Oh you who feels broken, tired, weary and lost … please hold on.
Whatever it is you’re going through — heartache, temptation, illness, doubt and fear — please know that God is still with you.
He’s not left you.
He still cares and He is still working all things together for good.
We are all broken.
We are all weak.
But because of who Jesus is and what he’s done for you and I, we don’t have to live a joyless life believing the lies of the enemy.
You may feel unworthy of His love and mercy much like I do, but don’t let that stop you from accepting and embracing every ounce of it.
Because, yes … He loves even you.
How often we look to the past and wish for its return.
How often we look to what once was and offer to give anything just to have it back.
How often we wonder why things can’t just stay the same.
How often we forget that we are not of this ever changing world, but rather of an unchanging God.
Ever Changing World
Easter Sunday was an early morning for us; with a sunrise breakfast and preparation for four Easter services, we were merely fueled by caffeine, commitment, and adrenaline … and of course the overwhelming joy for our Risen King.
Staying busy and being surrounded by others helps to distract us from our grief. Yet, eventually the chaos recedes and we, once again, find ourselves at rest, enduring our brokenness and pain.
So it came as no surprise when church services concluded that afternoon that my soul, once again, felt the deep sadness at my husband’s absence.
And it came as no surprise that as I kicked off my heels and laid back on the couch — defeated and desperate for a nap — my daughter, Harley, sat at my side adamantly requesting a continuation to our busy morning.
Despite my attempt to convince her that taking a nap would be a great idea, she pled for something more exciting and eventful; she pled for what I knew was merely a distraction from what she was feeling.
She didn’t want to rest because she didn’t want to feel. She, too, was feeling the void of her dad and all she wanted was for Easter to feel like it had in years past.
Though a nap was what I had planned for myself, it wasn’t what I did.
Instead, I put aside my own desires and joined Harley on the front lawn where we sat on the handmade blanket I made for her 11th birthday, ate cheese sticks, and basked in the sun.
No doubt that nap would have been refreshing; but, over the years I have learned to take advantage of memory-making moments like these for nothing in this ever changing world lasts forever.
For many, Easter is a day that carries with it family traditions, carried on year after year, making memories along the way and reminiscing at years gone by.
For my family, Easter has always been a time to gather and celebrate. My childhood was spent gathered at the table with family on Easter and it was a tradition carried on into adulthood.
Though my husband’s military career never made it easy to make it home to gather with family on Easter, we have yet to miss an Easter gathering with other soldiers and friends who, like us, were unable to travel home to their families. Our Easter tradition even endured two deployments, separated as a family yet still gathering together with friends celebrating the One who defeated death on the cross and calls us His friends (Jn. 15:15).
But this Easter was different; the ever changing world was about to have its way.
It was only three days prior a family friend asked about my Easter plans. My response: “Well, I’ll be at the church of course.”
The truth was, in the busyness of planning Easter Sunday for the church, I had forgotten to plan Easter Sunday for my family.
Sure, I had bought Harley a small Easter gift a week earlier; but unlike years before, there was no Easter basket, no Easter egg hunt, and no Easter meal plans. For the first time since we’d become a family seven years prior, we had absolutely no Easter plans aside from church.
Yupp … the ever changing world was definitely going to have its way this Easter.
Oh, ye of little faith.
It was in that moment, that God compassionately and graciously reached out with an invitation to gather with some friends in their home for Easter. Sure it was different than years past, but our tradition of gathering endured the ever changing world around us.
The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for everything under the sun (3:1-8). Resurrection Sunday is not a time to cry but a time to laugh; not a time to grieve but a time to dance (v. 4).
Sure the Crucifixion was a time to grieve, but that time came to an end three days later when Jesus rose from the dead. Finding the tomb empty was a time of celebration because Jesus had risen from the dead just as he said would happen (Matt. 28:5-6).
Seasons come and go.
Mistakes are made.
Consequences are endured.
Children move out.
Friends move away.
