Joy through sorrow

Mosaic. Shattered glass…beauty held together by what isn’t beautiful. What was whole must first be broken into a thousand times one thousand pieces. Then, carefully, each shard with its raw, jagged edges is intentionally set into place, in a backdrop of tesserae and left to harden, for all to look upon this magnificient chaos.

After some years of having two healthy (and too smart for their own good) kiddos, I knew my “clock’ was winding down to midnight. I so longed in my heart to have one more baby before it ticked its last. And so, the prayers and the hopes began, but were traded for tears as each baby I had to give back to heaven. With each loss, my body held onto a visual reminder of that sorrow – as pound by pound, my weight climbed to over double my original size. No matter how much I tried to fool myself into being joyful, or put on a brave face, I didn’t recognize who I was becoming – emotionally, or even physically. The mirror held that stark reminder of the times I’d cried in secret.

Still, I kept believing that the next would be “the one,” but after the eighth “goodbye,” oh how I grieved over that next year. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore, because I’d been taken to the brink so many times. And I’d almost jumped just as many – only to be caught by invisible arms. At the end of that year, I conceived again, and I prayed “Lord, I want to hold my baby this time.” I did hold that baby in November 2010, and still do – as my rainbow baby is now 7 and every bit a boy as his daddy. Dear ones, I have savored every precious moment in my mind – latched on to it to get all I could out of it, tried to freeze time in my heart…because it is bittersweet to have the one you have prayed for, and know that you’ll never bear another child again. A mother’s joy in such a time is truly mindblowing, because it was born out of such suffering. It is infinitely more bittersweet. It is interesting to me – that I, too, am a rainbow baby. Seeing my mother dote over me in family movies, hearing her voice (mostly squeals of inexpressible, wild, and untamed joy!)… and even the little things, like she would much rather be with me than behind the camera. But of course – I was the baby that she prayed, “Lord I want to hold my next baby” too, all those years ago. She wanted – like I do with Ryan – to savor every single precious second she could.  Oh yes, I do see her with new eyes.  The joy I see on her face and my mere-months-old face – I feel in my heart, and it astounds me.

Might this be the secret to real, lasting joy? That, born of heartache and pain, when our hearts – like the once-whole colored bottles – too were smashed into pieces. Is it in our perspective? Could joy really be birthed out of sorrow – oh will we allow our hearts to relive that pain all over again, even perhaps before the pain began, so we know not only the mountaintop, but the descent into the darkest crevices and valleys? To where we see this present hope and joy through mourning what once was through the lens of what was lost and now found? Are we that brave? To remember, instead of trying to forget? If the bitter really makes it sweeter – yes, never forgetting, that which we may have begged God to take away that once caused pain, but now brings joy unspeakable. But we must trust, and place our shattered hearts in His able hands, for only He can piece them back together again and make these sorrows into beauty.

I once heard of a little known protein that holds every one of the body’s cells together. It literally keeps us from falling apart and most often is called lumens. What is interesting, is – when looked at closely – each lumen has the appearance of a cross. Now, I’m no scientist so I can’t look for myself to confirm this, but isn’t it curious to consider that just as God can hold us together when we have completely fallen apart, our own bodies may contain a reminder of how His precious gift does the same for our souls?

It has been said that people don’t believe in God because of proof, but because – by Him – we see everything else. Since that day of surrender in February 2013, when God answered this grieving mother’s cries and I gave Him my whole heart, I can look back over the most painful times of my life, and I see He has been with me the entire time. He was there when I met my babies in silence. He was there when my family was once happy, and when it all unraveled. He was there when those I leaned on let me fall to the ground, and He was there when I felt rejected and outcast. And He loved me from afar – mess that I was, waited oh so patiently for that moment when – in my shame, guilt, and sorrow – I held out my hands to Him holding absolutely nothing but the shattered pieces of my heart. Yet that was exactly what He required of me – to give Him everything. And since that day, He bound me up with Himself, into a mosaic, whole again – only because of Him.

Purposeful Pause:  What hurts and sorrows of this life are you holding onto? Journal about at least one that seems to be the deepest. What difference might it make were you to really work hard at giving all your troubles to God? What would that look like in your day-to-day life?

