Monday, June 5, 2017

The Master Gardener

Sadly, my brown thumb has killed more plants than I care to admit.  But a dear friend saw it as her mission to transform the backyard of my new little bungalow into a cute little garden.  I did not realize that gardening took so much manual labor!

My friend explained to me that after a flower or plant is transplanted into a new location, it is vulnerable and needs lots of care and water.  It takes time for the roots to grow deep again and get settled.

This is the perfect illustration of my life for the past year.  Exactly one year ago I was 'transplanted' from the DR to Fort Wayne.  I was vulnerable, weak, and going through a lot of pain.  I didn't have many friends when I moved back and was reluctant to make new ones all over again.  Everything in my life was different and I had to establish my roots yet again.  Being an MK (missionary kid) I have had to do this countless times in my life, but it never gets any easier.

Last June, when I returned from the DR, I knew that I needed to spend some serious time with the Lord and just take a break from things for a while.  I didn't work for 6 months. I had a LOT of alone time to think, journal, pray, read, and just be with God in nature.  I attended ELIM, a spiritual renewal retreat for missionaries.  I also sought counseling and spent a lot of time with family.

PC: Natalie Kunkel
And now...a year later...his work in my life is proof that God is the ultimate HEALER and Master Gardener!

On more than one occasion, people have told me that I even look physically different, lighter.  That is all due to God's amazing work in my life as the Healer.  Even though I was uprooted, God didn't just forget about me but took care of me as a diligent gardener would.

Even though I didn't work for awhile, God continually found ways to surprise me by providing financially for me as well.  For instance, someone I don't even know sent me a check, allowing me to purchase a hospital bill in October was miraculously $0... a random scholarship came in for tax refund was more than enough to pay for car repairs...and on and on.

So what else have I been up to? I have been working part-time helping immigrants and refugees and I have loved using my Spanish again!  I will also be graduating in August with my MSW! (finally!)  I don't know what I will be doing after graduation, but that's ok!

Reflecting on the last year has led me to feel so overwhelmed by God's grace and goodness in my life!  So many changes, yet God has been so good!

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness". 
Colossians 2:6-7

Thursday, April 6, 2017

LOOK UP- My Jehovah Nissi

One of my favorite names of God is Jehovah Nissi- the Lord is my Banner.  A few months before my sister passed away, I had been studying the Hebrew names of God and this name had impacted me the most! (Another example of God's perfect timing as he knew I would need this truth)

In the Old Testament, the Israelites carried banners with them on their march through the desert.   They were used as a rallying point for troops before battle and were meant to instill hope and arouse devotion to a leader or cause.  When they were in the fray of the battle, they were to look up and gain renewed hope and confidence amidst the chaos.  It was a standard to look to and a reminder that no matter what the crisis, God would see them through!

In Exodus 16, the Israelites were facing hardship at the Rock of Horeb where the water sources were very low. The Israelites chose to complain, not believing that the Lord was really with them. They are doubting God's goodness and about to face war with Amalek.

Yet God provided a way out. As long as Moses held up his arms during the battle, the Israelites were winning.  I'm sure that in the midst of the fighting the Israelites could look up and find hope in seeing Moses' arms outstretched.  After they miraculously won the battle, Moses built and altar and called proclaimed the Lord as his banner.  The banner is an amazing symbol of God's promise to bring us through, providing protection over us.

One of the biggest things I've learned is that when you are suffering, the best thing you can do is to LOOK UP.  Difficult circumstances can sometimes throw us into a pit and sling mud over our eyes so that we can't see clearly.

Yet God is our banner of encouragement to give us hope and a focal point in the midst of chaos. He is our victory and the one who wins our battles!

Suffering is a very vulnerable time.  A fact that Satan will take advantage of every time.  We may be tempted to focus on the chaos of our circumstances and the battle instead of God's character!  Look up and find HOPE in the Lord's protection and promises.

My favorite song during this past year has been Bethel's Through It All.  Part of the song goes, "Through it all, my eyes are on you!".  I would listen to this song on repeat several times a day to remind myself of this truth.  You can listen to it Here.

