Thursday Thoughts: What I Learned at a Dueling Piano Bar in Omaha

As the finale for my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday, Christopher and I met up with him and his wife for drinks at a dueling piano bar in Omaha. It would be a new experience for everyone and we just hoped it would be fun.

It was definitely a new experience.

First, it was extremely loud. Set in the back room of a sports bar, the room consisted of a bunch of tables (filled with all sorts of people, including a few bachelorette parties) and some pretty sizable speakers that washed out any ability to hear even the waitress trying to take our order.

Second, it seemed innocuous enough at first. A few well-known songs. Guys playing piano, singing to each other. And then came the first hit of raunch, which we assumed was in passing and would get better as the night progressed.

But, third, we were wrong. It became progressively worse. And, to be honest, it’s not the cursing or lewdness that got to me the most: It was the (seemingly) endless attack on marriage.

Marriage is the end of fun, of enjoying your partner. It’s all about how one spouse can manipulate the other. Better enjoy the last night or nights you have before it’s all over.

Chris and I later talked about how we’re surprised anyone actually gets married anymore. There has to be something built into us that knows it is supposed to be meaningful, worthwhile, and beautiful. Most of the world has just seen the bad examples, the “irreconcilable differences,” the affairs, the drifting apart after multiple decades together.

The Christian side of things isn’t really any better. More than half of those marriages end in divorce, just like the rest. What’s missing? Why are we failing at something we so obviously desire but just can’t seem to get right?

About a month ago, I had a pretty rattling dream where I was surrounded by a number of believing couples whose marriages I greatly respect who, at the influence of one member of the group, decided that they should all get a “mass” divorce and swap wives. (Most of this is probably due to subconscious fears rooted in experiences at one of the churches my family attended while I was growing up, which is a long, crazy story.)

And, as they began to strip off their wedding rings and celebrate the finalized dissolution of their marriages, I got up on the table and started yelling at them about how foolish they were, about how God would never divorce them – and He had every reason to do so.

Which is BIG for me, you know, because whenever I start yelling in dreams, nothing actually comes out of my mouth. I typically start yelling and realize that no sound is coming out, and become increasingly burdened until I wake either shaking or weeping.

But I was definitely yelling in my dream, and I awoke with the words, “God will never divorce you,” rolling over and over in my head. There is so much power in those words that we too often neglect.

You see, Christopher and I are married. We took vows in front of family, friends, and God, and we celebrated in style like so many others do. But we are committed to more than just one another. We’re committed to something deeper – that Christ’s sacrifice for the Church (His bride) ought to shape us and how we understand marriage. And divorce is not an option.

It’s a covenant that’s deeper than affection. It’s rooted in the very fact that Christ chose us when we did not deserve it, but He did it anyway. We whore after lesser things, thinking they will fulfill us. We have been unfaithful to the Faithful One. Yet, though we fail Him time and again, He upholds His covenant with us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Marriage can be a beautiful, life-giving thing. The world may see chains, but I see freedom in the fact that God will hold me to my covenant to this man. Freedom from fear. Freedom to believe that, in the same way, God holds Himself to His covenant to me. He will never divorce me. What a beautiful truth upon which to build my life and my marriage.

And, to think, I learned that at a dueling piano bar in Omaha.

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Thursday Thoughts: The Reality of the Gospel for Everyday Life

I am a pleaser. Sometimes this is a good thing (such as the fact that I work hard and diligently as a result) and sometimes it is a bad thing (because I too easily find my moods and worth in how others value what I do and not in its natural value or what I might assign to it). If I don’t feel a project will please, I often don’t even start it.

When I feel as if I’m failing, I tend to shy away from the foot of the Cross to which I so readily cling. I try to hide my failure, even from the God who so clearly has seen it all and loves me regardless.

But there is compassion for the taking at Jesus’ feet! I love Bethany Dillon’s song, “Be Near Me”:

All I have ever wanted –
and what men have given their lives for –
is a God who understands my weaknesses, a God that I can love.

