Beautiful Yet Overwhelming

A 9/11 Widow Shares How She Finds Hope

Last week I interviewed Shelly Genovese again. The last time we talked was two weeks after her husband Steve was killed in the terrorist attack on New York City’s North Tower on September 11, 2001. I wanted to know how Shelly and her daughter Jacqueline (16 months at the time) have fared over the past fourteen years.

rememberThe most difficult question for me to ask Shelly was: Were you involved in the identification process? “Steve’s brother did that,” Shelly explained. “Steve was identified by his dental records.” How sobering. How does someone keep going after the only thing that remains of your spouse are portions of his teeth?

Initially in the months and years following Steve’s death, Shelly filled her emotional void with traveling and shopping and on-the-surface distractions. But nothing brought continual relief, except one thing. Her trust in God to give her “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“There were times when I felt I would never be happy again. Or no way that I could ever feel safe and not hate the world for what’s happened to me. But God restored all that,” Shelly affirms. “There is still hope after something so horrible happens in your life. When you don’t see that hope in the present, it comes down to trusting that God’s got a plan for you. I always knew to trust in God’s Word and to rely on that in every aspect of my life, but now I have lived it.”

Every November Shelly who moved home to Texas and has remarried, travels back to New York City with Jacqueline. Twice so far they have visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which Shelly describes as both “unbelievably beautiful” and “overwhelming.” That’s how I’d describe seasons in my own life. I’m sure you can relate. And when we can’t yet see “hope in the present,” Shelly reminds us to bravely keep trust when life feels both unbelievably beautiful and overwhelming.

Brave and Resilient Tip #119: Keep trusting when life feels both unbelievably beautiful and overwhelming.


Let’s Talk


Q. I’m feeling discouraged about many things. Could you help me?

A. Let’s Talk! Discouragement is a robber, for sure. It steals our courage, our joy, our peace, our hope. . . . Something has shifted negatively in our world and our hearts are responding . . . .

It is so “normal” to be downcast or discouraged on a cold, dark, damp day, isn’t it? In winter we often despair that spring will never come. WE LOSE HOPE! One can feel hope returning when flowers begin to bloom. Ahhhhh. It’s happening now. In the same way, when we have multiple dark issues in our present and personal “season” of life, it is normal to lose hope and become discouraged. When will the hope return?

The short answer for discouragement is focus. Where are you looking — at the problem or the possible solution? Several posts back I gave a series on reframing our thoughts as the victorious place for our thinking. That secret place is “camping out” or focusing in that right-hand column of truth/God. This is our place of victory. When we slip back into just camping out in our own “stuff” we lose heart. We sink when we are not looking
at God (see Matthew 14 verses below).

A pastor friend recently encouraged us look inside the frame to God’s picture for or over our lives. Whose picture is on the wall of your heart – yours or His? Have you ever asked Him to give you a mental picture of His plan for your life? You will experience refreshment like a withered leaf receiving nourishment.

I don’t know of anyone void of a measure of discouragement right now. But, we don’t want to stay in that place. May we change our focus. I hope this encourages you!

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 15:13A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”

Matthew 14:29-33And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind[changed his focus], he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him,  ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying,  ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.


You can contact me confidentially at


“I am not In A Good Place”

Q. What input can you share for people who confide that they are not in a good place?

A. Let’s Talk! Many people say they feel like they are drowning at the start of a new year and are overwhelmed by all that is ahead and all that needs to be done. We can feel weighed down with all the things undone, the assault of bad memories, and the regrets. We can also encounter sadness that comes even when we remember the good things we used to enjoy but now can’t for any number of reasons.

We are never in a good place when we are dwelling on the “former things” without new hope, new information, new direction, or new behaviors. Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity? It’s repeating the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Even in the simplest of math terms, same old is going to repeat same old every time.

Here’s a tricky piece: We know not to dwell on the former bad-for-us things that obviously take us down. But! Even the GOOD things in our past can depress us if we can no longer repeat those events, access those relationships, or experience many other present day losses. Our hearts are very sensitive to loss, especially of the good things.

So, thinking of former things — good or bad — needs caution. Unguarded inventories can take us to a not-so-good place. The verses below are some of the most powerful I think I have ever shared with you and became very personal for me several weeks ago when I wasn’t in a good place! I hope they help your heart as well. Understanding that the new year is in God’s hands can bring us into a good and NEW place.

P.S. You may also want to scroll back to the December’s Let’s Talk about where to find true joy.

For Deeper Reflection

Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.”        

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth;will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at

Pillar of Hope

On July 20, 2012, moviegoers at Aurora, Colorado’s Century 16 theater encountered a life-altering melee—a crazed gunman killed 12 movie fans and injured 70 others. Two and a half weeks later, I took this photo of the makeshift memorial across the street from the theater. I am still sobered by the images of the hundreds of flowers, stuffed animals, candles, baseball caps, hand-scrawled notes, posters, Bibles, and rosary beads.

