Grace In Empty Spaces

I’ve needed to be emptied in order to be able to soak in the Joy of a new season. There is clutter in my heart and in my home and even in my soul that seems to hold me back from delving deeper into gratitude and Joy in my Father. I’ve asked for forgiveness from those I’ve felt all kinds of bitterness towards…and received it. I’ve packed up boxes and things I’ve simply held onto for no reason and dropped them off to be donated. I’ve cleaned and I’ve cleared and I’ve prayed. Like these jars from my kitchen, I’m in a season of preparation to be filled. Stepping out of a dark season is more difficult than it seems. This most recent Lenten season has willed me to see that more clearly. While Easter was so incredibly joyful, it is hard to erase the weight of pain which took place in the days leading up to it. Infertility is hard to erase from the mind, even after you’ve been healed. It causes doubt and fear even after you’ve overcome it. But just as Jesus left behind Him an empty tomb in order to take up the full glory He was meant for…we have permission to leave empty those spaces in our hearts which seemed dead but now have the Hope of being very much alive. What is it that’s holding you back? What can you empty yourself of? Is there forgiveness you’ve been withholding or not receiving? Is there pain, or guilt, or shame?

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come see the place where He lay.” – [Matthew 28:5-6]

Our stories can read the same way because of Jesus. Mine can read: “I know you are looking for her who suffered infertility. She is not here. She has risen. Just as Jesus said she would.” The same can read for those of you who suffer from depression, alcoholism, grief, disappointment, shame, illness, shattered dreams. Because Jesus rose from the darkness which tried to hold us, He forever shattered its grip over us. You are free to walk away from your empty tombs. You are free to empty your heart of its dark days and let in the light. You are free to live again in healing, in hope, in resurrection. Jesus has opened the way.

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The Grace of His Resurrection

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

And do we believe it? That the same Jesus who Himself rose from the very grave that should have held us, will raise us to Life again too? Do we believe that all of our dead parts can be resurrected again in His name? Do we believe that He has conquered all darkness in being the Light of Life? Do we believe that He is alive? He is capable of creating and reviving Life in every form. Jesus was born a physical birth and died a physical death, that God might become man and save us in every physical and spiritual way. If you are looking for new life in the physical sense this Easter, know that God can do it. If you are looking for new life in the spiritual sense, know that Jesus has done it. There is no part of you that cannot be touched by the resurrection power of Easter morning and by the saving Love of Christ. When Jesus declared, “It is finished” He meant all of it. All of the darkness, all of the brokenness, all of it lost its power because Christ had the last word over death and He has the first word in the creation and restoration of our new Life in Him. O death where is your sting? O sin where is your victory? We know that the victory belongs to Christ. And because of that, we too walk forth from our tombs today and believe. He didn’t die for part of you, He died for all of you. That means Easter is for your spiritual, physical, personal, and emotional Life. He proved that as He hung on the cross, as He cared for His weeping mother as He Himself hung on a tree, as He healed the soul of a thief as he hung next to Him, as He physically healed the ear of one who sought to take Him captive in the Garden. Whatever dead part of your life is holding you captive, whether it be a relationship, an illness, infertility or loss, know that Jesus can restore your Life personally. Know that He came to save the whole world, but He also came specifically for you. So what about you, friend? He has Risen. Do you believe it? Will you let that truth Resurrect your Life?

The Grace of Our Dying Savior

But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds we are healed – Isaiah 53:5

His wounds should have been ours. It was our voices who last Sunday cried out “Hosanna” and who today shouted “crucify”. It is our voices still today which we raise both in praise and in doubt, knowing Him yet denying Him and who He is to us. Everything that happened that day leading right up to Calvary, it was all a reflection of us, of how lost we are without Him, of how lost we are without a Savior and a Friend. Yet even as He was lifted high on a cross to die, He was still making heartfelt eye contact with the people of this world. He saw the hurt of His mother and addressed it even in the midst of carrying the pain of every sin and dying death itself. He looked out and saw those whose souls were still in deep darkness even as they raised their hammers high and pierced His flesh and blood…and He cried out “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” He turned to the thief on the cross of wood next to Him, and He calmed a guilty man’s terrified and dying heart with the comfort of Heaven…with the promise that Jesus would be with Him. Our Savior did all of this while He himself was dying. He died to self in every way…to save us. To save every last one of us. Even those who deny Him. Even those who hide what He means to us. Even those who shout crucify. Even those who don’t yet know Him. He died to make a way for each and everyone of us…and in dying to make that way, He became the way. He is the only way. He is the only one who could or would ever save us. And so today we remember the darkness of Calvary, because it’s the day the light of Christ’s love shown the brightest for us. Even as He was dying, He loved you. Even as we were and are still sinning, He loves you. Even as He hung on a cross. No matter what you have done, Jesus saves. You haven’t gone too far. You aren’t beyond His saving hands. Turn to Him and remember. Remember that even as He died, He remembered you and fought for you and loved you. He still does.

