Restoration

Some thoughts chase me. Healing, restoration…these have been trailing me lately. Pastor Kris’s recent sermon “Peter Heals” was the catalyst this time. It was beautiful.

During her message she shared how her brother was injured in an auto accident when he was 22 years old. A senior at West Point Academy, Bobby no doubt was a young man with nothing but promise ahead of him. A single moment of time changed the direction of his life, forever. He flew through the windshield of a car. He was left a quadriplegic with significant brain damage. He needed a-round-the clock care for the remaining 26 years of his life.

Kris shared that after his death his caregiver of many years, a deeply spiritual women, called her to tell her that she had a dream the night before. In her dream Bobby was in heaven, and that he had been restored, completely, restored. But the thing that struck her is that he remained in his wheelchair.

Remained in his chair, yet completely, perhaps most importantly, spiritually restored…

Kris shared how she never thought about healing quite the same way again. Maybe I won’t either.

I settled into a yoga class that following Tuesday morning. At the start of class my instructor sat upon her mat, faced her students and asked for Grace. With a heavy sigh she explained that one of her children, a Son who has struggled with drug addiction since his teens, had called her over the weekend asking for help. He was high and combative, and was likely to lose his place to live. In the process of trying to help him, he physically assaulted her.

She was brokenhearted. She shared a bit about her family’s seven year struggle. She asked for prayer.

Upon my mat, staring up at the ceiling I prayed for her family. I prayed for healing, for restoration. I thought about her Son, wondering if he’ll break free from his addiction. I prayed for healing for her brokenness, and for his. I thought about Pastor Kris’s brother Bobby.

Restored in his chair…maybe life altering adversity doesn’t have to cripple our spiritual wholeness.

Pastor Kris suggested that perhaps we assign worldly expectation to what we feel healing should look like, and in doing so maybe we limit God.

And so I’m left with this swirling about…

file000539488754Perhaps healing, the miraculous, crazy crisp, soul cleansing, blanketing kind, the kind that only He can offer, maybe that is best obtained by letting go of our own expectations, remove that which may hinder our renewal, and instead allow Him in. We might never be the same. Maybe we still carry with us the scars of this world. But, He shines them up, restoring us to more than we once were.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 New Living Translation (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for eleven years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Praise. You can follow Mindy on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

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Chocolate Atonement

The one and only time I gave up something for Lent was more than, ahem… a dozen or so years ago.

I wasn’t raised in a Christian home-I was in my twenties and passionately navigating my faith walk.  As this particular Lenten season approached, I announced quite stoically to my husband that I would be giving up Chocolate for Lent. It would be my Grand sacrifice for Christ. I give in big ways (sarcasm intended).

Well… it felt like an epic failure-a Dove chocolate dipped creamy vanilla ice-cream kind-of failure to be exact.

Jesus spent forty days in the Judaean Desert. Forty. He fasted, like-he didn’t eat anything. Oh, and there was that whole thing with the devil showing up. Scripture says that he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit-a time of preparation and deep spiritual reflection for what lay before him.

113Back to my delicious failure. As it turned out this first sacrificial Lent experience of mine just so happened to line up with my first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, no not the Coach Outlet Store in Eagan (remember this was 2002) no, The Happiest Place on Earth… DisneyWorld with its shiny castle and perfectly placed billowy clouds.

Our trip to The Magic Kingdom was about ten days before Easter Sunday. Up until that point I held true to my no chocolate vow. More importantly, I understood the value in giving something up. Each time I would normally reach for chocolate, I instead took pause and thought about the incredible, unfathomable, ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

Enter Dove Chocolate… Ugh. It was a short trip, my Hubby and I were there four days. We visited each park, all four of which had those little treat carts every twenty steps or so. The first three days I watched with envy as attendants reached into their portable deep freezers to pull out the Disney Signature Treat-Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar. Imagine a vanilla ice cream bar, on a stick, in the shape of Mickey’s head, and then covered in a thick hardened layer of rich chocolate. Each time I saw one I wrestled with the notion of breaking my Lenten promise.

On our last day Mickey won… and truthfully it was as good as I had imagined it to be. I am so impossibly human.  Jesus in the desert, fasting for forty days, forty.

The beautiful thing is that in Christ each day is new. Jesus, The Son of God, atoned for my sin, he atoned for your sin. His atonement leaves us fresh and clean. Nothing can separate us, not even our perceived failures, chocolate sized or otherwise.

I continue my faith Journey-and these years later I understand more deeply that it will always be just that, a journey. I’ll always be a work in progress, an impossibly human work in progress.

