Posts tagged #Suffering

Bless the Storm

Bless the storm

Another Texan storm swept in last night. 

Our house is located in a flat area with plateaus in the distance which means the view of a storm rolling in is something fierce and spectacular. 

The lights flickered, hail pelted our house, and for a few hours our home was eerily silent as children lie awake in their beds, anxious from the rolls of thunder and angry winds. 

Every so often I would stand in the backyard and watch the lightning flash across the sky, only to run back in to the whimper of one our kids. 

A few weeks ago we went to Target and purchased two planters pots for the twins to paint. We picked out flower seeds, purchased the soil, and ever since we've been waiting for these tiny flowers to grow. Every afternoon the girls and I walk outside, water the plants and check to see if any life exists. Thus far, the girls have been disappointed.

Last night while watching the storm, I looked at their little plants drowning in water and thought to myself, "Well, another one bites the dust." I didn't even have the heart to take them out of the rain because I just knew they were goners. 

In the morning, the girls sleepily woke up and after breakfast we walked outside to assess the damage. The mulch that surrounds our back patio was spread all over the place, pillows from the furniture were all disheveled, and their plants they've been diligently nurturing were knocked over. I felt a pang of guilt for not having sheltered them better the night prior. 

One of the girls ran over to the plants to pick them up and I expected tears to start pouring down her face, but instead she ecstatically yelled, "Mommy look! Our plant is growing!!" Low and behold, the storm had given birth to a tiny green sprout in both pots. The pots were laying on their sides and a little dirt had fallen out, but the storm had quite literally knocked some life out of it. 

I swept the patio, making clean lines where mulch had previously covered. There’s something therapeutic about sweeping up the mulch and seeing the stark lines between what was and what will be. The girls fawned over their new plants for a brief moment and then quickly lost interest as they weren't quite flowers yet. They ran off to the swings and the Lord was ever present in that ordinary yet holy moment. 

The sun was shining, the grass smelled of rain, and although my yard was a mess, signs of life were everywhere.

The storm had given birth to life. 

Isn’t that true of life in general? 

I continued to sweep as I looked at my kids playing in my yard, reflecting on the last few years of our family’s life. We had been through some storms. In fact, it seemed like a few years ago a storm cloud had made a permanent home in our family’s sky. Bolts of lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and as soon as the flood levels seemed to be shrinking, another storm would roll in. 

There were days when I didn’t think I could keep my head above water, but God was faithful. During my life’s greatest storm, God called me under his wings and was an ever present fortress from the wind and rain. The storm didn’t go away for some time, but the God who ordained the clouds also ordained my daily sustenance during that rainy season. He never abandoned me. 

And now that the clouds have passed and the sun is shining brightly, I see His good hand in it all. The storms in our family had given birth to life. I might have been tossed about, knocked over, and a little cracked, but the storm produced something in me that years of sunny skies couldn’t produce.

I finished sweeping. The mulch was back in its proper place. Two of my children were swinging, one was toddling around my feet wanting to be held, and I took it all in. This moment, this is why I can never curse the storm. Sure, the devastation and wreckage that comes in the storm’s wake is hard and messy and the fear can be suffocating. But the morning after you not only assess its the collateral damage and start picking up the pieces, but you also experience its collateral beauty. 

And there is nothing quite like the collateral beauty from the wreckage of life's storms. It is redemption at its finest hour. 

Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the rock of ages.” 

For me, it’s that I have learned to bless the storm that both took away and gave me life. 

Much love,

Hope is Hard :: Hope is Tricky

A few months ago, I got a text from a friend with a desire to minister to a specific group of people. She asked me to write some for her site and I immediately jumped on board with few questions. Why? Because there are a lot of blogs out there right now that encourage people in the normal ups and downs of life, but there are few that are willing to go to the dark places of hardship and hopelessness. 

My friend has a BIG heart for those who are fighting for hope and I am SO proud of her for seeing this need and jumping in.

 I'm really thankful for the opportunity to write for her new blog, but I also would like to document them here as well. (I'm trying to keep track of all the places I've been writing lately and have been bad at storing them here... so I apologize in advance for the multiple uploads of old work over the next few weeks).

With that said, these posts aren't for everyone; they were written with a specific audience in mind. So if you're on cloud 9 or tend to see the world with a glass half full and don't really want to "go there," please feel the freedom to take a hard pass. If you see a post that starts with the title "Hope is Hard," that's your cue to move along and come back another day. There is freedom to read as well as freedom to abstain, no judgement from me and only mad respect for knowing your boundaries. 

Here is my first post from Hope is Hard and I'll post my second one here in a few days (but you can go on over to HopeisHard.com if you're just OH SO READY for another dose - the title is Hope Heals). My prayer is that if you're currently wounded these posts will deeply minister to your soul. Know that fighting for hope during dark seasons is a brave and godly venture. Hold on dear one, I'm cheering for you. 

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Hope is tricky isn’t it?

I used to think of hope simply as a joyful wide-eyed wonder and belief in something we cannot see. I pictured an exuberant child waiting for beloved parent to return home from a long trip. Sparkling eyes full of expectation with laughter that fills the room, counting down the minutes until the door opens and mom and/or dad appears. Or perhaps a child going to bed hopeful for a snow day the following morning; head on the pillow with eyes wide open staring out the window, heart fluttering with the anticipation of pancakes and no school.

This was what I pictured when I heard pastors and professors talk about hope. And I have to tell you, I was right about the actual definition, but my practical application was lacking.

Severely lacking.

Hope can look like that, but it is also so much more.

One of the things I love about Scripture is how it is living and active, capable of teaching and instruction (aka smacking some sense in my stubborn head). Read Romans 5:1-5.

“Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

Do you see what causes us to rejoice in hope of the glory of God? Look closely.

Now look again.

Suffering.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

Hope doesn’t look so easy now does it? For those of you who are currently in seasons of suffering, it feels trite to tell you too “count it all joy” because you’re learning how to truly, deeply hope. So I’m not going to belittle your pain by doing that. But I am going to tell you this.

Hope is Hard.

It is messy.

It takes work (endurance + character).

And sometimes it hurts.

You see, quotes about hope can feel cliché because we’ve cheapened hope by making it a feel good mantra. But Gospel-centered hope is so much more than a starry-eyed-happy-go-lucky belief system. Hope has a deep, gut-wrenching, faith-building side that I never acknowledged before. It’s a crying out in a dark wilderness that our God is a God who redeems and restores and will one day right all wrongs, even when we cannot see the road ahead and are weary from the road behind.

The furnace of suffering has the capacity to burn away so much, but amongst the ashes and smoke, a spark of hope comes to life. My life is a testament to the truth that suffering produces some of the fiercest and purist of hopes. And a hope birthed in suffering causes us to rejoice. Not in ourselves. Not in our current circumstances, but in the life and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

And that work can never be broken, undone, or put to shame.

I love the verses that follow…

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-12

Maybe today you find yourself in the midst of suffering, can I encourage you by resonating with you and imploring you to hold on to hope? Perhaps Satan’s lies are too much for you today and you believe that there’s no way out of the pit you’re in. Will you let me be the sister who holds your arms up and proclaims that there is nothing too big or too broken for our God to fix? Our hope is rooted in redemption and reconciliation; it’s the theme of our story and the chorus of our song. You are not too far gone and there is no place you can go to escape our Father’s love. Christ died for the ungodly, for all of us. Today, will you rest in that truth and let it be enough to push you towards hope?

Praying for you & cheering you on!

Posted on March 24, 2017 and filed under Hope is Hard, Suffering.

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,