In with the new?

As believers, we might easily quote verses and pictures proclaiming “Beauty for Ashes”, holding to the image that God can bring anything good out of something hard. Or, we find encouragement in a song like “God’s not done with you” – clinging to the fact that our unfinished stories can still hold purpose and promise in the years ahead.

I honestly believe this is true, yet the reality is that until you have had this truth tested, it only feel so real to you. It’s not “yours” – until you walk it, own it, and come out the other side. Then… its no longer just a cute little picture. Its a deep truth, burned into your life, built into your theology.

I will share this as a precursor to the post: I look back, and have to admit there was a day where I once felt like a piece of my heart died with my marriage, and I wondered if it would ever return. I trusted God would bring me back to life. I thought for sure all of my heart would be resurrected…. Then I would hit a day every now and then and wonder if I could ever experience delight and joy in a relationship like I had before. It was on a day where those feelings were right on the surface that I wrote this.

I share this just as a testimony to how much the Lord heals our memories, how much he can shift things for us that need to be shifted, even when we seem stuck. Because in reading this over again – I guess I was stuck. I hope it will be an encouragement for some of you that may be stuck in your own way.

P.S. In case you’re wondering.. Joy has returned and I am floored at quite a number of things right now 🙂

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Today I ran for the first time in a while. Spring finally in full display, from the trees to the flowers blooming, to the scents that mark a holiday weekend floating in the air (everyone was grilling out for Memorial Day cookouts). It was beautiful. It reminded me of when life was simple, and all I cared about was life and loving Jesus more and more. Sometimes I wish I could go back – back before the scars, before the hurt of life marred the way I see the world. Before I had to start over all again.

I keep thinking of a verse the Lord gave me a while back:

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing; Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” Says the Lord (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)

It’s hard for us as people, not to look back, isn’t it? Back to before when we were younger, or when we were single or married, or before we lost our job, our loved one, our whatever we built our life around before it got so complex. Before we gave into the addiction, before our body started breaking down, before we left the life we had and moved across the country. Before we started asking questions or …. before whatever.

You know we’re not alone in thinking that way, right?

The Israelites did the same thing. Over and over, when God was bringing them to freedom in the wilderness, they longed for the things of Egypt. They longed for when they had meat in abundance and luxuries, obviously forgetting their great slavery. They forgot that the idols they worshipped were powerless, that the gods they served were but figments of their imagination.

I’m not saying things in our past were idols necessarily. After years of fearing anything I enjoyed was an idol, I have set down that way of thinking, and I’m not about to take it back up again. Yet what is it about looking back and longing for things that were?

Sure, sometimes its because we are afraid of change, but that’s not always it.

More often, I can’t help but wonder if its because its what we know, and the new seems unfamiliar and strange. There is no map, there isn’t a pocket guidebook for what’s next or what to do when we get there.

Later in this same passage in Isaiah, the Lord reminds them that the foundations of Jerusalem will be rebuilt. He will move on their behalf, even though they don’t remember him

Isaiah 45:2-3 (NIV)

“I will go before you

and will level the mountains;

I will break down gates of bronze

and cut through bars of iron.

I will give you hidden treasures,

riches stored in secret places,

so that you may know that I am the Lord,

the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

Poetic. Mysterious. Something to make them wonder. He never tells them what the “hidden treasures” will look like, or how He will move, but he says He will.

Even though they still forget him.

Maybe we are more like them than we realize, unable to see or even perceive what He is up to in our years to come. Maybe we wonder, how could what is to come ever be better than what was?

Oh… but if we remember the heart of our God… He is a God that always keeps His promises. His love is true, it is faithful and never gives up. It was offered to us over a sacred meal with a cup of wine, a new promise.

We question how the new could ever be better….yet if we are able to dwell in the mystery that is the Lord, and swim in the love that He offers us, somehow I think we will find it that the new – however different – is still just as full of joy and delight in ways we could never imagine.

Are you willing to keep pressing into the One who loves you, to let Him do this for you? I hope so my friend….I am praying for courage for you for the journey forward!

Me and Advent

I have been doing a lot of thinking this time of year, specifically paying attention to sermons on Advent. Admittedly, I have never really been one to focus on the meaning of Advent before… yet this year is different. This year, the lessons of Advent are speaking to me more than I have ever heard them before.

Maybe its because this year, I am constantly comparing to December last year.

Last year this time, I was dreading conversations. I was carrying secret shame, shame that my marriage was over. I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, it seemed, and relief was nowhere in sight. I was carrying the weight of the pain we would cause our girls, the fractured family that we would become, fearful of what my life was going to look like and yet throwing my hope onto the One that said He was our anchor beyond the veil. Crying out to Jesus in a way I never had before. Last year, advent wasn’t even mentioned. But it was not lost on me that for the first time in my life, I understood the story of Mary with a whole new set of eyes.

This year… this year I am choosing joy, and I am living my life out honestly. I can look back at all the Lord has done to bring healing in my life, and I can see the new things He is starting to do that I cannot yet see in their fullness. This year, I am paying attention to Advent because I must, because in some way, I know the Lord is teaching me something new… and it’s good.

The first week of Advent I heard about waiting. Now, I know officially the first week represents hope, but that’s not what Brian Zahnd focused out in his message the first week. Maybe he took it in a different direction because hope is ultimately about waiting for something, right? In the case of Israel, it meant waiting for the Messiah. In our case, he pointed out, it means waiting for God to move. Not waiting on an event or occurrence, which is often what we really are waiting for (if this or that happens, THEN I will ….). No. Waiting on God. Because, as Brian pointed out, when God comes, something is going to happen. We may not know what, but something will happen, and it will be good. This year, there are a few things I am waiting on – one of which I clearly have known God has to move, the other I realize I was looking for an outcome. The first week of Advent has reminded me to shift my gaze, and to not give up waiting. I needed to hear that more than I know.

The second week of Advent is about Love. Yet at a church I visited last Sunday, the pastor spoke of both hope and joy. Hope of the Messiah, a story that Elizabeth and Mary both became a part of because God was moving in His time, in His way. Yet joy – because although neither of them quite understood what God was doing, they were willing to walk out the change in direction of their lives and circumstance. When they saw the grace of what God was doing in each other’s lives, THEN their story made sense. THEN they could see some of what God was doing – but it only made sense when the pieces were put together. As the pastor said…when they both saw the grace over each other’s lives, it made them ask “what IS God doing????” This year, I can honestly stand back and ask the same. I am keenly aware that his ways are not mine, that his thoughts are not mine, and that there is greater mystery than ever in following him. For someone who likes to know what is going on and for whom planning is a default… this requires constant trust. Trust that something is going on, something I cannot see and cannot touch… and something that may still take years to unfold.

So as we stand here, just a few days away from Christmas, I invite you to take a step back and ask yourself: Where in my own life do I need to wait on God, not wait on circumstances to change? Where can I shift my focus so that I am not anxious about how things will play out, but I look with eager anticipation to seeing how God moves on my behalf? And where can you step back and look at things and wonder… what is going on? How is what I see now going to result in greater things in the future?

Merry Christmas, my friends! May the light Jesus came to bring brighten your world this year, and may His peace, peace that says we WILL be ok in His hands, give you hope.

Tama