Posts filed under Story

Last One Standing

The boxes were packed, most of the house was clean, and it was the last photo hanging on the wall. 

It has always been a favorite of mine. It was taken right before our wedding, right after our first look. 

I remember it like it was yesterday. 

I stood outside those big sanctuary doors, knowing that Ben was waiting inside made me so nervous that I had to run into the bathroom to collect myself. I looked at myself in the mirror, grabbed some paper towels and dabbed my forehead & armpits all super star style (keepin’ it real folks). After giving myself a pep talk, I gathered myself and walked back towards the sanctuary. The doors were opened for my entrance and when I saw him, my stomach dropped. His back was facing me as I walked down the aisle, hands shakily gripping a huge bouquet of flowers. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned around and embraced me. I cried. This candid kiss was captured a few moments after he first laid eyes on me, his new bride. 

We LOVED so many of our wedding photos (shout out to our favs Braun Photography), but this one strikes a different chord. You see, we know what it feels like for us both to break different aspects of our vows, forgive each other, and still stay true to the promise of “til death do us part.”

Those young 25 year olds didn’t have a clue what was in store for their love story, but God knew. And I love that. It wasn’t easy and life wasn’t always fair, but regardless of the bumps and bruises we obtained along the way, we have learned to trust that He is good and all things are for our good and His glory.

This photo is such a good reminder of that.

It was always the first one I’d hang up whenever we moved into a new home. It was also the first one I took down during a hard season in our marriage. I couldn’t look at it; it felt like a cruel joke. So it went up in the attic for a few months. But eventually, by God's grace it found its way back to its rightful place on the wall. 

And a few years later, it was the last one standing. 

I love that.

I love that it wasn’t intentional. 

I love that when I walked into our bedroom to finish cleaning, that photo took my breath away. 

Last. One. Standing. 

Because when I walked down that aisle to Ben the first time, before all the pews were filled and the vows were said, my heart was already there. I was his bride. He was my groom. And together, we were promising to never leave nor forsake the other. Only death would determine who would be the last one standing

Years later, now that we fully understand what those vows mean our photo means so much more.

That photo is a picture of a covenant made between two sinners determined to keep their vows despite the sin that plagues this world and our hearts. It’s a picture of a promise that life is going to be hard, wounds will accrue, and hard seasons will come, but that young bride and groom are going to grow old doing their damnedest to forgive, hand out grace like it’s going out of style, and walk with each other through so many seasons of life. It’s a portrait of an imperfect love that is an earthly, broken picture of a PERFECT, eternal love that will never wound or fail. It is evidence that God loves to redeem broken stories for our good and His glory.

And so I snapped a picture of that photo on the wall and I wept, because God has sustained so much and at the end of it all, we know that He is the one who is truly the last one standing. 

I don’t know your story. I don’t know where God has moved big things for you and what all He has restored. I don’t know what areas of your life He’s said “No” in and left some prayers unanswered. I don’t know the hard parts of your story, but if you’re a believer, I do know your God. 

I know that...

...He is sustainer and provider.

..He is close to the brokenhearted and that His specialty is redeeming broken things.

...He is the perfect groom, and not in some creepy hyper-Christian romantic lingo, but in the most legitimate sense of the word. He has made a covenant with His people that can never be broken.

...His promises will never fail and His mercies are new every morning. 

...He is both the first and the last. He will forever be our Last. One. Standing. 

And when I saw that photo, the last one hanging on our wall, I was reminded of all that the Lord has done in our lives and I’m sharing because I know He can do it in yours too. Nothing is beyond His care or repair. May our story point you to that greater story, and our prayer is that through every season, you'll look to the Last One Standing to guide you through it all. 

Much love to you all,

Seeing His Goodness in our Scars

A few weeks ago I grabbed dinner with some girlfriends. Over chips and queso we laughed about our lives, newest endeavors, and our most recent workout obsession. After an hour of chit chat, one of my girlfriends asked us, “So what is the Lord teaching you right now?” 

(She obviously loves Jesus more than the rest of us.)

Quickly the conversation turned from laughter to one of sober vulnerability, as one of my friends confessed her struggle to see God as a good Father. You see, God has allowed her to experience suffering. He has said no in some areas and has allowed pain, sickness, and heartache in others. And in the rubble, her hurt is so big she can’t see the good Father that is holding every detail in His hands.

As she shared her heart, tears welled up in my eyes because I, too, know what it’s like to wonder if God really is good. The wounds, though healed, are still fresh enough that when others talk about grief and questioning, my scars ache a little too. And these scars, although they speak of incredible pain, they also speak of miraculous healing and hope.

So I shared my story with my friend, because there is nothing more lonely than to share a struggle with friends and be met with judgmental or shocked eyes. And yet in contrast, there is something profoundly healing about the swapping of stories and being told, I see you and I feel your pain with you. You are not alone on this journey.

You see I remember the undoing. I remember sitting in a bathtub every night, wondering how a good God would allow such heartache in my life. I wrestled for weeks with doctrine that I knew to be true in my head, and wanted them to become true in my heart. And the longer I wrestled, beating myself up for not believing that God was good in the rubble, the harder it was to see the good in anything.

I memorized Scripture. I listened to worship music. I went to church. I told myself that if God did nothing more for me, He had done enough by giving me His son. I did all the “right” things and repeated all the clichés. Yet, when I would crawl back in my faithful bathtub, I would become undone again. Raw and naked before the Lord I would cry out and wonder if He had abandoned me and I’d beg Him to open my eyes to see that He was a good, good Father.

And in my bathtub one night, He did.

