How the Communion Table preaches to those struggling with Eating Disorders

It was a few Sundays ago, and I swayed gently as I sang these words along with my dear congregation.

“The body of our Savior Jesus Christ, torn for you, eat and remember. 
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life, paid the price to make us one. 
So we share in this bread of life, and we drink of His sacrifice, 
As a sign of our bonds of grace, around the table of the King.” {The Gettys & Townend}

My gaze slid to the Communion Table mere feet away, the white linen tablecloth, the golden trays holding the precious symbols of a slain Savior’s sacrifice for us.

Suddenly my breath caught and tears began hotly filling my eyes. I sat down and grabbed my iPhone and began frantically typing these words down.

What if the Communion Table is preaching to our eating disorders?

The body of our Lord, torn for you. The wounds that heal. The death that brings us life.

It’s all been done. Victory has been won. Our deepest sin and death has been defeated.

Yet we tear ourselves open with scissors and knives. We empty our bellies into buckets.
We starve ourselves into walking wounded. We smile and laugh and refuse to eat.
We maim and wound and die a million times as we look in the mirror and say “not enough”. We refuse bread, we turn down wine, and we lose sight of Jesus.

We lose sight of Jesus. 

The body of Jesus, torn for you: Enough. 

The wounds on his back, his pierced hands and feet, the crown of thorns slashing open his brow….his side gushing blood and water: For You.

His Body, the bread. His Blood, the wine. 

His bloodlines, His heritage, His inheritance, His everything, His family, His crown, His robe, a seat next to Him in an endless array at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

How could we miss this imagery and portraiture so easily when it’s right in front of us every single Sunday? When it’s laid out in stark relief to our fading world?

He is what we could never be: a true sacrifice that would heal us.

We want desperately to be in control. We want desperately to run our own lives. We want completely and utterly and always to be the best. To live up to every magazine hype, or maybe just to your model friends who look better in bikinis or skinny jeans.

We want so so so much to be the individual kings of our world, all the while coming into the House of Worship every Sunday to visit a King who spilled His blood to give you what you could never earn, to die a death you could never die, to be the Sacrifice to a Holy God that would be our healing. Our LIFE. Our literal God breathed LIFE. Our Eternal LIFE.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin, shed for you, drink and remember. 
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in, to receive the LIFE of God.” 

The same Savior Who hung on the cross has already healed us in a way we can’t even begin to see or understand. He’s made us holy. He’s given us righteousness that won’t fade. He’s given us a beauty that shines with a radiance we can’t see in this world.

And every time we choose what tries to kill us over Jesus, oh, it must break His heart, because the Savior didn’t die so you could bleed out on a bathroom floor.

He died so that you might have life abundantly, and that life abundantly doesn’t give room to eating disorders or self harm. That life abundantly doesn’t share a dang thing with death. 

Your eating disorder will never love you. Your self harm scars will never love you.
Your tiny clothes will never love you. You will never see beauty in the mirror unless you are looking at it and seeing the beautiful Bride Jesus died for staring back at you.

Nothing can or ever will be able to do what only Jesus can do: heal you.

The One Who gives abundant life desires us to LIVE and live abundantly.

If we weren’t supposed to be living today, we wouldn’t be. You and I, we are living for a great purpose, and not a day of it is to be wasted on wondering if we were still meant for this world. We are, because…..God has written the number of all our days, before there were any of them {Psalm 139:16}. You ARE meant for great things in this life, and God has meant you to live them. Here. Now. This day. Tomorrow. You are meant to be alive right now. You are meant to be breathing, resting, hoping, LIVING.

Bread of life, a body broken already for us, for life abundantly not lived in bonds to the diseases that would kill us, that Satan would love love love to kill us with.

“We’ll join in the feast of Heaven, around the table of the King.” 

I wrote a friend tonight through tears while writing this article and said I just couldn’t wait until the New Heavens and New Earth when I’d look down the table at the glorious feast, and see all my friends who have struggled with eating disorders, with radiance on their faces and smiles unchecked, EATING, and knowing it was all good. If you’ve ever known or loved anyone who has struggled with these issues, there are probably tears on your face right now like there are on mine. It is a deeper pain than words can explain.

Oh, friends, in the drinking and the eating and the shaming and the agony and the bleeding and the throwing up and the longing to be perfect and in control…..we’ve let go of the most precious “savior” we could cling to, the only Savior that could heal. Jesus. 

If the very One Who made You sustains Your every breath, isn’t it enough to live for? Isn’t He enough to live for? Isn’t He enough for you? Isn’t He enough for me? This temporary life will go by so so fast, and then we shall see what we’ve been suspecting all along. Our lives, though broken, though shattered, though agonizing, were worth it to live for Jesus.

I looked hard at the Communion Table that Sunday, and saw something deeper that shattered untruths hiding deep in my soul and my soul cried at the beauty it saw there.

We’ve missed something beautiful.

