“Grateful” Doesn’t Begin to Describe It

Every year on March 14 I have this overwhelming sense of the fragility of life, and I marvel with gratitude that I am still here. As my daughters were getting ready for school this morning, I showed them old videos of themselves from twelve years ago. “This is how tiny you were when the car crash happened.” What if I had left them then? It’s hard to imagine. 

I filmed the girls the morning after the car accident, Lillie playing with Sabrina through the slats of her crib. She was singing classical music to her and thumping on her diapered bottom as a drum, my little five-year-old who is now looking at colleges that offer a major in violin performance. I remember all that was filling my heart that morning, secretly watching those little girls, listening to the warm house noise they created. I know I hadn’t slept a wink. That was a night of reckoning as I marveled at God’s protective hand over my life.

I recently had a new chiropractor tell me that there is no way I didn’t experience whiplash with a car crash of that magnitude. Then moments later, he looked at my x-rays and couldn’t believe how healthy they appeared. “I wouldn’t have known you were in that kind of crash,” he remarked. Perhaps there has been healing in these last twelve years, or perhaps there was no whiplash. 

I remember feeling like I was in a protective bubble as that semi tore off the front end of my Jeep. Everything was flying around me. Metal was violently twisting, and the vehicle was spinning, but I was fine. I wasn’t even panicked. When the Lord intervenes in ways that we actually witness, we cannot deny His presence and protection. There are thousands of ways He is present and protective every day that we are unaware of, but sometimes He gives us a peek. 

We are getting ready to launch Gratefulness Matters next month. This is Matters Ministry’s second women’s Bible study, following Truth Matters. On this day, March 14, I am extremely grateful that I can look back and reflect on twelve years of life. “Grateful” doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s been twelve full and exciting years as we have raised our girls, transitioned elderly parents, developed ministries, added to our musical careers, and fallen more in love with each other and with our Jesus. 

Gratefulness matters in the life of a believer because the Lord calls us to gratitude. It’s not a suggestion, it’s His command for our lives. He knows that what is best for us is glorifying Him through trust and gratitude. We are to be a grateful people! And some days, that just feels easy. 

William Frank Fata (July 5, 1976–February 10, 2024)

William Fata exchanged this tired world for the arms of his Savior last evening at 1:00 AM Switzerland time. I don’t have enough pleasant words to say about this gentle soul, my brother, my friend: kind, compassionate, caring, patient, long-suffering, loyal, charming, funny, talented, optimistic, courageous, and noble are but a few. 

Throughout his battle with cancer, I never heard William offer a complaint. Even as we tromped the streets of Romanian villages in 98-degree weather, he soldiered on through pain and misery, never displaying a sign of discontent. The Lord was merciful to give us those twelve days with our William. We will cherish them always, particularly that one blessed hour of prayer, shared between brothers, when he gave his life to Christ. 

The Lord works in ways we often cannot understand. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55). They are higher, perfect, and purposed for our good and for His glory. We can ask, Why would God take William home at age 47? Why did He take my brother Cliff home at age 44? We can ask God questions, but we cannot question God. The pot does not demand its own way from the Potter because it cannot; we do not possess that kind of control or authority. We surrender to the Author of Life because we must. If we claim Him as Lord only when His ways agree with our ways, then we have misunderstood both who He is as God and who we are as His people. He isn’t God because He does what we want; He is God because He is God! And He does what is best, even when we cannot understand it. There is abundant comfort, rest, and peace to be found in this simple yet profound truth.

Our lives have changed dramatically with this devastating loss. To say the ground has shifted under our feet is a gross understatement. There are a thousand unknowns for the future. And yet, the truth is we are standing on the Rock that will not be moved. We may feel unstable, but that is merely a feeling. To be in Christ is to stand strong, firmly planted in truth, wisdom, and power. We are pleading with the Holy Spirit to pour all three on our heads in obvious ways. 

If you are tempted to feel unstable today, remind yourself of your “in Christ” condition and position. Regardless of how you feel, you are standing firmly on the Rock. 

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.
How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
(Psalm 40:1–5)


People usually discuss new beginnings in January. Warning: this post is more about endings. Last April, I boarded a train not knowing where it would take me. I needed to figure out my parents’ future. Eight months later, I landed at my destination. In December, I moved Mom and Dad into assisted living and emptied their home of a lifetime of possessions. 

Everyone who has been through this process understands the enormity of it. It feels like a closed door forcing you to climb through a small window. Hoping to avoid regret, you resign  and resolve—I prayed for no regrets while resigning to what had to be and resolving to forge ahead. After months of trial and error, the Lord affirmed our final decision with the wonderful blessing of a sold house. The buyers purchased it “as is” for our asking price, and we proceeded without the burden of realtor fees. 

I would need to keep reminding myself of this provision in the packing and purging process. Each drawer might contain meaningless trash or valuable family papers dating back to my ancestors, or sometimes both! It was a painstaking process, both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t decide which was worse, the crick in my neck or the ache in my heart. 

My own home is now overrun with evidence of this move’s aftermath. I wonder at what point in this new year I will finally finish going through the boxes of items stacked up in my dining room. Another neck-breaking, heart-wrenching purge awaits me. 

An aftermath is a consequence or result; the word can also refer to the period immediately following a ruinous event. This is the perfect word to describe my current condition. Yes, my parents are settled and the house is cleaned out, but I am still recovering. And I will be for some time. There were many days spent in solitude, sorting and purging and packing and lacking. I was lacking joy. I felt very much alone. My brothers couldn’t travel to help me. My own family was too busy with their December demands. Friends came in and out, but the bulk of my time was spent alone with my trash bags and boxes and a million thoughts of both what was and what is. Admittedly, much of this process could be done by no one other than myself.

My father had remarked several times during this move, “My joy is not in things, but in the Lord!” I confess I had numerous pity parties where joy was no where to be found. Tears, frustration, and loneliness were my constant companions. But the Lord was faithful to remind me of the blessings that have always been mine and continue to be so. I am extraordinarily blessed. 

One early morning, He whispered in my ear all the ways I wasn’t appreciating the blessing of His joy. Through repentance, my joy returned. We hear so much about the “Joy of Christmas” in December. I do not believe an unrepentant heart is capable of true internal joy. 

On one of my last days of packing, I found my mother’s sewing kit. Inside it was one of those red tomato pin cushions that were popular in the 1970’s. Holding it again brought on instant childhood flashbacks of pulling pins in and out of it while trying not to get poked. Poked is another perfect word for this season. Every part of me has been poked, but it’s the poking of conviction that has changed me most, and for the better. And now, at the end of this figurative train ride, I find myself dealing with the same three Rs. “Lord, let me lay down all regrets as I resign to our new normal. Help me resolve to live out this aftermath with the joy that is found in You alone.”

“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Paws-itively Faithful

One morning, I came downstairs as Patrick was heading out on a walk with our dog. My daily greetings with Tempo are nothing short of a love fest. The next five minutes were spent trying to convince him to leave me and go on his walk. Normally, walks are his absolute favorite activity, but Patrick and I had to laugh at his shift in priorities, for nothing could draw Tempo from his mama. I was obviously most important to him. 

Patrick connected his leash and dragged him out the door. Even after walking blocks away, Tempo was still pulling back to the house. His heart hated being parted from mine. I marvel at his faithfulness and adoration. Of course, Patrick is the most faithful and adoring being in my life, but even he can bear to part with me for a ten-minute walk!

I asked our breeder if Tempo’s unique obsession with me is normal. He mentioned that some dogs are simply wired as “one-person creatures.” Well, I must be Tempo’s one and only! He doesn’t even greet the other family members when they come home. I do wish he’d spread his love out more evenly. But honestly, I am thankful he chose me. This bond is very special, for I had fervently prayed over our next pup after losing Maestro.

When I ponder Tempo’s level of faithfulness, it inspires me. He has eyes only for his master. No matter where I am or what I am doing, he keeps them peeled on me. He positions himself to anticipate my next move. He is a student of my actions and habits, studying my every activity and premeditating his involvement. He not only knows me, he never leaves my side. He trusts I know what’s best for him as he stays at my feet in faithful submission.

This is how I want to look at my Master; I want eyes only for Him. I desire to be a student of His life and ministry, studying how He lived and modeling my actions accordingly. I must strive to keep my sights on Jesus and position my life in a submissive posture at His feet, ready to act as He leads. 

Being a faithful follower of Christ means more than knowing who He is. It’s more than church attendance and mealtime prayers. Following Jesus means never leaving His side! It’s not letting the world leash me and pull me away from Him. It’s having eyes only for Him and trusting He knows what is best for me at all times. Because He is my sovereign Master, I can faithfully submit to Him with great confidence. And it’s comforting to know that my faithfulness is achieved through Him and His Spirit at work in me. “But the fruit of the Spirit is… faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).

My dog—this gift from God to me—has become my role model. May I be as faithful to my Master as Tempo is to his. 