When you are suffering, the best thing you can do is to LOOK UP!

Graphic from

Monday, March 27, 2017


Good from Horribleness
By Bonnie Bruns

                  At this point, dealing with Adriana’s death has not gotten “easier with time”.  But I DO know what DOES make it easier.  When God makes good from something so terrible, THAT is what makes it easier.  I continually pray, “Lord, please bring good from the horribleness of what has happened.”

                  Since Adriana’s death I have gleaned much from Romans 8.  Even though I’ve read this chapter so many times before, God is continually showing me more truths.  The oft-quoted verse 28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good….”  As the Lord reveals these good things, I am  keeping track and the list is growing!

I want to focus on His faithfulness in bringing about good, instead of on the horribleness.

 For example, let me share how He has orchestrated good through a “violin story”:
                   Adriana had played the violin faithfully since the first grade, thus accumulating a lot of music over the years.  As I contemplated what to do with all of it, I thought of a friend who gives violin lessons.  We arranged to meet and as I handed her the stack of music, she knew JUST the student to whom it could be given – a student whose family had recently moved to the area.  They had been through a house fire and the student had lost all her violin music in the fire!

But it doesn’t end there!  I also gave my friend Adriana’s last violin with two bows enclosed inside. That very afternoon I received an email from my friend:
“I delivered Adriana’s violin to a new student of mine…. Her violin broke at our last lesson.  It was a hand-me-down and in bad shape.  Her family couldn’t afford a new, used, or even rent one right now.  I told them to pray after our lesson last Tuesday and I would connect with a few people who might have one they could loan her.”   She continued, “I told her that Adriana’s violin can bless her as much as it blessed Adriana and others when she played but when she was done playing it, or maybe decided to change to another instrument, that I would love to have Adriana’s violin back.  My intent is to allow Adriana’s violin to bless many students over the years and that it won’t be retired or sold but given to other children who wish to make beautiful music to the Lord; allowing Adriana’s love for the instrument to continue for generations.” 

And yet a third student was blessed through Adriana’s violin!  My friend went on to tell of another student whose family had been through a lot in the past year.  She badly needed a new bow for her violin.  “She loves playing violin and cried/laughed when I brought her one of Adriana’s bows.”  My friend closed with, “God’s timing is always amazing.” And it truly is as I watch His goodness unfold.  

                  Well, that’s the end of the ‘violin story’, but not the end of God’s goodness!  As I look through Adriana’s aviation materials, I believe it's time to make a trip to Purdue.  Certainly this pile of aviation books and accessories can be a blessing to others in the aviation department there.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…"

Romans 8:28


Saturday, March 4, 2017


By Bonnie Bruns
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”, I tell my friend.  Even the anticipation of knowing I need to do this leaves a sick feeling inside me.  Over one year has passed now since my beautiful 23 year old daughter decided to end her life.  A few people matter-of-factly say, “It will get easier with time”, BUT THAT’S JUST NOT TRUE, at least not yet.   All we are left with now are memories and that dreaded task – going through all her things she left behind.  
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”
We’ve put off the task long enough; we’ve gone through enough excuses for not beginning the task.  We start making piles.  We make a pile of some of her homemade things on the bed – the cloth purse she made with Grandma out of her dad’s shirts, the remaining unique stuffed bears she made and loved to give away – so creative, crafty, generous.  There’s another pile where her violin sets with a pile of music from first grade all through high school – such musical talent and the beautiful music that came out of that violin.  Then there’s the pile started with her aviation items – her private and commercial licenses, the aviation books and her headset – oh how she loved to fly, oh how she worked so hard in her studies.  Piles of photos, scrapbooks, Bibles with her personal notes written in the margins, “hardest worker” swim team trophy and “champion” Bible quiz team trophy, that silly hat she wore from her first job delivering newspapers on her bicycle. The piles continue; the unstoppable tears flow.
image from:

The piles continue; the unstoppable tears flow.

