I Just Want You

Lord, I don’t need to make decisions — don’t need to establish a predetermined posture — on my “doctrine” about why and how You work. I just want You. This has become my prayer in response to the book I’m currently reading — a book that is unravelling me. In Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, Sara Hagerty writes about “tasting the goodness of God in all things.” In the midst of the deepest losses, Sara describes the hunger God was creating in her — an alluring for “an intimacy with God beyond circumstances.” Even from the middle of a seemingly endless journey through the wasteland of barrenness, she writes, “He asked me for allegiance in the face of his no.” Over a year after the “no” I received about healing my dad from cancer, the loss of him still hurts more than I have words for. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why God chose not to heal him this side of Heaven — or why He also constantly blesses us with so much, beyond our most fearless of dreams. Yet I am learning from Sara that all of our circumstances — both happy and sad — reveal a sweetness in the reach for the Savior, a miracle found in finding Him, that makes the external conditions mere afterthoughts. I want to move beyond the spoiled child mentality of reaching for the next blessing and counting all the pain in this life as not of Him. I want to find Him in all of it. I want everything in my life to push me to hide in Him my Refuge, to... read more

Triumphant Hope

Countless people have commented on what a wretched beast 2016 was. Here in East Tennessee, wildfires swept through the Smoky Mountains, taking lives and homes all too abruptly. This came near the end of a year fraught with so many deaths and other various types of loss. I stand with those who were glad to say goodbye to 2016. We lost my Daddy very suddenly to cancer at the end of September. But 2017 has dawned with a Hope I can’t really explain except to tie it to the answer I’ve been struggling to find to a nagging question: How am I able to be okay? How am I able to be okay? My first guess was my busy schedule. Teaching keeps me on my toes and keeps my mind occupied. Whether it’s a good thing or not, I don’t really have that much time to grieve. When I do, it’s in my car on the way to work or during worship at church or home. And when I do, I’m grateful to say that the grieving feels deep — if only dosed out in brief spurts. This goes along with something my mom and sister and I read together: that it is natural to grieve in “small doses” because sometimes you just can’t handle it all at once. Then something happened that really changed everything for me. It made all the answers to that question I could have come up with pointless. I was reading the story of when, just before Jesus died on the cross, one of the men being crucified next to Him asked Jesus to remember... read more

Water: A Modern Legend

There was a girl who would steal away to meet God under star-cloud skies, passing hours on the frozen ground with nothing but a sparkling veil between them. And when the stars were not out, the girl would find that her Friend walked with her anyway, as constant as her breath, even when her running took her far from home, even when she ran faster than she should. God chased along with her and constantly caught her when she fell. Then one day, God asked His girl, “Why are you running so?” “I don’t know,” she answered with weary tears. “I just want to bring Your goodness to all this broken world around me. I want to heal and comfort and give life. I just don’t know where to go or what to do.” The Good God smiled, and it lit up the girl’s heart like the first time she met Him. “Aye, my girl, this is the work for which I have made you. But don’t you know that doing work like this apart from Me is in vain? It will only deplete you of strength and achieve nothing that lasts.” It took time to convince the girl to trust Him. She saw the truth in His words every time her striving yielded emptiness. Her God patiently waited until she ran out of breath and stopped. She didn’t know what to do with her feet or legs or hands, or self. So she lifted her face to the sky. The stars crackled dazzling in clusters right above her head, stretching out to the fringes of the horizon — she had... read more

An Easter Realization for Those of Us Who are Just Plain Exhausted

I feel heavy-laden with all this busy-ness. I have run out of gas from all this zipping around, back and forth. “Just rest” are the words I’ve been hearing since January or February. I’m not even sure of the month because life has been such a mad dash. Life can be demanding of, if not so much our energy, at the very least our time. Good things need to be done, necessary things. Our loved ones’ needs and quality-time visits and housework. All the hoops for school and work will keep lining themselves up. And the good work we feel called to do — the unpaid or underpaid labor of the heart — is just one more thing we must add to the list because we feel so much purpose brimming behind the door. But if there ever was a time in my life when I needed rest (I think this is the first time I’ve ever felt like the exact kind of person Jesus described when He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”) this is the time. This Easter weekend in the midst of our fun and rushing. This Friday dark with the curse of the cross. These devastated nights hopeless because of what we all thought to the the finality of the grave. This Sunday dawn bursting forth to abolish all that we believed about our fates: We don’t have to die and suffer the hell away from Love. We don’t even have to die and just cease to exist. We don’t have to keep messing... read more

