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Feeling Joseph’s Story

Monday found me in Genesis 40-42 after a miserable night of insomnia culminating in a delicious snow day morning. I sat in a comfortable space ready to delve further into the Joseph story, one often used as a Look how God worked everything out in the end! Evil for good, good wins!

This is true. And good. But as I arrived at the end of the day’s reading I could feel Jacob’s anguish. I know that anguish. I could feel Joseph’s tears. I’ve shed similar tears. I was experiencing the story and not just taking in the facts. This began some journaling on the passage, not to be confused with an exposition on the subject. Following are my observations from Joseph’s story:

Jacob exclaimed, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!
Genesis 42:21 (NLT)

I know the feeling that everything is going against me, even as many things are for me. God was sustaining Jacob’s life and his sons’ lives. Joseph was still alive, yet in the moment Jacob didn’t know. He felt everything going against him. While feelings are not truth, they often reveal how we are experiencing our present truth in light of our past.


Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”
“Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!”
Of course they didn’t know that Joseph understood them, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter. Now he turned away from them and began to weep.
Genesis 42:21-24 (NLT)

I feel Joseph’s grief upon hearing Reuben reprimand his brothers.

~Earlier Still~

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness.Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”
Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father. So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
Genesis 38:18-24 (NLT)

Years before, many years before, the brothers had seen Joseph coming, and, out of envy and contempt for his favor and dreams, made plans to kill him. Reuben heard their plan and suggested an alternative, pleaing with them to throw him into an empty cistern. Later he planned to rescue Joseph.

This argument happened before Joseph arrived on the scene. He witnessed none of it as his robe was torn off and he was thrown into a cistern.


Then just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? His blood would just give us a guilty conscience. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
Genesis 37:25-28 (NLT)

~Where was Reuben?~

Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief.
Genesis 37:29 (NLT)

Reuben was not around, because he returns later to discover Joseph missing. This causes him distress as the brothers kill an animal for its blood and prepare their story of Joseph’s demise. Joseph’s life becomes a meanwhile as he is lifted from his family’s story and dropped into Potiphar’s house.

Years pass through chapters indicated by phrases such as in the course of time, some years later, some time later. Clues such as pregnancy, birth, adulthood of children born, death of the mother, indicate that daily life continued for the brothers and Jacob just as it did for Joseph who was placed on a different track.

Life went on, routine events punctuated by significant ones. Joseph faced the trauma of false accusation and imprisonment, of being forgotten by the butler for two years after predicting the butler’s release in three days. He held hope that he would be soon remembered while being long forgotten.

When he is finally released and brought before Pharoah, things begin to turn around. He is 30 years old beginning the seven years of plenty. He is married to Asenath, a priest’s daughter who bears two sons. Joseph names them from his story.

Manassah ~ God has made me forget my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.

Ephriam ~ God has made me fruitful in the land of my grief.

Though life circumstances have changed for Joseph, there is still grief, lost time, questions.

He is 37 when the famine begins and 44 at its end. His brothers are older than him. His father describes himself as a grieving white-haired man. (42:38)

During the time of famine, Joseph’s brothers appear before him. He recognizes them, remembers his dreams, and begins to be harsh with them. He questions and accuses. He imprisons them for three days, changing his mind from sending only one back home to keeping only one. He gives the imperative to return with the youngest.

This results in a conversation among the brothers, overheard and understood by Joseph. The mood takes a turn.

After Reuben says, Didn’t I tell you not to go against the boy, but you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood! (42:22)  Joseph turns away and begins to weep. (42:24)

The timing of the weeping struck me as I read. It came after he heard his brothers specifically name the wrong done to him. He is made aware for the first time that one of his brothers had spoken up for him. However cowardly, weakly, or poorly done, someone had not been in agreement. This, coupled with the changed hearts of his brothers, was a story-changer for Joseph.

For years, the data he had to work with was that all of the brothers hated him and had been unanimous in the decision to harm him. He carried that as he was sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison. Even as life began to change for the better, there was still an undercurrent of sadness and loss.

With this scene, the story lens shifts, more data is collected, and floodgates of tears are released. No facts of Joseph’s story change. A single traumatic event at the hands of his brothers after being set up by his father altered the course of his life, but redemption is close at hand through the path of weeping, grief, and repair of rupture.

I get to continue in this passage next Monday. Sometimes we have to sit in the unresolved sadness for awhile, in that space of grief and lament, where it feels as if all is against us, even when we know how the story ends.


Last Monday morning looked much different than this one. I woke at 4, head full of thoughts. I spent time writing out a story of 19 year old me, then loaded the car, ate a quick breakfast, and exited my friend’s house in the pre-dawn hours. It was time to begin the final leg of my journey.

GPS set arrival time at 12:30, but I knew there would be stops pushing it further back. Still, it was a helpful estimation and motivation to begin putting miles behind me. I was ready to be home.

I would hit the ground running upon return. Monday was choir day. It was also pre-assessment band concert day for two of my children. Thursday and Friday were days off of school for parent conference. Tuesday and Wednesday remained for unpacking, regrouping, and tending to all that was missed in my absence. There was lots to tend.

Friday and Saturday brought an overnight trip to Northern Virginia to witness one son’s performance in a band battle and to celebrate another son’s birthday. I did well at placing the remaining children in overnight care before realizing that we had done nothing for the pets, causing a scramble. Sunday was my turn to solo parent so husband could attend a class in Springfield, MD. There is not a pause button for life.

This morning I rose after a night full of restless dreaming to a feeling of futility. I struggled to move from my bed to face the day. The tired was to the bone. It made for a rockier than usual Monday routine. I helped with breakfast and lunches, remembering that I had not taken time to restock the snack drawers or assess the bread situation in the fullness of the weekend.

People snapped at each other. I fought back tears of discouragement and frustration. We somehow managed to get out the door and to school. I returned to walk the dog, call my sister, leave a voice mail, and send my son off to a day of studio recording with his bandmates.

Then there was quiet. Real quiet. That is when the text came through. A new friend connection from Certificate 2 training had read something that she was sitting with and sent the link to me. I opened it and wept. She asked questions about my tears and spoke truth to my heart. It was a sweet place of being seen.

Monday morning continued with Bible reading catch up in a chunk of Genesis. Before opening my Bible to the designated reading, I cried out to God to show me where he is in all of my mess. He gave me an answer as I read chapters 32-39, through the stories of Jacob and Joseph. I journaled this response.

You are in the wrestling, the dreaming
You are in the scandal, the scheming
You are in the calling, the trapping
You are

He is.

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

Friendship Friday ~ We Belong to Each Other

Last fall I sat in a hospital waiting room late in the day drinking a cup of black coffee from a vending machine. I had pressed the code for a cup of comforting hot chocolate, but out came black coffee, so black coffee it was. It tasted good because I was so tired.

I was waiting to see how my friend’s mother was faring after a traumatic accident on my street. When her text came through asking me to come, I went, and remained throughout the day until returning late.

We belong to each other. All of us.

Sitting alone in the waiting room of the trauma center, I plugged my earbuds in to play music while journaling. I wanted to disappear into my own world, oblivious to those around me.

An older woman wrapped in hospital blankets was wheeled out from the treatment area and left beside me. Alone. Unable to stay isolated in my bubble, I felt compelled to demonstrate presence as she dozed.

I unplugged.

A local man recognized her and walked up to say hello, startling her awake. He introduced himself as a friend of her son, and while she did not remember him, he knew her. She began to explain her plight, how she fell the day before while riding on public transit, because her scooter was not secure.

He asked if Ray knew she was here. I sensed that Ray was a mutual hospital connection who would know her and could help. He looked over at me and asked, Are you here with her?

We had never met before, but I was with her.

The man tried to call Ray’s number, but did not get an answer. I’ll keep trying. Maybe he is in a meeting. He turned to leave.

I looked at the woman and she at me. She began to talk. I listened. She had been there since 5:00 that evening. It was 7:30.

A text came through from my friend asking to get some food for her mom who would be discharged soon and had not eaten. I took the order and stood up to go. Turning to my new friend, I asked if I could get her food, as well. She said yes.

I returned with her requested ham sandwich and Dr. Pepper as a nurse was preparing to take her back to receive further care. I was grateful for the handled bag I had taken at checkout as I hung it on the arm of her wheelchair.

She said, Thank you. I answered, Of course. Enjoy! We smiled knowing goodbyes having shared the sacred space of a hospital waiting room together. I took food back to the tiny trauma room that housed my friend and her mom.

The hospital is an hour from my home. We may never meet again in this life. But for an hour in the ER, the woman in the wheelchair and I belonged to each other.

Just like we all do.

Bible Reading Plan

Time with my Bible and journal is something I have held close since at least fifteen, maybe younger. In seventh grade there was mandatory quiet time at the beginning of each Bible class where we were to read a passage referenced on the chalkboard and write our thoughts about it in a spiral notebook, but by fifteen it was something I did just for me.

I have a distinct memory of thinking I knew God loved me when I was fifteen, and since he can’t change, he HAS to still love me now during a time of particular distress. During years of distress. From sixteen to thirty-six. Twenty years is a long time to wander.

Maybe that is one reason I cannot give up on people even when things appear pretty hopeless. God did not give up on me.

I remember the journal that I threw away along with all of my other spiral notebooks and childish writings and hopes and dreams for the future when I was sixteen and preparing to move far away from all I knew and loved. That padded, floral, lined book held what was close to my heart and all that I had to say to, and hear from, God.

I can feel the contents of that journal in my spirit when I remember sitting in the floral club chairs, purchased at a yard sale with my own money, in the lavender basement bedroom in Oakton. That is where I would go for solace and peace. That was my own space.

Thirty years ago I was boxing up hopes and throwing away dreams and beginning to lay the foundation for the walls that would come to enclose my heart. A pile of Glamour magazines made the cut for the moving truck while my awards and achievements and memories did not. The box of magazines hit the curb shortly after we arrived at our destination, 1,100 miles away from all that was familiar.

When is trash pickup here?

I have read through the Bible countless time in several different versions. Last year I followed a chronological reading plan. It was interesting but heavy on the Old Testament for most of the year. It was a welcome relief to hit the New Testament in October.

This year’s plan reads from a different section of the Bible each day of the week. This lines up with how I am trying to restructure other areas of my life to focus on structuring specific areas in the midst of imagining a bigger picture.

What about you? Where do you find inspiration and hope for your heart? Do you follow a particular plan for Bible reading or journaling? I would love to hear about it. Share with me in the comments!


Five Songs

If you could only listen to five songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?

My friend, Angela, read this prompt to me last weekend, and it immediately sparked interest.

Oooo, yes! Let’s do that right now. Let’s list and share our songs with each other and then listen to them.

I began thinking and writing in my journal. Music is what inspires me and brings me hope. It makes me feel most alive. Music is where I find encouragement. So in choosing only five, I went with songs that remind me of truth when I am struggling.

I am curious, Dear Reader, if you have five songs, or even one song? What are your go-tos that inspire, keep you going, or are just plain fun to dance to?  What is music to you? It can be any style, not just worship or inspirational! Share in the comments!

Here are my five songs.


Friendship Friday ~ Braving Together

Two weeks ago I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Brave On conference with my friends Angela and Becky. The plan to attend this event began to take shape back in February, so to say it had been long-anticipated seems a bit of an understatement!

The road to Brave On had its share of bumps and jolts and opportunities to be brave about naming feelings and hopes and expectations. That was its own exercise! There were times when I wanted to run in the opposite direction of, rather than towards, whatever was stirring inside of me. Usually it was in the areas of conflict with others and glory in my gifting.

When all was said and done, the conference came and went in a whirlwind, and I was left sorting and sifting through what had landed in my heart. Longing to write something, yet not quite having the words, I composed a post on my travel necessities.

It was a start. Those needful items are what helped me focus on the task at hand while listening to a variety of wise and kind women share scenes from their stories and invite me into more of mine. The pages below were from the self-care panel. Much goodness and truth was shared from the hearts of women who did not have all of the answers but who held an invitation to be curious and open to possibilities.

Throughout the day, I was invited to connect with others. There were quick hugs, registration and restroom line chats, and deeper conversations during breaks and around the table. I was surrounded by rich goodness. It was full of tiny cracker and sip of juice moments foreshadowing the deeper connections we were created for and that we will one day eternally enjoy.

In the meantime I was given the gift of face time with dear friends and the gift of a new friendship. I spoke in person with women whose writing I enjoy and who enjoy mine. I listened to beautiful music and words from the heart of one of my favorite singers and marveled at how music can speak to so many seasons and stories simultaneously.

The day was a gift.

I am still reflecting on my art journaling and handwritten notes and pondering where God met me in the specifics of the conference. I am wondering what will come about as a result of my time spent Braving On. I admire Angela’s ability to form and share a concise reflection on her experience which you can read about here.

One of many things that I am learning to embrace and to hold is that it is okay to just be me, whoever that is. I do not have to look or be like anyone else, and I have my own story to live and to tell. There is freedom to take time to figure it out.

I wait for it with patience and anticipation.