It all unfolds before us

as if we’re paging through a picture book–

smiles sprout less often, shoulders begin to melt,

eyelids droop and strands of white appear in our hair.

And long before the strands of white appear,

we lose our child-laugh and even our innocence.

We are the human race:

the ugly-beautiful,

the slowly dying,

the miraculously alive.

I’m standing in the kitchen mixing cookie dough, of all things,

grappling with my questions as my hands keep moving by themselves.

I’m standing in the kitchen and I’m fighting with my humanness …

An indescribable longing to be good–perfect–

and a deep, throbbing sorrow that I am not.

The sorrow pulls my heart muscles until they’re sore;

I see myself, the way I live,

desiring good and speaking good words,

when it’s too late for me to be good.

It was too late for me to be good the very first time my own pain built up,

boiled over,

and hurt someone else.

I see myself talking of godliness, but here I am:

chasing nothings,

caught into anger’s frenzied mess,

flailing about, leaving injured hearts in my wake.

Here I am,

like the robin outside the window;

I pound my head into the glass with every attempt to catch a faint reflection of a better me.

What a sinful speck I am!

And so I grieve for those I’ve wronged

and I grieve for myself.

I don’t want it to be hard to love;

I don’t want to be hard to love!

But it’s too late! Too late for me to be good!

The beauty of my God I want to see alive in me!

He! He is the only place I have ever seen good.

I’m standing in the kitchen and the cookie dough is forgotten

and even my hands have stopped moving,

stopped by the indescribable longing to be good–perfect–

and the deep, aching sorrow that I am not.

He was good, the Savior of the world,

but it is too late for me to be good.

So why did He die?

I’m leaning against the counter and the questions keep coming.

Why did He die? Because He loved me?

Why did He love me? Because He made me?

Why did He make me? To be good? What if it’s too late for me to be good?

Surely He knew I’m not strong enough to be good on my own …

So this must mean … of course it must mean

He didn’t die because I am good;

He died because I am a sinner.

My hands grip the counter just as hope sweeps my heart

because look at it, all of it:

the sad storybook hasn’t ended

and it doesn’t end with the breaking bodies or the suffering souls,

{ours nor His}

it begins.

It has begun in me … !

Something good, something life-changing and life-saving,

something that I could never create.

And suddenly here in the kitchen, the tragedy of my humanness becomes a comfort:

of course I am human, and my God made human and said “It is good”

and even now when we’ve twisted the goodness,

He is able to redeem it.

He is so good as to forgive,

never allowing me to wallow in the hopelessness …

How long I have been standing at the counter, who knows,

but right now I’m seeing, as if for the first time, what He does!

He grabs my hand–I can feel His grasp now–!

He teaches me to walk,

He pours His holiness into me.

A beautiful, only-from-God holiness that goes far beyond “good”

and shouts His praises, not mine.

This is God’s bridge to us,

coming to where we are and refusing to let us stay there.

We are His now! We are the human race,

the once-ugly, the now-beautiful,

the outwardly dying,

the eternally alive.

“But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

{Ephesians 2:4-10}


The Year {in Gratitude}

This is probably the last chance I’ll have to update before we leave to fly across the ocean on January 22nd. Reflecting over 2012 has made me so grateful, especially for all the Lord has been teaching me about gratefulness–in everything–so I just want to give a rundown of my year, the craziest and most amazing year of my life so far, and the gifts it’s brought.

Hence … a sampling of my sporadically-updated gratitude list throughout the year! Especially used to capture the small gifts that would otherwise be forgotten.




Well, my cousin James, you get to be first today, because you’re one of the first things I wrote down in January. I hope you don’t mind your nickname; I’m sure there are a lot of loving cousins who will carry on the tradition after we leave. ☺ James, you’ve inspired, challenged and changed me. Please never stop. Thank you for your life of dedication to God!


A snowless, giftless Christmas, to help me appreciate snow and to help me appreciate what’s important




The Sommers family

Last year was the “12 Days of Christmas” Christmas, never to be forgotten. For a full performance of the song together, watch the video. ☺


We love you!


Alexander’s eyes



Desire – how empty and complete one can feel at the same time,

and how, if you love Christ,

it will draw you to Him


The one-armed Target cashier

She had more joy than is often seen in one person.


A friend you know will pray for you

I have been blessed with many.



