End of Year Goodness  0

With just a few hours left before the beginning of a fresh new year, I don’t want it to slip away before thanking you, dear readers, for your encouragement.  The words that make it onto this page aren’t always easy for me to get out, but you’ve shown me that Jesus can take our hurt and make it into something beautiful… Thank you.

 

 

If you keep up with me on Instagram you’ll remember…

  • I took my son William to Haiti with me.
  • My youngest daughter Eliza started Kindergarten (she’s pictured with her older sister Kate).
  • We had two really special weddings of people we love.
  • We took a six week sabbatical in our camper, covering over 5,000 miles all through the United States.

Here are the top posts of 2016:

 

December may be (almost) over, but my Advent Series on Hope is still relevant no matter what time of year:

 

What a privilege to being writing for Seedbed’s Soul Care Collective!  My first post, What to do When Words Hurt, was published a few weeks ago, and the next few will come out in January.

 

{Did you download my new eBook?}

I am so grateful to give you this gift, an eBook of my journey through grief and joy. Even in the midst of sorrow, I discovered that I could hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying our daughter, Annie.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Thank you for your support this year. Our family is thankful for you all, near and far, known and unknown. May you find deep peace tonight, remembering you are loved by the One who created you. Whether you ring in the New Year with with a loud party, a quiet fire, or asleep in your bed, may you know that our hope lies in a God who hears, a God who saves, a God who shares in our sorrow.

 

xo,

Sarah

 

The Love of Jesus {An Advent Series on Hope}  0

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus— ‘God saves’— because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this— a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Matthew 1:20-23

 

Christmas is tomorrow and I am finishing up lists I thought would never get finished. The house is filled with people and the kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement. It’s Christmas!

 

In the middle of the ham and potatoes, the gifts and the glow of the Christmas tree, there is Jesus.

 

“Only He who has experienced it can believe what the love of Jesus Christ is,”

 Bernard of Clairvaux wrote.

 

If I were to take all the stories of the family of Jesus, I could plop them on a timeline. Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Jonah, Habakkuk, Mary. Of course there are hundreds in between that I missed, but eventually we would come to Jesus. The Messiah. The one who had been promised and who they had been searching for all these years. He came from a line of cheaters and liars, of prostitutes and quitters. His descendants were sincere and loved deeply, they worshipped without passion and chased miracles.  There was sorrow, bitterness, grief and stubborn hope in the lives of those whose blood ran in His veins.

 

They were real people.

 

And then Jesus was born, in a crowded village, breaking into history and breathing hope into a weary world. His life and death and resurrection changed everything, of course. Not just because He came, but because He came for you.

 

On that very first Christmas, there were shepherds watching the very sheep that would one day be sacrificed for the sins of the people. But a new way was coming, and He had arrived! These tired and poor shepherds were the ones the Angels appeared to, the ones who heard the news firsthand… and their response is amazing. It’s recorded that the shepherds hurried to see Jesus, then they spread the news as fast as they could. Their hearts were kindled.

 

Years later, after Jesus had died and was resurrected, He appeared to a few of His disciples as they were walking from one town to another. Only they didn’t recognize Him for a very long time. When their eyes were opened, they looked at each other and exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” (Luke 24:32).

 

Lean in, my friend. This story is for you, in your emptiness and fear. In your broken promises and tension of the season. The family tree of Jesus didn’t end with Him. He has grafted you in. There’s a place for you. Let your faith be kindled, let your heart begin to burn.

 

I don’t know where you find yourself this season, but I do know that God does His best work in weakness, when we feel like we can’t possibly go another step, He is there.

 

Perhaps you feel like Mary, with empty places and an empty heart. Allow Him to rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

Or maybe you are Habakkuk, and you must resolve in your hearts to praise Him, even in the midst of broken promises and dreams. He hears your cries.

 

Do you find yourself in Jonah, exhausted from running away from God? Listen to Him calls you back to Him.  It’s never too late to run into His arms.

