For Everything a Season

Folding laundry may be my undoing someday. Seriously, it’s my least favorite chore. The clothes are clean, and they’re doing just fine over there in a tumbling mountain not hurting anybody, thank you very much.

We seem to produce a lot of laundry for just the two of us. My husband is a giant, so that makes a difference, I suppose. Eventually my love of order trumps the chaos.

One day it occurred to me what a privilege it is to get to fold laundry. It’s a lovely side effect of God’s lavish grace on my life. I have another husband to love, care for, and to serve. I missed the every day things of being a wife.

Here we are in the beautiful mundane, the place of dishes and laundry, of ministry, work, and cooking dinner.  I should note that upon reading the draft, David interjected “Except nothing’s ever mundane when I’m around.”  He makes me smile.

Life buzzes with the hum of daily tasks. Ordinary days. After several years of deep sorrow, waiting, and big changes, this season feels a little foreign. I haven’t been here for awhile. I don’t always know what to do with it.

But I love it.

After loss, tiny moments become treasures. Playing games, seeking new adventures, dancing around the living room together, having quality time, being held tightly,—all are things I soak in.

Oh that I could bottle up these mundane days, storing them to revisit through a trip in Dumbledore’s pensieve. And if you don’t know about the pensieve, I’m not sure we can be friends.

I’m thankful for the beauty of mundane days. I well remember how much I longed for them. But sometimes I feel guilty about this calm and peaceful season. Maybe that seems weird.

Perhaps it was easier to worship God in the midst of trial than it is in the normal, typical every day sort of days. Am I wandering away from God because something “big” is not going on?  But what about my friends who are sufferingly deeply? Is it wrong that I am not suffering also?

But the older I get, the more I see how God often deals in seasons.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and  a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

As physical seasons reflect reversal, redemption, and newness of life, so do life’s seasons. They reflect the character of our God, and His unrelenting zeal to transform.

J. I Packer put it this way.

Live in the present, and enjoy it thoroughly; present pleasures are God’s good gifts. Though Ecclesiastes condemns flippancy, he clearly has not time for the superspirituality which is too proud or too pious ever to laugh and have fun. Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do, and enjoy your work as you do. Leave to God its issues; let Him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you… We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world order,… and who compassed the even greater redemption from Sin and Satan knows what He’s doing, and ‘doeth all things well.’ even if for the moment He hides his hand. We can trust Him and rejoice in Him even when we cannot discern His path.”

Therefore, I get to enjoy the lovely early days of still being considered “newlyweds.”  Life is not about always being happy, but sometimes happiness is part of God’s grace. There is no need for guilt. God is sovereign over the ebbs and flows. His narratives are complex, and there are appropriate times for every emotion. Of course, beauty and calm are His good gifts.

A year and a few weeks ago, some of my dear friends experienced the deaths of their twins born too early. Apart from Jon’s death, being with them that night was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. Grief was deep and heavy. But what a privilege it was to hold their tiny, perfectly formed babies, to see God’s grace surrounding them, to cry out to the Lord for them, and to weep and ache with them.

In the same week these friends remembered what would have been their babies’ first birthdays, David and I traveled for a family member’s wedding. We were in the thick of wedding preparations and all the delights that come with them. It was an exhausting, but immensely joy-filled week. What an tremendous privilege it is be in a wedding and to share in a couple’s radiant joy!

Seasons. Contrasts. Walking beside others both in joy and sorrow are God’s good gifts.  Likewise, in my life sorrows and joys are equally God’s good gifts. Though it’s not always easy to understand, both kinds of days teach me the gospel, pointing me to Christ.

  • I remember the sorrow and suffering of the cross.
  • I recall the triumph and joy of the resurrection.

Both are necessary.

As long as this season lasts, I’ll just keep soaking up the sunshine with raised hands and a thankful heart.

Thank you Lord, for good and beautiful gifts in every season.


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4 Years: Victory, Reversal, Redemption.

Today marks four years since Jon stepped from this life to the next. That seems like a long time. It’s a quiet ache today though—a remembering, an honoring, and a cherishing. This morning I listened to the one voicemail I still have from him. I basically have it memorized.  In 33 seconds he says, “I love you” three times. And it brought a smile instead of tears.

This anniversary is markedly different than the other three. Getting married again has something to do with it, I suppose. And if I felt like emojis were appropriate for blogs, I’d follow that sentence with a winky face, a kissy face, and pink hearts. It’s been a year of overflowing light and joy. As I reflect on this year of fourths, themes of reversal, redemption, victory, and love captivate my heart.

I was tempted to hook you with story of a “trauma trigger,” a moment of deep sorrow to illustrate that they still sneak in. They are rare, yet at times still powerful. I still struggle remembering the night Jon died. I fight the fear of losing my second husband, and I fear something happening to me— only because I don’t want him to know death or to experience crushing grief. But this is not a post primarily about fear.

I may yet tell that story, but for now God’s turning my heart a different direction.