They who trust Him wholly / find Him wholly true

From “Like a River Glorious” ♫



Remembering I have a gratitude journal


Sitting on a plane with M-BARK flying to Israel … and London first …

I would love to overload you all with pictures, but I’ll let you meander on over to our Israel blog for that, if you’re in the mood.

That trip still doesn’t seem real. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, one I will never take for granted. Having visited the Holy Land only creates a longing to go back! Praise God for the opportunity He gave us!


Quiet time on the Mount of Beatitudes


Climbing Mt Arbel

The most beautiful prayer time … meeting God.



The old beggar woman who cupped my face in her hands and wept and tried to speak to me.

Sometimes there is a language barrier … and all you can do is beg Christ to shine His light through you anyway.

… wordless …


Praying for 2 hours in the driveway late at night with the M-BARK kids

It all started with one last round of “The Lord is my Light.”



A talk on the swing set with Kelci

At 2 o’clock in the morning. Swinging. In Jerusalem. Yes. ♥


A real, live popsicle stick with real, live Hebrew on it from Monica.

(Because I’ve always wanted one of those,

and because I love that girl.)

Maybe I should move on.


Bare feet in the grass on a trail in the middle of the woods

Like Chloe said, I will miss the Wilderness Center, too.



The cousinly weekend at the cabin

Group journaling / deep, soul-stirring discussions / 3 hours of crying out and praying for more of God / repentance, intercession, tissues / piano in the city / dessert at Ervina’s


Gum wrapper notes

From darling people.

Gum wrapper notes are an inspiring way to encourage people. You should try it sometime. ☺


Chore lists

One of the ugly-beautifuls of life.



Standing under a bridge talking to people without a home

He created us to be His hands and feet … no wonder it fulfills us to do it!

Forgive me, Lord, for my self-centered life …


That [my brother] stands for what’s right, even in the small things

I am so thankful for him.


A letter in a bottle from Victoria

She is dear to me.



Finding a prayer request slip at work by the Wallhouse trash can 


Deborah surprising me

All the way from North Carolina, around my birthday.




The Sun Will Rise. ♫


Someone telling me I messed up

Painful growth. Thank You, Jesus.


My room cleaned when I got home, a rose and a note on my bed

Mother’s loving handiwork. Thank You, Jesus.


Talking with someone about their passion and seeing them come alive

Wow! God has planted such beautiful dreams in the hearts of His children.


“We have seen this day that God speaks to man, and man lives.”

Deuteronomy 5:24


Christ Be With Me ♫


Notes in tip jar

Most planted by Christy. Some saying “You guys are awesome” and some giving advice on how to escape from kidnappers.


#302. Adrianna falling asleep on my lap



Praying and sharing on the church house bathroom floor all through the sermon

It was beautiful.


At work …

the little boy jumping up and down and breaking into dance upon discovering we have hot chocolate



Jesus answering Chloe’s prayer to find Beatrice the cat


The smell of the house at 12290 Sandusky Dr

Thank You, Jesus.


Not crashing

… coming dangerously close is the only thing that reminds you to be thankful you didn’t.


London Fogs


When one plays the Random Question Game and Marylou is involved



Wordless hugs, wordless greetings, wordless prayers


Victory over the greatest enemy

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!


Worship when God takes away

and worship when God gives.


Hymns on harp





A last chance to hear Handel’s “Messiah”

“Rejoice greatly,” “He shall speak peace,” the polished timpani player, “And He shall feed His flock”


The year’s first snowflakes in one’s hair

Recorded from November


A Bebo Norman song time at the piano with Michael and Chloe

I will never forget it.


The person ahead of me in drive-thru paying for my coffee

(I thought that only happens in books.)


Sheila’s raspberry sauce

and the puddle she drew of it on my cello case.


Bilingual barn owls and flopped yogurt

And that one will have to go unexplained.


People who possess the gift of listening


Christmas feast by the men

… and being tackled by Tall Brother when attempting to clear the table.


God’s timing

Why would we ever doubt it?


Christy‘s gratitude journal

I love her grateful heart.

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one calls for deep thoughts, I guess …

I have none.

Lord, this life is for You! Let it be lived only for You!

“Only one life, ‘t’will soon be past;

Only what’s done for Christ shall last.”


is my name.

Face (Steve McCurry)

You know my story, don’t you? You’ve heard it countless times. You call my name blessed. But did you know the meaning of my name?

