Friend, Your Story is Not Wasted

Sweet friend, your story is not wasted.

Your story, with its twists and bumps and overwhelming, faith-testing hurts — your story, with its lens of sadness or tints of joy — your story, ordinary though it may be — your story….

It’s not wasted.

And right now, in the thick of it, when your emotions are so tangled you don’t even know what you feel, and tears slide silently down one cheek with every hidden, unnoticed sob, and bitterness threatens to dictate your next words, and you look at yourself and wonder how it all got here…

Know that your story is not a never-ending, exhausting cycle of how you feel, but a recipient of persistent, constant, faithful grace.

It’s all grace.

All. Grace.

Your story is not wasted. Not because someday you’ll pick yourself back up, or because we’re all a mess and it’s okay to be a mess together. Not because you manage to find the silver lining on the cloudiest days, or because eventually you’ll look back and see the lesson you were supposed to learn…

No.

Your story is not wasted because the grace of Jesus goes deeper than you could ever imagine, and while your pain-filled, trust-broken, bitterness-ridden, broken-hearted mess rages,

He cleanses. 

He comforts.

He convicts.

He does not waste a thing. Where sin runs deep, his grace is more. In the middle of your mess, he redeems you from it.

Sweet friend, your story is not wasted, not because of you, but because of Jesus.

This is the gospel. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Not because we were worthy, but for the glory of the Father, whose extravagant love saw fit to include us in his covenant grace story.

Your story is his, and his story is never a waste. Rest in the freedom of knowing, believing, clinging to the truth that your life, your hurts, your story…. belong fully to Jesus.

It’s all grace.

All. Grace.

 

 

When the Words Don’t Come

 

journal-and-pen-2I wouldn’t call myself a writer (yet), but I write.

When I write, I heal. I learn. I grow. I pour out.

God’s grace overflows when I write, and it’s tangible.

Written words are a way that I worship. They are a way I invest in people I love, that I deposit pent-up frustrations, that I reconcile confusion within my spirit.  They are a way in which I touch and see the presence of God.

Truly, my heart is in what is placed in my soul to translate onto paper.  And truly, it is a terrifying, beautiful thing when I sense the release of the Spirit to share those words to a broader audience than the pages of my journal. There is a heart-soaring, agonizing moment of wonder before I click “publish” that simultaneously doubts the necessity of sharing the burden in my spirit and also trusts that, having been faithful to write it, it will witness to Christ.

Sometimes, in my humanity, my words get it wrong and I am called to humility.

Sometimes, in my humanity, my words get it all too right and my pride feeds off the praise.

Yet, true to who Jesus is, He giveth more grace. Time after time, grace upon grace, and I marvel at the gentle,  mighty wonder that is our Savior.

But what about when the words don’t come? 

Because sometimes, they don’t.

It has been a season of stagnant words. Words that start, and tumble helplessly.  Sentences that have partially formed, yet still hang open-ended. Journal entries that are blank after the inscription of the date, and drafts in the admin portion of this site that continue to just sit.

It has been a season of overwhelming, conflicting emotion. Of confusion, joy, grief, and trust. Of loneliness, beauty, questions, comparison, contentment, surrender, and growth.

And I pick up the pen, one more time, place it to the paper, one more time….

and I wait.

Jesus, where are the words? Jesus, why this heaviness? Jesus, why can’t I write? Jesus, this circumstance, this death, the mourning, I don’t understand. Jesus, my time, it’s too full, I can’t do it. Jesus, why won’t the words come? Jesus, this ache, this longing for friendship, for being included, why does it hurt so much? Jesus, this long run, I’m scared and it’s dumb and I laugh but I’m terrified. Jesus, my writing, I need it, can I have it back? Jesus, why can’t I write? 

And I wait.

And the layers begin to peel back as the words don’t come and I linger in wondering why.

Because God is still God in the silence.

And maybe, when I get caught up in striving, my writing becomes my controlling and even though I protest with the core of my being, the silence is really an invitation to trust and rest.

Maybe, right now, I am being invited into a new thing.

And maybe I don’t need to desperately cling to what I know in order to truly know the beauty of Jesus.

Grace upon grace, He is teaching me to be expectant in the midst of when the words won’t come. And I marvel at the gentle, mighty wonder that is our Savior.