I cannot believe You are angry or unjust –
You’ve done nothing but have compassion on us.
So be near when I’ve given up. Be near me.

Compassion is what stirs me from my hiding. It is the very heart of God in so many ways! Compassion gives life, and takes us from our hiding in the darkness and brings us into the glorious light of life in the Son of God! It lifts our eyes from our failure and brings an understanding of Christ’s heart near to us.

Knowing myself and knowing the incredible depths of folly to which I succumb so readily, it is awe-inspiring and humbling to serve a God who understands my weaknesses and failures without my having to bring them out of the dark cubby where I like to hide them.

He is not angry or unjust. Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about Christianity is that God exists as a large Judge in the sky, waiting to rain judgement and dole out apt punishment – but I am so grateful that is not an accurate picture of the God I fail and fall before daily!

It is true that He will act as Righteous Judge – He is holy, righteous in all His ways, and any violation of His character by us deserves eternal punishment. We have to start with God. When we start with ourselves, we always will fail in answering the important questions about life here on this round, rotating rock flying in space.

But He is compassionate! Jesus was not a mistake and is not just a man that people follow and cling to blindly. In His knowledge, God set Jesus as the Lamb Slain on the Altar of God before our world was ever born. Just as a parent anticipates the birth of a child, so God looked forward to our arrival. But He knew our sin against His holy nature could too easily separate us from Him as our Father.

So He sent Jesus, fully man in His limitations and fully God in His glory. And He was sent, from the first, to die for us.

Before we were born, God took those steps to prepare for our arrival and to ensure that we would not be wrested from His grasp by others who would claim us as their own.

Before I was born! I need the reality of this in my heart every day or I try to hide behind all that is already exposed and dealt with in the economy of mercy.

Thursday Thoughts: The Back Door

I haven’t been much in the mood to talk these past weeks. As I wrote to one of my best friends in an e-mail, “I’ve been exceptionally brooding and contemplative lately.” It’s not necessarily such a bad thing to be there – but it can be to stay there, and so I am attempting to lift a silence that has been partially self-imposed and partially imposed by the requests of others. But, because of this, I’ve been a bit lapsed and unfaithful in my blogging, and for that I ask your forgiveness.

*****

For almost a year now, we have been praying for some very specific and practical things: a) that God would provide us a way to honor our creditors by repaying our debts, and b) that God would provide me a job, preferably related to my field, so that I could contribute and use what I felt He led me back to school to study with my master’s program.

And we have waited, sometimes patiently and sometimes not-so-patiently, for answers to these requests – mostly expecting them to come through the “front door,” or to be obvious solutions to such problems.

But, by the grace of God, the answers to these requests have not come in obvious ways. He has shown Himself to be infinitely more gracious and loving in granting answers to these prayers, as well as His complete control over this world, in how He has dealt with us these last 6-8 weeks.

The answer to our first prayer (concerning our debts) came through an unexpected and freak car accident that resulted in our Subaru being totaled. Christopher’s interpretation of the whole thing is that God looked at our situation, heard our prayers, recognized that we were too stubborn to sell the car ourselves to get out of debt, and decided to do it for us. In the accident’s wake, we have been able to pay off two sources of debt entirely, pay down a third, put aside money for a down payment, and learned that we can live with one car (though it can be a bit tricky, since I work in town and Chris works half an hour south of our home).

Not at all what we would have picked on our own, but incredibly demonstrative of God’s grace toward us in our foolishness.

The answer to the second has been a bit more slow to develop. I have been praying specifically that God would have a place for me where I could use my talents and gifting to further the Kingdom or help the little guy (since that’s what I felt Him lead me to go back to school for). What’s more is that I was hoping to find a part-time job (like, four days a week instead of five), so that I could build in time to work on and complete my thesis (and, consequently, my master’s degree).