Reversal

Death is a broken thing; the result of sin, we were never meant to experience it. But God can make death beautiful. Through it he caused me to run to Jesus and to understand my desperate need for him. Pain and sorrow led to me know Christ in an all-together richer and deeper way. Through death, Jon no longer has to deal with temptation, sin, or weakness. I’ve said these things before, but important truth is worth repeating.

Christ’s death was also beautiful, for by it we know salvation; we know reconciliation, justification, adoption, grace, mercy, peace, and infinitely more.

And death can be redeemed. It will be reversed. Christ is risen from the dead. Therefore, those who die in Christ will also be raised for eternity with him.

37408_402430233268_2453448_n

Talk about reversal. 

This year God also reversed my circumstances. No longer “widow.”

I wasn’t promised a second husband, but in a very real, and physical way I get to reflect what Jesus does for his people. I’m so thankful.

There were days I doubted that God still had beautiful things for me in this life. But he is a generous father. Even if he had never reversed my circumstances, he would still be good.

However, some things shouldn’t be reversed:

  • I still desperately need Jesus.
  • Christ is still my security and my stability.
  • My hope is not in my circumstances.
  • David is not my savior. He is a good gift, but not the ultimate gift.
  • My value and worth are not determined by being a wife again.

I remind myself that Jesus is the greatest treasure. The things that were true in the valley are still the bedrock when “life feels good.”

Redemption

God gave me a good gift in Jon, and he has given me another good gift in David.

Early in our dating I assured David that I would love again and just as deeply. I’m thankful God has faithfully brought this love to fruition. It’s a magnificent thing.

Some folks seemed shocked at how a second love works. I still love Jon. But I also love David. Love multiplies; there is no need for intimidation. There is no second place.

I think the words I spoke as I took him to be my husband sum it up the best:

David, ours is s a story of beauty out of ashes. It is one of redeeming grace. As Boaz redeemed Ruth, so are you a kinsman redeemer. From the start you never ran from my story. You never let the word “widow” and all its unique challenges derail you. Rather you have embraced it all with immense grace, with gentleness, with compassion, and with bold confidence. You have even wanted to know Jon and who he was. You have called my story beautiful. Thank you for cherishing me. Thank you for lavish love. God has precisely and uniquely equipped to be the man for me. And I utterly adore you.

You are my kinsman redeemer, but you are merely a picture of the Ultimate Redeemer. We all were desolate and forsaken. But Jesus bought back His own, making her a gorgeous spotless bride. May our lives ever radiate the extravagant love of Christ.

And we get to see how God writes our story. Our story that is just a tiny part of His grand story. And I can’t wait for life with you. With so much joy, I take you to be my husband.”

There is tangible redemption in this life. And it is just a glimmer of true redemption.

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Victory

“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25:7-8

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:54-55

Four years after death I think I more fully realize what Paul meant in First Corinthians. He was looking forward to the time when death would have no sting because it wouldn’t exist. He was looking forward to the immeasurable hope of the not yet.

In light of future glory, the trials of this life truly are light and momentary.

For a long time I could not sing “Christ is risen from the dead trampling over death by death. Come awake, come awake, come and rise up from the grave!… O death where is your victory?” without tears of sorrow. The words felt like a lie. For death surely stings, and “sting” doesn’t even being to come close to reality. But now I sing these marvelous words through tears of joy. One day there will be no sting.

Spiritual death is already swallowed up in victory, and one day physical death will also be swallowed up. Jesus is victorious, the Champion of champions.

“But thanks be to God who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him every where.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

He is the general leading the lavish victory parade. And I am the willing captive following in his triumph— set free from the captivity of sin and death, and gladly captive to Christ.

May I not be “preoccupied with the victorious Christian life, but with the victorious Risen King” (Scotty Smith)

The victory is His.

Love

So on this fourth anniversary, I’m mostly just thankful. Trials will come again. There will be future grief. But there will also be future joy.

At first I was nervous at how much Jon and David are intertwined in this post. — Would people not understand? Would they think I love one or the other less? Would they think it wrong to mention David in an anniversary post?

And then I remembered what an exceptional blessing it is to have both of them in my heart.  They are intertwined in a way that only God can do. It’s a testimony of God’s love and grace. He didn’t have to give me either.

So, I honor my past and embrace my future

Reversal. Redemption. Victory. Love. Four powerful words that point to Jesus Christ. And He is what it’s all about.


Here’s the beautiful song:  Christ is Risen from the Dead (Matt Maher)

What has gone before:

Not Performance. Not fear of Punishment.

mine

“Live for the Audience of One.”

I remember the injunction clearly, and pondered what it meant for me, a teenager and new believer. I knew salvation was by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. I understood my need, responded to his relentless pursuit, and experienced his saving power. I saw radical transformation, wildfire growth if you will. And I wanted to follow Christ with all my soul.

“I am no longer who I once was,” my heart rejoiced!

But many facets of this thing called the “Christian Life” were still fuzzy. Audience of One?

“Well that must mean ‘to live for God’s approval alone.’ I suppose God is more pleased with me when I don’t do certain things, but do other things. If he’s the audience then I must perform, right?”

