Of Things I Didn’t Know

I didn’t know…
that you could live continually in a state of zombie tired,
that coffee would look and smell so beautiful in the morning,
or that it were possible to fall asleep while reading,
and that your brain could short circuit from weariness.

I didn’t know …
that my kids would want to eat 3 meals a day.
How tired I would get of cooking those meals
and how few ideas I would have for cooking.
Or how they would want 2 snacks between every meal
and that they would prefer to inhale mainly junk food.
How many times I would eat a meal standing up
or walking around grabbing bites.

I didn’t know…
how beautiful the sound of a quiet house,
how much noise 1 boy could make,
how serious the arguing would be between my children,
or how much they would really love each other.
(At least I think they do)

I didn’t know …
how much you could hurt for your child,
how much you want them to succeed,
or how many prayers you would whisper for them.

I didn’t know …
how many times I would say, “Put your clothes away.”
how many articles of clothing I would pick off the floor,
or how many loads of laundry I would wash.
(Do they change during the night too?)
Or this one, how one piece of clothing could cause such dramatic weeping and wailing.

I didn’t know …
how much I would hate stepping on a Lego,
how they would smear toothpaste all over the sink
and spit water all over the mirror.
Or how many times they would take the pillows off the couch
for fort building day and forget to put them back on.
That I would be able to recite the stories they listen to by heart,
or how many times I would feel shock at the state of a bedroom.

I didn’t know …
how much boys hates showers,
how little girls can swim for an hour,
or how much hot water big girls can wash down the drain.
How much hair girls can drop on the floor,
and how quickly I can clog a sweeper.

I didn’t know …
what it would feel like to watch them drive out the lane alone,
to send them out into the world while wondering
if you taught them enough.
How much I would wonder how a test at school was going
or if they got another demerit or made the honor roll.
how often I would think about them during the day,
and how they come barging in the door when they get home.

I didn’t know …
how much fun it would be to go out with my girls,
to watch them become the ladies they are.
Or how much laughter and joy a boy can be,
from wrestling homework to endless teasing.

I didn’t know…
how many hours a husband could work
and still work at home in the evening.
How nice it would be when he herds the boy to bed
and to hear him tell the girls good-night.
How much I love living life with him.

I didn’t know …
how much my own Mom meant to me until I became a mom,
or how wise my Dad really was until I had no answers.
How much my siblings meant to me until I moved away,
or how much I would miss them until I lost one.

I didn’t know …
that life doesn’t get easier as you get older,
or that you don’t feel as old as the young ones think you are.
How you don’t really have wise answers for life,
you just make them up as you go.
How complicated adults can make relationships,
or how easy it was to have 15 friends when you were 10.

I didn’t know…
how much your church would mean to you,
how much you would depend of your friends and family,
and how they would pull you through trying times.

I didn’t know …
the never ending supply of Jesus until I needed it,
how his mercy and grace sustains you every day.
How often I would cry out to him in the night,
and how many times he would answer my prayers.

I didn’t know…
how often my kids would say, “I didn’t know!”

Five Years Later

“Don’t forget in the darkness what you have learned in the light.”  
-Joseph Bayly 
“Yet sometimes the darkness descends so thickly that we can barely remember the light.” 
-Phillip Yancey 

Grief, like a cloud, rolls in and fog descends 
to blanket your entire world.  
You lift your eyes and see all silvery-white,  
only a few feet before, everything else is hidden.  
You live in a world submerged, unable to observe,  
to grasp that life is moving on without the one you love.  

They say time heals the pain.  
 Time just soothes the ragged edges,  
but Jesus heals the heart.  

Slowly the morning light pours in and the fog begins to lift.  
You start to see the world around, still living life,  
but you see through new eyes. 
Grief has altered your vision,  
given a new perspective, a changed outlook on life.  
Life is not to be taken for granted,  
those closest, held dear, every day treasured.  

They say hindsight is 20/20,  
but until heaven, we see through a glass darkly. 

While blanketed in the fog, you reach with outstretched arms,  
yearning to feel His love and compassion.  
Without fail they are there, ready and waiting, always. 
When the fog has lifted, you look back and define  
beauty in the moments He gave grace,  
see His strength supplied to climb the next high mountain.  
There was comfort for the days overpowered with tears,  
mercy when we lashed out in anger, 
and peace in the middle of the storm.  

Rather than demanding God answer our “Why?” questions, 
may we instead ask “What would you have me learn?” 

Five years later, 
questions still crowd our minds, queries with no answers. 
We will live with those questions for now,
trusting God’s sovereignty. 
We live understanding that walking a fiery trial 
is not easy, it is not without pain, grief, and days of sorrow.  
Are we better for having walked this road? 
Grief has softened, taught grace, mercy, and love. 
We have learned to cherish, to hold with an open hand.   
We understand how pain and joy co-exist in life.  
Heartache made us wise, suffering strengthened us, 
and we held onto hope, gripping desperately with both hands. 
We walked the fiery trial and we learned to rest in God, 
who holds all things in His hands.  

On the foggiest night pain is real, but so is hope.

The Heart

This was written almost three years ago, but the last week my mind has been drawn back to it again and again. Perhaps there is someone out there who needs it.

The heart was cold, dry, and musty.
It was empty and dehydrated from lack of nourishment.
There was no dripping joy of gladness overflowing,
no welling up of tender love and care.
It was empty, shriveling up, and becoming hard and brittle.

Life had taken a toll on the heart and deserved all the blame.
Things were hard, ruthless, unfair, and overwhelming.
All the “Why’s” “How’s” and “I can’t handle anymore.”
kept crowding in and taking up more space,
leaving no room for a positive thought.