 

Just like Naomi, He takes your broken hearts and deep bitterness and He gives Himself as your Kinsman-Redeemer, handing you new life and healing.

 

Do you need to be reminded of Joseph, and how God’s power gives you strength to choose forgiveness? Only with Him can we stand and declare that what was intended to harm us turns to good.

 

That’s when we discover that just like Abraham, when we open our eyes to the hurt of the world, we see that our lives can be a blessing to others, even in our grief. In our unforgiveness.  In our bitterness and emptiness. Slowly, as the walls of our hearts crumble, a new day comes as God heals our broken hearts.

 

This is the story of Jesus. Feel your heart burning within you and grab ahold of it. The tree with its’ handmade ornaments will soon come down, the lights will return to the tote in the basement.  But because of Jesus, you have been given the True Light.

 

Jesus, the hope of the world, has come.
Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Song of Mary {An Advent Series on Hope}  0

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David.  His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary.  Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that.  But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear.  God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.” Luke 1:26-28

Something out of nothing.  Because Mary was willing to be obedient, God was able to take her empty womb and make it a place for the God of the universe to develop arms and legs, a heartbeat and skin.

 

God takes our empty places and grows miracles.

 

There’s the story of the widow who cried out to Elisha as the creditors came to take her sons as slaves.  “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asks, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”  But all she had was a flask of olive oil.  Nothing else at all.  Think of her desperation and emptiness.  But Elisha didn’t give up.  He instructed her to borrow empty jars from her neighbors, to take her sons into the house and shut the door.  When they poured oil from their flask into the jars, they continued to fill each jar, until every single one was filled to the very brim.  The widow and her sons were able to sell the oil and pay their debts.  And not only that, but they were able to live on what was left over. (2 Kings 4)

 

When we offer our emptiness and what we lack to God, He is undaunted.  He is not stumped or disappointed that we aren’t enough.  He’s looking for our obedience, in spite of our weaknesses.

 

Even before my daughter Eliza could talk, she would sing.  She hummed and sang so often, we called it her motor.  It was our sign that all w}as right in her world. Kate has been singing “O Holy Night” the last few weeks and she has all the words down because it is what she performed in church on Sunday along with the all the other kids.  And even William belts out a few words every now and then.

 

It brings me such joy when I hear my kids sing, because I know they are happy.  Content.  They are expressing joy, even if they don’t tell me in actual words.

 

As Mary felt the Son of God moving in her belly, as she felt the roundness as He took up more and more space, she didn’t dwell on what she wasn’t. She didn’t think about her emptiness, but she allowed God to fill her.  And she found joy in allowing God to use her empty places.  How do I know?

 

Because she sang.

 

Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!  
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the right away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
For he has made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever. 
Luke 1:46-55

The words came from Scripture— a compilation of the Psalms and Isaiah and a few others tossed in.  Mary was grounded in who she was and in who God is.  So when the Angel came to her in her ordinary day, she was ready to receive whatever the will of God was.

 

God wants to be with you.  He wants to have a relationship with you.  He wants to take hold of your shaky hands and lead you onto solid ground.  He wants to shower you with grace and mercy. He wants to hear you sing, even as tears run down your face.

 

When we give God our emptiness, He gives us a song. He takes our empty places and make them into a masterpiece. Just as the Angel said to Mary, “God is with you”, you can believe the promise is for you, too.

 

Immanuel has come.  God with us.

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Resolve of Habakkuk {An Advent Series on Hope}  0

 

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, 
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread up on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:1,17-19

Mother Teresa, the little woman who lived in the slums of India, the one who lived among the poorest of the poor, in a letter in 1959 wrote that if she ever became a saint, it would be one of darkness.  When he wrote her biography, Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk said, “You can be joyful even if you’re suffering because you are accepting, and you are working and acting with love that gives meaning to the suffering.”

 

Even though.  Even if.  Even now.

