Closed Doors and God’s Faithfulness


Typically when I reflect on God’s faithfulness, I reflect on circumstances where he has provided positive outcomes or material blessings (i.e., the house we live in, the progress on our dissertations, the discounted Christmas tree we found at Target, etc.). Also, I often think of the opened doors he has provided over the years and that encourages me that he will continue to open doors in the future.  I see his faithfulness in the opened doors of the past.

This week, however, a particular teaching position I applied for in Missouri turned into a closed door. Suddenly, something new struck me–God demonstrates his faithfulness in closing doors just as much as when he is opening doors. It’s just that the opened doors receive more attention and perhaps they also receive more gratitude.

I realize, I don’t often post about the closed doors because many times they are accompanied by heartache or feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, guilt, or shame. Many times I am quick to praise God for providing the open doors and then I blame closed doors on my own personal failure.  For some, it may be the other way around–taking personal credit for opened doors and blaming God for closing doors that we think should have been opened for us.

Either way, I think closed doors don’t receive much attention on social media as we try to “save face” or perhaps we simply have an inaccurate view of our circumstances and the sovereignty of God. For this reason, allow me to reflect on God’s faithfulness in some of my own personal closed doors…

Here’s a representative sample:

  • God closed the door for me to get a masters degree from Madison. Instead, he knew I needed to be at Regent–such a perfect fit!
  • God closed the door for a coaching opportunity I applied for years ago. Instead, God used that to steer me towards earning my doctorate.
  • During a time when I was seriously considering moving to Salt Lake City, God allowed me to have a really rough meeting with an advisor at the University of Utah which closed that door. One month later, my dad’s cancer became terminal and I was free to move closer to him.
  • I experienced over a decade’s worth of closed doors as a single girl in the dating scene. Yeesh! Yet, it was all worth it the moment I said, “I do” to Ray.

In addition to all these, I can also recall several closed doors that I don’t have answers for–ones I can’t place in a “neatly wrapped package” on the shelf. And yet, I can have confidence that those closed doors have a bigger purpose just like all the ones mentioned above. Not only do they demonstrate God’s faithfulness in my own personal life, but they are each pieces of his overarching story of redemption. All of our pieces fit together perfectly and one day we will see how they are beautifully woven together in the tapestry of God’s plan to save mankind and display his glory.

Not one closed door will be left out.

So as I sit here, staring at the “nice try” email from the school I applied to in Missouri, I recognize that there will be many more closed doors like this as I continue to apply for various positions. I’m sure I will still struggle with feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and heartache. But because of the gospel, I can remind myself that my identity is found in Christ and that he is always at work–weaving together my own tapestry for his glory. That causes my heart to rejoice and my spirit to be at peace

And I can see God’s faithfulness in the closed doors.


Make a Difference

Ray and I have come to a few different conclusions on research.

1. Research is hard and grueling (we are both in the dissertation phase of our doctorates).

2. Research needs funding in order to be conducted (this usually comes in the form of grants or donations).

3. Research makes a difference.

Let me expound upon that third conclusion.

Although through our schooling we understand research from an educational standpoint, we have also come to reap the benefits from medical research. My sister who works for American Cancer Society was recently approached by a woman at a fundraiser event who said, “I just feel like we keep on donating and giving money towards cancer research, and yet nothing is happening.” I’m sure this is a common complaint.  

To this, my sister told her the story of my husband.

Without research, doctors would have no idea what is causing his cancer or how to treat it. Research has provided the answers to these questions and has provided medicine that addresses the genetic switch in his body. If he were diagnosed with CML fifteen years ago, it would have been a death sentence–he would have been given 3-4 more years to live, and that’s it. Today, because of research, Ray is able to take medicine that allows him to live a pretty “normal” life.


Of course, the story is not over. We are still working through a few complications, and there are still some bumps in the road. More research is needed.

Although Ray’s kind of cancer is one of the most well-researched forms of cancer, many other forms of cancer have a long way to go. My dad recently battled bladder cancer, but went home to be with Jesus on December 6, 2014. He battled fiercely for two years. This year, an estimated 77,000 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer. More research is needed.