I Don’t Have Time {to Worship}

16-To-Do-List-Managers-as-Open-source-Web-AppsIt’s Saturday night, and I have an inordinate amount of homework to wade through.

It’s Saturday night, thus closing a week of intense spiritual warfare, where I’ve felt like the one losing.

It’s Saturday night, and all I can think about is the other thing I forgot to put on my list, and the pizza box I forgot to put in the recycling, and that one certain thing I like to think I’ve forgiven, yet from which I still struggle to heal.

I should charge my way through that towering stack of papers, worksheets, required listening, and midterm reviews, with the determination to see that “A” lighting up the top of each returned assignment and the satisfaction of a job well done.

I should know that the oh-so-real invisible war has already been won.

I should chip away at that to-do list one mini-goal at a time, refuse to let dumb little mistakes monopolize my thoughts, and surrender the healing process to the hands of the Great Physician.

It’s Saturday night, and my heart feels just as messy as my room. And trust me, that is a mess.

I should really clean my room.

I should really do a lot of things.

But this Saturday night, I am going to worship.

I’m going to clear off the piano bench, and sort through the lead sheets, and break the silence in this empty house at the top of my lungs, and not care that the neighbors will be able to hear every second of it. worship

I’m going to speak out loud the promises of God which have transcended through the centuries, yet still manage to pour vibrant life into my soul.

I’m going to belt out “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as a direct declaration that the entangling lies of the enemy have met their match in the character of my unchanging, omnipotent Savior.

I’m going to pour out my heart in the presence of my Resurrected Lord, because there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  (2 Cor 3:17)

I’m going to declare, as the thousands upon thousands of angels and elders will declare:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

 

As well as praise, as all creatures in heaven and on earth will praise:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

 

Not because of who I am, or how I feel, or for my own benefit, but because of who He is and because He is incomparably  and entirely worthy to be praised.

This Saturday night, I have a multitude of responsibilities and commitments and doubts and fears…and a whole lot of brokenness.

I don’t have time to worship. Which is precisely why, in response to the grace of Jesus, I will do exactly that.

            “We must never rest until everything inside us worships God.”  ~ Tozer

     “You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord,  stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”  ~ Augustine

 

Beautiful Living and the Single Girl

 

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Do we doubt God’s character so much that we refuse to trust His sovereignty completely?

Really, do we?

Of course we don’t say that. Of course we’re waiting on His timing. Of course it will be worth the wait, and His ways are higher, and we have lots of years ahead of us and there’s no rush. Of course we’re absolutely not desperate. Of course we’re in love with Jesus and don’t need a man to complete us. Of course.

Of course.

We know all the answers by heart. We’ve heard every well-meaning cliche about this apparent state called singleness, and exactly how to reply.

But what if we started living like we believed our own responses?

What if we truly took every thought captive? What if our hearts didn’t wander so easily? And what if, instead of bringing the man who’s happened to catch our eye to the attention of our friends, we bring him before the throne of grace and willingly release him unless the tender voice of God confirms that Jesus can be loved more intimately and served more effectively by the two together than the two separately?

But what if we didn’t manipulate that in our own hearts?  What if we were fully resolved to love Jesus first and to walk away from what distracts us from Him?

Or, what if we stopped viewing singleness as the “required Jesus time” before marriage, upon the conclusion of which we nearly expect Sir Potential Future Husband to step in to fulfill our needs, but instead – instead! – we stepped back into the greater scheme in which we see the bigger picture of  a Jesus-centric existence,  in which Sir Potential Future Husband would lead us to closer intimacy in our already-existing relationship with Christ — not step in to take his place?

What if our purpose in singleness was not simply “preparing for marriage”, with all the value that lies in that, but in reality, “preparing for eternity”? What if marriage and earthly companionship were not the be-all, end-all goal of our single years, but simply another stepping stone in the sanctification journey, another opportunity to pursue holiness and give grace and follow the example of Christ in glorious-messy forgiveness and daily surrender?

What if we stopped waiting for life to start when we finally have our man, but jumped fully into the life we have in Christ, embracing our identities as cherished, beloved, beautiful, desired, protected, secure, and forgiven?

What if we rested in the character of our personal, Sovereign God, and occupied our hearts and minds in going about His purposes? What if we loved, served, gave, thought, studied, worked, traveled, matured and fully lived, out of the overflow of a heart truly satisfied in the presence of Christ?