Lenten Grace

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of Christ. – Romans 8:38-39

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter all come down to this. Christ loved us. As He washed the feet of His disciples, as He broke the bread and gave the wine, as He wept in the garden, as He carried the cross, as He gave up His life, as He rose from the grave…He had your name written in His heart. These moments of lent are incredibly personal. Together we know Him, individually we feel His presence in our lives. He died for those He loved and for those who didn’t love Him. He died for those who had not yet breathed the breath of life. That we might know Him and come Home. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe in those scar marked hands and feet, in a love they’ve felt deeper in their souls than anything else, in a Savior who made sure that even death wouldn’t separate us from Him.

Grace in the Resurrection

It’s a quiet, still, grey kind of Wednesday. Somehow it feels appropriate, this quiet before our Savior’s washing of feet and breaking of bread which we will remember tomorrow. I think very often we are afraid of these quiet reveries, these moments when our brokenness is most realized and when the magnitude of what our Savior did for us sinks down deep. Maybe it’s because we know the incredible Joy that follows these next few days. We know He didn’t stay in the darkness of His death, and we know we won’t stay in ours anymore either. We have life. And it is the fullest kind of Life. But it’s important to remember the broken days that came before Easter, and the broken days that we have endured too. We know the fullness of the Resurrection only because we are familiar with the brokenness of sin. Maybe this Easter there are dead places in your life calling out for resurrection. Maybe there is joy we have buried deep. Maybe there is cloth covering wounds that need to be exposed in order to be healed by Him. Whatever your brokenness this Easter, know that Christ breaks with you and for you. Know that brokenness no longer means a death sentence, but instead a deeper understanding and realization of the Resurrection only Jesus can bring. Maybe you feel like Lazarus, forgotten and placed in a tomb. But know this, we have a Savior who not only has risen from the dead Himself but who calls out to us to breathe again too, to walk in the light, to Live forever. Just as Jesus remembered Lazarus, He remembers you too. Tombs and dark places are no longer our prisons. Instead they are only waiting places until Jesus bursts in. He has more for you then your dark days. He has life, life to the fullest. Maybe you are like Mary, in the waiting. Not knowing that in three days her joy would be restored and her tears would be wiped dry. Know this, Jesus shows up. If you are in a season of darkness and waiting this Easter season know that Jesus is near, He has promised to be with us always. Nothing is too big for Him. No one is too small. The same Savior who conquered the grave and all sin has conquered your personal battles too. He is risen and so shall we.

A Long Awaited Spring

Spring is going to arrive here in Wisconsin soon and it’s the longest awaited spring I can remember. For years I’ve prayed that with spring would come hope. That one day Mother’s Day wouldn’t break me. That on Easter morning all of the sweet kiddos with their Easter dresses and excitement wouldn’t make me tear up. That one of those spring baby showers would be mine. And God has answered my prayers and I feel as though I’ve almost been stunned into silence over here. Most of my prayer sessions used to revolve around asking God to grow our family, healing my heart, setting me free from bitterness, and embracing whatever plans He had for me. And now I know that His plans were always good. There was a time I used to be afraid to ask for healing, because what if God didn’t heal me. Not because He couldn’t, but because He might choose not to. I believed He could, but knew that sometimes that’s not what happened. Here is what God taught me through that: We can always continue to ask our Heavenly Father for anything. He will always hear us. He will always answer us. Sometimes those answers don’t look like what we planned. Sometimes the answer is “wait”. Sometimes the answer is “trust me”. But whether He gives us the things we so desperately ache for or not, He is still carrying us and still writing beautiful life stories for us. I thought this day of healing would never come and I had accepted that God could heal me in other ways. But I couldn’t see the whole picture clearly. I didn’t have His vantage point. I only saw the up close muddled mess of everything. As long as you cling to Him your story will be redemptive, healing, life giving, and grace filled. Living out a testimony in the making is hard. But getting to glorify God for what He has done at the end of it, is incredibly worth it. I’m praying for your stories and all of your yet to be answered prayers. God is at work. Trust Him and fight for your Joy. Keep praying. Don’t lose hope. Stand firm in faith. Believe in His miracles.

