Hope Lives

Hope is safe on the altar.

Placing hope on the altar can feel like a contradiction to what we’re supposed to do. I tell myself that if I can hold on, just keep my grasp a little tighter, then hope will lead to realization. But usually it just leads to fear, and disappointment that things did not unfold the way I thought they would.

I’ve been trying so hard to pursue my dreams and I just don’t want to let them go. Letting go seems like a prerequisite to dreams dying, the future dying, never to be resurrected again. And I don’t want to be okay with unfulfilled desires and redirected plans.

I’ve continually come back to Sarah and Abraham’s story over the last few years, asking God not to allow me to see my future with eyes like Sarah; laughing and refusing to believe He would do what I thought He wanted with my life. The solution seemed to be holding dreams so tightly that no one could take them from me.

But life turned upside down, everything felt vulnerable, and I knew He was asking me to place all the pieces of my life on the altar. He promised that when He was done – adding, taking away, rearranging – they would fit back together again. He would give, but only after I first surrendered.

Then I read Hebrews 11 the other morning. It says, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice…Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

He knew Isaac was safe, even if he had to die. God’s promise was safe, because He would reverse what is irreversible to fulfill what He said He would do. Abraham believed. He trusted. He obeyed. He let dreams die knowing they could not stay dead if God willed for them to live.

Our God-planted hopes and dreams are safe, too. We can place them on the altar. We can let them fade from our grasp. We can let Him do what He will. When the time is right, He will resurrect them and put the pieces back together. Nothing can keep you from what He will do in your life. The altar is where fear dies; not hope. Idols are crushed. Anxiety is restrained. Satan is thwarted. And hope lives.

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Prepare. Fight. Go.

I was just beginning to fall asleep last night when the thought entered my mind: What about Psalm 34?
 
I know I’ve read the passage before, but I couldn’t recall it in that sleepy moment. I made a mental note to remember to look it up in the morning. Still, the words kept pressing on my heart so distinctly it felt like someone was whispering into my ear right beside me.
 
Psalm 34.
 
I don’t remember what I was thinking in that moment which prompted the question. I do know what’s been on my heart the last six months, and that my heart has been constantly searching for an answer — a response to the prayer from the beginning of that season to have new understanding of His goodness.

Psalm 34:7.
 
With squinted eyes and the words still ringing in my ears, I read it and began to understand.
 
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Delivers.

Verse 4 says God delivered — natsal, tore away — David from his fears.

This morning I looked up the original Hebrew word for “delievers” from verse 7: Chalats – To be equipped; prepared for war; to draw out. To go equipped.
 
Fight. Go.

Two words that have been significant to me throughout the last three years.
 
And I love this passage shows the process of being prepared to fight, to go equipped, goes along with a season of tearing away from what’s holding us back.
 
No wonder it hurts so much. But it’s drawing us out to receive the promise we’ve been given: Seek the Lord and you will lack no good thing. In order to get there, we just have to be willing to be rescued. 

He will tear us away from our fear to equip us for us every good thing He has prepared. We will not miss out. He’ll bring the pieces together.

_______________________________________________________________

| Psalm 34 |

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me [tore me away] from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers [equips] them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

When God Says “No”

I will never forget the moment when I knew God had answered “no” to something I really wanted.

He seemed to whisper this answer into my heart to help me realize I had spent too much time holding onto something I was not meant to have. After months of presenting my request, he gently told me to let it go.

At first, I didn’t realize his plans were better than my own. Moments of heartache and (seemingly) empty hands, left me wondering why he would take away this opportunity I desired so much. I wrongfully believed that if he wouldn’t give me what I wanted, he must not have understood how important it was to me. It seemed like he was needlessly withholding, not giving abundantly like I thought he should.

Permission to Grieve

When we are forced to let go of something we really long for — whether it’s taken away, or it seems it will never be given — grief is a natural response. The weight of disappointment is crushing. It can be overwhelming and take time to process.

It’s not wrong to experience disappointment when life does not unfold the way we hope. If we do not give ourselves permission to grieve, we inadvertently believe that God is more concerned with us immediately feeling better, rather than working through the hurt to bring real transformation to our heart. We lose sight of the invitation he has given us to place our struggles at his feet.