 

There’s a blanket of snow resting on the ground of the cemetery across the street, the one where we stood to say good-bye to our daughter.

There’s a widow sitting lonely as the dark grows longer each day.

There’s an empty refrigerator and hungry kids who don’t know where their mom is.

There’s a marriage and a family crumbling and angry words that can’t be taken back.

There are war torn countries and people who have seen so much atrocity they have forgotten how to cry.

 

Even though.  Even if.  Even now.

 

We look around the rubble of our lives and our world and it’s not what we dreamed of or expected.

 

In these moments, Habakkuk’s declaration rings in our ears:
I will rejoice:
… even if the figs and olives fail
…. even if the people go hungry
… even if our livelihoods are taken

…. even if there is an empty stocking hanging from the mantle
… even if the diagnosis is fatal
…. even if the terror keeps me up at night
… even as the bombs fall and the children are left as orphans
… even if my tears outnumber my smiles
Even though.  Even if.  Even now.

 

We can’t wait for suffering to go away before we praise the name of Jesus, or we may never rejoice.  Read the book of Habakkuk and you’ll realize that though the prophet is exasperated,  he does not give up.  He begs God to intervene on behalf of the people, wondering how long it will be until He listens to the cries of His people.

 

Margaret Feinberg in her book, Fight Back with Joy talks of her battle with cancer: “As my body slid through the tube, I understood why so many people have panic attacks in MRI machines.  The constricting space, the rhythmic sounds, the inability to move— all felt suffocating.  Click.  Clank.  Click.  Clank.  Listening to the clamor, I breathed deep.  My mind drifted.  Has anyone offered God praise in this place before?  I thought of Habakkuk, that brazen codger.  If he could rejoice when an entire nation crumbled around him, surely I could offer something to God in this space.  After all, I had discovered a valuable insight in this process: Fighting back with joy rarely makes sense.

 

The secret to joy is in focusing on the Father, not on our fears. This is what gives meaning to our suffering, what brings light into the darkness of the world. On the night Jesus was born, a night that began like any other night, the shepherds were tending the sheep.  They were terrified when the sky lit up brighter than the day.  The first words they heard?

“Do not be afraid.

I bring you good news of

great joy that will be for

all the people.”

(Luke 2:10)

 

There is light in the darkness because Jesus has come to bring meaning to our suffering.  Do not be afraid.   You can fight for joy.

 

Even though. Even if.  Even now.

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Repentance of Jonah {An Advent Series on Hope}  1

“Then Jonah paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish— as far away from God as he could get.”

Jonah 1:3

 

Sometimes when God calls us, we are terrified.  We are broken and unqualified, so we run.  Advent can feel like salt in the wound, like all of our sorrows are piling up and mocking us.   Everywhere we look, we see happy families and perfect endings.   And it just doesn’t seem fair.  So we run and hide.

 

Ann Voskamp says, “You aren’t equipped for life until you realize you aren’t  equipped for life.  You aren’t equipped for life until you’re in need of grace.”

 

Jonah had been called by God to warn the people of Ninevah, but he allowed fear to rule him.  So he sailed away in the opposite direction, determined to make his own plans instead of being obedient.

 

I’m smiling a little bit because I am a mom and I have three very determined children.  Once, when Kate was little, but old enough to know better, I put her in a time out for something I can’t remember now.  I instructed her to pray while she was alone in her room and make things right between her and God.  I’m not sure what I expected, but if there’s anything I know about Kate, it’s that she never does what I expect.

 

I ventured into her room a few minutes later and sat with her on the floor, face-to-face.  We were going to have a holy moment together, when I as The Mom would instruct her and lead her into a deeper relationship with Christ.  “Tell me what you said to God,” I said.  She looked at me with a scowl and replied, “I just told him bad words.”

 

Running and hiding from God.  No one has to teach us, it’s just in us.

