Homesick

My thoughts these days turn often to heaven. In those moments when I hover between asleep and awake, in those moments when I bow my head to pray, in those moments when I lift my voice to sing, my mind turns often to that place and to its people. My father made the journey there not too long ago and my son trailed close behind him. The two key men in my life—the one in whose footsteps I followed and …

Waiting with Faith

Have you ever bitten into a green tomato? Have you ever sunk your teeth into a fall apple during the heat of summer or into a summer strawberry during the cool of spring? Have you ever listened to a choir’s first rehearsal, read a book’s first draft, gazed at an artist’s initial sketches? Have you ever tasted a chef’s half-baked dish, watched a choreographer’s first dance, listened to a song’s initial lyrics? If you’ve eaten that apple or read that …

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Shedding Tears Over Sorrows That May Never Come

We prayed as a family before Nick and Abby left for their fall semester, then snapped a photo of the two of them standing together outside our home—our two college students. It was August 1, 2020, and they were headed to Louisville, Kentucky, Nick for his junior year and Abby for her freshman. I made the journey with them since CDC regulations at the time mandated foreigners quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. We stayed isolated together in a borrowed …

Would It Be Okay For Me To Be Angry With God?

It felt like a test—a test of my faith, a test of my convictions, a test of my love for God. Soon, very soon, after I learned that my son had died, I received a message from an old acquaintance. Her intentions were good—she wanted to offer consolation. But her instructions were suspect—she wanted me to rage against God. Paraphrasing one of her favorite authors she said “It’s okay to be angry with God about this. It’s okay to tell …

Grief Should Always Make Us Better

Death is the great interrupter. Death is the great interrupter because, far more often than not, it strikes when it’s least expected. When death comes it invariably interrupts plans, dreams, projects, goals. One author observes how very sad, how very pathetic it is, when a man dies suddenly and we go into his home or his place of business “and see the unfinished things he has left—a letter half written, a book half read, a picture begun but not completed. …

Our Hearts Smile, Even If Our Faces Do Not

We went to visit Nick on Christmas morning. “Visit Nick”—that’s what we’ve decided to call it when we spend time at his graveside. “Going to the cemetery” focuses on the place, not the person, so is too impersonal, too abstract. “Paying our respects” is another option, but sounds too formal to describe going to the place where our son’s body lies. So we “visit Nick,” just like we did on Christmas morning. We sleep in for a while, then eat …

The Death of My Son and the Birth of My Savior

I expect it’s going to prove a difficult holiday in the Challies home. Christmas is usually our favorite day of the year—one of the few holidays for which we’ve developed distinct family traditions. We get up early so the kids can sort through the trinkets in their stockings; then we pause for a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and croissants; then we open gifts; then we relax for a while before beginning to prepare a feast. We’ve developed this tradition over …

Singing in the Dark

“How are you doing?” I’ve been asked that question countless times since my son went to be with the Lord. I never really know how to answer it. While at that exact moment I might be doing okay, it’s possible that 15 minutes prior I was so overwhelmed with sorrow that I could barely stand. It’s possible that 15 minutes in the future I’ll be reveling in the joy of knowing my son is safely home in heaven. I can …

When All Seems To Be Gain, Plan For Loss

A friend of mine was part of a rapid deployment unit in the military. The task of his division was to be in a perpetual state of readiness, able to be deployed at a moment’s notice. When a need for their services arose, those soldiers were to be geared up, loaded up, and wheels up within hours. Because they could not know when a conflict would arise or what manner of conflict it might be, they had to be prepared …

Goodnight Till Then

“Mr. Challies, we want you to know that we have received Nick into our care. Rest assured that he is in the very best of hands.” The message comes as a relief, for it means that Nick’s long, last, lonely journey is complete. Even if he can’t come home, he has at least arrived back in his own country, back in his own town. It is not as we hoped. It is not as we imagined. But it is as …