He’s there before us in the shimmering glory of the Communion Table. He’s right there next to you in the fight against your deepest scars. He’s hearing the prayers of those advocating for you. And He’s proclaiming that YOU don’t have to be enough, because He is forever enough for you. It’s there in the bread and wine on the bright white linen tablecloth. “This is my Body, broken for you. This is my Blood, spilled for you. Take, eat, do this in remembrance of Me.” It’s a profoundly life-altering, heart-shifting truth.

That in these tangible things we eat and sip with our community of believers and saints, in these small things we tenderly cradle in our hands, lies a promise that shouts of a victory gained by a beautiful One we long to see and long to belong to. And we do. 

We belong to that King. That Savior. We’re made whole and healed by Him. For anyone who has ever suffered greatly, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard.

After that Sunday, I will never look at the Communion Table the same way ever again. Imagery and parables, yes. A simple hymn, yes. But the beauty will remain.

So drink the wine, don’t turn away the bread. See His hands offering it to you.

And abide and rejoice in a life abundant because Jesus is enough. 

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I’m a white Southerner who gave up the Confederacy for my friends.

Let me just start by saying I’ve re-written the title to this post a hundred different ways and all of them have scared me out of writing this article. It’s such a massively huge topic and I’m so…..white. And so so so late to the conversation. And so don’t have a clue to the decades of hurt and what racism feels like. I can’t go back and re-write history and I can’t undo the past. But I can tell you what right now looks like to me. This is my heart right now.

I went to my Dad twice during the writing of this article to make sure he knew I’d always love and treasure my family, and to make sure he wouldn’t be disappointed in me (he wasn’t). If a topic is a multi-hour teary and passionate conversation with my parents in the kitchen, then I absolutely believe it’s worth writing about here. I believe God has laid it on my heart for a reason, and that it’s important to share, no matter how hard.

Bear with me and please know that you, you reading this!, matter deeply to me.

I’m a white Southerner who gave up the Confederacy for my friends.

What a header, right? Let me explain. Growing up, my sister and I adored the South. We grew up in Florida, and had a Yankee mother from Ohio with generations of pacifism in their bloodlines, and a Southern daddy from Georgia with generations of fighters since the minute we landed in America. Those Fambroughs have fought in nearly every war up until my generation. Which means a lot of my patriarchal history is Confederate. I didn’t know them. I just know my grandparents and my parents weren’t racist and that was good enough for me.

I remember the first time a friend called me a racist for being a Southerner, I went to the bathroom and sobbed for 10 mins. When the friend’s sister found me, I was crying out: “That’s not how I see it. I didn’t mean it that way. I’m not racist. I love your little brother.”

I was so wounded that he thought that of me. Now I’m wounded that my pride had blinded me for so long. Growing up, I always was a bit disgruntled that the Daddy I idolized didn’t like the Confederacy so much. After all, it was his heritage.

He would quietly and wisely say: “The flag doesn’t mean what you think it means. The South stood for states rights but it also stood for slavery, and slavery goes against the very heart of the Gospel of Christ.” He is a man who doesn’t let politics in the way of Jesus.

The flag might have stood for something beautiful in the beginning, but it ended up being a symbol of pride for a world living off the profits of slavery. Seeing it means fear for my friends of color. It means that we may have valued our people a lot but we didn’t value them enough to set them free. It reminds my friends of color that their families were torn apart, killed, and sold. It reminds my friends of color of pain. It reminds them that we didn’t see them as people. It means war and it means slavery.

The historical South was beautiful for our white families. It was not for our black families. And that breaks my heart into a million and one pieces today.

The Sin and Stain of Slavery existed in my own heritage.

I know somewhere back there we owned slaves. It’s in the pictures.

And growing up I believed that states rights were a good enough reason for the South to have won. And I believe the South had some really good Christian leaders and some really dang good points. But slavery wasn’t one of them. As a Bible believing Christian, I believe slavery is one of the ugliest sins we can commit against each other, and it grieves me to think that my family followed a societal norm and owned slaves. I didn’t know those family members; I can’t say I’m ashamed of them. I can say I wish I could say we never ever would have done such a terrible thing.

I can say if someone ever came to me (there are lots of African American Fambroughs out there) and said their family was owned by mine, I would probably sob for months. I’d want to give them everything. And hold them in my arms for a really long time.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have ever ever ever said this in public, and honestly, writing it all out right now and anticipating the feedback (and disappointment) I’m going to get from my friends who love the Confederacy makes me so nauseous I’m sick right now.

I’m not out to make enemies, honest. But I’m also not going to stay quiet about this.

The transfiguring moment I saw my friend instead of a cause.

Because a few years ago, I started really listening to my friends of color. I heard their tears as people were shot in the street a few blocks from their home. A town near us was almost ripped in half after a shooting. It is still deeply segregated.