 

But God has a way of calling us back to him, in ways we cannot expect.  It’s why Jonah tried to go to sleep in the bottom of the boat while the storm raged.  It’s why he found himself in the belly of a whale for three days.  We think the whale was a punishment, but have you ever considered that the whale was his rescuer?  That he would have drowned if it hadn’t come and provided a place for Jonah to work some things out before he was spit out?

 

It’s because of that that he turns and repents.  He turns back to God, he turns back to obedience.  He pleads with Ninevah to turn back to God before it’s too late, proving it’s never too late for repentance.

 

Almost 800 years later, there would be another storm and another man in the bottom of the boat sleeping.  His name was Jesus.  The disciples were terrified, and they rushed to wake Jesus.  “Master! Master, we’re going to drown!” they yelled above the crash of the waves. (Mark 4:35)

 

Jesus responds with a rebuke to the raging waters and suddenly all was calm.  He calmed that storm and He calms the storms in our lives.  Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights… Jesus was dead for three days before he rose,  paying the penalty for our sins.

 

Jesus does not abandon you in your storm, both the one that you are in right now and the ultimate battle for your soul.

 

I don’t know what’s raging around you.  I don’t know what wakes you up at night and what holds you captive.  But I know Jesus longs to calm the storm of your soul.  He is not afraid of what rages around you, He sees what you are so afraid to reveal.

 

He binds the broken and raises the dead.  He feeds the hungry and touches the sick.

 

Just this moment as I type these words, Eliza is on the computer.  Her headphones are in and she’s singing at the top of her lungs, “It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrrrr!” But you know how it sounds when kids have the headphones on.  It’s always slightly off key.

 

Which seems so appropriate as I type these words.  Because the most wonderful time of the year can be overshadowed by our own sorrow, by the sorrow we carry for others.  The storm rages around us and we are afraid.

 

But Jesus whispers, “One greater than Jonah is here.”  (Matthew 12:41) His words bring light to our weary souls.  In those times of waiting, claim these verses of Romans 8:22-28:

“All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.  We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.  But the longer we wait, the larger we become and the more joyful our expectancy. 

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Hear Him call you by name.  He is near to you this very moment. Peace, be still.

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Redemption of Naomi {An Advent Series on Hope}  0

comfortjoy-001

“When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: ‘Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!’
But she said, ‘Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter.  The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.  I left her full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back.  Why would you call me Naomi?  God certainly doesn’t.  The Strong One ruined me.’
And so Naomi was back, and Ruth the foreigner with her, back from the country of Moab.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.”

Ruth 1:20-22

 

There’s a temptation to succumb to bitterness when we’ve done all the right things, followed the right plan, think we deserve better. The wind is howling outside as I type these words, and I’m watching the snowflakes blow in waves across the hardened crust of the eight inches of snow we got just a few days ago.  When life gets hard, I just want to harden.  It’s a  fight to keep from getting stuck in my sorrow.

 

Naomi had left with her husband to escape a famine.  They had settled away from home, their sons got married and life was good.  But tragedy struck and within a short, both her husband and sons died.  She was left alone, with two daughters-in-law and nowhere to go.  And so she went home.  She convinced her one daughter-in-law not to come with her, but Ruth, well, Ruth was stubborn.  She refused to leave Naomi.

 

Naomi had left home full of hopes and dreams of a better life.  But she returned home empty, defeated, and bitter.

 

Frederick Buechner says, “The sad things that happened long ago will always remain part of who we are just as the glad and gracious things will too, but instead of being a burden of guilt, recrimination, and regret that make us constantly stumble as we go, even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.  It is through memory that we are able to reclaim much of our lives that we have long since written off by finding that in everything that has happened to us over the years, God was offering us possibilities of new life and healing which, though we may have missed them at the time, we can still choose and be brought to life by and healed by all these years later. “ (from his book Telling Secrets)

 

We can be so empty, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.  If Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10), well, he’s not just talking about the few who make it through life unscathed.  He’s talking about us all.