And so, I tumbled into the trap of performance. Do this. Don’t do this.

My failures crushed me. I couldn’t measure up. “Didn’t read my Bible every day this week. Epic fail. God must love me less.”

I may never have said the words aloud, but if I was honest, I thought they were true. I knew I’d been saved by grace, but I lived like I still had to earn it.

I’d love to tell my teenage self some things. I suppose I had to learn them over the passage of time, but if I could, I’d save her years of guilt ridden, faulty belief.

The Audience of One already approves.

Have you forgotten who He is?

As a father grins at his lisping child, stumbling through one line in the Kindergarten play, so does the Audience of One beam. Everyone else sees a gymnasium, but a father sees Carnegie Hall.

The father approves, not for the merit of the performance, but because he looks and says, “Mine.”

I’d say to my teenage self, “Christ justified you. By His blood you are declared innocent. He took your sin, and put it on Himself. Not only that, He gave you His righteousness. You belong.”

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

“But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 2:4-7

Justified.

Just as if I’ve never sinned.

Just as if I’ve always obeyed.

He approves. On my best days and worst days, God loves me just the same. He looks at me and sees His Son.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

He looks at me and sees a daughter, no longer slave to sin but heir with Christ. I’m in the family. I belong. A proud father, he beams, “That one’s mine.”

Furthermore, He does not punish His own.

One root of a performance driven life is the fear of punishment. “If I don’t do xyz, I will be punished.” However, if I believe the gospel is true, I know that Jesus already took my punishment.

“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also  are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:17-19

Jesus is very definition of perfect love. And His death and resurrection are the ultimate manifestations of perfect love, therefore crushing the fear of punishment. Because of Christ, believers stand confidently before God.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10

Propitiation is one of my favorite words. The consuming fireball of the Father’s wrath should have been hurled at me. Instead it was hurled at Jesus, and on the cross He took it all. He drank the cup of wrath completely.

Propitiation is “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it into God’s favor.” (ESV Study Bible)

I will not face wrath. I do not fear punishment. In Christ I am the recipient of lavish, never failing, never ceasing, tangible, incomprehensible grace.

Sure, God disciplines His own, but that’s a vastly different action than punishment. Punishment exists to exact justice and judgment. Discipline is to instruct and to train.

Sure, my actions have consequences, and when I sin and need to repent. BUT my sins are covered by the blood of Christ. There has been atonement.

To live for the Audience of One isn’t fear of punishment. And it isn’t performance.

It is worship, the delight that flows from all Jesus accomplished on my behalf.

“Our obedience is not a fearful striving to please God but a thankful and joyous response to the love with which he has already embraced us and provided for us by the sacrifice of his Son. The gospel is indeed news of great comfort and joy!” (Gospel Transformation Bible)

The Audience rejoices, not on my merit, but because I belong to Him. My lines may be lisped, my song sung with cracking voice, but He looks and says, “Mine!”

Only one was an audience, the Audience of One. The smile of the King’s approval swept through the choir like fire across dry wheat fields. When the song was complete, the Audience of One  stood and raised His great arms, then clapped His scarred hands together in thunderous applause shaking the ground and sky, jarring every corner of the cosmos. His applause went on and on unstopping and unstoppable.”  -Randy Alcorn


I first published this post two years ago under the title “Mine.” I regularly need to be reminded of who Jesus is and who He has made me to be. So I thought it was worth revisiting. As I read through my original thoughts, some necessary additions came to mind. For why do we perform? Fear of punishment. Misplaced identity. Not knowing God’s character. A faulty understanding of grace. I hope this post has strengthened and encouraged you. Believer, I pray it makes you sing with confidence. I pray the truths of justification, adoption,  and propitiation resonate deeply with you today.

Our need for Jesus is exceedingly great. Without him we are doomed to face wrath and judgment for sin. He is the only true Savior, and through Him we know peace. Through Him we are reconciled to God, declared righteous, and no longer face wrath. Justification and propitiation– they aren’t just “theology” words. They are life-transforming realities.

And for the heart that is still struggling-

No More Gloom

no-more-gloom“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish.”  Isaiah 9:1

For me it’s been a year of “no more gloom.” Rather, 2016 has been mostly light and overflowing joy! How thankful I am for such a happy season, a beauty out of ashes sort of year. It’s been awhile since sweet didn’t mingle with bitter; I’m enjoying the stark contrast. I delight to be married to the second love of my life, my new best friend. And I stand in awe of the God who reverses, who brings light out of darkness. It’s been a pretty great year, I’d say.

Of course there’s been some sorrow. I didn’t expect my dad to die this year. His death has felt so different, though. At 79, he was completely ready to be with Christ, to leave the decay of old age. I dearly love him and miss him, but for me it hasn’t been “hit by a freight train, life altering grief.” I suppose, in this occasion joy has eclipsed sorrow. I guess after the death of a spouse, it’s easier to process the death of a parent.