De carros atiborrados y de saber qué es bueno para tí

¡Cómo quisiera tener las alas de una paloma y volar hasta encontrar reposo!  Me iría muy lejos de aquí; me quedaría a vivir en el desierto. Presuroso volaría a mi refugio, para librarme del viento borrascoso y de la tempestad. – Psalm 55:6-8 El lunes, el 8 de junio de 2015, yo atiborré mi carrito Sofía y empecé mi viaje. Estaba volviendo a Knoxville, mi ciudad de residencia, después de lo que ha empezado a sentir como un exilio de siete años. Hay tantas cosas de Texas (mayormente la gente profundamente amada… y canchas de maíz… y el Café 1418) que voy a extrañar; pero todo en mi interior clama a gritos que éste es mi Hogar, y que el tiempo ha llegado de estar aquí. Es probablamente una confirmación que he estado en Knoxville para alrededor de tres días, y todos los problemas de salud que he tenido para más de un año han desaparecido. Subí de peso unas 15 libras desde el enero, y ésta es una cosa buena. Para un rato, los números en la escala y el tamaño de mi ropa eran una obsesión. Entonces el año de mal-aventura trajo tanto estrés que perder peso resultó en ser simplemente una consecuencia natural. Sintió maravillosa alcanzar una meta que yo previamente había considerado imposible… y después sobrepasarla. Sin embargo, ése es cuando los problemas de salud empezaron. Sentía débil constantemente y no podía correr en mi manera normal. Las síntomas extrañas del Fenómeno Raynaud me asustaron: dedos extremamente blancos cuando tenía frío o estaba estresada. Ésta es una de las razones más importantes que supe que el suelo de Tennessee sería... read more

The Cardinal Second

I should have just waited. I should have been still. These thoughts have been playing on repeat in my head since the moment she flew away. Have you ever had an experience that held the intensity of a year of wonder punched into a one-second time span? I don’t think I knew it was possible. Most breathtaking moments last long enough for us to savor their birth, bloom, and death – if only it’s just enough time to notice and know. Some we must tear ourselves away from – a waterfall rushing triumphant down a mountain, the Milky Way dripping jeweled in a South Dakota sky – to get back in rhythm with our lives, while their timeless beauty continues suspended. I have no photograph for the moment of which I am speaking. I tried to take a picture of her, but the motion of my hand startled her away. It was a few weeks ago in my parents’ driveway. I had pulled up to their house after work for a visit and to take home more of my things they’d been graciously storing in their garage. The morning’s gentle rain had slowed to a drizzle, and the tall shrubs lining the driveway were bristling with water droplets. Then, a soft thud. A female cardinal had landed in the top-right corner of my windshield, apparently after a bug to eat. She looked young and round, and her drenched brown and light red feathers made her look slightly confused and disheveled. Instinctively, my hand reached for my iPhone, but not just because taking pictures of wildlife is the most thrilling kind of photography... read more

Throwback Thursday: Star-gazer (Age 15, 2002)

I thought this would go well with this week’s post about the Milky Way (Finding Mystery)! It was written during that time in my life when I was constantly stealing away to my parents’ back yard to lie enraptured under the stars. Enjoy!   Star-gazer Ashley Katherine Denning August 21, 2002 A Psalm Night falls, And my dreams awaken As each star appears And forms the detail of my thoughts. You come And meet me here While the quiet of the earth Surrounds me like harmony. There’s nothing between us but the sky. But what a veil With which You cover Your glory! Is this merely a taste? How can I lie beneath The splendor of the Heavens, And then realize I’ve only reached The threshold of Your majesty? But it’s a good start. I’ll hold my breath and wait for You to breathe. I’ll close my eyes and imagine what can be. I’ll open my heart and let You fill me once more, O Lover of my soul! Can we meet... read more

Finding Mystery

Last week, I wrote that this Road Trip Moon was putting me at the edge of my comfort zone. We have been on the road for 2 weeks and 2 days, and now I can say that brushing my teeth in a Walmart bathroom isn’t as uncomfortable as it seemed at first – especially now that I know how many traveling families stay in Walmart parking lots when they’re en route to their next destination. And sleeping in the Runner has actually been quite cozy! The other night I acquired a large teddy bear (Harold) that serves as a multi-use pillow and happiness generator.   Those blurry comfort-zone lines are still present, however. They just exist in my mind. Every now and then, we’ll be driving through expansive landscapes such as the ones in Montana – amber waves of grain, big sky capping it all like a deep bowl – and my brain will kick into productive planner mode. I’ve got to continue my job hunt! says my brain. I reach for my phone to look at my job-hunting apps, and… there’s no signal. So I’m forced to rest. I’m luckily forced to let it all go for a few more weeks and be open and empty, ready to be filled with the goodness of this great earth. You see, when you head out to places where cell phone signal can’t reach, you end up stumbling upon mystery. It happened one night as we were driving west through South Dakota. The stars were bright jewels beckoning, so we opened the sun roof to enjoy them rushing past. The Bear said, “Let... read more


This road trip is wonderfully unsettling. It is every bit at the edge of my comfort zone as I expected, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The stretching is causing me to open myself up to… be more unsettled. Unsettled is the perfect word because the growing of roots has been suspended. Flight is all I know. Somehow it breaks open my mind and makes me want to write to the unconventional rhythms spilling out. Therefore, I would like to offer a succession of thoughts that have strung themselves together in my mind: Photograph: My life feels like this broken-down lumber train. It’s been cleared of most of the things that filled it to the brim. But now it’s not weighed down by the business of life, and it lets the light through. It’s ready for a new destination, but not yet. For now, it will just be. Gentle wind and golden light are its delightful company. Song Lyrics: “In Exile” by Thrice I am an exile – a sojourner; A citizen of some other place. All I’ve seen is just a glimmer in a shadowy mirror, But I know one day I’ll see face to face. I am a nomad – a wanderer; I have nowhere to lay my head down. There’s no point in putting roots too deep when I’m moving on. I’m not settling for this unsettling town. My heart is filled with songs of forever – Of a city that endures, where all is made new.   Verses of Old: Genesis 35:1-3 – “God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and... read more