At all Costs

Boy, has it been awhile friends!

It’s hard to believe Hudson is already seven months old. Today! Today is his seven monthiversary. Let’s just say, life with a baby is wonderful, radically new, sometimes crazy hard, and thoroughly life altering.  I adore my new role, but it is not without challenges. I’m learning much, and God is refining me in new ways. There’s a whole lot of sanctification going on over here.

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like (I hope to rectify that soon), but today I have a piece featured at Risen Motherhood. Hooray!

You can find the article, At All Costshere. Hope it encourages.

Love, Ami

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https://www.risenmotherhood.com/blog/at-all-costs

*This picture may not be used apart from this blog.

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That’s going to come out of me?

He was an irresistible week-old newborn, and it was his first Sunday at church. When his mom held him to her shoulder he bore the trademark “I’m just gonna mold completely to your body” newborn snuggle. Talk about baby fever right there!

And then I thought, “That is going to come out of me? That baby is huge!”

Now, it must be said that this little guy is a perfectly average, healthy baby. He wasn’t a 16 pounder.

Though you’ve likely read between the lines, (and noticed the picture) I should probably bring some of you up to speed. I suppose you can tell that I haven’t written in awhile. I guess there is less need for deep processing in the happy, hustling and bustling seasons. Well, I do write all the time these days, but technical reports for work don’t really seem to count.

Anyway, for those who don’t know me in real life or at least on Facebook, I am 5 1/2 months pregnant with our first child! Hooray!

And he’s a boy! We are so delighted to be having a son. He’s a gift long prayed for. The feeling of little kicks from the inside, hearing his heartbeat, seeing him move on ultrasound; these are among the best things I’ve ever experienced. We already know his name, but I’ll save that story for another day.

But I digress. I met a sweet little newborn at church. He was adorable; thoughts of awe and terror simultaneously flitted across my mind.

“Wow God you are amazing!”

“But someone that big is going to come out of me?”

Being pregnant has produced its own set of fears. Fears about labor and delivery. Fears about parenting. Fear that something would happen to our baby—There I’ve said it out loud. It’s uncharted territory, a completely new avenue in which I am learning trust.

I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those desires that had to be stripped away for me to see what it had become. An idol. It was a dream I had begun to worship, something I thought I had to have to be happy. It was a good desire I had let turn into an ultimate desire.

You may remember that my first husband and I tried to get pregnant for a year and half before he died. God did a lot in my heart over that year and half. But the battle was real and intense. So often I prayed for a child. So often I tried to hold my hands open to the Lord.

And when Jon died, all the hopes and dreams of being a mom shattered also. I remember when I started my period about a week after he died: I crumpled on my bathroom floor and sobbed.

So here I am, turning 35 tomorrow and pregnant! They say I’m of “advanced maternal age.” That makes me smile.

And I am amazed at God’s goodness and grace. In the years of widowhood He taught me much about living with open hands. He was good when my hands were empty. And He is good now.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I again knelt on the floor, tears streaming. Y’all know I have a strong relationship with crying.

“Lord, even from the very beginning this baby is yours. I hold my hands open to you. Do what you want with this little life. I pray you would give us grace to point this baby to Jesus. ”

But sometimes open hands are hard.

We’re five and a half months down this path, and already we’re trying to make decisions for the good of our son.

Am I eating the right foods? Taking the right vitamins? Drinking enough water?

Do I go get a Tetanus shot because I cut my toe on a screw?

The flu. Severe dehydration. “I think we better go to the hospital.”

In all this I’m starting to understand that trusting God with our son is life long. We can try to make the best, most informed decisions but ultimately God is sovereign.

He is weaving this little one together in his mother’s womb. Our son is fearfully, and wonderfully made. How much richer are those words now! God will do what brings himself honor and glory.

We’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes we’re going to have no clue what we’re doing. Maybe a lot of times. I’ll probably freak out. Meltdowns will happen—both from me and the baby.

Sometimes we’ll even sin against him. What?! I’m not going to be a perfect parent?

I see your looks of incredulity, but yes friends it’s true.

Therefore, as I learned to preach the gospel to myself in marriage, widowhood, and marriage again, so must I learn it now.

