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Friday, June 30, 2017

Choosing Open Hands

 This week I've been taken back on a decade-long journey of reflection. Ten years ago this past Tuesday, my life was rocked. As detailed in my posts last fall, June 27th holds a mixture of emotions for me. It's a date that holds both an end and an beginning, both sadness and hope. It's the date that God began to show me who I was and what He could do if I would be willing to live with open hands. 
 My mind runs back to that night and I can physically feel the darkness still. Sitting at my friends house - everyone else asleep and only me awake, trembling in fear of the future. My dad lying in a hospital bed in the very fight for his one life. Travel plans upended to go visit family and celebrate my high school graduation. Life as I knew it turned upside down in a single instant. I can see that girl that was me back then, shaking her soul-fist at a God she thought she knew but felt denied by...breathing her fears and anger out at Him and asking Him, "why?" Oh...if I only knew then just how much He really did love me and that what was to come was only the start of a journey to Grace. Would I have maybe let go sooner? 
 Oddly enough, I was just over at those friends house earlier this week to celebrate a birthday. Continued and celebrated life. All here. God having the final word. I thought of how little has changed about their home over the years. But I've changed...
 The next day on the 27th, I sat out at a baseball field. It's my new home these days. A place of peace as I look out at the beauty of His created mountains and remind myself that the God who made all this cares for me and loves me more than I'll ever know. I thought of how this new-found family of sorts - this team of young athletes whom I care for deeply - this is a result of the transforming of God over ten years in my life. I wouldn't care for the broken if I hadn't been broken myself. 
 The details of that day ten years ago still can be vividly played in my mind. If I let it, it could take me back into the dark chasms of the heart and cause me to tremble all over again. Trauma has a way of doing that to you. I still can't be in a hospital for more than a few minutes these days. It's just too real. Too hard. But I keep trying to see through to God. And when the fears mount higher, I try to breathe in His life deeper. To talk truth to my broken heart and say, "Choose faith." 
 When I think of it, I'm not certain I would've had a message to give the world if I had not known hardship. If suffering had not become an all too familiar norm, I'm not sure that I would thought to give my one aching heart to God and let Him fill it with His giftings. I'm not sure I would've learned how to thank. To bless. To be a surrendered soul.
 God has a way of asking us to lay down our best for His. And I've come to see that I can never become the offered hope He wants to give to a hurting world if I refuse to daily deny and say "yes" to Him. It is only when I give my greatest joys, my biggest disappointments over to Him and let Him use me in whatever way He sees best that I gain true soul-satisfaction. Being emptied is the only way to truly become filled. Filled with Him. And that brings about completed-ness and hope. I must open my clenched fists and let go if I want to find myself further on this Grace-journey.
 The more I think about it, the more I realize just how fearful I've been. How many times I've let the darkness rule my life. How many times I've listened to myself instead of talking truth to myself. And yet, through it all, God's grace and forgiveness reigned large. He chose to redeem my story. To take all my shattered pieces and turn them into something beautiful for Him. Parts made whole.
 I'm not who I want to be. I'm not who I ought to be. But I'm thankful every day I'm better than I used to be. I'm a tiny step further along the path to wholeness. I never would've thought that God would take me down the road of adversity in order to show me His love. I never would've guessed that I would need to break in order to be fixed. But I see it now and I am grateful.
 Several years ago, I settled on John 8:12 as my life-verse, and it is a promise that I continue to preach to my soul-amnesia prone heart:

"I am the light of the world; he who follows me
shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the 
light of life."

Ah...yes. It is when I fail to follow wherever He leads that the darkness returns. It is when I neglect to thank that the light gets hidden. I often think that this verse doesn't imply that following the Master will lead us to a totally happy existence. Pain will still happen. Darkness will still fall over the heart. Sadness will always be there until eternity is established. But I do think it reminds us all that His light will always find a way into our cracked and broken places. His love will always win. We will not remain in the dark spaces if we choose to keep open hands and willing heart. Our journeys may take us to places that are painful and uncomfortable. But our passage through those places will only make us more conformed to the Savior.
 Ten years ago, God asked me to begin a journey of trust that continues to this day. It's not always easy to keep saying, "Lord, have your way" ....especially when the heartbreaks continue and life appears to be out of control. It's then I must remind myself that what seems to be falling out of place is actually falling into place. Because He's overseeing it all. His providential plan is forever good. And there is never a moment when His design isn't working for the best.
 I don't know what the future holds. And neither do you. But let's keep trusting, dear friend! Let's keep hoping. Let's keep believing. And when the fears loom large, and the pulse pounds, and the thoughts race...let's keep on seeking His grace. Let's keep on choosing faith over fear because, one day, we'll see it all was part of something much greater and better than we ever would have dreamt.