“Heavenly Father, we remain overwhelmed by the immense LOVE you have for us, regardless of all the ways we fall short in our intentions. Help us to continuously and faithfully return to you in all things. May this season of Lent be a time of deep reflection for each of us. Come Lord Jesus, more of you Lord.” And with that, a beautifully impossibly human, “Amen.”


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for ten years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Praise. You can follow Mindy on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

Ballroom Bird’s Nest

420593_10200698533813210_651053855_nFor I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippines 4:13, Geesh, at least there won’t be a bird on my head… Yes, this continued to run through my mind, and thank you Jesus for it.

When God has laid out something before you he’ll prepare you, and in the most creative of ways. He’s kinda awesome that way.

Before Christmas I was preparing to share my heart-publicly. If you’ve read any of my stuff you know that it’s quite easy for me to spill it all over a page. I tend to leave nothing unexposed. However, this was entirely different, this was me, in the flesh, facing a full sanctuary. I knew God had led me to this place, but holy-cats, did he know what he was doing?

In my preparations (who am I kidding… truthfully, in my panic) it didn’t take long for me to recognize the parallel between this moment and that of an experience almost three years earlier.

He’s good at that-reminding us of our past experiences, of the moments we’ve already survived.  Perhaps our past is laid out for moments like these.

Spring of 2013 ~ I received an email from the director of Camp Odayin (a residential camp program for kids with heart disease). It’s an organization that we’ve been a part of since our son Charlie was about five years old.

She asked if Charlie would take part in their annual fundraising Gala. She asked if he would be part of a “fashion show” to highlight the things campers do while at camp. He would have the theme “Nature” which would require a home made costume to reflect his theme. Most remarkably, she asked if he would stand up at the podium and thank donors for coming to the Gala.

Without hesitation he said, “sure, no problem”. We had just celebrated his eighth birthday.

The day of the event, I put together his nature threads with a glue gun, a vest, and a dismantled easter wreath. I glued a bird’s nest to the bill of a white baseball cap. I took apart the vines from the wreath and I wrapped his entire body in them, and with that we set out for a ballroom downtown.

My normally very confident very outgoing little boy kept looking at himself and then at me like, “Really Mom?” Once downtown, we peaked into the ballroom where there was hundreds of people in suits and cocktail dresses.

He was nervous, and I kept reassuring him that it would be ok, that he’s got this-no problem.

He trusted me, I’m his Mama and I led him to this place and told him he’s got this. Encouragement came for the handful of campers as they entered the ballroom for the fashion show. To end the show, Miss Minnesota, who was the MC for the evening, invited Charlie up to the podium. She was wearing a pageant dress, and of course a crown (could this moment seem any stranger?). She helped him get up onto a chair to reach the microphone.

I didn’t know what he was going to say, as my own words rushed back to me, I had told him to say just what was on his heart-and then I thought …oh Dear God, what was on his heart? He leaned into the microphone and said, “Well, I just wanted to thank all of you for coming- and yeah, well… I’m just happy that my camp is gettin’ a whole lot more money!”

…and with that the ballroom exploded with cheers, he jumped off the podium and enjoyed a round of high-fives as he made his way back to me.

It was a done deal. He said what was on his heart. It was the truth, his camp was gettin’ a whole lot more money. He was also the only one who could say it out loud, considering that he was eight and had a zipper-club scar down the middle of his chest (all the while covered in a dismantled easter wreath).

December of 2015~ So I was reminded of that moment, and I hung onto it as I prepared to share “just what was on my heart”.

My night turned out to be a blessing-not easy-peasy, but definitely a blessing. Holy-cats, He knows what He’s doing, and thank goodness I got to dress myself.

As we enter this fresh new year, who knows what may be in store. Let us find courage in Him.

“Thank you Jesus for your unending presence. Help us to trust in you, to find courage in you- wholeheartedly, in the way of a child, especially where it really counts, where perhaps you are leading us into something bright and new. Amen.”


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for ten years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Praise. You can follow Mindy on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

Beautiful Grain

On Sunday mornings I get just as much from the Children’s Message as I do with any other part of worship. I guess I’m terribly complex that way.

11059973_869763319726089_3897337767204758743_oRecently at Easter we celebrated Pastor Paul’s retirement. A true servant of Christ, Pastor Paul served the people of Easter for 15 years. The end of July, without much fanfare, he gave his final sermon.

He called children forward for the Children’s Message. My youngest hasn’t quite outgrown the carpet in front of the Pastor’s feet. My son knelt down in front of Pastor Paul while other kiddos moved into the space around him. Pastor Paul held a wide straw basket in his hands filled with grain. Much to the kids delight he threw the grain into the air and caught, well-most of it, back into the basket. He explained the process of threshing in which wind would blow away the inedible scaly chaff of the grain when it was tossed in the air. The process left only the best, only the valuable piece of the grain within the basket. It was too heavy for the wind to take it away.  He encouraged the children before him to do something good and honorable with their lives, something heavy in value that can’t be easily blown away with the wind.