The Certainty of Grace in Serving Jesus Only

The last four years I’ve been in constant wonder of what lays ahead for us. It’s been a fog of uncertainty, and even now with huge things finally being revealed to us after so much time spent in prayer, there are even more unknowns we still will face. But one thing is certain: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It is surreal to be on the receiving end of an answered prayer, a prayer you knew full well only God could answer. I believed in Him before, and I saw the wonders of His hand many times. But this most recent miracle for us, finally carrying a child we never thought we could, has me held captive in certainty that my God Lives and that He Loves and that He is for us. I believe my faith would have remained firm in Him even without this, but my understanding of how He truly listens to our every word and How He genuinely loves us so deeply is now engraved and cemented in my heart. Maybe you don’t know what comes next in your life. Maybe you feel wrapped up in uncertainties and you’re wondering if God can even hear you. I assure you that He does hear you and that He is loving you and moving for you in ways that may feel completely invisible but are actually world changing and life altering. Trust His timing. Know His heart. Serve Him always and only.

Grace in Every Season

At the beginning of every new season here in Wisconsin, I declare that it’s my favorite. I seem to fall in love every time the trees start to bud, and the sun shines hot, and the leaves begin to turn to gold, and again when the first snowflakes begin to fall. But about half way through each season I discover that I’m ready for it to be over. There are simultaneously both beautiful and ugly moments in every change in life. There are bittersweet goodbyes and joyful new beginnings. I keep reflecting over our life these last four years and all the heartbreak they brought, but also the closeness that came of it. The nights I cried myself to sleep because they were hard endings to hard days and yet I found myself wrapped up in the strong steady arms of my husband who never left my side and in the heart of my Father God who was holding my heart close the whole time. I will forever remember those moments, both for their hardness and also their gentleness. I can choose to look back at those days with bitterness and resentment or I can see the truth that even in my darkest seasons God still allowed the light to shine in. We are walking into a new season over here filled with joy and reflection but I’m not naive to the difficulties which will also lay ahead for us as we navigate new parenthood and probably new challenges. But I won’t forget that there is beauty in both, and that every moment in this life is laced with God’s grace. Every single moment. Even the hardest ones. I’m praying that your life be filled with more Joyful seasons than Dark seasons, but I’m also praying that even in your hardest seasons God’s beauty, grace, and light give you moments to be incredibly thankful for.

Grace in Frozen Seasons

It’s the last day of February and the sun is still miraculously shining warm and bright here in Wisconsin. Tomorrow the snow returns and we will be reminded that it’s not quite spring yet in the Midwest and that these last few days have just been a brief moment of grace in a frozen season. They have been just enough warmth to remind us that soon the sun will return again and that winter won’t last forever. I find myself reveling in that last statement. In my season of infertility I most definitely felt frozen and often times without hope. But I also had bright and shining days even in the midst of all of that, where I felt God speaking purpose into my life that I never would have found otherwise. I felt the closeness of God on days when I told Him I felt all alone. I heard His voice clearer because I found myself pressing into Him deeper. Maybe you’re in a frozen season right now too. Just because those days feel long and hard doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a little bit of light. Infertility brought many of my hardest days, days I never want to relive. But if I’m being honest, they also brought some of my most beautiful moments of faith in my Father God. He shows up for us. He brings light when all we see is darkness. This last year when we weren’t doing any fertility treatments and we were focused on adopting, I felt God often challenging me to see beauty in the small moments, in those moments when it seemed nothing was happening and none of my dreams were coming true. It was hard. God knew the deep desires of my heart for a family. He knew so much about me and my heart, yet I found that I had often neglected the deep and beautiful desires of His heart because I couldn’t look away from my hurt. There were moments of beauty and warmth I know I missed out on because of that. I know there are still unknowns up ahead for me, even now that God has answered my deepest prayers for a child. I still want to know Him better. I’ve spent so much time pouring my heart out to Him, and I’m finding that I have a desire to be more deeply connected to how He has always been pouring His heart out for me. Whatever darkness you find yourself in, look for His light.

