Devon and I renewed our vows on the same mountaintop were we were married in Colorado this past summer.
We were surrounded by our kids and our closest friends.
I’m slowly browning venison for a big pot of venison stew, with worship music playing quietly in the background. It’s quiet here and giving me time to reflect on this last year. I can officially say that 2016 was one of the hardest years of my life. It started on the heels of being commissioned as a YWAM base last November. If you had told me the following three months would be packed with all that it was packed with, I probably would have tucked myself in bed and set the alarm for March.
I hope one day to be able to tell the stories and yet I wrestle with why I feel it’s even necessary. Maybe it’s therapeutic. It probably is. Maybe my desire to share comes from a place of knowing that the truth does set you free. And the power of sharing a true, raw story can oftentimes give space for others to know they are not alone. I think I wrestle with the fact that most of my stories intersect with others who may not be ready for such honest transparency. I respect that. Even though I believe there’s power when we speak of the work God does when putting us back together, I also know that we are meant to guard our hearts, as not everyone around us, has our best intent at heart. I learned that the hard way this year.
It was a year of deep threaded lies, coming to light and exposing incredible brokenness. A year of watching my strong dad, be undone by a weak heart and wondering if it could be restored. It delivered betrayal I’ve only read about in books by people we trusted and called friend. We watched someone precious to us, suffer in ways that only Jesus could touch and heal. In the midst of this, Devon’s back went out and he couldn’t move for a month. Our flip house flooded.
Five years ago, these three months would’ve undone and unraveled me in a way that would be hard to put back together. But, looking back, I realize there has been years of conditioning to prepare me to face the trials we found at our doorstep.
You know, God never promises an easy road. If you believe for a minute that following Jesus equals a smooth, blessed life where your bills are paid, your health is sure and your friends stand stronger than a brother, I would encourage you to read the New Testament again. To follow Jesus is to choose a rough, hard to decipher the next step, road. It’s a journey of trusting Him for today and only today. It’s a life that guarantees scars and scrapes, wounds and pain. If He could be physically tortured, betrayed by one of His best mates and the religious institution that spoke of Him daily with man made authority, why should we be surprised when those things happen to us?
I no longer am.
As painful as 2016 was, it was filled to the brim with the goodness of God. He held my hand, never let go and guided and taught me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Him. He is so beautiful! Did you know that? And more than ever, I know that He knows my humanity. He made me that way. He’s not afraid to see me for who I am and can handle any broken bit I have to offer. In fact, it’s in those places He gets to show off the most. When we are self sufficient with everything seemingly held in place, we don’t know our desperate need for Him.
With His help, I learned a few things this year that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
One, never let someone else’s sin offend you. Choose to not be offended by their sin. This highlights, “Forgive 70 times 7.” We don’t get to hit a wall and say, “Well, that time, she did it!” There is a holy power that happens when we literally choose to turn the other cheek, over and over and over…and over, again. There is authority in choosing to approach our friend’s nakedness with our backs turned to them and cover them so they don’t lay exposed in their shame. Because, one day, we’ll need the favor returned.
Two, as Jesus followers, what matters most, is not what is done to us, but how we respond to those who sin against us. The ownership is on us. Sure, we can pick up the sword and cut off the ear of the offender, or we can expose our back and allow the lashes to happen. “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Three, the Bible says true love does not keep a record of wrong and I believe it also, doesn’t keep a record of rights. When we’ve sacrificed and loved until it hurts and that goes unnoticed or unappreciated, true love doesn’t keep a list of all the “right” things I’ve done. It doesn’t even let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.
Four, He is a healer! I mean this is a truth I knew, but this year, He reinforced the truth. He restores that which looks impossible to fix and He does it so that the repaired version is more valuable and more beautiful than the original. The flesh of healed wounds is stronger and tougher than it’s untouched counterpart.
Five, it’s sin that is at fault. It is a destroyer, a ravager, a rapist and a betrayer. It plays by a different set of dirty rules that defy any understanding or preparation. Even though I was deeply hurt this year, when I followed the path of that hurt and looked at it with honesty, it’s not the offender I was angry at, it was the sin and the war plan of the enemy.
Six, there is absolutely a spiritual battle that surrounds us. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. When we choose to live a life, wholly devoted to God and are willing to love those hard to love and are willing to forgive relentlessly, when we follow Jesus into the dungeons and alleys to befriend those cast off, it’s an invitation to enter the battle. It’s real and tangible.
Seven, His love is deeper, wider and higher than a mama’s love. He will pursue with passion our children in a way that calls them to their own rough road. My job is to get out of His way. I can’t control Him, or them, even if I think I can. So much more gets accomplished when I truly release them to the One whose love is everything.
Eight, I hold my Jesus family to a higher standard. I don’t know if this is fair… I’m still working this one out. Family betrayal, divorce, abandonment, rejection hurts worse when administered by those I call family. Maybe because when we love much, it hurts that much more. I guess my expectations for family is that they take me for who I am, with my ups and downs, my successes and my mess. That they always believe the intent of my heart and are willing to stick around even if things get hard.
Nine, there are friends that stick closer than a brother. When the tough times come, the real deal friends are still there, holding the kleenex, sitting with you in the mud, listening and not judging, staying awake even when you’re sobs seem redundant. I’m beyond grateful for my garden friends this year.
Ten, our tribe is an undeserved gift from God. Devon and I brought a bunch of muck and yuck to our marriage but God in His goodness, blessed us beyond measure. We have always said, “We will hold our marriage and family in open hands, recognizing that it’s precious and fragile if taken for granted.” This tribe He’s put together, is so sweet and speaks of His great faithfulness. And Devon, will forever be the man I choose to do this life with, no matter what.
Eleven, the definition of bittersweet, is releasing your children to be the men and women they are meant to be. We raised them for such a time as this and I like them, I really do. It’s right to let them go, follow God’s leading, travel, explore and move out. That part is so sweet. But, it hurts this mama’s heart at the same time…in a holy hard way.
Twelve, He loves me. Oh, how He loves me. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. His pursuit of my heart, continually takes my breath away.
What lessons have you learned this year?