He is faithful in the broken

It has been a heartbreaking year. And it seems like as the end of the year approaches, as Christmas draws near, everything seems to be coming to a breaking point.


Last night in Aleppo people waited desperately for a promised evacuation.

The help never came. The cease fire didn’t last. The shelling resumed.

They cry out in desperation for someone to hear them. For someone to do something.


I would change it if I could…I have written and said those words more times than I can count. This is not how I would have written the story line of this year. Not in Aleppo… and not in my small corner of the world.

This year can be characterized as a year of the unexpected and broken, a year of changes and transitions. Many of them not asked for. Changing friendships, changing home, funerals and hospitals, long drives and late night phone calls.

Some days the losses are too much to take in. Some days it seems like the darkness is winning. There is too much death. Too much injustice. Too many children growing up without their dad. Too many children never growing up. Too many voices silenced.

But I can’t change it.…no matter how often I write it.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9


On those days I’ve learned that I have to believe that God has a better plan; that God has a bigger purpose. I have learned that He is faithful to His promises within and through the heartbreak, tragedy and injustice.

And so I will trust that even in heartbreak, loss, disappointment and missed expectations. Even in the injustice and the cries for help – God sees. God hears. God is always faithful.

And He has shown us that time and time again.

Because Christ came down to earth, over 2,000 years ago, 330 miles south of Aleppo, as a child born in a manger.

(330 miles. The distance from Aleppo to Bethlehem. It is also the distance from Minneapolis to Milwaukee. Somehow that detail is important. Making it more real and harder to comprehend.)

He came and lived wholly human, wholly God, so that we may know Him. He came and lived sinless life so that He would pay the cost of our brokenness. He came so that He would die, so that He would rise again on the third day. He came so that we may be whole.

He came because He is faithful in the broken.


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  Hebrews 10:23


So at the end of a broken year, we pray for His Kingdom to come. (Matthew 6:10)

And we celebrate His wholeness. We celebrate that the promise of Scripture is not that God would remove chaos, but that He is still The Sovereign God in the midst of the chaos. We celebrate His faithfulness.

Advertisements

A broken Christmas

We are 3 days away from Christmas, in the midst of Advent. The tree has been trimmed, the cookies baked and sampled, the gifts purchased and wrapped.

Sitting here on the brink of Christmas watching the rain drizzle out the distant window and it all seems so far away. I’m struggling to find the Christmas spirit, to capture that calm and wondrous tone.

Whether it is grieving a loss, navigating family pressure, or facing unattainable expectations – what is supposed to be the most joyful time of year – is for many the hardest.

What is supposed to be a day devoted to celebrating our saviors birth, is for many anything but.

Have you seen the insurance commercial where the old lady stands up and yells, “That is not how it works, that is not how any of this works.” It is a favorite quote around my office for when things are just not going right.

But it is also the thought I have so often when looking at the world around me.

More than ever I have been reminded that we live in a broken world. If you scroll through the New York Times’ Year in Pictures all most all of the images represent loss, heartbreak, and highlight how broken our world is.

Fear, grief, hurt, and loss are not how any of this is supposed to work.

The sky seems to be falling, there is too much loss, and too much fear… and it is all too close to Christmas.

Or it is just as close as it needs to be. Because Christmas didn’t come, He didn’t come, because the world was calm and made sense. He came because we are broken people in a broken world in desperate need of a Savior. He came to bring calm and peace.

Hope doesn’t wait for the world to calm down, for the presence of peace or the healing of hurts. Hope is most needed when it seems as if the sky itself is falling and the ground below is crumbling.

Hope meets us when we are tear stained and on our knees.

And while I’ve struggled to find my Christmas spirit, to cultivate the advent mindset, while the brokenness around seems bigger than the celebration – it is not bad timing.

But perfect timing. Because when we are stretched as far as we can – there is hope. That is why we celebrate.

He came into a broken world to heal a broken world, to give light to a broken world.

209

Two years ago, I moved into apartment 209 and these 4 walls – 400 square feet have been home.

It is my last week at 209.

Two years ago I was scared out of my mind. I crossed that stage and into the real world feeling completely unprepared for the road ahead. With little more than the verbal commitment for a part time job – I signed the lease to this little space.

I could never have imagined what the next two years would bring.

It was here that I hit rock bottom and here that I started over.

I have cried more tears within these walls than anywhere else. And I have whispered more prayers.

I have learned that I need to surrender and I need to fight. That nothing is guaranteed and some promises can’t be kept.

The verbal commitment became a real commitment, and the part time job became a full time job.

I made it through the first time with the stomach flu without mom and caught more than my fair share of spiders. I have learned the importance of paying bills, and that the interest on student loans is a real thing.

For two years, these four walls have been my corner of the world, my own sanctuary, my paradise.

While I’m ready to close this chapter, the next chapter still confuses me to the point of speechlessness. I find myself stepping onto a set that was once the thing of fairytales whispered about in coffee shops by unaware college sophomores.

The only way I can make any sense of it is grace – waves of crashing grace.

Left to my own devises, my life would never have ended up here. I would never have chosen the hard road or have been willing to dream – or aim – so high.

And for all of that, for the heartbreak, the lessons, the grace and the transitions, I’m thankful.

Goodbye 209.

To grabbing a shovel

Growing up it is always about the next step. The next decision. The next opportunity.

Which college, which major, which city, which job, which friends, which relationship status and so on.

And then you find yourself sitting in a grown-up-swivel-chair not swiveling, at a job you like… maybe even love. Signing the dotted line for church membership and signing up to bring snacks to small group (which if your anything like me… you will forget about until 5 minutes before and end up with oreo’s…every time).

And you wonder what the next step could possibly be… at least I that is where I find myself.

The next step is not always clear, it rarely is. The next step doesn’t always mean some big tangible life change. It doesn’t mean moving across the country or changing jobs. The next step just might be leaning into the life you have. I start lying to myself when I think that if I am not radically moving I’m are stuck.

Maybe the next step isn’t a step at all but a shovel. It’s not about finding the next new shiny thing, the next tangible challenge, the next reachable dream, or mapped out goal but growing roots; digging deep into life’s intangible. It is embracing stability, pouring into other’s lives, and soaking up everything that the small moments offer.

I think goals are reached by signing up for snacks. They are reached by small steps in the right direction. They are reached by knowing when to leap, when to lean in, and when to grab a shovel.

I don’t want to give up on a dream or lose sight of a goal because the next step forward is staying exactly where I am.

So, what is your next step? Is it time to put down the running shoes and pick up the shovel?

Seeking greener grass

Twenty-something-women of today grew up being told we could do anything, be anything. Have the cake and eat it too; live our Cinderella story and change the world; stand on the public stage and cuddle our one year old before nap time.

And then we grew up. We found out that Cinderella stories don’t happen outside of story books, one-year-olds would prefer to throw Cheerios than sweetly drift to sleep, and the public stage is high and crowded.

[Let me stop for a second, this post is a little different.  A special welcome to my co-author and dear friend Lizzie Lindberg. This post is a snapshot summary of ongoing conversations we have about whether the grass is ever greener.]

From the outside our lives are exact opposites.

I, Sian, am a single girl living in the Twin Cities, devoting the lion’s share of my time to building a career in digital media ministry.

I, Lizzie, am a work-at-home mom of 1 (almost 2!) sweet boys, a freelance graphic designer and a youth pastor’s wife residing in a small town in Wisconsin.

But when the top layer of simple-tangible descriptions of our circumstances is scraped away – our lives are so similar. We both struggle with what-ifs, disappointments and tears. Both of us have “ah-ha!” moments, uplifting conversations and sweet people with whom we love and laugh.

Yet, we tend to glamorize the lives of our friends.

It is easy to see the good, shiny parts of others’ lives. So often we each wonder if we are the only one with fears, struggles and everything-goes-wrong days. We start thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else.

We scroll through our Facebook feeds or watch tweets pop up on our phones and think others’ lives are more exciting, more fulfilling or just plain better because of their pictures, status updates or mini-bios.

It is easy to think that I, Sian, as a single girl am the only one with fears, the only one to ask “what if.” In those moments where I’m worried about deadlines, and tired of coming home to an empty apartment … I often wonder “Is her grass greener?”

And in the moments when I, Lizzie, am feeling stuck with poopy diapers and messes that I can’t reach over my pregnant belly or struggling to keep my son from ripping books and closing my computer… I often wonder, “Is her grass greener?”

And then we remind each other that we both have struggles and “what ifs” and dysfunction in our lives. There are benefits and drawbacks to being single as well as being married or having children. There are highs and lows of each stage and age, because there are benefits and drawbacks to life. Life carries “what ifs,” bad days, hard truth and sweet epiphanies, sunshine and tragedy… regardless of circumstance, status or season.

The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, it is green where it gets watered.

The more we realize that our identities are not in the circumstances of life, but in our status as children of God, the more often it is watered.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

So often we see the negatives of our lives, we want to rant about the things that don’t go our way, leave us uncomfortable, and just plain irritate us. With friends on the other side of the fence, we have a gift of seeing both the weeds and the flowers, the good and bad, the empathy and encouragement. Neither of us have arrived, and neither of us have the perfect life. The end goal isn’t marriage or kids or career or whatever stage of life you are wishing for.  We all live among the weeds and the flowers.

When something wonderful happens, the celebrations for the little and big things; the ‘dancing on the table’ moments, we can encourage each other without attitudes of discontent for our own situations. That is only possible when we stop comparing our circumstances.

Through all times, we need to remind ourselves and others to focus on truth, to keep going, to trust God’s plan and to lean on Him, to find joy in the celebrations as well as the painful times. We need to remember that whatever we do, or whatever our circumstances look like, we are called to proceed with thankfulness to the Lord.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

When we help each other focus on Him in thankfulness, we cry and laugh and dance and dream together and then grass on both sides of the fence gets greener.

The thing is… Life is a gift. The life you have, the life you’re living is a gift. Whatever it looks like right now is exactly what it is meant to look like. God has put each of us in our season and position for a reason, for a purpose.

If you are going through a hard or waiting time, it is not an accident. He is preparing and refining you for something so much more than you could anticipate. We can complain and criticize, we can waste time wishing for our neighbors’ green grass. Or we can lean into the now, the gifts of your season, whether that’s baby kisses and Cheerios, or emails and another latte, by leaning into Him who gives every good and perfect gift.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” James 1:7.

image

Numinous Awe: Alleluia

Slowly the words echo in my soul and ripple through me.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. 

It has been too long. Too long since I simply let the words rest on my tongue. Too long since I slowed down to let a single word capture the grace and might of our King.

And yet it has been ever around me. In the warm coffee, winter sunshine, in the small gifts from above. Too often I forget to open my eyes and see, I forget to look for Him in the midst of every day. 

This living…this day in day out, dishes and laundry and friends and laughter and dreaming and to do lists and accomplishments.

The good and the bad.

It leaves you empty. Tired. Weary.

And I’m reminded that life doesn’t come from living, it comes from the Giver of Life.

Introverts won’t find ultimate fulfillment in long quiet secluded weekends at a far off cabin and extroverts will eventually wear out after days of nonstop entertainment.

When life picks up to a pace that we forget to turn to the giver of life, when we get so busy – even busy with the ‘good things’ He has gifted us with – that we don’t turn to Him…that we don’t carve out time, set aside sacred moments, return to Holy ground… we will all end up empty. Living takes a toll.

I don’t want to live empty and rushed. To busy and overwhelmed to worship. To self focused to see my need for a Savior. 

My desire and seeking for now is numinous aweTo live in a place of violent contradiction. To never feel comfortable and numb in my Christian life. To be thirsty for his love and grace while aware to my core that I am not worthy of either. To never be so busy I forget from whom all comes from. That is my prayer for this season: Numinous Awe.

Enough

I stopped mid sentence … What I just said, the words that slipped out unchecked. That is a lie. I know it is a lie, the same lie that continues to show itself in my life. Six months ago I wouldn’t have noticed it. I wouldn’t have heard the fear and rebellion laced in between the syllables. I wouldn’t have known that the poisonous roots dug deep, or seen how the thorny vine wrap around my thoughts.

I’m not enough for God.

The thing is: I’m not enough. I can’t earn my worth. I can’t prove to God that I’m good enough. I need grace, oh how desperately do I need His overflowing buckets of grace.

The beautiful part: It is not up to me, God has the whole thing handled. It is a lie when we start to believe that we are not enough… and therefore must earn God’s love, tally what we can offer, and get our lives together. We sink into pride, claiming that we are capable of being enough.

The paradox? I am enough. I’m enough for God to die for; I’m enough for His grace. I am worthy of his love.

I’m enough for God because God says I am His. There is no fighting with that. We take care of what we find worth in.

Somehow we get it all twisted and mixed up. I start to think that I’m not enough and therefore I am not enough for God. I fight Him at every turn. I try so desperately to prove to him that I’m not good enough for Him.

Have you ever heard of such a foolish errand? Sin riddled me fighting with the King of Kings. Trying so desperately to prove that I’m not worth His time, love and sacrifice.

Therefore I start to believe that I need to earn his love, earn my worth. But I can’t.

The truth? God won’t leave me. He is faithful, perfectly faithful. My salvation, my life didn’t come cheap. Instead it came at a high cost, the cost of the King’s son.

I’m not enough on my own, but in God’s hands I am.

When I recognize that…everything changes. Fruit starts to grow, the straight jacket of fear slips away. I have freedom from expectations, rejection and failure. I start seeking after God, not fighting with him.

God is enough. I am chosen.