Faith

Broken into Beautiful

Bro•ken|adjective|: violently separated into parts; shattered; damaged or altered; not working properly; interrupted; full of obstacles; disrupted by change.

Beau•ti•ful|adjective|: more lovely, magnificent

For those of you keeping up with this blog, you know that only 10 short months ago we buried our sweet third-born son, Collier, unexpectedly. Our family has felt broken, but God has been faithful to us in every moment since that day. As an added blessing, only three months into this first year of grieving, we discovered we were expecting again.  Not that having a new baby on the way replaced Collier, but it certainly gave us a little extra joy back into our home. We named him Matthew Isaac, which means “gift of God” and “laughter,” something I was certain the Lord had given to us in the midst of this season of loss– a season I sure was hoping was coming to a close.

Then came the phone call that let us know everything was not okay this time around either. Only 14 weeks into the pregnancy, we learned that our little Isaac had Trisomy 21, Down Syndrome. Was that the worst news we could have received? No, but suddenly everything changed as we prepared for life to be different, again. If I’m honest, we were not happy at first, but those feelings quickly vanished. We felt a deep, overwhelming peace from the Lord. We knew He was with us, and we wanted the baby HE wanted us to have. We accepted that this child He had given us might be different than what we were asking for, but that was okay because we trusted Him fully. We became completely engulfed in being parents to such a special little boy, who was proving over and over to live up to his name–a gift of joy, straight from God. Nobody on earth loved him, and all his 21 chromosomes, more than us!! After all, it was just a disability, not another dead heartbeat.

Until it was. On May 1st, my 33rd birthday, life took another drastic turn. My husband and I sat in a doctor’s office as we watched an ultrasound tech desperately try to find our son’s heartbeat, but there wasn’t one. The next day, I delivered and held another lifeless 26 week old baby in my arms that only a week prior had hardly ever stopped moving. I felt all the same feelings I had with Collier sweep back over me. I wept and questioned “why again, Lord?” We both felt the sting of death as we realized how much pain burying not one, but two children, in a 9 month time span brings.

So many tears and questions. My heart was shattered. Our family has been even more broken (even though we know our children are perfectly safe and waiting for us).

BUT GOD…

He’s not about to let our story end there.

If there’s one repeated lesson I keep learning it’s that He does His most important, beautiful work in our times of utter brokenness. When we are at the end of ourselves and have nothing to bring Him but what’s left of our hearts, He shines through.

Just one week ago, He graciously showed me this truth once again, at a time when I really needed Him to speak to me. I was sitting and listening as an adult leader shared the gospel with all the kids at our Vacation Bible School. In her hands was a tiny glow stick. Nothing special, or useful—at least not until it’s broken. As she spoke, it’s like God whispered to me while I held back tears- The light from the glow stick shines most brightly and beautifully only after being broken.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like that this is how God works sometimes. In fact, I hate it. It hurts, and many times I wish I could throw the covers over my head and hide from it all. But instead, I have to keep choosing to run toward God. As much as it hurts, in my heart I want to keep saying “Lord, if I have to go through this again, please don’t waste it. Please take this messy life and make it beautiful, so that You shine brightly through all the cracks and broken pieces.”

It’s no coincidence that God used the same process with His own Son. At Jesus’ most intense moment of suffering and brokenness, God was most pleased with Him. Only after His body was bruised, broken, and beaten for us was the beautiful work of redemption completed. The pretty part couldn’t happen without the ugly part.

Am I trying to sound super spiritual, put together and with all the answers? No, no, and NO. In fact, these days I’m anything but those things, and I don’t see how multiple losses can turn out good. It doesn’t feel good. This place of submission I’m now resting in has only come after wrestling with God for weeks. And tomorrow, I’ll have to submit to this as His will for me all over again. And again, and again, and again.

All I’m saying is that God (thankfully) happens to specialize in using broken people for His glory. He doesn’t waste pain. He won’t waste my tears, sleepless nights, intense grief. He won’t waste yours either. Thank God that each day He’s taking broken pieces and making them beautiful, again. Thank God that I can fully keep entrusting my life into hands that perfectly redeem. Thank God that our family’s story doesn’t end messy and ugly–one day it will be perfectly beautiful again.

Until that day, I’m going to keep offering myself to Him over and over and over…. and you can pray for me.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

The God of Miracles

My tiny little miracle, Isaac.

(Above: My little Isaac, our tiniest miracle)

Have you ever prayed for a miracle?

Me too.

God is always faithful to answer those prayers, but it’s taken me some time to understand why He doesn’t always deliver like I want Him to at times. Sometimes not at ALL like I ask Him. Maybe even sometimes in ways that seem to be the polar opposite of what I ask.

Recently, I took some time and read through all four of the gospels. When I started, I really just wanted to soak up all I could about the person of Jesus. The way He lived, loved, obeyed, sacrificed…everything. Along the way, my eyes have been specifically drawn to all the miracles Jesus did and the motive behind all of them.

What was the motive? The soul.

Not the physical body.

Not to just say, “Hey, look what I can do!” (Even though He did draw attention and give glory to God.)

Every, single miracle mirrored a deeper, more substantial problem–a problem of the soul.