 

Ruth returned with Naomi to her hometown of Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest— a time when the land was full again.  They had left at a time of emptiness, during a famine, and so happened to come back when it returned to fullness.  Landowners would leave the grain the harvesters had missed, for the poor, the alien, the widow and the fatherless to gather.  And that’s how Ruth ended up picking grain from the field of Boaz.  That’s how Boaz learned about Ruth and how Naomi discovered hope again.

 

Boaz, actually a relative of Naomi, was their Kinsman-Redeemer.  He was responsible for protecting family in need.  Kinsman-Redeemers would provide an heir for a brother who died or redeem a relative who had been sold into slavery, they would protect those in their family who were needy.   Boaz was Naomi’s Kinsman-Redeemer, able to rescue them from poverty by marrying Ruth.  Later he and Ruth would have a son named Obed, who would one day be the great-grandfather of King David… and eventually a man named Jesus would be part of their family line.

 

The entire book of Ruth is a testimony of redemption and transformation.   It’s the story from emptiness to fullness, from destitution to security, from desperation to peace. There’s a clear turning point in the story when Naomi is awakened to the hope that her life could be restored.

 

“Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all!  He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!’” (Ruth 2:20)  That’s the moment she realized that she didn’t have to be known as Bitter, that her story didn’t have to end in heartache.

 

Don’t ever believe that God will leave you for empty.  He is a God of restoration and redemption. He will not walk out on you.

 

Jesus looks at your life and He has compassion for you.  He longs to take you in His arms and heal your heart.  Without Him, we are so broken.  But He whispers words of joy to our weary souls. He can take what brings us the most pain and sorrow and transform it into something beautiful.  He redeems us.  He wraps us up in His love and suddenly we see His pain for a broken world.

 

When we read the book of Ruth, we see the foreshadowing of our Kinsman-Redeemer in Jesus, the one who can take us from desperation to peace.  Naomi had every right to be bitter.  She lost it all— her family, her land, her home— but her bitterness was transformed when she trusted in the redeeming work of God. And Ruth, her daughter from another country,  was the one who kept pressing on, unswerving and selfless. She clung to the hope that God could and would use the harsh circumstances of their lives.

 

Jesus heals our broken hearts.
He is healing me.
He is healing you.

 

We may feel the weight of sorrow daily, but we are changed people because of the way Jesus restores.  Jesus looks at us and He doesn’t shake his head at our hardened, crusty hearts.  He doesn’t see a wasted life. Instead, He hands us love and hope.  He takes our wounded lives and speaks words of truth like salve on our souls.  And if we open our eyes we will see him bring good in ways we would have never imagined.  He is our Kinsman-Redeemer.  Our Rescuer.  Our Redeemer.

 

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Forgiveness of Joseph {An Advent Series of Hope}  0

comfortjoy-001

 

“But Joseph replied, ‘Don’t be afraid of me.  Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid.  I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.” Genesis 50: 19-21

 

Ricardo was eight years old when he left his town, riding on the top of a bus six hours to Port-de-Paix, Haiti.  He slept on the roof of a police station, figuring it was the safest place around.  When it rained, he slept under a parked car.  Santoni’s mom has AIDS; his siblings have all died of the same disease.  Andrew and Bud are brothers who have lost both of their parents.  While they were attending the funeral of their Mother, someone broke into their house and stole all they had left.  An Aunt promised to take them in, but they refused, because orphans in Haiti are treated like slaves.

 

My son, Will, and I and the rest of our group sat and listened as ten former street boys told their stories.  It seemed unbelievable to me as I looked at them. I have visited them several times over the past few years, knowing them to be smart and capable, with love for Jesus. They are full of life and hope.  But how?  How have they risen from such adversity? comfortjoy-joseph-002

comfortjoy-joseph-001

“What dreams do you have,” we asked them.  “What do you want to do with your lives?” Without hesitation they told us their dreams to be doctors and lawyers, pastors and engineers.  They told us of the hope others have given them, of how they were rescued from the street by the missionaries. They have been loved, they have been saved and it has changed their lives because someone dared to bring light into their darkness.

