• freedom stories

    When You Don’t Want to be Free- Amy’s Story

    I am so grateful that Amy and I connected through our writing community, Hope*Writers. She and I both know the sorrow of divorce, and it is always an encouragement to me to see how others walked through it with the Lord. Amy’s is a beautiful story of freedom (I love her list at the end of the post), and a story of God’s hand on her life. Her healing journey is a testament to her faith in God and desire to keep pressing into Him, even in her pain. I pray that Amy’s story will meet you today, and remind you of God’s great faithfulness. 

    This is Amy’s Freedom Story. 

    – – –

    I’ve always been a slave to structure. Operating in a world of perfect plans and pride in my own clever ways I spent my life making all the “right” choices. I firmly believed by choosing God’s ways I would be blessed with all the things my heart desired. For thirty one years I barely suffered any setbacks, disasters, or deviance from my best-laid plans.

    I married a Christian man whom I met at Bible college. He was even a Biblical Studies major and I was obviously well-equipped to be a pastor’s wife. I was obedient, prayerful, and a leader for Christ. What could go wrong?

    So entrenched was I in my perfect little works-based world that when a majorly devastating moment occurred I hardly knew what to believe anymore. Was God on my side after all? Had I been wrong about everything?

    My husband announced he was leaving our marriage on April 1. I thought it was a pretty nasty April Fools’ Day joke until I saw his hardened eyes not meeting mine, and his lips twisted into an unrecognizable expression.  

    It felt out of the blue to me…which must say something about how much time and effort I had spent cultivating my seemingly perfect exterior life and the lack of time I engaged in any sort of authentic, meaningful relationship with either my God or perhaps my husband as well?

    I grappled with my identity from the moment he walked out the door. The last time I had been without him I was and eighteen-year-old college Freshman. Now I was a thirty-one-year-old woman who lacked basic banking skills and had no idea how to pay my mortgage.

    I truly believed that God would intervene and soften my husband’s heart if I prayed enough. If I showed him how much I loved him. If I continued to trust and obey I would get my happy ending.  

    But in spite of my fervent prayers and last ditch efforts to make him see how we could fix this it was eight long and lonely months after he left when we sat in a courtroom in front of a judge. Tears streaming down my face, kleenex disintegrating into my hand, I had to testify that my marriage was “irretrievably broken” even though I didn’t believe it for a minute.

    I desperately grasped the front of his fleece and cried up into his hardened face, “But I love you!”

    He turned and walked away from me without so much as a glance.

    It’s been seven years now since the day my heart exploded into little bits of grief. Seven years since I held his hand. Looked into his once soft brown eyes. Seven birthdays. Seven Christmases. Seven summer vacations without him.

    The morning of my divorce I read Psalm 91. I felt confident that God was going to turn my husband’s heart. After all, God hates divorce.

    Psalm 91:9-11- Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place- the Most High, who is my refuge- no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

    This all-consuming evil wasn’t supposed to happen to me. This was not my life. The life I had so carefully planned. My numb soul- broken and shattered- began to realize that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Without him I wasn’t me anymore. For thirteen years I had been a part of him and he a part of me.

    Did I like the Green Bay Packers anymore? Did I enjoy making steak fajitas or fish fry on a Friday night? Everything I used to know was suddenly thrown into chaos. My entire life felt like a lie. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t even recognizable to myself in the mirror.

    I thought about the Israelites. God’s chosen people. And yet he had allowed them to wander for forty years in the wilderness. How could a loving God allow so much suffering? So much sin and pain? The Israelites wanted nothing more than to return to Egypt- the land of their suffering but also the land of familiarity. The place where everything felt “normal” and “right”. They may not have been free, but they could find comfort in the predictability of their life in Egypt.

    I wanted more than anything to return to the land of my marriage. To exist in the “before” rather than this existence void of love and joy. Lacking peace and hope. Confusion and despair defined me and I couldn’t see past the torrent of grief that came in never-ending waves.

    I went back to that Psalm that promised to save me from any evil. I must have misunderstood. I must have faulty beliefs about a God I used to trust.