When Jesus gave the blind their sight, it pointed more toward eyes that are blind to the truth of the gospel. He wasn’t just concerned with vision, but the ability to see and understand The Lord for who He really is. So that they might believe.

When demons were cast out, Jesus demonstrated that He can free our souls from anything that holds us captive and enslaves us. Most importantly, sin. He wants to free the captive soul.

When the sick were healed, it was to bring glory to God and to point the lost world around Him (who were eye witnesses to these miracles) toward salvation. Not to be a downer, but every sick body ever healed still eventually died. That’s because Jesus’ end game is not the physical body, but the soul which will live forever.

Then there were the times He raised the dead to life. These are the ones that get me because this is the exact miracle I prayed for a few months ago when we begged for the miracle of a heart beat. This is the prayer that didn’t get answered like I wanted.

But God…He’s graciously shown me that He did answer that prayer. He did give our son the gift of life, just not here. His tiny life has made a global, eternal impact for the kingdom of God through this blog. Isn’t that ultimately better?

See, when Jesus raised the dead, people put their faith in Him. Their souls were raised from death to life, not just their bodies. Eventually, when those same bodies still experienced physical death, their souls still lived. That miracle is only possible because of Jesus’ work on the cross–the ultimate miracle. Allowing the soul to live eternally is a much greater gift of life than any temporary, physical resurrection on this earth. It doesn’t even compare.

Since I have studied this, I’ve thought back to some other prayers I’ve prayed before. Some miracles I’ve begged for in tears. I’ve realized they were all so short-sighted. Oh they were heart felt, and I wanted them. But the motive was all wrong. They were wanting a temporary fix to an eternal problem. They weren’t focused on the end-game, the soul.

If you ever doubt that God still does miracles, rest assured. He does them every day. Some you might be praying for may seem small and some a bigger deal, but God will always answer your prayer for them. Will the answer look a little different than what you’ve asked for? Maybe. Probably. But He will always answer with the end-game in mind–that you (or someone else) may believe in Him and your soul might be secure in Him.

Amy

Come quickly, Lord Jesus

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

That’s a thought that has crossed my mind more than just a time or two lately.

All the school shootings. Gun law arguments. Threats that are leaving parents afraid to send their kids to school. This person has cancer. That family is going through divorce. Sin has blazed its destructive path everywhere you look.

And on a much more personal scale, I’ve had some pretty difficult days the last month or two. Tough ones. The pain of losing a child is unlike any other that I have experienced, and I’m convinced it will not be matched by anything I may have yet to experience in my lifetime. The reality of the loss is always there, and there isn’t a day that goes by when he’s not thought about.

I’ve come to refer to Collier quite often as my missing piece, because well, that’s exactly what it feels like. It’s like putting a puzzle together only to get almost completely finished and realize you’re missing one piece. The whole picture is there, but without the last piece it’s just not the same.

Yes, the Lord has been completely faithful and nothing but good to me. He has carried me and strengthened me in ways that can only be credited to Him. He is piecing my heart back together bit by bit every day and restoring joy within me. Without Him, I would be a total mess. I am grateful for every single thing He has done in me. But, I am still painfully aware that our family is incomplete and will be that way until everything is made new and right when Christ returns.

So why, Lord, are we still here? Why does He linger? Why, with all of the pain and suffering everywhere, has He not yet fulfilled His promise to return?

Because of what His Word says:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (1 Peter 3:9)

This verse is the answer. He lingers because He’s being patient with you. He doesn’t want to be a part of your life. He wants to be your life. And so He waits for you to make that change and surrender all of you, not part of you.

He waits for your family member. The one who you’ve prayed for over and over and over and over. The one who seems to drift farther away instead of closer to God. He waits because He wants that one who is dear to you to experience real life. He waits because He hears your prayers for them, and He is being patient to answer them.

He waits for your coworker. The one who works beside you everyday and whom you know has zero interest in anything “religious.” After all, churches are full of hypocrites, right? So why would she want anything to do with that? He waits for her to come to true repentance, and He waits for you to tell her how to have it instead of keeping quiet out of fear of rejection.

He waits for the one who is searching every wrong place for purpose. He knows he’s searching, and Who he’s really searching for. And so He waits.

He waits for all the ones who have been hurt by life’s circumstances. It’s those very circumstances that He knows will lead straight to the cross if they’ll follow Him there.

He waits for the trouble-maker kids. He waits for those who are “too far gone.” He waits for criminals, murderers, politicians, atheists, adulterers, liars, and school shooters. He waits for all those who have been written off by society. Because He loves them and Has a plan for them, too.

He waits for everyone who has not yet come to repentance, and everyone means every one (even though there are those who never will).

When I stop and remind myself to think this way, it makes the waiting a little more bearable, the painful days easier to persevere, and my perspective to be more eternity-focused. It helps me live differently.

There’s work still to do. God is still drawing hearts to Him. He’s still transforming us more into His likeness through our trials and suffering. And there are so very many people who still need the good news of the gospel. I love the way Kathie Lee Gifford expressed the urgency to share after the passing of Billy Graham. “If you had the cure for cancer, wouldn’t you tell everyone you know? There is a malignancy of the soul, and we have the cure. His name is Jesus.” (paraphrased)

So, come quickly Lord Jesus, but keep lingering, too. And help me not to grow weary, but  to keep living with eternity in mind.

Amy