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.

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A Grace Note: Seek Justice, Love Mercy


Dear Reader, 

We caught this photo of this beautiful little songbird on our walk through the arboretum last night. The last two days have ripped our hearts open wide to so much pain in this world. Sunday was freedom Sunday at church. We talked about human trafficking, about the International Justice Mission, about bond slaves. About children caught in a world of cruelty and harm. And then today we woke to news of Las Vegas. This little bird, perched high in the sky, staring back at us like Hope, even for just a brief second, calls my heart to a single message: Stay the Path. Do not let evil keep you from doing good. Be the Light in this world. Carry the Light of Christ into dark places and through dark nights without fear because Christ has gone before us illuminating the Lost and chasing away the shadows. On our heart this week even more than usual was this message: children need safe homes illuminated by the Light. And we need the Light of those children and all the Hope that they carry. This songbird gives me hope. How strange that he would fly so close, stare so intently at us. But that’s what God does, He comes close when things make no sense and He stares right at us giving us hope, conviction, illumination. Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God, friends. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

Grace Under Pressure: The Force of Pressure Unseen 


Dear Reader, 

I was in the shower this morning when I noticed my anniversary ring, the one my husband gave me last year during our trip to the Black Hills, felt different on my finger. I thought maybe it had twisted funny. I’ve worn it everyday for over a year, and though it’s been exposed to the heat of the shower daily, it has never been subjected to any known type of pressure or force. Which is why I found myself in shock when I realized it had somehow become bent so badly that I could barely pry it off of my finger. I tried to bend it back by running it under steaming hot water, thinking maybe the steam from the shower had caused it to bend in the first place, but it wouldn’t budge and I couldn’t get it to regain its former shape. All these weeks I’ve been searching for words to write. I’ve been feeling like the well had run dry and for some reason, God had stopped speaking to me through this way that He seemingly always has. But this ring this morning caused me to realize that the silence I have been experiencing is not unexplainable. There have been pressures unseen bearing down on my soul that I simply had not noticed. They hid themselves behind my earthly worrying and exhaustion and when God caused me to open my eyes to them, I was made aware that once again nothing is without purpose. I was made aware that if I feel God has become silent in my life it is not because He has chosen not to speak, but it is instead because the enemy has found a way to cause me not to listen through the force of pressures unseen which cause what I see to become warped and different from what God intends. Those pressures make me feel like the pieces of this life God has given me won’t fit back together. What unseen spiritual pressures are taking hold of your life? God says that nothing which comes into the Light stays hidden. Perhaps the only way to know what is hiding and holding our souls back from deeper relationship with God is to simply ask God to illuminate what we can’t see. I let the pressures of isolation and anxiety and worry overshadow the power of Hope and Grace and Purpose. God has Good things for you. Allow Him to light up your dark spaces where the hard things hide.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

40 Days of Prayer: Conversations With The King Days 32 & 33


Dear Reader, 

I wandered into these 40 Days of Prayer hoping to experience a miracle. We are in the waiting stages of adoption and I had secretly hoped God would show up within these 40 days in a mighty way. That maybe by the end I would have a testimony of how God finally built our family, or something along those lines. To be honest these 40 days have been rough. That’s not to say that God has not shown up. I can feel Him working in reverse on my heart, the ways I thought He would work being turned inside out. He has used the small moments to remind me He is listening, and the absence of the physical presence of the desires of my heart have held me in captivation of His every word, knowing only He can provide what I need. He is speaking to me in many ways, though I admit not specifically about what I had hoped He would. So how do you keep praying when it feels like what you want is at the mercy of your God? You pray for what you need, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. Until all those prayerful moments amount to years and all those years amount to a living testimony in which you can proclaim, God has provided. We live in a world of want, but Jesus came to supply all our needs. I hang on to the hope that God hears our most desperate prayers, like those of Hannah as she prayed for her child. He knows what we want, but He wants to give us what we need because He can see how everything intertwines and how every prayer will play out into eternity. In a world of instant gratification, we must come to understand the eternity of our God. What if all of our Bible heroes had every one of their prayers instantly answered? How different would things have turned out? What if God had let Moses give up right when He was called to from the burning bush? What if Mary hadn’t said “Lord, be it as you say” to carrying the Savior of the world? What if Abraham was granted Issac immediately? Would we have understood how serious God is or how He loves us throughout time? We would have missed out on all of their testimonies. So tonight I pray for peace to surrender. Picking up a cross looks nothing like getting all I ever wanted. But the weight of Christ’s glory makes it beautiful.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