Self-pity slowly dripped acid into the open wounds.
“Life is just about giving and never receiving,
giving of time, talents, money, health, and even family.”
“There is never a moment of peace,” it whispered,
“You deserve so much more than you are getting.”
And the cold, dark, and broken heart believed.

Faith wavered when prayers went unanswered.
Doubt crept in and worry filled all the corners.
Life seemed to have more questions then answers
and the heart was starting to believe the lies.

The more time passed, the more the heart hardened.
Life lost its sunshine and everything
was covered with the cloud cover of hurt.
Anger and weariness took over.

The heart looked longingly at others,
wishing for what they had, for the song they sang.
It wondered how to find this again,
and was there something missing?
The head knew all the correct answers,
but the heart was not feeling them.

Over time one small note after another
made its way across the path of the heart.
“I am faithful, I will not fail you.
Lean on Me, trust in Me.
I am a refuge for the weary.
I am a shelter from the storm.
I am comfort, I am protection.”

But is it true? Do I dare believe?
Can I trust Him again?

“I am close to the brokenhearted.
I hear your cries.
You are precious to me.
You are mine and I love you.”

And with the touch of His finger,
a tiny sliver of hope was born.

Slowly, slowly over time the heart began to warm
as more notes, more words, made their way around.
Deep in its depths where it was cracked and broken,
a little light began to shine in and break up the darkness.
The Mender poured in healing oil, warm and smooth.
He worked the rough edges, patching the cracks,
smoothing the broken pieces and closing the gaping holes.
A heart badly broken is not mended in one day,
but patiently He worked, never giving up
and ever so slowly, healing began.

There were still days when the heart
wanted to whither and shrink,
to pull back and believe the old lies.
But the Mender had a gentle touch
and while He worked He quietly whispered
words of encouragement, of love, truth,
and peace into the once torn and ragged heart.
Each stitch was reshaping and reviving
a broken heart to be made new.
Each patch was bringing new strength and vigor
to a once worn and struggling soul,
life was returning to the heart.

While the heart may not be as beautiful as it once was,
each mended piece and scar tell a story,
each patched and sewn corner weave a tale.
The heart is now filled with gladness and singing,
light squeezes through the threads,
spilling out to tell the world of the Mender’s touch.

Take Heart

Though our hearts tremble with fear,
take heart, God is still in control.

Though disease strikes our body,
take heart, He is the Great Physician.

When you feel the enemy creeping closer,
take heart, He parted the Red Sea.

When giants of doubt loom large and leering,
take heart, all He asks is the faith of a mustard seed.

Though worry overtakes us for our future,
take heart, He feeds the sparrows.

When your assurance wavers,
take heart, His covenant is trustworthy.

Though difficulty rains down on all sides,
take heart, He is a refuge in troubles times.

When the burden you bear feels too heavy,
take heart, He will give you rest for your soul.

When you feel deserted and all alone,
take heart, He will never leave you or forsake you.

When it feels as if Satan is pacing all around,
take heart, He closed the lion’s mouth.

When you walk through the valley of the shadow,
take heart, His rod and His staff will comfort you.

Though anxiety crowds your mind,
take heart, He has promised peace beyond understanding.

When the road before you looks overwhelming,
take heart, He has offered His right hand.

When the storm is crashing around you,
take heart, He can calm the winds.

Though our hearts tremble with fear,
take heart, God is still in control.

Take Heart-1

© Shannon Hostetler

Grateful

Each November a grateful feeling
pulls and tugs one thought after another
from us, prompting a spirit of thanksgiving.
Large things, small moments,
family, friends, and food aplenty,
our list goes on and on.

My mind wanders in circles,
thinking, remembering, and thanking.

I wandered across the beautiful times in life,
easy to be grateful, so much to love.
Life was clear skies, sunny days,
the perfect times to be alive.

I wander through the cloudy days,
a little foggy to remember
the times of trials and challenges.
Life struggled to be full of sunshine,
but there were still
so many things to be thankful for,
even in the days of gray.

Still farther I ventured,
deeper into the darkness.
Before me loomed the hard days,
full of tears, heartache, and pain.
Was there anything in those days
to be grateful for?

There were times my faith was stretched
to the point of snapping and breaking.
But other times faith grew.
It was small moments, little drops of hope,
God planting tiny seeds, urging me
to keep believing His promises.

Days of turmoil felt endless,
restless, sleepless nights filled with anxiety.
Yet in the midst of them all,
a quiet peace was always below the surface.
His whispers were so gentle
and a hopeful hush would fill my heart.

There were prayerless days,
empty, hollow and still.
There were days of shouted words,
hurled at the open skies.
But always I came,
circling back to Him with tearful prayers,
pleading for forgiveness and answers.
His voice, a quiet whisper on the wind,
spoke deeply to my heart,
assuring me of His presence
even when I felt Him least.

My strength was depleted,
I lie prone and helpless, unable.
God in His great mercy
lifted me up and walked me
through day after day after day.
Never did He leave my side,
always my support and my strong arm.
When I was unable, He was able.

Those dark and heavy days
taught me to love unconditionally,
to hold family tight and enjoy.
They showed the beauty of Jesus
in the body of believers.
I reflected, remembering good,
finding laughter in memories,
and reveling in the gifts
I had been given.
In the quiet stillness, I learned
God is trustworthy, faithful,
and a dependable source of strength.

The dark valleys were not easy.
I was stretched and tried,
and slowly but surely my faith grew.
My heart knew greater dimensions,
fears were conquered
and challenges overcome with His help.

Am I grateful for the dark days?
I am thankful for the things I learned,
for new truths, a closer walk,
deeper communion,
and eyes that see the world
in a new light.
Even in the darkest times,
there are tiny specks of light,
just enough to be thankful for
and just enough grace for today.

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