• DANCE IN THE RAINLife is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.- Vivian Greene

joy maple+

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

I write and speak primarily about suffering. I didn’t choose this topic- if it were up to me, I’d be an expert on effective parenting, or gourmet cooking, or physical fitness. Or wealth management. I’d even settle for waste management. Life would be easier and more fun if my experiences centered on something less bruising. My mom agrees. Years ago, after hearing me speak about the death of my son, she offered a suggestion: “I love hearing you talk about suffering. But I think you’ve spoken enough about it because God keeps giving you more material. Your next topic needs to be joy. Tell God that you don’t have enough first-hand experience with joy so He needs to give you more!”

My mom, one of my favorite people in the world, has a great sense of humor. We have laughed about that statement many times, though I know she was only partially joking. She’s weary of watching me suffer. She wants me to have joy.

In the ensuing years since that talk, my life has gotten increasingly difficult. I have cried more, screamed at God more, and felt more miserable than I care to admit. But at the same time, I have experienced a deeper joy than I could ever have imagined. For the first half of my life, my joy seemed dependent on my circumstances. When my life was going well, and things were easy, I felt happy. I felt that God was blessing me, though I couldn’t find much time for God. I was too busy enjoying the good life.

But when life unravelled and the days felt unbearable, God’s presence was unmistakable. Even when my major accomplishment for the day was making it through without a breakdown, there was something extraordinary about my time with God. I desperately needed Him. To give me strength. To revive me. To help me hang on. It was the only way to survive.

And through those excruciating days, God spoke to me. He comforted me through His Word. He whispered to me in the darkness, as I lay awake on my tear-stained pillow. He sang songs over me of His love. View full post »

  • January 10, 2014 - 2:28 pm

    Ann - Great post!! Your mom’s prayers are answered in abundance!ReplyCancel

  • January 10, 2014 - 2:30 pm

    Anne Mercer - My dear Vaneetha,
    Carol sent me your blog address, and I would like to read your thoughts and share mine with you. I love your mother saying you need more joy in your life –
    that God has given you enough pain and you need to know more joy Oh how much I agree with your mother ! She sounds like my Mom.

    Personally, I think you are incredible and what a witness to God’s stregnth !I do pray for you for less pain, endurance — that he stops the progress the polio is making and replaces it with good cells. But I also thank him for your spirit and faith. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for allowing me to share in your life. My love and prayers……..AnneReplyCancel

    • January 11, 2014 - 11:12 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Anne, thank you for your prayers and encouragenment. I know you have walked through tremendous suffering yourself… and have been a wonderful witness through it all.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2014 - 9:04 pm

    Jennifer - As I know we’ve discussed, joy and an increasing sense of God’s presence is often the “consolation prize” during trials. And experiencing intimate fellowship like that makes all earthly pleasures pale in comparison.
    Thanks for this beautiful post that I’ve witnessed in your life first hand…
    Keep writing friend!!ReplyCancel

    • January 12, 2014 - 6:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Jennifer. We’ve walked many roads together and I’ve always appreciated your perspective in trials. Intimacy with God does make everything the world has to offer pale in comparison.ReplyCancel

  • January 12, 2014 - 8:09 am

    RuthAnn - Beautiful! And I love your mom too! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • January 12, 2014 - 5:57 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, RuthAnn! Thank you for your encouragement! And I agree- my mom is great!ReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    Renuka - I have read (and re-read) every one of your posts and have thoroughly enjoyed them. What makes your blog so special is the honesty with which your write. These are not mere words…they come from the heart… and that’s what makes them so encouraging and challenging. I have learnt much from you as I have watched you lean on God’s grace and live out your faith. Despite your circumstances there is abundant joy in your life that can only come from God(the radiance that Psalm 34 talks about.) I think you are one of God’s most beautiful creations (inside and out) I truly do. This particular blog reminded me of Dwayne Potteiger’s comment: “I would not have chosen the path I now walk, but wouldn’t trade it for the world”

    BTW, please tell your mom that I love her:)ReplyCancel

    • January 22, 2014 - 8:40 pm

      Vaneetha - Renuka, you have always encouraged me by your steadfastness and grace in the midst of tremendous trial. For well over a decade. Thank you for your kind words. They mean the world to me.ReplyCancel

  • January 1, 2015 - 10:21 am

    Sarah - Thank you for your wise words. I am once again awaiting the delivery of my dead baby girl at twenty-one weeks. We went through this February 2013, as well. We thought we had learned enough then, but God had another plan. As I struggle through the pain and the questions, I know that God has a purpose and He always works for our good and His own glory. I did not handle things well the last time, so now I have an opportunity to do a better job of reflecting His glory in the hard times. Anyway, a friend of mine just pointed me to your writings a couple of days ago and I am grateful for you and for her, women of God, who point me to the Truth.ReplyCancel

