on sparrows and other wild things



i keep trying to remember what we were discussing that day, all those many years back, she and i sitting there wrapped in our pre-baby bodies and  spouting the sorts of grand ideas you have about marriage before you actually walk the aisle.


before the men we imagined became the reality of husband-provision.  before the kids’ names we hypothesized became swaddled in damp blankets and laid upon our chests.  before the crow lines of grief walk –7 months now of hard living — were etched beneath our eyes.


no, i can’t remember what we were talking about – might have been some melodramatic Oprah episode for crying out loud – but i can remember, word for word, something she said that seemed so wise and at the same time so irrelevant, young and invincible as we were.


we talked of tragedy in hypotheticals then, and my soul-friend, she said, regarding the fear of the unexpected:


you can’t let yourself be paralyzed with fear. sure, maybe that thing – the one you can’t imagine that you’d ever make it through – maybe it will happen to you, some time, in the future.  but to live your life in debilitating fear of tragedy is to suffer twice. you suffer now, with anxiety – and you suffer then, when it actually happens.


i can picture us, the us of back then, nodding solemnly to that.  giving it a moment’s faraway gaze before flipping over to sunbathe our backs – before switching topics back to the mundane, the dinner plans, the mindless gossip.


but even the words spoken in  the most ordinary of moments sometimes stick with us – attach themselves like cockleburs to our clothing, hitching a ride to a future time when we’ll find them, unsuspecting, and be ready for the wisdom they offer.


every time someone asks me about my pearL, wanting to know how long, how many months now, we’ve enjoyed inhaling deep the smell of her skin, the view of that wide, wide smile through crib bars in morning’s first light, i choke on the reply:


nine months.”


and i’ll never be able to go back to a time when that length of time doesn’t catch in my throat, doesn’t send a jolt of fresh grief to the brims of my eyes.  i’ll never be able to un-know that nine months – or three days, or even less —  is sometimes all that you get.


and so i beg your patience in these weeks when the writer’s ink runs dry and the eyes run wet and i beg a God whose perspective is timeless to help me walk the courage of those words my soul-friend spoke so long ago.


to beg strength, for it is no easy task – living this life, not flinching in preparation for the impending tragedy that waits round the corner with my own name on it, but in appreciation for every single day – each day the gift that it is — until then …


and in knowledge – deep knowledge, the kind that seeps down into bedrock of belief – that His promise is true, come what may.  for this nine months and the next and the next …


come what may.


is there a place, dear friends, where you need to plead that the thorn of fear might be pulled from your side?  a place where you need to surrender the illusion of control over the future and live in this moment, this one right now?


if so, i’m joining you in that prayer … and leaving you with the imagery of Wendell Berry and the wisdom of Christ himself.


“When despair for the world grows in me,

and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear

of what my life and my children’s lives may be —

I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,

and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief.

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

–Wendell Berry



Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

Yet not one of them will fall to the ground

outside your Father’s care.

And even the very hairs of your head

are all numbered.

So don’t be afraid;

you are worth more than many sparrows.

–Matthew 10: 29-31



  1. Nancy

    I often tell young parents that they can’t parent theoretically, they can only deal with what’s actually in front of them. I didn’t realize how often I allowed myself to experience tragedy theoretically until I read your post. Love the Wendell Berry quote.

    • keLi

      Love you, Nancy, and the Titus 2 wisdom that you share. 🙂

  2. Kelly

    Oh Kel. (I can call you Kel, right?) This one strikes right at the core.

    Allowing that thorn of fear to be torn from the soul is excruciating.

    Praying for you sister!

    • keLi

      yes, Kel, (and you may!), i have a feeling it’s a common thorn for mothers. oh, to think of how i might be able to love, free from it …

  3. brian

    yeah i got my thorn, and yes i need to let it go…nicely spun bit of encouragement…

    • keLi

      thanks for reading, brian.

  4. Bethany

    I feel sad with you. It seems contentment and joy seep in when I either forget to worry or deliberately turn from it. If only my trust could eclipse my fears. Sometimes it does. Love the Wendell Berry poem. I haven’t heard of him. Thanks, keLi

    • keLi

      to deliberately turn — yes, that’s it, and it requires intentionality and discipline that i so often shirk away. it won’t happen by accident, i know that. thanks for sharing your struggle, too. we learn from each other, no?

      • Bethany


  5. Joybird

    When the worst becomes not a fear but a real possibility into a fact how to go on. And if I did not experience it but ones so close it almost felt like it was mine. I have struggled with these same issues, just in a different area. Thank you for the encouraging words…don’t be afraid. So glad I popped over and and followed the link trail. The history fuels your words with great power and poignancy.

    • keLi

      “like it was mine” — yes, Joybird, that’s it. and i know it wasn’t, know that the depth of my grief barely touches the surface of theirs, but i believe there is an Enemy who would take down every single person who surrounds them in support, and fear is a sharp, sharp arrow in his quiver. thanks so much for your encouragement. you get it, you do.

  6. emily lavenue

    keli, your words bring me to tears (yet again). this post hits so close to home. i was not prepared for the amount of worry that comes with being a parent. that worry easily leads to fear and fear became the most horrible reality that day in august. i struggle with fear for my child, my friends’ children, and all that i encounter and can easily imagine. my roomie’s words from all that time ago are so true (and so hard to follow). sonya and drason continue to be such a source of strength and a shining example of how my own faith should be. i can only hope to learn from them, from God, and to learn to let go of the fear.

    • keLi

      crying with you, friend … because you know, too, that we wouldn’t trade it — this deep sadness walking now with her, with him, through this — would never ever trade it for one moment of that laughing out loud we used to do. that we’ll do again some day, by His grace. 🙂

  7. Jenny

    How did you know about my cockleburs, Keli?!?! Once again, you’ve woven a hug in words: embracing the Banebow Believers with faith, candid honesty, and heart-tugging insight. Thank you for your post today and always. Praying with you, y(our) soul-friend, and the rest of us who need “the now”.

    • keLi

      oh, Jenny, thanks to you, friend. So many times I feel the pressure to come here and to do my part to build Bane’s legacy with *just the right words* — and that’s a fruitless pursuit, because God is the builder — and he’ll speak through me even when the only words I have are broken ones. especially then. especially.

  8. jodi

    I have no words adequete enough, just tears and gratitude. And thank you for sharing the Wendell Berry quote. It resonates with me and my fears.

    • keLi

      love to you, jodi. just the being here is enough.

  9. Craig

    I’m here from Emily’s – it’s my first time linking up.

    Not enough prose for one blog – much less two – I have two – I get it.

    And your friend is brilliant, “to suffer twice. you suffer now, with anxiety – and you suffer then, when it actually happens.” So true.

    is there a place, dear friends, where you need to plead that the thorn of fear might be pulled from your side? I have a different thorn – my fear is just more of an old un-friend. But amen – I so get this. I’m defriending the unfriend a little at a time.


    God Bless you

  10. emily wierenga

    before the crow lines of grief walk –7 months now of hard living — were etched beneath our eyes.

    oh keLi…

    you break me, here. we’re all walking with you, friend. slow steps, one in front of the other, waiting on him to reveal the path… xo

  11. deb

    thank you ,
    thank you both.