How to Love: Grace When We Don’t Understand 


Dear Reader, 

We love butterflies specifically for their many colors, and yet when it comes to the many beautiful colors of people we find barriers. We see “difference” as something to fear, instead of to praise God for. We see it with many things. We see the harsh criticisms across denominational lines of what we as Christians “should” believe, but the truth there should be simple. As Christians we “should” believe in the Bible as sole truth. However, ask Christians from different denominations and they will explain that truth differently. We can’t agree, even on something as simple as what is truth. If we elevate this to the color of the people in this world, we find the same holds true. Everyone believes the answer is simple, to love. But it would appear that what love looks like is understood differently by many. My husband and I are hoping to adopt our first child, and friends, I have no idea what race our baby will be. But I want them to know they are loved by us fully. I fear for how they may perceive “love” in this world. The “truth” spoken “in love” by this world is often not truth at all, but hatred dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Every single person has great worth, great beauty, great potential to love one another. But we must seek out how to love. What does it mean to love someone who is different than us? It means to speak up when the world has lost its mind and its heart. It means to be humbled and admit when we’ve been wrong or when we’ve been unable to understand. In order to love deeply, we must begin to understand where we have gone wrong and how we can do better. How can we understand what we have done if we never speak to those we have hurt with our silence or with our wrong words? God’s love is so much deeper than the surface love we often offer other people. Saying there is no problem simply means we can’t see the problem. It’s like closing our eyes in the midst of a tragedy and saying the commotion is nothing serious. To love our neighbor takes humility not condescension. To love our neighbor takes real conversation and real concern. Wherever you stand, don’t stand for hatred. Love, and learn what love means. We’re all learning together. Apart we fail.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

40 Days of Prayer: Conversations With the King Day 7 


Dear Reader,  

It’s storming here tonight in Wisconsin. Ever since I was a small child I’ve been afraid of these summer storms. I remember being glued to the old television in the basement as I watched the meteorologists forecast which way the storms were headed and praying to Jesus to keep us all safe. Those were my real and desperate prayers. As a young child those prayers were as real they got. I was in trouble, something dangerous was coming, and even then I knew Jesus could save me. He calms the storms of life. If the prayers you are lifting to Him over the course of these 40 days are prayers rooted in fear, know that Jesus hears you. Know that the Father gives you His ear. I admit that I think almost all of my prayers stem from a level of fear. Some of those fears are that my plans will never happen, or because I’m scared of harm coming to my loved ones, or because I feel like things are beyond my control. Jesus wants us to come to Him with all of our fears, but He also wants us to lay those fears down at His feet. It’s human to feel fear, but it’s miraculous to feel Jesus lift those fears away. Prayer is our powerful connection to the King of Heaven who even the wind and waves obey. He is our calm and our peace when all the world is in turmoil. Keep those honest prayers flowing. He hears every one of them. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

40 Days of Prayer: Conversations With the King Day 5


Dear Reader, 

When I started this series, 40 Days of Prayer, I had it in my head that I was going to pray diligently for 40 days over one single thing to my Father God. But that one single thing is not as simple as the three words I chose to remember it by. That one single thing cannot stand on its own because it’s attached to a million other dreams, and people, and situations. Chances are, that one prayer you want answered isn’t a stand alone situation either. If God would just answer your one prayer, and ignore all the others, it would probably be true that what you would find yourself with wouldn’t be sufficient. God knows that. That’s why He tells us to pray without ceasing. Bring it all before Him. Bring everything before Him. Our prayers aren’t stand alone requests. Instead they are a continuous conversation thread with the King of Heaven who supplies ALL our needs. This is just one more reason that prayer can’t end up on my to-do list. To-do lists are meant for actions that can be accomplished and then crossed off. But prayer is continuous. We should never be done praying. Because God is never done responding to us. His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on you. I encourage you today to go beyond simply reading off the prayer request list, and dive deeper into the real honest things we need to be discussing with our God. God is real. Our prayers should be too.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