One of my friends wrote the sentence one night that the man killed in her town could have been her husband. And my heart stopped. I’d been to their wedding. One white girl who could not dance, laughingly pulled in with two of her aunties to dance with all of them in celebration. I couldn’t imagine it being her husband. I couldn’t imagine it being her cousin. I couldn’t imagine it being her son. I couldn’t imagine it being all my friends of color I’ve loved so very much getting to know.

Suddenly I saw deep grief and pain. I saw the green grass torn open for all the caskets and how loss comes to us all: rich and poor, black and white, and the hearts that are torn open along with it. Grief is grief, and my eyes were opened to the racism in my country.

I saw my friends instead of a political statement, and it broke my heart. 

And I started REALLY listening.  I threw the “Us vs Them” rhetoric out the window as much as possible. I started ignoring labels as much as I could. I quit looking for political reasons or explanations and started looking for ways to see Jesus in others not like me and I asked hard questions of my friends. I traveled internationally. I saw outside of a white America and it struck me how not that great we were. I saw beautiful people from many cultures and I wanted them all to know Jesus and to never doubt His love.

And to never doubt God’s love because of something I said or did.

I’ll never forget the moment it woke me up.
It hit me like a rip current and dragged me out to sea of never going back.

I looked at all of history under the light of God’s kingdom, and I suddenly realized if I had to choose between loving and being FOR my friends of color in modern day America, OR romanticizing the Confederacy …. I was 1 million percent going to choose the one that mattered, and it wasn’t a dead war and policy. 

It was going to be my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Because I love them more than I could ever love a history where my forefathers sinned against the image of God (and yes, that goes back a lot further than 1861). And I love my brothers and sisters of color and want friendships and peace and unity with them more than I want monuments in the square (that will crumble into dust one day, and oh hey, Robert E. Lee didn’t even want them in the first place and asked not to have monuments made of himself), and more than I want people to tell me how wonderful it was that so many Fambroughs were so committed to the Southern legacy.

Statues aren’t worth more than my friends. Period. End of story. They’re made of stone and dust and they aren’t God’s beloved children and those statues won’t be in Heaven with me.

The Confederacy no longer mattered to me. Y’all. Y’all, listen. In light of a perfect redemptive history and the most beautiful Kingdom God is building and redeeming from our blood spilled lands, how could the Confederacy matter more to me than the precious ones who will be filling the throne room with me? And why would I let it when that’s a choice I can make?

This doesn’t mean I have to hate my family; I’ll always love my family’s history. I will always love my family and seek to understand and know more about them. But that doesn’t mean I should or will condone evil and sin committed in the hearts of men. And it definitely doesn’t mean I need to flaunt my family’s history when it was wrong. When I’m tempted to argue that my family members were all heroes and that they loved their slaves, I’m not believing or portraying the Gospel. We are all a little racist somewhere, and I’m praying God shows me the places where I am.

Slavery is wrong. But the fall of the South did not kill racism. It couldn’t. Only the Gospel can kill the sin of racism. And that is the Gospel we must preach. 

Let go of a prideful past built on physical bloodlines.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13

We cannot as Bible believing Christians, stand for slavery, which means we cannot revel or glory in a history (that could repeat itself) that promotes it. We cannot stand for racism. Or white supremacy. We cannot. We cannot. We cannot.

We cannot choose our family’s history over Jesus.

If we’re going to die on a hill for a cause, let it look like Calvary and like Jesus and
not like our own self built kingdoms that we treasure more than the one He died to bring us and to bring us into. 

We cannot choose our physical bloodlines against the blood spilled from the side of Christ for the freedom from sin for the nations. 

We cannot choose politics and a kingdom quickly fading instead of Jesus and His Kingdom that calls the nations to Himself and is building an all-racial church.

We cannot choose to be on the wrong side of this issue yet again when churches have been given the option so many times and chosen the wrong one. Choose Biblically.

Condemning racism and proclaiming our fellow citizenship with our brothers and sisters of all races should easily go hand in hand, but it hasn’t. And I haven’t done it well. To the people in the back who I’ve been racist to or spoken poorly to, please, PLEASE forgive me. I’m grieved, deeply grieved, by America in our current state and actions, and yet see that me carrying years of a romanticized Civil War may have hurt you deeply.

I renounce any and all white supremacy and have repented deeply to God for any ways I represented that. And yes, I swiftly gave up the Confederacy for my friends of color. 

But that doesn’t make me a hero. That makes me a convicted Christian who realized I wasn’t portraying Jesus as the Jewish Savior Who leveled the ground at the foot of the cross and called every slave free and Jews and Greeks equals {Colossians 3:11}. It doesn’t make me understand any better the generations of agony my friends of color have suffered at white hands.

It still means I’m white, and it still means a lot of days I feel the heavy guilt of my white privilege. But I hope saying this opens the doors to deeper friendships between us, and I hope you’ll continue to teach me what Jesus means to you as I share what Jesus means to me, and I rejoice that one day the guilt and shame that we carry around will be shed and we will join hands and voices as one proclaiming Christ as our King.