 

There is no doubt that we live in a messed up world.  We check the headlines— doomed internationally, nationally, in our state and our region. We check facebook— sadness on our feed, among our friends.  Then we look at our own lives and our own families and we wonder how this mess will ever be unraveled.

 

The Bible tells us Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers who were jealous of their father’s love for him.  You can imagine the string of injustices their decision meant for Joseph. He was beaten and forgotten in jail.  He had been falsely accused, in a foreign country, separated from all he had known.  He had every reason to be broken beyond repair. Yet, in the midst of it all, he clung to hope as God blessed him and placed him in a place of prominence.  And so it happened that when his brothers traveled from their homeland to find grain in the middle of a famine, Joseph was the one in charge.  When he finally revealed to them who he was, they were terrified for their lives, knowing the revenge he could place on them.  But instead of hatred, Joseph responded with forgiveness and love for them.

 

Ann Voskamp writes, “What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart.  What has torn you, God makes a thin place to see glory.  Whatever happens, whatever unfolds, whatever unravels, you can never be undone… Out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings a Messiah.”

 

You can never be undone.

 

There are ten boys in Haiti who will change the world because Jesus has come into their lives.  They will dare to hope and dare to dream, because what was intended to harm them, God has used for good.  There are scars and there is hurt, but there is Jesus.

 

It’s Advent and we are waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ. The promises are there for us, too.  God can take what is torn and broken in your life and He can turn it into a gift.  Jesus is our Savior who takes what was meant for harm, and transforms it for good.

 

 “Break open your words,

let the light shine out,

let ordinary people see their meaning.”

Psalm 119:130

 

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Blessing of Abraham {An Advent Series of Hope}  0

 

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“God told Abram, “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land I will show you.
I’ll make you a great nation and bless you… All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:1-3

The creek that runs through Crazy Woman Canyon winds down from the mountain and into the town of Buffalo, Wyoming.  We made our way deep into the canyon, following the Clear Creek the entire way.  The road is narrow, forced to follow the path of the rushing water along the way.  But there are several pull offs, because it’s inevitable…. you can’t simply drive through the canyon.  At some point, you must get out and explore.    We crossed the rushing water, Peter leading us through the water, testing out the rocks first before he’d let us step on them. It was so loud that we had to shout in order to hear one another.  Even in the middle of summer, it was icy cold and the kids plunged their feet in,  their teeth chattering.

 

When we returned to town later, we went to the park, where Clear Creek ran right through the middle. It was the same creek, but everything about it was different than in the canyon.  We were able to let the kids explore on their own, slipping through the rocks.  We sat on the shore while they played, the gentle sound of running water relaxing us.

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Wendell Berry writes,

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

And so God called Abraham to leave all that he knew.  He stripped away the familiar— his home, his country, his family— and called him to a life of utter dependence and obedience.  And Abraham took the risk and said yes.  He dared to give up the calm waters for the white waters.  The unknown obstacles must have been enormous.  The fear must have been overwhelming.  But he did it anyway.  At 75 years of age, he took his wife, his nephew, his livestock and his family, stepping into the unknown.

 

D.L. Moody, an American evangelist and publisher, wrote, “Faith is the gift of God.  So is the air, but you have to breath it; so is bread, but you have to eat it; so is water, but you have to drink it.”

 

God has given you the gift of this Advent.  He has promised to bless you.  But you must open your eyes to the blessing.  You must dare to live with your heart and hands open to receive, even when your heart has been broken into pieces.  We hear the whispers to huddle in, to protect ourselves and live closed.  The grief is too much.  The anger is too real.  The stronghold is too big.  But it isn’t true.  Jesus came to heal, to bring peace.  His life is a gift to you.  You can let go of it all, because He has come.

