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.


Imperishable Beauty Contributing Post: Infertility, Adoption, and the Resiliency of Faith 

I document Grace and as I wait on the Lord, in infertility and now through adoption, I watch as God creates in me a type of resilient faith I was never capable of possessing before. I watch as He stretches my faith. I stand without breaking, stronger after each hard day is met with each grace filled day. My contributing post, which I wrote a couple of months ago, on resilient faith and the waiting during adoption was published over at this morning. If you’re needing some encouragement, please head on over to Imperishable Beauty to read. God is Good. All the time. 

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 

The Return of Autumnal Grace: A Season of Home

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. – Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson

Last autumn I felt like everything was slowing down. It was as if for a brief moment time was standing still and I was caught up in the autumnal beauty of it all. Life felt hard, but standing beneath the towering trees with their aged wisdom and their twirling crowns of golden leaves swirling to the ground felt like peace.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

I feel God the strongest in these autumn months, and each year as September comes to a close I hear the refrain of Come Thou Fount reverberating in my head. Thanksgiving is coming, and the golden hue of the changing physical world around me reminds me of that.

October brings with it pumpkins, and cider, and cooler weather, and memories. I think it’s true that if you search the dorm rooms and the apartments and the houses of my sisters and me you will find warmth and a reflection of what our Mama used to create for us every fall, a safe home even when the world outside was crumbling.

And so when my kitchen suddenly begins to turn out pies and pumpkin seasoned everything, and the flannel sheets make their way to our beds, and the candles that smell like cinnamon and leaves begin to appear on our tables…it’s not so much a reflection of our consumerism as it is a reflection of what we know…a reflection of when we most felt at home.

When I stand beneath the towering trees of autumn, with their limbs spread out as strong arms carrying gifts of red and gold, I feel like I do in my Mama’s kitchen, at home. Except the home that I feel beneath those trees is something more spiritual. It’s where I can hear God’s voice again and it’s where all the hymns of Thanksgiving from my youth begin to pour from my heart.

For most, I think maybe January or maybe the spring season brings that feeling of starting over, but for me it always begins again in October. I grew up in a liturgical church and I often wonder if I feel this way because it is when the church calendar really begins to start up after the long break of summer. Our hearts are beginning to prepare for the season of Reformation, and then Thanksgiving, and then Advent. These are the seasons which breathe life into my bones, and when I think it feels most like Heaven will to me, my Spiritual Home.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5: 1

I tell you this today because for me October means the chance to refocus myself on the presence of God, to be renewed in thankfulness, and to be reminded of His deep Grace for us and His overwhelming desire to be with us.

Every hard thing in our life is like a season, some lasting longer than others. Each of these seasons bring change, but each one also carries its own unique kind of beauty. By the end of this autumn you can be sure that I will feel anxious for those first flakes of snow to fall, to move on from what I thought I wanted to dwell in forever.

Oh to Grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. – Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson

Soak in what you can, what beauty and grace and what remnants of home each season in life offers. They will only last a little while, and if we’re not careful to slow down and see the moments of Grace we might miss them.




Autumn of Hope: Grace after Pain

I’ve been quiet here on the blog for quite awhile now. I’ve been learning this new balancing act between hopeful expectation and hope deferred. For the first autumn since  2014 we are hopeful that our family might grow soon, through adoption. Infertility feels like a ghost, constantly haunting my memories and sometimes stirring up fear and sadness in my heart, but mostly it holds a more numbed and dull effect on my heart these days. Adoption has my attention at the moment. The hope that someday, somewhere, out of all of this pain and all of this waiting, God will cause our hearts to come together with the heart of a Birth Mama and out of both of our hard places will come grace and hope for the new child that God has ushered into this world.

The leaves have almost fully changed at our house and right now I’m sitting by the open window listening to the crumpled and colored leftover remnants of summer rustling their way down the street. And things just feel different. I’m excited for this new season. I’m hopeful for what each new season will bring. I know that with every season that passes we are that much closer to meeting the one that God created us to embrace into our family. Instead of feeling despair, as in years past, that each new season meant one more season behind us in our infertility.