Regardless, one thing always remains …
Because we believe, we know that even in our ever changing world, our God is a God of unfailing love (Rom. 8:38-39; Ps. 136) who never grows weak or weary (Isa. 40:28) and remains the same forever and always (Mal. 3:6; Isa. 40:8; Heb. 13:8; Jas. 1:17).
So even though I walk through times of deep sadness, I know the God of perfect timing will make everything beautiful in its own time(Ecc. 3:11).
Whether seasons are good or bad, happy or sad, I lift my eyes, for I know where it is my help comes from (Ps. 121).
God’s Perfect Timing
Despite our brokenness and regardless of our pain we must accept that we are not of this ever changing world, but rather of an unchanging, forever faithful God.
Nothing lasts forever; Change will soon come.
This moment, this season, this feeling, will soon succumb to our ever changing world and give way to God’s perfect timing.
In the meantime:
When times call for tears … cry!
When times call for laughter … laugh!
When times call for deep sorrow… grieve!
When times call for celebration … dance!
And nonetheless, seek to serve Him in all things, praising He who calls us out of the darkness and into the light (Eph. 5:8).
Today, as church service let out a friend stopped and hugged me on her way by. It wasn’t just any hug; she embraced me in what I undoubtedly knew was enveloped in genuine love — a 1 John 3 kind of love.
As she embraced me she held tightly and began praying; not because I asked; not because she wanted to look good in front of others; but because she was listening. She was simply being obedient to the life and ministry she’d been called to.
This particular sister has been incredibly special from the moment she walked into my life and she remains one of the strongest, most inspiring Christians I know. Her love of Christ is evident in who she is and what she does (Jn. 13:35).
When you meet someone like her, you know they abide in Christ. How? Because only God could have known what I, myself, didn’t even know I needed, when she embraced me in her arms.
The Beauty —
She’s bruised and broken; tattered and torn just like you and I. And yet, she’s ridiculously in love with Jesus and relentlessly seeks to honor Him in all she does. She fails all the same but nonetheless lives to love like Christ.
It was through her hardships and trials that she became so beautifully broken and gracefully torn. It was through these same experiences that her faith was made strong and her ministry evolved. She doesn’t take one ounce of God’s grace for granted and I’m so grateful; for in that moment she was grace.
The Grace —
My sister in Christ knew I needed something I didn’t even know I needed — the embrace of Christ. And it was through his obedient daughter, Christ reached out and embraced me right where I was.
He didn’t wait for me to ask for it myself. He didn’t require that I have my life all together first. He didn’t tell me I wasn’t worthy. In fact, it was all the opposite. He stopped me right where I was, amid the mayhem of my life, enveloped me in his warmth and reminded me I am His and He is near.
And once again I witnessed the grandeur of grace.
I think most would agree that marriage is no Hallmark movie. Marriage is hard; it requires effort on both parties. It’s not always romance and chivalry. Marriage is hurt feelings and forgiveness; commitment and compromise.
“While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears; humbling defeats and exhausting victories.”Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Nevertheless, marriage is one of the greatest experiences we have the privilege of experiencing in this life. This greatness doesn’t come wrapped in perfection, free of hurt, or even full of compassion; this greatness comes from the experience whether good or bad, healthy or damaging, pain-full or pain-free.
I grew up with divorced parents who had remarried while I was still very young. Though I had four parents who loved and cared for me deeply, I was determined to never divorce, should I ever marry. After all, marriage couldn’t be that hard, right?!
What looked so glamourous on TV one day became my reality; but what I hoped would resemble a romantic, Hallmark fairytale fell short of such when reality showed to be more along the lines of a dramatic, daytime soap opera.
I met my husband while we were stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia for military training. I couldn’t stand the ridiculously goofy and absolutely childish guy. He was absolutely not my “type.”
But amid his relentless pursuit something in my heart must have shifted because that ridiculously goofy man had soon become my best friend.
On July 14th of 2012, following his deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), we stood before our family and friends with God as our witness vowing “to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death do us part.”
Here we are more than eight years later — relentlessly and sacrificially pursuing one another in unconditional love. And to this day he pursues me all the same — childish jokes and quirky gestures.
Now, don’t mistake that for me saying those eight years have been perfect.
We’re selfish, prideful and sinful human beings, too.
We’ve both made poor decisions that would have broken many marriages.
We’ve lied, shamed and deceived each other.
Yet, we have never abandoned one another.
We owned up to our selfish mistakes time-and-time again.
We worked hard to restore broken trust.
And when doing it all on our own became too difficult, we chose to turn to the only One we knew had the power and mercy to heal our hurting marriage. We centered our marriage on Christ.
It was that decision, to center our lives and our marriage on Christ, that ultimately saved us from giving up and walking away from it all in the midst of marital hardship.
So, if given the chance to take it all back …
Because it was the hurt, the lies, the shame and the deception that led us to this moment.
It was the experience through every moment, some easy and others difficult, that we learned to so desperately depend on one another as husband and wife; but more importantly to depend on Christ.
We’ve learned what it means to be forgiven, to forgive those who wrong us, and ultimately to forgive ourselves.
We’ve learned we can’t do marriage alone; it takes three to succeed for a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12, CSB).
We’ve learned to embrace each others’ imperfections and find beauty in our brokenness.
We’ve learned how to show grace and love each other through our faults (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
We’ve learned to enjoy even the most simple of moments; for nothing in this world lasts forever (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).
We’ve learned that our vulnerability does not make us weak but allows us to grow closer together not only in marraige but with Christ.
So, would I change the course that led us here?
Not for a moment.
Because along that course we found hope, we found joy, and we found life. It was on that course we discovered and experienced the grandeur of grace.
01.21.2019 – The Day Before
“Even Though, He is Still” came from a place of deep adoration, one of unimaginable awe and wonder as my family and I near the end of a very difficult two-year trial, one that has not only felt relentless but that left our lives changed forever.
These last two years have tested my faith more than ever before and at times would have been easier to succumb to darkness; yet God never left me alone. Not only was He with me always, He sent individuals into our lives who have loved us, comforted us, supported us, and fought for us day in and day out.
I watched God bring new life to what once was dead and I experienced His faithfulness as He restored what had once been shattered. I witnessed the love and grace of my God as He renewed my broken soul time and time again. Through what could have destroyed my faith, I had the pleasure of going deeper in my relationship with Jesus. What we gained from this time of trial remains far greater than anything we’ve lost along the way.
Life with our King, our Lord, our Savior is more than we deserve and more than we could ever ask for. Yet, He still knows us each by name and provides our every need. Though fear and doubt will surly come, I know I can weather any storm, for my God is my refuge and my hope, and He does not ask me to face it alone.
Even though, He is still …
04.04.2019 – Seventy-Three Days Later
When I wrote “Even Though, He is Still” the day before my husband’s trial by military court martial began I was certain our two-year trial was finally coming to an end. To our dismay, it wasn’t even close to being over. It would be another three agonizing days later when we would realize the trial that was, was nothing compared to the trial that now surrounded us.
On January 24th, my husband of seven years was convicted and sentenced by the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice court system to three years confinement in a military prison, reduction in rank from E5 to E1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a bad-conduct discharge upon release from confinement.
What followed sentencing was a pain I’ve never before experienced. I wept, and wept some more. I grew angry as the days led on; angry at my husband, myself, the military justice system, and even God. I found myself annoyed as others complained about their “problems.” I had little to no empathy to bear the burdens of others; I wasn’t even sure I could bear my own burdens at the time.
This — I was certain — was Hell.
But Hell, or not, I know God would not have brought us this far only to forsake us now. Even though I find myself angry, He is still keeping His promises.
Instead of allowing my anger and hurt to control my next move, I have chosen to keep my eyes on Jesus despite the chaos and the pain. I’ve centered my focus on the one good thing in my life — my God.
