What is “Joy In the Journey” about? Recently, a few readers have questioned the purpose, content, and value of this blog. And several people have criticized me for saying that things aren’t always great in my life. So, since many of you seem to be new to me, I thought I’d introduce myself and share a little bit about what I’m doing here.

This blog is about my journey through this life and the lessons God is teaching me about finding joy no matter the circumstances.

Yes, I am a slow learner. I struggle and fight against some of the lessons placed before me. I sometimes willfully refuse to do the homework. Or I simply fail to grasp and apply a concept.

And, I have chosen not to hide this. I write about the ups and the downs, my willfulness and my submission, my failures and God’s successes.

This life has not been roses and smiles, particularly in the last ten years. Shortly after my husband and I married, we conceived a little girl. Much to our shock, she was born with life-threatening cardiac defects. They were so complex and so severe that the doctors first told us that it was unfixable and that she would need a heart transplant… if the right heart could be found within 3 weeks. (At the time, the average wait for an infant heart was 6 weeks.) Very quickly, they realized that repair was her only option. Ellie underwent a total of four open-heart surgeries in the first 3 years of her life, and we lost count of how many other surgeries and procedures she had. Because not only was her heart deformed, but it stopped beating altogether when she was 4 days old, and didn’t restart for 30 minutes. She suffered a massive brain injury, resulting in severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy, inability to eat or speak, difficulty sleeping, and chronic respiratory failure. We had to do everything for her at all hours of the day or night. I think I was chronically sleep-deprived for 8 1/2 years.

Ellie was a beautiful girl, despite the body that wouldn’t cooperate with her. She learned how to use a computer to communicate with us, belly-laughed when we made up silly words to her favorite songs, and couldn’t get enough swinging on the swingset. She was learning to drive a power chair, and one day decided to drive her wheelchair into the boys’ bathroom. You can read more about her by clicking the links in the sidebar to the right.

Then, my precious 8-year-old daughter died. She left us suddenly, unexpectedly, six months ago. And at the exact same time, a string of crises hit our small church (and by small, I mean less than 50). So after 8 1/2 years of non-stop sacrificial service to our daughter, God really turned up the heat.

So I am grieving. I am weary. I am discouraged and often overwhelmed. I am struggling to adjust to the new life God has given us. And I am not hiding it.

Life as a follower of Jesus Christ is not all roses and smiles. I wish it was. But it seems that we learn the most during the dark difficult times.

My hope, my purpose here, is that by sharing my struggles and then by sharing the long, slow, sometimes painful, uphill climb out of the valley that I am confident lies further down this road (and maybe, just maybe, has started already), that this story can be an encouragement to others who are also struggling through their own deep dark valley.

I know that many of you are struggling, too. I hope that we, even though we may disagree on some things, can and will still pray for one another through it. Please also pray for God to be evident in our words and our writing, in our actions and in our thoughts. I think we all, when we’re being brutally honest, will acknowledge how difficult this can be, especially when emotions are running high and the stress is immeasurable.

God is at work in all of this, I am confident of that. I pray that He helps me be moldable clay so that He can make of this mess something beautiful.

Writing a blog or a comment takes a lot of work — as my dad has reminded me, it is tough to manage conversations in writing. Tone comes across MUCH stronger than we actually intend without the aid of tone of voice and body language. Therefore, we all (I’m including myself in this reminder because I confess I have not consistently written well either and I apologize for that) need to take that into account when we write.

We must work hard to soften the written words, to dial down the extreme language. Sadly, more than one commenter did not use the kind of godly speech that they challenged everyone else to use. And that’s a shame, because it makes the Bible whose verses were so casually thrown about, look ineffective and base. And it totally erodes the writer’s message.

So why did I choose to write about the struggles mothers of young children have, anyway? I did not expect such passionate and widely-differing response, that’s for sure. I wrote about this topic because I think it is a commonly-overlooked area of ministry. I see so many moms struggling with very little help from those around them. To be sure, some church communities serve mothers well. I’m also sure that they are weak in other areas. The body of Christ is similar to an individual body – it has strengths and weaknesses.

I falsely assumed that other readers are like I am — willing to consider the possibility that others experience life differently than themselves and willing to try to understand and relate to a different perspective. Many of the comments came across as if their writer couldn’t or wouldn’t comprehend the struggles that so many mothers shared.

I encourage each of you to open your hearts and minds to the value of different perspectives. This is something that my daughter taught me — to value people who are different from me and to try to see the world through their eyes before snapping to conclusions and giving advice. My advice always changes when I understand where another person is coming from.