    Psalm 91:14-16- Because she holds fast to me in love, I will deliver her. I will protect her because she knows my name. When she calls to me, I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble; I will rescue her and honor her. With long life will I satisfy her and show her my salvation.

    God was with me in my trouble. In that moment I realized to be free from this oppressive pain and begin to allow Him to repair my broken heart I would need to deliberately choose to avoid the entanglements of Satan’s lies. These freedoms would pave the way for healing and begin to allow me to see the light again.

    1. Freedom to Grieve- I had to mourn the loss of the life I imagined. I still mourn the losses. The children I never had. The husband I’ll never see again. God promises to be with me in this pain. He alone satisfies my desire to be loved and wanted.
    2. Freedom to Choose- I can choose to live in the darkness of my circumstances or to walk in the light of God’s purposes for my life. God was not surprised by my divorce. He didn’t cause it and He didn’t want it either. I can’t bitterly hold the choices of others against my loving God and expect to regain my joy. Rather I must choose every day to confirm my place as God’s beloved regardless of the rejection I have experienced.
    3. Freedom from the Weight of Guilt- No matter what role I played in the demise of my marriage, God washes my sins white as snow. He doesn’t want me to carry my sin and cling to the past to the detriment of living for him today.
    4. Freedom to be Me- God says I am His adopted. His beloved. His friend. My identity in Him is secure. No matter what I can rest safely in the way that He sees me. I am united in belonging to a God who loves me more than I can imagine. This brings freedom to know that creating me in His image was purposeful and I am valuable to God.

    The truth is what sets us free. (John 8:32) God’s truth. His masterful plan for us extends through any circumstance and heartache. Through any unexpected and unwanted moments God has got us. He won’t leave. He won’t walk away. I trust His loving promises to eventually lead me to an eternal freedom in a place free from pain. And that’s a freedom I will gladly accept.

    – – –

     

     

    Amy Boyd is a blogger, and communicator who loves to provide hope, heart revival, and assurance that our identity lies in Christ alone, and not in our circumstances. She is a chai latte addict who recently began adding a shot of espresso to her latte for an extra kick. She writes at revivemeagain.com. Today she shares how she finds freedom in the midst of an unwanted divorce.

  • depression,  holidays,  redemption

    The Weary World Rejoices

    How can we possibly rejoice when we are weary? 


    I felt it before I even got out of bed the other morning. The heaviness in my bones, the familiar fog of depression closing in on my thinking. I moved slowly, and if I am being honest, I didn’t want to move at all. The quilt in my room seemed like a much more comforting environment than my desk chair under fluorescent lights. 

    “No, please, Lord. Not this year.”

    My body knows what it is now, but for years, I wrestled with the darkness of seasonal depression and thought there was something severely wrong with me. I know now that I am not alone–  that “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD,” (also sometimes known as the ‘winter blues’). The numbers for major depression and generalized anxiety are even higher. 

    I am on high alert as fall shifts into cold weather. After years of research and work in therapy, I still know that I need to be faithful in taking that small pink pill each morning. I reach out to my friends for prayer. I make a gratitude list. I take a walk. I go to my weekly recovery meeting. But sometimes, all of the “right” actions in the world cannot prevent this weary darkness from coming through in the biology of my body- down to my cells and my neurotransmitters that know winter is here. 

    This is not a diary entry about my annual bouts of depression. This is to let you know that even as God has brought healing into my life, I still struggle at times. And whatever you are walking through, I know that you most likely have an area of tender pain that aches for God’s healing. 

    On this earth, this broken and beautiful world is not as God originally designed it to be. Because of the sinful choices of humanity, we live in a fallen world that sin, sickness, and pain entered long ago. If not for Christ, we would be destined to eternal darkness and suffering. But Christ DID come, as promised, to serve as our redemption and ransom. He made it possible for us to taste glory and one day be joined with our Heavenly Father in eternity.

    As we wait longingly for Christ’s second coming and for ALL to be redeemed, the earth groans for that full wholeness and healing. I love this passage from Romans 8:18-25 (NLT):

    Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

    We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently). 

