In the Breaking, Look Up

In the Breaking, Look Up

I heard the crash, and I knew, before I even turned around. It had been a morning of all mornings, too many attitude issues, too many potty accidents, too many harsh words, some from me. The tears started flowing, and my young daughter’s did too. “Was that a really special bowl, Mommy?” No, it wasn’t a really special bowl, but it was a breaking, another breaking, of what felt like a continuing breaking.

Yes, we had been in lockdown for three months; yes, we had relocated back to our ministry area three days before the borders closed; yes, we had left the States rapidly upon receiving our visas after months of delay; yes, we had not had any chance to re-assimilate into our communities upon returning before COVID struck here too; yes, we were heavily burdened by the ongoing racial injustices, both in the US and in SA. Yes, we are rootless, grieving, working on settling, working on reconciling.

As I held my young daughter, my older daughter commented, “I think Mom is sad because her bowl is broken.”

So often, I am sure you relate, when the tears start flowing, there isn’t a singular cause. There is much simmering on the back burners of my heart and mind, all day, every day. How to explain this to these eight, beautiful blue eyes looking curiously at me? My toddler comes and hugs my legs. She strokes me, soothes me.

“I’m not really sad about the bowl,” I say. “It’s just been a hard day.”

Lately, it seems like there are a lot of hard days. Maybe you can relate.


At the dinner table a couple of weeks ago, we were all discussing the ongoing nature of this current pandemic. “I feel like I’m holding my breath,” I explained to my husband. “I think we need to figure out how to just start breathing again, in the midst of this.”

“What does that look like?” he asks. Isn’t that the million-dollar question, I think.

I envision standing on a rock, the waters swirling around, inches beneath where my feet are planted. And then I look up.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge” (Psalm 61:2-3).

I imagine the storm rolling in, the dark clouds and claps of thunder, the fear rising in my chest. But I look up.

“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come” (Psalm 71:3).

I feel the loneliness creeping in, slowly, powerfully, flooding my heart with icy cold. I look up.

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (Psalm 73:28).

I hurt for the deep wounds of others, the ugliness of history, the blindness of now. I look up.

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind” (Psalm 146:7-8).

I sink deeply into the familiar clutches of self-condemnation, grasping for anything to pull me back out. I look up.

“Search me, oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23)

I fight the overwhelm that hits first thing in the morning, of facing another broken day, of another lockdown week, of an ongoing hurting world. I look up.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).

What does it look like for us to start breathing, fully in this unusual and hard season? In these days when all that is broken weighs heavily on our hearts and minds? I do not have all the answers. For me, it looks like letting go of the control – of the holding of my breath – and living each day with gratitude for what God has done and is still doing.

And looking up.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)

Photo by Red Morley Hewitt on Unsplash


What is helping you look up in this season?

Join Denise, the Velvet Ashes Executive Director, and Sarah, the Program Coordinator, for our Facebook Live Summer series during the month of July! Each Thursday, we will chat with guests about topics like singleness, marriage on the field, and dealing with medical issues. Be part of the conversation by watching live and commenting with your questions and thoughts! 

Our first Facebook Live topic will be Talking with Your TCKs about Racial Diversity. We’ll go live on the Velvet Ashes Facebook page on Thursday, July 9th, at 9 AM ET. If you can’t join live, make sure you catch the recording later on our page, or hop on for another live as we go through this series. Watch social media and our blog posts for each week’s topic. 


  1. Sarah Hilkemann July 6, 2020

    Not having a singular cause for the tears- that is so true!! I love this list of Scripture to ponder and hold tight to when things are breaking.

    This is not super spiritual on the surface, but one thing that has been helping me in this season is making short daily lists for myself. When everything around me is uncertain, having that little bit of structure has grounded me. It helps me keep rhythms like my morning coffee/Bible reading, and making sure I’m doing the dishes daily. 🙂 Doing those things helps me look out and up and not stay quite so stuck in my own head.

    1. Beth Barthelemy July 8, 2020

      Thanks for your comment, Sarah 🙂 That’s so true, about short daily lists! For a short time, I was also writing my “top three” for the day, I think I need to get back to that 😉

  2. Ellie July 7, 2020

    So beautifully put, Beth. What you say resonates deeply.. The feeling like I’m holding my breath, the hurting for the brokenness of the world, “I hurt for the deep wounds of others, the ugliness of history, the blindness of now.” – yes, so much yes and I’ve not managed to express it very well to others. ..and the being annoyed with myself (and my kids, and *people*) for being annoyed and broken.. And those answers from scripture. So good. Hang in there. We need this community and community grief, and holding up after falling down.

    1. Beth Barthelemy July 8, 2020

      Thank you Ellie, for your encouraging words. Yes, yes to holding each other up!

  3. Theresa July 8, 2020

    Beth, thanks for walking us through these very familiar feelings, guiding practically in the “looking up” with these beautiful passages… really loving your writing here!

    1. Beth Barthelemy July 8, 2020

      Aw thanks so much Theresa! It’s such a privilege.

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