    • January 1, 2015 - 12:17 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Sarah. Words feels so inadequate in this. My heart aches for you. I am so very sorry. I am praying as I write this that God will comfort you and hold you in the midst of these unspeakable losses and that His love and presence will overwhelm you. I cannot wait for heaven where there will be no more tears or crying or pain…ReplyCancel

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clock face with rock climber+

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

Every January, I select a word to symbolize the new year- what I want to improve, to change, to become. Choosing a word helps me focus. I consider both where I am lacking and where God is stretching me. The word is more than what I want to accomplish- it embodies who I want to become. I prayerfully sit with different words simultaneously, until one takes hold of me. Then all year long, I reflect on that word and try to live up to it, to apply it to my life.

This year I didn’t want to pick a word. I’m tired of failing.

Last year my word was PRAY. I wanted my life to be characterized by prayer. I was hoping to pray more, pray about everything, and specifically pray for the people I cared about. At first, I was ever mindful of prayer. I made an extensive prayer list for my friends. And for a while, I got up an hour earlier just to pray for them. A while being defined as exactly one week. Afterwards, I’d allot 15 extra minutes to pray for this list. Sometimes it was down to 5 minutes. Lately I’ve been glancing at the list on the run.

The previous two years, I picked the same word, ENCOURAGE. The first year, I often found myself in the middle of conversations, realizing I hadn’t said anything encouraging at all. Unless I counted, “Glad you’re finally seeing things my way” or “You have a flair for stating the obvious.” Clearly, I’m a little too fond of sarcasm. So I focused on the same word a second year, hoping to see dramatic change. It didn’t happen that year either but I was too ashamed to choose the same word yet again. I had so wanted to encourage my precious daughters, who often hear what’s left undone, without acknowledgement of all that’s been done. They needed to know their efforts were valued. Over the two years, I did see improvement, but I fell far short of my ideal.

Several years ago, when I first stumbled upon this idea of one word, I felt empowered. It was just one word, which was easy to remember, even for me. And I loved choosing the word and reflecting back on it; my main frustration was my lack of consistency. View full post »

  • January 2, 2014 - 10:48 pm

    Pam Rundle - Thanks for the encouragement to keep trying keeping in mind that God is the one who does the work. See your word from those others years is working.ReplyCancel

    • January 3, 2014 - 2:12 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you Pam! Glad my word from 2 AND 3 years ago is bearing fruit. If only my daughters thought so too! I appreciate the encouragement.ReplyCancel

  • January 3, 2014 - 8:29 am

    RuthAnn Marenyi - As ALWAYS you make me laugh out loud (I love and share your bent toward sarcasm 🙂
    I love the word(s) you’ve chosen but I must tell you that you have been an enormous encouragement to me over the past years. So while your past success may have seemed small and incremental to you, might I also suggest that it may not even be seen by you but experienced by others (mostly likely many)! You just plant the seed…..(and I know your thumb is about as green as mine since I personally know how many artificial plants you have in your house…..but God gives the growth!)ReplyCancel

    • January 3, 2014 - 2:10 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, RuthAnn. That was very encouraging! I guess we never see what God is doing in us and through us. By the way- I LOVE your sense of humor!ReplyCancel

  • January 3, 2014 - 8:58 am

    Amy Bailey - Vaneetha,
    Thank you so much for your writings! I have enjoyed your blog posts and have been so encouraged by you!!

    I too have chose a word for 2014…Grace. I *love* the law. I use to watch others fail in my “holy” eyes, all while living an exhausted life of trying to live up to it myself. I am tired. So, I am looking to extend Grace not only to others, but also to myself. Galatians is my friend, and it’s been instrumental in showing me my lack thereof.

    I also, through the magic of Facebook, found another woman I know locally, from another church, who is focusing on the same word…and we are currently working out what our relationship will look like this year, but at the very least we are committing to praying for each other and checking in. I’m thinking this relationship may be more, however. In our deep theological FB chats, she described it as a word or ideal that she would like to practice for the year. Practice. That seems so much more manageable. When you practice for a game, you are sharpening your skills, but with no pressure. You are working out the kinks alongside those who are for you, who are playing on the same team, those who are there to encourage you as you work it all out.

