Splendor in Suffering

Broken HeartThe pain was so deep I couldn’t utter my own name.  I longed to dig deep in Scripture to see what God had to say about all this.  What was His plan in miscarriage?  I remember the faces of those who came to offer comfort and the tears that fell.  Some shared personal stories of loss and heartache.  The love and encouragement these few precious friends offered was a treasured blessing. Years later, these memories are still etched vividly in my mind.

Shortly after our loss, I shared the following words of encouragement with a friend whose daughter had miscarried.  Every word still holds true today, several years later.  Perhaps in sharing, it will lend insight, perspective, and hope.

“Even though our losses are intangible, they are painful, powerful, and will leave us changed people – hopefully for the better – stronger in Christ.  One passage that calmed my heart, comforted me, inspired me, and reassured me that God has a plan – a wonderful plan is this:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
~ Isaiah 61:1b, 2b-3

We who mourn will be called oaks of righteousness.  We have been chosen to display the splendor of God in the midst of our suffering.  Yes, our circumstance is rotten and painful, but we have what many do not:  Jesus.  And we have Him in the darkest of hours as we do in the brightest of days.

During the last week, my eyes have been opened to a new harvest – one of hurting women who suffer in silence…because of guilt, shame, or isolation because others simply don’t know what to say.  I think of how many times I have read Moses’ arguing about being sent, Philip’s going without any question or hesitation, and Isaiah’s excitement as he said, “Here am I.  Send me!”  How many times I have hoped I would be an Isaiah or Philip and not a Moses.  Now is that time…

And much like Elisha’s servant, my eyes have been opened to the chariots surrounding us in prayer, ready to defend my family and escort us through this journey.  And I have confidence, that just as in that story, although nothing has gone as planned, God has gone before us.

I hope your family finds a little encouragement, hope, and strength in God’s Word.  I pray that all of you are surrounded in prayer, that God will hold His shield high for you when you don’t have the strength to hold it yourselves, and that He will carry your daughter and her family.  We are blessed to have an interactive and loving God who pursues us and will one day wipe our tears.”


May we seek You, Lord, in the heartaches of life.  Thank You for Your faithfulness and healing.  Please keep our eyes open so we can come alongside those with empty arms, ready to wrap them in prayer and compassionately encourage them.  Let us not sit silently, paralyzed by fear of saying the wrong thing, but trusting You to give us the words.  Let us truly celebrate life and sorrow in loss.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen

The Miracle of Christmas

baby

What is this miracle that is Christmas?  A helpless baby, the Son of God, who made the humblest entrance into a broken world.  Love came down to a world so fractured by heartache, full of hatred, perversion, violence and suffering.   We need to go back to the beginning, to a time where God’s creation lived in peace and walked with Him face-to-face, if we really want to understand the depth of this love.

God loved His people deeply.  He gave them responsibilities with one instruction that carried the forewarning of death if violated.  They had the freedom to obey or yield to the temptation of selfish desires.  Sadly, they took their focus off God and disobeyed His only request.  Immediately, they both died to innocence.

Sin tainted their lives, barring them from God’s presence.  Fellowship was broken, harmony shattered.  Life on earth would never be the same.  God’s heart was broken, but His love for His people was not.  He knew He would send an atonement to restore fellowship between He and His people.  Throughout many generations, almost the entire span of the Old Testament, prophecies of His coming were foretold.

People expected a fierce warrior to come conquer the injustices of the world.  Yet, He came as a helpless baby in a manger, who grew to live a perfect life in God’s will.  His name is Jesus, and He stepped down from heaven to pursue you and me.  At God’s appointed time, Jesus willingly suffered death on a cross in hopes that He might purchase us back from sin’s bondage. When He rose and conquered death, an avenue of restoration and personal interaction with God emerged.

While we’ll never again be innocent in thought, He declares those who trust and follow Him as not guilty on all counts.  Love is the foundation of His coming and the fruit of His Presence.  I’m not sure which is more miraculous – that His birth was so powerful and fulfilled so many prophecies or that He thought I was worth the trip.

You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins… “they will call Him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.”  ~Matthew 1:21b, 1:23b

via Daily Prompt: Miraculous

Miraculous

Unveiling the Mess

MessyWelcome

Let’s jump in and get messy!  Let’s do this thing called life together.  It’s easy to hide behind a smile, maybe a little sarcasm, or even laughter.  We might hide behind parenthood or the guise of being busy.  We may even {gasp} lurk in the shadows of social media.  Whatever our buffer, we’re isolating ourselves, and it comes at the expense of knowing others and being known.  We can do better!

Don’t think I’ve completely lost my mind.  I’m not suggesting that we air all the family laundry with anyone who looks our way.  Everyone knows shallow people who search for gossip or someone to ridicule.  While we love them, we don’t have to invite them to swim in the depth of our lives.  Heck no!  What I’m talking about is a community of friends willing to share life, messy and real.  I’m talking about people who celebrate our joy and gird us up when life is hard…and let us do the same for them.

For me, company on a whim might look something like needing to move a pile of clean laundry or clear dishes or school books so you can sit down.  My eyes will probably scan the floor to make sure you won’t slip on a toy.  We won’t even talk about the 3rd world country of an unchecked bathroom and the thoughts that race through my mind as I wonder if someone might ask where it is.  My home is busy and some days are messier than others.  That’s just life!  I don’t remember anyone ever sharing even one memory of my house being spotless.  We do occasionally laugh at the times the kids came in and asked who was coming over because I was cleaning like a madwoman.

We can, with some effort, get our homes clean, but our lives are another story.  So, why do we even try?  We live in this world where we feel like we’re supposed to have it all together – and mistakenly believe everyone else really does.  In the meantime, opportunities for friendship are passing us by.

Some of my favorite friendships began to blossom when I was invited into a messy home.  I was comfortable because their homes looked just like mine, and I knew immediately they could come over any time.  If we’re trying so hard to hide our messy homes, can you imagine the weight of life’s burdens we carry alone?  Let’s invite one another into life, mess and all, because my bet is that we’re missing out on blessings.

A friend loves at all times.  ~ Proverbs 17:17

Generous Hospitality Triumphs

Williams

“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” ~ Proverbs 22:9

Hurricane Maria’s wrath barreled through Puerto Rico last week, leaving behind a wake of destruction. In the thick of their tremendous plight, “We will rise,” was a common mantra.

Nestled near La Pared, or the wall, in the town of Luquillo, Williams Pizza stood. In the first hours after the hurricane, a picture emerged on social media, showing that only a shell of the restaurant remained. It would be one of the few pictures we would see of Luquillo as we waited for communication.  For life to stir.

When my family surfaced, one of the first things my mother told me about was a pizza place in town – a different location of Williams Pizza that had been fortunate enough to have a generator. The day after Maria passed through, they started making pizzas. People stood in line for 20 minutes. One piece per person. Since her husband wasn’t with her, she gratefully took one piece for them to share.

She realized later how easily they could have inflated the prices. Instead, they had given it away. For free. Hoping to help as many people as possible, they rationed the slices.

Given the damage around them, resources were sure to be short. Yet, kindness triumphed. Hungry bellies were fed. Tired, hurting people were loved. Humbly, unconditionally, generously loved.

During the time I searched for my family in an ocean of uncertainty, I found a few valuable things, as well. Compassion, willingness, mercy, love abounded. People ready to help one another however they could – to pass inquiry on loved ones and celebrate when they were found, even when they were still left wondering about their own. There was no cynicism; only encouragement. And it came quickly – despite a language barrier, broken communication due to a damaged electric grid and cell towers, and a distance spanning 2400 miles.

People stood together, sharing information generously and loving lavishly. The people I met virtually along the way, blessed me with their rich measure of hospitality in the most helpless of circumstances.

Beauty was rising from the ashes in Luquillo.  May blessings overwhelm the hospitable!