Bitter. Really, life in Israel during my time could not have fit that word more! Living in Nazareth was not a sunny day on the farm or a happy family around a full table. No–every day, my heart was breaking for all the pain and filth I saw. Everywhere around me, tragedies were happening. My friend lost her baby. My uncle was arrested. My family hadn’t had more than bread for dinner in nearly a fortnight.

You little girls have dreams … I had dreams, too. I dreamed of having my loved ones all together again. I dreamed of falling in love, getting married and raising a family in a place that was safe, where my children could play in the streets without fear, where they would never know hunger.

But now, life was a different story. You’d have to see Nazareth to picture the turmoil and despair. If you’d ask why, anyone could tell you it was the fierce and reckless oppression of the Romans, the ever-present army that reined people into submission because they made people afraid.

On this day–the day I want to tell you about–they had long since succeeded in turning our lives upside down. Somewhere along the line, my dreams had been destroyed.

You picture me a perfect saint. I was not. I was only another helpless human born into this restless world.

You picture me a matured, motherly woman. I was not. I was a girl–fourteen–and to be honest, that day I felt like a child forced to grow up too fast.

You picture me a starry-eyed bride-to-be. I was not. Of course I love Joseph now; he is the best man in the world. But at that time I was struggling. One evening only a month ago, father had come into the house, beaming, and informed me as we sat down to dinner that I was to be betrothed to this Joseph, a good man … a man I had never spoken to, a man I didn’t know.

Maybe you’re just about to say a goodbye to something in life, to face the biggest change ever … a change you didn’t ask for. That was me!

Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to see. This world is broken, and it needs its Creator. But don’t think that, for God to come, all must look alright and life must be as you’ve always pictured it. Believe me when I tell you that He could not have come at a more desperate time … !

So. Let me take you to that day when I was fourteen, walking out to the barn to give water to father’s cow. My mind wasn’t on my tasks because my heart was grieving. I slipped in the door and saw no one was inside, so I felt free to collapse. I sank to my knees, setting the bucket down beside me. Everything was piling up in my heart; I was hurting for my loved ones … for my homeland, for innocent people killed, for broken story after broken story. When would it end?

Then there was my own life: how could I be strong and face all that was coming? Being strong had nearly exhausted me.

As I knelt in the straw, my familiar prayer came to my lips almost automatically.

“Adonai … come to us. Be with us!”

Even as a little girl, I had always longed, always prayed for God’s presence. God with us! I had heard how He led my people in times past, and that a Messiah was going to come one day in the future–yes–but oh, my world was so broken! And what my soul craved was God with us … now!

My little girl heart had clung to Adonai, and even now I believed His promise … but how long would the world groan and ache for a deliverer? It had never been so hard to believe.



You smile because you know who suddenly stood before me. I didn’t know; I was terrified!

I don’t know how you picture angels, or if you’ve ever met with one. But think Who sends them! The bright, piercing power of this angel, a very holy power but not what would strike you as “safe” … I can’t begin to describe.

Oh, I know you’ve heard my story … so do you remember what Gabriel said? “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

 “The Lord is with you.”

God with me!

You could recite the angel’s next words, I’m sure. But think how they shocked me! From that moment, my life would never be the same. I would bear the Son of God. The Messiah I’d heard about was really coming … and to be born through my body, and to be so near to me that I could hold Him against my heart.

God with us. Could He be any closer?

God with us, to heal this bitter, broken world.

Do you know His name? Immanuel! His very name is the answer to my prayers–yours too!

God with us!



♫ Mary (Patty Griffin)


Photo: Pinterest

Bind this Wandering Heart to Yours

I remember one slow summer day when I was very small

Wandering into our temporarily-abandoned schoolroom for lack of anything  better to do.

The desks were pushed into a corner and finished books were stowed away.

I ambled up to the big bookcase, the one that nearly touched the ceiling,

The one that held all the books I would use next school year.

Reaching out, I picked up one of the last ones:

Pages and pages of things I hadn’t learned yet.

I opened the book to a random place and my eyes lighted on a long pile of numbers and decimal points and a symbol I didn’t understand.

It looked like a tower of scary numbers to me;

It didn’t look like long division because I didn’t know that’s what it was called.

I gulped, frightened out of my wits,

And stuffed the wretched book back in with the others on the shelf.

And then I knelt down,

A scared, silly little child, and whispered,

God, you’re going to have to help me learn all that stuff. 