But all I found when I started looking were full time positions that were not in any way related to what I ultimately wanted to do, so I shifted back toward admin and office work (which has kind of always been a foolproof fallback for me). I was blessed with four weeks’ worth of work in September and October and was scheduled to go back after a two-week break, but the project stalled out – in fact, every job I was put up for between then and the recent past stalled out because no decision was ever reached on who to hire. In January, with my gobs of spare time, I decided I wanted to make my time count and serve the body if at all possible, so I started spending my time with a family that is part of our teen family ministry (their oldest kids are teens – they have seven, and their youngest is 3). It turned into a job that lasted, conveniently enough, through last Thursday, when the family left for a vacation.

I say “conveniently” because God has finally found a place for me, and I started a new position with our church on Tuesday.

And while that is a long story filled with prayers, conversations, and seeking counsel, it boils down to this: At every turn, I kept hearing God speak softly and firmly to my heart to “Move forward in faith.”

God may not fulfill all of my dreams, but He continues to fulfill some of them and to satisfy my heart at the greatest of its depths. I may not ever be a biological mother to a baby girl or boy, but that doesn’t mean I stall out in the bitterness of that reality. At some point this spring, I realized that I want my life to count. I want to be fruitful. I want to further the Kingdom of God.

I want to march onward, to move forward in faith, in all of the things that God calls us to – regardless of what dreams He may or may not fulfill along the way.

It is certainly a back door. After months of waiting for any position to keep me busy, I am humbled and overwhelmed by God’s orchestration of events for my life at this time. When I interviewed for a different position with our church, the one that I’m walking into didn’t exist. God didn’t just find me a place, He made me one where none existed. And it will require faith, as a lot of it is experimental and filled with transition and unknown – but I’m walking forward in the faith that He has called me to walk in, and I’m looking forward to what He does with our body of believers.

And might I mention that I work four days a week? How ’bout them apples?

So there you have it. Back doors all over the place. Hidden blessings.

How beautiful to be reminded that He has not abandoned us, and He never will.

Thursday Thoughts: The Halfway Point & Thirteen Years of Little Books

This past week, I finished up my latest prayer journal. Closing in on my thirteenth spiritual birthday, I felt led (as I normally do) to start revisiting the last year, its pages, and the pages of some of those that preceded it.

It’s incredible to see even the changes that occur between the first pages and the last pages of such a record. I started the last book after the death of my second grandfather (see “Completion,” from 2007), only months into my marriage and a job that would cultivate my heart for God’s church and its mission.

I was learning how to be a wife, a leader for a college ministry small group, to resurrect relationships that had been broken by distance and hard things, to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus in the workplace, and so many, many other things. Life was opening before me.

But so was depression. Since starting its pages in 2007, I battled two full rounds of depression: One centered on the death of my grandfather that first fall and continued by some family issues the following spring, and the second centered on the very quick failing and death of the first of my grandmothers just before I began my graduate work. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, depression is a war that has been waged in the depths of my soul for more years than I am proud of (see “A different kind of happy,” from 2010), and I finally emerged from this last round in a much different place – ready to fight to the end of myself to not find my life in its grasp ever again.

In the midst of this, we were witness to many weddings, several years of family celebrations, a few lovable oddball roommates, the addition of one and then two precious pups to our home, an insane amount of new babies in both our blood and church families, injuries, new jobs, answered prayers, times of intense waiting, a new home and, most recently, struggles with infertility.

Life has changed a lot, but there is one thing that remains: The God who rescued me that lonely night in April thirteen years ago, who loved me in spite of my depravity and raised me up in the promise of salvation – He still remains the same. This reality is lasting. It does change things. I am proof of that.

And now I’m feeling a bit old, I suppose. Thirteen is not a small number. I remember writing for saLt about my fifth spiritual birthday and thinking it was a huge deal (“Six,” from 2005 is an updated version of that; and if you don’t know what saLt was, I’m sorry you missed that piece of my life, though I do wonder sometimes if Laura and I both just had the same vivid dream for a year).

Thirteen! That’s half of my age!

Yet, it’s starting to make sense that this is my life. The last vestiges that I had hidden away from the blinding and purifying light of Christ’s grace have finally been brought into the open to be sifted through – and the incredibly breathtaking thing is that, for the first time, I think I’m finally understanding what it means for Christ to satisfy every deep-seated desire of my heart.

From here on out, my life has not been mine in the majority – what a good and glorious thing! That means I can look back on this growing collection of these crazy little books I began writing in so many years ago and see my life mostly marked by the grace and leading of an incredible Savior.

And in those pages, I find hope to move forward. At every step, at every juncture, Christ has met me, challenged me to be sanctified, and answered my prayers. In one way or another, every prayer I have ever put before His feet in these books has been set before me – and the most beautiful ones were the ones that didn’t turn out in the least as I expected.

Lately, my stones of remembrance have been placed a bit closer together. Life has been hard. My dependence upon God for the daily stuff has been critical. The first half of this last journal was written over the span of roughly three and a half years, while the second was composed in little more than a year. My need for grace is growing, especially as I continue to be more aware of the daily battle to keep my life free from the bonds of depression – something that can so easily be physically, emotionally, and spiritually emptying of all that is inside me.

So the tipping point is starting somewhere different. For the first time, I am abiding in the love and provision of Christ – mostly because I can look back and see it in these little books, these little books that urge me to move forward in the knowledge that He will continue to love and be faithful in what is to come next.

I wrote “Sweet Dependency” nearly seven years ago, just a week after my sixth spiritual birthday and two days after my dear husband suffered my then-rejection of his pursuit of my heart. This last year, it has become the anthem of my heart, as I re-wrote it on the piano (including a different bridge, from “Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night” by William Sleeper) and have sought to understand its meaning in a much different time.

The chorus is what gets me, though. I think I understood then something that it has taken me seven years to come back around to – the truth that only God has a right to claim my life, He who bought it with His own blood, and who offers me redemption and newness of life:

May I be brought to my knees, in sweet dependency in You alone.
For at the end of this time, if I still think that I’m mine,
Please break me and bring me back home.

(“Sweet Dependency,” ©2005/2011 A. Kate Grinstead/A. Kate Reynolds)

Thursday Thoughts: The Heart of Peter

Today was one of those days where (since I usually have most of my “quiet time” with God at day’s end, when I function best) I forget by the end of the day that I spent quite a bit of time at His feet in the morning… Days like that are few and far between, more than they should be. I remembered this morning both why I should get up before the sun breaks and why I don’t. Graciously, God’s strength carries me through, but that’s not entirely normal – especially when I’m dead tired and sitting in a Starbucks at 6:30 a.m.

Regardless, recent days when I’ve been able to get up and function, I have been greatly blessed with rest for my soul and by an in-depth study of Peter’s letters (I & II Peter). Chris encouraged me months ago to sift through these epistles, and I put them off as I read Psalms and did other things. Just before going to Phoenix, I had the opportunity to start I Peter, and worked my way through most of it while sitting in Eddie and Jen’s living room in fellowship while we all read and sought God on our own – together, with some questions and debates thrown in (as only the four of us can). Then, as I sat alone last Saturday while the rest of the family went skiing, I worked my way through II Peter.

I’d like to share some of what I gleaned from these eight beautiful chapters and the heart of Peter. I feel II Peter 3:1-2a sum things up quite nicely (though you might not think so at first glance):

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember…

Peter goes on to list several things, but as I read this first piece of the final chapter, I was struck by how Peter entreats these people that he loves so dearly to remember, to remind themselves. So the natural question, especially after he references both of his letters, is: “What is he trying to remind them of?”

In reviewing notes from both letters, I came away with five key items:

1) Grace is costly. Jesus Christ was really God, humbled in human form for the sake of our redemption. He really died on a cross, nailed there, with a crown of thorns. And there were witnesses still alive in the generation reading this letter for the first time who saw Jesus Christ walk again alive on this earth after His death. This is the turning point of salvation – any other Gospel than costly grace is a false gospel.

2) Because a great price was paid for our redemption, we respond by living uprightly in the freedom we now have from the corrupting power of sin. This upright living does not justify us before the throne of Almighty God – it is merely our response to correctly understanding the complete purchase and power of the blood of Christ at Calvary.