“For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood. Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9

“EVERY nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” – Revelation 7:9

Choose Jesus and His Kingdom Cause.

Choose Jesus and You get to be a bearer of the love He sees in His beautifully made image-bearing people. Choose anything over Jesus and you lose that privilege.

Our God and Creator and King doesn’t share His Kingship with anyone; neither does He smile upon those whose words speak against His heart for the nations. The nations don’t always look like China or Korea or Guatemala. The nations are also your African American brothers and sisters and your friends of color who live in your world and hear your words.

Jesus, help us. Jesus, forgive us. 

I want my legacy to be that I chose Jesus over everything the world offered. I want my legacy to be loving my family, yes, but I want my greater legacy to be loving our bigger family full of those that don’t look like me. I want my legacy to be loving Jesus’s family.

Just like He loves me. Even me, a white Southerner who gave up the Confederacy for a greater Kingdom that calls everyone who trusts in the King “Beloved Son and Daughter”.

Glory, glory, glory. 

“All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” – Psalm 86: 9-10

Relationships that look like Jesus

I remember visiting a church in my elementary years, and after the pastor read John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.”, he said “It sounds extreme, doesn’t it?”. I looked around rather confusedly at the people surrounding me and then down at my Bible, and felt so out of place because it actually sounded perfectly sane to me.
It’s how I’d always loved: all in, no hold back, for forever.

I’d step in front of a bus for anyone I know. I’d feel bad for all the hospital bills my family would inevitably pay (and uh, the sadness), but that was what love did. Love….LOVED.

Love was all of 1 Corinthians 13, and also stepping in front of a bus for your people.

Now before you call my parents…..read the rest of the article. I’m quite safe, really. 

Relationships deeply matter

When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I babysat a lot for one of my best friends who was terribly sick during her pregnancies. I’d come over (invited & occasionally uninvited) and clean her kitchen and fold her laundry and play with her sweet babies.

She would pay me for babysitting, but the hidden reward was far greater …. there would be hours upon hours of conversation. I remember vividly tearful days sitting curled up on her couch (probably eating ice cream or chocolate pie) and pouring out my heart with all the “my world is ending” words I probably had.

She would listen and speak truth to me. She didn’t always say the things I wanted to hear, and sometimes we interrupted the conversation to have a toddler dance party, but she always always always made me feel wanted. We haven’t deeply talked in ages (so much work! so much school! so little sleep!), but when I hugged her on Sunday, I told her I missed her, and she said she’d missed me too.

In that one hug …. I could remember the years of friendship, kindness and care.
In that one hug …. I felt so loved and seen, remembered and valued.

She shaped my early adult years of a true, deep, lasting friendship.

And so today I wanted to write to you about relationships that heal.

Not the ones that break and then heal….we will save that for another time.
But relationships that heal unrelated pain….that in one swift moment, heal the hurt.

 The unexpected gifts of relationships

I only have to take a quick scroll through my Instagram or photos to make me smile at the dear faces that fill them. I will be the first to tell you I’ve been blessed with some of the best friends on the face of the earth. It’s no wonder I have a desire to love wide and long and go deep in relationships when I’ve received so so so much love myself.

When I was younger I wondered how people could say “She/He would drop anything/do anything for me.”, and then when life came crashing to pieces, I figured out very quickly how my people would do exactly that.

They pulled my family in to lasting friendships. Family dinners. Endless meals when we lost our grandparents. Late night Emergency Doctor/Nursing calls. Dog-sitting. Traveling to attend my sister’s wedding from out of state/out of the country. Hosting strangers in their homes. Prayers upon prayers whenever we asked or needed it. Gifts and cards arriving unexpectedly at our doorstep. Simple invitations to go out together, anywhere, just to be with us. Showing up with flowers and hugs and their kids to make us laugh.

I’ve had friendships show up out of nowhere in some of the saddest times of my life and wondered why on earth they wanted to be friends with little ole dramatic me….but they pulled me right in and loved me deeply and continue to be some of the dearest to me.

C.H. Spurgeon hits the nail on the head when he said this: “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.” I’ve survived many sad days because of the joyful and incredible ministering of close friends. My life is infinitely better because they are in my life. Being together means real, deep conversations, and knowing they won’t give up on me.

They’ve sat with us in grief, and they’ve made us cry with laughter.

They know us. They love us. It’s been one of the biggest gifts in my life. It has driven me to see how our communities of friends reach past all the circumstances to be Jesus to us. 

Loving Well and Denying Fear

Just last week I received news that made me want to throw up and set me spinning into a very bad week. The very same day, I got the sweetest message from a friend who so kindly told me how the way I loved deeply inspired her to do the same.

She called me brave. 

I sat right down on the kitchen floor and cried. Being brave doesn’t make you feel brave.

I decided a long time ago I would do anything for my people to let them know they were loved. I definitely do not hold up to that to the highest mark that I could, but I try. Most days, I don’t feel brave (not even after a cup of coffee). Sometimes I don’t feel love.