I’m well aware that my highly sensitive heart and strong need for introspection can lead an internal dialogue of fear. We all have our sin tendencies. So I have to change the dialogue.

  • God is the perfect parent. Therefore I don’t have to be.
  • If God did not spare His own Son, will he spare any omnipotent effort to do good to me? (or to my son?)
  • The cross and resurrection prove that the Lord is trustworthy. He always does what he says he will. Because I have been made alive, new, redeemed I can trust God.
  • My Father has promised to sanctify me. He is committed to transforming into the image of his Son. Therefore, he will give grace to admit when I am wrong. Grace to say, “Mommy is sorry. Please forgive me.”
  • God loves our baby far more than we do.

It still feels surreal sometimes. In a few short months we’ll be responsible to keep a tiny human alive, to meet his needs, to instruct him, to protect, to shepherd him. We pray many things for our baby, but most of all we pray he would know Jesus.  Because who’s the real Shepherd? Who’s the real Provider and Protector? It certainly isn’t me.

That I think, is the sum of what God has called us to do—point him to the marvelous grace found in Christ alone. We are channels, channels only to the one who is the answer to all fears, to the one who fully satisfies.

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.

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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.

View More: http://markblackphotography.pass.us/093016

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:

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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Here’s to the diving board.

Perfect Love Casts out FearI’ve never been a “dip a toe in the water” kind of girl. I’d much rather jump right off the diving board and embrace the chilly jolt.

Everyone knows it’s easier to acclimate if you go all in, right?

I tend to face life this way also. Decisions are all or nothing, and apathy isn’t a prominent character trait. I’ve been known to rush in, yet most decisions are actually preceded by intense thought and prayer.

But when I jump, I jump.

My husband and I had dated about a month when I told him I wanted to marry him. Indeed it was a bold statement, but I knew he wanted the same.

I like taking risks. Recently, however, a latent fear rose to the surface; I didn’t realize I was still afraid of future suffering. I thought I’d dealt with that one long ago. Apparently it crept up again.

Sitting in front of a man who wants to date me and has embraced my widowhood with immense grace, I finally confronted the sin lurking in the shadows.

“What if I have to walk through death again? If I let this guy in, I could suffer more.” 

Through tears I admitted the fear. Pulling me close, he spoke life giving truth.

“You know God is good. You know He does all things well. He sovereignly leads and plans the best things for your life. You may be a widow again. But you may not ever be. Because of the gospel we don’t have to fear. There is so much joy.”

He’s right.

And just like that I decided to leap. I don’t know what God plans for this man and me, but it’s time to take a risk and see what could be. I need not fear future suffering or future blessing.

For “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.” 1 John 4:18.

God loves me perfectly. Jesus loved perfectly, even to death on the cross. Therefore, I don’t have to fear.

In How People Change, Tripp calls all the pressures of this life “heat.” The trials, blessings, responsibilities, sufferings, joys, and challenges, temptations—all are heat that produce either thorns or fruit.

At the potential of something new, my thorny response was fear. And in this scenario, fear is sin.

It is a result of

  • forgetting who God is.
  • forgetting what He has done.
  • forgetting who He says I am.
  • forgetting that He has provided everything for a God-honoring life.
  • forgetting that He’s committed to making me holy.

Sometimes I cherish things more than I cherish Christ—

My comfort.

My expectations for a well-ordered life.

My temptations to compare a new relationship with the old.

Therefore, I turn from fear. However, to merely change my behavior would be counterfeit and superficial at best. I need radical heart change.

“At the cross God meets us in our sin and struggle with His heart transforming grace.” -Paul Tripp.

So, I ask. “Who is God and what does He say and do in Christ?’

God is good. He is working all things out for my joy and His glory. (Romans 8) Because Jesus had joy in suffering, when suffering comes I can meet it with a settled confidence— with joy, peace, rest, and even cheerfulness.

He gives Himself.

He provides.

As I view the transforming grace of Christ at the cross, thorns become fruit, and I trust my unknown future to a known God.

As for this guy?

Well, I’m a little giddy. I can’t wait to see what God does next.

Here’s to the diving board.


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This post appeared first at anewseason.net

 

Precious Thoughts on a Day Long Dreaded

The rhythmic crashing of waves upon the shore, a landscape dominated by water and sky, and the sun’s penetrating warmth: all are reasons I adore the ocean. The horizon stretches endlessly, intersecting with the very curve of the earth. How naturally worship comes! What a powerful, majestic, God I have! He is grace. He is mercy. These are not unusual thoughts when I dwell on the depth and plenitude of the sea.

Of all the wonders of the beach, I suppose I don’t often gaze at sand, however.

precious thoughts
It was a windy day, the precursor to rain and storms. I lay on the beach towel, soaking in the rays, yet aware of the more than average wind. Sighing, I closed my book, and propped my chin on folded arms. From my vantage point, I had an up close and personal, lavish view of nothing more than sand.

Alone with my thoughts, I contemplated “the long dreaded day.” Two years, eight months, and three days I was married to Jonathan Atkins. Two years, eight months, and three days had he been gone.

As always on significant days, my thoughts swirled with the supposed implications.

I’m facing a day most widows never experience. So many get to be with their husbands for decades.

Does it mean he was just a minor character in the story of my life? Does it mean our marriage is invalid because it was short? Does it mean he no longer influences me and others?

Sometime I have feared fading memories, and shied away from the words “new chapter.”

Sand whirled, reacting to the force of the wind. My face inches above the beach, I gazed at an indiscernible pattern, noticing individual grains whisked along by something outside itself.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” (Psalm 139)

If I tried to count the grains of sand in the square foot in front of me, it wouldn’t take long to realize the futility of my endeavor. How ridiculously more impossible to number all the grains of sand on every beach and under every ocean!

But this is the best I can do to rightly imagine the number of God’s thoughts toward his own. I cannot fathom their exhaustive nature. How truly precious!

How could such a great and glorious God care so deeply, so intimately, for little creatures such as we are? This is exactly what astonishes David. God is so great, yet He shows extraordinary care for His own. “ (Commentary, ESV Gospel Transformation Bible)

His thoughts about me are vast. 

He deals with me in more unique and intimate ways than any human ever could. By God I am thoroughly known and thoroughly loved.

“When I awake I am still with you.”

“In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

I contemplated the true implications. Jon being gone longer than we were married doesn’t change anything. He still has lasting influence. He’s still a major character.

New chapters are good things. For without them, there would be no forward plot, no grand themes, no riveting climax.

Before I was born God established the course of my life, a sub plot in His epic redemptive tale. He was sovereign over the length of days I had with Jon. He orchestrated our meeting, and His timing was perfect. To wish for more time, is at its root to doubt God’s character. It is to doubt the vast, detailed, and thoroughly perfect nature of His plans.

I closed my eyes, breathed in the salty air, and rested in the beauty of being loved and being known. On a day I long dreaded, I realized I had nothing to fear.


This post appeared by Ami first at Intentional By Grace

A letter I never knew existed

all together

Fresh words.

I soak in every detail. True to character, tears flow freely. His voice resonates from the page, the writing so very much him. I haven’t heard new words from the heart of my husband in almost three years. But now I gaze at a letter I never knew existed.

How can I describe what fresh words feel like?

It’s like coming home to open arms, a tight embrace, and a gentle kiss. It is sun peeking from behind the clouds. It is wind in a sail. It’s a spark that lights a bonfire.

Fresh words are gifts of tangible grace. They are overwhelmingly beautiful. I know I write about grace a lot; I just can’t help it.

“Oh Lord, I didn’t even know I needed such a gift. Thank you!” 

My God cares uniquely and intimately for me.

I slow down and read the letter again. It isn’t even my letter, but one Jon wrote to his brother. Yet I get to see the man I adore speaking truth to himself and to Ben—

God completely destroyed me, but in a very loving and caring way. I realized that my survival mode and not asking others for help was rooted in a self-sufficiency, which is nothing more than pride. I didn’t want to admit that we were having financial problems because then people would see that I don’t have it all together and that I am not as ‘spiritual’ as I would seem.”

But I don’t have to have all my stuff together. Christ is the One who holds all things together (Colossians 1). This has produced in my heart an incredible freedom to struggle and wrestle. Because of the cross I am free. I am free to struggle. What a liberating thought! “

A proud wife moment. This is the man I married. He loved Jesus more than anything. Even in his struggle, he knew the truth. He didn’t have to hold it all together; Christ held him together. 

Fresh words, a lavish gift from the heart of the Father, given to my weary soul. Jon spoke truth. Almost three years later, I still get to be encouraged by it.

In the long journey, God constantly imprints four words, a lavish, gentle refrain.

My grace is tangible. 

How true! How utterly marvelous! Sometimes grace is a listening ear. Sometimes it’s a vase of flowers. Sometimes it’s a letter I never knew existed.

How extravagant is the love of God for His own! Because of the cross of Christ, I am the recipient of grace– overflowing, abundant, never ending, running over, grace.

God didn’t have to give me fresh words. They weren’t earned or merited.

He just loves me.

Perhaps your gifts of grace aren’t fresh words, but what are they? Have you forgotten? If you have met Christ at the foot of the cross, then He just loves you too. His words are always fresh.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Father, sometimes the days are long. Thank you for evidences of grace. Help me see and rejoice over the smallest graces. Thank you for the real, tender unique care you give to each of your own. Your words are always fresh. They are better than any human words. Let me never take them for granted. 


More Thoughts on Grace:

Tangible Grace. God Carries Me.

It’s Heaven Because Jesus is There

Good Shepherd May I Sing Your Praise

An Oak of Righteousness? Two Years After Death

This post by Ami appeared first at www.anewseason.net

Joy and Sorrow: A Beautiful Dance

Stirred anew by the beauty of the gospel, an overwhelming sense of illumination spread like fire in my heart. Joy and sorrow intermingled, two cords of the same braid. I call it a beautiful crushing.

It’s the place where God reminds me of my desperate need for Him, and just how much I’ve been given in Jesus. The worship gathering continued, but I lingered, astonished by a singular concept.

For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, But if her husband dies, she is free from the law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:2-4 

  • I no longer belong to my husband.
  • One day I may belong to another.
  • I already belong to Jesus.

I’ve read this passage countless times since Jon died, but never have its contents seemed so radical.

Sorrow and joy wove an intricate dance, somehow moving harmoniously together. I still miss belonging to Jon, but joy swelled at thoughts of renewal, reversal, and redemption. Joy blossomed at the idea of belonging to another. A year ago, sorrow would have vastly outweighed joy, but now they feel more compatible.

joy and sorrowI’ve long since realized that counter to cultural expectations, joy and sorrow may be equally present. The ultimate oxymoron, one does not necessarily exclude the other. For Christ had deep sorrow over the weight of sin, but also deep abiding joy to do the Father’s will. Joy and sorrow mingled at the cross, and learned they could dwell together.  And if I didn’t know death, I wouldn’t understand their harmony.

Joy and sorrow: a profound illustration of the gospel, yet death and remarriage exemplify it further. While Jon was here, we were bound to each other by a covenant made before God and man. And of course, I cherished that covenant. As hard as it is to process, at his death, we were no longer bound together.

Clearly the analogy breaks down, for marriage to Jon was not sin, nor was I captive to him. But the application is clear.

“Before receiving the gospel, we are ‘married’ to sin because we have broken God’s law and are chained to its verdict and mastery.” (Commentary, Gospel Transformation Bible)

I once was bound to sin. But now I belong to Another. I belong to “Him who has been raised from the dead,” free from the law’s condemnation and sin’s inescapable vice.

I belong to Someone. 

In marriage Jon was mine and I was his. How I loved belonging to him and miss belonging to him! And how I long to belong to another again someday. However, infinitely more precious than belonging to a husband, I belong to Jesus. I am Christ’s and He is mine. I’m not guaranteed remarriage, but I already belong.

Joy and Sorrow. Death and thoughts of remarriage: an intermingling I wouldn’t have chosen, but I marvel at such a beautiful dance.

Lord, no longer belonging to a husband is a hard thing to grapple. Sorrow. But to belong to You is inestimably better! Joy. In Jesus, I belong. And I always will belong! Oh, God, use the intermingling of sorrow and joy to draw me ever closer to you; through them I see all that Jesus accomplished. I marvel that Jesus embraced sorrow, so I would have joy.


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