As he spoke, with my son directly at his feet, I remembered the day Pastor Paul stood at my son’s bedside when he was in intensive care. It struck me that that had just been a single moment in his lifelong service of Christ. He had come to comfort us. He put his hands in ours and prayed quietly over my son. To my husband and I, that simple single moment was one that we cherish. I looked out at the congregation at those who lined the pews and wondered how many others had their own moment.

7e9db15a2a4ee54f398c56ed0724e2eeHis sermon, based on the first Psalm, humbly gave no reference to his own life work. He spent the last few moments of his vocation to talk about his beloved Tanzania. He recently returned from his annual trip and he wanted to share the ways in which the people of Tanzania benefited from our congregational support. He talked about some of the beautiful ways in which these people, in spite of significant challenges, put their trust in God. Meditating on His word thus having what they need to be productive and fruitful.

He stood before us and he challenged us to develop a dependency on God, to meditate on what it is that God is calling us to do and be in our lives. It was a beautiful way to end this time as teacher and consoler. Nevertheless, what will stay with me is the image of grain thrown in the air and my memory of his hand in mine.

11377361_843237955711959_1830235918996846402_n

“Thank you Jesus for the gift of Pastor Paul. He has done many good and honorable things, things that could never be blown away with the wind. May you continue to provide him with rich blessings. Help us Lord to respond to his encouragement. May each of us do something good and honorable. ~ Amen.”

little Aylan

Last Wednesday I woke to find images on FaceBook of a lifeless little Syrian boy lying on the shore of a Turkish resort town. His image stole my breath, and left my heart heavy in grief. The photograph captured his sweet innocence in perfect contrast with the atrocities of the evil that is the islamic state.

If I could melt away all that surrounded him, the cold sand and rocky beach, the waves of the sea washing over his sweet face, his soaked clothes and shoes-if only. In my minds-eye I see him lying in his parent’s bed warm and dry, air filling his little chest allowing it to rise and fall sweetly as he dreams of toy trains and running beside his big brother.

mašinkaThe world soon knew his name-little Aylan. He was three years old. We knew his story as well. His family spent $4,000 to board a small boat off the coast of Turkey with the hope of reaching Kos Greece, and a new life in Europe. Tragically-as if his story was anything else-after his family payed the smuggler $4,000, no money remained for life jackets. The small boat capsized and Aylan perished along with his mother and five year old brother.

Syrian refugees have a piece of my heart. Aleppo, Syria is my husband’s birthplace. Birthplace, I must premiss, but not his ancestral home as he is often quick to point out. His family also endured incredible atrocities at the hand of radical islam. His grandfather, and great-grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Also refugees, they settled in Syria and Lebanon in 1915. It’s been 100 years since the Armenian Genocide-sadly it seems little has changed.

A few months shy of my husband’s eighteenth birthday his family set out for a new life in the States. My Pauly is the best storyteller. Over our marriage he has shared so much about his childhood. Stories about growing up in a Christian neighborhood in Aleppo. Stories we all can relate to, even if our stories are an ocean away. Stories like sneaking out and taking his dad’s car for a midnight joy ride with his buddies-who needs a license anyway. Girls, bicycles, birthday parties, corner ice cream shops, more trouble than his parents would like to know-he has painted a colorful picture for me describing a group of young boys with life to burn.

Recent reports say that half of Syria’s population is now displaced. Half. Most of Paul’s childhood friends left Syria in the same way he did, now more than two decades ago. But some remained-who knows were they are now.

SIRIA_-_LIBANO_-_aleppo_devastataThe Armenian Catholic Church, his family’s church home, where he served as an alter boy was destroyed by a bomb this last April. The Church dated back to the 15th century and housed relics and icons including a painting from 1703. His neighborhood has been a hot spot for violence, as it has been home to Syrian Christians for hundreds of years.

The building where he grew up was also bombed-destroying homes on the top floor. Families still occupy the floors below the damage. Who knows what each day feels like for those living beneath and amongst the rubble. My Paul has my heart, and I can’t help but think about what his life would look like had he stayed. These are the things I ponder.

…and now with the image of little Aylan, now it seems I have a picture for my heavy heart.

Jesus, Please Come…  Revelation 21:4  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”


Consider joining me in supporting World Vision in their efforts to help Syrian Refugees.

Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for eleven years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Prays. “little Aylan” was also shared on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com.

Held in Tight

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

kalnik 044When my husband and I were first married he drove a small transportation bus. He really liked his job. He came home with all sorts of stories-most of which involved how tenacious people are. He brought people to work each day-people who could have easily decided that things were just too hard. He enjoyed his riders company.

My favorite story, once while parked and waiting for his next scheduled pick-up a group of clowns got on his bus. Yes—clowns, red rubber noses, floppy shoes, full clown make-up in either sad or happy faces, all of it. This group of developmentally delayed young adults were not on his schedule. While doing his best to explain that he wasn’t the driver they had been waiting for, and that he was sure another was on the way, one tearful young lady refused to get off. That’s all it took. Moments later he had a clown revolt on his hands. He had to call dispatch and explain that he had clowns on his bus, some angry, some sad, some who were painted happy but had now become sad, and nobody was getting off, and what was he supposed to do now? Not my point at all-but how do I keep the clown revolt story to myself?

Some things stay with me, with more profound reason.

He had just as many riders whose challenges were not developmental, but physical. He came home one evening haunted by an exchange he had earlier in the day. After strapping a quadriplegic man’s chair into the bus’s harness system, the man asked him if he had pulled the straps as tight as possible. He asked if he wouldn’t mind doing it once more, pulling each strap as tight as he could. The man looked at him apologetically, explaining that he had been thrown from a vehicle the day he became paralyzed. No ride had ever been the same since and now he needed to know that he was held in tight.

Sometimes we need to know.

My 13 year old daughter spent much of the past school year with her cell phone almost always in hand (sometimes I wish I could chuck that thing-or give it to a group of clowns). Somehow she even worked texting her friends into her already time pressed pre-school morning routine. One morning late Spring she received a text like none she had ever received before. It wasn’t about who was crushing on who, or what she should wear that day. This one was different. One of her friends had tragically woke to find her Mom lying on the floor. Just like that. She hadn’t been ill, she hadn’t hurt herself, she was just gone.

DSCN2610I drove home from work that evening anxious to see my girl and hold her tight. As I drove I thought about how things had shifted for my daughter a bit that day. She’s my oldest child, and here was a moment I couldn’t shield her from. This heartbreak was inside of her circle-not mine. I guess things had shifted for me a bit too.

I walked into the kitchen and put my arms around my girl, tight. With each moment my embrace intensified. I needed her to know she was held in tight. Sometimes we need to know. I closed my eyes and thought about the wheelchair bound man from so many years before.

We chatted about her day. We talked about how fragile life can be. We talked about how her friend’s life would never be quite the same again. We talked about the ways in which she could be a good friend. We talked about prayer.

This will likely stay with me too.

Let us hold onto one another ~ “Father please shower us with the capacity to hold on to one another in all that we face, knowing that the troubles of this world are indeed temporary, knowing You have overcome the world. In this give us peace. Amen.”


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for ten years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Prays. “Held in Tight” was adapted from a post on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

 

Deep Empty Spaces

Illness, Injury, Addiction… Prayer. When we go to Christ with these we do so with the heaviest of hearts. Perhaps because these things we have little control over. Perhaps because they can threaten everything. Sadly, we all have our season-finding ourselves here.

kalnik 050I’ve cried out for the life of my child. I’ve petitioned Jesus to touch my son, to miraculously make him whole believing that He is the same living God today as yesterday.

I’ve asked Him to guide the hearts of his Doctors and Nurses. I’ve asked for healing through medicine and in their hands.

I’ve been broken and empty with no accord left on my own. I’ve called on Him to pick me up and move me forward.

Healing comes in so many ways.

From my book, Embracing Charlie, Chapter Titled “Talking to God”

“Have you been home yet?” Karen asked from the other side of the Isolette. Karen, Charlie’s nurse, was with us for most of the time we spent in the NICU. She even volunteered to work double shifts in order to be with Charlie. She knew cardiac care. She was confident and skilled, and had a less flowery, no-coddle approach. She was single, full-figured, and somewhere in her thirties. She had short, blonde, heavily styled hair that somehow suited her no-nonsense attitude. I became attached very quickly. I was thankful for her, less flower and all.

“Not yet,” I replied, “but we talked about going home today to get some clean clothes and things.”

“You need to prepare yourself the best you can for how difficult it will be to go home without your baby,” she said. “Parents don’t always anticipate the emotional impact of going home with empty arms.” I heard her, but I was quick to dismiss it. How much harder can this get? Besides, we had known for months now that having to leave him at the hospital would be a real possibility.