IMG_0396We are seeing this scene repeated this week in the wake of the downing of the Malaysian airline over eastern Ukraine. Murder. Mayhem. Misery. I don’t think any of us will ever make sense of these cruel acts of violence on the unsuspecting innocent. What I do know is that, in time, healing and hope do emerge from the unspeakable mourning.

This past Sunday, two years since the Aurora tragedy, a tree was planted in Denver’s new Hope Park in honor of each person who died in the 2012 mass shooting. A park called Hope. I like that.

Just when we feel like our world is splintering apart around us and we can’t look at one more close-up of grief-marred families or mounds of memorial flowers and Teddy bears, one word ushers in a new dawn: Hope.

How are you feeling about hope in your life today? Are there situations or people siphoning off your hope? Does hope feel disparately elusive? I get that. I respect that. I’ve been there.

In first-century Italy, Pliny the Elder declared: “Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man.” Writing about the same time as Pliny, the Apostle Paul explained that suffering produces perseverance/resiliency, and in the process, enriched character and finally hope (Romans 5:3-5). Each time we press on through pain and difficulty, we are fortified in resiliency, refined in character, and uplifted with hope. Not always in refreshing waves, sometimes simply in a cool trickles across our toes.

I welcome hearing your perspective on hope. What does hope really look for us today? What kind of hope pillar is holding up your world?

Brave and Resilient Tip #74: With our world so shaky at times, hope is a steadying pillar.


Hope Has Wings

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops — at all

—Emily Dickinson 

Hope has wings when the doctor says we can “manage this” instead of we “have a cure.” When the promised job doesn’t come through. When your checking account is running on fumes. When the relationship fractures and you go your separate ways.

Hope has wings when the little ones are pitching a fit — all at once. When your teen snaps back in defiance. When you feel like a failure as a friend  . . . a spouse . . . a parent . . . an employee. When the uniformed officers show up at your door and you collapse in disbelief.

white doveLife has a way of splattering your days with mud and sloshing you with distractions and discouragements sometimes so intense you can’t fathom a way through. Where is hope when you need it most? Where is hope when you feel like you’re hanging on to the last thin thread of survival? When entrepreneur Job lost all of his children and 11,000 livestock animals all in one day — and then even his own health — Job agonized with similar questions, “Where then is my hope? Can anyone find it?” (Job 17:15, NLT).

Finding hope is not like finding a new restaurant or a new pair of shoes. I think hope finds us. Hope has wings that flutter into our circumstances and refuse to fly away.

I love the Sara Groves song, It Might Be Hope and her lyrics, “But hope has a way of turning its face to you, just when you least expect it. You walk in a room, you look out a window and something there leaves you breathless. You say to yourself, ‘It’s been a while since I felt this, but it feels like it might be hope.’”

But more than encouraging song lyrics, I hold on to words of Life that withstand anything that tries to drain hope from my life. World leader King David did too. From the ragged depths of his own hope-less situations, he reminds us, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

Has it been awhile since you’ve felt hope? Or the Hope that endures? Wait quietly. He will come with wings and perch in your soul. And sing. And never stop at all.

Brave and Resilient Tip #49: Hope flutters into your circumstances and refuses to fly away.

Our Not-Quite-Yet Season

IMG_2494Some of us bristle a bit at the words, “Oh, it’s just a season you’re in.” Hmmm . . . those words are meant to be an encouragement, but what if your season feels more like an eternity? I get that. I’m kind of in a longer-than-anticipated “season” myself with some health issues, and trust me, some days the weariness of waiting for a fresh season of vitality presses me to the brink of wanting
to fold.

So what keeps us going when a particularly trying season just never seems to end? For me, I have to turn my focus off my woes and onto words of encouragement that won’t disappoint. When it comes to a promising perspective on seasons, I particularly like King Solomon’s wise words in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (NLT).

These words give me hope. Eventually whatever season we’re in will end. The troublesome job, finances, health, relationship—you name it—will at some point shift. We will either adjust or bust as we wait. The good news is that adjusting can mean just a miniscule change in our thinking. Perhaps it’s just a slight nudge in realizing that we are stronger than we think. A little course correction in asking for help. A minor fiddling to replace our fears with facts. A simple modification of opening our eyes to the “not yet” instead of languishing in the “not ever.”

We have rainy seasons, baseball seasons, and the holiday season. I sometimes wish we’d celebrate a Not Yet season. It’s already on our calendars as long as we’re still breathing. Not quite yet. I like the sound of that season we’re in. How about you?

Brave & Resilient Tip #46: Seasons do come and go.