Worshipful Praise: “Find You On My Knees” by Kari Jobe

Digging Deeper: Matthew 11:25-34; Isaiah 40:29; Psalm 30:10-11; Job 6:10; Psalm 34:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Revelation 21:4; Deuteronomy 31:8; Romans 8:28-29; Psalm 119:50; Isaiah 48:10; James 1:2-4; Romans 5:1-5; Job 1:20-21, 2:9-10; Deuteronomy 8:3; Habakkuk 3:17-18; John 16:22, 14:27; Romans 12:12; 1 Peter 5:10; Philippians 4:6-7; Isaiah 26:3; Jeremiah 29:11; Zephaniah 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Romans 15:13; Isaiah 12:2; Psalm 73:26

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Mosaic

Life is painful. With the joys comes sorrows. Sometimes, the “lows” seem to far outnumber the “highs.” We grab on to those times desperately, for we know the lows will come…but like sand, the tighter we try to hold on to our life, the faster it falls between our fingers. It’s been said that you will certainly find whatever you’re looking for. If we expect our day is ruined, it is – because it’s what we perceive. Even when we ride in a blue car, other blue cars will stand out more than all the rest – because it’s what our minds are on. On days we’re soaring with the clouds, those storms seem far less, don’t they? When we go through each breath with our only foundation as hope, it’s shaky – based on things that waver and change like the wind. So – knowing this – why do we keep basing our happiness on temporary things, giving such power to others who are just as broken as we are?

God’s Truth says over and over, “guard your heart,” “love God first…” why? When our heart’s feelings are contingent on anything but God and His Word, we are leaving our hearts to chance. When we aren’t living out our love for God – giving Him preeminence over all (especially our fragile hearts), we limit Him in our lives, and then despair when it all goes to dust – as things always do where and when He isn’t invited in. It’s so hard to see beyond what we can see, touch, feel, and hear, isn’t it? The secret (lean in close – these are pearls, here) to real happiness, is allowing what is unseen become more real than what is seen. Because beloved – it is. We look at so many times of sadness, disappointments, and oh it is so hard to look away! We see shatters of glass where we used to see beauty  – when things were “easier,” or “before.” If we’re really honest, perhaps we even grieve for those times – how it used to be. Looking everywhere but to God, dear ones, we can miss His sweet presence, His healing work in our hearts, and the hope that only comes from Him. Jesus lived like you do, walked like you do, cried like you do, hurt like you do. And He knows, friend, your suffering, and your pain, and He can bind together those broken pieces with His Truth, His love, and His plans for you.

When Jesus sent His disciples out on the Sea alone, He knew full well there would be a monster storm coming. These were sea-worthy men, too – fishermen who had seen all kinds of storms, but something about this one scared even them! To top it all off, here – in the middle of their panic – comes – what is it? a ghost?! – no, it’s Jesus – walking on the water! You have to love Peter – his heart was in the right place, yet his stories in the Bible help us to know he failed on his best days just like us. He called out to Jesus, saying “Lord, if that is really You – then I’m coming out, so tell me to step out on the water, too!” Jesus calls his bluff, and gives the green light…and out Peter steps onto the waves. He started out great – his face was set like flint on Jesus – first step, then another, and another. Then – we aren’t told what broke their gaze – perhaps the thunder clapped, or the lightning flashed brighter than ever, but Peter looks away from Jesus – and down at the angry waves. And down…he…goes. I can just imagine the sadness on Jesus’ face as He rushed to Peter’s side, reached out His hand, and said “why did you doubt?”

Could the Lord also be asking you that now? God put us – just like those disciples – in a tulmultuous, broken, stormy world, knowing what lay ahead – that those times would come. Jesus even told us they’d come, so we could be prepared – and He told us to keep our eyes on Him, and not fear. When we take our eyes off Him and onto our storms, we sink. So many distractions there are – like thunder, winds howling, downpours of rain (or perhaps tears). Peace is not a state of heart, dear one. Peace is a Person – and His name is Jesus. Keep your eyes stayed on Him alone, for it is only then that He’ll take those pieces and make them into a beautiful mosaic – whole again, only because of Him.

Purposeful Pause:  What are you trusting your heart with today? Fixing your eyes on today? How could your heart change – and your life – if you made Jesus your cornerstone?

Worshipful Praise:   “In Better Hands” – acoustic – by Natalie Grant

Prayer:  Dear Lord, there are so many distractions around me, vying for my attention. Just when things get better, they get worse again. I’m ready to stop sinking and take Your hand – fixing my eyes on You alone. Help me to make You first – the place I look to first, the One I run to first. I want to see things through Your eyes, not my own. I’m going to trust only You with my heart, for You know it best since after all, You made it! Thank You that You are with me always. In every storm, be my Peace.

Digging Deeper: Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:11; Proverbs 4:23; Galatians 5:24; John 16:33; Luke 9:23-25; Hebrews 10:8-10; Colossians 3:1; Psalm 112:7; Isaiah 26:3; Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:18, Matthew 14:22-33; Colossians 3:15; Matthew 7:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 16:8; Psalm 29:11; Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 41:13; Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:17-18, 28; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; Revelation 2:4

It Is Well

It has been a somber past few nights for me. Standing on the cliff on a chasm depth I cannot see. My health has been here and there, despite my prayer of prayers that maybe “this time” is it, and then life gets better.

What about when it doesn’t? When you know God could fix it, yet heaven is silent? When – despite your very best – your “best” isn’t enough? When you’re sure you can’t possibly face one more thing, and then the phone rings, or the knock comes, or the tears fall?

God wants us to rejoice in all things, yet how do we rejoice in times like this?

How did Paul? After all, he was one nod of the head from the guard away from his last breath. Locked up in chains in a dingy prison. He recounted his resume too, and it’s a long one. Paul was flogged multiple times, shipwrecked, robbed, thrown in prison, ridiculed, been cold, homeless, hungry, and – well, admit it – likely miserable! He of all people had every reason to be.

Dear one, he wasn’t. He actually was joyful, because his suffering was to him the least he could give, to Who gave him His everything. Jesus. Paul wasn’t fixed on this world, because it’s temporary. He knew Who he trusted, and Who gave His life so Paul could live.

The story behind the song, “It Is Well With My Soul” is stunning. I’ll not spoil it with details- but I will say, it is a must-read (This is your cue to go read it, then come back here). The writer had gone through an unspeakable tragedy, and in the middle of his pain, he penned that hymn. His eyes though filled with tears and pain, saw past the cares of this life, and how his story would end. How your story will end if you have trusted in Jesus. The road to your happily ever after is paved with hurts, betrayal, disappointment, rejection, and much more you could add. If that ending that’s only in your dreams at the moment is absolutely a certainty- being with God forever and ever and free of all the brokenness in this world, is what you’re facing- and faced- worth It? Would keeping your eyes on that – though not your situation- change your heart, even your strength to get through it, or somehow find a smile amidst those tears? I’ve thought a lot about that in 2017, as this has been one of my most painful years yet. And friend, I feel that I can say “yes” – it’s worth it.

We don’t always understand this side of heaven why we face the things we do. Or why God allows things to happen that we would rather Him not. But you can know, confidently, that God uses all things for your good, He gives beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and He loves you so, so much. You can trust that He keeps all your tears in His bottle, and wastes not a single one. And you can trust Him. Let Him lead you. He’ll never take you where He does not go. And you can say too, with Paul, that it is well.

Purposeful Pause: Will you invite God into your pain and let Him comfort you?

Worshipful Praise:  It Is Well by Bethel

Prayer: Dear God, Forgive me for not inviting You into my pain. I can’t take one breath without You. Thank You that You are always with me. Give me Your sweet peace as only You can, and teach my anxious heart how to trust You more, and find joy in You in all things.

Digging Deeper:  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 2 Corinthians 11:1 – 12:10; Philippians 4:4-9; Psalm 56:8; Isaiah 61:3; Psalm chapters 91, 119, and 139; Psalm 73:25-26

The Reason

Ah, the holidays are here! (enter declarative trumpet sound) Planning…presents…family visiting…those ever-growing wish lists (or to-do lists?). Today is Thanksgiving Day, and the stores already look like Christmas morning! It’s enough to keep anyone seriously considering some one-on-one time with “John” (tell me you have tasted the awesomeness of ducking in your water closet in the name of peace and quiet) and catching some zzz’s after having too much turkey and pumpkin pie. What about the homemade Wassail – it is a must-have. Or, perhaps the hardest part is waiting til Christmas to see those smiles and hear the squeals of delight. I’m feeling coo-coo and cross-eyed (and exhausted!) just thinking of it all!

How easy it is to get lost in the hustle and bustle – the time of year that brings out the “giver” in us (or the “gimme’s”), and lose sight of the “first Christmas” that started it all? It was important enough to split our calendar in half, move pens to write, feet to go to distant lands, bow the knees of kings, and set three Magi on a star-gazing trip, bearing the very first Christmas gifts of all. God put on human flesh, became a tiny, helpless baby, and traded his heavenly home for a feeding trough. His name? Oh He has many…Jesus…Prince of Peace…Wonderful Counselor… or this favorite: Emmanuel – “God with us.” God came to rescue you, and gave up everything just to adopt you as His own. This is why we celebrate: while we were still orphans, lost in our own mess, He came – because He loved us. God sent His Son Jesus to woo your heart, win you over, and save the day. Will you accept the greatest gift of all?

Purposeful Pause: What are you putting “first” this holiday season?

Worshipful Praise: “King of the World” – live acoustic by Natalie Grant

Prayer: Dear God, it’s so easy to get distracted from You. Help us to have a purposeful pause in the middle of it all, make time to sit with You, and thank You for the reason behind it all – Jesus.

Digging DeeperMicah 6:7-8; Matthew 22:37-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1-2; John 3:16; Psalm 51:16-17; 1 John 4:10; Psalm 91:14-15; Jeremiah 29:11-14; John 12:46; Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; 2 Kings 6:8-23; Matthew 6:19-21