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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Grace in Forgiveness

In this week after Easter Sunday, after Holy Week, what has changed? For me the answer is in how I seek forgiveness and how I give it. Not everyone encounters the Father or the Son in the same way as we do. Some of us feel closest to Christ in our homes when we read scripture, or through worship, or through intimate prayer. Some of us encounter Christ deeper as we evangelize or reach out to our communities. God actually designed us that way, to be different in how we serve and to connect with Him in our own personal ways. Jesus showed us this as He died and as He rose. To Thomas who doubted, He gave physical proof. To the women who discovered the empty tomb, He spoke first through reassurance and second through His presence. To the thief on the cross, He gave the hope of a future with Him. To His mother as He died, He offered provision through His people. Sometimes it’s not about getting everything perfect, it’s about reaching people where they are. Infertility and at times broken community opened some wide wounds for me within the church as a whole, a place where I had hoped to find healing. There are many others who have felt wounded by church too. But this is what we learn from Easter, Jesus died for the hurting and for the hurtful, the peacemakers and the peace breakers just the same. In knowing this, how are we seeking unity and communion under the banner of Christ’s love for all of us? For me, it means asking for more forgiveness from the people I’ve hurt and been hurt by…and maybe not expecting it in return. Jesus died for those who were at that moment killing Him. He’s called us to love people who at the moment maybe don’t love us. He’s called us to ask for forgiveness from those who maybe won’t forgive or to freely forgive even those who don’t ask for it from us. Basically, Jesus just loved and forgave and covered over everyone, whether they deserved it or not. Whether we deserve it or not. That’s the entirety of Grace. That God became man to Love us no matter what we did, or will do. That He reaches for us, even when we aren’t ready to reach back. Christ laid it all out for us over Holy Week. We have our whole lives to lay it all out for Him.

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.

The Grace of Spring

Today was one of those days where I never turned on the music because the singing birds and cooing doves and tapping woodpecker outside my window filled the day with the simple sound of life beginning to stir again. Spring takes awhile to come fully alive here in Wisconsin. Our pastor described our current stage as the muddy days of spring on Sunday morning. Sometimes the snow creeps back in and the frost makes its way back to our rooftops, but before long we find that the new life can’t be contained in the frozen earth any longer and slivers of green burst forth from the ground. I found a few of these green slivers of joy in the yard today where the Daylilies are planted. I can’t help but think about Spring in the Christian life as well. Our frozen seasons often seem to last forever and it’s so easy to forget that as God’s people there is always life bubbling below the surface, just waiting to spring out. It’s easy to bury our joy and cover it with hurt. It’s easy to forget that we once planted life where we now can only see the darkness of the dirt covering its surface. But just as Jesus burst from the grave on Easter morning, He promises you are going to burst through too. There is always the promise and the hope of Spring in Jesus. He never forgets what He has planted in us. He never leaves us in the dark.

Ordinary Grace

Just some ordinary views from an ordinary place that I call Home. I heard my baby’s strong heartbeat for the very first time yesterday and was told that at my next appointment I’ll already be halfway through this miracle pregnancy. And I can’t believe this is our life. I can’t believe what God has brought us through. Suddenly ordinary Thursday mornings seem like extraordinary moments and our house feels like the home where our sweet baby will grow up and everything seems wild and peaceful all at the same time. I know things won’t always be perfect. I know what it felt like when things were falling apart. But for right now, I’m feeling incredibly thankful for quiet contemplative moments when I can give myself permission to dream about the future again, a future only God could have provided for me. When I was younger I used to spend my time worrying about what I would become. I felt like I needed to be better at hopefully just one thing than the rest of the world and that would set me apart, or at least make those who loved me proud. But it’s not really about who we will become as much as it is about whose we will become. Being like Christ means that we live to give this life away through loving and giving and forgiving and simply being present. My life might not look like much to the world right now, but to my little slice of the world it means everything. I’m a wife, a soon to be mama, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, a cousin. And I’m finding my purpose here incredibly fulfilling at the moment because it’s the purpose God has placed me in. Sometimes we live big when we revel in the small and the ordinary. Jesus never asked us to be the superhero. He only asked us to Love Him and Love His people and Love His Father in all the ways we possibly could. He only asked us to be present to Him. He only asked us to look past the shiny lights of this world and see the living light of His Grace for us. Jesus loved the ordinary versions of us. The broken parts and the glued together parts and the old parts and the new parts. He just wants you, just as you are, to be right where He is and be filled with life to the fullest.

Making Room for Grace

It’s the first day of spring and I have a pot roast baking in the oven and a long list of spring cleaning tasks that I probably won’t accomplish today. But I’m feeling warmer weather in my bones, even if some of us are still waking up to frost tipped mornings and snow sprinkled grey skies. My mama gave me this set of blue Currier & Ives dishes for Christmas a few years ago. She thrifted them from an antique shop because she knew I had my heart set on them. They are exactly the same as the ones she used to have in her kitchen while I was growing up, though she gave her set away before she could ever know that I might want them. It’s a beautiful thing the things we each find meaningful. Everyone seems to hold close something different than the person sitting next to them. Yet we all have this ache in our hearts to hold onto a few things that make our hearts happy and remind us of a time when life was good to us, or when we overcame something hard, or when we lost someone we loved so much. It’s the humanity in us to want to remember what was good, what was important. It’s what our Heavenly Father wants for us too, to hold on to what is Good and right and pure and honest and to remember. I hold onto these plates because they remind me of a time when my family was happy and good and at peace. To be honest my house doesn’t hold a lot of things. We’ve simplified and downsized and given away so much. But all of those things were things that didn’t matter or hold importance to us. I know there are things I need to let go of in my spiritual and emotional life too. So maybe my spring cleaning will be about holding onto what is important, and releasing the things which hold me back from extending or receiving grace. There are people I need to forgive and people I need to ask forgiveness from. There is judgement and hurt and bitterness I need to let go of. These nights I don’t sleep much because of the sweet baby growing inside of me, and I find my mind wandering to things and people I need to reconcile and extend grace too. Does your soul need space to grow too? Does it need reminding of what is important and good? Does it need room for grace? Mine certainly does.

Timeless Grace

We have this old piano that was left behind when the previous owners of our house moved out and didn’t want to bother attempting to move it from the basement. It has broken keys and damaged wood and plays out of key and is over a hundred years old. And it’s my favorite thing in our whole house. I grew up playing on a hundred year old, well worn and and well loved, free piano. And this one we have now reminds me so much of that one. I have a love for old hymns, spanning multiple hymnals, and this well worn and played piano played its way right into my heart. I still think there is a place for the old and traditional things, both inside our homes and inside our churches. Even if that means not exactly holding onto everything from the past, but instead carrying what was wise and grace filled from our histories into our bold and powerful contemporary ways. That’s the beautiful thing about Grace, you see. It’s old. As old as time. Yet it’s new every morning. It carries with it a history of eternal love from our Heavenly Father and pairs that right upside fresh budding new testimonies of today. It’s a well worn, broken in, kind of Grace that transforms what we were into what we become and holds us together with the history of our Loving God. How amazing that Grace really is. So if you need me today, I’ll just be over here, playing through all the old hymns and reveling in the beautiful new things God is bringing to light today. God is surely doing new and wonderful things, but they’re all based on the Grace and Love He’s had for us since ages past. Jesus, grace, faith, hope, Love, peace, healing, the power of the Holy Spirit…they’re all the old things God uses to bring in the beautiful new life He has for us.