I was looking around my room for my journal so I could head out the door for church. I picked up a journal I hadn’t used in a while and thought, “I should give this away if there are enough blank pages.” So I skimmed through it and found a journal entry I wrote on November 19th, 2016.
Before reading, I tried to remember if that was during or after the “tough season.” I thought a second and made a mental note. It was roughly six months after. I then began to read.
“Dear Lord, Good Morning! I have a lot of questions for you… I need your direction and perspective. I just had a crazy thought, but it’s true… the devil is an abuser. Just like an abuser repeats your faults back to you and makes you feel worthless — that’s what he does. He humiliates, destroys, and maligns any character quality you are seeking to become.”
This month, I wrote six blogs on Domestic Violence Awareness Month for one of my clients. One blog took me back. I was explaining how the victim often feels trapped. Although I did not experience domestic violence, I did experience abuse (mental, emotional, and spiritual), which is a precursor to violence. I don’t say that lightly. Truth be told, I hate to say that because it feels weak or dramatic, but after counseling, research, and verification from others, that’s what it was. It still feels like I should have known better, but when it comes from someone you know well— you think to yourself— it can’t possibly be abuse because I’ve known them for so long.
Why do I bring all this up? Before I answer that, I want to read you what I wrote next in my journal. It’s like I took a moment to talk to myself in the middle of my prayer. This is what I wrote…
“But don’t focus on the abuser — he’s wasted enough time— focus on God.”
Before this journal entry, I wrote down these verses:
“He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” 2 Samuel 17-20
“The Lord is righteous within her; He will do no injustice, every morning He brings His justice to light. He does not fail.” Zephaniah 3:5
“The Lord is kind and merciful. He is patient and full of love.” Psalm 103:8
I bring this up because I don’t carry the weight of the awful words spoken over me when I look back on those horrible days. How I was treated at times doesn’t determine who I am. Did I think I would never be whole again? Yes. Did I know how I was going to get through it then? No, but looking back, I see the grace and the kindness of God who rescued me because He delighted in me. He loved me back to life. Because after getting out from under that abuse, I felt lifeless.
The enemy wants to do the same thing in our lives. He wants to render us useless, lifeless. He wants to hold us captive through our fears, our past, by what was spoken over us, through abuse, hurts, and hang-ups.
God wants to set us free. To show us who we are in Him so that when our character is attacked, our insecurities rise, or when others speak ill of us, we are anchored in Him. We are anchored in truth. Going through that tough season showed me kindness I had never known before. For that, I will forever be grateful.
So in this month of awareness, I want to focus on the one who rescued me. The one who took me out of a dark place and set my feet upon the rock — God. I couldn’t stand for a while, but He nursed me back to life and surrounded me with family and friends who helped me along the way.
“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” Psalm 119:68
A few weeks ago, I was struggling with where I am as far as my career goes. I should have had two books out by now, but things have not gone as planned due to changes in one publishing house, and Covid delays in the other.
My freelance writing also slowed down a bit. I was looking at where I wasn’t at in my career and looking at where others are in their careers. I got frustrated. During this time, my Bible reading was in 2 Corinthians 11.
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
2 Corinthians 11:23-33
It dawned on me while I was reading. Paul’s mindset was not on working hard to retire but preparing to be a martyr. Those mindsets couldn’t be more different. One strives for ease and comfort, and the other welcomes trials to grow strength.
As I’ve been working on one of my writing projects and came across this quote, “I have one desire now — to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” — Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (original quote from missionary Ed McCully). As well as this one from her husband.
As a member of the Redeeming Your Time book launch team, Jordan Raynor has taught me about unfinished to-do lists. Of course, there’s always something we won’t get done. But this week, I was reminded of that again because I’ve attended two memorial services within a week’s time.
I know we all will have unfinished things, but I want to make sure I’ve done as much as possible to leave as little a list as possible. Jim Elliot said this, “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” For those who don’t know — Jim Elliot lived those words. He was martyred in Ecuador, trying to reach an unreached tribe with the gospel of Jesus.
