When this year wasn’t what you hoped for

This wasn’t the New Year’s Eve I had planned.

When I thought about the start of another year, and the days leading up to it, a visit to our family from The Most Dreadful Stomach Flu Ever just wasn’t on my agenda.

We had things to do. Projects to accomplish. My husband had specifically taken vacation days during this time with the hopes to tackle them.

But at 6:15 a.m. the day after Christmas, my alarm clock jolting me awake was a sudden urge to run to the bathroom and stay there for quite some time. Oh, the sickness.

On top of the nausea and stomach cramps, a strange, pressing, hot pain started creeping into my chest, rising under my ribs, filling the space in a consuming way. The pain grew so bad that by the afternoon, I couldn’t take it any longer. I couldn’t escape it no matter how I tried. It got harder to breathe. Something seemed really wrong. I told David we need to go to the hospital. I felt like I was going out of my mind from the pain.

At the ER, the medical team found my heart was beating far too quickly, and I was dehydrated. After some IV fluids, along with nausea and pain meds, my heart rate started to come down and the worst was over.

I spent the next couple days recovering in bed, sapped of energy and my intestines still in torment, though the meds kept everything in check. By Friday though, the bug had spread to my youngest daughter and then David, who also got a fever and back pain to go with it. This was not your average stomach flu. This was the Grand-daddy of All Stomach Flus. (It also dropped in on many other Scally family members, making love and joy not the only things we shared on Christmas.)

I have to admit, besides feeling sick and in pain, I was frustrated as the days dragged on, and disappointed–and truthfully, a little bit angry–when we had to cancel our annual New Year’s Eve plans. This was not how this week was supposed to go.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, this wasn’t how this year was supposed to go. As was the case for many people I know (some with far more significant reasons), for us, 2016 left a lot to be desired. I was ready to ring in 2017, with its unmarred calendar and a starry-eyed optimism that this was going to be The Year that we take on our list of goals with gusto and get things done. This year couldn’t possibly be as lousy as the last.

Yet here we are, ringing it in with Gatorade and chicken soup, the four of us quarantined by ourselves within these four walls.

Wah. Wah. Wah.

Then, that still, small voice whispers powerfully in my head, “When are you going to realize that your plans may not be MY plans.”

sick babe

A closer look at my full hands reveals a full heart.


This seems to be the lesson of my life that I struggle so desperately to grasp.

I mean, let’s take a look at my list of what I hope to accomplish in 2017. It tends to be full of temporary things. Organize the office. Finish the basement. Clean out the garage. Decorate the great room. Pick up more work. Write more. Read more. Travel.

But what if His plan for this year has nothing to do with my well-meaning checklist? What if it is, in 2017, to simply grow closer to Him, however that may be achieved? To be a godlier wife. To be a more Christlike mom. A more humble servant and a more proficient sharer of the Gospel.

Why is it so easy to get so short-sighted?

(I’m blaming the nausea. Kidding! Sort of.)

A few days ago, a post on Facebook caught my eye, about how to remember the blessings of the new year by writing down something you enjoyed or were grateful for on a slip of paper and put it in a jar at the end of each day. And then next New Year’s Eve, open the jar and be overcome by the joys experienced.

It’s a great idea I realized I don’t need to wait till tomorrow to start. As I look back on 2016, though kind of blah at first glance, it’s actually filled with ways My Lord met us in the darkness, took care of our needs, and continued leading us by His light.

With nearly nine months of health challenges for myself, we have never worried about paying one single medical bill. And that’s saying something, considering we lost nearly all my income due to not being able to work during those struggles, and MRIs, CT scans, ER visits, blood tests, and specialists aren’t cheap.

Though currently dirty, unorganized, and unfinished, we live in our dream home.

Though we get on each other’s nerves at times, I am married to my dream man.

And though they have added more gray to my head than I would’ve ever imagined I would have at 33, I am privileged to parent the daughters of my dreams.

Still, there’s more:

We have been honored to find new ways to serve at our church.

We are surrounded by family and friends, who have held us together with prayers and sustained us with support.

And one of the most notable as 2016 closes out for sure: since August, for whatever reason, I have not woke with daily, debilitating headaches.

I take that “whatever” back. He is the reason.

Suddenly, 2016 is not seeming so bad. Instead, I am feeling so blessed.

Christmas tree

May your reflection on the beauty of another year find more blessings than you can count.

He has met our every need. And He knew exactly what we needed and when we needed it to draw us closer to Him. I can say this with confidence even if my health hadn’t improved or if my year had been marked by even harder, more painful circumstances, because I know from His Word (and He has proven it repeatedly) that He is for me.

Bring on 2017. Count down the clocks and drop that ball. As long as my main goal this year is to pursue Him, nothing can go wrong.

And that’s truly something to celebrate.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:10-11‬ ‭from The Message‬‬)


What to do when waiting robs your joy

It’s amazing how quickly you can turn to despair when you are physically spent.

After about a week’s reprieve from the nausea and vomiting that returned at the 32-week mark of pregnancy, I was completely caught off guard when it came roaring back yesterday. Add this on top of my already-depleted energy from 3- to 4-hour stretches of contractions less than 5 minutes apart for the past few days, and I rapidly spiraled downward.

I have just two weeks left at most in this pregnancy, and yet, it’s as if time was standing still. And it’s like the lack of physical strength in my body also drained any mental capacity I had to cast reason and perspective on my present circumstances.

My thoughts grew increasingly dark and hopeless as the hours dragged on, knowing that it’s not exactly going to get any easier dealing with a newborn, toddler, and c-section recovery once this uncomfortable gestational period was over. While I knew I had many things to be grateful for–an incredibly helpful husband, a generally easy-going toddler, a healthy baby growing inside me, and the end of pregnancy just around the corner–it was like I could only focus on what I couldn’t do. That I couldn’t get off the couch and play “get you” with my girl. That I couldn’t muster enough strength to make it to the grocery store. That I couldn’t enjoy our last days as a family of three the way I wanted. That I couldn’t make the clock go faster.

Behind the smile, I’ve been masking my despair.

As I laid there wishing away each overwhelming hour, desperately wanting to be done with this miserable stage of limbo, I knew I was being short-sighted … and yet, too exhausted and numb to change my thoughts. Even that seemed like too much.

But I also knew my despair, anxiety, and impatience was destroying any ability to see the joys of each day. I never have cared too much for the well-meaning phrases of “it’s just a season” and “this too shall pass,” because I know that when you’re focused on simply speeding to the end destination, you can miss many moments of wonderful along the journey.

So I started to pray for The Lord to renew my thoughts, instead of just replenish my strength, and I knew others were praying too. This morning, I woke in a haze after a night of intermittent sleep to find this Scripture someone had shared on Facebook as encouragement, and it was just what I needed.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭62‬:‭5-8‬)

As I meditated on His Truth, I prayed that God would help me wait quietly during this time of turbulence and calm my soul enough to see all that is praiseworthy. I got up, turned on the bathroom faucet, and immediately the lyrics of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” filled my mind: “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.” Yes, Lord. You promise that. And I can cling to it.

Pretty much all I want to do these days …

Instead of solely focusing on how tired I felt and how much I wanted to crawl back in bed and for the day to already be over, I decided to write down every time I encountered a blessing, starting with the fact that the sun was shining on this first day of September, the month we would welcome our new daughter into this world. I didn’t want the moments of wonderful to pass me by, unseen and uncherished. As my list quickly grew, I saw just how much I had to be thankful for.

  • A toddler who slept in
  • Coffee
  • Greetings of “mommy, up?” when I entered her room, her invitation to come snuggle in bed and read a book
  • Her sweet request to read “Sister,” and how she talked about the different ways she can help with baby after we read each page
  • Her polite, sing-songy “all done” when she finished with breakfast, followed by a request for a “cloth cloth” to wipe her crumbs
  • Daniel Tiger (!!!)
  • Her eagerness to help me make banana bread and the feeling of her small, soft hands wrapped in mine as we stir, stir, stir
  • The songs that bubble freely and tenderly from her tiny voice
  • Feeling baby girl stretch inside, despite the discomfort it brings
  • Her spontaneous chorus of “clean up, clean up” as she puts the Play-Doh back into the container
  • Her quiet, steady breathing as she concentrates on transferring popcorn from one cup to another
  • Witnessing her imagination at work as she mixes and bakes in her play kitchen 
  • Opportunities for me to learn patience and show grace when I instruct her after she throws her toys on the ground in frustration
  • The way she crosses her ankles while she eats peanut butter and jelly in her booster seat
  • When she goes potty without any protest before nap (over a month now without an accident, though I may’ve just jinxed that … )
  • Carrying her to the bed with her head cradled on my shoulder as I hum a verse of a lullaby and rub her back
  • The privilege to read her a story from God’s Word (today about the boy king Josiah)
  • Kissing her soft, smooth forehead and thanking The Lord she goes down for a nap easily 
  • A long shower while streaming my favorite Getty hymns station on Pandora and praising God for helping me get through another morning 

Clearly, my blessings were bountiful, and this day was only halfway done. I knew I would long for mornings of these magical moments in the years to come. How could I wish this away? 

She can’t wait to meet her baby sister.

Yes, this month may get harder. And I imagine it will, with sleepless nights, and surging hormones, and cries that won’t easily be comforted. But I’m praying that God will not help me survive it–that He’ll instead show me His goodness and sustain me with His grace. That He’ll quiet my heart enough to see His beauty and blessings. That I won’t be able to deny the waiting was all worthwhile.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭26‬)

When I said ‘I do,’ I didn’t know what it meant

It’s still dark outside this morning, but I’m restless and struggling to sleep as I think of what’s ahead once the sun peeks its brilliant head over the horizon.

Today, we leave to celebrate our 10th anniversary–a surprise cruise that I still can’t believe I put together without your knowledge. And what a surprise it was: after you got over the shock, you sweetly told me it was the best gift I’d ever given you, outside of Olivia. I couldn’t have been happier to do it.

Ten years.

It feels unfathomable yet completely plausible that a decade of marriage has passed. Crazy, yet comfortable. At 18 and 19, we were barely more than kids when we first met. I remember my initial hesitation to commit to beginning a relationship with you–because I had a sense even then that it would be starting something that had no end. The foreverness of it was intimidating.

But as I prepared to walk down the aisle almost four years later, I couldn’t have been more excited. The 20th of May, 2005, was the quintessential spring day in Michigan–the kind you picture when you think of spring, but actually rarely happens in this weather-fickle state–warm, sunny, the air filled with a soft fragrance of fresh blooms. And anticipation. I was counting down the hours until I became yours.

As we exchanged our vows that evening, I was SO in love … or so I thought.

Turns out, looking back at the passage of time, when I said “I do,” I didn’t really have any idea what the weight of those words meant–what exactly I was saying when I eagerly repeated that I would honor, cherish, and protect you in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better … or worse. Or what you meant when you said those words back to me.

I didn’t know how you would see me in my lowest and most vulnerable situations, and yet would still care for me. How you be the best nurse I’ve ever had, learning just what remedy would help ease the pain of my latest hurt. How when I am not well, you immediately set to work, no questions asked, bringing medicine, my “buddy,” and Canada Dry. How you would clean up after me. How deep your comfort would run.

I didn’t know how you would be my biggest cheerleader and fan. How when the latest obstacle and major life decision stood before me, and I would come seeking advice, you would tell me you didn’t see a challenge at all. How you knew I would find a way to do it–be it a new job, idea, or motherhood–because, as you’ve repeatedly told me, “I always did.”

I didn’t know how you would work hard to provide for me in ways I couldn’t have dreamed possible. How you’d put in long hours at an extra job or in overtime to prepare for our future. How you’d be careful with what you earned and teach me to save more than we spent. How steadfastly you would honor God with His gifts.

I didn’t know how, at times, I could get so mad at you, yet love you so much. How we’d have low points that would rival our highs. How trivial our early battles now seem. How I’d feel incomplete, tortured, and empty until resolution with you has been reached.

I didn’t know how naturally you’d fall into fatherhood. How, despite the worst of days at work, your face would light up when you greet our child. How you’d find joy in the thankless tasks, changing diapers, giving baths, cleaning messes. How I’d see only you when she laughs.

But most of all, I didn’t know how you’d point me to Christ. How you’d motivate me to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. How you lovingly would help expose and correct my flaws and failures that didn’t mirror my Savior’s image. How I would see you seek God in prayer before moving our family forward. How I would desire to love God and others more because of you.

Ten years ago, when I said those words, I realize now I had no clue what love meant. And that today, I hope I still do not. That as the days continue to pass, the meaning behind our vows will extend their roots deeper in my heart with the twists and turns of what’s to come. That our love story has much left to be written. And that with each annual celebration of our wedding day, I’ll think of those words with a newfound appreciation.

I love you, hon.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13, The Message)

Do I really want God’s will for my life?

Tomorrow, we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ.

To many, the day is about hidden baskets of goodies, chocolate bunnies, pretty new outfits, and spending time with family. To the Christian, the day is about rejoicing in what Christ did for us on the cross and his triumphant victory over sin and death. He is risen, indeed!

It should be a joyful week, but I woke yesterday physically aching. I wasn’t sick, and it wasn’t the pregnancy. It was as if the fingers of a hand were wrapped around my heart, clenching, squeezing, pressing deep, as I wrestled with the thoughts spinning around in my head.

We’ve been preparing for Easter a bit differently this year … and I have to admit, it’s throwing me for a loop. Typically, in years past, I’ve used this time to reflect on Christ’s death, the three days in the tomb, and His miraculous ascension from the grave. However, this week, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the night before the crucifixion.

Starting on Sunday, our pastor has been focusing his messages on the hours leading up to Christ’s betrayal and his prayer with the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, recorded in Matthew 26. Three times, Christ, in agony before the Father, prayed the same prayer. After the final time, He was handed over to those who would murder Him.

When we met for prayer meeting on Thursday night, our pastor pointed us back to the same passage. At our church, we do prayer meetings unlike others I’ve attended. Pastor takes a Greek word and its English meaning, asks us a thinking question that we discuss, and then we break up into groups for our first session of prayer, which is centered on the discussion and praising God for who He is and what He has done. Then, we regroup to focus on requests and needs of the church.

This week, the Greek word was thelema and the question was what it means to be an individual. As we began to share answers about what makes us unique, pastor wrote the answers on a whiteboard in two different colors, drawing our attention to the set of answers that was less tangible, yet distinct to each person. Then he asked us a question: what exactly was Christ praying about in the garden? What was it that He gave up for us on the cross? Of course, there’s the obvious answers: His physical body and a life that up until that point knew no sin. But in Matthew 26, He prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Christ was praying about giving up His will (thelema), in exchange for the Father’s. Pastor asked us to consider: could we do the same? Could we give our will up to follow God’s will for our life?

Instead of praying in small groups, pastor said he wanted us to get alone with God and think about the things that make up our individual will–our desires and goals for our life–list them out, and then prayerfully commit each one to God, even if it meant giving them up in exchange for something different God has in mind for us. I spent a few minutes composing my list, the things I want and desire. David. Our marriage. Our children. Our health. Provisions. His job. Our home. Safety. Our family. Our friends. Our freedom. Our church. When I began to pray about giving each one of these things that make up my will over to God, even if it meant ultimately losing them, I could barely get out the words. Was I really willing to potentially give any of these up?

That night, my sleep was restless and filled with vivid dreams. In one, three children of friends were missing. By the end of the dream, only two were found. Another dream dealt with a weighty confrontation and forgiveness. I woke on Good Friday heavy and hurting. As I began to read my devotions over my morning coffee, I stopped when I got to Luke 9:23-24: “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.'”

Could I really give up what I love and cherish to follow Christ? What if doing what seems hardest is ultimately for God’s best?

The past two years have been marked with some major life moments for us that have changed the direction of our lives. We found out we were going to become parents. We moved to a new house. And then in late 2013, we left our church, which was a very challenging decision. It was not one we felt prepared to do, and it hadn’t been part of our plans. My husband had grown up in that church, attending it for all 31 years of his life. It was incredibly difficult when it became clear that God must have something different for us, and we fought with God, begging for a different course. The circumstances were complicated and messy, with its effects and consequences far-reaching. David describes it as the hardest time he’s faced in his life.

The tough choices weren’t over for us yet, and as 2014 wore on, we began to question whether I should remain at my job. That was a decision, as I’ve written about here before, I previously couldn’t fathom. My identity had always been so tied to my career. In August, I left to stay home with Olivia.

We didn’t really know, and most likely still do not fully realize, how life-changing these decisions ultimately would be. It didn’t take long for it to become painfully obvious that what initially felt like the worst was much better than we could possibly imagine. As we let go of our desires and what we held dear, God showed us how to value His desires for us. This time of crying out to God and seeking answers brought us closer to Christ and to each other. I found that spending my days with Olivia was more fulfilling than any role I’ve ever held. We joined a new church, where God began to grow our faith in new ways. Each message seemed directed at us, as God taught us about what it really means to follow Him and how He did not promise us that path would be easy–in fact, just the opposite. But the rewards would be eternal.

Then why was I still finding it so difficult to place each part of my will entirely in God’s hands? What if, after two years of challenges, it got even harder? What if, after learning so much and finding a home at this church, in the future it means a new pastor or a different church? What if David loses his job or I am called to a new one? Or what if it means the scariest things, losing the things I love the most? David? Our health? Our children?

But what if it does? For weeks, I have been following the story of Kara Tippetts, a young mother who recently lost her battle with cancer. I’ve been awed and inspired by the grace she showed, knowing her life was coming to an end, and the absolute peace she had, knowing it meant she was exchanging it for the glory of being in the presence of her Savior. As I’ve read of her life and death, I’ve wondered not only if I could do the same, but what if I were in her husband’s shoes, knowing I would lose my spouse? I’ve seen firsthand over the past two years the joy of accepting God’s will in my life despite hardships, but if it meant losing David or our children, would I still follow Christ?

As I prepare to celebrate tomorrow the significance and enormity of all Christ has done for me, my heart is gripped with these thoughts, and I am praying my answer would be yes. I am praying that He will help me have a heart that desires His will and the full life it brings, since His death was for me. And I am praying that as I turn my will over to God, He will give me peace through each step of pursuing His.

“Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be:
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy Rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me,
My poverty or wealth.
Not mine, not mine the choice
In things both great or small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength,
My wisdom, and my all.”

Thy Way, Not Mine, O Lord by Horatius Bonar

Lord, help me give it all to You.

Lord, help me give it all to You.

“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25)

What’s really helped get me through this pregnancy …

Ah, second trimester. I’m so so glad you’re here.

