Death, Focus and Finding Beauty


14 years ago I laid in a hospital bed being pumped full of heavy duty antibiotics, an oxygen mask snuggly fitted to my face and a stout, demanding nurse seated at the head of my bed who routinely refitted the mask and loudly ordered me to breathe. Just an hour earlier the room had been full of medical professionals whose sole mission was to save my life and maybe that of my daughter’s. But the sepsis had ravaged both of us by that point and only one of us survived. I laid in that bed and flashed back to just two weeks prior, as I held my first daughter in my arms while she took her last breath. It was only then, in the stark contrast that I realized that even those agonizingly difficult moments were a gift I was not given with both. Our twins, born two weeks apart and months too soon only lived for about 15 minutes.

I laid there full of disdain for the nurse who was fighting to keep me alive, she was holding space for a life I no longer wanted, so certain was I that it was the event meant to destroy me. It was in that space, wishing I could lull off to sleep and simply wake, held in the arms of Jesus, with my girls, that I first heard Him whisper.

“Look for the beauty in this day Crystal.”

It seemed like a cruel joke at first. How could there ever be beauty in spaces like this? Then I looked over at my mother’s tear stained face, hung low, seated beside a husband who was fervently praying for my life, and I began to understand. Seasons are always woven, they are rarely solitary notes, suffering and joy are often melted together into the tapestry of our lives. The beauty of that day was the love of two who were fighting for me even when I had no strength or desire left to fight for myself.

I would continue to hear that gentle prodding as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months and months turned into years. Eventually, I began to seek ways to capture the ordinarily beautiful moments through photography. What started as a vision-shift turned into a way to remember the beauty in the hard seasons. Today, after days of high stress, and countless questions in the midst of this pandemic season I looked over and my breath caught in my chest as I quickly picked up my phone to “snap” a picture.

Daddy is now having to work from home, uncomfortable at our rackety kitchen table, but he was briefly interrupted by a sweet 4 year old, dressed as Princess Jasmine, who just had to hold him tight for a moment. A moment that 14 years ago, laying in that hospital bed, I could have never dreamed of. One miraculous moment, again reminding me of just how big God is and the beauty He provides in the ordinary (and even hard spaces) if we will just have eyes to see.

What beauty are you prone to miss in the distracted hardness of this time? May I encourage you to always look for the beauty? It often shows up in the ordinary.


What About the Least of These?


Maybe I have read too much over the last few days regarding all that is pouring forth on my 4×2 inch cell phone screen, or maybe you will think I have read too little but there is just so much I can’t seem to understand. I could feel the tightness grip my chest as an initial sense of overwhelming details kept lighting up my email, my social media, and my news feed. Declarations of absurdity, declarations of panic, declarations of closures and politics and toilet paper and SO VERY MUCH. Too much. At this time and season and space of my life it just felt like too much- a sentence that even as I type it I am certain I will be judged for.

I am seeing people of faith declaring, in faith, all that they will do as they refuse to bow down to fear and plan to continue their meetings. I am seeing people dismissing the whole thing as folly, while some pass around jokes and make light of it all. And I am seeing others, some silenced by feelings of shame, not want to acknowledge their own fear, their own desire to prepare or their concerns of how it will affect them.

And as I have sought to still my own soul in the presence of my Savior one question keeps echoing through my mind-

What about the least of these?

These events are so far reaching and so deeply impacting that it is just folly to disregard the seriousness of the situation. It goes far beyond “just” concerns about ones own health in the face of a new virus; it is impacting every single American in varying degrees. And I just keep wondering-

What about the least of these?

What about the ones who ARE medically fragile on a good day?

What about the elderly who with their gray crowns of splendor may now be wondering how they can navigate this time? I wonder if they feel disposable as the comments are thrown around.

What about the immune compromised or those with serious chronic conditions who are looking into the face of greater suffering?

What about the least of these?

What will we do? What will we look back, as most of us will be able to, and say about this season? What will we choose? And how did we care for the least of these?

I believe in faith over fear. I also believe our fears should be acknowledged and not shamed while we kick them out of the drivers seat. However, I also believe in wisdom, in knowledge, in discernment, in prudence and applying these in powerful measure as well.  I believe in a God who has equipped us with big, beautiful brains in His sovereignty as well as the possibility of deep and abiding faith. And I believe that we who claim to love Jesus and are “able” have an incredible opportunity to serve and love the least of these who may be in our corner of life.  And I believe that we can encourage one another, inspire one another, and lift each other up to the God who is truly able (even from a distance of at least 6 feet).

Get Back Up


I believe I first began to use food to “self-sooth” somewhere about age 5. I can remember shuttling away to my bedroom with a box of chocolate hostess cupcakes, certain I had just become a master thief complete with a back up plan: if they were discovered missing, I could always blame it on my brother. My 5 year-old self thought the plan was perfect and my sugar high harmless. It becomes no small battle if you pick food as your drug, you can never just “quit it.” And I would argue that while emotional eating may be the only socially acceptable “drug,” it is only truly “acceptable” for the thin. For, in my experience, you are indeed treated differently if you find yourself taking up “too much space.” So, if I could sum up my journey with food I would borrow a former Facebook moniker and simply say, “it’s complicated.” But today, today smells better then double fudge brownies right out of the oven.

This isn’t about the scale, that is merely a marker of what may be working as I continue my journey of learning what MY body needs. Nor is it simply about losing 50 pounds in the last 16 weeks.

Here IS what is represents though:

It is not quitting on me.

It is gaining almost all of the weight back that I once lost after having gastric sleeve surgery.

It is realizing I was wrong on what it would take to get it back off.

It is not staying in the dying spaces and snuggling a blanket of excuses that sound like defeat.

It is not letting the hard season I am in, or the physical pain I endure daily, or my long list of limitations, or my PCOS shackle me down in a space of Hopeless-So-Do-Not-Try Land.

It represents over 8 years of hard work in therapy dealing with my crap.

It stands as a marker of learning more about how to lean on a God of freedom instead of a god of food.

It represents exactly zero perfection.

It represents more freedom.

It is about pressing into being healthy and strong, not a certain size.

It is about making peace with food battles and no longer labeling everything.

It represents a woman who keeps taking the next step, rising up on bloodied knees and bloodied hands after she falls and not quitting on herself.

So if we are choosing our hard, friends, let us choose the hard that leads to life abundant.

Don’t quit. Don’t ever quit on you and showing up for your life.

You are worth it.

Get back up.