Adoption is not a cure for infertility. Every book on adoption will tell you that. It won’t fill those holes in your heart that were torn open wide by the scraping edges of infertility treatments or tear filled nights or near breakdowns over the sight of yet another negative pregnancy test. It’s just that at this point I know what can undo me. Just this past week I had the flu which was suspiciously timed and so I took one of those cursed tests because I knew the doctor’s office would ask if I had, and even though I knew deep down in my heart it wouldn’t turn positive, I was still reduced to tears and heartbreak when I saw it lying there negative. And yet. I still have hope that even though motherhood isn’t coming to me in the way I thought it would, it will still come to me in the way that God always knew it would.

I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. Genesis 9:15-16

He has written my name on the palms of His hands. He has seen my story. He has designed my testimony. And not only mine, but also my husband’s and our someday Birth Mama and our future child’s. He knows all of us. And He is at work intertwining it all, using what hurt us to become what frees us. Turning the flood gate of our tears into the washing waters of new life.

He doesn’t hurt us. That’s not what God does. God heals us. So many times I had forgotten that. I had believed deep in my soul that God had planned for me to go through infertility, but what I hadn’t realized was that infertility was never part of His plan. He loves us too much for that. Infertility wasn’t part of His plan, but He did plan how He would love us through it. He did plan how He would heal our hearts. He did plan how He would turn our stories around. He offered us opportunities for Grace and then He opened the doors wide open so that we could step through them and receive that Grace. Pain isn’t part of the plan, but His healing is.

This autumn, with its golden fallen leaves and its deep ripe harvest, once again has me looking up to my Father God. Last autumn I felt Him calling me to look up too, but then I think it was so that I could find the air to breathe and rest in Him from all that was taking place. This year, the looking up feels more like joyful anticipation and peace. Peace that God reigns. Peace that God can heal broken hearts, and that He has begun the healing in mine. Peace that even if this difficult adoption process shatters my heart all over again, that He can restore it. Just like He did last time.

And looking up to Heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.” Mark 7:34

Our God is Good. His plans for us are Good. I’ve found that in every way this broken world has tried to break me, God has instead reshaped me. Perhaps it’s just that I’m older now then when we began this journey, perhaps it’s as my good friend said today that I’ve simply seen more of the world at this point. Either way, God has continuously shown Himself faithful to me. In every pain, He has brought Grace. He has shown me that there is no pain too deep that He cannot take our hands and cause us to rise above. He keeps opening my heart wider and He keeps raising the stakes higher. He calls us to lay down our dreams and the ways we think things should be, and He opens us up to things greater than we could have possibly imagined: faith, hope, love, grace, and restoration. He opens us up to more of Heaven, to more of Him.

He is not a God of sinking ships. He is a God who causes us to continuously look up toward Him, because that is where the beauty is at. We feel it as we look to the tops of church steeples and to the tip tops of towering autumn trees. We feel it as we lift our hands to Heaven in worship and praise. The beauty and the Joy and the Hope and the Peace, it’s all with Him who causes us to rise above, who causes us to Rise up closer to Him.

No pain can take Him away from us.



A Grace Note: Imperfect but Seen 

Dear Reader, 

Awhile a back now I mentioned how I deeply desired to be more real in this space. By more real, I mean showing the world that I’m a real person behind all these devotional and grace notes and that every word here comes from a real and imperfect person. So here’s a real moment for you all this evening. Tonight I threw my hair into braids so I could get to work on some fresh baked pumpkin bundt cake for our church potluck tomorrow. These braids remind me of a much younger me, an eighth grade girl lost in insecurity who wasn’t cool but knew she couldn’t be like everybody else. That insecure girl, curious about the realness of the God she loved, hurried her way through high school hiding behind piano sheet music and spending quiet evenings in a George Webb diner with her newly found Love. Years later she would go on to find that though she could remember every face from those high school years, there were a handful of people who couldn’t remember hers. That’s right. I’ve run into a handful of people over the last few years, girls I sat in class with, girls I traded notes with, who simply don’t remember me being there. I felt hurt the first time around, confused the second, and dumbfounded the third time. But here’s the thing. I was quiet and all those years I felt I wasn’t good enough to really be known. And even into adulthood I’ve felt the same way. “How will the world remember me” turned into “Will the world remember me?”. Jesus says He will never forget me, that my name is written on the palms of His hands. Maybe this world isn’t about making waves, but is instead about riding them out. Maybe this life is about learning to walk upon them, looking solely to Jesus…who will always know our names. That quiet, awkward, self-conscious girl has followed me into adulthood, but now she knows her own name to be this: Beloved. I am beloved by Jesus, by my husband, by my sweet family, by my small but dear circle of friends. Do I have the crowds behind me? No. Will the world remember my name? Probably not. But my tiny world is still rocked by the presence of the people Jesus has placed into it, and I know that in some small way, I get to rock their world too. 

