By now you have likely made it through all the pieces of this collection. Some of you are alive in this moment as I type these words, too young and innocent yet to appreciate these works for yourself. Others have yet to be born and will come to find themselves in this story of this family after my time has come and gone.
But the roots of your heritage are already firmly gripping the soil that will give way to your life. Isn’t it strange to think that long before you ever took a breath someone thought of who you might become?
The prophecies in this book started as a way of blessing the people I love—the people you are yourself today, or the perhaps the person you descended from. And I am guessing that if you’ve made it this far, you also love someone explored in this series. They are the heartbeat of this story, the inspiration and the beginning.
But families can be tricky business. We belong together, yet so often we grow apart. We start out made of the same stuff, but end up a conglomeration of genes, traditions, attributes, and personalities, most of which we have no say in inheriting. Families love and disappoint each other on the grandest of scales. In our brokenness we fail those who need us most and harden our hearts when, in our mired attempts to fix things, the damage done to each other becomes irreparable. We are all a story of brokenness, and we are all a story of healing. Both themes run deep in the lines of these pieces, in the lines that mark my own face and will one day mark yours.
Little did any of us realize we’d find ourselves in the middle of this story. And that is where the treasure lies. Before you came about, the God of our fathers had a plan for them. And He has a plan for you.
The challenge for the generation to come is not how to live up to the footsteps that have walked before you, but how to keep your own heart tender toward those around you when the darkness of a love grown cold falls heavy on your soul.
Once upon a time, the extraordinary people described in this collection found their own heartbeats in their Creator, and just like you, they too stood under the trees of decision, wrestling with the choice we all must make to trust and abide in the life and blessing that flows from the One who formed us, or to reject Him and define goodness on our own terms. Sometimes we choose well. Sometimes we don’t.
As you ponder these portraits from the past, I hope you will come to see these prophecies as the foundation for your own story. I wrote them for you. Hidden within their thought is a theology rich in the love, plan, and design of our Maker. He is the one who gave me the words, and He is the one who will make them sing inside each of you. May you believe in the rescue, redemption, and restoration of a family God pulled together from two wayward souls, and may you find your own renewal in the life of His son.
To my heavenly Father and Giver of my earthly family,
You have been a shelter, Lord, to every generation. To every generation.
A sanctuary from the storm, to every generation.
To every generation, Lord.
May Your favor never depart from this family, whom You set apart for Your glory. Fill them with Your Spirit, clothe them with Your wisdom. A thousand generations will sing of Your name, and Your face will shine on upon us all because of Your loyal love.
And on the 8th day, God looked down at his beautiful world and said “I need someone who can do hard things.”
So God made my Mom.
God said “I need someone who can haul her heart into everything and never look back. Someone who can paint a wall and stitch a curtain and make a home out of a cardboard box, then pack it all back into one and move it a year later. I need someone who can build a house, burn it down, and rebuild without missing a beat. I need someone who can grow food, then pick it, can it, store it, cook it, and deliver it to feed both body and soul. It’s got to be someone with colorful ideas and wild dreams, someone who welcomes the amazing.”
So God made my Mom.
He said “I need someone who will forge a new path when things break down. Someone who can laugh at the critics and naysayers, and is more afraid of not trying than failing. I need someone who will find a way to get going when the going is tough, and has enough starch in her spine to send ten men running. I need someone who can give from her storehouses and from her deficits, and who never forgets about the forgotten. I need someone who can secure a beachhead under enemy fire and take the arrows in her own back when the bombs are reigning down. Then get up, dust off, and do it all again the next day.”
So God made my Mom.
“I need someone who can comfort a sad child and listen to the stories of a scared, old woman and tell them both it will be ok, and then see to it that it is. Someone inspiring enough to champion the underdog, strong enough to stand up to inner city punks, and tender enough to hold the hand of a dying alcoholic as though he were king of the world. I need someone who’s shortcomings pale in comparison to how long and how well she can love. Someone who’s hands are always warm, who’s arms are always strong, and who’s eyes never grow dim. I’ll break the mold to make her because she’ll never fit into one.”
God looked down at His beautiful world and knew our family would need someone who could vanquish our villains, bind up our broken spirits, forge into the frontier, and hem our hearts together. A stalwart, a lion, a matriarch, a Moses. The brilliant crowning jewel of this family.