But I also know it’s been a difficult year for many. The world is full of gloom. Wars and rumors of wars, corruption, violence, racial tension, an endless election cycle, civilians caught in the middle of a firestorm, refugees displaced from their countries—I’ve heard it called it the “worst year ever.”

For some I love dearly, 2016 has been thoroughly devastating. I clapped my hands and wept for joy when my friends found out they were expecting twins after a long journey with infertility. Then I sobbed with them as they cradled two perfectly formed, precious babies who were just too small to survive. I have family facing chronic illness. And I’ve wept with those whose marriages have collapsed. I’ve seen them reel with the pain of betrayal. These are the sorrows so deep they feel physical. 

If I could, I would jump in front of the crushing blows so my loved ones would never experience them.

The world is still broken, and sorrow comes.

Gloom. It is “total or partial darkness, a state of melancholy or depression.”¹ As 2016 draws to an end, people clamor for the new year, grasping for the hope of something better. We’re a people constantly searching for something better. What hope is there when gloom overtakes? What hope is there when darkness is a heavy blanket?

Oh my friends, there is an imperishable, unfathomable, confident and sure expectation. His name is Jesus! He’s the King who eradicates the gloom. He is something better.

“There will be no more gloom!”

For, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nations, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest…”  Isaiah 9:2-3

As a smoldering wick grows to blazing flame, so the Light of the World penetrated the darkness. The astonishing, glorious rays of sunshine arrived. A Son was given. He multiplies our joy! He ends anguish and distress.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Light will always overcome darkness. 

But wait there’s more! Have you ever had the moment when a familiar passage leaps from the page, and the words are fresh and new as if you’ve never truly seen them? Hang on to your socks kids, there’s some serious truth ahead.

Our God is precise. He reverses, He reigns, and He pursues.

The God who is Precise

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. in the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, he has made glorious the was of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  Isaiah 9:1

Now compare Isaiah 9:1 to Matthew 4:12-16

“Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death
on them a light has dawned.’ 

Do you see it? 

I’ve read these verses a thousand times, and never before noticed the seemingly insignificant detail: Zebulun and Naphtali. This is the God who is precise. He brings redemption with the skill of a surgeon and the craftsmanship of a master artisan. Way back in Israel’s history, Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first taken captive by the Assyrians, among the first to “sit in darkness.” 

BUT Jesus went to them first. The Great Light dawned first on the ones who were captives first. I don’t know about you, but that pierces my soul, and makes me sing with joy. Even now it makes me a little teary. God not only fulfilled prophecy, but He did it with exquisite precision. 

His sovereignty is not consumed by vague maybes. Instead, “I will” is the persistent drumbeat of HIs plans. Is He not then precise in His care for you? Is He not thoroughly committed to His promises?

God perfectly orders my life. In His unequivocal concern for my good and His glory, I walked through the valley of death and made it to the other side. In His explicit care, He brought me a second great love.

More than these, God became man at a precise moment in history. The Father propelled His redemptive plan forward, and brought it to its pinnacle at the cross. He didn’t send the Savior His people wanted, but the One we drastically and desperately need.

The God who Reverses

Isaiah 8 ends with gloom and anguish, but Isaiah 9 is light and joy, radiating with stark contrasts. God reverses.

  • Gloom               No gloom
  • Darkness          Light
  • Remnant          Multiplied
  • Sorrow              Increased joy
  • Captives           Liberated, delivered
  • Oppressed       Free

This is what He does for His own.

I’m reminded of the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Even the architecture tells a story. At first the rooms are gloomy, cramped, and chaotic. Folks shuffle through the exhibits in reverential quiet. No one laughs, and more than one tear is shed. It’s a scene of horror, a history of genocide, and a sober indictment that we never let it happen again. 

Finally, just as despair permeates, and hope is a vapor, patrons wind their way to “Liberation,” the end of the war! The lighting and design of the museum shifts noticeably as allied forces liberate captives, righting what was wrong. There is light. Dissonant, crossing beams give way to clean, straight lines. Normal conversation resumes, and the claustrophobic soul can breath again.

So much greater is God’s reversal. He makes the world right side up. He has taken this hopeless captive and set her free, trading my sinfulness for His righteousness.

And He is also the God who Reigns.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of PeaceOf the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” 

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. This royal title combines the idea of “doing something wonderful, extraordinary, and miraculous with the skill of giving wise advice or making wise plans.”² He reigns in infinite wisdom. 

He is the Mighty God. A mighty warrior, His power is divine, knowing no limitations. Nothing is too hard. The Lord of Hosts fights battles for me.

He is the Everlasting Father. Literally it means, “My father is eternal.” He never begins, He never ends. He is the ideal, good protector. By exercising perfect wisdom and perfect power, He accomplishes intimate, fatherly care of His people. 

And He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus comes to make an end of war: spiritually and physically. “He will limitlessly expand His influence and create peace without end.”² The world is certainly not at peace right now, but one day it will be. And even now, my heart can know peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:6-8)

This is our King.  

Finally, He is the God who Pursues.