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 

Hurricane Irma: A Grace Note 

Dear Reader, 

I just honestly haven’t been able to find the right words to say. I know people in Texas, in Florida, and in Georgia who are living through these hurricanes and I fear for them. I find myself scared and feel almost numb in the safety of my midwestern home. But God, He is a God who calms the storms. Sometimes our storms are internal, other times they are literal. But in either case we have a God who is stronger than either of those. We have a God who conquers hurricane strength wind and rising flood waters. We have a God who Loves like a hurricane….He loves us with that same force. Be safe, friends, if you are in the path of these heartbreaking storms. And be strong and courageous, because the Lord your God goes with you wherever you go. You do not face these storms empty handed. You can face them with all the strength of Christ who says to the winds and the waves and also to our very hearts, “Be still, and know that I am God.” A Good God. A Loving God. That’s who He is, no matter what storm rages on. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

40 Days of Prayer: Conversations With The King Day 40

Dear Reader, 

40 days have gone by in the blink of an eye. Half way through, I wasn’t sure I could finish. The enemy surely hit me full force in his efforts to keep me from focusing on really speaking to my Heavenly Father through out the entirety of this series. But here is what I have learned, and I hope you’ve learned too: I can never be as faithful to my Father as He is to me. Prayer is surrender, laying every thought and every plan and every desire into the palms of His hands. Stepping back is what God asks of me once I ask Him to step in. He is the joy giver, the truth bringer, the hope maker, the Grace gifter. Maybe you witnessed a miracle over the course of these 40 days, or maybe your miracle was that God changed something in you. Every plan I had for this series was broken and yet molded by God into something new and better. If I can say anything about what all this time in real and focused and intentional conversation with my Father in the throne room of Heaven has done for me, it’s that it has caused me to know Him better and to trust Him all the more. He has seen my brokenness and yet He hears my voice. Every plan I lay will break, but every moment He weaves will serve a purpose forever. Friends, thank you for praying alongside me and for letting me know how God has been working in you. He gets all the glory, and all my days He will get all my prayers. May His face shine upon you, friends. May you know Him better with every passing hour. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer 

40 Days of Prayer: Conversations With The King Day 39 

Dear Reader, 

I’ve been thinking over all of the contradictory prayers I’ve prayed in the course of my life. There were times that I prayed God would answer quickly, or before a certain date, but also prayed that God’s will be done. There were times I prayed for situations to come to pass, but afterwards realized it wasn’t what I wanted and then prayed for the reversal of such things. I take one step forward towards surrendering my will to God, but then soon after find myself standing three steps back in my disbelief. The Grace of all of this is that Jesus keeps interceding for us, that the Holy Spirit knows what it is our heart needs, and they relay that to the Father. There are times we pray for things that we don’t understand. But God always understands. I have found moments of Grace in prayers that I thought had gone unanswered or that had been answered with a “no”. Looking back, I can see the beauty of God at work even in the heights of my disappointment. There is great importance in praying “Thy will be done”. Even Jesus prayed this in the garden of Gethsemane when He requested that the cup He was about to drink, death and betrayal, would pass. Even then, He prayed it. Even then He surrendered to God, and in His surrender saved our very souls. We can ask for hard things to pass. Scripture plainly shows that God is able to crumble our mountains and miraculously heal our ailments and bring back to life what we thought was dead. But it must be His will that accomplishes this and not our own, because the truth of it is that we know not what we ask. We see in part, but He sees the whole. Prayer allows us to become witnesses to the will of God. We ask and we see Him answer. He speaks and we hear His voice. Each answered prayer is a testimony to His Grace and power, and every “no” He utters is a moment of Mercy as He delivers instead what is best and what is Good. We will make mistakes, even in our prayers. But God never once makes a mistake in His answers toward us. We can trust that how He answers is perfect, even if it seems hard or inconvenient or not what we had hoped. Our Father knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows each chapter that is needed in our lives.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer