The Hands that Hold Us

dirt road and dark sky

Four years ago and within the span of three short months, our youngest daughter experienced the onset of a very serious health crisis; my husband lost his job of 23 years with no forewarning whatsoever due to downsizing; and so we might be ready for whatever further unknowns lay ahead (little did we know just how many there would be), we quickly sold our house and set out to start from scratch.  Anyone of these set-backs on their own would have been challenging enough, but all of them hitting at once was terrifying.  Shoes kept dropping fast and furious!  While trying unsuccessfully to stabilize our daughter’s health and hoping to somehow come up with tuition for our oldest daughter to continue in college (after having earned admission to her dream school through laser focus and unfaltering hard work), the implications of all this, especially for our two girls, were enormous.   My husband, in his mid-fifties, faced the scary task of competing for a job in a far too crowded field of much younger professionals.  Almost overnight, life became overwhelming.  It felt as though we woke up one morning only to find ourselves being carried along on a current with no paddle, at the mercy of an angry, rushing river of circumstances completely out of our control.  In a strange contradiction of sorts, most days felt as though every moment was playing out in slow motion — any encouraging news seemed light years away and completely hidden from view.  Have you been there too?

As is often the case, when it rains it pours!  Several other very sad events touched our family in the following couple of years, some of which only the four of us may ever know — we had nearly become numb to getting bad news.   If not for the faithfulness of God we would have been swept away by fear and doubt.  Don’t get me wrong — there have been plenty of both even as we’ve trusted Him for the outcome.

Today, although we’re still working our way through ongoing challenges (we’re finding that these things really do take time — so. much. time.), there’s nothing but gratitude for God’s protection, provision, and above all, His providence that orders our lives even when everything seems to have completely unraveled.  He provided us with a lovely house to rent  — (it feels so much like home we may never leave. 😉 )  In just four short years, hubby has become an established photographer here in the DC metro area.  When you can’t find employment, you start your own business!  He’s fulfilling a lifelong passion for photography and has more work than he can manage on his own.  I just realized how that short little sentence, all tied up in a bow, seems to skip over the nearly insurmountable mountain of work it has taken him to get here. He is remarkable.  I don’t even have the words to tell you what a rock he is to our family — we love him so much.  Our oldest daughter made tremendous personal sacrifices, worked incredibly hard, and graduated last year from UVA.  I tell her all the time she is truly the most disciplined person I know! All of her diligence is paying off in big ways — we are so proud of her.   And just this past spring, we finally received some answers for the health issues our youngest daughter has been going through. What a long journey it has been (if you’d like more information, see link and paragraph at the end of this post).  At least with a diagnosis, we have somewhat of an idea how to proceed.  She is amazing!  Despite dealing with ongoing symptoms, she’s pursuing her yoga instructor certification and working as a second shooter for her dad (photography is in her genes!)  She keeps moving forward with such tenacity despite constant challenges.

As for me, while trying to create some sense of “normalcy” for my family, I was determined to find meaningful ways to be present.  Not only was it important to keep pointing us all  toward better days to come, but also to walk purposefully through the challenges we were facing.  You see, in my heart I knew this time of proving (when real life and what we believe collide) had been allowed.  Not capriciously, but with tenderness, love, and yes, even purpose.  O.k. — that was me on a good day.  But on those days when we were just overwhelmed by it all, hubby and I often said to each other (and only half-kidding) we were going to adopt this song lyric instead– “So wake me up when it’s all over; when I’m wiser and I’m older…”.  Of course, that wasn’t an option!  If there was something to be gleaned,  it must be in how we walked through this together and who we become in it.  And to that end, what mattered most was the view we hold of the One who holds us; the One who has promised to order all things for our good.  And so, I kept coming back to notes — binders and binders of them —  scribbled over the years while reading classics that speak to this very point. What a huge source of encouragement and renewed hope they were at a time when very little else seemed to present hope!  They became a lens through which I gained some clarity for what was taking place in our life; seeing a way to walk through the pain and difficulty and to daily live in a fixed and settled dependence upon God.  They kept pointing me back to the faithful hands that have always carried us.

Yes, we continue to work through what “starting from scratch” in our mid-fifties means — the implications and never-ending loose ends that come with this kind of major life re-set are many.  We also continue to find there are more questions than answers regarding our daughter’s health.  As her parents, we have days marked by deep sorrow for all that she has endured and lost due to her diagnosis.  It is by far the most difficult part of our journey — to simply trust Him while also doing everything in our power to discover answers and solutions.

So, here we are, still listening and learning.  I’m an eager student and, truth be told, many of you are abundantly more qualified on so many levels to write about these things.  Knowing that perhaps just starting the conversation may be all I need to do makes me happy.  That’s why I want to share books, resources, excerpts, and quotes that have provided so much encouragement to me through these times.  Just as they serve as the springboard for my own thoughts and reflections here at Readplenish, I hope they’ll do the same for you as you make them personal to your own journey.  If you see the same things repeated in different posts, sometimes (but not always) in different ways, incorporated into different topics, that’s intentional.  Something about these nuggets of truth bear repeating so they can settle into the nooks and crannies of our minds and hearts.  And if they encourage you in even a small way, well that would just be wonderful!

Hubby and I still catch each other humming that song from time to time, an unspoken way of saying, “It’s just one of those days!”  But through and over time there stands truth that shines light and hope into the shadowy corners of all the uncertainty and change we have not asked for.  Likely, that’s not the challenge you’re facing right now — the landscape of your valley may be very different from mine.   So, let’s shift our focus instead to truth that never changes and to the One who is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever”.  Let’s be encouraged as we lean into this certainty.

I know this was a long post — it kinda feels as though you just walked through the brier patch with me!  So, thank you for that —  you’ve been a great listener and I hope I can be the same for you sometime.

With love,


This past spring our daughter, Emma (who is happy to share her story in the hope it might help someone else), was officially diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) under the larger umbrella of dysautonomia.  We now know it often manifests itself early-on with symptoms of severe depression and anxiety disorders and usually goes misdiagnosed for years.  We are so thankful these early symptoms have dissipated, but she continues to experience new and ongoing issues ranging from fainting, difficulty and pain breathing, heartbeat and vascular irregularities, constant fatigue, severe muscle aches, digestive issues, and a host of other things.  It seems just when she finds solutions for one, something new shows up — the process of finding answers can be exhausting.  This wide range of symptoms that often seem to be all over the map is very typical of dysautonomia.  If after reading this you’d like more information for someone you know who may be suffering from a similar misdiagnosis, perhaps you can start your research here: POTS/Dysautonomia.  We hope it might be a resource for those trying to find answers to this mostly invisible disease.

Update: January, 2019 — Let me encourage you! We have just kept plugging away at this for several years now and want you to know that with continued education and much trial and error (ie specialists, medications, intuitive lifestyle changes) , many of our daughter’s most debilitating symptoms are more successfully managed now than ever before.  If you are working through the challenges of POTS/DYSAUTONOMIA, keep at it!  You never know when you might just come across something that really works.

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