40 Days of Prayer: Conversations with the King Day 2 


Dear Reader, 

Today my honest conversation with the King of Heaven took place in the car. What started as a stream of worries quickly became a flowing river of intercessions. Sometimes I think I’m selfish with my Christianity. I hold Christ so dear to my heart that I forget to look around and see that He holds many others dear to His heart. Community is hard for me. My faith in who I am and how God sees me is quickly shattered by the doubts of others. Insecurity often reigns where confidence in Christ should reign supreme. My prayer life feels like safety to me, a place where no one else can intrude. But God tells us that where two or three come together in His name, there He is with them. He doesn’t want us to carry our burdens alone in this physical life. That’s why His church is made up of many parts and many people. He loves us powerfully in an individual way, but He moves among His people when they gather together in communion with one another.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

A Grace Note: Grace in Weakness 


Dear Reader, 

I planted this Hydrangea bush in our shade garden last spring. Last year it only yielded a single stalk with one beautiful blossoming flower on the end of it. Its beauty too great and too heavy for the stalk to hold, it bent low to the ground in seemingly close connection with the soil from which it sprung. But this year, the single stalk has become a hardy bush, with not one, but five beautiful flowers lifting their heads high because of the strength of the stalks below them. This bush may be the only beautiful thing in my yard this year as our busy season of life has kept us from tending to the gardens we had hoped would spring to life. It has grown entirely of its own power without help from me. It has thrived there in the shade. There are so many lessons to take away from the life cycle of this gorgeous plant. But I think the one I find most speaks to me is the one which utters truth in the fact that last year, it bloomed even though it didn’t have the strength to hold itself high, and this year, like a comeback kid, it has multiplied and radiates strength and beauty. Whatever season God has you in, it is possible for you to bloom and to grow. If we possess the strength to grow and blossom even when we are weak, how much more will God allow us to thrive when we are finally secure. Every life is a testimony to His Grace. Every story contains His fingerprints. Today I sit in awe of my Creator. I sit in wonder of all of the personal ways He has assured me that He is near. God is Good all the time. So today friends, I pray that you will grow even when you feel you can’t. I hope that you will see beauty in God’s telling of your story even when the chapter feels dark or meaningless. And I rejoice that our God is one of truth, and that His truth will always yield the beauty it deserves. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

A Grace Note: The Grace of Empty Vessels 


Dear Reader, 

I love empty vessels. Mason jars, milk bottles, anything glass that can be filled. I love how sunlight can fill them up, I love how the twinkle lights in my kitchen cause the mason jars to shine and shimmer. And yet, I wonder if I ever view the vessel of my heart in this way. It too can shine in the light. It too can hold the shimmer of contentment and the shine of Grace. Maybe the key to letting go of all our worries is to allow our hearts to be washed clean, to allow our lives to be hand washed in grace by our Father God who loves us and who sees our hearts full of the potential to soak up mercy and love and grace and walk brim full out into the world where we pour it all out again. In order to see real beauty in the world, God urges us to be completely poured out before Him, He encourages us to take the fullness of His Grace and give it away because we trust and we know that God has the power to fill us completely back up again. We pour out before the King of Kings and we are filled to the brim by the King of Heaven. Our hearts can carry all the light He shines on us. We can be washed clean over and over and over again like these glass bottles. That’s how Grace works. It keeps on washing us and filling us and allowing the Light to sparkle. So whatever Grace God is filling you with, don’t be afraid to pour it out into the world.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer