11 Nov

When Your Life is Burning Down

When your life is burning down

Blind with tears I penned these words…

I don’t know what road you are on or what hell you will go through to get to our arms. If I did I’d walk there. To hell and back. Through hell and back. Just to hold your hand and whisper that you aren’t alone. (read the whole post about waiting for the child God has for us here)

As I read my own words hours later, an image very clearly came into my mind.

Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods. (Daniel 3:25)

My torn heart teaches me something of a grace I still cannot fathom. I ache for the child we are waiting to adopt from foster care. If I could take on her hell I would, but her hell is what brings her to me. It is what will grow him, mold him, and build in him a testimony of God.

And in the dark, quiet hours of night as I wrote about waiting I tasted the salty tears of a heart made in the image of my Jesus. I longed to go to our child…right where he is…and hold her, whisper to him, wrap them in love.

When we find ourselves in the furnance heated seven times hotter than normal. When our lives are burning down around us.

We are not alone.

The grace of heaven descends like a dove. Through the flames, in the flames, of the flames.

When your life is burning down

{Photo courtesy of Creation Swap}

Jesus comes to us.

His heart full of love and unspeakable mercy He walks through flames, through hell on earth, through death and back to whisper of grace.

In your job loss when uncertainty reigns. When cancer ravages the one you love. Under the heavy cloud of depression. When your heart’s longings are unfulfilled.

We look for rescue and curse when it doesn’t come.

We struggle with our suffering and miss whispers of grace.

The very heart of God – the holy and powerful – it beats for us. It is His breath that fills our lungs, it is His hand that leads us through.

When our lives are burning down around us there is One that walks in the flames with us. We are not destroyed because we are in Him – eternal. We are not singed because grace is our skin. We do not smell of smoke for it is His fragrance that lingers.

My heart hurts as I wait…for I don’t know our child’s details – where to find him? What she is going through? How long we will wait?

But, Jesus knows right where you are sweet friend. Your circumstance is not lost on Him, it is used by Him.

Look for Him all around you….

…in the simple gifts like the sun warming your skin, a stranger’s smile or the giggle of a child.

…in the impossible circumstances where provision can only come from Him.

…in the prayers seemingly unanswered…for He always hears us and is always working on our behalf…even when it feels like our prayers aren’t answered.

…in the waiting…for you do not wait alone.

Parts of my life are burning. They are hard and painful, and, in all truth, I don’t want to go through them. But, I am. It is my prayer that in this fire and on the other side of this fire all people see is a girl who walking with Jesus.

23 Jul

Mercy is in my Savior’s tears

wipe away every tear

Tears stream down her cheeks.

Heartache hangs in the air.

Father, give me wisdom. Your words. I breathe a desperate prayer. Please.

The words don’t come.

She cries.

I sit. Supporting. Loving. Silent.

Hours later as I drive home the words of a song ring in my heart.

“Mercy’s stronger still than my struggles are.”

Is that true? (Yes.)

Do I believe that? (Yes.)

Then I saw it…

Jesus wept.

Lazarus had died. His sisters were grieving. Miracles were coming that wouldn’t change the minds (or eternities) of some of the Jews.

Jesus wept.

Jesus. Son of God. Wept.

I thought of my dear friend’s cheeks wet with grief and heartache that refused to be contained.

Jesus wept. God born flesh…flesh. His cheeks were wet with compassion…with love.

We serve a God who loves us so much that He came to earth not only to die for sins (and reconcile us onto eternity)…He became one of us….He cried like us. For us. With us.

And the truth is. Sometimes, there are no words to say to mend broken hearts, to usher one through tough times and hard choices. Sometimes all you can offer is a tear shed in compassion…like Jesus did.

Jesus wept.

And just when that seems overwhelming lovely…more than we can hope for (and more than any other god — little g, human created and worshiped — does or promises)…I want to assure you of one more thing.

Read Psalm 56:8 in your Bible.

(no really, go ahead…I’ll wait)

Read it. Soak it in for a minute.

Let God minister to your soul through His Words.

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?

Oh my sweet friends, don’t miss this. 

Don’t miss this.

He collects each tear in His bottle.

My friends, God not only sees Your tears…He collects them in His bottle.

They are not wasted or worthless. But treasured by a God who loves you…cherishes you. Grows you through trials and hardships.

When pillows are damp with tears shrouded in darkness…

When the waiting is hard and ‘when’ is your only question…

When your eyes are burning and you are cried out…

God is with you. Holding you. Collecting your tears in His bottle. And your Savior (who sits at God’s right hand) is full of compassion…He knows the tears your cry.

The song was right…”Mercy’s stronger still than my struggles are.”

Jesus is bigger (and stronger) than our struggles.

And He is mercy.

Mercy is in my Savior’s tears.

31 May

The Dusty Roads of Life

gravel road copy

The road rolled out in front of her. Hill after hill, mile after mile.

Loaded with all her worldly possessions she must have been tired.

Yet she never wavered.

As heavy as the load was on her body, the burden she carried in her heart was heavier.

Widow.

Barren.

Foreigner.

Woman.

Having pledged her love and obedience to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and to the God of Israel, Ruth trudged on. Because sometimes obedience can’t see the goal.

I’ve had the unbelievable pleasure of spending the last few weeks in the book of Ruth as God leads our small band of Thursday Bible study gals through this tale of empty to full and lost to redeemed. And as only God can do He has shown me lessons I’ve never seen (and I’ve visited these widows in their lil Bethlehem world before) and He’s shown me how many around me are in seasons of emptiness and carrying heavy loads.

I am aware of the need to keep trudging along those dusty roads where burdens are heavy. Where hearts beat out rhythms of loss and ache. Where obedience leads to perseverance. Where loss leads to gain. Where hurt leads to healing. Where empty leads to full. Where Jesus becomes real.

Heavy with grief, Ruth couldn’t lay in bed, pull the covers over her head and wait until she feels better. Real needs knocked. There was no man to provide. No visa. No drive thru. Someone had to work for their food…someone had to care for Naomi.

As mothers, wives, coworkers, daughters, sisters, women we go through seasons of life when the hits just keep on coming. When life doesn’t go how we’ve planned, but crumbling in grief and hiding under the covers isn’t an option. There are mouths to feed, there is work to be done, and the world doesn’t seem to want to stop turning no matter how badly our hearts are breaking.

In the past few months our family has walked down a rocky road…a road littered with heartbreak, illness, death, stress and difficulty. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed…just pull the covers up over my head, put my ear plugs in and sleep until this is all over. But there they stand at the foot of the bed in the morning, two sweet little peanuts who depend on me for so much more than breakfast — school, direction, love and consistency. I know the weariness of Ruth’s heart and the forces that pull her to feet in the morning as she diligently heads out to glean the fields. I know those dusty roads of obedience where  the weight of the world pushes down on your shoulders.

And because we know the end of Ruth’s story, we know that the hope of God met her in her emptiness. Met her on those dusty roads to Bethlehem. Met her in the fields outside of town. Met her in the eyes of her redeemer. Met her deep in her heart.

Isn’t that why we push through when times are hard? Because the hope of Christ promises that in our trials He is with us. That when the world empties us, He will fill us back up….to overflow.

No matter where you are today. No matter what the world throws at you or takes away, there is one who has never left you…whose plan for you included this moment.

Wait…read that last sentence again…God’s plan for you included this moment…it is not a surprise to Him. He knew it was coming. What is coming. And if you are in a season of emptying, know that He will use it to create new space in your life for blessings, strength and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Are you in a season of abundance? Where heartache doesn’t knock? Where there’s a wind at your back, your burden is light and there is a skip to your step? Perhaps this is your season to walk beside another. Look around, to the women you know, the families God has surrounded you with…are there people hurting? Can you join someone in their journey…through prayer or a phone call? Through encouragement or practical support (like a meal or a ride)?

