When Everything Falls

There was quite a lot of devastating news traveling around last week (not even counting Downton Abbey…) and my heart has been weighing a bit heavy ever since.

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I was driving the other day and heard the song “Held” by Natalie Grant. The song always makes me tear up because it’s about a very young baby who passes away. There’s one line in the song that just seemed to hit exactly what I had been feeling:

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

The promise Jesus gave to us was not that we would not suffer. Rather, the promise was that in the midst of suffering, we would be carried. We would be held in the hand of a God who not only knows all but who has actually felt the ultimate pain when He died on the cross.

When tragedy strikes someone who isn’t a Christian, I get anxious about what might happen in that person’s heart. You see, if that person takes a leap of faith and cries out to God in prayer, it can be devastating when He doesn’t answer the way he or she expected. That person might then turn away from faith forever, feeling scarred by his or her seemingly useless prayer.

It can be so scary to step out into His grace. We are so used to taking care of things ourselves. We want a guarantee that if we reach out to God that He will answer exactly the way we hope.

Just yesterday I was searching my email archives for something and ran across an email exchange with Tyler on March 29th of last year. It was the day before we found out he had a tumor and we were emailing like we normally do throughout the day. Tyler wrote that he had done some research on the likelihood that the mass was a cyst or a benign tumor and that he was just believing it would be nothing. We both wrote that we needed to remember to put the champagne in the fridge to celebrate his health. There’s even an email from me with just a bunch of star emoticons.

It’s bizarre to read those notes knowing what happened the very next day. That we would walk into that doctor’s office after days and days of prayer from our closest friends and family and squeeze each other so hard when the doctor said the words “malignant tumor” because we didn’t want to cry in front of this stranger.

It’s strange to look at that email thread and then remember that the champagne stayed chilled in the fridge for 3 months while we kept waiting for the good news. While we kept praying. While others kept praying.

God didn’t answer our prayer that the mass wasn’t a tumor. Or that the tumor wasn’t cancer. Or the prayers that the cancer wouldn’t need chemo or that there would only be one round of chemo.

Tyler did get healed (thank you, Jesus!) and I know that is a happier ending than a lot of people get. But we didn’t get all the things we asked for, did we?

If you haven’t experienced God’s grace or been carried by Him through a storm or felt His sweet gift of redemption, not getting the answer you want might feel like a total letdown. Why follow a God who doesn’t give you what you want?

The thing is, when Tyler was sick, God answered prayers for grace, strength, peace, comfort. He also met us in our darkest hours and the time we spent with Him there was so precious. Reading Psalms together, listening to worship music, just being still. He was present.

It was still hard, don’t get me wrong. We dealt with a lot of fear and had a lot of difficult moments. There’s just no doubt that God showed up for us in a big way.

I don’t write this so that you’ll never ask God for healing or to be taken out of suffering. Jesus is Healer! I believe that and have seen His touch heal people in my own life. We should bring all our worries to Him and ask for miracles.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

But let’s remember that our relationship with God is not “transactional”. We desire to be in communion with Him and sometimes that means enduring a trial together. When I’m going through a hard time or I know someone is struggling, I pray that we would understand that Jesus will be there and He will be enough.

The Bible does not say that if we become followers of Christ that we will not endure any suffering or experience any pain. Quite the opposite, in fact, Jesus says:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Take a leap of faith in your prayers, my friends, and take heart! He is waiting there with open arms.

Pathways in the Wilderness

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“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

God moves in ways we can’t even imagine. Here’s to new beginnings in familiar places :) My heart already feels a new peace.

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Woven Together

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to spend thanksgiving with my family, my husband’s family, and my brother-in-laws family. Tyler’s mom has an incredible gift for hospitality and serving others. Bringing our families together on this day so that we wouldn’t be scattered at separate houses was a very special gift to us all and symbolic of how she views family.

Tonight, as we drove Gram home, I noticed all the homes with one room lit up showcasing families gathered around the table. It struck me because so often we spend our time in separate rooms, not tuned into each others’ lives.

I’m thankful to be part of a family that not only values time spent together, but also opens their home to others, extending their love and generosity even further.

We stood in a circle before the meal, holding hands while little Eli said a blessing (with some help from Mimi!). We ate, laughed, and celebrated and now the 9 of us remaining are cuddled up on one couch watching the Patriots.

I am so thankful for my family. I can’t imagine anything more important on this earth than spending time with the people who share my history and my genes and the ones who have welcomed me as their own.

To my own family, thank you for all the wonderful memories you’ve made possible over the years. Watching the parade, baking special treats and watching Dad try to figure out which way the turkey should go in the pan. We can’t forget Gram’s festive turkey sweaters and fun table games.

To my in-laws, thank you for the traditions that you’ve shared with me, whether we are visiting the extended fam in Pennsylvania or celebrating all together in Maine. Thank you for welcoming my whole family into your celebrations.

Father, thank You for the families that you have blessed me with, both by blood and by marriage. I praise You for the way You have woven us together and I pray for continued unity. We are all part of the same family, Your family, brought together by the grace of Your son. We praise You for all the blessings of this past year and ask for Your favor in the year to come.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

In the Light of His Presence

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 89:15-18

I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in Threshold this year. I remember hearing the facilitators describe the experience at a workshop last year and thinking, wow, I would love to do that.

To explore some of the most challenging questions in life with a small group of people who are learning how to say yes to God’s big plans for our lives is a true treasure. In the three short months we’ve been together I have learned so much about the rich diversity of stories God is telling in us.
Stories of redemption, promise, and hope.

Each of us has a unique set of experiences and gifts that God is weaving together in a much larger story. We may never know or understand how our individual lives connect but I believe in the great purpose He has laid out on the path ahead.