3) This understanding leads to compassion and subsequently to unity within the Church, the body of Christ. Because we understand that we have been forgiven much, we are able to forgive much and love much. We find unity with those whom we would otherwise have no reason to be in the same room with, much less to love and unite with in a common purpose for life. This unity protects us from false teachers and creates a shelter for us from the challenges of living in earthly kingdoms.

4) Because Christ’s rescue and redemption is beautiful and complete, we can also entrust judgement to Him. Life will be hard. Circumstances will arise in which we have no earthly response available to us other than to continue on in faith, trusting that He will ultimately make things right as He has in our salvation, and that He will judge those who have gone against His kingdom and His children. We need not fear what man can do to us – we only need concern ourselves with continuing onward in His promises.

5) Faith in Christ’s victory over our sin and its death means salvation is ours! He has overcome the grave and the corruption of sin that so easily entangles our souls. We can trust that salvation is ours because of the other four pieces. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Since last Friday, I have been listening to Bethany Dillon’s “Satisfy” off of her To Those Who Wait EP (which was released last Friday). I had enough money to buy one song, and that was the one I chose. I can’t stop listening to it. I need the reminders. I need to know every day that what bought my freedom was costly and glorious and beautiful and satisfying in every way.

The human soul can be filled with regret;
   we never forget where we’ve gone wrong.
Almighty God stands ready to forgive
   all of our offense in a crimson flood.
   

With my first breath, I drew in depravity –
   Needing Your mercy even in my first hour.
I’m proof the cross is as able today
   as when the Lamb was slain on the Altar of God.

It is so beautiful; so beautiful!
   I feast my eyes at how You satisfy my soul.

I keep coming back to this. As many times as I’ve heard these words this last week, I continue to hear them and weep wildly and openly. Unashamed, I cried for a while this morning at Starbucks – tears of joy and wonder at the incredible mercy of Almighty God.

I need the reminders of the price at which I was bought. The promise of Easter is costly. Don’t let it just be another holiday. Seek to prepare your heart early. Carry an understanding of Peter’s heart with you every day: Remember.

Thursday Thoughts: On Forgiveness

I’m going to attempt to limit my Thursday posts to 750 words. That way, I can share a little bit about what I’ve been learning in a more deliberate and organized way – without just dumping the contents of my brain.

I will normally try to have this include both quotes and scripture references, but there might be some exceptions to that. I’ve been reading voraciously lately, which means I have a lot of great places that my thoughts come together from… Regardless, I’ll try to keep my numbers down and my posts more frequent.

I’m still working on the frequency thing. I somehow managed to pick days for regular features that do not work well with my current schedule, so I’m trying to look and work ahead and just release things when those days come… Just FYI.

*****
Psalm 130
My Soul Waits for the LORD
A Song of Ascents
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
*****
As they climbed the steps to the Temple each year to celebrate the Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles, the Jews would recite Psalms 120-134 – also known as the “Songs of Ascent.” What an incredible image that brings to my mind: A people chosen by God, reminding themselves three times each year (with every step) just what role God had played in their lives.
I love this psalm, and I come back to it several times each year as I make my way through the Psalms. There is a beauty in the promises of God’s redemption for His people within its words. There is a promise of redemption for me.
This year, the verse, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?” reaches deeper. Last summer, God changed the way I looked at forgiveness for both myself and toward others. This winter, He has been doing so all over again with a second trip through Kelly Minter’s The Fitting Room.
I love what she has to say about Jesus telling Simon the parable of the two debtors after the undesirable woman has washed Jesus’ feet and Simon has scorned her (Luke 7):

Jesus allowed Simon to identify himself with the guy who owed only fifty denarii, while the sinful woman owed five hundred. Of course, this was just an illustration, as sins aren’t counted in currency.

But for a moment Jesus let Simon see himself as the “better” guy (the guy with the smaller debt). The problem, which Jesus pointed out, is that if you don’t have so much as a penny to your name, it doesn’t matter if you owe a dime or the current national debt. If you have no way to pay, both a pack of gum and a shiny red sailboat become equally out of reach. …

By the incredible grace of God – the grace that did not give in to my desperate fancies – He allowed me to see my fifty denarii. And that fifty was no longer four hundred fifty less than five hundred but an incalculable debt that had once separated me from the love of God.

In the face of my own sins of jealousy, control, and obsession, Jesus was allowing me to see my own debt more clearly. I realized it wasn’t really less than the person’s who had hurt me, because the truth is that neither of us had a nickel to pay with. Apart from Jesus, we were both equally bankrupt.

This simple understanding reaches depths of me into which I desperately need the light of grace to shine. Having grown up in a Christian home and predominantly as a believer, it is easy to think like Simon – to feel that I only owe 50 denarii or whatever the currency may be – and it is difficult to think that I owe an incalculable debt.

Incalculable. The economy of mercy is so vastly different from our own.

And, yet, understanding that is the first piece of understanding forgiveness and how it can be walked out with others. No one can stand, but in Him there is forgiveness and plentiful redemption. What beautiful promises.

It is not necessarily an understanding of forgiveness that drives my understanding of what it is to forgive – it is an understanding of grace.

Grace offers what none of us deserves – rescue for the morally bankrupt.

And because I know what grace has been offered to me, I can apply that grace to situations with others. Certainly, there are very real consequences to sin, but there is grace (and forgiveness and compassion) to be had for this life and for the next – and wonder of wonders, it was bought by Someone Else.

Reading: Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol. I; L. M. Montgomery, Short Stories 1907-1908
Listening to: Bethany Dillon, Waking Up; Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light

Thursday Thoughts: Rain is No Measure

[[Because this post will reference several seasons of life, I’ve decided to add links to some older posts concerning things referenced in the past (where applicable) for those who may not be as familiar with my life and growth in Christ over the past 13 years.]]

It is rare that enough is swirling around in my head late at night that it causes me to lie restless, compelled to write and compelled to seek the depths of my heart – these days, at least.

I have struggled to find a normal routine in recent years (see “A Night Owl’s Growing Convictions on the Importance of Daylight“), migrating from night owl to functioning daylight person, and I have yet to strike a proper balance. I’m still often too exhausted in daylight hours to function well, perhaps reinforcing my theory from college that I actually sleep best when I start in the early hours of the morning rather than the later hours of the evening… but I digress.

As I laid in bed this evening attempting (or maybe not attempting so much) to find the sleep my body so desperately craves, several things swirled in my head as I mulled over things that have accumulated over the past few months of our lives. I apologize in advance that this might come across as an incredible and random mixture of thoughts, and put forth that they do coalesce.

The first is perhaps that this last week has seemed a lifetime. Chris shared a verse tonight with the youth kids from James: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (4:17).

And that might be where my self-evaluation is driven from tonight, casting my own actions and reactions in a fresh glow of saving light.

I know that I can trust God to have the best for me, and I know that it is good to do so – that I should do so. But I fail to, and that is sinful.

As I’ve mentioned before, my first listens of Sara Groves’ albums seem to be ordained for the moments and seasons I need their truths the most (see “Christmas” and “Peace, Peace“). Her latest, “Invisible Empires” is no exception. A few weeks ago, I learned that she had a new album (that I somehow missed) and I purchased it with an iTunes card (a Christmas gift from my parents) the next day. I somehow wound up driving around town for a while trying to find a friend’s apartment, which was probably a good thing because I was in tears by the end of the second song.

In the little more than a year since my grandmother died and I woke from my second major bout with depression since being married (see “A different kind of happy“), our lives have certainly been incredible messes. We have seen everything from freak accidents and rehabilitation to friends moving away and substantial delays in what we thought life would be. We have also seen incredible blessings (see “God is not a cashier at a fast food restaurant“) and have been shown that God is still gracious toward us in every way.

But in the midst of all of the chaos (that continues), I’m beginning to realize that I have replaced some of my depression with a strong desire to control my life – and I’m finally realizing, more than a year later, that I truly hold no control over anything that I desire to hold firmly in the palm of my hand.