    So here we are. Christmas Day. In the midst of our pain, suffering, weariness, we are encouraged to rejoice. How can we? 

    For those of you struggling right now with fear, anxiety, depression, heartache, insecurities, physical limitations, a mountain of debt, job insecurity, loss… I grieve with you. Christ grieves with us. He is acquainted with sorrow. In the midst of your weariness, you may not feel like showing great joy or delight. But Christ is with us. 

    Before we sing that “the weary world rejoices,” we sing of the thrill of hope. The world can rejoice BECAUSE of Christ’s birth and because Emmanuel is finally with us. HE is our hope. 

    The more we read His word, the more we can see the Bible as one story pointing us again and again to Jesus Christ. A great story of God’s love for us–those in suffering, the weary ones.  

    O holy night the stars are brightly shining
    It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
    Long lay the world in sin and error pining
    Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

    A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
    For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
    Fall on your knees
    O hear the angels’ voices
    O night divine
    O night when Christ was born

    When we can step back from our weariness to remember the whole picture–the overarching story of God chasing after those who are lost, lifting the heads of the downtrodden, and sending our Savior to walk among us–we can hopefully remember that He is a God of redemption. We can praise Him for being our hope. We can rest our weary souls in the quiet of a new and glorious morning. 

    Sweet and weary friends, I am praying for you today. 

  • freedom stories

    How a tattoo reminds me of freedom- Heather’s Story

    Yesterday, I celebrated my 31st birthday. This week I’ve been reflecting a lot on my 30th year, and the amazing healing, hope, and freedom I now cherish. So this week… I’m sharing my own Freedom Story. A story about my 30th birthday and the significance of a tattoo. In many ways, this is part of my heart for this series.
    I’m grateful to celebrate with you here.

    Tattoo Parlors and a Birthday Present

    This wasn’t an impulse decision. It was an intentional, prayerful choice.

    For my 30th birthday, I decided it was time to seal my freedom as a reminder to myself. Last December, I planned a trip to Baltimore to visit my best friend Char. We researched tattoo parlors, and I asked Char to write out an important phrase in her beautiful calligraphy to incorporate into the special design that I dreamt of for nine years. We sat across from each other in the tattoo parlor, taking in the bright blue paint and looking at framed images on the walls. I was wearing my favorite scarf and filled to the brim with excitement. Char sat cradling her belly, at seven and a half months pregnant. I remember thinking we probably looked a little out of place, but I didn’t care. As the artist I chose took me back to the chair, I didn’t feel nervous. My cheeks hurt from smiling, and I felt an anchoring sense of peace.

    This was a day I wanted to remember.

    Italy and Peppermint Tea

    When I was 21, I studied in Italy for four months. Our group stayed in Orvieto, an ancient town carved out of the top of a rock cliff in the region of Umbria. My favorite features of the town were its beautiful cathedral, the rolling hills and vineyards below our cliff, the lemon trees in the library courtyard, and the kind families I often saw at the market on Saturday mornings. Those four months signified self-exploration, my wrestling attempts towards independence, the savoring of the slower pace of Europe, and a marked turning point in my life.

    We lived in an old monastery, no longer in use by monks but inhabited by Christian college students on one side and retired nuns on the other. Often, we looked out the windows to the gardens below to see the nuns waving up at us, “Ciao!”

    One spring afternoon, I sat in the kitchen with our program director’s wife, Sharona. I loved spending time with Sharona and her young kids. They reminded me to laugh and slowed me down from my normal whirl of activity. That day, we opened the windows and had peppermint tea from a special ceramic jar on her window sill. There was a vast difference between the cozy tea, the smell of Italy after a rain, Sharona’s peaceful presence, and the tumbling anxiety I carried inside. She asked me to tell her my story. I took a deep breath and shared while I held my mug of tea close.

    When I was finished, she looked me in the eyes and said something I will never forget.

    “It seems like all your life you’ve been a bird. You’ve wanted to fly but you’ve had your wings held down and held down… I think you’re ready to fly.”

    I’m not sure why, but the image of the bird unable to fly struck me deeply. I imagined one day I might fly, but I knew I wasn’t there yet.

    The Bird Cage

    When I think of freedom, I do picture a bird. Not a bird in a cage or with its wings pinned down, but a bird soaring against a bright blue sky or a gorgeous sunset. I picture joy.

    For a good portion of my life though, I was more like the bird with pinned wings. I had debilitating anxiety, and I struggled with striving and people pleasing. I lived in fear of letting others down or hurting their feelings, and my highest aim was to make sure others were happy. The peace-keeper, the straight-A student, the good girl with a constant smile on her face.

    I imagined sky-high expectations from others and feared I would never live up to those ideals. My extreme perfectionism led me into obsessive compulsive thinking and behaviors. I didn’t believe I was worthy of good things or healthy relationships, and often settled into relationships that reflected my poor self-esteem. I had terrible boundaries and said “yes” to everything and everyone, because “no” felt selfish.

    The breaking point came at 25. I was a new mother, wrestling with life–not just the life of my little boy and providing for him, but my own life. I didn’t want to live the way I was living, but I couldn’t picture another way. I had so many questions about how I had gotten lost, how I had strayed this far off track. The birdcage was suffocating. I was losing my fight… part of me didn’t even care if I ever flew or got out. I lost much of my faith, and I realized I lost myself too.

    Learning to Fly

    Then, a light.

    I went to a meeting- a support group. I was there to “help” someone else, but as I looked around the room and listened to stories of hope and healing, I recognized that I was in desperate need of help myself. The thing was, I couldn’t help myself anymore. No amount of reading from self-help books or journaling could pull me out of the pit or the darkness. I needed others. And I needed God.

    Gently, lovingly, He patched my wings. He helped me shed the weights pinning me down. He focused my eyes on Him instead of worrying about everything going on around me. He started to heal me from the inside out.

    I entered counseling and began to cull through wounds. The Lord taught me about forgiveness.

    I found true, authentic community in my support group. No longer was fear of judgment the driving force for my behavior. My desire for change was finally greater than my people pleasing. I let my new friends open the door to the bird cage for me.

    I came to understand who God really is. As I read more of the New Testament (particularly John, Matthew, 1, 2, and 3 John, and 1 and 2 Corinthians), I learned more about His grace.

    I memorized Psalms and spoke His Truth to myself daily, instead of dwelling on my negative self-talk and criticism.

    I learned what brought me joy: serving others without expectation. Running. Hiking. Baking. Painting. WRITING. Worshiping. Mothering my son. Connecting bravely with others who have hard stories but have found hope in Jesus.

    I started to understand more of who God made me to be: He made me with a heart that loves deeply. He gave me creativity, depth, and zest for life. An empathetic and compassionate spirit. A quirky sense of humor. An ability to lead others with grace and gentleness.

    Christ didn’t come to bring a nebulous, unattainable idea of freedom, but to give His children a true, deep, soul-level deliverance.

    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

    “I am set free”

    With pin pricks of ink, I heard the buzzing sound of the tattoo artist working on my rib cage.

    My eyes stung and I breathed deep, relaxing into the table. As the artist carefully brought my vision to life, I prayed. I closed my eyes and thanked God for all of the work He has done in my life. I am set free FROM:

    • Fear
    • Hiding
    • OCD and trichotillomania
    • Debilitating anxiety
    • Trauma
    • Abuse
    • Toxic relationships
    • Doubt about my faith; bitterness towards God
    • Depression and suicidal thinking
    • Extreme people pleasing
    • Perfectionism and control
    • Trying to live up to the expectations of others

    Now, I live in freedom. God has brought me freedom to:

    • Establish healthy boundaries.
    • Forgive those who have hurt me.
    • Take responsibility for my part, and let go of shame and self-condemnation.
    • Carry JOY; this is not a fake smile to cover up my scars and my pain, but lasting, deep joy.
    • Live in authentic community with others.
    • Walk in the calling He has placed on my life to empower and encourage others who are hurting.
    • Know His Word as truth. I know God is loving, merciful, steadfast. I believe He created me in His image, has His mighty hand on my life, and loves me fiercely.

    As I prayed and thought about all of these areas in my life, the tattoo artist etched my best friend’s writing beneath an open bird cage on my side. It says:

    On my left shoulder, there’s a silhouette of a flying bird. My freedom bird.

    As Char and I left, I told her the significance of my time on the table, and the depth of my prayers and gratitude for how God has protected and guided me. She told me that while she watched me with my eyes closed, she prayed for me too. She thought about all of the amazing things God has done in my life. Who knew that getting a tattoo could be such a spiritual experience 🙂 I am immensely thankful for the work God has done in my life. Even on my dark days or difficult times, I know that the Lord is with me.

    In Him, I am set free.

    – – –

    What are some things God set you free FROM in your life? What are the ways you walk in freedom now?

  • freedom stories

    Never Enough- Elise’s Story

    If you have ever struggled with the lie or insecurity that you are not enough, my friend Elise has some encouragement and TRUTH to offer you. I love her honesty about how she wrestled through that, and also the powerful way that God spoke directly to her heart. She is passionate about sharing that message with others now, and even wrote a book about it! I’m so excited to share her words about freedom with you today. 

    This is Elise’s Freedom Story.

    My Freedom Story began with a book – a book I knew I was supposed to write.  The Spirit had been gently nudging, or maybe more like persistently pushing, me for nearly a decade to write a book.  The only trouble was I had no idea what the book was supposed to be about. I had this crazy notion that book authors should know a lot about the subject they were writing on, and I didn’t feel like an expert on anything.  In fact, I felt like I was not quite measuring up, let alone demonstrating expertise, in any aspect of my life. I was an angrier, more selfish, less confident parent than I imagined I would be. My part-time schedule working as an attorney was benefiting the family greatly, but did nothing for developing confidence in my knowledge of the law.  My life in general did not look like the lives of others I had made up in my head based on their Facebook posts. Surely, God was nudging the wrong person.

    I lived in this nagging state of agitation for the better part of a year.  I couldn’t pinpoint the root of the problem, but my attitude negatively affected my marriage, my relationship with my kids, my confidence at work, and my friendships.  My husband thought he was the problem. He missed his confident wife with the sunny disposition and optimistic outlook on life, and began to struggle with what he was doing wrong to make me withdrawn all the time.  I blew up often at my kids because my attempts to control them, to keep up appearances as a family having it altogether, constantly fell short. At work, I became defensive with coworkers, assuming they were questioning my knowledge and authority – which, in fact, I was questioning.  

    The first turning point came on a late August weekend at our lake cabin.   I was talking to my neighbor Ned, a man in his early sixties, who I had seen most weekends that summer.  We hadn’t talked a lot compared to earlier summers because I spent most of my time pretending to need to tend to the kids, not wanting to let anyone in.  Ned commented that I was doing a great job with my kids and I started to tear up. Then he said, “You’re not doing well, are you. I’ve watched you all summer and your spark is gone.”  It bothered me so much that an acquaintance, watching from across the street, could tell that I was not well in my spirit.

    A few weeks later, I stood in front of my mirror trying to get ready for the day, frustrated I couldn’t put on my mascara because the tears wouldn’t stop.  I was replaying in my head a comment I had made the night before at Bible study with my dearest friends. I don’t remember what the comment was, or what their reactions were, but I remember feeling like they hadn’t understood what I was saying, and therefore, I must not have been very good at communicating it.  My head wanted to let it go, but my heart was hanging on to it and its voice kept whispering: “I guess you’re not good enough at that either.”

    But at that moment a quiet, yet somehow louder, voice spoke directly to my heart: “Enough.  My grace is enough!”

    In that moment, God revealed two things to me:  I knew what had been causing me so much agitation in my soul – I had started to believe the lie Satan was feeding me that I was not enough, but that I needed to keep striving to change that.  I also knew the subject of the book that God had been nudging me to write for years – He wanted me to speak this truth – Enough.  My grace is enough! – over the lives of others who were struggling in this same way.

    As I wrote, the Spirit revealed so many different areas of my life in which Satan would try to steal just a little bit of the freedom I have in Christ.  He taught me that Satan is a sneaky little devil – literally – and that he likes to meddle in the lives of those who would seek an abundant life in Christ.  He showed me small, nearly-imperceptible ways in which Satan would attempt to lure me back into the bondage of believing that I wasn’t enough – and that life was about striving to change that.

    Here’s what I learned to be true: I am not enough.  I never will be on my own. God did not create me in such a way that I wouldn’t need Him.  The purpose of my journey is to draw closer to Him, to increasingly depend more on Him, and that as I do, He is faithful.  He showed me that when He promises, as He did in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that “His grace is sufficient” for me, what He means is not that His grace is barely enough, but that His grace is exactly enough.  His provision of what I need is unique to me, because I am unique to Him, and I am unique from those around me. What He calls me to do is to be who I am, right where I am, and to allow His grace and presence in my life to change me into who He would have me become.  My life will look differently than the lives of those around me, because God has a different purpose for my life and the different gifts He gave me. I am enough, even in all that I lack, because God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfected in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

    I learned that I am not supposed to compare my life to the different lives of those around me.  I am also not necessarily supposed to hide those weaknesses and insecurities that make me feel like I’m not enough from them.  We cannot enjoy authentic community unless we allow others in. I am drawn to the story in Mark 6 of the disciples struggling on a boat in a storm while Jesus prayed on a mountainside.  The Bible in Mark 6:48 says that in the middle of the night, “He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” As their friend, He walked out to them, and what He did next is my favorite: “Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.” (Mark 6:51). He didn’t watch from a distance; He met His friends where they were, and stepped into the hard stuff with them.  This, to me, shows the blessing of what happens when we open ourselves up to authentic community. When, instead of hiding as we “strain at the oars,” we are willing to share with those around us our struggles, we recognize that those who care are not in our lives to compare ourselves against, but are actually part of our lives so that they can climb in the boat with us. They may not be able to walk on water, quiet the storm, and command the wind as Jesus did, but they can show us Christ’s love as He did to His disciples.  

    My dear friends in that Bible study are that authentic community for me now.  They were always there; they were always willing; I just didn’t allow them in.  As I have become more vulnerable and have felt Christ’s love poured into my insecurities through them, I have become less defensive.  I have seen too, through these close, authentic friendships, how they struggle, how they have imperfections and weaknesses, and how God is calling me to step into their boat with them when they are straining at the oars.   

    Being authentic within a community requires vulnerability.  It requires a commitment to being who we are, right where we are, and allowing those who love us to speak Christ’s love into the areas in which we feel most inadequate.  Authenticity begins by remembering His grace is enough for us. We are enough through Him. We don’t have to strive and compare and allow Satan to steal our joy and our freedom in Christ, because that’s not what brings the abundant life Christ has promised.  

    – – –

     

    Elise Knobloch writes to figure out what she thinks.  Elise seeks to encourage others to meet God in the common, ordinary, everyday activities of theirs lives and to laugh at God’s ever- present sense of humor.  She has a master’s degree in persuasive writing, a juris doctorate, and is the author of Enough: Finding Abundant Life in a World Striving for More.  Her greatest teachers, however, are her husband and their four children.  

    You can follow Elise’s writing on her blog, Instagram, or Facebook

     

     

     

    – – –

    P.S. Special thanks to Roberto Nickson of the Unsplash community for the photo to accompany this post. 

    Read more Freedom Stories here.

  • faith,  redemption,  spoken word

    Redemption Story – A spoken word piece

    I originally shared this as a spoken word piece at my church’s Storyteller event. I came across it today and thought it might speak to someone in this form, here. Soon I hope to record a few of these pieces so you can hear the way these words sound in my head 😉 In the meantime, know that even in this broken world, redemption is coming. 

    …Once upon a time, there was a tiny little bird. He was young and hopeful, but oh so tiny! The tiny bird often looked out to the big, strong birds and wished he could soar like them. The expanse of sky beyond his tiny nest made him feel far too small to conquer flying. One day, watching the other birds, he convinced himself he needed to soar to feel big and strong like them. The tiny bird made a giant leap, and soon felt himself falling, falling, falling. He landed hard on a branch below and looked down at his wounded wing. “Now I will never conquer the sky,” he cried. “And I will never soar like the other birds.”

    …Once upon a time a widowed woman, lonely and tired, sat in a quiet blue chair missing her husband. She often sat there looking at the beautiful urn on the mantle that held his ash and longed to pick it up and hold it, to sift through death’s dust, just to be closer to her love. She left it there but stared each day. She ached in loneliness, aware of the giant hole left by his life. The silence was deafening and the pain made her heart often feel that it would stop altogether. During the afternoons, she turned off the lights to dull the brightness of day, waiting for night and sleep to come so her heart could get some rest from the aching. But during the days, blue chair, staring at the mantle, heart aching.

    …Once upon a time, there was a man who had it all. The perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect car, the perfect family. He wondered what he did to deserve such bountiful blessings. But one day, the man received news that he would be let go from his perfect job, and his purpose as a provider seemed to break beneath him. Soon, they had to sell the perfect house and the perfect car, and his perfect marriage was shaken. He felt that nothing was certain anymore, the castle was crumbling, and he was grasping at straws to feel secure—but nothing seemed to work. Years went by and the man felt as though he lost it all as he became the shell of the man he once was.

    – – –

    Wings wounded. Hearts hurting. Identities shaken. The “once upon a time” is a war-stricken country, with children covered in ash and no longer able to cry. The “once upon a time” is the illness fallen upon an innocent child. The “once upon a time” is a wildfire that destroys whole homes and whole cities. It’s divorce and a family broken apart. It’s the woman with scars she dares not speak of, in shame of what’s been done to her. It’s the son who turns away and chooses to live life on his own terms, far away from the family and faith he once knew.

    The pain is too much to bear. We realize we can’t conquer the sky, or see light and joy, or imagine how life will be made right again.

    But listen. Beat… beat… beat. The heart still pumps on. Life flows through the veins. In the winter cold where death seems to reside over the trees and earth, a tiny bud pushes through the hard ground and begins to show that spring will come again.  

    You see, this is the story of a mighty king who takes our broken things, and makes something magnificent out of the meek.

    This is a story of brilliant light piercing through darkness and death.

    This is a story of rebuilding the ruins that were shattered around and beneath us.

    This is a once upon a time, that WILL end in redemption. Even if earth shows us hurt, and sin overtakes us, and paradise is lost, He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. Listen…

    He was despised and rejected by mankind,
        a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
    Like one from whom people hide their faces
        he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

    Surely he took up our pain
        and bore our suffering,
    yet we considered him punished by God,
        stricken by him, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions,
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
        and by his wounds we are healed.

     

    Beat… beat… beat.

    – – –

    After days of struggling to fly again, that tiny little bird hears the whisper: “My child, come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” The tiny bird rests and day by day, his strength grows and when it is time, he finally soars. Restoration for what was once broken.

    One evening, the widow finally decides to lift the urn from the mantle to move it closer to her blue chair. Her hands shake and she drops the vase, and the ashes scatter everywhere. She weeps as she kneels in the dark next to the urn’s broken pieces. She is struck with the idea to glue them back together, shattered piece by shattered piece. Though there are cracks and holes, she places a candle inside, where her husband’s ashes once lay. The light breaks through her darkness and she feels some relief in her aching. Beauty where there were once ashes.

    The man who lost it all finally gets it. His wholeness cannot possibly come from cars and homes and jobs and material things, or even from those around him. He is humbled and looks upward, and even though the pieces aren’t back together, the ground beneath him is sturdy. He is planted like an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His glory. Rebuilding where there was once ruin.

    In our pain, in our sorrow, in our grief, in our times of waiting, His wounds will walk us through our brokenness. Healing is coming. He washes over our wounds in grace upon grace upon restorative, brilliant, mighty, precious, amazing grace.

    – – –

    Friend, if you are in a season of hurting, waiting or brokenness, can I pray for you?

    I am here and would love to pray for you this week. Let me know whats on your heart here

     

    P.S. Thank you so much to Kari Shea, Hide Obara, and Megha Ajith (all of the Unsplash community) for the images to accompany this piece.