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.

 

 

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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

 

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. 

 

Scheduling Surrender

I slid my meatballs into the oven, threw some spinach in with the sautéed mushrooms, sat back down to edit the opening paragraph of my Rhetoric essay, and exhaled slowly.

Why this weightiness? Why so heavy, heart?

I carefully went through a mental checklist of the various aspects of my life: a college that I love, two jobs I enjoy, new friendships to build, old friendships to nurture, celebrations to share in, a supportive family, encouraging mentors in the faith – a beautiful collage of people and places and shaping experiences that on most days would have me feeling filled to overflowing. So why was today so different?

I narrowed the search in the database of my brain and deliberately outlined the specific events of my day: Class. Class. Class. Lunch. Homework. Class. Work. Homeward commute. Make food while doing homework. And that was that. Here I was.

I pulled out my planner to outline tomorrow’s schedule, and doodling in the margins, noticed one little box in today’s agenda that was still unchecked. A detail that had somehow slipped my notice as I was crossing off tasks on my way out the door this morning. An endeavor I had ignored as I was rushing through my very full, could-have-been-vibrant day.

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……..

……………

……….

…………….

……………………………………..

Surrender.

Yes, in the wee hours of the night as I was scratching out the necessities of the forthcoming day, something in my soul had prompted the actual scheduling of surrender. And I, in my determination to enter each new hour fully prepared, had conveniently danced right around that responsibility – ignoring lingering hurts, stuffing some raw emotions, holding on to unconfessed sin. The result was an empty ache, a heavy spirit, and a confused heart.

In waltzing around surrender, what did I miss?

The joy of casting my cares on the Lord and allowing him to sustain me. (Psalm 55:22)

Partaking of the peace of God which transcends all understanding. (Phil. 4:7)

Receiving rest through offering up my weary heart at the feet of Jesus. (Matt. 11:28)

When we come thirsty, He fills us up. When we come lonely, He brings us into fellowship with Him. When we come with a humble heart and a loose grip, He gently takes the burden out of our hands.  Surrender is the act of hauling our brokenness to the foot of the cross and proclaiming, “I do not want this anymore. You can have it all.” It is intentional. It is daily. It is beautiful.

I closed the laptop, checked the meatballs, and set distractions aside to let God do His freeing work in my soul. First thing on the agenda tomorrow? Surrender. I don’t want to miss out on this again.

How have you seen the power of daily surrender in your own story?

Where do you need to schedule surrender in your daily life?