October is breast cancer awareness month. On October 4, we celebrated 22 years since my mom finished her battle with breast cancer and went home to be with Jesus. I was only a little girl but for a good portion of my childhood, I remember my mother fiercely battling her terminal disease. This year alone, nearly 250,000 women are being newly diagnosed with breast cancer. More research is needed.

Like many of you, I currently have very close relatives who are battling various forms of cancer today. More research is needed.

So, what is the purpose of this post?

Thank you.

Thank you, to all those of you who attend fundraisers, make donations, or make purchases that fund organizations like American Cancer Society. Thank you, organizations like Chevy who this month is donating $5 to ACS for breast cancer research every time #idrivefor hashtag is used on social media.  

Thank you, researchers, who engage in the challenging and grueling task of conducting research. You are making a difference. 

Today, #idrive for my mom, and the thousands of other women who are affected by breast cancer. Who do you drive for?


You may not be in a place financially where you are able to donate to research, but if you can share this post or use #idrivefor on your own social media platforms, money is donated, and research continues.

Do not grow weary. Research makes a difference.


Neatly Wrapped Packages

I like my trials to end up in neatly wrapped packages. The specific formula I want those packages wrapped in is simple: “Trial + Lesson Learned = Comfort and Closure.” This allows me to wrap up my trials, set them on a pretty shelf where later I can look at them and say things like, “Oh yeah, that was the time I couldn’t afford tuition, but God intervened and I learned to trust him more.” Or, “Here’s the package where I was struggling to pass my classes, but God taught me how to learn from my failures and persevere.”

Now, I firmly believe scripture affirms that God uses trials for our good and his glory (Hebrews 12:5-11, Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4, etc.), and I can see some major ways that God has used trials in my life for fruit in his kingdom. For instance, my sister and I lost my mom to cancer when we were little, but through that circumstance our eyes were opened to the gospel. I cannot proclaim enough how many times I look at that trial, in all its beautiful wrappings and see joy in the midst of the pain and sorrow because of how much we gained by receiving Jesus. My mom received ultimate healing—redemption, justification, and glorification.

Other trials have been more difficult to wrap and put on the shelf. As an adult, I watched my father battle cancer for three painful years. It feels like just yesterday I was lying next to him in his bed whispering in his ear “Dad, if you’re waiting for me to say goodbye, I’m not. I’m just going to say, ‘See you later.” Days later, God swept him into eternity.

I can’t wrap that trial up, and it still breaks my heart how much I miss my dad. Yes, I’m sure I have learned a lot of valuable things through these past few years as a result of that trial, but I simply can’t find a neatly fitting package to place it in.

And maybe it’s because our trials don’t actually fit a formula and they can’t be wrapped and placed on a shelf.

Today, just three months away from my wedding, I am sitting across the hospital room from my best friend, the love of my life, my fiancé. His 27th birthday is next week, and the doctors just diagnosed him with cancer. Our worlds stopped.

Over the last twenty-four hours we have agonized and wept over that news and have experienced a myriad of thoughts and emotions. We are waiting to hear the biopsy results to confirm that he has CML, so he can move forward with pills that can fix what is happening in his body. As the dust settles for just a moment, my mind races ahead and wants to find how we can wrap this one up. What should we be learning? How do we fit this into a formula that makes sense to our hurting hearts and foggy brains? What is the “spiritual reason” we are going through this and how can that satisfy our souls’ longings for answers.

Why, God?

These questions reminded me of the book of Job. In the past, my greatest hang-up with reading Job is that in the end, he never really produced a neatly wrapped package to stick on the shelf. His cries of, “Why, God?” were answered with more questions. And today it hit me. God’s response (Job 38-41) may suggest that we are unable to wrap our trials in neatly wrapped packages because we can’t even begin to fathom the full extent what God is doing in the midst of our life’s stories. What we do know is that we can be expectant, hopeful, and joyful knowing that a sovereign God is working out our story (and all stories) in a way that ultimately tells his story of redemption for mankind*. To say that I can recognize, pinpoint, and “wrap-up” all the ways he is working in any given trial is simply arrogant or ignorant. Yet I keep trying to do that in order to provide myself with comfort and closure in the circumstances that I can’t figure out.