But what awaits us are the ever-visible five large blue trunks stacked on top of each other in the garage, the ones she had ready to take back with her to Purdue when she returned from Germany – always so neat and organized.  What does each one hold?  More memories, I’m sure; the stirring of more hard emotions, I’m sure.  This is going to be a slow, hard process, I’m sure.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Grief Poem

I am a suicide survivor

I wanted to carry your burdens.  But not like this.

You pushed me away
Every time.
I wanted to be there for you.
The heroic big sister.

Your fatal choice dumped all your pain on someone else. 
It is not a way out.
It just pushed the suffering onto me.
Anger. Rage. Confusion. Shock. Fear. Chaos. Guilt. Failure.
One thing I refuse to feel- Shame.
I’m not ashamed of you.

Instead the devil whispers FAILURE.
‘You couldn’t save her.’
‘You were not enough.’
‘You were NOT WORTH it for her to change her choice.’
‘Ha. What makes you think you can even help others now.’
‘You are nothing.’

I wanted to carry your burdens. But not like this.

Instead I give myself to the ONE who carries me.
To the one who commands his angels to carry you 
Your feet won’t even scrape against the rocks.
His faithful promises are my armor and protection.
I will find rest in the SHADOW of the Almighty
My place of safety.
He will cover me with his feathers and shelter me with his wings.
They will hold you up with their hands
He will be with me in trouble

No evil will conquer me.

HE wants to carry my burdens.  Just like that.

Based on these Scriptures:

Deuteronomy 32:11
"Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.

Deuteronomy 1:31
and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.'

Psalm 91
He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

Psalm 61:4
Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Where does your identity lie?

This past month, the overwhelming theme God has been instilling in me has been IDENTITY.

MK retreat
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a retreat for adult MKs (missionary kids who grew up in another country).  During one session we discussed our identity, pinpointing those things in our lives that 'defined us'.  We also were to write in lies and darkness that the enemy may put on us that affect our identity.  In the center, we located our TRUE identity in Christ such as created by God, daughter of the King, etc.  Since I'm a visual learner, it helped to see it laid out in diagram form like this.  I have done this sort of exercise before but I was surprised at how much it had changed over the years.  Whether I like it or not, I realized that my sister's death has changed aspects of my identity.

In some ways, it is good because I've rearranged my priorities and grown stronger and more dependent on the Lord.  Yet oftentimes, the lies of Satan that I let myself believe can sometimes be very overwhelming.  In my mind I hear his taunts, "Ha. You call yourself a social worker and yet you couldn't even save your sister" or "What guy would want to marry someone who's sister commited suicide?"  While deep down, I knew they are lies, they cloud my judgment and send me reeling, crumbling my self-esteem into pieces.

While it's a daily struggle, I need to base my identity on what God says about me.  I need to keep my kingdom focus on my central identity which is in Jesus Christ and can never be shaken!  Wow.  What kind of kingdom impact could I have if I lived in this truth every single day?

Of course God didn't stop there!  In my small group, we have been discussing similar topics through the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  She mentions,
"Old patterns of thought must be torn out, and a new way of looking at the core of who I am using God's truth has to be put in place. My identity must be anchored to the truth of who God is and who He is to me. Only then can I find a stability beyond what my feelings will ever allow. The closer I align my truth with His truth, the more closely I identity with God- and the more my identity really is in Him".  

Your identity can't be tied to you what has happened to you because this is constantly changing.  Jesus is the only unchanging constant and so our identity and hope must be anchored in Him!  In Christ, my identity is so much more than my circumstances.  Yes, my sister's death rocked my world and changed a lot of things, but it is not where I ultimately find my identity.  I'm not labelled by this and am not a victim of my circumstances.
To top it off, God has also had me reading Ephesians in my devotional time...which is all about spiritual blessings and identity in Christ.
"Ok God, I get it, you can stop talking to me through a megaphone now!"  Sometimes I do need truth coming at me from all directions or else I won't get it!
I must never forget that my identity is in Christ!

"We must tie our identities to our unchanging, unflinching, unyielding, undeniably good, and unquestionably loving God." 
~Lysa TerKeurst