But I refuse to let these short few days on this earth be anything less than being what Jesus calls us to be, and that isn’t the tepid, broken, shallow, fearful relationships the world calls love. It looks much more like sacrifice, more like courage, more like Jesus.

Real relationships say a hundred “I forgive you’s” and “I love you’s”. Real relationships pick up after months apart and remember to pray in the middle of the night for that one prayer request; they rejoice from afar and grieve losses from even farther. They do all this because we’re called to it. They do all this because we’ve been changed by it.

Real relationships heal hurt, love well, and deny fear, because we’re looking at Jesus. 

Real relationships survive on sacrificial love

Here’s the biggest secret the world doesn’t get about real love in relationships: it gives back more than you could ever know at the moment. Real love in relationships IS NOT temporary, only sticking around when it gets what it wants and then leaving. Real relationships don’t thrive on shallow love or rollercoaster feelings, they survive on sacrificial love.

We aren’t called to a worldly love; we are called to a deep, sacrificial love. We are called to more than the world can see in one lifetime, because love matters for Eternity.

We are called to choose meaning, choose honesty, pursue to strengthen our brothers and sisters God has placed in our lives, and yes, sometimes, it means leaving your heart on the threshing room floor and trusting that God sees how hard you tried.

Sacrificial love doesn’t mind driving 6 hours for a hug, because it meant the world to be there. Sacrificial love can turn a dark day into a day wreathed in smiles and peace. Sacrificial love often flows from the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart to move in a way that you’re scared to do. Sacrificial love doesn’t turn up empty, it always gives.

Sacrificial love doesn’t always look like grand gestures. It often looks like living life together. Simple voicemails. Encouraging messages. Rejoicing. Excursions simply wanting to “be with you” has moved my heart more than my friends could ever know.

Some days it’s having church friends over for dinner and ice cream. Some days it’s sitting with your friends in their sadness and not seeking to fix it. Some days it’s a really long hug. You know your people – learn their likes and loves, and take the time to show it!

By our love, the world sees Jesus. So: Reach out. Be there. Show up. Hug. Cry. Laugh. Cheer. Love hard. Value others. Reach across unnecessary lines and labels. Be Jesus. 

Jesus, the Friend Who Never Leaves

You will never know how much it means to you that Jesus will never leave until someone you love leaves you.

There is no One like Him, and never will be. The Faithful Friend Who left everything easy to bear your pain so there would be a peaceful morning and a shimmering Forever.

The Brother Who adopted you into an inheritance you didn’t deserve or expect, Who joyfully pulls you in, Who calls you “Brother/Sister” “Beloved”, Who longs for you to sit next to Him at the table, at the grand Wedding Feast. Who has promised never to fail you.

Every single page of the Bible speaks of the lengths that He will go to to tell His people how deeply He loves them, and how He will never ever let them go. The ultimate Friend who dropped everything to rescue you from the night. The King turned Servant.

It has been one of my deepest consolations this year that when “good” relationships fail and fall apart because of our broken world; Jesus is immune to that. Jesus is not human: Jesus will never break His promise to us, Jesus will always stay, will always love.

Jesus bore all the pain of those relationships in His agonizing hours upon the cross, and when He said “It is Finished”, He proclaimed victory over that agonizing, crushing pain of love lost. Victory over torn-apart families, severed marriages, and broken hearts.

The empty tomb shouts of a victory that we cannot see fully yet, but are promised. 

The pain will end, and we will joyfully rejoice and celebrate with all Who have been redeemed by the same love that covers us all. We will live fully healed in a world that will have no sin left to break hearts and relationships. We shall sing of the ways He has redeemed the pain and hurt.

We shall shine with the radiance of the One Who loves us so unbelievably well. We will rejoice in the relationship that healed all our sin, brokenness and agony in one Day.

Jesus, the Friend Who Never Leaves. Jesus, the One Who binds us together in love.

I choose deep relationships and sacrificial love because it’s how I know how to be Jesus. 

And it’s worth it.

{amazing image by Shannon Ashley Photography}

Home & Hope: Words from Dunkirk

Tonight my Dad and I went to see Dunkirk in theaters. I’d been giddily anticipating its release since I first heard of its making, and since my favorite movies are war movies, I also anticipated that I’d be able to handle it.

I vastly overestimated myself and drastically underestimated how tense I would be for the whole movie. “Zimmer has done it again”, my Daddy whispered under his breath. My good friend sitting next to me laughed as he said: “Never let it be said a soundtrack doesn’t do anything!”. Thanks, Christopher Nolan, for pushing every “feeling” button I had.

The whole movie, you never get a break: you’re in the air, you’re on a ship, you’re surrounded by fire in the oil slick sea, you’re on the beach being picked off by fighter planes, you’re the captains with worry in their eyes, you’re the desperate soldier waiting for a boat, for anything really, to be rescued.

It’s gripping and devastating and with every minute you wonder if you’re still breathing.