I don’t say much about the one we lost. I was so young, and it happened so fast. Feeling the excitement and exhaustion of early pregnancy in one moment, then trying to comprehend loss the next. I knew only long enough to fall in love with that baby, and then in a flash, it was over. Cramping, bleeding, muscling my way through a workshop I had to teach that week. I remember waking up each morning in pain, slapping a smile on my face, and pretending my way through grief, only to collapse in a heap of hormones and tears at the end of the day as my body cleared away the life I had been so happy to cradle.
My sweet husband, older and wiser than me, held my hand, rubbed my back, told me it would be ok. He picked me up and carried me to bed when I was too ashamed and sad to get there myself. He tucked me in and sat there with me, knowing that only time would mend my heart, and time would go faster if I slept.
When the whole ordeal was finally over it was my birthday. 23 on the 23rd. I spent it laying on the sofa, sobbing at the loss of someone I never even met, wondering if I was doomed to repeat the horrible experience again. Because no little girl grows up playing with her dolls thinking her first pregnancy will end in miscarriage. There is something so sinister when a womb becomes a tomb.
After the miscarriage, we ended up back at the midwife’s clinic, where she reassured us that while sad, this was common, that it was not my fault, and predicted that we would be back in her office very soon, this time with a healthy baby. At first I doubted her. But she was old, many years into her career, and her instincts were sound. Not eight weeks later we sat looking at a tiny peanut of a baby, with a bright heartbeat of 155 bpm. It was my first, foggy glimpse of Crew.
Losing our first baby was the first time my heart broke. It shattered in a million pieces and at the time, I didn’t know that it would ever fully heal. But like our midwife, I am older now too, many years into my own career as a mother. I’ve since carried four healthy babies to term, paced my way through the unmedicated pangs of labor, and each time held that sweet reward at the end. And although my loss was real and part of me still feels that soft spot where the emotional scars have laid to rest the pain, it is only now, years later that I see that the gift of life was never mine to have. Only to borrow. Only to steward, to raise and nurture until the time the Creator asked for that life back. It’s His breath that fills our lungs. It’s His spirit that hems our flesh together.
Today the tiny one we lost rests in paradise, ahead of us in many respects. And I know that little one is eagerly awaiting the resurrection of their perfected body to come alive again on a renewed earth. What a beautiful moment it will be when I behold the face of the child I never met. When I see what has become of the one who has never known a life apart from eternal love. Isn’t that the best gift a mother could bestow on her baby? Isn’t that what we all want? To live fully and abundantly loved?
As I stay busy raising these beautiful blessings God has so bravely commissioned into my care, I still dream of the day I meet you, sweet baby. The day when I see your face, and hear your voice, and learn what became of the one we lost. Until then, may you shabbat in the everlasting shalom of the ultimate Midwife, the One who delivered you into a love more rich and deep than I ever could have given you myself.
It’s hard to imagine how he started out.
Little farm boy playing in the fields around.
I wish I knew how he began.
How did he get here, to be my Dad?
And did anyone see it? Did they recognize?
Seven times seventy skies,
passed over til that shaft of sunlight
fell on the seed of a redwood. Fell on a little farm boy who believed in something good.
Because he’s a calming landmark in all our lives.
Like an anchor in the forest, rising high.
We rush around, and we forge ahead.
But he stays to mark the path where we’ve been.
So out there when we feel alone,
we just look for him, and we’ll find home.
He’s like a redwood. He’s like a song calling out something good.
It doesn’t matter, through fire or sleet.
Highs or lows, he holds steady. Peace, his own heartbeat.
When the smoke clears or the winter’s done,
he’ still there, still firm and calm.
It’s his pulse that keeps us all alive.
His cadence of growth, his own design.
He’s like a redwood. He’s like a song believing in something good.
Cut him open and count the rings.
See the seasons he’s worn thin, the seasons he weeps.
The years where the joy made him grin,
and the stretches where the growth was within.
Seven times seventy lives.
The ones’s he touched, the ones he’s multiplied.
He’s like a redwood. Keeps humming along a song of something good.
Steady as the rising sun.
Looking upward ’til the day is done.
Arms hold high the silver sky,
he drinks up the rain to keep us all dry.
