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

Paul Demski held+ 

This month marks twenty years since our beloved son Paul was born and I am reposting this article from 2014 about him and the song “Held.” I am reminded once again that God’s ways are not our ways, but we can trust that he will ultimately use all the sorrows in our lives for our joy and for his glory.


Burying my precious baby was devastating. I had no idea how to cope with his sudden unexpected death. True, Paul had been born with a heart problem, but he had survived the critical surgery at birth and was thriving. He’d come home from the hospital at three weeks old, and after a slow start, began gaining weight.

With his winsome smile, easy disposition, and mop of curly dark hair, he delighted us all. He was healthy and beautiful. Even the physician filling in for Paul’s regular cardiologist was so impressed with his progress that he impulsively eliminated most of his heart medications. Paul didn’t need them anymore. He was fine. At first, I was encouraged by the good news. But two days later, Paul was dead. He was only two months old.

I struggled to accept what had happened. That a doctor’s foolish mistake took my baby’s life. As I watched them lower Paul’s tiny casket, I buried my dreams for him. How could his life glorify God? I felt nothing good could come from his pointless death.

But God in His wisdom knew differently. He uses everything in our lives as we submit to Him. He can turn the broken and marred and ugly into something beautiful. And He did that with Paul’s death.

Month later, I shared the story of Paul’s life and death with a new friend. That friend, Christa Wells, is a recording artist who subsequently wrote the song “Held,” which begins with the story of Paul. The opening lyrics are raw:

“Two months is too little, they let him go. They had no sudden healing. To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling.”

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  • September 1, 2017 - 10:11 am

    Jimmy - What a beautiful and sad story. I am so sorry for your loss. So many people are killing their babies out of convenience and you tried to keep yours with all your might. Our world is in a sorry state. But God has a reason for everything. What a beautiful song. I forwarded your message to as many people as I could. I pray for you!

    1 Chronicles 16:34
    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.ReplyCancel

    • September 1, 2017 - 10:35 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Jimmy. It’s amazing how good God is in the midst of suffering.ReplyCancel

  • September 1, 2017 - 10:19 am

    Crystal - What a beautiful little boy! And what a beautiful song as well. Thank you so much for sharing such a painful yet profound message with us. You are so right when you speak of how God uses suffering and loss for much greater purposes in the grand scheme of things. Even the torture and murder of his own son Jesus was allowed by God in order to bring healing, restoration, and salvation for us. The Lord knows firsthand the utter agony of loss but I thank God that He prepared a way for us to never know that pain again in heaven. In eternity, this earthly life and all its agony will be but a fleeting memory and our real lives in eternity will be shared with those little ones like your adorable baby (and also my little baby brother who was named Bruce Jr.) who are waiting with open arms to hold us and welcome us into eternity with them and with God forever and for always.
    Hallelujah to God for that!ReplyCancel

    • September 1, 2017 - 10:39 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing Crystal! Heaven will be great as we get to see all our loved ones who have gone before us. But the most exciting thing about heaven is that we will be with Jesus in unending fellowship with him forever and ever. And there will be no more tears or crying or pain. When I look at this life in that perspective, all my suffering is indeed a light and momentary affliction…ReplyCancel

      • September 4, 2017 - 11:38 pm

        Guerda - Amen.ReplyCancel

      • September 5, 2017 - 7:05 am

        Crystal - You are 100% correct! By the way, I hope you go to youtube and look up your song… I have scrolled through the comments underneath and the amount of people your song has helped to get through devastating tragedies is amazing. I thank God for you and for the talent He has given you to help others through painful experiences and to lead them back to God for comfort, salvation, and restoration.ReplyCancel

  • September 1, 2017 - 10:20 am

    Leslie - This song has ministered to me so many times in my life. I had a miscarriage in 2007, and God used that time in my life to show me many things about who He is. Thank you for sharing your story– I had no idea who the song was about, but I was sure there was a real story behind the song.

    God uses your openness and vulnerability to minister to others who are hurting. Thank you for taking that risk.