There was no audible voice, just silence. But in the silence my heart said, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

And I scoffed. Awesome. Look around GOD, what good is left?  My life is literally in ruins.

Silence again.

And then, “Look for me tomorrow in the good things.”

Oh OKAY. Great.

So I went to bed angry and annoyed at God’s request, but determined to show Him that He was wrong. THERE WERE NO GOOD THINGS IN THE WORLD ANYMORE. (I mean, at least I didn’t lose my flare for dramatics in the rubble).

When I woke up the next morning, my mom who had been living with me for weeks, made me eat some breakfast. As I sat there stubbornly complying, my heart nudged, “She’s a Good Thing.” Nope. Quickly I combatted that good thing by saying, “SHE WOULDN’T HAVE TO BE HERE IF I WASN’T COMPLETELY UNDONE!! THAT DOESN’T COUNT.” But the nudging continued.

Later that day, my children were playing nicely in the living room. “Good Thing,” my heart beat faster and softened a bit. I tried to combat it with all the cynicism I could muster, but the truth is, even on the worst of days having healthy happy children is undeniably a good thing.

And my heart softened some more.

A few sweet packages and cards came in the mail that day. “Good Things.” I took a nap and woke up thinking, “Good Thing.”  And when the day was done and I crawled back into my faithful bathtub, my heart nudged again… “This bathtub that you love so much and this time with Me, as hard as it is, it’s a Good Thing.”

And in that moment, I was able to look back through my story of grief and pain, and could see thousands of ways the Lord had been kind to me even in my ruin. Thousands of ways he provided, protected, and prepared me for what I was facing. My eyes were opened and so began the discipline of LOOKING beyond my grief for God’s good hand.

Every night after my bath, I would crawl into bed and write down all the good things that happened that day. And after weeks of writing these things down, I had pages full of evidence of his kindness. To the naked eye, some of those good things might just be expected or ordinary, but to me they became small miracles. Tiny miracles that allowed me to know with both my head and my heart that “God is close to the brokenhearted.” And I was amazed at how I looked back and saw not only tiny miracles, but huge ones He did just for me to display His glory.

I have to be honest, it is not easy to share these parts of my story. But I do it here because I believe that like I mentioned above, there is beauty in sharing our scars that ultimately point more to His goodness than our pain. And I believe that many of you are hurting. You feel alone in questioning God’s goodness, but I’m here to look you in the eyes and tell you this...

You’re not alone & you’re no less of a Christian for wrestling with hard questions about faith amidst suffering. But even when you can’t see it or feel it, He’s still a good Father. Start looking for His hand and you will see it everywhere, even in the rubble… especially in the rubble. And one day, your wound, which is unbelievably painful, will eventually heal and become a scar that points more to His goodness than your pain.

Let my scar be a testimony of it and point you to our Good, GOOD Father. 

Much love,

Ps. What are some ways you look for and recount God’s goodness in your life? 

Posted on April 21, 2016 and filed under Suffering, Story, Spiritual Journey.

When your legacy isn't one you're proud of...

I saw a beautiful post on a friend’s facebook page this past Easter weekend. It had a large, smiling, beautiful family in a very green backyard. Children giggling, parents wrangling babies and toddlers, and siblings with arms around each other. All of this beauty was surrounding a very stunning patriarch and matriarch. 

Hashtag Legacy.

The picture was beautiful. The tribute describing faith, persevering love, and commitment to family was touching. And although I don’t know the eldest patriarch and matriarch, I was so proud of them and their beautiful legacy that they’ve given their kids and grandkids. It is truly amazing. What a gift?!

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy lately. Partly because it’s a buzz word, and partly because my eyes have been opened to many stories who don’t have pages like the one described above.

I sat rocking our newborn last night, looking at his toes, kissing little fingers, running my hands through his amazing hair. And I thought about the day he would ask me about the beginning of his story. I was praying and dreaming about how we would tell him that on his first day of life both joy and grief were so very present.

How loved he was, by two moms.

How sometimes our stories aren’t always picture perfect, no matter how much we want them to be.

How our history, where we come from matters and how details lost can become hurts.

But mostly I prayed that he would know that these wounds, although they will shape him greatly, they don't dictate who he becomes. I prayed that the hard things he would face one day would push him to know and understand how loved he was by his earthly family and heavenly father. I prayed that we would value and give importance to his biological legacy, while at the same time acknowledging that adoption changes it. Sometimes he might love that, other times he might hate that, but that process of understanding identity will be one that we wrestle with as a family for years to come.

And if you’re a believer, the same can be said of you.

What if your story doesn’t have a safe beginning?

What if your story doesn’t have a set of parents who still love each other? Or beautiful kids or a spouse to surround you and fill the photo?

What if chronic sin plagues your family history?

What if your legacy was birthed in ruins?

I have good news for you friend! We have a good Father who has taken our biological legacy and given us an adopted legacy, His legacy.  We don’t ignore or deny our earthly legacies, but we cling to a greater one given to us by a good Father.

Your picture, although maybe not quite as put together as the one discussed above, is just as beautiful. Your story, the one with all the cracks and the bumps and bruises, is a story that points to His healing hand. Your pages, with all the hurt and pain, are pages that displays His goodness. Your identity, the one that shows your weakness, is an identity that shouts His greatness.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! FATHER!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” Romans 8: 14-17a

For those of you who spent Easter weekend saddened by what was or wasn’t in your Easter photos or your legacy, know that the grave is empty and you’ve been adopted. And whatever is plaguing your past or future legacy has already been overcome. 

Much love,

 

 

Posted on March 30, 2016 and filed under Story, Spiritual Journey, Suffering, Adoption.