Worship Him Alone

We are excited to be a part of the ICC Publishing House family, and we are grateful they’ve chosen “Worship Him Alone” to be a part of their choral collection. This SATB arrangement has lyrics based on Psalm 97. The psalmist expresses the Lord’s power and dominion while calling us to respond appropriately with our worship in acknowledgement of His holiness.

Lyrically, “Worship Him Alone” describes nature’s reaction to its Creator, His grand control over every detail within it, and the mystery that never grows pale: this all-powerful One chooses us as His beloved!

Clothed in majesty divine, sovereign on His throne
Reigning over all mankind, worship Him alone
Holy, holy, holy, holy Lord

Islands of the earth be glad for you are His own
All is under His command, worship Him alone
Holy, holy, holy, holy Lord

The mountains melt like wax at His presence
The earth sees His lightning and trembles
The heavens declare His righteousness
And yet He chooses me, chooses me

Though once lost and frail were we, in Him we find home
Sons and daughters of the King, worship Him
Oh worship Him alone
Worship Him alone for He is holy, holy
Worship Him alone

The choir of Harbour Shores Church will sing this selection the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect time to express our gratitude for our Lord’s sovereign rule and His generosity to us as His own. Psalm 97 concludes by calling us to action:

Be joyful in the Lord, you righteous ones,
And praise the mention of His holy name.

Not a Threat to Me

Sometimes in the middle of the night, the physical darkness that surrounds me oppresses my emotional wellbeing. With a simple flip of the light switch, my surroundings change. My eyes see again, and my heart is reminded that darkness will never overpower the light. 

David explains my job is to trust in the Lord and to commit my way to Him. He also reminds me that anything associated with darkness is not a threat to me.

Do not get upset because of evildoers,
Do not be envious of wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass,
And decay like the green plants.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Live in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:1–5)

How easy it is to be frustrated when the plans of evil succeed. How quickly I despair when the wicked prosper. Yet, how true it is that their plans and their deeds are but a breath. I comfort knowing that “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4). 

The Lord allows what He allows. Somehow, He is guiding each ill motive toward His own glory, and ultimately, this means evil is no threat to His people. The dark is given its day, but the light has a role to play in the process. Did you notice His many commands to us in these five short verses? “Do not get upset… Do not be envious… Trust in the Lord… Do good… Live in the land and cultivate faithfulness…” (This Hebrew verb cultivate means to feed. The Lord instructs us to “feed on faithfulness.” We are to nourish our souls by filling up on it. This is our duty!) “Delight in the Lord… Commit your way to the Lord… Trust in Him!”

Which one of these commands is optional? Of course, none. A command is meant to be followed. And we willingly and wholeheartedly obey God’s commands because we trust Him. He is our sovereign Creator. He holds perfect plans in His hands. He is good, and He is trustworthy. 

The wicked will do their best. And so will we. Only one side will ultimately triumph. Here is further assurance from Psalm 37 of who that will be:

For evildoers will be eliminated,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land (v. 9).

The wicked plots against the righteous,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming (vv. 12–13)

For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the Lord sustains the righteous (v. 17).

For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,
But those cursed by Him will be eliminated (v. 22).

For the Lord loves justice
And does not abandon His godly ones;
They are protected forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be eliminated (v. 28).

But wrongdoers will altogether be destroyed;
The future of the wicked will be eliminated.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and rescues them;
He rescues them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him (vv. 38–40).

So yes, we may find frustration when the plans of darkness succeed. We may desire to despair when the wicked prosper. But we rest in reassurance “Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked” (v. 16), and as children of light, we totally trust that “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever” (v. 18).

Got Your Wallet?

We just returned from a whirlwind trip through England, Belgium, France, and Romania. When one embarks on such a journey, there are many concerns. Not only was the Lord incredibly gracious to keep us healthy and keep things running smoothly at home; He was also very near. My heart is full as I ponder all that His hand provided and allowed during our month away.

One of the more stressful events of the trip transpired the day we were flying from Paris to Bucharest to meet Patrick’s mother and brother. The girls and I were excited to experience Romania for the first time. Patrick is half Romanian and spent his summers there as a boy. This part of his heritage was completely unfamiliar to me until this trip.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in plenty of time to catch our flight. We returned our rental car and began the tedious process of check-in, passport control, and security checks. These things took over an hour and a half. There were miles to make, trams to take, and long lines, for goodness’ sake! 

As we finally approached our gate, I mentioned getting something to eat and Patrick went pale. “I think I left my wallet in the rental car.” We frantically searched his bag to make sure he was correct. Unfortunately, he was. I simply said, “Run.” As the girls and I watched him sprint away from us, we realized several awful truths: 

First, we truly needed that wallet! Patrick couldn’t drive our Romanian rental car without it. I do not posses an international driver’s license, and the next part of the trip required much driving! Even if he could make it there and back in time for the flight, would the car still be there? It could have already been transferred for cleaning. Or, what if the car was there but the wallet was not?

Second, the wallet held all his credit cards. They were the same cards I was using so cancelling them would leave us with no money. 

Third, if Patrick didn’t make it back in time for the flight, the girls and I would have to travel to Romania without him, not knowing the language. Perhaps we could make it by taxi to our hotel, but we would have to manage all the luggage, and my back was not up for that.

It was overwhelming. It was 11:00. The airline attendant told me the door of the plane would close at noon. At 11:50 I received this text: “I’m back to where I left you.” He was rounding the corner, wallet in tow, and dripping in sweat. I was so happy to see my Frenchman! We all walked onto the plane together at 11:55. Whew!

Here’s the thing. As stressful as that hour was, I honestly was never worried. I am not boasting about my unruffled state. Rather, I am in awe of the peace the Lord continually supplied me during our travels. His reassuring presence never left me. I knew the whole ordeal was of His hand. All things are. Who am I to doubt His plan? 

Several miraculous events took place during Patrick’s fast and furious trek back to the wallet. He was already exhausted before he began his stressful journey, but pure adrenaline and God’s mercy allowed him the physical strength to run for a full hour. He mistakenly found the rental car departure location rather than the arrival area, where our car was located. A Turkish man (total angel) drove Patrick to our rental car. According to Patrick, it was like a scene from a movie, the driver recklessly weaving in and out of airport traffic. When they arrived, not only was the car still there, but so was the wallet! The man even gave him a lift back to the terminal (saving him 35 minutes of foot travel). Patrick resumed his sprint, constantly running into roadblocks of long lines of travelers. Several guards refused to help him to the front of the security line, but one tall officer kindly pointed him in a direction, giving him the approval to bypass several hundred people. The Lord’s provision was at every turn.

We still can’t believe he even attempted to get to the car rental location and back. The Lord moved mountains!

We laugh now as we remember the rental car agent saying to all four of us as we surrendered the car, “Do you want to check the car one more time?” “No, we’re good.” Oy! How many times have we assumed we are “good” or that “all is well” based on our decisions and choices when, in reality, we have assumed wrongly. This is a scary thought, except for the fact that the Lord knows. He has a path designed to both sanctify us and shine His glory through us. 

We all grew in our sanctification that day. All praise to Him who takes care of fools and babies! I’m changing that old saying to “The Lord takes care of Frenchmen and babies.” 

To finish the story… for the rest of the trip, whenever Patrick offered instruction for packing or gathering our belongings, we teasingly asked him one question in return: “Got your wallet?” 

Ifs, Ands, and Buts

It’s been twelve years since we were in Europe. This is incredibly hard to believe. We traveled there annually for years, touring musically in international churches and enjoying time with Patrick’s family and in his native culture. But, as we attempted to return in 2012, plane ticket prices doubled. We have tried several times through the years to get back over the pond, but the door has never opened to us. 

Patrick received a grant through the Indianapolis Arts Council to put us back on European soil in 2020, but Covid reared its ugly head. It was devastating to lose that trip, and even more so to lose Patrick’s father, Christian, a few months later. The girls could’ve finally gotten to know their grandfather on that trip, but it was not to be.

Lillie had traveled abroad five times before age four. The last time we were in Paris, we sat on a picnic blanket in front of the Eiffel Tower eating pastries on her fourth birthday. If we had known we’d not be back for twelve years, we’d have been heartbroken. If we had known this trip was the last time we’d be with Christian, the sorrow would have been unbearable. And, how does one go so long without returning home? My husband, of course, finds his home wherever we are, but country living in the midwest is hardly a substitute for his beloved Paris.

There are so many ifs, ands, and buts to recount over this past decade: however, we are on our way back this August! It will be a whirlwind adventure through England, France, Belgium, and Romania. We will spend some much-needed time with Patrick’s mother and brother. William is fighting stage-four cancer, so we cannot wait to squeeze him and offer our prayerful encouragements. 

Ifs, ands, and buts concerning this trip bounce around in my noggin every day as we prepare to be gone a full month:

1. What if-we-had-known moments will we learn this time?
2. What ands and buts will there be on the journey?
3. Can we stay healthy?
4. How will we afford this?
5. Will all that we leave behind be okay back here?

When we doubt or fear or find ourselves anxious, rather than listen to ourselves, we must speak truth to ourselves! I remind myself daily of these realities:

1. Christ knows what’s around the corner, so I don’t need to know.
2. Christ allows hiccups for our growth, so I can face them confidently.
3. Christ gets to choose the ifs, ands, and buts, so I need not fear.
4. Christ is my Provider, so I can rest.
5. Christ holds all in His hands, so I’m not responsible for what I cannot control.

We are abundantly blessed to have this travel opportunity, and we covet your prayers over us. We will be ministering musically at the All Saints Church in Marlow, England, and at the International Church of Bucharest. May Jesus Christ be praised in every scene, even, and especially in, the ifs, ands, and buts.

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:4, 5)

It Ain’t Me

My baby just turned thirteen. I now have a house full of teenagers! Well, there are only two of them, but it feels full! How did this happen? Sabrina has always been such a little peanut, so dainty with kissable cheeks. And now she’s a powerful teenage ballerina with bandages on her toes and mascara on her lashes.

Sabrie possesses grit and spirited charm. I’ve never had to wonder about how she feels on a matter. And now, she articulates her feelings with great clarity and conviction. Thirteen feels different. At least it does to her mother. I want to cling to my little girl.

Though her usual mode of operation is shyness, it is fun to watch Sabrina come out of her shell. At her birthday supper, she demonstrated recent dance combinations she’d learned from a ballet intensive and had the entire room filled with laughter. My mother kept remarking that she was seeing my grandmother’s spunk in Sabrie. I was internally marveling at her likeness to myself. Her hambone was in full operation, and I loved it.

Lately, I have referred to being a part of the sandwich generation, simultaneously raising these two girls while also assisting my elderly parents. Patrick and I have landed here because we waited ten years to start our family. It was a good idea at the time, and I wouldn’t change a thing, of course, but here we are. Every day I am learning over and over again one important truth: I am not in control.

I know that I know that I know who is in control. I’ve never doubted God’s Word.

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
In heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the ocean depths.
(Psalm 135:6)

The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33)

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD
He turns it wherever He pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)

Will the clay say to the potter, “What are you doing?” (Isaiah 45:9)

Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass,
Unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That both adversity and good proceed? (Lamentations 3:37–38)

Obviously, there is only One in charge. When I am resting in Christ’s sovereignty, I experience relief from the pressure of each challenge. I can feel the squeeze of life without bearing its weight. I can wrestle with the sorrow of hardship or change without being pinned by its burden. I know who is in charge and it ain’t me! His control means freedom, peace, and rest. 

It is much easier to bow before Christ’s throne than to attempt to rule from my self-made, puny throne that holds no power. The result of my surrender is that I no longer greedily cling to my treasured loved ones, but rather, I give them back to the One who put them in my life. When I place them in His hands, my joy in them is even more complete.

These teenage years are very special for my daughters, and so are these elderly ones for my parents. Finding myself somewhere in the middle, I plan to soak up all of them. And I will do so while remembering there is only One who is in charge, and it ain’t me. 

Last Times

In my sophomore year of high school, I switched from the basketball team to the tennis team. I had a lot of catching up to do compared to my teammates who’d been swinging rackets since they were little girls. I didn’t even know the rules of the game! My devoted dad took me to the courts and ran drills with me. I was so aggravated with his topspin tricks! But I ended up in the number one doubles spot and even received a scholarship to play in college.  

It is impossible to calculate the many things my father has taught me. He has coached me in sports activities, musical moments, and of course, he has been highly influential in helping me build my faith. For all of life and for all of my life, Dad has been there, educating, cheering, and praying. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t cover me in prayer. I remember when he taught me how to drive at the county fairgrounds. Perhaps that’s when his prayers really took off!

Recently, Dad was watching me play tennis with my daughters. He stepped up to the net and fed me a few balls. He is 84 now and is sometimes unstable on his feet. We didn’t play long before we both knew he should stop. As he turned to put the racket down and I walked to the back of the court to gather balls, I realized, “This is probably the last time I will play tennis with my daddy.”

Last times are hard. Often we don’t know when they are taking place. But there are poignant flashes when we’re keenly aware that we are enjoying a moment for the last time and we must say farewell to something precious. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for my earthly father. What an example the one has been of the Other. As I enter a painful season of last times, I’m counting on two things: the Lord holds all my last times in His sovereign hands, and there will be tennis courts in Heaven.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)