“The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” Isaiah 1:9

It’s His zeal and passion that initiated redemption. We turned from Him, but “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

From eternity past, God planned to bring His people home.

He is the subject, the main character, the author, the narrator. Jesus pursues even to the point of the cross. He pursues even those who seem beyond hope.

With unassailable zeal, determination, and passion, God will concentrate His efforts to accomplish this marvelous deeds….[His people] can be absolutely sure that an omnipotent, sovereign God will stand behind the fulfillment of this wonderful plan.”² 

The blessing of His people is guaranteed. Victory is won.

Does He not pursue you even now? 

Therefore, whether 2016 was devastating or delightful, there is bright hope for tomorrow. My soul rests in the God who overcomes darkness, who shepherds me with precise care, who reverses, who reigns, and who pursues. 

I’ve got a sneaky feeling 2017 is going to be a great year; Jesus already defeated the gloom.


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¹ Webster’s Dictionary, ²The New American Commentary

On dancing. And elections.

It was late. I sat on our bed, eyes glued to my phone, unable to stop tracking the results of the national election. I readily admit I couldn’t vote for either of the top candidates, and trepidation crept in at the thought of either outcome.

He slid into the room like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, striking a goofy pose reserved only for me.

“Dance with me, babe.”

I grinned, scrambled off the bed, and we enthusiastically imitated all our favorite Dancing With the Stars moves. (Not that David enjoys the show or anything— Ahem. Ahem.) We aren’t great dancers, but we both needed the moment of levity, laughing at our rhythmical ineptitude. Such a sweet time. In the words of Andrew Peterson, we went “dancing in the minefields.”

And we lay down in peace and slept. And the sun still rose. And God still reigns.

A song runs through my mind. We danced to it at our wedding reception.

Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it’s an easy price
For the life that we have found

And we’re dancing in the minefields
We’re sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love’s chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me
‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man

So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands
Till the shadows disappear
‘Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you

“In the face of this chaos, baby I can dance with you.”  The last few months have been a whirlwind. Now, that’s an understatement, if I’ve ever penned one. We planned a wedding, my Dad died, got married, wept with loved ones facing life-altering devastation, we moved me to where David is, and we began life together. Moving to a new city threw me much further out of my comfort zone than I thought it would. And all the while, the election cycle dragged on.

But there has been incredible sweetness in the whirlwind. There is beauty in the messy. David and I are learning to be one flesh. We have the joy of loving and being loved by the other. What great joy it is! We get to point each other to Jesus. We get serve each other. We get to remind each other who we are in Christ. There is grace in disagreements. He is learning to lead, and I am learning to follow. We get to remember our desperate need for God.

Life is so much better together.

“We bear the light of the Son of Man, so there’s nothing left to fear.” Therefore, this morning my heart links dancing in our bedroom with things like elections.

In the wake of personal whirlwind and national chaos, this I call to mind.

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10.

We get to dance with joy. God will be exalted.

He is sovereign over all. I can dance through minefields because my greatest need has already been met at the cross. I have lost my life and found it in Christ. Therefore,

I can be kind to those with whom I disagree.

I can respect authorities and pray for our leaders.

I can believe the best in others.

I can fight for life. All life— the unborn, the refugee, the downtrodden, the outcast.

I can rest in knowing God will accomplish His purposes.

I can love.

I can delight in a husband again, and we can gracefully dance through minefields together.

And I can remember that my highest calling is to bear the light of the Son of Man.

 


Dancing in the Minefields” by Andrew Peterson

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“I WILL,” says your God.

this goodThe city is under siege, the enemy coming, and destruction is imminent. It has been foretold, and it is happening. The people have gone astray, wandering far from the God who brought them into the land. Wrath is impending. And you deserve it.

Jeremiah I want you to go buy a field. Your cousin will come and say, “Buy my field…for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.”  (Jeremiah 32:7)

So you buy the field. You sign the deed, seal it, find witnesses, and weigh out the coins.

“Put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in the land.” (Jeremiah 32:14-15)

But still you don’t understand. Lord, what you have spoken has come to pass, but you ask me to buy a field?

I completely get why Jeremiah was so baffled. Who in their right mind would take time to buy a field when his city was under attack? That’s crazy talk.

Ah, but here’s the twist.

“Behold I am the LORD, the God of all flesh, is anything too hard for me?”

In the midst of the destruction and judgment that God Himself brought (and rightly so, for His people were utterly rebellious), He again reiterates who He is and His unshakeable commitment to redeem and restore. 

Nothing is too hard for Him. This God promises to bring his people back. He promises the way of mercy and grace.

“Behold I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness with all my heart and soul. For thus says that Lord: just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I promise them. Fields shall be bought in this land.” (Jeremiah 32:37-43)

I WILL.

Woah. What a string of radical, extravagant, thoroughly overwhelming promises!

  • I will gather them.
  • I will bring them back.
  • I will make them dwell in safety.
  • I will be their God.
  • I will give them one heart.
  • I will make an everlasting covenant.
  • I will NOT turn away from doing them good.
  • I will rejoice in doing them good.
  • I will plant them.