Hans Zimmer put a clock into the soundtrack, a deadly undertone hum that instantly speeds up your heart rate and never lets you go in its intensity except for two times:  once in the next to final moment when they are safe, and the one that no one will forget….

The “victory” moment. 

You’ve been listening to roughly an hour and 20 minutes of never-ending, pounding, heart throbbing ticking and watching devastatingly raw footage, and the on-edge string ensemble continues to build and build and scrape and scrape…..at this point you’ve actually started to get upset at yourself for thinking that this movie was going to end happily. Everyone’s dying and so are you.

And then the captain on the pier sees something, and you can instantly tell he’s seen something he thought he’d never see. He asks for binoculars and his second in command asks tenuously: “What is it?” The Captain lowers the binoculars with tears in his eyes and says simply: “Home.”.

You see the fleet of civilian ships coming in. And the music that has been grating and grinding and scraping and building and tearing you into pieces shifts into the most beautiful melody you’ve ever heard. You could feel joy melt into that theater room.

Obviously, I began crying. But not because the ships were coming in. Not because they were rescued. Not because a movie had stirred me or hit me in all the feelings yet again.

In the stunning moment that the Captain saw the ships and said the word “Home”, my heart immediately replied “HOPE”, and as the music shifted from raw pain to astounding beauty, my heart instantly sang: “JESUS.”

“Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. This is you in my night of grief. This is You in all my pain. This is You in every ache of my heart. This is You in my agony. You are my Hope. You are so intensely beautiful and You are my song in the night.”

My Hope in the night. My Hope in my pain. My Hope in my distress. My Hope in my grief.
My Hope in my loss. My Hope in the fiery sea. My Hope amidst despair. My Hope always.

My Hope now and forever. 

The music lifted, swirled and I swear everyone in the theater let out a deep, relieved, too-moved-to-be-cheery sigh and began breathing at the word: “HOME”.

and tears streamed down my face: JESUS. 

Jesus, standing on the shore, calling me in from the stormy sea. Jesus, holding my hand on the rough waters. Jesus, pulling my gaze from the thousands of miles between me and someone I love. Jesus, reminding me I can trust Him with anything, even this. Jesus, holding me tight against His heart and never letting me go.

Jesus, the One in Whom Hope will never die, even when all seems so desperately lost.

The dark night may stretch for hours to months and on to years, but there is hope, there is a light, look up, there He is….parting the waves so the redeemed can cross over.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Home and Hope. 

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, 
the HOPE of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
Who formed the mountains by Your power, having armed yourself with strength,
Who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.

The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades, You call forth songs of joy.” 
– Psalm 65: 5-8

Turning 29, and 3 things I know to be true –

29 years ago in the dark before the dawn of the morning, I was born: a 5lb 12 oz baby girl with bright red carrot hair. I was almost immediately placed in my parents arms, and loved instantly and completely: “It’s a girl! and she has red hair!”.

It’s been a beautiful life so far, and so turning 29 years old today seems like a gift.
A big gift, considering this last year.

Turning 29: it’s not as startling as I thought it would be. It is, after all, just another day.
Birthdays make me introspective. I’ve been thinking deeply about what another day means and looks like, and further, what another year looks like in the season of life I am in right now.

This season is hard and confusing and I feel a tad like a little ship that is adrift on a stormy sea. I need truths to hold tight to, things to dwell on in the middle of the night, to preach to my heart in the dawn of the morning.

So here are 3 core things I know to be true:

 1. He has good for us

This good. It’s not a human good. It’s not a “dream come true” good. It’s a good that surpasses what our human-minds-can-dream-up-good. It’s a “beyond what we could ask or imagine” good. I saw that goodness revealed when I met my brother in law and saw him pursue and love my sister and care for his own little son. It was a “beyond” moment that God fulfilled after years of prayers for my dear sister. We continue to say “Thank God for Ben” continually. This is just one example of the millions of “beyond” good moments we all have, if we just take a moment to look back and dwell on the GOOD God has done.

We are self proclaimed “American Dreamers”. We think we reach a higher pinnacle of dreaming more than any other country and accomplish more. We don’t even hit the bottom of the mark of what God has planned for us; we can’t begin to dream up its beauty.

A few months ago, in a dark season of my soul, I took a piece of chalk and wrote in large letters on a small chalkboard: “He has GOOD for us.”. In the deep pain, in the loss, in the moments when our dreams fall apart and we don’t have exciting ones to fill it….

God’s goodness remains unchanged. And His good for us remains unchanged. 
The GOOD He has planned for us finds its drawing well in His sovereignty.

It may take years of feeling unmoored in a stormy sea, but don’t doubt that His care for you will one day be plain to your eyes, and you will say, “He has GOOD for me.” 

“When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. 
Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.” {Psalm 126:1-3}

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” {Psalm 23:5-6}

2. He is worth following to the ends of the Earth

This year I’ve had months when I’ve been closer to God than I have in the past 10 years, and I’ve also had months when I’ve dragged myself to church and sat in the second row trying not to cry my eyes out Sunday after Sunday because none of it felt real.