Jim Elliot lived fully and died laying it all on the line. Retirement wasn’t on his mind either. Carrying out the work of His Father in Heaven was. God decided to take Him home earlier than we all thought, yet he finished strong. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was first in His life.
When it comes down to it, the retirement mindset is about self. I’m not saying retirement is bad. Retiring from a job is expected. However, retirement from serving God is not. We are His servants to do with as He pleases. For some, like the two people I attended services for, God chose to take sooner than we all expected. For others, He chooses to leave here longer. The fact is we don’t know when it will be our time to die. But when it is my time, I don’t want to be wishing I had done more for the kingdom and didn’t. I want to go out like my Dad and Jim Elliot did. Guns blazing, ready at any time to meet my maker.
I’d gotten to Virginia Beach earlier than I anticipated. Since my former roommate and host wasn’t home, I decided to meet a former coworker in the parking lot of the place I once worked.
After catching up a bit, I noticed a car in the parking lot, “Oh hey, isn’t that TJ’s car?” I said remembering the time he came over to help my roommate and I move a futon.
I turned to look back at my former coworker who stared back at me like a deer in the headlights…
Today, I want to introduce to you Lauren Pearson. TJ’s wife and now dear friend. I have been amazed at her transparency and grace during the last four years. Please welcome Lauren Pearson.
In November of 2017, less than two months after our wedding, my husband TJ was hospitalized for the first time. After performing a surgical biopsy, the ENT oncologist found me in the waiting room and told me that my beloved husband had stage IV throat cancer for the second time, as well as a blood clot in his jugular vein that was causing a lot of discomfort. TJ was in the ICU for several days before we were released to go home and begin an eleven month journey that would ultimately end in his death only a month after our first anniversary. So many horribly hard lessons were learned during the course of the journey, but some lessons weren’t learned until long after he was gone.
That first week in the hospital, I left TJ’s side one morning to go to the chapel to pray. Someone had just emailed me and said that Pat Robertson was going to pray for him on the 700 Club that morning, and I sat on the chapel floor to watch the clip, tears pouring down my face. “TJ Pearson. He’s one of our own,” Pat said gently as he prayed for his faithful employee, asking God to spare TJ’s life.
From somewhere deep inside of me, the song “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” came to mind as I watched my husband being prayed for on national television. Laying on the hospital chapel floor, I sang it over and over again and wept and wept. I could barely get out the words, and I didn’t care who heard me in the busy hallway on the other side of the door. I had to remind myself that Jesus was still worthy of my trust.
Back up in the ICU, I wrapped my arms around my beloved husband and sang the song over him. He needed to be reminded, too, though his faith was so often stronger than mine.
Months later, I sat alone in the painful silence of my living room. The funeral was over. The leave of absence from work had ended. Life was back to “normal,” whatever that means, and I was alone. From somewhere deep inside of me, the hymn came back, but now thinking about it made me feel betrayed. Could it really be sweet to trust in Jesus? As I sat at the piano in my living room, the song began to pour out of me, but this time it came out as a lament. I meant the words, but I also meant the cries that came forth as the interlude of the song took on a new, haunting melody.
It may be sweet to trust in Jesus, but sometimes life itself is the very opposite of sweet. Sometimes our hearts are broken. Sometimes we weep on hospital floors. Sometimes we even lose the one who we love most in all the world, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t still very much worth trusting. I have learned that there are times to weep and there are times to rejoice, but sometimes there are also moments when the two come forth simultaneously and there’s no way of knowing where one ends and the other begins. If there is one thing I know, it’s that Jesus is okay with us expressing both emotions. That is exactly what He did when Lazarus died. He declared the truth, but He also wept. He spoke about the spiritual reality of what was happening while also experiencing the full weight of the moment in the natural. I believe that He asks us to do the same.
The exercise of trusting Jesus through pain instead of running away from Him is a daily one, but it’s the only way to keep moving forward. May we learn to trust Him daily, no matter how much it hurts. He is there both to empower us to trust and to hold us in our sorrow.