That is why instead of feverishly trying to make my trials fit a formula, I need to rest, and be ok without answers.

Rest, and feel, and cry, and bleed, and question…and let myself be comforted by the sovereign God who is working out my story for my ultimate good and his ultimate glory.

And that is far greater than a neatly wrapped package.



[If you would like to donate to Bobbi Jean and Ray’s medical expenses, please visit their GoFundMe page:  Thank you! -B+R’s GFM Campaign Creator]



*These are truths gleaned through the first sermon in a series we are working through in church. Check it out at The Church in DeKalb. 


Opening Day

Among the many lessons that my dad taught me, one I will always value is the importance of integrity and good work ethic. Although Dad never held a very glamorous job by the world’s standards, he worked hard, paid attention to detail, and believed in producing high quality work. He was faithful. He never drew attention to himself. He did what was right, even when others around him did not. He was a man of his word, and was someone you could count on.


For several years after his retirement from the CTA, Dad worked at White Sox park as an usher in the press box. Although Dad often minimized the importance of his position, I loved telling my friends that he worked for the White Sox. Dad’s main responsibilities were making sure the writers’ needs were met and making sure everyone entering the press box had the right credentials to be there. While others might have taken advantage of this position by neglecting responsibilities in order to sit back and watch the game, Dad took his duties very seriously. It was not long before people started recognizing him as the kind, hard working usher in the press box.

As a family, we were unaware of how well loved Dad was at the park until we started visiting him at games. Anyone who knew we belonged to Dad would tell us how much they loved him and valued working with him. I enjoyed knowing that Dad’s work ethic and character had not gone unnoticed.

When Dad had to step away from his work responsibilities after his cancer diagnosis, he received numerous cards, notes, and messages from other event staff, and also many of the writers as well. One of my fondest memories was when the park honored my family by giving us a box suite to watch a game in while Dad was in between treatments. The suite came stocked with food and drinks and I was blown away by how many people from the park came by to say hello and shake my Dad’s hand.

I also remember in the last few months of Dad’s battle, he received a giant card with notes from so many people from the park. The messages to Dad contained such beautiful remarks about his character, faith, and testimony. Dad’s life preached Jesus to those he saw on a daily basis. My quiet, meek, and servant-hearted Daddio had been showing Christ to his coworkers for years, and his faith was being validated as they watched him continue to honor Jesus through his life and through his death. As a daughter, there is no greater joy than to see others recognize the qualities I had cherished in my dad all my life and to see him point others to God during a time when most would be tempted to curse Him.

At Dad’s memorial service, I was touched to see many people from the park show up to honor dad’s life and testimony. I received hugs and well wishes from many of them as they once again told me how much they appreciated my father.

And now, four months after my dad’s home-going, the White Sox will honor him once again.

On April 10, 2015, opening day for the White Sox, they will hold a moment of silence before the game begins in honor of those within the organization that have died this past year. My dad’s picture will be included and his memory will be honored in front of thousands of people.

Why did they love my dad so much? Because he was faithful. He did what was right. He smiled and asked others how they were doing. God allowed His light and love to shine through this humble servant. And in God’s kindness and grace, he allowed my dad to be honored.

“The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever.” Psalm 37:18


Picking Up the Pieces

I just finished a one-mile run. I am using the word “run” very loosely because it would be more accurate to say my body “moved” over a distance of one mile.IMG_3680

Do not be fooled, however, into thinking this was a leisure run. It was indeed quite arduous for me, partially because of the snowy ground I traversed, partially because I am terribly out of shape, and partially because it was the first time I had run since Dad died.

Over the past three years there have been many areas of my life that I had to let go, and several pieces of my life that were broken. Some things I let go because they simply seemed trivial. Other things I let go simply because it gave me more time with Dad. I know it hurt his heart to know our lives were radically altered during this time, but for us, the trade off was simple. I have no regrets.

Along with my heart, there are several pieces of my life that will remain broken for a long long time. But there are other parts of my life I am ready to reclaim. I want to start picking up the pieces.

Some pieces are going to be more significant than others. Today, I ran. Yesterday, I tweezed my eyebrows. Tomorrow I’ll finish my qualitative research class. One day, I’ll watch a Blackhawks game, and one day I’ll start writing a dissertation.

I know that during my “picking up the pieces” initiative, there will be some days where I won’t have the strength or desire to pick up any pieces. And there will be some days that I will feel like the pieces of my heart are shattered into fragments too tiny to recover. But that’s tomorrow’s grace.

Today, I ran.


Stories of Healing

Over the past three years many have shared stories with me about people who have experienced miraculous healing from life threatening illnesses. Certainly these stories provide elements of encouragement and paint a picture of our good God of healing. Certainly, we hear these stories and rejoice over what God has done.

But this is not the outcome of every story. For every story of healing, there are dozens of stories of loss, grief, sorrow, and brokenness. For every prayer that God answers with a “Yes,” there are dozens where his answer is “No.” What about those stories? Is God still good? Does God still heal?

Absolutely. And those stories need to be told.

My good and powerful God is a God of eternal healing. He never fails. He’s always faithful. He’s always good. He is the good, perfect father, who protects his children. He redeems us. He clothes us in righteousness. He adopts us. He seals us. He guides us. He forgives us. He preserves us until he takes us Home.

Home. Where we are eternally healed. Where we are healed not merely physically, but spiritually. No more brokenness, no more sin, no more flesh.

And so, here I am, thinking deeply about how I need to redefine words like healing and good. If we only talk about those words in the stories of physical healing and prosperity here on earth, we are in danger of distorting the character of God. We are in danger of allowing our circumstances dictate who He is. We are in danger of experiencing despair, hopelessness, and bitterness when our stories don’t end the according to our own definitions of good.IMG_6502

The beginning portion of this I wrote just three days before my Dad went home to be with Jesus. Now three weeks later I write with a grieving heart full of sorrow inexpressible by words.

But by God’s grace I genuinely still affirm, God is good. God heals.


Dignity and Courage

dad and BobbiIn the aftermath of my father’s death, I was reading through several journal entries. I wrote this one in response to the recent buzz about the “Death with Dignity” movement. I wanted to share Dad’s story of dignity and courage as he tirelessly fought his own battle with cancer. We had this printed in the programs at his memorial service:

Dignity and Courage

Courage is waking up in the morning and choosing to live another day, not because he feels he has the right to make that choice, but because he knows his Creator has given him another breath to breathe for the glory of His kingdom.

He breathes each breath with dignity because he knows they bear eternal value.

Courage is fighting to take those breaths despite the pain that accompanies each one.

Courage is waking up to a day full of unknowns, and dignity is facing them with a quiet peace in knowing the God who is ultimately in control of them all.

Courage is enduring days, months and years worth of doctors’ appointments, tests, and treatments, most of which yield unfavorable results, but he faces them with dignity knowing his fate isn’t actually in the hand of the human doctors, but in the hand of an omnibenevolent, sovereign God whom he knows personally, intimately. 

Courage and dignity mean fighting for life, though it is painful, exhausting, and uncomfortable, because he knows there is more to life than comfort. He fights because he loves his family and he serves them with words of truth, moments of laughter, and a heart full of love during these days that he counts as gifts from God.

Dignity is indeed treating each day as a gift and mindfully cherishing and using those gifts in ways that attest to the reality that there is a God and He is good even in the gravest of circumstances.

Dignity is thanking God for the cancer that will eventually take his life because he knows that through this trial, many will come to a saving knowledge of God’s Son, the one who gave His life so that we may be offered eternal life.

Courage is moving forward because of the realities of salvation, redemption, and glorification.

Courage and dignity are accompanied by a third element, essential for being able to live this kind of life: Hope

Not a hope that crosses its fingers and wonders, but a hope that knows. A hope that knows God has already ordained when he will take his last breath, immediately followed by his first breath of eternal life.

Hope that knows God has the power to heal his cancer here on earth, but also knows of a far better healing that takes place in eternity.

A hope that knows he will one day be face to face with his Savior and be able to engage in worship in its purest form, completely free of the curse of sin. That glorious day, his faith will become sight, and he will know it was worth it. It was worth the fight. It was worth living with courage.

This is death with dignity.