 

The rocks in the stream— the obstacles in your life—might threaten to overtake you, but they are also the very thing that allows your soul to sing.

 

And the amazing thing about our heartache is that when we allow Jesus to heal us and bless us, we suddenly open our eyes to the hurt in the world.  And we realize that we ourselves can be the blessing to others.

 

God blessed Abraham and in turn, Abraham was a blessing to others.  He does the same for you.  It’s the strangest thing, but to the tip of my toes I know it to be true.  When you allow God to use your heartache, you will bless others. Sit with a piece of paper and test it out yourself— how have others blessed you?  A kind word, a note, a gift?  Pass it on to someone else, even when your heart is heavy.  When we live as blessed people, we can freely give blessings to others.

 

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

Looking for a Little Extra Hope?  2

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I have a disco ball.  Truly, it’s Kate’s, but I insist that she leave it in the dining room.  When the air starts to get cooler in the fall, and the earth tilts just a little differently, I put the disco ball on the table and the room is awash in small dots of light.  It doesn’t work in the summer, just in the winter months.  Small bits of light to remind me that there is always beauty to be found when I search for it.

 

It’s the first week of December, the month of frenzied excitement and craziness.  I crack open the bin of decorations and the Christmas smells leak out.  It’s the smell of nostalgia. It’s the joy and the sorrow, the hope and the grief, all at once.

 

There’s a tension to this season, isn’t there?  There’s glitter and excitement and happiness spilling over.  But often, there is deep sorrow.  There’s disappointment in the space between what we thought would be and what really is.  Our lists keep getting longer and the weariness doesn’t fade.

 

Every year the tension of December surprises me.  But there is one thing that holds me steady— the story of a baby and the generations of people who made up His family tree.  We get out our Jesse Tree with our funny  homemade ornaments and we  listen to the stories again.  We remember again with David’s words in Psalm 119: 30, “The unfolding of your words gives light”.

 

Because here’s what I need to know every Christmas— I need to remember that life is messy and far from perfect.  I need to know that Jesus knows my sorrow and He cares for me.  I need to know that He hears the cries of my heart when I hang up the empty stocking and put a tiny Christmas tree next to a grave.  I want to know I’m not alone.

 

As we begin the season of Advent, this time of waiting for the birth of Jesus, I’ve written something for you.  Join me over the next few weeks as we discover together the hope held out for us, using people who were in the family tree of Jesus.  People like Abraham, who held on to the promise that God would bless him, even in the midst of unanswered promises.  People like Jonah who discovered that God comes to us in our storms.  People like Mary, who saw that even our emptiness can be used by God.

 

I don’t know where you are this holiday season, but if you are in a place of darkness and sorrow, I want to whisper words of hope to your weary soul.  Though you may feel it, you are not alone.  My heart is with you.  I’ve been there.  But even more importantly, Jesus is with you.  He is near to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit.

 

So come back here over the next few weeks as we unwrap gifts of those who have bravely gone before us.

 

And if you are hurting this season?  I would love to know so I can pray for you.  Leave a note in the comments or write me an email. We may not be sitting on my couch having a real conversation, but I’m thankful for the ways we can reach out to one another.

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

Letting Go {Taking my Son to Haiti}  2

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The first few nights after William was born five weeks early, I slept in a room just off the NICU.  They told us we could stay there until someone with a more serious case came along, since Will needed help that was non-life threatening.  His early birth meant that he needed a little kickstart to his lungs, but he was otherwise healthy.

 

After a few nights, a more critical case was admitted, and Peter and I opted to get a hotel room just a few miles away.  I remember crying hard that night, feeling the distance of just a few miles.  I knew he was getting the care he needed, but he just seemed so far from me.  My sweet baby had always been with me.  I had carried him in my womb for many months, my very body cradling him.  Yet within hours of his birth, I had been forced to let him go, the unknowns looming like a deep, dark cloud.