My coworker eventually told me that TJ had passed away I stood there in shock. TJ and I had worked together several times on remote shoots. I knew he’d gotten married. When I found out he passed away I knew I needed to meet Lauren. I got her number through friends and told her I was in town if she was able to meet. She graciously met me. That was the only face to face interaction I’ve had with Lauren but we have remained in communication.
I asked Lauren to write a little of her story because it’s out of her loss that her album, “magnificent desolation” was birthed. I listened in awe when I put on her music.
I know more than anything she would want TJ back over an album but instead of letting her grief destroy her she’s allowed it to remake her. Please check out her CD. I promise you will be so glad you do. Thank you, Lauren. I’m so grateful and honored to know you. I know TJ would be so proud of you. Keep changing the world one note, one chord, and one song at a time.
I spent the entire afternoon getting ready, but I have been preparing for months. I have so many expectations, and my heart is nearly swelling out of my chest.
I stepped into the car, waiting for the driver to move, yet something is wrong. Finally, the driver apologizes, “I’m sorry, miss, there is something wrong with the car.”
“Oh,” I say, hearing all the disappointment in my heart speak. “I hope you can get it fixed.”
“Me too,” he says, stepping out of the car to look under the hood of the car.
I wait in the back, staring out the window. As I stare, I see a car go by that looks like mine. Hmm, I think to myself. They must be headed to the dance too.
I look down at my light pink silk dress and take in its beauty, still optimistic about what is to come. I smile, thinking of the fine food that will be there, the decorations, and the guests. I drift away in my imagination before a grunt from the front of my vehicle startled me back to reality. I realize I’m still not moving. It’s getting a little hot, I think. Suddenly, something passes beyond me. I look out the window to see two more cars pass.
Oh, everyone’s going to get there before me! I cry out to my own heart.
I step out to ask my driver what the Dilemma is. “Well, I’ve blown the front gasket. Unfortunately, this car isn’t going anywhere.”
I try to hide my look of horror. “You mean I need to find another ride?” “Yes, ma’am. I need to call a tow truck and then make sure they get my car to the right shop.”
“Oh… okay… I understand.” I say, turning back to get into the car to get my purse, which I left in the back seat. I open the door, grab my purse, pull my cellphone out, and call a few friends, all of whom are also supposed to attend the dance. A voicemail for one. And an “I’m already here” from another and a text from a third, “I just arrived. Sorry!”
I plop down in the back seat with the door open, feeling utterly defeated. Will I ever make it? I scroll through webpages to find a taxi service. I call and hear the news that the fastest car that can get me is 45 minutes away. I try desperately to hold back tears as I make the reservation.
I get off the phone, and suddenly my tear-stained cheeks have not only messed up my foundation but also left temporary water droplets on my silky dress.
It’s okay, I tell myself. It’s only 45 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that late.
After what feels like a lifetime, the cab picks me up, and I’m on my way to the dance! Everyone was there before me. I wished I could have to say I was fashionably late, but my hair looked stringy from being in the humidity, and my makeup showed the retouches I made due to my tears and now red nose.
I walk in and let out a sigh of relief. I made it. What happened earlier is now behind me! Just enjoy tonight.
As I makemy way into the room, I notice all the couples dancing. They look like they’re gliding. Other couples are giggling and chatting off to the side. Everyone looks comfortable with each other. My head sinks. I feel so incredibly behind. I think to myself.
I try to make eye contact with everyone I pass and greet, but everyone looks a little preoccupied. I sit in a chair near the dance floor, waiting for someone to come ask me to dance, but no one does.
Isn’t this what I’m supposed to be doing?! Or should I ask someone to dance with me?
I sit there fidgeting in my chair while rubbing my thumbs together. The frustration begins to build. Maybe I should eat. Perhaps I’ll meet someone there.
I walk over to the buffet table, looking for someone to be there getting seconds or maybe thirds at this point. There’s one guy at the table. So, I greet him. He looks up, nods and grabs his desired food item, and walks away.
Ugh! This night is all wrong!It’s all wrong. Why did I even come?! It’s too late. I got here too late.
Feeling out of place and disheartened, I go back with my plate of food to the seat I was sitting in only to find it preoccupied with a happy couple. I roll my eyes and find another chair on the other side of the dance floor. While grumpily munching on my food, I can’t help but be envious of a couple I see captivated with each other, moving together like water and swaying like a reed in a gentle wind.
I finish my food and head to the trash to discard the remaining bits and pieces on my plate. While there, a young man in a jumpsuit says hello. I say hello simply because of the manners my parents taught me, and then I quickly walk away. I put my plate where everyone else stacked their plates nearly an hour ago.
The night feels ruined. until I hear a small whisper, “Go dance…”
What?! No way! Not by myself!
The voice speaks again, “You’ve been preparing for months for this dance. Don’t waste your chance.” I shot back, “But, I’m supposed to have a partner!”
“Just give it a shot.” The voice said once again.
My knees shaky. My palms sweating. A clear sign I was about to do something everything within me did not want to do.
As I made my way to the dance floor and put on foot on it, the music stopped. Of course it would!!! Isaid to myself while letting out an internal scream.
The DJ came on and said, “we will be taking a little break and will resume again after dessert. Frustrated with having gotten my courage up and now being too full from dinner just a few minutes ago, I sat back in my chair. The frustration now hung on me like a 50lbs weight. There was no denying its presence on me.
The desserts were served and savored by all, and soon the music resumed. Yet, my frustration was still there. I got up out of my chair to attempt my dance alone, but the thought embarrassed me. I decided to get some air. As I walked away from the music, my old familiar tears came flowing down. Nothing is what I thought it would be. I thought I was going to meet someone, eat with someone, and dance with someone. And the only one around me is me.
With my shattered expectations came the breaking of my heart. I wanted to run away. I thought about calling the taxi back, but I actually didn’t have the money, and my pre-scheduled ride home wouldn’t be here for another hour and a half.
“Face the music and go dance. Don’t waste the time you spent practicing.” The voice said.
I sniffled, wiped my nose with the back of my hand, and headed inside. I freshened up in the ladies’ room, put on my brave face, and made my debut. At first, people stared blankly. I felt like I was in a dark room, and I had lit a match. All I could feel was everyone’s eyes on me. I closed my eyes and pretended I had a man leading me in the foxtrot.
Slow, quick, quick, slow, I repeated to myself. With each step, my heart fell into a rhythm, and my frustration began to melt away. I finally found myself lost in the music. Just then, I felt someone grab my hand and place their hand around my side, and slide until it stopped at my shoulder blade; I startled.
My eyes caught eyes with a handsome man in front of me. Immediately, he picks up where I am, and we are dancing. Slow, quick, quick, slow. But after a few trots his steps become faster than mine, and my excitement turns into stress trying to keep up with him. His grip becomes firmer, and although we finish the first dance, I am spent. I thank him as he asks for another dance. I can’t. I need to catch my breath, I say.
He nods, kisses my hand, and lets me go. I walk over to the cooler, and a few people comment on the last dance. Isn’t he a great dancer? Was the comment most repeated. I furred my brow, shrug my shoulders and continue to the water.
I turn around to see this same man dancing just as intensely with another girl. Suddenly, I realize this was also the same guy from the couple I had been so captivated with initially. Oh well, at least I dared to dance.
I decide to sit this next dance out. A few more songs play as I worked up more courage to dance again. Finally, I took a deep breath and stepped on the dance floor.
It was the quickstep. The beauty of this dance was synchronization with your partner — which I was lacking, but I stepped out.
To keep out of the way of the couples, I hugged the border of the dance floor closely. Feeling very self-aware of my absent partner, I told myself to keep breathing. Then, as I did a spin, I misstepped and went right off the dance floor; I was about to lose my step when a strong arm caught me. he smiled and then said, “may I?”
We got on the dance floor with the other couples and no longer needed the comfort of the border. We finished the dance superbly. As with all the dances, the room applauded those on the floor. My partner looked at me, nodded his head, and walked off the floor. Clearly making a statement that he set out what he meant, and there was no more.
Embarrassed not to be escorted off the dance floor, I quickly hasten my step to find my seat — my safety net. I looked multiple times at my last partner to see if he would change his mind. But there was zero indication of that. So once again, I was alone. And my favorite dance would close out the night — the waltz.
As badly as my pride wanted to sit this one out, my heart wanted this dance so badly. Well, I’ve gotten up the courage twice already. What’s one more time? I say to myself as I take the floor once more. Feeling even more intensely the stares from the crowd, I close my eyes and swayed with each step of the music. Within a matter of seconds, I am lost in my own head and the only one dancing in the room. Yes, this night had not gone as I planned. I’ve been a step behind all night, and although I’ve had some partners, they never felt right.
The waltz soon came to an end. Everyone hugged and slowly said their goodbye as they departed the room. Once again, there was an issue with my ride. The family who was supposed to pick me up had a family emergency and hadn’t gotten around to calling me, so I somehow convince a cab driver to pick me up, and I’d pay him once I arrived at home. Reluctantly, he agreed.
One by one, the guests leave until I am alone again. Instead of my dress and makeup catching everyone’s eye, it was my party of one that had been in the spotlight. Maybe not to everyone but definitely in my own heart. I sat down on the curb. I sighed out of relief for getting through such a rocky night.
Just then, I heard music that sounded familiar. But where was it coming from? I stood up to follow the sound. It was coming from inside the building. The same building I had desperately wanted to exit, just half an hour earlier.
There was a disco ball, and Glenn Miller’s, In the Mood, was playing. I couldn’t see anyone on the dance floor, but I heard a rustling in the corner. But I couldn’t make out who it was. I didn’t want to intrude, but I was also curious. So I hugged the corners of the room closely.
The rustling stopped. But because it was dark, I couldn’t make out if the person had left. Suddenly I heard someone behind me clearing their throat. I about jumped out of my skin.
“Care to dance?” The voice said. Still not able to make out the face, I grabbed his hands. They were thick and strong. He wasn’t what I was used to in a partner, but he was strong, and his form made him easy to follow. He wasn’t too fast or too slow. He also was attentive, but his dress was not what you would expect. He was the janitor who had greeted me earlier in the night. The only one that made me feel welcomed and the only one I internally turned my nose up at.
I was confused. How was this guy, who I never expected to dance, able to lead me better than anyone I had ever danced with before?
We were totally in sync. We were not impeding each other. Instead, we were making one another shine. He was not who I expected but exactly who I needed.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11
I’ve been thinking a lot about this… Of all the ways for God the Father to prove His Lordship, why did He choose to lose His son to the grave?
He could have done it a million other ways, yet He chose the most painful, the most devastating, the most earth-shattering way. Why?
Since losing my dad, I’ve experienced scenarios that brought me right back to death’s door, whether it be in ICU with a family I know, at a hospice bedside, or over the phone with someone whose world has just been shattered by the loss of the one their heart loved.
As I ponder the grave and the ruinousness of death, I believe God allowed Jesus to experience death because it’s the hardest thing we wrestle with on earth. He did it so He could proclaim this: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) to our weary souls.
I realize, after experiencing and facing my grief, God in His mercy has given me opportunities to step into several friends grief. In every situation, two things take place. The first is my heart breaks all over again. The second, words always fail.
It’s a horrible and humbling place to be welcomed into someone’s pain. Because you wish with everything in you that you could take their pain away, you can’t. And you know what an arduous journey awaits them, and it hurts to see another life altered by death. But what you can do is enter into that journey with them. Whether it be sitting with them in shock, crying with them, or being their sounding board when their anger and frustration comes flying out.
This brings me back to the grave — I couldn’t see it when I lost my dad, but I am reminded of this (again) now. Maybe the reason it felt like I couldn’t hear God speak during those horribly dark days was that He was sitting with me in my pain. And looking back, I’ve seen His footprints beside me through each year since the accident.