Wouldn’t that make for beautiful living?

 

 “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” (Piper)

 

Where are you in the singleness journey and what has Jesus taught you?

What encouragement do you have for those clinging to grace in order to live a Jesus-centric life?

Grief and Dancing: Vivian

Thursday night, I sat in the third row of a packed sanctuary, surrounded by the heavy sadness, lingering shock, and deep sobs of an all-too-soon funeral.

Friday night, I dressed up, went out with my friends, laughed, and danced away the night at my college Christmas banquet.

It almost felt wrong. This sorrow lasted longer than a night.

Thursday, I listened to an agonizingly beautiful lullaby, played and sung by heartbroken parents over their precious 17-year-old daughter, now still, and felt the unspeakable weight deep in the core of my being.

Friday, as energy pumped through the hall and excitement ran high, that music felt dreadfully empty.

The permanence of death didn’t sit well. Isn’t joy supposed to come in the morning? 

Thursday night, the ears of my heart listened in agreement as we talked of hidden pain, and depression, and the value of each voice speaking up and speaking out, breaking the silence in which the devil likes to do his dirty work.

Friday night, my mind wandered amid the motion as I couldn’t help but wonder why my secret battle ended after a few short months while hers ended her earthly life; and why a similar struggle had different outcomes, and why I don’t understand, and how it’s all just not fair.

Grieving is exhausting.

Thursday night, we talked about love. Fierce love. The fierce love of a mother relentlessly interceding for her daughter, and standing watch as she slipped away – escorting her from the arms of her earthly parents to the arms of her heavenly father with grace, and with the gut-wrenching acknowledgement that “This. Doesn’t. Feel. Well.”, but with the confidence of eternity in the presence of Christ.

And of the fierce love of the Spiritwho intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Thursday night, I sat directly behind a woman who played a huge role in my faith journey as a child – also a mother who has experienced the death of a child to different tragic circumstances.  As we mourned, in our separate seats but as a corporate body, I watched her raise her hands as we proclaimed “from life’s first cry to final breathe, Jesus commands our destiny” and knew she really, truly believed that. And as we listened to words of the unconditional love of God, I watched Vivian’s mama stand to her feet as if to acknowledge that any ounce of strength still pulsing through her system was a result of that deep overflow of love.

Because we do not grieve as those without hope. 

Friday night, I did laugh. I did dance. Not in flippancy, or in ignorance, or even in happiness. But because in the shadow of the cross, there is deep hope. There are deep promises. There is deep faithfulness. There is deep truth. And in the midst of our deep sorrow, there is a God whose character runs deeper still. That does not undermine our heartache. That does not diminish our bereavement. But in the words of our pastor, “grace runs downhill”, and in that flowing grace is deep victory over death.

As we deeply grieve, Vivian is dancing in that victory. 

 

I Like You: 5 Things I Want My Younger Siblings to Know

J & B,

I know I’m not around much. I know I keep saying we should go on another sibling date and don’t follow through. I know that I don’t do the dishes my fair share, and I don’t show up for all your events, and I’m not home for late-night chats and silly face competitions much any more. I know it feels like I brush you aside sometimes. I know my college life is almost as challenging to keep up with for you as it is for me. I know I don’t say it enough (as in…ever), but I miss you.  And as I watch you grow up, albeit from more of a distance now, there are a few things I want you to know. Things I wish I would have known. Things people probably told me, but I didn’t listen to because those people were adults who were supposed to say stuff like that. But right now, I’m only sort of an adult. So, from the heart of your big sister who really does love you a whole lot, here goes.

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1. I like you. I really actually do think you two are great human beings. I mean, you’re hilarious. Both of you. And smart. Like, ridiculously, unfairly intelligent and smart. You’re thinkers and doers. You’re not ashamed of what you believe.  You are friendly, likable, entertaining, and witty. I have fun with you. Very few people can make me laugh as much as you two. You’re both different, and that’s a good thing. J, you help me understand how guys think (or, at least I try to understand), and B, you teach me how to  be truly thankful for girls whose disposition is the exact opposite of mine. Both of you inspire me with your unique faith journeys, and the different ways you express who Jesus is to you and who you want him to be in your life as you learn to know him more. J, I like your style. B, I like your stories. I like your personalities. I like your hearts. I like you.