A few hours later, Paul pushed open the heavy hospital door leading onto the top level of the parking ramp. We stepped out into the day, and I instinctively took a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air. I stood with my eyes closed and my face toward the sky, the cool spring breeze on my cheeks. I had gone days without stepping outside.

I heard it in the distance at first, the whooping, repetitive sound of a helicopter’s propeller. It became louder and louder. I opened my eyes and, still gazing skyward, saw the halo effect of the circling propeller above us. The red emergency cross came into focus as the helicopter gently landed on the rooftop next to us. It was an impressive sight. Paul and I looked at one another with sadness. Somebody’s baby was in that helicopter. Maybe their baby was fresh and new, or maybe their baby was fourteen years old. It was someone’s baby all the same, and their lives were upside down too.

“It’s not the first one I’ve seen land,” Paul said to me. “I’ve seen them come and go a few times when I’ve been out here talking to God.” “Talking to God” meant a little more than prayer for Paul. I don’t mean to imply that he wasn’t actually doing that—talking to God—because I am sure he was. It’s just that if he went out to “talk to God,” he did so with either a cigarette or a cheap cigar.

Paul had confessed to me how his nicotine relapse occurred. It was late in the evening on the day of Charlie’s birth. The dust had just started to settle from the chaos of the day. With his nerves unhinged, Paul walked out the front doors of the hospital, cut across the traffic on Chicago Avenue, and walked into the convenience store kitty-corner to the hospital. He walked up to the cashier, who sat behind a heavy pane of bullet-proof glass. Without hesitation, he asked for a pack of Marlboro Reds and a lighter. It was his first pack of cigarettes in more than two years, an addiction he had worked tirelessly to overcome. He didn’t even make it back across the street; instead, he sat on the curb, gas pumps behind him and city traffic in front of him, tapped his box of Reds on the cement, and lifted his first cigarette from the rest. He sat, he inhaled, and he talked to God.

Each mile we drove away from the hospital felt like twenty. I stared out the car window, watching the world move by. Our world had suddenly stopped, while the rest had the audacity to keep humming along. Half an hour later, we walked into the silence of our empty house. I sat on the staircase leading up to our bedrooms while Paul busied himself with our bags and mail.

I was attentive to a hollowness tucked deep inside me. It was the same place that had whispered for life when I knew I wanted my babies. Now there was emptiness, and it intensified with the absence of Sophie’s footsteps. I was exhausted in a way I’d never experienced. The middle of my chest was heavy, as if something were pressing on my heart. The heaviness had come the moment Charlie was taken from me, and it had stayed with me ever since. Paul looked over to me from the stack of envelopes and said, “It’s going to be okay. He’s going to be okay.” Then he set them down, came over, bent down, and held me. I sobbed, and I sobbed, and I sobbed. I told him that I knew he was right, Charlie would be okay. Still, I expressed how awful the pain was, how the suffering seemed unbearable, how I felt helpless in his suffering because, even though I was his mom, I couldn’t make it better. I was broken too. I sobbed until my eyes ran dry and I’d flooded Paul’s broad shoulders.

As Paul eased away from me, I continued to lie on the stairway. I pushed on, inviting Jesus to heal me, to give me strength. I asked him to embrace me in my brokenness. My body was limp and heavy with exhaustion, just like a sleeping child who is scooped up into her father’s arms. I recognized his presence, not by his scent or the softness of his shirt collar. I recognized him by the calm that blanketed me. My eyes opened and closed drowsily until, finally, I surrendered to the fatigue. This is the part where, as a child, I would let my head drape heavily over his shoulder. There was magic here. He was strong and steady under me. His strength moved us. I was just along for the ride. It was the safest place in the world, the embrace of my Father. He took me up, readily and gladly.

I gathered myself from the staircase and moved forward. I washed clothes, gathered some things, and avoided the stillness of my babies’ bedrooms. Then we hurried back to the hospital, where everything was just as it had been upon our departure. I sat at my son’s bedside and asked Jesus to scoop him up, to embrace him in the same way he’d embraced me.

kalnik 037This human experience is mysterious at best. Perhaps after our petitions we are still stricken. Maybe our loved ones still suffer even after our endless requests. Maybe we experience miraculous healing. Perhaps our healing comes after years of prayer.

Maybe we are left scarred.

Some things leave hurts so deep that only Jesus, who can give sight to the blind and heal the unclean, can reach in and fill those deep empty spaces. We aren’t likely to be the same. I would dare to say that I am more than I ever was before.

One of my favorites,

Psalm 147:3 He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

Burdens are sure to come. Let us turn to Him with our petitions and our broken hearts. Let Him bind up our wounds.


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for ten years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Prays. You can follow Mindy on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.