So if you’ve lost someone, know that God may be silent because He’s weeping with us. He knows that pain better than anyone. His grief has become our safe harbor, our refuge when it seems like no one else understands the loss. He does… and He conquered it…
As Elisabeth Elliot once said: “Of one thing, I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”
And being found in appearance as a man, hehumbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8
Just before 5pm, I threw my car in park. This might not sound strange except that I was on the on-ramp to I95. After sitting for at least five minutes, I decided to step out of my car and see what was going on.
Cop cars were blocking the ramp… and I95 Northbound looked like a ghost town. Not a single car was headed North. A few other people began to step out of their cars to satisfy their curiosity.
Was the president in town? Who else would have I95 blocked at rush hour? I stood behind the cement wall looking for any movement. And then in the far distance, coming from the South, I saw flashing lights.
My anticipation for action quickly faded into the sober realization of what was unfolding in front of my eyes. It was the funeral procession for Special Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. My heart sank.
After the motorcade of an entire special forces community passed, I drove the rest of the way in silence. I didn’t want the radio on. I didn’t want to listen to my audiobook. Despite the beautiful weather, the air was heavy — as was my heart.
Suddenly, from the recesses of my brain, a text message I had gotten on the anniversary of Dad’s passing came to mind.
“Hey girl, I just wanted you to know I’m making space in my heart for you and your family today.”
Having received this from my friend who’d lost her dad unexpectedly just five months before me, meant a lot.
There was something about those two words: making space that comforted me. This friend knew that grief carves out space no one wants, yet its unwelcomed presence persists while everyone else’s lives seem normal.
Today, a lot of Broward County residence made physical space on I95 for two heroes to receive Presidential treatment. But, I want to make more than just physical space for them. I want to make space on this page for them — they deserve it.
I would have loved to meet Daniel and Laura. To hear about their work, their families and what made them want to serve our country by helping to save children from disturbed women and men.
I hurt for their family members who I’m sure got home tonight and no matter how full their house might be— it feels empty. I hurt because I know over the next few months/years they will want to tell their loved one about their day and how hard this season is… without them. To Daniel & Laura’s family, know that I am praying for you, and today…
I am making space for Daniel and Laura. I will make space by telling those still here how much they mean to me.
I hope today, in honor of Daniel and Laura, you will also Make Space.
In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. Proverbs 21:1
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. Daniel 2:21
Do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? 14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?
15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. 16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animalsenough for burnt offerings. 17 Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.
18 With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? Isaiah 40:9a-18
As I lay down to sleep, it’s quiet. What a whirlwind the last year has been. Around this time last year, we were receiving reports of the coronavirus popping up outside of China. Now, we live in masks and bathe in sanitizer.
As we face another day in our pandemic world topped off by a changing of leaders, rumors run like wildfire. Yet, I am reminded that our tomorrow is NOT promised. And we, as believers, are NOT given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
We were redeemed, purchased, bought with the precious life of Jesus. Although things have and will continue to change in our world, our citizenship has not (Philippians 3:20)! We come from a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28)! Our commanding officer had not changed. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). Lastly, our mission has not changed (Matthew 28:19-20).
So whether the guy you voted for didn’t make it. Or whether the guy you voted for is taking office, or whether the guy you voted for is leaving. Our God is still King. He made all men in His image. He knows how many hairs are on their head and how long their days are on this earth. And, He knows that about you and me too!
Our Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Warrior, The Alpha and Omega, the King of King and Lord of Lords is still on His throne. And NOTHING is impossible for Him. It is at His name that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father.
Do not grow weary in doing good, friends. Our mission is still the same to bring honor and glory to our King. To make much of Him and His office.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
“Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” — C.T Studd
Why?! Why do you catch me when everything is shut off. Why do you interrupt my silence? Haven’t you done enough? Taken enough? Why do you keep coming back?
Slowly walking towards me, I try and wrestle him off me… by now you’d think I would learn how to handle it…
I reluctantly give up my fighting. It is useless anyways. I collapse onto the sand and my grief sits right beside me. Like a friend who just wants to be near.
Why can’t you just let me live my life? I ask.
But, I am… this is a part of it.