And all that it has taught me is that Jesus is worth it. He’s worth it when everything you were dreaming for falls apart, the little boy you love with all your heart is halfway across the world and not in your arms, when your friends lose their children and you have no words. When you stare yourself down and don’t know what to do with your life.

Jesus. Is. Worth. It.

The days when I’ve 100% stepped out into the dark and expected nothing except for God to show up and show me something/anything, He has. He won’t let you fall. He is leading you through the darkness and holding you on the stormy seas and whispering to you in the most beautiful sunset. He is preaching to you in your pain: Trust Me. He can be trusted. He can be trusted with everything you can’t be, and can’t do. He is trustworthy!

The God Who pursues us and is faithful when we are unfaithful is worth following today, tomorrow, next year, every year we have. It’s the only life worth living, one loving Jesus. It is, after all, what we were created for. To know and love the One Who loves us the most.

3. He is perfecting a good work in us

This Sunday I taught my 5th graders about Heaven and as we were reading through Revelation 21, I asked them what they were looking forward to most about Heaven. Without hesitation, my sweet student I’ve known since she was born looked up with shining eyes and said “To not have sin in me anymore!”. She knows. I know. We all know.

The more I live on this earth, and the more I see my sin, the more I long for a sinless heart, a sinless body, a sinless world. Sin has broken our world and it breaks our hearts.

I long for the perfection that I know we were made in. We all ache with our dying world that groans for the Creator to come and redeem it from death as written in Romans 8:19-24.

We will not be perfect or perfectly holy in this life, because that is not possible here, nor is it what our perspective of perfection should drive us to. Trying for perfection ourselves will slowly kill us and kill our worship of our perfect Savior.

Our sin and lack of righteousness now is not meant for us to seek our own perfection (for we could never keep the Law), but to look to the One Who is our righteousness. 

We cannot and could never be what we need most: a Savior who would redeem us.
But Jesus can, and is, and has accomplished for us what we could not: Holiness.

How then could we ever be discouraged that He will bring us to sinlessness at the end of our lifetimes? He will bring us in as He has promised, as the angels sing in welcome, and He will announce to us what we’ve been believing and hoping for all along: Forgiven.

Beloved Bride of Christ. Forgiven. Accepted. Holy. Perfect. Healed. Sinless. Forever.

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you
will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
{Philippians 1:6}

When we look at ourselves, we despair of all the sin we see. Don’t keep your eyes there.
Look up at the cross. Look at the empty grave. Look at the shimmering throne.
Look to Jesus. Know that your sin debt is paid in full and you are gaining a glory better than anything you could have ever dreamed and God is bringing it about in you even now.

And that love and grace and mercy rests upon you NOW. It does not wait until Heaven to be revealed, but is placed upon us as an invisible crown of His love. YOU, His Beloved Bride of Christ. Forgiven. Accepted. Holy. Perfect. Whole. Healed. Sinless. Heirs of glory.

For your 29th year. And for all the days of your life. Forever.

How #Pulse changed my heart overnight towards the LBGTQ Community

On a Sunday morning, June 12, 2016, at just before 2am, Omar Mateen parked his van outside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, walked in, and started shooting. At 2:02am, multiple shots were reported and 911 was called. Over the next 3.5 hours, 49 people would be killed and at least 53 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The shooter would call 911 and pledge allegiance to ISIS, although in later months, the crime has come to be more recognized as a hate crime against the LBGTQ community.

I was awake following every update I could find on Twitter for all heavy three hours until just before 6am when Orlando Police breached a wall with an armored vehicle and took out the shooter.

Sunday was filled with a scarcity of information, as victims filled Orlando hospitals and pictures filled our social media accounts. I remember standing in the kitchen Sunday evening talking with my Mom while I wiped dishes, as tears choked my voice. “How DARE someone think they can walk into our backyard in Orlando and kill our people? That is wrong. How did this happen?”

I spent most of Sunday night researching places to give blood, and got up Monday morning, expecting to see social media flooded with prayers and sad acknowledgements of the #Orlandoshooting, as it was then being tagged.

Only it wasn’t by the majority of my Christian friends. Social media was dead silent, with the exception of a few heroes to the faith like Albert Mohler, Russell Moore and John Piper. No “this is heartbreaking” or “so awful” posts that always followed huge incidents worldwide.
I’d say 95% of my Christian friends on social media had nothing to say. 

It was a cold shock to my system, and rarely have I felt the immediate black and white, night and day, flip of a switch than I did in that moment. Never had it been more clear to me:

How the church was responding to the LBGTQ community wasn’t good enough.
Saying nothing and keeping our distance wasn’t working and probably never did.
Silence doesn’t melt any hearts and certainly didn’t mine. We were failing them.

And I was livid. 