I cannot force someone to hire me. I cannot keep the sins of others from breaking my heart. I cannot control hurtful words others might say. I cannot prevent others from growing up and moving forward in their lives in ways that I feel incapable of doing. I cannot control whether or not we ever have children. I cannot keep others from moving away or falling away.

But I am finding that the things I do have quite a bit of say in are possibly the things that actually matter, which is a strangely liberating thing for me tonight. For the first time in more than a year, I feel I can take God at His word that He is not only good but has good planned for our lives – even if it doesn’t turn out as we may have wanted it.

And this is where Sara Groves song, “Open My Hands,” comes into the picture and is so incredibly poignant as it pierces my soul at its deepest points:

I believe in a blessing I don’t understand –
I’ve seen rain fall on the wicked and the just.
Rain is no measure of His faithfulness –
He withholds no good thing from us.

I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain – 
The broken find healing in love.
Pain is no measure of His faithfulness – 
He withholds no good thing from us.

I will open my hands, will open my heart.
I am nodding my head, an emphatic “yes,”
for all that You have for me.

Certainly, this idea of common and special grace has been settling in my head for almost a year now (see “How He loves us…“). One of the most deep-reaching areas of struggle for me has been our desire to have children, with this month marking more than a year and a half since we began this painful adventure. It is something that we have held close and not heavily publicized.

And, no, I am still not pregnant. But God is still good, and I believe that more and more whole-heartedly the longer this waiting continues. The crazy thing is that I’m finally beginning to let go of the need to do all of this in my own timing. My desire is still there, and it sits with me daily, but some of the urgency is receding a bit as I realize it is good to trust the plan God has – and perhaps, for the first time, that to do otherwise is sinful.

Perhaps it is the unfortunate events of the past few weeks that have finally placed everything in the proper perspective, as I haven’t had the opportunity to grieve as I typically do. It’s amazing how, month after month, one can still have the slightest sliver of hope that things might finally be different than every month that has come before.

I may not be able to control my life, but I can be useful. I can do the good I have been entrusted with (Ephesians 2:10). I can enjoy my dear husband, whom I love and admire more than I did the day I walked to meet him in a church in Aurora, Colorado. I can enjoy the blessing of his friendship, his desire to know my heart, his desire to continue to lead us in the direction of the Kingdom – remaining faithful to the vows we took unto God and unto each other (see “Four Years and It is Lovelier (Still)“).

I can choose joy. I can choose to continue my pursuit of the Kingdom. I can choose to be healthy. There is no sin in the pursuit of these things.

It has been interesting since the beginning of the year, when I resolved I was going to finally take control of my body and lose the 20 pounds that make me overweight. To that point, I had hoped they would just be taken over if I were to become pregnant, and had used that as an excuse to avoid being healthy as I ought to be. The strangest piece is that, as I’ve lost little by little and seen myself become a little smaller, I’m finding that there’s life in that.

God has blessed this past year with an incredible and building desperation for Him in my heart. In my weakness and in my emerging into the light of sanity, He has been faithful to restore my awe of the love and grace He has given to me.

I have never longed for heaven more and have fallen in love with the promise of Revelation 21:5 – “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”

All things new! Do we even dare to begin to think we know the implications of that thought? The world is broken, but the God I serve – the God who sent His only Son to redeem this wretch – is not broken, and is the same today as He has always been and always will be. How glorious!

And so I find myself desiring to embrace all that God has for me tonight, for the first time in a long time. The rain of the past year is no measure of His faithfulness or His love for me. He is good, and I want to open my heart to that truth daily – to see His infinite graces toward me in every star placed in the sky, every time of laughter with Christopher, every impatient pawing from a pup who just wants to be loved, every melody and lyric that resonates deep within, and every opportunity of sweet friendship, fellowship and worship. I am blessed in each and every moment, where there is at the least a hint of grace. 
Common grace, specifically for me.

Listening to: Invisible Empires, Sara Groves
Reading: Emily’s Quest, L.M. Montgomery