“with all my heart and soul”

I will bring ALL the good that I promise! 

Believer this is for you. This is your God. He puts all the “I wills” on Himself.

He is THIS good.

As Jeremiah was kinsman redeemer, so would the ultimate Kinsman Redeemer come! The right of redemption belongs to Jesus. Praise God, redemption by purchase is His!

In Jesus we’ve been gathered, planted, and grafted in to His everlasting covenant. He makes us dwell in safety. He restores.

Doesn’t this just make your heart sing?

Jeremiah’s deed was sealed in an earthen jar, but now believers are sealed by the blood of Christ. We’re sealed by that which will never disintegrate, by something that lasts far longer than “a long time.”

He bought this “field.”

“I WILL,” says your God.

And He has.

To Jon: On the Day Another Man Asked Me to Marry Him

Indulge me for a moment, for I must give a short preface. Throughout the journey, I’ve endeavored to write honestly, letting you in to the deep places. I’ve been compelled to let you in, for my hope is that you’d say, “How great is our God! He does beautiful things!” And as I penned a letter to Jon, still my prayer was “Lord, let them see you.”

Now, let me clarify, I am not praying to Jon, nor do I believe he is watching over me. I don’t know that God lets him see. He may have much better things to do, like worshiping the Creator, for example! A letter just seemed like the best way to get thoughts on paper. These are the things I would tell him. A letter seemed like the best way begin chapter two.


PicMonkey CollageLovee,

How do I begin? You told me once, (totally out of the blue) that if anything ever happened to you I needed to marry again. And flippantly I replied, “We’re not talking about that.”

I remember you took my arm, turned me to face you, and earnestly said, “No, listen to me. I would want to you remarry. I would want you to be loved and cherished.”

I don’t know what prompted you to say it, for it was long before God took you home—long before it was ever reality that we would not have a lifetime.

I’ve thought about those words many times.

Well Lovee, today another man has asked me to marry him. Perhaps God let you see it all unfold. He has given a kinsman redeemer!

And I’m so excited! So much has brought me to this place. So much has been processed. The valley was long and deep. But now there is ridiculous joy.

I’m so thankful that David and I get to reflect a facet of the gospel that most never experience. Kinsman Redeemer. How sweet it is! As Boaz redeemed Ruth, so is David redeeming me. How beautiful to point to Jesus in this way; His people were as the barren widow. But He calls her married, bought back, loved, and beautiful.

It’s still a little surreal that I will no longer be a widow, but I have long since realized that “widow” does not define my identity. I’m so thankful that broken things heal, and that burnt trees grow again.

I want you to know some things.

You’d love him. On more than one occasion, I’ve thought, “Jon and David would be such close friends.” He is all that you would want for me in a second husband.

He loves Jesus more than he loves me. He points me back to Christ, and speaks gospel to me when I am struggling. He loves the church, and he’s passionate about ministry. God has some big plans for David.

He is gentle, thoughtful, hard working, and uniquely equipped to walk this journey with me. He possesses immense quiet strength.

He has embraced all that I am and also the path God has taken me through, never making me feel ashamed to be a widow. Rather David has called my story beautiful.

I can’t wait for life with him! I adore this man so much. I can’t wait to spend our lives for the glory of Christ and for the Kingdom. You and I always prayed. “God do with us what you want.” And He has done good things.

He makes me laugh with his goofy silliness. He holds me close when I cry. And he even relishes our good friend Chuck Bartowski.— What more could I ask for?

Also, in much the same way that you lavished me with love, so David makes me feel cherished and treasured. One day David and I watched our wedding video together. It takes a strong man to not be intimidated by that. And I still don’t have adequate words to describe it—watching you, while being held by him. A deep-seated, strong realization washed over me. I love both of you with equal intensity.

Other widows have said, “It’s like God just makes your heart explode. He makes room for two.” It is so true. I’m like The Grinch whose heart grew two sizes too big. It is multiplied love.

Some don’t understand how “room for two” works. In light of the gospel, it makes perfect sense, however. Jesus’ love for the church is deeper than we can ever fathom. And as we know Him more, our love grows deeper and bigger too.

Of course the heart expands. God has made me to love again, and to love just as deeply.

You also need to know that I will never stop loving you. I’ll cherish my memories with you. I hold you close in my heart. But there are some parts of you I have to let go if I am to give myself fully to him

I think you would want me to let them go.

I took your rings off babe. Of course, I had to take a few minutes to grieve them. They’ll be kept safe. He didn’t ask me to take them off. But the time was right.

Jon, you were my first kiss, the first man to take my breath away. Your life is such a big part of the woman God has made me to be. You loved me well. So well.

And now there’s a second man who loves me well and takes my breath away. He’s captured my heart.

David and I will have much to learn as we start life together. I know we’ll fail each other and sin against each other just as you and I did. But we will also grow in holiness and love for Jesus together.

