Sparrow

I am so excited to announce that my second book, Sparrow: Cultivating a Sabbatical Heart, is coming to shelves near you in less than a week! What grace, that God would take a very difficult season and turn it into a blessing—not only for our family, but for anyone who needs to know that there is hope in the valley. The writing of this one felt like… redemption.

I’m posting an excerpt for you below (the preface of the book). At the end of every chapter there are meditative questions to encourage you to dwell a while in the Psalms. It’s the kind of book you can just read, or, if you want, go deeper, and use it as a study. You can find it on Amazon, but it won’t be available to purchase until 12/11. And another blessing? All of the proceeds will go to our support account, helping to keep us in ministry!

Praying that God would continue to flip my valley days into a blessing for many a sparrow.

Preface

There is a season when the calendar says spring, but the mountain hamlets, blanketed in snow, are still thickly wintering. Relief from ice, renewal and rebirth, are on the way, but no one in an alpine cabin has gotten the memo yet. The sky is still drained of color days on end, the streams still charcoal. If you can see from your perch a five-mile stretch of valley, you can see five miles of greyscale—gray, black, and white. Just rarely, a living burst of color swoops down on the scene, surreal as a visitor from another world: a bluebird, maybe, or a cardinal, a blackbird with a cocky stripe of tangelo under its wing. Most often, though, even the birds are sedately brown and gray, nothing special. Sparrows. 

One day as I stood stirring something on the stove, late afternoon, a loud thump startled me, as if one of the kids had whacked the window with a snowball. I was alone in the cabin, though, and no kids appeared grinning through the glass. It was, I discovered, a sparrow, dazzled by the reflection of tree and sky, which had crashed unsuspecting into the picture window over the porch. One minute it was making good time, beating its wings with incessant energy, the next it lay quivering by our front door. 

The poor creature did not like the looks of me bending over; its heart beat wildly enough to make its whole body tremble. The little bundle of fluff tried desperately to hop but couldn’t achieve lift-off. I looked around. The resident cat was invisible but surely not far off; here waited a helpless morsel for his supper. We couldn’t let that happen, even if the little bird’s injuries would claim him in the end. I set up watch, and once the kids came laughing back into view, we took turns for the next hour.

It was just a bird, not even a rare and magical one. Nope. It was just a sparrow, a common, insignificant, chattery little thing without beauty or song or impressive feats of skill to recommend it. It was an utterly ordinary creature going about its feathery business unnoticed until this unexpected, dramatic shock felled it under my nose. As it lay on the porch, stunned by this misfortune, I thought it looked rather a lot like me. 

A few months shy of forty, exhausted and flattened, I came with my husband to this cabin to recuperate. Had God forgotten us? Would color and joy ever return? We were like a bad Mr. Mister song, broken-winged, scared to hope we’d ever fly again. 

And yet. What was that bit in the Bible about the sparrow? Something about the God who sees, who knows, who counts hairs and stars and sure, feathers. There on a snowy cabin porch I felt suddenly very small, surrounded by millions of acres of silent wilderness where even one bird out of so many could be noticed, could be protected and patiently nursed back to health. When the tenacious little bird at last shook off his shock and lifted wings to find his high-up perch somewhere, we all cheered. 

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” 

Who is this God we serve, all-seeing, all-knowing, ever-present, sovereign? A God who counts sparrows, a God who numbers hairs? Other birds would crash into that same window during our stay in the cabin, other small-scale tragedies unfold around us. But even the sparrow is never forgotten. Maybe there is hope for us, too.

This is a book about hope. It’s about feeling dazed and bruised, and looking up to see a tender God kneel beside you bringing rescue. It’s about the slow and steady return of joy, like shy spring crocuses unfurling through the snow. It’s about cultivating an expectant faith and a soft heart, establishing rhythms of rest and patience that let the grace in. It’s a journey with a soundtrack of Psalms, our wise and strangely joyful counselors in the midst of strain and suffering. 

Please do not rush past the Psalms beginning each chapter. Linger there a while, letting God’s word interact with your heart. If you’re so inclined, there are additional Psalms cited at the end of each chapter on which you can continue to meditate throughout the week. You’ll also find snippets of wise counsel at the end of each chapter for times when you need to preach the truth to yourself. Hopefully these words will be a lifeline to your heart, as they have been to mine.

My heart is fit for home. Some day we’ll fly away (oh glory), but as long as we linger in this world (not home), we’d do well to fly to Jesus. 

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