Sunday, August 12, 2018

Go. Write. Love.

by Sarah Van Diest @SarahVanDiest

Do you know that what you do matters? 

Do you understand that the way our Father speaks through you is unique? That there is no one else who can carry his message and his love like you can? 

I want you to hold that idea in your mind as you read today’s story. What you do makes a difference. 
I wish I didn’t have this story to tell you today, but I do. It sits in my hands and waits to be opened and shared. I feel a strange sense of honor holding it, while its tragic nature makes me wish it never existed. But it is also something precious and something worthy of words. 

Four months ago, baby Kaenon was born. He came early. As soon as the news broke that he was on the way, his grandparents rushed to meet him. Mark and Laurie Francis arrived at daughter Ashlee’s side and welcomed their first grandchild into the world. 

His early arrival meant complications, though. Kaenon’s body wasn’t quite ready for the wideness of the world. He would undergo multiple surgeries and suffer great discomfort. But again, his grandparents stayed lovingly by to help this new life struggle to survive, and provide their daughter with help and support. 

The story unfolds this way for a couple of months. Kaenon refuses to quit fighting, and his family refuses to let him. And then the story changes.

Without warning, this new grandfather, Mark Francis, died. A freak accident at home brought his life to a sudden close. No more visits to the hospital to caress sweet Kaenon’s head or to encourage Ashlee, his weary daughter. No more comfort to offer his wife, Laurie, as she worries about the future of their little family. A tragedy upon already difficult circumstances. 

What you do not know yet is who Mark was. You don’t know that he was a dentist who gave generously of his skills and resources. When I was a missionary in Central America and came home for visits, he would always see me for free and take care of any dentistry needs I had. He did that for so many people. When firefighters would descend from the mountains around our small town to camp during fire season, and after he had worked a full day, Mark would fill his truck with fire fighters who needed dental care and treat them for free. 

You don’t know that he was a nature photographer for National Geographic. His work was outstanding. Beautiful. Stunning. 

You don’t know that he was Fred Flinstone in the Ice Capades.  

You don’t know that he was a gentle man of God and a devoted man of prayer. There is no doubt he heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The new reality is this: As his grandson fights to stay alive, Mark can’t be there to hold his wife’s hand or speak words of comfort to his daughter. He isn’t there to leave small kisses on Kaenon’s forehead. 

Yet, he is. 

The decades of devotion he gave Laurie stay with her and will never be forgotten. The lifetime of love he showered on Ashlee helped make her the loving mother she is to sweet Kaenon. And I would not be a bit surprised if Mark still breathes sweet kisses on Kaenon’s forehead now and forevermore. 

But why am I telling this story? This is a writer’sblog page. Here, allow me. It was this past April when my small book, God in the Dark, was released. It is a book meant to bring comfort when trials strike, and hope in the midst of despair. A copy of the book made its way to Laurie who shared it with Ashlee who read from it over sweet baby Kaenon as he lay in a hospital bed clinging to life. Simple, but amazing. How could my words be given a place of such honor? 

I tell this part of the story to remind you, my dear writing friends, that what you do matters. What you do makes a difference and impacts the world in ways you may never know. When our Father places words on your heart, write them, dear ones. Do not be discouraged by the voices in your head or in your circle of influence telling you it’s all a waste of time or that you have nothing to say anyone needs to hear. Listen to your Father’s voice. Walk in the good works he prepared in advance for you. Go. Write. Love. 

There are needs all around you. Take a moment and think on what they are and how you might be able to use the gifts your Father has given to help meet those needs. 

The Francis family is in need of financial help as well as prayer support. If you are interested in helping, please take a look at the page they have set up:  Ashlee is a fitness trainer, so she set up a fitness fund raiser, but you don’t have to do the workout to help-out. If you just want to give your support, go here:

And remember this: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” Col. 3:23-24.

Now, go! Write! Love!

Go. Write. Love. Thoughts from author @SarahVanDiest on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Writers, what you do matters - encouragement from author @SarahVanDiest on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

God in the Dark

Life’s painful trials can bring shame about our inadequate and broken faith. There is relief in hearing the expressions of desperation in the psalmist’s voice. He didn’t experience this life perfected, and we don’t either. But the psalmist was loved. So are we.

God was so kind to give us the Psalms.

To walk through darkened days is part of the human experience. To walk through them with faith, comfort, strength, joy, and hope is part of the divine experience. Our eyes, though, are often clouded to those blessings by the thing oppressing us. When we remember and recognize our Father’s faithfulness, when we see reality with the eyes of understanding, the darkness ebbs and the light of hope grows. The impossible, unbearable, and unthinkable becomes the hidden passageway to truth, hope, and joy in Christ.

These letters were originally written as encouragement to a friend when the darkness began to overtake his path. Each day for 22 days, a letter arrived with one of the eight-verse sections from Psalm 119 along with a small thought to bring light and hope and to be a reminder that we do not fight our battles alone. The letters, along with nine more devotions on the subject of experiencing God in the dark, make up this powerful, honest, hope-filled 31-day devotional.

Sarah Van Diest is a writer and editor. She’s the mother of two boys, stepmother to three more, and wife to David. Sarah wrote this book as letters to a dear friend whose life was turning upside down. She’s done this for years for numerous friends and will continue to, Lord willing. It’s her gift to them. It’s hope written down.


  1. Anyone who has read your book understands exactly why a copy of it landed in Ashlee's hands. I thank God for how He used it to minister to this sweet family. I will be keeping them all in my prayers, Sarah.

  2. Sarah,this is so encouraging. So thankful your words wrapped around Kaenon and comforted Ashlee as she read your beautiful words. I will keep the family in my prayers.

    1. Me too, Dee Dee! Our Father is so good.
      Thank you for praying for them, sweet friend.

  3. Ms. Sarah, to echo your thoughts. I pray that many here come to understand that what we cobble together as Christian writers has the ability to share God's love, God's lessons, and God's grace with the world. We may never know who our words touch, but I am certain that God does. He gives them to us for His reason. God's blessings Ms. Sarah Van Diest.

    1. Forever the encourager, Jim!!! Thank you for these words. They echo and enhance what I hoped to convey!!!
      Blessings to you and yours!

  4. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing God's love through your words. I'm praying for precious Kaenon, Ashley, and the Francis family. This is another humbling reminder of how God is always at work in and through us. It's true, we may never know who our words touch, but He does. God's ways are so beyond ours. He uses our words for His glory when we least expect it, even in our, or someone else's darkest moments.

    1. Thank you, Joann!!! I know the Lord uses you and your words in so many lives. May he continue to find us available and willing.
      Blessings, my friend.

  5. Wow, thank you for this, Sarah. Beautifully said. This family holds a special place in my heart--now more than ever. One Monday morning in June, Laurie sent me an email saying her sleepless night had allowed her to catch up on reading my blog posts. And they meant something to her. Neither she nor I knew it, but later that day--in an instant--Mark would be taken from her. Like you, I hold this affirmation like a fragile treasure. This writing thing...if we do it from an honest place, if we do it in love, if we bleed, it's going to cost us something. It's going to break our hearts. Love does. It's a calling, and it matters.

    1. Beautiful, Kit. I can hardly believe your story, or mine, is real. How could it possibly be true that our friends have walked this path? And then the humbling question, how could we have such a place of honor?
      Thank you for your words and your work. Thank you for your encouragement.