He is not afraid of the pain we feel. His sovereignty is not dependent on our emotions. He will not try to invalidate our hurt with quick and temporary fixes. We are free to express a sense of lack and sorrow in the moment. He lets us feel the void so that he might satisfy us with himself. He wants to draw near.

Finding His Love in Our Lament

The panic I felt over being led in a different direction gave a clear picture of the state of my heart. I was more concerned with not getting what I wanted than seeing where God wanted me.

Disappointment often reveals what captures our affections. Even though the disappointment is not always wrong, it does give us a gauge that shows us where we have invested our hope. Lamenting through our discontentment forces us to carry those desires back to God — even if just to question why he hasn’t given these things to us. It sheds light on the idols we have created in our lives. Through the grief, we dig up our biggest frustrations and unleash our rawest emotions. Grief graciously draws us in to wrestle with God in every wound and disappointment.

The purpose of lament is not merely to vent our distress (which leaves us in despair), but to bring our attention back to God’s promises and the hope we have in Christ. He promises that he hears us when we call (Matthew 7:7). He promises to be near to us (Psalm 34:18). He promises to be faithful (Deuteronomy 31:6). He promises that this hurt will end (Revelation 21:4). He promises that when we seek him, he will transform our hearts to desire more of him (Psalm 37:4). He will not leave us in the misery of our disappointment, because he has not finished the work he started in us (Philippians 1:6). He will assure us of his love as we invite him into the struggle we feel.

His Best Can Be Painful

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Redirection forces something out of our hands we had hoped to keep. Through that, we begin to realize God’s plan for our life does not equate to the easy or comfortable road; but he is working all things together, even this disappointed, for our good (Romans 8:28).

God always has our ultimate good in mind, which means he will pry the idols from our hands. He does this not because he is cruel or depriving us. He knows better than we do, and his “no” is always merciful, even when it hurts. He is for us, fighting against what will keep us from him (Romans 8:31). He knows our hearts can only be truly satisfied with himself (John 4:14). He will not tolerate being second in our lives, because he wants us to have something so much better than what the world can offer.

When God takes something away, he creates space in our lives to fill us with more of him and his blessings. That is the greatest gift of all. It may not feel like it in the moments where we are forced to reconcile disappointment, but he wants to help us understand it is true. He wants us to experience for ourselves — to taste and see, and know that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

Disappointment may be part of living in this world, as we struggle to let go of our earthly desires and open our hearts to receive the good things God wants to give us. But if we are in Christ, our struggle with disappointment is only temporary. The promises of God, and the joy we experience as we realize them, are eternal.

This article originally appeared on Desiring God.

Keep Hoping

I read an article a few months ago by a woman who said the struggle of undesired singleness prepared her for the future struggle she would have with infertility. Sharing her story was a profound encouragement for single and married women to minister to each other by drawing parallels between their experiences. To both hope and struggle together.

Reading her words was a raw and tender moment. I had never heard anyone make that comparison before, even though I wondered why people seemed to always tell couples desiring children it’s okay to grieve and keep holding onto hope, but then point out to singles that they may never get married – as if squelching the unmet longing is the only way they can serve God and be obedient in singleness. Singles are usually told to love their single life while they have it, like they’re supposed to attach themselves to it out of some kind of fear of missing out. No one ever said it’s okay to feel that unmet longing, much less acknowledge the struggle of being held in this tension between what we hope for and what actually may or may not happen.

A few too many, “You don’t need to worry about marriage because it may never happen,” taught me not to talk about those unmet longings. I decided it must be foolish to hope for something that might not ever be and I didn’t want to blindly walk into inevitable disappointment. But the last several years have shifted my perspective. I’ve been learning what it looks like to hold in my hands hope, reality, and assurance of the eternal future.

Hope for future marriage, reality of present singleness, and assurance that neither will be part of my eternal future.

It’s this last promise that enables me to be comfortable with the other two.

God longs to give us good gifts. Even though I don’t always understand, He also promises that all things work together for our ultimate good. That is the gift. Singleness is working together for our ultimate good. Hope for future marriage is working together for our ultimate good. Living in the middle of the unknown is working together for our ultimate good. Constantly reconciling the surrender of those dreams is working together for our ultimate good. Holding onto hope is working together for our ultimate good.

And hope will not put us to shame.

That’s because our ultimate hope is in Christ. If this hope is primary, it opens the door for secondary hope to exist, because we know that whether it becomes reality or stays unfulfilled, it does not have the power to bring us disgrace. Even if we experience disappointment on this earth because secondary hope only ever remains unrealized, we know we will not be disappointed in the end. Whatever happens, we still receive His best.

Christ gives us the freedom to continue desiring good things, and God-honoring marriage is certainly on that list. This hope – even this unmet longing – is all part of His plan to work in us and prepare us for what’s next; the immediate and eternal future.

I’m not going to tell you to go after contentment in singleness as you wade through another awkward and lonely Valentine’s Day this year, because there is no such thing.

I don’t want to be the voice that tells you to prepare for unfulfilled hope out of fear of disappointment, and I don’t want to make you think a deep and relentless desire for a good thing prevents you from serving the Lord and living the life He has called you to today. It doesn’t. This place between hoping and receiving is where He has you today and it is a safe place to acknowledge and wrestle with it. All of this is working together for good.

But I also know I can’t be the voice that tells you it’ll happen someday, just wait, because I don’t have that authority and the Bible clearly shows us there’s no guarantee. So there has to be another option.

Singleness won’t make you content. Marriage won’t make you content. Paul said Christ’s strength working in him is what enabled him to be content in any situation – with unmet longing or the fulfillment of it. That’s what we always seem to miss. When Christ is at the center and we allow Him to be the source of our strength, the weight of the unknown becomes a lot lighter. We can be enabled to pursue and live out marriage or singleness when Christ is our anchor keeping us grounded in what is true.

From this place, we’re also equipped to keep hope in the right perspective. We can hope for it while also keeping our eyes on its temporary status. Unfulfilled longings won’t be met with the accomplishment of that thing. We’ll just move on to the next unfulfilled longing, however good it may be. That’s why I won’t pursue being content in singleness. It doesn’t work. Christ’s strength and His grace is the only way to live and embrace the life you hoped wouldn’t still be reality by now. The only true and lasting fulfillment of longing will be realized when He returns.

If we really believe this is true, we should be comfortable allowing the hope for something more or different to sit in the room as we continue still to seek what He wants for us today. It’s beside us, but it doesn’t control us. It’s held, but held in context of the reality that longing is both a part of this world in some form and promised to end. It whispers our precious desires, but also our precious hope that even this season is working together for our ultimate good.

So when the weight of singleness and the unknown of how long the season will last is overwhelming – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When you think you cannot last another day if something doesn’t change – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When well-meaning married voices tell you to stop waiting and the fear starts to creep in – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When disappointment steals your joy and you begin to wonder if it could ever happen – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

When shame threatens to invade as you continue to desire the fulfillment of these unmet longings – pursue the contentment found in Christ’s strength.

Then keep hoping.

God Is with You, Mighty Warrior

Fight.

I feel like I’m not a very good fighter. I’m more the kind of person to wait and watch to see how God will accomplish it for me, without me, than step in to fight with Him.

Yet, that’s often what He calls us to do.

So when more than one friend sends you the same passage, with the same encouragement – that we are chosen and commissioned for the work, the fight, to move toward the plan God has set in motion – you stop and listen.

Even if you’re not quite sure what you’re supposed to be fighting for.

A few days ago I read the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel and the picture began to come together. My mind immediately went back to things that have stayed with me as I’ve transitioned from end to new.

Invite God into this space.
Let Him work in your circumstances.
Trust He has the power to accomplish anything.

I paused mid-passage, struck by the example of Hannah’s aching heart that drove her to prayers so honest they made everyone think she was crazy. I knew that’s who I wanted to be. As the bottled up words began to slip past my heart, I remembered.

I remembered why I had stopped asking.

Should you really be asking for this?
Remember, disappointment is exhausting. And embarrassing.
You wouldn’t feel so eager if you knew He was going to give you the exact opposite of what you ask.
Why are you so unwilling to accept this is never going to happen?
It’s all just the long way around to get you to agree to do what you don’t want to do.

I defaulted to my typical response that always kept me quiet: fear disguised as disappointment. That sinking feeling, making me regret I had ever asked. Is this feeling confirmation of an answer?

I usually convinced myself it was.

Or an opportunity to fight?

Then I remembered.

Perfect love drives out fear.

Maybe I had already started fighting.

I envied Hannah. All I wanted was to be able to pray like her. No shame, no fear – no doubt He could grant her request, daring to hope He would before she ever had the assurance.

And she didn’t let go. Even when those who watched didn’t understand, she wrestled with God and trusted He heard her cry. Her understanding of God’s greatness and power was so much bigger than her sorrow and she knew what to do in the face of it.

She prayed.

She fought for the child she longed for in prayer and surrender.

If I was going to fight, even if I wasn’t sure what for, I at least needed to know how.

With weapons not of the flesh, but of divine power, to destroy strongholds, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Every thought. God desires obedience not just from our hands and our heart, but our very thoughts. Their tendency is to run wild, and we must capture them and teach them – fight for them – to obey.

When our thoughts wander from whatever is true, whatever is noble and lovely, fear invades because we stop focusing on what Love has done. Each fear derives from a false belief that we have been or will be punished. We justify them, giving it names we can accept, failing to remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. We can approach Him without shame.

So we must teach those thoughts to obey the same way we were taught: with His Word.

Extracting from our mind what is designed to do us harm and planting what will do us good and make us flourish.

We arm ourselves with Truth, knowing nothing else has the power or authority to redeem what seeks to destroy. Nothing else has the ability to take all things, even broken things, and allow them to be used for good.

This, not even this, will overcome you.

It may come after you, but you’ve been called and equipped. You’ve been commissioned to fight.

And when it feels like the strongholds are so strong you can’t even whisper the words your heart so desperately longs to say, longs to ask for from the One who hears and sees and works and is fighting with you – know this:

Nothing can keep you from Him.

Because of Christ, we have access to the creator of all, who faithfully and patiently listens. Even to the thoughts and requests we didn’t know we had and didn’t know we needed to ask. We have Someone advocating on our behalf.

But we still have to fight. Not so that He can hear us, but so we can hear Him.

So that we can hear His voice drown out the others; those voices designed to make you question and fear and doubt.

He speaks Truth over us as we read it off the page, undoing what we now know is wrong and making clear what had been distorted. It’s living and active, and sharper than the sword.

It’s the weapon, and it’s what you need to fight.

It’s what you need to let go of what was old and step forward to what is new.

You are a mighty warrior. And God is with you.

So let’s fight.

New Seasons and New Beginnings

Whenever I’ve had a chance to talk to someone about their year in 2017, the consensus was clear. The past year was difficult for many, much of it full of loss and overwhelming challenges. I, among many others, was ready for it to end.

The upcoming year surely would be better than the last. It had to be time for something new.

I’ve been journaling now for 7 years. When I started in January of 2011, it was my goal to write for 7 years and then take a step back to see what God had done and see where He was pointing me next. With a naive and eager heart, I felt the whisper of His voice in my heart that He was going to do something important in these 7 years if I would trust Him and walk closely behind Him as He led me down the path.

It was a day exactly like this, 3 years ago, that I sat in my room, looking out the window at the snow gently falling to the ground, that I made a transition in the way and what I journaled.

Before, I had been writing with the thought in the back of my mind that I’d glean material for articles or book ideas, hoping somewhere, someday, someone would read it. I had concluded that in order for it to be important and impactful, it was a journey that was more meant for me being enabled to minister to others than the simple fact that God was ministering to me.

The seasons of my life were drastically changing from what they were before, and the Lord was taking me so much deeper, beyond the limits I didn’t even know I had, and starting something greater than I imagined. So my journal entries became prayers – raw honesty about the joys and frustration, the losses and hopes, the tears that always seemed to pour out when I sat down to write because I didn’t understand and I couldn’t see, and I wanted clarity. I forced the clarity in my feeble attempts to piece together the circumstances and tell myself I knew what they meant. But I didn’t.

Instead, going into each season, the Lord would put a word on my heart, keeping my eyes wide open to see what He would do. Sometimes those seasons lasted over a year. Sometimes they lasted a few months. Despite the specific events that occurred and whether they were what I anticipated or not, the theme given to that season always fit in a profoundly beautiful way I didn’t expect.

In-between. Rest. Willingness. End. Jubilee.

When the hope of a season of jubilee coming up ahead was planted, I inserted ideas of resurrection. I began thinking about how God might go back and undo all the hard things that felt wrong to me, to actually unveil the plan I had been hoping for all along. Delayed, but exactly what I thought. Or, at least – if not – He would reconstruct my heart to feel differently about those 7 years so maybe they wouldn’t be such tender memories.

That’s not what He did and it’s not what I think He will do.

I’ve been studying about jubilee these last few months. According to Leviticus, a year of jubilee happened for Israel after 7 cycles of 7 years, providing freedom and rest to the people and the land. It was a time of enjoying the work from the years before. But it was also a beginning. A new year, a new cycle, was coming.

There was restoration – but it didn’t mean undoing what had happened throughout the years before. It meant forgiveness and reconciliation, giving a clean slate to begin again. It was about moving forward, not just moving on. Not erasing the past but preparing the way for the future. Seeing the abundance in what He provided and experiencing the joy of it despite the pain it took to get there.

New.

Something new was on its way.

It’s a beautiful celebration and transition – the past propelling them forward, being commissioned for new tasks and challenges that were still ahead. Every hard and horrible thing was now a reminder of what had brought them there; they weren’t just battle wounds, but marks of His work in the deepest part of the soul.

The sharp objects driven into the ground to break it up and prepare the soil tore our hands and bruised our heart. It was risky, but we told ourselves it would be worth it. In faith and with a heart aching in anticipation we planted seeds in the ground, tended to them, and waited to see what would happen next. Sometimes we cried out with joy at the sight of the green life sprouting from the dirt. But sometimes we cried out in agonizing pain of disappointment, knowing the hope of our dreams was buried deep in the ground and would never surface again. We had to dig it up, yelling and sobbing at the sight of our nothing-but-dirt-filled hands, bleeding and cowering with pain.

And then something miraculous happened.

It was enough.

When the 7 cycles of 7 years finally passed, what was left was just enough, even if it didn’t look like anything at all. Our neighbors carried our burdens, our debts were paid off, and those around us shared in the abundance of His grace. He brought us home.

We experienced a season of loss and frustration, but He provided. He provided when it looked like we didn’t have anything. He provided through the people who have been commissioned to love us well. He provided in ways we couldn’t always see, but gratefully received. And we were sustained – through the 7 years, and still as we’re commanded to rest and let Him continue the work while we sleep and enjoy His presence.

It’s the end and the beginning. It’s restoration and creation. It’s rest and being made ready to embark on the next season of the journey.

Even though we cannot fully see what He is doing through these seasons and cycles, or when we enter into a transition getting us ready for the next, He is faithfully unfolding His plan right before our eyes.

Don’t look back. Look forward. See what He’s doing.

What He’s doing in me, He’s doing in you. In different ways and with different means, but with purpose and power, and a promise that He will not stop until the work is complete.

Rest in Him. Let Him provide. Remind yourself of what He has done before, but keep your eyes on Him, and embrace the command to not look down. You need only to be still. The pieces are coming together. Something new is on its way.

If You’re Just Surviving This Christmas – Jubilee Is Coming [end of the year 2017]

Survival.

That’s what the last few months have felt like.

Everything’s different and each day is filled with struggling to make it as much like the past as possible, while realizing those days are not coming back.

I learned in one of my counseling classes a few years ago that each new season carries with it an equal amount of grief and joy. In order to move on, even to good and desired things, we have to let go. If you want things to change, you have to learn how to grieve the present fading into the past. Welcomed transitions still bring a season of learning and changing, knowing that whatever life was like before will become something that moves you forward from the background instead of perpetually being in the forefront.

But sometimes unwelcomed changes bring the grief first and you have to fight for – wait for – the joy. You have to hope and believe. He doesn’t let anything happen unless it will somehow be for our ultimate and eternal good.

Loss and brokenness; it is not good, but it can be used to accomplish what we never thought could be possible.

~

My theme for this year was to remember that whatever God had given, it would be enough. But I fought for mere survival because I began to believe that’s all that was there. For me, at least.

I’ve been living with this obnoxious pain in my foot off and on for years. Each time it has surfaced, I go through the motions of home remedies, give my foot a short break, and eventually it’d go away. But it started coming back more quickly. More often. And for days at a time I’d limp around, trying to convince myself nothing was wrong.

After a few months, I finally went to the doctor. As I somewhat expected, he didn’t give me much hope for improvement – suggested to do this or that, but concluded my pain was likely due to inevitable deterioration of health. Another casualty to add to the list.

It was when I was walking back to the car that it hit me. Somehow I just knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Soon afterward, I found myself at another appointment I had to fight for; had to delay because of complications; had to show up for and be turned away because of a mistake out of my control; had to fight for again to be seen.

Then, success. A glimmer of hope.

Physical therapy would come next. And the pain. And the frustration. And the work.

From a day to day perspective, I couldn’t tell there was any significant problem. The pain only surfaced occasionally. The rest of the time I felt fine. But my hands, my feet – all of me – told the story. It was evident my body was weak. I had just learned to manage. I would continually accept it, deal with it, and find a way. But survival doesn’t tell the whole story. It can’t. It’s incomplete.

The physical therapist examined my foot and pressed on all sides to find where it hurt. Pain began ringing from places I hadn’t even realized were involved.

I briefly wondered if those sore and screaming muscles had a direct line to my heart. There were placed there I didn’t realize hurt, too.

I didn’t realize because I was too tired. I was treading water – surviving – and losing all my energy in the process.

But here’s the healing we all forget in the midst of this kind of chaos: You only need to tread when you’re sinking, and you only begin to sink when you choose sight over faith.

We choose treading over walking on water because we prefer the illusion of control.

And then we settle for surviving.

Instead of the miraculous.

But it’s easier to say we know this rather than to live like we do.

~

As I mindlessly focused my eyes on the glow of the words crawling across the screen, story after story of people just trying to survive amid the brokenness, I was distracted by my own cracked and bleeding circumstances.

Stop the bleeding the best you can. Try to remember it will be enough. Be a good steward of what’s in front of you and it will.

I leaned into the pain while the stretches awoke the angry muscles, voicing their complaints. It meant tomorrow it’d probably hurt to walk. I was too tired to protest.

When most days I’m reminded both time and money run short, it feels like being told not to live in survival mode is futile. I can’t create more space. I can’t clear my schedule. I can’t do anything different until something changes.

But I’ve also realized sometimes the treading is the storm before the calm. Sometimes it’s hope rendering, brilliantly being woven together for what comes next.

~

Christmas feels different this year because the celebration is different. My life is different, and this time celebration doesn’t look like lights and trees or packages and bows. But Christ hasn’t changed. And that’s what changes everything.

It’s one of my favorite verses: Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. (Luke 1:45)

And yet the believing – the receiving – came with a struggle; the temptation to fear; waiting for something to be different, also realizing the identity of this baby is the change the heart was so desperately waiting for.

Mary knew. She believed. She had faith. Still, there had to be some twinge of feeling like she was treading and surviving, even after He had arrived. After all, she had to run. They had to run for their lives.

But she wasn’t running merely to protect life – death had no power over the One who had entered the world as both Son of God and Son of man.

She was running in faith that the Lord would continue to do what He said; running to embrace the role given to her by Him.

Literally carrying in her arms the weight of what that meant.

Laying down the false hope of surviving; picking up the promise of new life.

From the beginning, she had to fight for it. She had to lean into the pain and feel every bit of it. She had to struggle and cry out and bleed and keep her sight focused on what she knew He would do.

He didn’t leave her to wither in pain or hide from danger without the hope of what was on the other side of it; the reason. True healing. Not a change in circumstance but a change in identity. Not a temporary fix but an eternal home.

And then – the cry of pain faded into the cry of hope. A cry that echoed in every corner of the world, summoning everyone to come and see, come and believe.

The thunder now a lion’s roar. The deep waters now standing firm beneath our feet. The bleeding now covered with Divine blood, washing it and redeeming it to a state we never deserved, given freely because of Love.

~

Rest has been at the forefront of my heart lately. I have to give myself permission not to do everything and be everything so that I can be who He desires I be, even if that role doesn’t always look how I want it to.

More than one friend has given this to me as encouragement through the months of frustration and heartache – jubilee is coming. Rest is coming.

I don’t know when exactly. I don’t know how. I don’t know in what way. But I know. The prerequisite may be work and struggle and pain and the temptation to fear. But the circumstances just prepare the way. They don’t define the outcome.

This is what I will focus on in 2018.

Waiting and getting ready. Hoping and choosing faith. Not expecting disappointment, but expecting rest and newness.

Expecting something greater than what I can see. And knowing the cry that changed everything has changed me.