    • September 1, 2017 - 10:40 pm

      Vaneetha - I am so glad that the song has ministered to you, Leslie. It has been a blessing for me as “Held” reminds me how tenderly God cares for us in our pain.ReplyCancel

      • September 13, 2017 - 10:52 pm

        Christina - Hi Vaneetha, Thanks so much for sharing ur lovely story, it truly touched me.ReplyCancel

  • September 2, 2017 - 7:28 am

    Chuck Bean - The promise of His faithfulness to us, not based on anything in us, but totally on His unfailing love, that promise is the subject of our gazing and as we see it, we are transformed into what we are beholding. Thank you for sharing your hurts.ReplyCancel

  • September 4, 2017 - 11:40 pm

    Guerda - Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.ReplyCancel

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Sometimes my faith shakes when my dreams are shattered.

I wonder where God is in the midst of my suffering. I cannot sense his presence. I feel alone and afraid. My faith wavers. I question what I have long believed. I wonder what is real, especially when my experience doesn’t match my expectations.

This wavering deeply troubles me. I have tasted God’s goodness, enjoyed close fellowship with him, rested in his tender care. I have known both his power and his love. Yet in the midst of profound struggle, I have no answers. Just questions.

John the Baptist understood this struggle as he waited in prison. He, above all men, knew who Jesus was. Even in the womb, he leapt for joy in the presence of the unborn Savior. At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, before any of his miracles, John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He baptized Jesus and saw God’s Spirit descend on him, testifying that he indeed was the Son of God.

And yet, at the height of Jesus’s ministry, John sent word to him from prison, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2–3). At one point, John was sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus further confirmed his divinity by performing miracles, yet now John was wondering what was true.


Unfulfilled Expectations

John knew from Scripture that he who gave the blind sight, made the lame walk, and preached good news to the poor could surely “open the prison of those who were bound” as prophesied in Isaiah 61:1. But Jesus didn’t do that for John.

So perhaps at this point, John doubted what he knew. If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, John probably expected to have a role in his earthly kingdom. He wouldn’t have expected to start with such a high calling, preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness, only to end his life and his ministry in a small prison cell. Besides, John preached that the Messiah would come with an unquenchable fire. With judgment. With power. He likely expected that to be in his lifetime.

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  • August 17, 2017 - 1:48 pm

    Diane - Thank you for this post, Vaneetha. It has encouraged me greatly and helped me not feel so alone in my struggles this morning.

    I pray frequently for you. Thank you for being so generous of yourself in the midst of your trials. May you be encouraged today as you have been such an encourager to others.ReplyCancel

    • August 17, 2017 - 3:48 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m thankful that this post encouraged you, Diane. And thank you for your prayers. That means a lot.ReplyCancel

  • August 17, 2017 - 11:18 pm

    Jacob David - Thank you Vaneetha for sharing. This is a great encouragement as go through similar situations.ReplyCancel

  • August 18, 2017 - 7:53 am

    John - Thank you for this post. This is so good: “He has to dwell on what he knows to be true rather than fixate on his circumstances.”ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2017 - 5:28 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing, John. I have to constantly remind myself of that….ReplyCancel

  • August 18, 2017 - 8:08 am

    Kathy - It is so encouraging to hear my feelings are not as strange as I think they are. I’m feeling so much of what you are saying, and feeling guilty for doing so because I do know who God is…just not feeling it right now with all the circumstances around me. Thank you, again!ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2017 - 5:29 pm

      Vaneetha - I understand how hard it is not to fixate on my circumstances rather than focus on what I know to be true…ReplyCancel

  • August 18, 2017 - 9:42 am

    Leslie Cardwell - This blessed me so much. This is where God has been working in my life. Thank you!

  • August 18, 2017 - 11:51 am

    Mike R - So helpful–glad you reposted it. Indeed Satan has not changed his ways–“Did God really say..?” And when my world shakes I sink into confusion, revealing that I am not unlike John the Baptist, or the disciples as they could not grasp that Jesus did not come to pull the sword from the stone but came to be nailed to a cross.