His branches are the covering,
so what’s beneath is always flourishing.
So that there are more redwoods. So there are more songs pointing to something good.
He reminds me of the One who spread His own arms wide;
the One who now reigns from the skies.
Palms raised, dripping the blood that gives life.
Water flowing down the red wood to change us inside.
Forgiveness seven times seventy had,
a love that made it all the way to my Dad.
And made him a redwood. Made his life a song of something good.
The kind that hangs on, the kinds that boasts none, the kind that covers every offense.
The kind that holds up, the kind that bears all, even when we're struggling.
The kind that stays strong, the kind that stays calm, the kind that gives all that it has.
The kind that loves all, the kind that prays long, even when he's suffering.
Now he digs the holes; he plants the seeds.
He waters, bends. He pulls the weeds.
So the ones around him can grow.
So they can thrive, so they know.
The meaning of red wood. Just what it means to be very good.
He is a redwood. His life is a song of something good.
*The title and certain lines in this poem were inspired by the song Redwood, by Stephanie Quick.
“Brianna, the Spirit of the Lord says ‘Daughter, I’ve put within you a Miriam anointing. I’ve made you as a young woman that is going to carry authority, a young woman that will lead. I’ve made you as a young woman that will prophesy, and a young woman that will dance and sing . . . I’m going to hook others to your left and to your right. Daughter, I’m going to bless you, just because I love you’ says the Lord.‘
And I saw where the Spirit of the Lord has put creativity into you, on the inside. I even saw a pen or a pencil in your hand that you have an ability to display, an ability to bring a reflection of other things. The Spirit of the Lord says ‘I have made your life like that for me . . . Daughter I am bringing forth my dreams in you. I am bringing forth my ideas on the inside of you. You are going to be a woman where the creativity is going to flow, but at the same time you’re going to be a woman that is going to be able to stand.‘”
I was ten years old, a shy, small girl, the day these words were spoken over me. At the front of a little church, my parents next to me, a woman named Sharon Stone shared with my family what was given to her by the Holy Spirit. We had never met her before, and at the time, I had no idea what to make of what she said. I’m still not sure I do. I listened politely, and as most young children do, promptly forgot the things said that night.
But God didn’t. He brought them to pass. A few years later, living in a different state in a different house with a different world around us, God began to give me songs. At twelve or thirteen years old, I would write little ballads. Prayers set to music, mostly. I’d sing them to myself, write down the words, spend hours plunking out a few chords on the keyboard. Pure and tenderhearted psalms, the offerings of a child innocent of the world and all the things it would bring to my life.
And then one day, as quickly as they came, the songs stopped. I grew up, got a driver’s license and a job, and turned my attention to things like good grades and college essays. And I set aside my little songs, girlhood fading as I stepped forward to fill the shoes in front of me.
Adulthood came like a flash flood, and I grew up fast. A teaching job and college degree just after my 20th birthday, married a few months later, baby at 23, and three more to follow in the years to come. I was so busy teaching classes, raising littles, and trying to be a good wife to notice all that God was doing in my heart.
By 29, I had another new baby in my arms; life in yet another new house after yet another move. Three kids, homeschooling, and a husband who’s business was precariously adjusting to our new life circumstances. That’s when God woke me up–grabbed ahold of that heart He’d hemmed to Himself and opened my eyes to see His word in new ways.
Truth upon truth, line upon line. I devoured His word like never before. With righteous greed, I read the Bible straight though, cover to cover, in a month. I inhaled any text or commentary or book I could get my hands on. I took every class I could manage, listened to every lecture and podcast out there, and spent hours and hours studying, learning, digesting what He was revealing to me. How I managed to learn what I did in the all-consuming season of small children, pregnancies, and multiple moves I will never know. All I know is that when the Spirit speaks, you’re compelled to respond.
The apcoloyspe of my faith went on for years. Truth told, it is still going on. I am still up to my eyeballs in the Scriptures, studying, learning, praying, teaching, leading. Still mystified and in love with my God, with His son, with the story He’s working in this world. He has burdened my heart with so much that it overwhelms me. There is so much to share, to teach, and give to others. And even though I usually feel inadequate and underprepared, somehow He gives me the words when I need them. He guides me, humbles me, and teaches me what to say to inspire goodness around me.
So, when I began writing The Family Prophecies project, I had no lack of truth to proclaim over the beautiful family God has blessed me with. Their individual poems and prayers, their ballads and blessings all flowed from my fingertips with ease, line after line falling into place. But as I considered the collection, I realized it wouldn’t be complete without including a prophecy for myself. And that has been the hardest piece to write.
I stared at blank screens for hours, praying the words to come. But they didn’t. Nothing, for weeks. Then months. I was lost. How do you forecast your own heart, speak truth over the person have yet to become? The person you’re not sure you can become? I asked for His imagination to see myself as He does, but I came up empty every time. As usual, I seem to be able to see the needs and read the hearts of everyone but me.
But God is faithful. In the deep hours of the night, I woke up and the words were there. As they always are. And I realized they were words He gave me long ago, recalled from the corners of my mind and from a 25 year old transcript my mom had saved. I had long forgotten them, the prophecies He gave to me through the songs of my youth and the words of Ms. Stone.
In the stillness of my bedroom, all the lyrics, melodies, and meaning suddenly made perfect sense. And I should have known they would. Because long ago His servant spoke truth over my life. She told me what goodness lay inside of me and how God would use it for His glory. Even though I may have forgotten her words until recently, He didn’t forget His plans for that dark haired, dark eyed little girl. He nurtured that tender heart, cultivated that Miriam spirit, gifted that young woman, and taught me the lessons I would need to be the wife, mother, teacher, mentor, daughter, sister, and leader He is raising up within me.
The truth is that He has multiplied the prophecies of a woman I met only once and never saw again. He has breathed them back to me, because the songs I wrote way back when are the anthem of my life now. I have lived them out, unaware of their power and truth when my little hands first wrote them down.
And that’s how I know His prophecies are real. Because they are not a fortune-telling crystal ball, not a mystical prediction of my future. They are the evidence of His goodness of in life: His mercy, His grace, His plan, woven and spun through my many short-comings and mistakes; my many failures to be the covenant partner He desires. I have failed, but He has not. He has materialized the words He spoke through His servant, Ms. Stone, and answered prayers I sung over myself as a child. He has blessed me without merit, multiplying His goodness in me when poor choices and a hard heart were all I had to offer.
So today on my birthday, I don’t know that I have ever been more grateful for His grace. Because He could have let me go. He could have hidden His face from the simple faith of my child’s heart and handed me over to what I deserved when I came of age. Because boy do I ever deserve it. But instead, He looked at me with imagination.
And I think that may be the hardest part to accept. I never asked for the gifts He’s given me, and sometimes on the hard days, I wish I never had them at all. It’s easier when you don’t see the truth; easier when you just don’t care. It’s easier to be normal, to be satisfied with average, easier to blend in when His story doesn’t stand out in every blooming detail of your life. It’s easier to sleep when the words are not staring back at you in the dark.
But He never promised it would be easy. It’s no accident that a prophetess handed down His blessing to me when I was barely old enough to comprehend it. It’s no accident that He woke me up to remember. And it’s no an accident that the words just come. They always come. They remind me why He woke me up and why He’ll wake me up again.
Now more than ever I am convinced that The Family Prophecies is a story He began and left me to finish. And so when I sat up in the dark a few weeks back, I knew it was time to write the final stanza of a song I started as a child, but left unfinished. He gave me the words then, and He gives me the words today. And I only hope that I can live up to the gifts Ms. Stone saw me in all those years ago. That I can be blameless, humble, and brave enough to live out the future He is calling me into. Like I said, He’s always been faithful to me.
Sing me a sweet melody
with words that have wings
to carry me through each day.
Compose me a symphony
of Your great plans for me.
Make me a singer of Your song.
And when the last note is played through
start up again with a prelude.
Plant me a garden
with soil unhardened, but rich and brimming with truth.
Teach me to till it, help me to fill it
with the grace and justice of You.
And when the harvest is not it's best
water me with Your righteousness.
Make me a tree planted by a stream
with waters cold, and deep, and true.
A source of life for all who seek You.
And all around me, let seeds surround me.
May they grow tall and point straight to you.
And when my season is over and done
May they be the ones who carry it on.
Because You were the One who gave me the song.