2. I’m not perfect.

Lets read that again: I am not perfect. That statement could not be more true. Maybe you don’t see it, maybe you’re sick of living in the shadow of your older sister who always does everything right, maybe I imply that I am by telling you how to do things all the time – but I’m not. I make mistakes. Sometimes I make intentional choices that are wrong. I hurt people, I’m not always compassionate, I don’t live out love very well, and I’m an incredibly self-centered person. Maybe from what you see, looking up to me, I have it all together. But I don’t. And here’s a secret…no one does. Not a single person. We’re all broken, and that includes me. I need grace desperately, and anything “good” that I do is by grace alone. Strong brother and sweet sister, I love you dearly, but don’t make me the standard by which you live your life. Look to Jesus. You don’t have to compare your actions to mine – instead, follow the example of Christ. He is the only truly perfect older brother you will ever have.

3. You have awesome parents.

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This is pretty much our relationship, B. 😉

Stop rolling your eyes, no one bribed me to say that. But you really do. Mom and Dad take their calling to invest in your lives seriously, and they probably know you better than anyone else. Know that while sometimes they make mistakes and can be frustrating and confusing…they walk by grace too. Be willing to offer them a little. They have life experience that you can’t even come close to claiming. They know Jesus, and in discipling you they are fulfilling a responsibility given them by God. You can trust them. You can share things with them. They are truly wise, they desire to see you walking in the truth, and they are willing to get their hands dirty in training you how to do that. They want to have a good relationship with you, but that has to go two ways, and for you to experience that blessing you have to be willing to put your effort in as well. Believe me, having a good relationship with Mom and Dad when you head off into the big crazy world is invaluable – and the time to build into that is now. Don’t miss out.

4. You don’t need to rush.

Yeah, that whole relationships thing. It’s a pretty big topic to tackle, and quite frankly, I don’t want to. But here’s what I have for you: it’s okay to slow down. What’s the hurry? You have your whole life ahead of you, and high school has enough drama of it’s own without the whole dating dynamic. Take it from someone who’s run the gamut of perspectives –  I know the difficulty of having to be the one to end a relationship, and the hurt of being the one rejected; I understand a little of the ache of wanting there to be someone when there simply isn’t, and the peace of being confident in the decision to not “put myself out there”. Contrary to popular opinion, the fact that I didn’t date in high school was not because mom and dad had ridiculous rules (although boundaries they did have), it was because I intentionally chose that I didn’t want to deal with that scene at that point in my life. And looking back, I truly treasure that time. Honestly, sometimes a little part of me wants to go back to when it was simple and easy and relationships weren’t difficult to navigate because I didn’t have any self-imposed pressure to “find someone”. J, some girls are gonna throw themselves at you. Treat them with respect, dignity, and gentleness,  but set your standards high and be strong in those standards. Constantly be in Scripture and learn to be open to the word “wait”. It’s not a race. There’s time. Let yourself mature as a man of God before involving the sacred emotions of another heart in your decisions.  B, fall in love with Jesus before you let your heart focus on anyone else. You don’t have to be constantly wishing for what’s next, but instead enjoy every moment as it is given to you – these days are precious! You do you, girl, but choose to set your sights on things of eternal value. Honor your brothers in the faith. Surrender your relationship fears to Jesus. It’s not a race. There’s time. Grow into the woman God has called you to be and exuberantly serve him in whatever capacity he places you. And both of you are welcome to sit me down anytime and we can talk and pray through this whole crazy trust adventure together. I mean that.

5. People will fail you, Jesus will not.

Mom and Dad will fail you. I will fail you. You will fail each other. Your friends, employers, coworkers, professors, advisers, and mentors will fail you. Basically, people can be pretty stupid. Love them anyway. But don’t live your life for the purpose of impressing fallible people. Don’t compare yourself to the individuals surrounding you, because someone will always come up short. Don’t wrap your identity in the acceptance that you receive from other people, because it will never satisfy, it will never be enough. You are called by God and equipped with his Spirit to make his Name known and be a blessing to the nations – seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Pursue holiness. Walk in truth.  Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. Seek the approval of Christ and walk in accordance with his Word. He is always faithful. He will never fail.

 

I love you, brother mine and sister dear. I really do.

Oh, and today I washed all the dishes, just for you.