    Thank you for describing so well the experience of Christians. I want more faith, but not the means that God has chosen to build my trust in him. I want the crown, not the cross.ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2017 - 5:30 pm

      Vaneetha - Totally agree, Mike. Thanks for writing. The crown is always more “shiny” than the cross…ReplyCancel

  • August 18, 2017 - 4:16 pm

    Juliano - We can see the glory of God in your life Vaneetha. When I heard about your testimony and about all the chalenges you had to face, all I could to say was: “Glory to God”! God has done wonderfull things and you are one of them.
    God bless you and sustain you in your ministry.ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2017 - 5:32 pm

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

  • August 18, 2017 - 5:47 pm

    C. Lewellyn - Indeed, none of us will really know or understand why God has allowed some of His children to face such terrible trials in this life. I really appreciate your honesty in admitting how hard it can be to trust in God’s goodness, to cling to your faith when your whole world has exploded. I am so sick of the “plastic, fantastic Christianity”, where everyone wears a fake smile, never lets anyone see the deep hurts, and acts like everything is wonderful if you love Jesus and have enough faith. Then when a new believer encounters problems, or a prayer is not answered the way they want it to be, they are angry and feel betrayed because they have never seen another Christian actually handle such things. It is time for us to take off the masks, be real and share our struggles and triumphs, to be the body of Christ and encourage one another, not just be fake and cover up the parts of our lives that are not perfect. We can work together to help each other put on the full armor of God so that we can stand up and glorify God even in the trials.ReplyCancel

    • August 30, 2017 - 8:39 pm

      Vaneetha - I so agree! Life is hard and we all struggle with doubt and fear– and when we are open about that, its much more God-honoring. I’d never heard of “plastic, fantastic Christianity.” What a great description- I’ll be using it again! Thank you for writing.ReplyCancel

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pexels child parenting+


I have long wanted to be the perfect parent.

When my children were born, I wanted them to come with a user’s manual. Instructions would have been nice. Especially after they could talk.

I wanted to parent my daughters well. Perfectly, actually. I assumed that if I encouraged and disciplined exactly the right way, I would produce perfect children. It made sense to me. I just needed to find the right formula.

I read and listened to Growing Kids God’s Way faithfully to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I tried to model grace and instill obedience. But sometimes my children disobeyed and said things that would have set James Dobson’s hair on end. And sometimes I said and did things that would have done the same.

The harder I tried to be the perfect parent, the more I failed.

I started family devotions with great excitement but became easily discouraged if they were poorly received. I nagged when I should have listened and was lenient when I should have been consistent. I compared myself to friends and even strangers. They all seemed to parent better. More consistently. More graciously.

Somehow I felt my children were walking billboards, advertising my competence as a parent. And a person.

As a result, they needed to make me look good. And often they did. But in the moments when I felt scrutinized the most, my children performed the worst. Screaming when I said “no,” challenging my authority, eye rolling in defiance.

I rarely responded well and usually left those encounters feeling humbled and defeated.

God, in His wisdom, knew that was the best outcome for me.

Before I had children, I thought I was patient and easygoing. Focused on others. Not easily ruffled. But parenting has exposed my weaknesses and sin as I struggle with people who live and breathe in the space that was once reserved just for me. They have needs that must be met, sin that needs sanctification, and character that requires training.

And under that daily scrutiny, my real character is revealed. I am impatient. Irritable. Self-focused. View full post »

  • August 11, 2017 - 8:45 am

    Mary Ellen Kenline - Spot on! It has taken me 20 years to realize that He is the one at work both in me and my kids, and He is worthy of all my trust and all my obedience. Thanks for sharing your testimony with such well-written words!ReplyCancel

    • August 11, 2017 - 4:56 pm

      Vaneetha - Its taken me a long time too! 🙂 Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

  • August 11, 2017 - 9:28 pm

    Lori - How can I parent my 17 year old daughter. She lives with her dad. She likes to spend time with her friends. I sometimes see her on a Saturday if she doesn’t see her friends.ReplyCancel

    • August 12, 2017 - 5:58 pm

      Vaneetha - I can imagine this is so hard…I’d pray, pray, pray for wisdom and grace. Praying that the Lord will direct you.ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2017 - 9:10 pm

    Ann - I have read your story and a few of your articles, and I am captivated by your joy in spite of your suffering…your fellowship with Christ is obvious and your insights so encouraging. I am glad I found your website (through Desiring God)…I just wish we could hang out 🙂ReplyCancel

    • August 15, 2017 - 4:53 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad the Lord is using my writing to encourage you! Thanks for encouraging me!ReplyCancel

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Joni and Ama+


Can you imagine living with 50 years of quadriplegia? Relying on others for your every need, unable to care for yourself, needing help even to blow your nose?

Joni Eareckson Tada can. On July 30, 1967, when she was 17 years old, Joni was paralyzed from the neck down when she dove into deceptively shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay. This month marks 50 years that Joni has lived as a quadriplegic. From an outside perspective, it seems impossible to endure what Joni has endured and come out praising Jesus. But she has.

In her latest devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, Joni shares, “I happened to hear recently the old Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun” – a song I listened to when I was first injured. It reminded me of the dark, depressing days in the hospital when I thought I would never smile again, would never see the sunlight of hope. And now, nearly 50 years later, I still find myself thinking, how in the world did I ever make it? But here I am, living in joyful hope as though it were sunshine. How did that happen? Here’s how: day after day, month after month, year after year, I simply cast myself on Jesus. I clung to his name, crying out constantly, “Oh Jesus!”

Joni, who lives in joyful hope as though it were sunshine, has had to endure more than quadriplegia. She was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer in 2010. And she lives with crushing chronic pain. To Joni, quadriplegia isn’t a big deal anymore; she’s learned to live with that. But the pain is hard to get used to, as it invades her life every day.

This week I had the privilege of speaking with Ama Cruz, who helps serve Joni. Ama is the mother of Nathan Cruz, who is a summer intern for my husband Joel. What a joy it was to discover that we both knew Joni. When Ama first started serving in the Tada home 1 ½ years ago, she was excited about getting to know Joni personally. But more importantly, she wanted to meet God through the lens of Joni. And she has. She has seen firsthand the faithfulness of God who lavishes grace on us.

Someone from Joni’s wake-up crew, affectionately known as “the Get-up Girls” who are pictured above, is there every morning to get her ready. And they get her ready regardless of whether Joni has slept well or not, whether she’s in agony or not, whether she wants to get up or not. Because she relies on helpers who are scheduled in advance, Joni doesn’t have the luxury of changing her mind at the last minute. Joni can’t hit the snooze alarm and decide she wants a little more sleep.

Often she is exhausted, but she continues to persevere. As she prays in her devotional, “Lord Jesus, sometimes I think my worst enemy is just being so tired – tired of the physical hassles, tired of the pain, tired of fighting off the whispers and mockery of the enemy. My stamina is almost gone and my tank is almost empty. Come quickly to my side. Be the strength and song I can’t pull together on my own.”

In a podcast interview, Joni said As a quadriplegic, I wake up in the morning and it’s hard. It is so hard having somebody else come into your bedroom [to brush your teeth and your hair]. It’s overwhelming at times,” she said. “During those times, I say, ‘Lord God, I cannot do this, but I can do all things through you as you strengthen me.’

Those who serve Joni can attest to the fact that Christ is her strength; she doesn’t complain. Ama says, “She doesn’t rant or grumble even though she is immersed in chronic pain and cannot use her body. Suffering is her constant companion, yet the Spirit of God is her comforter so she is always gracious. This is an act of the Holy Spirit.”

Joni sees that her response to suffering matters. In A Spectacle of Glory, she says, “In your natural self, you might complain about your routine or difficulties. In God’s strength, however, you bite your tongue and refuse to grumble, because you recognize God in those very situations.” She goes on to say, “I want [God] to gain glory through the way I live out this “normal” day… that people would see a difference between the way I would naturally respond and the way [God] enables me to respond by [his] Spirit. May people who observe my life see that gap and give the credit to [God].”

Joni doesn’t want the credit for herself. She wants it all to go to Jesus and encourages believers not to take the credit for strength in the midst of trials. Joni says, “Yes, we may show flashes of great strength in dark and desperate times – but it’s not our strength. For those who battle daily with chronic pain or physical disabilities, the reminders of our weakness are even more stark; we can never really forget how powerless we are. But that’s good!”

What has Ama learned after being with Joni? She’s learned to be grateful for all things. She understands that God intimately knows our pain and suffering. He doesn’t just meet us in our pain and suffering – he’s already there, waiting for us. And through serving Joni and her husband Ken, Ama has seen the great God they serve. A God who meets the disabled around the world and offers them his grace.

Ama has also worked with the ministry of Joni and Friends (JAF), and is quick to say that the ministry is not fundamentally about Joni. It is about trusting God and relying on his grace in all aspects of our lives. It’s about loving and embracing the disabled and disenfranchised, rather than overlooking them. It’s about ministering to the families of people affected by disability all over the world, sharing the gospel of hope.