I belonged to you, and you to me. Now I’ll belong to another, and him to me. And if God has let you see, I know you are so happy. And of course, ultimately we all belong to Jesus.

Lovee, I miss you. But I am marvelously well.

I am ready for chapter two.

Still my heart sings our favorite song, “Oh Father use my ransomed life in any way you choose. And let my song forever be my only boast is you! Hallelujah! All I have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!”  He is the Best Redeemer.

I love you a thousand red m&ms,

Me.


“You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be Married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62: 4-5 

“So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife….Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may His name be renowned in Israel.” Ruth 4:13-15

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He doesn’t choose the wrong color.

IMG_1794I snuggled under a blanket with coffee in hand and a stack of well loved, leather bound books beside me. Any day that includes coffee and reflection is music to my slightly introverted and massively introspective soul. Sometimes, I need to reflect on where I’ve been to know where I’m going.

Though distinguished in pattern and color, certain characteristics unite the beloved tomes. I have a decided tendency to underline key words, pepper the pages with exclamation points, deem paragraphs unnecessary, and draw boxes around the really important stuff. Smudges and tear stains bear traces of emotion, of words flowing from heart to page. My handwriting remains the same, and the pile grows larger with each passing year.

It’s just ordinary ink on paper.

I’ve written in journals for almost 20 years. Over time, themes weave from page to page. God’s sovereignty is a bright blue thread prominently stitched across the design. I couldn’t see it in the moment, but hindsight’s vantage point adds perspective. His faithfulness is gold mingled with pure, silver grace.

His love is saturated red, another color sweeping across the years. Its pigment deepened as my understanding grew. Provision, security, and longing each play their parts in shades of green and yellow. Life felt beautiful in the purples. On other pages worry and fear add splashes of gray. Repentance is a fiery orange. And then there is the black of grief. Some pages have lots of black.

All of these intertwine against the backdrop of brilliant white, a dazzling radiance, enhancing the beauty of every other stitch. Even the black.

A brilliant white–Jesus. The cross. Redemption. Lavish grace upon grace.

“…to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ.” Ephesians 1: 6-9

I turned page after page relishing the prayers and memories. In the depths I cried out. To green pastures I was led. In the torrents I clung to the Rock. Beside the still waters I sang with praise.

My journals will probably never be read by the masses. And frankly I’d be appalled if some pages were. Yet if my ramblings last into eternity, let dazzling white be the focal point, the element unifying and completing the design!

It’s just a stack of well-worn leather books. Nothing special. Ah, but perhaps you need really look with eyes to see. A glow of intense, rich color streams from the pages, replacing ordinary ink with embroidered works of art.

I didn’t make it a beautiful thing. But God did.

“Father right now life feels flowery. ‘The sea of life’ is calm. Spring is here literally and figuratively. So much redemption and so much beauty radiates right now. Hope blossoms. The possibilities spread before me like a great feast.. Storms aren’t raging, and the sea billows don’t roll. But in this time of abundance I’ve noticed something. How tempting it is to neglect running to you with the same intensity as when the world felt blackest black. I haven’t always pursued you first. Lord ever draw me closer to you. Be the Captor of my affections even in the springtime greens. Keep me longing for my First Love.”

Keep me longing for my First Love.

Writing helps me process. Reflecting makes me remember. God is the weaver, the master designer. And He never chooses the wrong color.


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Please give them many years.

IMG_1890My friend was radiant, glowing in her white gown, a gorgeous bride. But her physical appearance paled against the backdrop of Christ radiating through her.

She’s one of those rare, costly gems.

We’ve laughed a lot over the last several years. We’ve cried a lot too, processing much grief and grace together. And we’ve dived deep into Jesus.

We’ve also spray painted countless (well 250) wine bottles, and have borne the black, stained hands to prove it. It’s been such a joy to share in the excitement of my friends’ wedding and marriage planning. Such a joy.

The edges of her veil sparkled, the tiny beadwork complemented her dress perfectly. I know the veil well; it has hung in my closet for the last six years. It’s not uncommon that I stop in my tracks and admire the delicate pattern sewn into the tulle, lingering to recall the day it adorned my own hair. Sharing my veil with Bobbi made my heart sing.

Standing behind her, with my hand on her arm, I brushed away tears, while others prayed. It felt like such a privilege to be counted among her closest friends, together bringing her marriage before the throne.

I began to speak, my turn to pray. I thanked God for such dear, beautiful friends, and asked that God be exalted in their marriage, that the gospel of Christ resonate from them. I asked God to grow them in grace and love for one another.

And then I pled  “Lord, please give them many years together.”

A sob caught in my throat. I paused long, willing myself to go on, to push through my own emotions and the collective emotions around me.

My emotion was for her, knowing she has faced the death of both parents, knowing her new husband has leukemia. He has an excellent prognosis, and doctors believe there is no reason he won’t have a long, healthy life. But sill they have faced many unknowns over the last few months.

I don’t want any of my friends to know the reality of a husband dying young. So I pray, “Lord if it be your will, give them many years. Let them grow old and gray together.”