I feel the light of God’s presence each time we meet, piercing the darkness of the world and inviting us into a better way. A brighter path.

Thank You Father for the opportunity to connect in this way, especially during this season of transition in my life. I ask for Your blessing upon each participant and on our facilitators. I pray that we would each increase in our courage and boldness as we uncover Your deep purpose for our vocations.

He Directs Our Steps

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 37:23

I’m thankful that God answers prayers in His own way and His own time because His ways are so much higher than our ways. Thank You, Jesus, that I do not have to direct my own steps.

Two years ago, Tyler and I felt the longing to move home to Maine. An opportunity came up that seemed to be the perfect ticket and timing to make the move. We felt in control: the opportunity would have given us both plenty of time to wrap up details in Boston and get settled in Maine.

It didn’t work out.

I remember exactly where I was sitting when I found out and the exact feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were pretty devastated.

Thankfully, God had exciting plans for us in Boston. Jobs that challenged us, friends that enriched our lives so fully, and an incredibly vibrant church community.

We found a great apartment to move into when we became Mr. and Mrs. and began to settle in and enjoy our life in Boston. We were even thankful that the move to Maine didn’t happen.

Right before Tyler’s diagnosis, we felt like God was calling us to be bold and take risks. We thought maybe our next move would be somewhere far away – California? London? We felt open to wherever God was leading us.

And then cancer entered our vocabulary and we couldn’t stop thanking God for how He set us here, in the land of the best medical care with secure and supportive jobs and a very special community of people who loved us. Even our apartment was a gift – conveniently located just a few minutes drive from where Tyler had chemo.

Sometime after, or maybe in the midst of, Tyler’s treatment, we felt that longing again for Maine. It was different this time, we saw our home state differently. We saw the beautiful land and the kind, warm people but we also more clearly recognized the great potential our precious Maine had for growth and change.

We talked about moving in a year or so, when the school year was over and our lease was up. There we went again – trying to plan each step.

We assumed it would take a long time to find jobs in a state that has a fraction of the opportunities of Massachusetts. Tyler found an interesting company that ended up contacting him on LinkedIn. I told him there was no harm in exploring it, truly believing that it was not going to pan out.

A week later, he had a job interview. Less than a day after that, he had an offer.

Our heads began to spin. This was not our plan! What about our current jobs? Our friends? Our church?

I became painfully aware of how tied I still am to being in control and making my own plans. What if I don’t find a job right away? I felt myself shrinking back from the opportunity.

At the core if it, we knew Tyler had to take the job. We had prayed specifically over the last few months that we would be open to taking risks and stepping out boldly when God called us.

So here we are. He has called and we have answered.

Yes, Lord, we will follow You down this path. We will trust You to work out the many details and loose ends. We put all of our hope in You for the future You have set before us in the wonderful state of Maine.

Although there is definitely pain in leaving Boston, we are so joyful to begin this next chapter. We will be close to both of our families (including my Gram!) and my hour and a half commute on the lovely MBTA will soon end, leaving me more time to serve and spend time with loved ones.

Boston, you will always be special to us as the city where we learned as students, grew as professionals, fell in love, got engaged, and the place where we discovered how powerful community can be.

Thank You, Jesus, for our life here. We pray blessings on this city and all the people who have made it special. Thank You for ordering our steps and being present in even the tiniest details.

We grieve the end of this chapter but look forward to welcoming our Boston family into our new life, just a couple hours away.

Maine, we’re coming home <3

Confidence in the Most High

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
Psalm 67:4

I’m thankful that no matter the outcome of the election tonight, the true ruler will still reign. His ways are higher than our ways and we may never understand why certain “kings” are chosen. Or not chosen.

I’m confident in God’s sovereign authority and count His grace as the highest freedom of all.

Don’t let this election confuse your allegiance to the Most High. Praise God whether your candidate wins or loses. Join your brothers and sisters in Christ to sing for joy that though we still have work to do on this Earth, the battle has already been won.

Tonight’s outcome does not determine our salvation (phew!).

If you’re feeling animosity toward people who feel differently than you (especially in the church) or frustrated with the division this election has caused, please check this out:

http://electiondaycommunion.org/

And don’t forget to vote!!

A Place of Refreshing Springs

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. Psalm 84:5-7

I am overwhelmingly thankful today for the way God orchestrates our relationships to bless and strengthen us with deep fellowship. My sweet friend Laura, who I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, came up to Boston from Richmond this weekend. God aligned our schedules so we were able to spend a few precious hours together this morning.

I’ve known Laura since freshmen year of college when we joined the same Bible study and then became sisters of Delta Gamma. Laura is married to a Rwandan man and has spent the last few years splitting her time between Richmond and Kigali. This means we don’t see each other as regularly as we both would like.

When we do get together, it’s like we just saw each other the night before. We dive immediately into the big important stuff: hurts, joys, questions, and challenges. Laura knows my heart in a way that I can’t really explain. I can tell her bluntly about my sin because I know she shares in the beautiful redemption that God has lavished on us despite how little we deserve it.

Psalm 84:5-7 describes Laura’s heart. She is on a great pilgrimage with God, trusting so completely in His sovereign hand over her life, no matter how many times she walks through a “Valley of Weeping.” Laura actually IS that refreshing spring to so many searching hearts. I, too, am refreshed by her presence in my life.

When I’m with Laura, God is always there, too. She doesn’t go anywhere without Him.

I’m so thankful, Heavenly Father, for the gift of sisterhood with Your precious daughter Laura. I pray that all Your people would be refreshed with this same deep fellowship.

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