The incredibly awesome, wonderful, cool thing about this journey God has us on is that He never meant for us to walk it alone. First, He gives us Christ — so that love, hope and grace become threads in our everyday tapestry of life. Then, He gives us His people…to love, support, “do life with”.  Heck, as the gender that takes trips to the bathroom together and shops in packs, we are made to walk the road of life together…to pray, to chatter, to laugh and cry. To carry each other’s burdens and be looking out for one another.

Today, no matter what season of life you find yourself in — empty, full, half-full or somewhere in between – know you are not alone. Christ is but a breath away…cry out for Him, lean into Him, find hope in Him. And I encourage you, reach out to someone else, with no fear of intruding or overstepping your bounds. With guard dropped and love your only intention, reach out…join another in her journey. Because the dusty roads of life were never meant to be walked alone, and at the end there is always HOPE. Always Jesus. (and the need to go shoe shopping to replace the dusty worn out pair you are walking in!)

11 Sep

Hope Still Reigns

As the beer began to flow the stories started.

My memories of September 11 were painted by television footage, radio interviews and painful memories of loss and anger. But as I sat at a bar a few blocks from the footprint of the World Trade Center I heard things that no man should know or remember. Stories of seas of shoes, the anger that was borne over recovery efforts, bucket lines, paper, smoke, clouds of despair, the sounds of people jumping to their deaths, buildings still standing that were forever ruined in the aftermath of terrorism, and of men who once guarded one of the world’s greatest buildings and now guarded a hole in the ground from an office in a trailer.

A series of events after Sept. 11th led to a friendship with a NYC cop and a Port Authority officer. Those friendships beckoned me back to the city and to a giant hole. Days before our arrival they had finished the excavation of the site and were now doing what Americans do best — rebuilding hope and chasing progress. Even the wild anger of mad men and the unfathomable sorrow of loss weren’t stopping the American spirit. Hearts would beat again, trains would run, life would be lived…hope still reigned.

There is no doubt that day changed the lives of most Americans — be it the loss of life, the loss of a feeling of security, the reality of hatred in the world, or something else. We all carry away scars. And while admittedly I don’t know the glory that will befall God from this tragedy I can tell you something that has happened in my own life.

I am thankful. I am more aware of the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday; be it around the block, across town or miles away. The first responders carry a burden that often goes unnoticed in the mad rush of life today. Now, as sirens blare or lights flash, I pray. Father, protect them and those they are going to serve.

In the Culpeper community tomorrow, September 12th, there is an opportunity to say thank you in person. A Community Event for Culpeper, southern Fauquier, Orange, Madison & Rappahannock Counties Honoring our Firefighters, EMS, Law Enforcement & First Responders — Code: Honor. Even if you aren’t local, take a moment to visit the website and leave a thank you message for a local hero.

I honestly don’t know the good that has come out of September 11 in the lives of those who stood among the rubble and searched for signs of life and death. Those men who I drank with, I know there lives have forever been changed and they might not ever be “okay” again. I pray that God will use them mightily and let them learn to rest in His peace. There are a lot of questions I have about that day and while I likely will never get to ask God or hear the answers there are a few things I do know…that He has showed me.

Whether or not we ever bring the mad men to our justice God will bring them to His. The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:7-9

Hate is not to be in me. If I turn the anger and hatred toward the men that hate us where will I be? Angry. Fighting. Fearful. Bitter. No, it is not ours to hate. Daily I choose to turn that energy to God and ask Him to work in the lives of those that would destroy our nation founded on freedom in Him. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45

Hope will always survive. I was made to put my hope in a Creator who chose to love me. He will be forever and so will my hope. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

So, friends, today my banner of hope flies; even as my heart remembers the ache of eight years ago. I am thankful for the stories of survivors, rescues and hope. I am thankful for the men and women who chose that day (and every day) to serve. I pray for those who carry scars from that day, who live loss everyday; I pray that You are their hope Father.

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