So I suppose my sob was a little bit for me too, There was a moment of grief for the years Jon and I did not have.

But also tied in the tangle of emotions, was another face, a hazel-eyed, six foot two, giant teddy bear who has stolen my heart. I’ve been given another good gift. And I marvel that I am again cherished. So much overwhelming joy!

I have said it before—because of the gospel, joy and sorrow mingle in a beautiful dance. And they danced flawlessly in this poignant moment where time stood still.

I think it’s only when we walk through the deep grief, that we begin to understand how joy and sorrow can complement each other like intricate beadwork against a stunning wedding gown.

So clearly I saw the gospel.

On her wedding day, she was spotless, a dazzling bride, completely ready for her groom. Abundant joy overflowed. But there were still mixed emotions.

She missed her parents.

I missed Jon.

Because we’re caught between the already and the not yet, we miss them. We know we’ll see them again, but still we await eternity. There’s still sorrow because the world is still broken.

But I also saw restoration for my friend and for me. Jesus has given us beauty out of ashes. Ultimately He gives it in Himself, the best gift! He took sorrow, so we have joy. However, in great compassion, He gives beauty in ways that seem more tangible to our finite minds. Our God is that good.

Praise God for abundant, overflowing joy that is deeper, richer, and higher in the face of sorrow. Because of sorrow, joy is richer and peace is deeper. It’s one way He sanctifies.

And one day the mingling will cease. Sorrow will give way to inexplicable joy. And all the tears will be wiped away. He will glorify.

No matter how many earthly years my friends have, eternity awaits! Therefore, I pray confidently, “Give them many years.” Though they’ll no longer be joined in human marriage, they’ll  be a part of the Great Marriage. They’ll have countless years.

And so will I.

As she eagerly anticipated her wedding day, so we long for the Grand Wedding when Christ returns to claim His bride.

It was delightfully happy day. I love weddings.

Though sorrow mingled, it graciously slid to the background, and made room for an explosion of vibrant joy that captivated the fore.

What a foretaste! How we long for the true Groom, with whom the years will be unending!

Come, Lord Jesus. Come


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A Handful of Wilted Flowers

for every momentBright yellow bursts are cropping up all over my yard. Dandelions. Some call them weeds, but I love them. I really do. Reminded of a memory from three years ago….

Happy squeals wafted through the open window. Glancing up, I studied the gleeful, boisterous play. Children climbed on jungle gyms. Some jumped rope. A fierce game of soccer was in full swing, and everywhere there was laughter and innocence. I put my head down on the desk, and contemplated crawling right under it. A tear fell, a wet circle on a stack of papers–“the new normal”.

Sorrow. I let it linger for several heartbeats.

“Pull it together Ami. They need you.”

I lifted my head, soaking up the commotion of recess once more, as if by watching I could trap a tiny part of their joy. How I longed for a return to the carefree.

Day after day I held it together for my Kinders, but melted into sobs on the way home. I’d had to return to work, however. I needed someone to need me.

I suppose I needed them as well.

Often I felt a small, warm hand slip inside mine as we walked down the hallway. Without looking I knew which child it was. He was unusually perceptive for his age, seeming to know just when I struggled the most. Comfort was intuitive.

My littles and I had also gotten to have many conversations about death. And Jesus. And Heaven. And grace. For all that, I was thankful. But some mornings it was a feat just to get out of bed.

Soon I left my quiet sanctuary and stepped into the spring sunshine to gather my gaggle of geese. Faces flushed from play, they fell in line like happy little goslings, fearlessly trusting.

“I picked some flowers for you Mrs. Atkins.”

He beamed, a handful of crushed dandelions stretched out in his chubby little fist. I knelt at his eye level. “They’re so beautiful. Thank you buddy! I love them.”

He threw the weight of himself at me in a the biggest hug a five year old could muster.

They were merely wilted weeds, a bunch of crushed dandelions. But they were more lovely than dozens of roses. Given of a pure heart, out of delight, he just wanted his teacher to smile.

And smile I did.

Thank you Lord for the small graces. Thank you for the rays of sunshine amid the clouds. 

I imagine it’s something like giving to God. The treasures I present are little more than wilted flowers. He’s the God who owns everything. He doesn’t need my dandelions.

I bring my weaknesses, my tainted motives, my sin. I bring no merit of my own.

He brings His righteousness.

So He grins with delight at my feeble, childish offerings. To Him they’re supremely lovely because they are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. He delights because He looks at me and sees His Son.

When I remember that, I can’t help but want to bring Him all the flowers I can gather. I delight in Him. And as a result. obedience and love flow from the abundance I’ve received– identity, reconciliation, adoption, salvation, inheritance, restoration. And most importantly, I’ve been given Him.

And here’s the thing. I would have smiled at my little Kinder, even he had never brought me a thing. My love for him was not a result of his behavior.

How beautifully freeing.

My Father delights in me.

Placing the flowers in a prominent place on my desk, I smiled again. My Father delights in me. He gives grace for every moment. And sometimes grace is a bundle of wilted dandelions.


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