 

Those first few days watching him in the NICU, God whispered gentle words to my new-mama heart.  I could try as hard as I could to hold him close, but the essence of being a Mom is letting go.  We love and we nurture, we hold them near in our hearts… but ultimately we are preparing them for their own adulthood. The dependence they have on us wanes as life goes on and –though it breaks our hearts– we must have courage to let our children grow up.

 

I didn’t fully grasp that until he slipped from my body, until the reality came fast and hard in the form of an ambulance ride, our beds miles apart.

 

A few weeks ago I took William to Haiti.  And if I were to lean in and tell you the full truth, it scared me to take him.  Exposing him to poverty at such an intense level was overwhelming to me and I didn’t know what to expect.

 

But again, God whispered gentle words to my Mama-heart. He reminded me of the cost to raising brave kids, of the sacrifice to expose them to things I wouldn’t have chosen.  He reminded me of those first early days when I had to let go and how firmly Jesus had held us.

 

We had an incredible week together in Haiti.  Beyond what I could have asked or imagined.  And Will fit in so easily.  There were dozens of kids hanging off of him at all hours of the day.  “Where is my friend, Williams?” they would ask.  With a soccer ball in his hand and a grin on his face, he would win them over, especially when he let them touch his hair.

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Having him with me was one of the biggest gifts I’ve received since I’ve become a Mom.  We had some hard talks about some hard things.  We laughed a lot and appreciated one another in new ways. It was so good.

 

On the last day, we were waiting for the plane to come and pick us up.  It was a small plane, just a six-seater, and since there were eight in our group, we had to take two planes. With a shiver, I asked if Will and I could be split up.  Just in case.  And when that plane took off, with him in it and me still on the ground below, I fought tears harder than I had all week.  All of a sudden I was that brand new mom again, leaving him behind in the NICU. Unsure and wavering.

 

Because letting go is always hard.

 

It’s trusting God over and over … and over….  again. It’s choosing the hard over the convenient, the holy over the safe.  It’s admitting when I mess up and apologizing when I get it wrong.  It’s listening when he talks, guiding him to make his own conclusions instead of jumping in.   It’s learning to surrender what I want and instead letting God work through him in ways I never would have imagined.

 

Sometimes letting go is slow and unnoticed, little moments at random times.  But sometimes it leaves us breathless and aching, like watching an airplane take off while still on the ground.  There’s so much that could happen, so many unknowns, and it’s hard to trust God with the heart of our kids, even when we know the depth of love He has for them.

 

My plane landed just 10 minutes after his plane and as I stepped into the airport, Will had the biggest grin on his face.  “Mom! The pilot let me fly the plane!”  He was absolutely giddy.

 

What if I had said no?  To Haiti, to the hard, to the heartache, to the plane?  What if I would have let fear ruin his chances to discover the lavish gifts God gives us?  What if I hadn’t trusted God in a million different ways between those NICU days and today?

 

Because a twelve year old flying a plane for a few minutes over the glorious mountains of Haiti?  It’s a wild dream.  And I’m learning that wild dreams only happen when we have the courage to live with our hearts and hands open.

 

The fight to let go is never easy. I’ve gotten it drastically wrong more times than I’ll ever get it right.  But slowly, Jesus is showing me that if I trust Him with my children, He can do so much more in their lives.  He redeems my need for control and lets me learn again.

 

Sometimes the letting go is slow and small, other times it’s loud and wild.  But always it’s worth it.

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May you, today, have the courage to live with your hands open to the adventures of life.  May you trust God with what He has given you— saying yes, even as you fight fear.  And may you recognize the big and small ways of letting go, with the courage to proclaim that God is good.

 

P.S. Want to know more about the ministry we serve with in Haiti?  It’s called Waves of Mercy.  I would love if you would support them by giving directly through their website -OR- check out Haiti Hoops Boutique, an Etsy store by my friend Neile. One hundred percent of her profits go to Waves of Mercy.

 

Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah