At the beginning of December, I set out on a journey with a handful of friends to wave a banner of hope over a year that had been full of pain and disappointment. To declare that the broken pieces of our stories are the ones God loves to rearrange into beautiful, stained glass mosaics — catching and casting light into the darkest of places.
Ironically, December was riddled with more disappointment and curveballs than probably any other month of 2014. I found myself at a crossroads almost daily of having to choose Jesus and find grace in the midst of long suffering. It’s a strange place to ring in a new year from. A season of forced reflection always comes this time of year, as we look back on where we’ve been and forward to where we’re going.
So here I am, on the second day of the new year, cuddled up at a coffee shop in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, trying to take some time to retreat and process alone with God about all that He’s been doing. I’m in this moment of wrestling to find some sort of closure on all the unfinished business of 2014 so that I can make space in my heart for whatever this year holds.
It’s a wrestling match I’m not sure I know how to finish.
And this year? It’s all just a bunch of question marks. Full of unknowns that I have no control over. Left to my own devices, I would fail miserably in all that lies ahead of me. Unknowns are scary, and I started realizing as I started looking into this year that there are a lot of things I’m afraid of.
I’m scared of planting a church in a city that’s far away and unknown. I’m scared of leaving my family. I feel all the forgotten middle child tendencies I thought I’d buried a long time ago rising up in my heart every time I think about my sisters living close together and me not being there. I’m afraid of their families growing and knowing each other, and mine being far away.
I’m afraid of not being able to grow my own family. I’m scared of the doctors appointments and fertility specialists that are the reality of the road ahead of me, and the bad news they might have to deliver that I’m not sure I have the guts to receive.
But then there’s all the gifts that 2014 held! It was so rich. Friendship forged deep into my heart and celebrations around every corner. Both of my sisters got married, and I got to be right there in Texas with them for the entirety of both of those journeys in their lives. God resurrected dreams in my heart and opened doors I thought might have been closed forever. For every instance of heartache in the last year, I can find a hallelujah moment that rose from the ashes of my circumstances.
I learned last year that long suffering is an invitation into the grace of God that we can’t experience otherwise. We share in the suffering of Jesus so that we can share in the glory of Him. So every scar and gaping hole in our hearts is dressed with hope and with grace because those are the places we’ve let ourselves be broken enough to be desperate for Him.
And I can’t do my life this year without that desperation. I can’t plant a church in Salt Lake City, Utah without that desperation. I can’t keep walking down this road of infertility and longing without that desperation. It’s only when we hold out our empty cup of desperation for more of Him that He fills it with His grace until it overflows. And oh, friends… it always overflows with Him.
There’s always enough grace. There is always a well.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Yesterday I sat in a dear friend’s living room, storm tossed and exhausted, and I cried in her arms as she prayed for me. But we also recalled almost a decade of seeing God’s goodness in walking together, and all in one sitting a heartache moment turned into a hallelujah moment because that’s just what He does. His stories never end in ashes… so even in the fire, we can know that it doesn’t end poorly.
But we have to keep laying our story on the altar and letting Him be in control of it, and what I’m learning is that every time I go to the altar, there’s an exchange. He never lets me walk away empty handed. So we keep trekking through the wilderness, and we walk away from those altar-of-exchange moments with an ebenezer that reminds us for all the rest of the journey that He’s here, and He’s leading us with His loving kindness, and He’s good.
There’s a song by Steffany Gretzinger that’s been on repeat in my heart in this season. These words remind me time and time again that He’s a good Dad, and somehow He has me on the best journey for the best outcome:
No one knows you better than me. No one’s been a better friend.
So rock-a-bye baby, come and rest. You’ve been tired lately, lay your head down.
Don’t you think, baby, I know best? I’ve been a Father for a long time.
Come and rest. He knows best. He’s a good Dad. He’s leading and He’s loving, and I have to believe that even though I enter a new year tired and uncertain, the journey He has me on is somehow the most gracious thing He could do for me.
And suddenly there’s a river of grace to drink from that runs through this wilderness He’s invited me into. Because there’s always a well.