How could anyone understand something so complex? How was I ever going to understand it?

And then–if you fast-forward life–

A few years later, the wretched line of numbers had a name: long division.

And it wasn’t scary. It was easy. It was second nature.

And I laughed at myself for ever worrying.

If you fast-forward life again,

That happened many other times,

In bigger and bigger ways.

Sometimes if I would have looked ahead, I would have either laughed

Or given up

At what I saw,

Simply because the future would have have looked so very impossible.

But I find God doing things in my life

That are absolutely crazy, and somehow seem normal now and, with His strength, sometimes



It’s incredible how He grows us

Into people we didn’t think we could become,

And indeed, never could become, without Him.

You know,

If I stop and look at what my Abba has brought into my life,

It blows my mind

{over and over.}

And you know what I am realizing?

Sometimes He shows us a bit of what is coming

To make us trust in Him,

And sometimes He does not show us what is coming

To make us trust in Him.


Life has been a bunch of overused words like

{indescribable} and

{amazing} and

{incredible} and

{hard} and

{crazy} and

{just wow.}

My sister just blogged

The same day I had been finally thinking of attempting to blog.

She put it all into far more appropriate, beautiful words than I could

Even if I stayed up really late to try

{which is what I am doing.}

We have impeccably bad timing

And I like it that way.

Life? Life.

I thought I knew good old Life,

His idiosyncrasies and tendencies and personality.

This year I find I didn’t know him at all;

He is turning out to be quite the stranger.

{Harder} and {better} things than ever. Truly.

Both to bind my heart to the Perfect One.


At the wedding a few weeks ago, I almost died.

I survived a tornado alongside some of the dearest people I know.

When you are almost dying,

It’s true that things happen in slow motion,

And you yell the name of your loved ones,

But it does not echo like you’re in a tunnel (unless you really are in a tunnel)

And there is no sweeping soundtrack,

Just your heart beating up in your throat because it was so frightened it had to climb something.

Afterward, if you are not dead,

You immediately locate the aforementioned loved ones

And touch their faces to make sure they’re real

And say a heartfelt prayer of deep gratitude for a few more moments to live on this imperfect earth.

At the wedding last weekend,

I saw a family praise God for giving and for taking away:

A family celebrating a holy, beautiful marriage the day after the funeral service for the groom’s mother.

If the indescribable events that happened that fateful week were a hurricane,

Then being with the grieving family was the very eye of the hurricane,

The peaceful place harm can’t touch,

Because God was there. He poured out a rushing, overwhelming grace and strength and joy


To those who needed it most,

And every thing that truly mattered, He took care of.


This weekend is another wedding.

We’ve been discussing how we’re ready for a normal wedding,

Not life-wrecking or life-changing,

But looking back there is nothing but gratitude that God used them in the way He did!

I would take back nothing.

Thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past!

The testimony of this in others has changed me and {grown} me … and

He is doing this in my life,

Bringing things I thought I couldn’t handle

All in order to glorify His name,

To draw my heart to Him

And tune it to the key of His praise.


My God is calling me to the very opposite side of the world.

It’s another most-difficult-and-wonderful-thing-ever for me,

But thankfully it has nothing to do with me;

It has to do with Jesus, His glory, and things like Love, and the Gospel, and Redemption.

Oh, hallelujah!

That God would take someone such as us and say

“I will glorify my name through this human.”

I don’t know what more to say about moving to the very opposite side of the world;

I don’t know what more to say about anything, ever.

I just wanted to visit this dilapidated blog to say that God is good, and always more faithful than you think,

And I want to be holy,


“We have all of eternity to celebrate the victories we’ve won,

But only a few moments before sunset to win them.”

{Robert Moffat said that.}


Praise God who gives and takes away,

Who always does best.

Here is my heart;

Take it! Seal it!

Seal it for Heaven.

Oh, I long for Heaven …

Let us go in His strength …

In the few moments we have left on this imperfect earth …

And win those victories.

Here’s my heart, Lord. Seal it for Heaven.

Something Worth Saying

Maybe life is a canvas, and we won’t know what colors we’ll have to paint with each day until each day comes. Maybe today, the colors I’m given for my painting will be bright and pretty ones, easy to paint with, to create with . . . pleasing rainbows or butterfly wings, a sunrise or a bed of flowers.

Colorful Buildings Painting.


Maybe instead of a bunch of bright, pretty colors I’ll be given something not so fun. Maybe blues and greys are my supplies today.

I normally hate paintings like this. ["The Wave," Gustave Courbet]


I’m only human. I don’t know how to make beautiful things out black and white. I don’t know how to make beautiful things out of dust and nothingness.

  Life is beautiful; that’s a nice thought.

Life is beautiful when I’m on the porch under the sunrise with a cup of tea, a bible and my journal. Everything is still quiet; it’s easy to relax about my day when everything is quiet, to rest my soul and decide I’m ready for whatever comes.

Life was beautiful when I was sitting on the hotel deck late into the night, mesmerized by the panorama of the Sea of Galilee off in the distance . . . all was dark except for speckles of light from towns and boats and vehicles. This is Israel. I heard voices far off in the night . . . a mother calling to her child. A child singing. A song playing in someone’s car as they drive past on the street below. I closed my eyes and all I saw was the Sea. Jesus was here. I could almost imagine that I could almost see Him. It’s easy to worship when you’re somewhere like this.

Life is beautiful when my soul is nourished for the day . . . God gives a word in the bible I know is exactly for me. I’m blown away for the thousandth time at how He writes us letters, words that minister to each heart and carry us through the Next Thing.

  My heart shall not fear.

  In Your presence is fullness of joy.

  You are my portion. Shepherd Your people.

  Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You. Let them ever shout for joy because You defend them. Let all those who love Your name be joyful in you. For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround them as with a shield.

Life is beautiful when it is pleasing, easy, natural, restful, clear.

So how can life be beautiful when it is harried, rushed, frantic, hard, obscure?

I don’t know how to make beauty out of packed schedules and stressful events. It’s hard to see beauty in a broken down vehicle (or sky-high gas prices) or piles of laundry or people in bed sick. Messed up plans! “Beautiful” is the last word I would think of to describe those.

Life is not always peaceful or easily described as beautiful.

Sometimes it’s like today. Sometimes I have hard decisions. Things I don’t want to do, and things I want to do that I can’t. Sometimes I have to wrestle for every moment with God. I have to wrestle with every decision to rest my soul. I have to wrestle back my desire to wrestle back my dreams; I’ve given them up a hundred times.

Well, okay . . . I’ve clicked onto this page almost every day for the past few weeks. Somehow I feel there’s something to say but I’m not sure what it is. What am I doing, blogging when there’s nothing worth saying?

So I decided to wait to blog until I could finally sit down and describe what it is on my heart. There had to be some way to translate feelings into words worth saying. I would wait until what was on my heart changed.

I would wait until it was something worth saying.

But then I gave up on the whole waiting-for-words thing, and here you are with your brow furrowed and your eyes squinted, trying to wade your way through these ramblings. I would have probably waited forever and the words wouldn’t have come. I decided to try to write down a bit of . . . everything . . . even though I have no idea how. There you have it–the raw, honest, unorganized thoughts of Cherie about life today.

Life sometimes will be peaceful moments, like standing watching the sunrise, or take-your-breath-away moments, like worshiping at the garden tomb, but it will sometimes be saying goodbye to your dearly loved ones or being hurt or attending a funeral or hearing of an earthquake or having your vehicle repaired or cleaning the bathroom or hearing your name yelled in an angry burst of words. It’s funny how we can feel so relaxed one moment, and so out of control of everything the next.

Life is a lot like writing, or yes, painting; all that can be done is to make the most of the words you know and the colors you are given.

But that’s not the whole truth; the whole truth is that it’s really God that is the artist, not us, and that is a good thing because He knows how to make beautiful things out of black and white, out of dust and nothingness. Everything that is from Him is good, and even when bad happens, He can use that for good as well. He made man out of mud and He gave us salvation for sin.

Thinking of this reminds me how foolish it is every time I sit stubbornly by my easel, clutching my paintbrush and refusing to let Him take it. It’s only after I make my own mess with my “not-good-enough” art supplies that I humbly hand over my brush and watch Him make a masterpiece from the mess. How does He do it? He made it with nothing at all.

Today looks like a mess. It looks overwhelming and impossible to birth beauty . . .

This is life: all of it real, all of it beautiful. This day is His.

  “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart.

And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

  “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” (I Peter 5:10)

  “Therefore . . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)

That is in God’s words, and that is something worth saying.