    So, as I stare down 2014, I am going to practice Grace. Grace for myself, and grace for others. With not pressure. Because it’s just practice…

    Keep writing!
    Love, *Grace*, Peace, and *Joyful Acceptance* to you, dear sister,
    Amy BaileyReplyCancel

    • January 3, 2014 - 2:08 pm

      Vaneetha - Grace. What a wonderful word! I too love the law- especially for other people. Oh, how I need grace…Thank you so much for sharing, Amy.ReplyCancel

  • January 31, 2014 - 6:24 pm

    Danelle - My word for the year – ACCEPTANCE. Maybe next year I can reach JOYFULLY accept, but for now JUST ‘acceptance’ is hUGe for me! 🙂 Thank you for your inspiration, Vaneetha. You are such a blessing to so many and it rings true on these pages…ReplyCancel

    • January 31, 2014 - 8:23 pm

      Vaneetha - A great word, Danelle. Easier to write than to live, at least for me. But working on it!ReplyCancel

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Christmas gratitude+

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

Nothing highlights my need for gratitude more than Christmas. My expectations are high. It’s my birthday. It’s Jesus’ birthday. And I have spent months shopping for the perfect gifts for everyone.

But the minute all the presents are unwrapped on Christmas morning, there’s a sense of letdown. I feel it in the air. Partly because there’s no more to open, nothing else to anticipate. And partly because the gifts themselves rarely meet expectations. People never seem to get me exactly what I want- there’s always something missing, something less than perfect.

I brush aside my vague dissatisfaction with my own gifts and quickly turn my attention to how others are responding to the presents I’ve given them. Invariably, I become even more dissatisfied; no one is as happy as I had hoped they would be. Some of their disappointment is voiced, but most is subtly revealed by their expressions. There’s always a longing- it could have been better, different, more thoughtful.

My first reaction is to point the finger. I ask myself how I could have a family that is so ungrateful. I silently accuse everyone of being materialistic, spoiled, jaded. I vow not to spend as much time or money next year, because it’s not worth it. I am annoyed that no one is thrilled with my efforts. I compare our family with others, and determine any one of them would be more grateful and helpful than mine. View full post »

  • December 27, 2013 - 11:08 pm

    Karen falconer - I promise not to comment on every blog but this one really hit me. I absolutely struggle with this too! This is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. So thankful for you and your wisdom. KarenReplyCancel

    • December 27, 2013 - 11:55 pm

      Vaneetha - Karen, I love your comments! Thank you for them!

      I wish I didn’t struggle so much with these issues- and not just at Christmas. I’m thankful it blessed you- we’re in this together!ReplyCancel

  • December 27, 2013 - 11:23 pm

    Jenny Jensen - What a great piece Van. I foresee you being a published author in the near future! I love your honesty. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • December 27, 2013 - 11:56 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Jenny. I so appreciate your encouragement!ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2014 - 2:15 pm

    Jeff Goins - I can TOTALLY relate. We Christmas-doubters need to start a club or something. Thanks for sharing your message, Vaneetha, and doing so honestly. The world needs to hear it.ReplyCancel

    • January 16, 2014 - 3:22 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks, Jeff! So glad my message resonated with you. I’ll bring the cookies for the club meeting!ReplyCancel

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Paul+ Paul+

I pull into the driveway, and I’m undone yet again at seeing my stunning camellia bush. This simple shrub that has weathered many storms, has taught me to hope, even when all seems lost.

 Almost 16 years ago, I put in a little garden outside my window. Everything in it was dedicated to our infant son Paul who had died. The camellia bush, a butterfly bush, and countless flowers all graced the yard in honor of our precious son. When we moved, we got permission to take the camellia, which blooms around the time of Paul’s death. We planted it in the perfect place, directly in front of our new home.

Spring came and the bush looked leafy and green, but the full sun of summer scorched it. By September, the leaves had all fallen and the shrub was a tangled mass of dry grey twigs. But it was so connected with Paul that getting rid of it was unthinkable. And so it sat there for months, dry and brittle. Lifeless.

Our landscaper knew nothing of our plant’s history. To him it was just a dead bush. One day when I was gone, he cut it down to the stump and hauled the branches away. When I inquired about it, he responded, “I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first. But it was dead you know.”

I know, I know, I know. It was dead and there was no point in keeping it.

After that, I couldn’t bear to look at that empty spot in front of the house. It seemed irrational, but the ache was all too real. I didn’t know why, but I felt that I had let Paul down. Why was this so important? Why did I cry every time I thought about it?

One spring day, I glanced at the space by the front door. I was stunned. Glossy, green leaves were covering the stump. Though the branches were destroyed, the roots had remained. The roots needed the ruthless pruning and the dormancy of winter to begin the work of regeneration. All winter long, when I could only see my loss, God was working for my good. 

Within a few weeks, a small bush had formed again. What I thought was dead, was now alive. Ann Voskamp tells of a rosebush she saw spring to life and noted, “what is dead may be dormant and what is barren may be about to bear and wild things somehow find a way to bloom.”

In late spring, we moved it to another part of the garden that doesn’t get direct heat. In the fall, the bush was once again covered with a breath-taking profusion of delicate white flowers. I wept when I saw them. They represented hope to me. Nothing is beyond redemption- God makes pathways in the wilderness and creates rivers in the dry wasteland.

I learned so much from that simple camellia bush:

God is always working — especially when we can’t see it.  Deep roots help us weather storms and drought. Pruning is painful but necessary for a fruitful life.  When all seems lost, redemption may be closer than we think.

 Never give up hope, because miracles happen every day.

 

  • December 20, 2013 - 4:20 pm

    Ann - I love your writing, Vaneetha! Thanks for sharing what the Lord is teaching you and encouraging me as you do! I will always be looking forward to the next post!ReplyCancel

  • December 20, 2013 - 6:07 pm

    Jennifer Morgan - Beautiful post friend! I love how creation, particularly gardens, illustrate so many spiritual truths.ReplyCancel

    • December 20, 2013 - 7:38 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Jennifer! I thought of you as I wrote this post as you were the one who made sure my camellia bush thrived in our old garden. ReplyCancel

  • December 20, 2013 - 6:45 pm

    Melanie - I love your first post and am eager to read the rest. Love you, Van! Your life, faith, and trust in Jesus inspire me to follow Him more closely.ReplyCancel

    • December 20, 2013 - 7:43 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much, Melanie. You are such a blessing to me.ReplyCancel

  • December 20, 2013 - 6:54 pm

    Keith - This is definitely sermon material. Thank youReplyCancel

    • December 20, 2013 - 7:44 pm

      Vaneetha - You are more than welcome, Keith. Thank you for reading it.ReplyCancel

  • December 20, 2013 - 6:57 pm

    Brian - Great post, Vaneetha. Very moving. I’m looking forward to keeping up with your writing. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • December 20, 2013 - 7:45 pm

      Vaneetha - That means a lot coming from you, Brian. You are such a great writer!ReplyCancel

  • December 21, 2013 - 10:00 am

    Maggie - Vaneetha – you have so many gifts!! I am so glad you are writing this blog!ReplyCancel

    • December 21, 2013 - 10:13 am

      Vaneetha - Thanks Maggie! And thank you for posting the link to my blog with your touching note attached. I miss you!ReplyCancel

  • December 22, 2013 - 10:32 am

    Jonathan Davidar - What an inspirational post. You represent purified gold. Your tenacious faith in the midst of unfathomable loss is the evidence of a living God in a living faith. Very encouraged by your outlook. Yes, miracles do happen every day – thank you for the reminder – because he is, we have hope. Look forward to your writing!ReplyCancel

    • December 27, 2013 - 9:01 pm

      Vaneetha - Wow, Jonathan. I feel undeserving of your comments- but so appreciate them. And you!.ReplyCancel

  • December 24, 2013 - 7:57 am

    Jean Seward - I found your blog!—-and wasn’t disappointed!!! Thank you for sharing your faith, your pain, your hope. It’s a great encouragement for us fellow and ofttimes weary pilgrims. Glad to connect with you in this small way 🙂ReplyCancel

    • December 27, 2013 - 9:03 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad it was encouraging Jean. I know you’ve walked many hard roads yourself and have encouraged me by your faith!ReplyCancel

  • June 13, 2014 - 3:09 am

    Olaronke Omotade - I love stories like this! You are such an amazing writer. God is using you mightily. I need to study under you as I’m an aspiring blogger now hehe. You should start a bloggers class. 😉 But yeah in relation to this story, I’m being reminded that through this chiseling process I’m in, God is still with me doing great things in the secret. Like Elisabeth Elliot said, “wonders are being performed under the surface of things”. We just have to open our eyes and have faith in the process. (Its hard though) But I truly sense the Holy Spirit equipping me and making me persevere. Thanks for the added hope!ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2014 - 8:38 am

      Vaneetha - Love the Elisabeth Elliot quote! Its amazing how God is working when it looks like nothing is happening. The chiseling process is hard, but ultimately so worth it. Thanks for writing, Olaronke!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2015 - 4:27 am

    Ruby - I am so blessed by all your posts. Ur life has fragrance of God, and that’s what I love. Your posts makes me fall in love with Jesus.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2015 - 11:33 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Ruby. Saying my words make you fall more in love with Jesus is the highest compliment I could EVER get!ReplyCancel

  • February 2, 2017 - 12:59 am

    Shannon - I can’t express how much this means to me right now. Thank you.ReplyCancel

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