So, even though I still find myself on my knees in agony begging God for a different reality, He is still lifting my head high, shielding me from the enemy, and providing my every need.
It’s the grandeur of His grace.
I’ve asked it. You’ve asked it. We’ve all asked it.
Why do evil people succeed? Why does the Lord allow his people to suffer while the wicked prosper in life?
I’ve asked these questions countless times, even as recent as this morning. Actually, these questions are so common that we even find numerous Biblical accounts in which the Lord is questioned for what appears to be the wicked prospering despite their evil ways.
Jeremiah asked, “Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy?” (Jer. 12:1). Job asked, “Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful? … [T]he light of the wicked never seems to be extinguished. Do they ever have trouble? Does God distribute sorrows to them in anger?” (Job 21:7, 17). And David asked, “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Ps. 10:1).
The same things we question today have clearly been questioned for many lifetimes. Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly trying to witness the success of the wicked all awhile we suffer, sometimes even at the expense of the very actions that lead to their success.
While I’d like to say the next few lines will provide clear answers to these questions, they won’t. Rather, you’ll find that what appears is not always as it is.
Culture Defined Success
We humans like to define success based on the things of this world. Twenty-first century culture tells us that to be successful we must get richer, look better, have more, and be known by many regardless of who we must crush along the way. And this false presumption is far from God’s truth. It’s a sad and disheartening reality that can blind us from God’s promises as we observe in disbelief and envy the already rich win the lottery, the corrupt employee receive the promotion we’ve been longing for, or the wealthy parents take their kiddos on yet another luxurious vacation while the closest thing to vacation our kids will experience is to the local park.
Earthly vs. Heavenly Success
I’m sure you already, much like myself as I pen these words, have a very specific person or even a particular group of people that has surfaced in your mind.
So… they appear to have succeeded despite their evil ways. They appear free regardless of the lies they’ve told. They appear to be perfectly healthy despite their selfish behaviors. They appear happy and free of suffering though their greed has led to the pain and suffering of others.
But, that’s just it … they appear. From our viewpoint they appear successful — they appear to be blessed in spite of their wickedness — yet hidden from the public eye, concealed beneath the pride and strained grins, are broken souls starving for something more.
The souls of the wicked may appear to “have it all” in accordance to the twenty-first century definition of success, and though we may suffer as followers of Christ, we have found success of which is far greater than any one might find here on earth.
Shifting Our Prosperity Perspective
Our perspective on prosperity begins to shift when we focus not on success as it is defined by the world but instead as it is defined by our gracious Redeemer. For though we believe in the Lord we remain sinners merely saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:1-10). And there will soon be a day when “the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge ALL people according to their deeds” (Mt. 16:27, emphasis mine).
“Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.” (Ps. 37:1-2)
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.” (vv. 3-5, emphasis mine)
Consider It All Success
The wicked may continue to appear to prosper but I choose to trust in the unfailing words of our Lord for He is good and His promises never fail (Lk. 1:37; 18:19). I will consider all that I am in Christ and all that I have through Christ a success for there will come a day when my enemies, too, will have to stand before the King and answer for all they have done.
As in the words of Solomon, “even though a person sins a hundred times and still lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off. The wicked will not prosper, for they do not fear God. Their days will never grow long like the evening shadows.” (Ecc. 8:12-13).
And just like that I fall …
I’ve heard many times throughout my ministry that to follow Christ is to become a target for the enemy. I see it often as believers take their next steps in their walk with Christ. I’ve witnessed believers, in what some might call their most trying moments, just days and even moments before being submerged in water as they publicly proclaim their commitment to follow Christ.
Following Christ does not exempt us from persecution, temptation, trials, and suffering. The Apostle Paul knew well the persecution and suffering that came with following Christ but nontheless continually gave credit to the Lord for rescuing him from it all (2 Tim. 3:11). While we may not suffer to the extent of which Paul had, Paul warns that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (v. 12). How discouraging right, that to follow Christ we must suffer?!
