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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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. 

 

My Gap Year: What was the Purpose in the First Place?

60H

All through high school I thought I had the four years after graduation figured out. I knew I was generally expected to dive right in to college and I was determined to follow through. I knew what I wanted to study and knew the general location of where I wanted that to be. I knew I wanted to attend school loan-free and complete it debt-free. I knew I would be paying for my own education and that I would graduate at a younger age than the average student. I knew there would be challenges, but I was confident to face them. I was familiar with the idea of a gap year and at moments would entertain the possibility, but for the most part, I decided against it. I knew a year out of school would mess everything up. Yep…I had it all figured out.

Senior year brought a flurry of activity, and with it came that multitude of college applications, essays, forms, visits, and scholarship and financial aid paperwork (as well as the vast overabundance of mail and phone calls.)  It also brought a growing level of uncertainty. After every meeting with an admissions counselor and every conversation with a prof, I would picture myself in that particular academic setting and point out all the things I admired and appreciated – yet my heart would be uneasy. I wasn’t nervous. Neither was I excited. Deep down, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Not “there” as in a specific school…”there” as in college itself.  And I really did not want to accept that realization at all.

I had everything figured out, remember? It was all lined up. I wanted the challenge, the adventure. I wanted to share post high school experiences  with my friends. I thought I wanted to live up to the cultural expectation of “college after high school because that’s just what you do.” It all made sense. Still, I had no peace. I was pursuing my plans instead of pursuing God’s will.  That, my friends, is a dangerous place to be. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “There are no ifs in God’s world, and no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. Let us pray that we may always know it!” So gently, firmly, and with oh-so-much love in His voice, God began to impress these words upon my heart:

“Stop. Stop the pursuit. Stop forging forward. Rest in me. I have so much more I want to share with you. So many ways to reveal myself to you. I want your full attention. I want you to know me closely, personally, intimately. Stop.”

Every protest and excuse and struggle that I spewed forward fell flat (of course) and the deposit day came and went without a place for the next semester reserved in my name. My files were put aside for potential future reference. My years of careful planning were completely gone within a couple of months. I was left with two things: absolutely no idea what I was doing in the fall, and a whole lot of peace. When the Lord of the Universe calls you by name and desires a deeper relationship with you, cultural expectations pale significantly in comparison.

What is it that I believe? What do I stand for? How do I live it? In what ways can I serve? Most importantly, who is the reason I’m seeking answers to these questions, and how do I know Him? Really know Him? This is the ultimate purpose of my gap year. To make use of the space, take time to listen, step back and learn who my Jesus really is.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11