I’m now more than 15 weeks into my second pregnancy, and the nausea has subsided, my energy is returning, and I can finally enjoy a cup of coffee again. (Why exactly does a brewing pot smell so horrific during the first trimester?? I’m sure it has something to do with those pesky hormone changes …)

But I digress. I’m really glad to put that first trimester behind me, because it was a doozy. I feel like everything about this pregnancy needs to be in bold type and followed with an exclamation point. It’s been so in your face, obvious, distinct, and pronounced. Nothing’s been subtle. I was pretty confident that I was pregnant about a week into it after having some tell-tale symptoms. Then, a couple weeks later on the way home from church on a Sunday night, I told my husband that I wanted a Big Mac. No. I NEEDED a Big Mac. (Of course, I don’t think I’ve eaten a Big Mac in probably 15 years.) He looked over at me from the driver’s side and said, “Hon, you’re pregnant.”

The next day, right at the four-week mark, I took a test. The line started showing up before I could even put it down–no need to wait the three minutes. I was indeed pregnant! And when I told David that night when he got home from work, I was surprised that he was actually surprised. I mean, I think the Big Mac craving was really the only test we needed, right?

The day after the positive test, at 4 weeks 1 day, I was fixing Olivia’s and my breakfast, and I got instantly sick. Wow, I thought, that was fast. I don’t think I even had any nausea with Olivia until about six weeks. And though I had nausea throughout my first trimester with her, I fortunately only got physically sick a handful of times the entire pregnancy.

Yeah, I think I beat that benchmark in two days this pregnancy.

I wasn’t prepared for the nausea and sickness to hit me so hard and fast this pregnancy, since that was not what I experienced with Liv. (Though my wonderful mom likes to remind me how she was sick EVERY DAY for all nine months when she carried me. Love you, mom!) I wasn’t scheduled to see my OB till I was about 10 weeks along, but at week 7, after trying nearly every trick in the book, I caved and called in for help. The anti-nausea meds thankfully gave me some relief, and they really started helping by the time we saw our little babe on the ultrasound at my first prenatal appointment.

Yes, the first trimester was tough. But what really helped get me through it–in addition to many prayers and the anti-nausea meds–was the support of David. He really was amazing, and I’m not overstating that. David truly has a gift of showing his love through his care, and I am very blessed to be a recipient of that. It was like at the first sign of sickness, he just went into take-charge mode. Now, David helps a lot around the home and with Liv under normal circumstances–I really feel we have a true partnership in our home life–but this was above and beyond.

Reading book after book after book with his girl.

Reading book after book after book with his girl.


Every day, he would get home from work (I was usually curled up in a ball in the family room at that point) and without even asking, would willingly and completely handle whatever situation greeted him. Getting Liv up from naps. Changing her diaper. Feeding her dinner. Seeing if anything sounded good to me. Making many trips out to fulfill whatever oddball craving I was having at the moment (and of course, when you have a craving coupled with nausea, it is the ONLY thing you can eat). Doing the grocery shopping. Doing the dishes. Playing with Liv. Bathing her. Putting her to bed. Putting me to bed.

He NEVER complained. Not once. I’m sure he was exhausted after working all day and then caring for the entire household (dogs included) once he was home, but it did not seem to phase him. Through my fog of sickness, I couldn’t help but smile as I heard him laughing with Olivia in the other room. Despite the nausea, it made me feel so good. And when I would thank him for all he was doing, he would just say “Hon, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special. I’m just doing what needs to be done.”

Snuggling his girls. (Note: the dogs.)

Snuggling his girls. (Note: the dogs.)


It was a rebuke to me. If I were in his shoes, I don’t think I would’ve had the same spirit. During this time especially, he taught me through his actions what it is to live out 1 Corinthians 13. It is an honor and a privilege to be loved by him; I know I am one lucky girl.

I’ve probably embarrassed him by now, so I’ll wrap this up. As I start to feel the first flutters of this tiny babe inside me, I can’t help but be excited for this little one to meet Daddy. He’s a special guy.

All the best Dads watch Daniel Tiger with their kids.

All the best Dads watch Daniel Tiger with their kids.


“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)