school days, so kind of stuck with it for a profession. The last fifteen years or so, I’ve illustrated and written stuff for mostly Christian publishing companies. I’m married to a campus minister (Allen) and we have a seven-year-old daughter, Lily. If my days were a pie chart, it would look like this: Taking care of the fam’ (including two cats that hate each other and a neglected beta fish): 30%, Driving people places—30%, Making sandwiches—30%, Work, house-cleaning, and pretty much everything else combined—10%.

I’m very excited about your book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes, that is coming out this summer. For my readers who don’t know your story, can you tell us what your book is about?

Not quite four years ago, my husband and I were in a motorcycle accident. I was okay, but he broke his neck and was left paralyzed. The book is kind of a walk through that ugly-faith journey — picking up the pieces and saying that God is good even when my life is bad!

This month we’re looking at the discipline of life-change. I imagine that the extreme difficulties you and your husband have lived through recently have been a catalyst for some serious self-examination. What has God revealed to you about yourself through this challenging season?

Initially, came the question, “WHAT? How could you let this happen, God? I thought we were friends!” There was instant perspective — a lot of things I had desired goal-wise  I immediately realized didn’t really matter compared to the pursuit of God and getting my family well. The next challenge was coming to terms with the fact that God still loves me even when I have nothing to offer him in return. I’ve spent most of my life struggling to “perform” for him, do my best stuff to win his approval and/or impress people. There is a sort of peace that comes when you hit rock bottom and realize, “Wow. He loves me still.”

What else has God revealed to you about himself through this painful journey?

His love of broken things. We avoid brokenness at all cost, but God views it differently than we do. Psalm 52 says a broken spirit is what He actually desires. Psalm 34 says he is near to the broken-hearted, and I’ve found that to be totally true! He is much closer than I ever realized! If you let that get in you good, if you let God open your mind to what he thinks is a big deal I mean, it helps you see people through new eyes.

Scripture tells us that God’s grace is sufficient. Of course this doesn’t mean the difficulties in our lives go away if we trust God! How have you experienced this promise?

Allen was in hospitals for about two months. Shortly after we got back, I had a phone call on the answering machine from an old friend who had been struggling with addictions and family problems and spiritual problems. I had really kind of been overwhelmed with our friendship before Allen’s accident because I didn’t know how to help her. I put off returning her call and she died shortly after of a drug overdose! I felt terrible! I confessed to God, “How do I do this? How can I help others when I feel so burdened myself?” I felt like He was urging me to “do it broken.” To let His strength pour through my smallness, weariness, brokeness (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). He has done that in some really cool ways!

 How can we be praying for you and your family?

Please continue to pray for Allen’s healing, strength, rest, and peace! For wisdom in raising Lils, that she will grow up to love and worship God. Lately, I’ve been praying that God will get all the stuff out of us that keeps us from being completely his. I pray it with hesitation because I know that can be painful! (But necessary.) Thanks! We love getting prayed for!

Wordless Prayer

The recent tragedy in Japan and the conflict in Libya have left me somewhat wordless. What can we pray? What words can we speak that adequately express the horror and sadness, the hope, the intercession, the jumble of questions and dreams and desires and confusion we have about these difficult matters?

These are times when wordless prayer — which really is a form of Christian meditation — simply is what is most natural and appropriate. We bring the matters to God. We know in those moments that God’s Spirit intervenes for us. He understands the groaning of our hearts . . . even better than we do ourselves.

Sometimes when I am wordless a cowardly part lurking inside simply wants to avoid prayer. Facing the tsunami, the nuclear crisis, the crazed dictator and military conflict in Libya — it can all seem too much. I’d rather just have a happy, hopeful day and ignore it all.

Thankfully God’s Spirit within me — and within you — call us beyond cowardice into the courageous work of prayer. And if the prayer is wordless, if it is just our thoughts and our hearts and our efforts to come into God’s presence, then it is enough. Perhaps it is even more than enough.