Actually, I think it’s rather encouraging when viewed from the right angle. Jesus — the only one to ever walk this earth completely sinless — did not go to be with the Father without first suffering. In an act of selfless, sacrificial love, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to the Father’s will, merely for sake of the world — an undeserving sinful world.
Now that’s encouraging — that He thought you and I, selfish sinners, were worth the agonizing pain He bore as he was mocked, spat on, beaten, and crucified in order to reconcile humanity to the Father.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
So, when my trials seem relentless and unfair I admirably look to the cross where my pain and suffering so graciously hung and my victory from the enemy was won.
… and it is here at the foot of the cross that I find my strength to stand.
I would have never thought my days to follow the trial would be spent miles apart from my husband fighting for his freedom. Yet, here we are.
I have never felt as weak as I had in the moments that followed sentencing. My heart ached with a pain like never before and I would have done anything to take it all away, not only for my own self, but for my husband and our little girl.
I was angry and I was bitter. In my lament, I cried out to the Lord, questioning His goodness. Why did this have to happen? Why do we deserve this? Why us? Why are we continuing to suffer? WHY?
It wasn’t long before God spoke to me through a fellow Christian brother. As he spoke with Christ-like empathy and divine wisdom he said, “I know it’s not easy and you may not want to hear it just yet but instead of focusing on the why you need to start asking what.”
I knew he was right. I was so caught up in feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t seeing the opportunity to glorify God; I wasn’t seeing what the Lord was doing in and through us and what he was preparing for us.
This was never about me and this was never about my husband. This was about Christ. This was about God’s kingdom. Our current trial was an opportunity for God to bring light into darkness and to bring hope to a broken people just as he had done time and time again throughout Scripture.
“Those people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)
So I asked, “What?” What do you want me to do? What are you preparing us for? What do you want us to learn from all of this? What can I do to better serve you through our pain? And it was there, in humble surrender to His will, that I found some answers.
“… I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. I will end your captivity and will bring you home again… (Jeremiah 29:10-14, NLT)
Turns out I was asking all of the wrong questions. God reminded me that His goodness is surrounding me and just as He had to Israel in Isaiah 43 he, too, declares that nothing can compare to what He is going to do (vv. 18-19). He is undoubtedly working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). I find hope in believing that life is being restored and hope is being renewed, not only for myself and my husband, but also for all those who get to witness the grandeur of our God’s grace through us and the many incarcerated servicemen at Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas being ministered to by my husband.
Therefore, I will praise the Lord and rejoice always for His promises never fail. And just as David declared in Psalm 27:13, I am confident that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.
It was the bathtub spout diverter that provoked the tears tonight. As I wrestled with the faucet tears began to well up in my eyes — tears that really had nothing to do with the silly bathtub faucet.
You see, that was just the tipping point.
My plate of responsibilities has become increasingly full since my husband was sentenced by the military criminal justice system to three years confinement; and tonight there was simply no more space on my plate for that darn bathroom faucet.
Clean the house, walk the dogs, help with homework, go to work, run the errands, mow the lawn, make the appointments, refill the prescriptions, pay the bills, write to congress, be sure to take care of self and NOW fix the bathtub faucet.
All I could think was, I don’t have time for this!
So, the tears … they came, not from the faucet, but from the overwhelming load I felt I was carrying on my own.
But, instead of succumbing to the immense stress and becoming angry or discouraged, I humbled myself before my God and asked him for the strength to endure.
I sought comfort in Him for I knew it was He who was the only one able to provide.
I prayed Psalm 23 and was reminded of His promises.
God doesn’t just stand by and watch over us as we walk through the dark valleys of our lives; He walks with us.
He provides us with a safe place to rest, renewing our strength, protecting us from our enemies and comforting us in our troubles.
So my plate may overflow with responsibilities, I may feel submerged beneath the weight of it all, and tears may fall at times, but, regardless my soul will cling to the promises of my God for I know His goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever (Ps. 23:6).