Grace In a Season of Delay: A Gospel Meant for Hard Places

Snow has finally fallen here in Wisconsin. The blanket of frozen white has seemingly settled in for the long haul over  the still coming winter months, and I admit that it all feels like relief for me. It has been an unusual winter here in our small town. As we hung our Christmas lights and brought home our trees, the farmers fields remained an ever dulling brown and our yard seemed just a swirl of old leaves from an autumn which refused to end and pine needles fallen from tall trees not yet frozen. We experience a delayed season, which mirrored a similar delayed season in my own life.

Last year, I wrote quite often about my struggle with infertility and our emerging new adoption journey. I wrote how God was redeeming my story, and how He was working strength into my days. I watched as God took me from a shattered state into a state of hope. And then the last month of the year, December, I seemed to unravel. Our plans weren’t happening the way I had hoped. Uncertainties and familiar feelings of failure, remnants from our infertility journey no doubt, were seeping deeper into my bones. The delay in winter weather spoke deeply to me, like nature was portraying the physical representation of what my heart felt: stuck.

We were with my family at my childhood home when the snow finally started to fall on Christmas Eve. There has been a steady blanket of white covering the ground ever since. If I had been more open to it, maybe I would have realized that the inevitable end to the season could be symbolic for me too. Maybe if I wasn’t becoming bitter, I would have known that God doesn’t leave us stuck forever. But I felt stuck. Coming so close to four years in our struggle to grow our family, the uncertainty of our future was beginning to hold me back from the certainty that I once knew so deep in my heart: that God is Good.

Having survived the many extended family Christmas get togethers, complete with their fresh new babies and age old celebrations of heritage, I stepped into January with a deep realization. All year long, all of 2017, I thought I had surrendered everything in my life to Christ. I thought I gave Him all of my struggles, all of my pain from infertility, all of my anxious worrying about our adoption process. I thought that I was almost completely healed of the deep wounds infertility had branded into my heart because God was moving me forward, into a new path, into a new story. But what December revealed to me was that I hadn’t let go of the hurt at all. I had just buried it. I had hid it away so deep that I was certain not even God could find it.

Infertility wasn’t going to destroy me. It wasn’t going to destroy my faith. I wasn’t going to let it. And that’s where I went wrong.

We can’t declare victory over our battles. Only Jesus declares the victory. And for that victory to take place, we must be willing to keep treading out deeper into the oceans of surrender. There is always more to give to Him. There is always more healing that needs to take place. As long as we live on this side of Heaven, there is a constant pursuit that takes place between our brokenness and our need for a Savior. Whether our battles be physical or spiritual or emotional, there is still more Healing in His wells.

Relationship with Jesus isn’t a surface kind of friendship. It goes down deeper, “dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) Real relationship with Jesus results in a continual pulling back of the layers of our hearts, revealing more and more of what it is that we are holding onto more than Him, and loosening our grip on those things with Grace.

You know what I missed out on this Christmas when I built up my walls instead of entering into the stable where Jesus came for me? Him. I put my story ahead of His story, and I lost out on Joy.

I don’t know what it is you are holding onto into this new year, but don’t hold on to it tighter than you are holding onto Jesus. Don’t lose sight of how He loves you.

Jesus warned us that in this world we would have trouble. I think sometimes when we read that passage we read it only in regards to trouble spreading His Gospel. But the Gospel isn’t just a message we proclaim. It’s a message we live. How does the Gospel change our illnesses? How does the Gospel reach our marriages? How does the Gospel grow our families? What does loving Jesus look like when we’re mad or bitter or angry? What does surrendering to our Savior mean to us when we’re walking down unexpected roads with unforeseeable outcomes?

The Gospel is meant for hard places. We often get to hear its words from pretty pulpits and dreamlike representations of Christmas stables, but Jesus didn’t come to be remembered as the sweet baby laying in that manger forever. No. Jesus came to Heal us.

So maybe you had a hard Christmas. That’s why Jesus came. To rescue and save you from all the places you find yourself stuck. He is the Light in the Darkness. He is the Joy of the Lord. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And He came here for you.