Joni and Friends and their Wheels for the World program is changing lives. Ama, who has visited numerous countries with JAF, shared how people with disabilities in poorer countries struggle with no relief. They are marginalized and shunned, often treated as cursed. Ama vividly remembers a woman, lying prostrate on the dirt floor, begging God to let her live one day longer than her disabled son because otherwise no one would bother to care for him. Ama was heartbroken for her, yet marveled at this woman’s extraordinary walk with God.

Joni, along with countless disabled people and their families around the world, lives with a breathtaking dependence on Jesus and a supernatural sense of God’s presence. Joni says: “I wish I could adequately describe what it’s like when I’m aware of the overwhelming presence and power of God’s grace in my life. It’s like “living above” my wheelchair in a strata of heart-splitting joy that comes with God-breathed courage to tackle whatever lies ahead! Frankly, I believe that the more aware you are of God’s grace, the more joy and courage you will have. This raises the question: when are we most aware of God’s grace? It isn’t when we are riding high with the string of green lights and open doors before us. No, it’s when we are needy and feeling spiritually impoverished.”

Heart-splitting joy, God-breathed courage, the overwhelming presence and power of God- what a spectacular testimony to God’s grace.  Looking at the life of Joni Eareckson Tada, who after 50 years of quadriplegia is even more convinced that God’s grace is sufficient for her, I am in awe. Not in awe of Joni, but in awe of the God who comes to us in our suffering, gives us courage to tackle what lies ahead, who alone is worthy of all honor and praise.




  • July 21, 2017 - 9:41 am

    Jennifer - Beautiful tribute Vaneetha. To God and to Joni.ReplyCancel

  • July 21, 2017 - 1:29 pm

    Ama Cruz - Thank you, Vaneetha for showcasing God’s “iron clad” faithfulness, everlasting love, and always-amazing grace on Joni’s life. Joni is a living example to us all, to strive to be like Christ, making holiness our daily pursuit.ReplyCancel

    • July 21, 2017 - 5:21 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Ama. It was such a joy to talk to you.ReplyCancel

  • July 23, 2017 - 5:00 pm

    Barbara Allen - Thank you for sharing what you have learned from zjoni and her “storm”. I can identify with what you have witnessed. My brother, at age 19 was injured in a football accident and has been a quad for 47 years (if I have the years right). God brought a lovely young nurse into his life, they married, and have three adopted daughters and one natural born son. Like Joni, he has determined to live for Christ and ministers in so many ways to others. He has been used in Michigan to help handicap people learn how they can become independent. Their family has attended and benefited from Joni and Friends Csmps. From theses two, who struggle to get ready to meet each new day I have gained a new love and respect for those who have physical difficulties and do not use what they go through as an excuse for not allowing Gid to use them. Your article was a good reminder for me, a 76 year old, who still works and desires to be used of God in all I do.ReplyCancel

    • July 23, 2017 - 9:03 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for sharing that, Barbara. Your brother sounds like an amazing man. I love hearing about people who honor the Lord, even in the worst of circumstances. It’s such an inspiration to us all.ReplyCancel

  • July 25, 2017 - 8:39 am

    Cheryl - Reading about Joni was very moving and made me realize how small my troubles are. I remember hearing about Joni’s story, and watching the movie about her life, but it’s been years since I’ve read about her life today. Thank you so much for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • August 12, 2017 - 3:11 pm

    Barbara H. - I cannot imagine living in a wheelchair and with chronic pain. I’m just recovering from surgery, and the misery is lightened by the knowledge that everything will be better and back to “normal” soon. But when there is no going back to a previous normal, and this IS the new normal – all I can say is that I am so thankful for God’s grace in Joni’s life and her willingness to let it shine through her. I have this book on my birthday wish list.ReplyCancel

    • August 12, 2017 - 5:49 pm

      Vaneetha - I am so thankful for God’s grace in Joni’s life as well. Its a great devotional- I highly recommend it!ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2017 - 8:34 am

    It’s not for nothing | Stray Thoughts - […] to do that. I read a number of articles about this milestone, especially her testimony here, but this one had me thinking for a long while afterward, not just about Joni, but about her […]ReplyCancel

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