How? You’re so cold, callous and evoke so much pain.
Without embracing me, as painful as it is, you will never fully live… it’s only when we lose that we gain.
How is that even possible? How could you say that?
We lose things, our work, or the people we love and we gain perspective. We see through the lens of loss, and in that others can gain from our seemly unbearable pain.
But why does it hurt so much? Why can’t you just not exist?
Because I remind you of what’s real. I remove preconceived notions. I remove the fluff, the surface level conversations. I strip away all the realities you have a tendency to create and remind you of the importance of not just life but this very moment. Each moment is a gift. You struggle with spiritually amnesia which is why I keep coming back.
Without me joy wouldn’t make much sense. Life is not a straight road but road through deep dark valleys and beautiful mountain peaks. It’s only when you embrace the sun setting, you gain an appreciation of the sun rising.
Were there no darkness you’d not appreciate the light..
You lose but you gain…
Reluctantly I, yet again, let grief be my friend. After he spoke, he didn’t speak again… his silence was deafening… but I know when these tears stop… I’ll have more room for the joy that I cannot see, but eventually will be…
Grieving in a way is an act of faith… It takes faith to let the pain flow up trusting that the joy will eventually fill you back up… knowing that one day He will wipe every tear from my eyes.
Have you ever needed to hear a great story? When I found “I am second” videos on YouTube, I devoured them. I distinctly remember where I was and what I was doing.
I was in a very intense job at the time, and it was my day off. I was cleaning the house where I was living. When I heard the first story, I listened and cleaned the entire afternoon and into the evening. As soon as one ended, I’d click to listen to the next one. Mind you, these videos are, on average, 7 minutes. I just needed encouragement, and they were just what I needed.
From time to time, when I feel discouraged, I will scour the internet to find a good story. There’s nothing like a good story to lift your spirits. A good movie can do the same.
Recently, however, I found myself looking for another good story. I started listening to one, and instead of finding encouragement, I found frustrated. I think because as the woman (in the video) was telling her story, it was the story I wished/prayed would have been mine. I turned it off and then felt like the Lord was saying, “Why are you looking for your story in someone else’s story?”
That hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, how many times have I just blindly followed a narrative without considering where God might want to take me? Do I care what story He wants to write with my life? Or am I trying to write my own story and then try and fit God into it later?
Do you know how incredibly creative God is? I don’t, but the bits and pieces I see blow my mind! He doesn’t have a one size fits all formula when it comes to our lives. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Ps 139:3). Your story might look different. Everyone might not understand it, but God knows the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).
I was reminded of this a few months ago as I was thinking about a book idea. I paused for a moment and thought how incredible it is to have the privilege of writing a book and have it published by a traditional publishing house. I mean, how many people would kill for that opportunity. The crazy thing is I can take zero credit for it. I thought back to when I graduated from college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I never thought I’d graduate from college. I always assumed I’d get married and start a family.
But that day, as I thought about my book coming out, I realized if I had gotten married, I probably never would have pursued writing. I wouldn’t have the time to write. Plus, only the Lord knew that I had always wanted to write a book. I remember thinking as young as 12 that I wanted to write a devotional someday. I might have forgotten that for a few years, but He didn’t.
To wrap this up, I want to pull from the story of Ruth. She’s someone who didn’t quite do things the way she was expected to. After she was widowed, she was supposed to remain in Moab (modern-day Jordan) with her people, with her family. Instead, she left with her mother-in-law (Naomi) to go to a foreign country with no real prospect or direction. She knew that Naomi’s God was real and worth following, even if it meant a different narrative than what people expected her to have. Am I willing to do the same? To set aside what I think should be. To stop looking for my story in someone else’s story. To embrace the story God wants to write in my life. I can guarantee it won’t always be easy or comfortable, and people won’t always understand, but you won’t be alone, and it will be worth it.
So if you’re like me and scouring the internet to find a good story, let it encourage you, but we must try not to look for our story in another person’s story. Because ultimately, our stories should not be about us but reflect the creative, kind, good, intimate, gracious, just, and true author of the story.