My parents watched me shift from a silent 27 year old on any LBGTQ issue to a vocal, outspoken, rally and memorial attending woman literally overnight. The shift was sudden and shocking, but, quite simply, I wasn’t going to stay silent or still.

Someone representing the Church needed to show up. Now. Something had to be done.

Silence was no longer good enough.

This quote from C.H. Spurgeon spurred me on that awful week after Pulse:
“Do what the Lord bids you, where He bids you, as He bids you, as long as He bids you, and do it at once.” 

Monday morning, I drove down to our hometown’s little One Blood Center to give blood for Orlando. I waited sitting in a cold tiled hallway, clutching my piece of paper and ID, and smiling gently at everyone who came through the door. After an hour, I gradually made it into the center’s office which was so packed we were shoulder to shoulder, where I sat for another few hours, until it was finally my turn after 4.5 hours of waiting.

It was worth every minute of making friends, waiting, praying. I talked and shared with people I’d never met and had nothing in common with, only bonded by our sadness and desire to help in any way we could. A nurse ordered 10 pizzas, so we wouldn’t have people passing out post-donation. About 3pm, one of the nurses got a call from the district One Blood Center that said because of the overwhelming response, Central Florida had fulfilled the need of blood the last 2 days, which is incredible.

I saw Americans refusing to complain, waiting even though they could leave, and a hush falling over the room when the names were read on the TV. It was a sobering reminder of why were were all there: to BE #OrlandoUnited.

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That night, I went to a prayer vigil and walk locally in my little town. I went alone but I saw friends that I’d made at the One Blood Center and at a cleanup on Saturday. I saw the mayor and the police chief, who wrote the coordinator and said “We’re coming and we’re bringing the guys with us.” There were Fire Department, police, SWAT and K-9 so we’d all feel safe. A pastor prayed for us, and we went walking with our candles and carnations.

I was sitting on the bridge barrier and praying after the vigil, watching the sun set into pink, and Donovan walked by. He and his partner had set up tents outside One Blood and  handed out donated cold waters, juice, cookies, protein bars all day long in the heat.

I had met him and talked with him, and then sat for 4.5 hours inside. As I looked up and smiled, he said “I’ve seen you twice today. Thank you so much.”, and as I reached out and hugged him, I told him I was praying for everyone and he thanked me profusely.

Two nights later some friends and I attended the Citywide Prayer Service at First Baptist of Orlando. It was so hard, but good. There were prayers from multiple pastors in Orlando. Corporate worship live streamed on probably every news channel there was with a video camera. We sang “It is Well” with hands upraised. A standing ovation for a guy named Josh who was at Pulse the night of the shooting, who had tears streaming down his face. There was a reading of the 49 names and the chiming of the bell went on far too long for far too many names. The LBGTQ African American lady who works with the group who spoke a few words and when she said “2,000 people have come here tonight…putting aside politics and differences to show support…in a church. In a CHURCH.”, her tears stopped her from continuing to the sound of thundering applause.

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When I got home, I unpinned the purple ribbon on my shirt and put it somewhere safe to remember, and as I did, I wished with all my heart that my gay friends I’d met the day before could have gone to the service that night. And I wished more than I had ever wished that I had more gay friends, so that I could hold them in my arms and tell them that this was wrong, and I was heartbroken for their loss. I prayed that many who watched it live were comforted by the prayers and were uplifted knowing we went just for them, not for us by any means.

I wrote this late that night: “We showed up for you, Pulse families and LBGTQ community. Hear us loud and clear: we are praying for you. Conservative Christians are heartbroken and weeping with you. YOU have great worth in our eyes and in God’s eyes. There is One Who will never leave you or forsake you in your whole life; He longs to make you a part of His family, and until you know it to be true yourself, we will call you family and we will mourn with you. Because #WeareOrlando.”

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In the wake of those hard personal stories, I want to speak to you about a few things….

We are all image bearers of God.

Loving the LBGTQ community should not be a political statement. Long before the LBGTQ community even existed, these words were written in the Bible 11 times: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This doesn’t mean, “love your neighbors unless you’re uncomfortable with how they live their lives, then shun them completely”. No.

“…if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” {Romans 13:9b-10}

The Bible says “Love your neighbor as yourself.”. Period.

We really love ourselves a lot. And we’ve done a really bad job of being Jesus to a community that, a year ago, was being killed because they weren’t straight.

The shooter killed them because he believed something terribly false about them: that they shouldn’t matter enough to live. As Christians, we believe that ALL are image bearers of God. ALL matter. ALL have great worth. The shooter was wrong.

Although perhaps not all our brothers and sisters in Christ, they were still image bearers of God and deeply important to God. No life is worthless to our Creator God.

I told my Mom that week “It could’ve been me. In that club. It could’ve been me.”. Although I don’t spend many nights at clubs, I have on occasion been to one or two for a concert and I have friends who play late into the night in pubs or halls, but on an even deeper level than that, I saw myself in the victims, and my heart broke for their families.

They were sinners. But so am I. Their sin runs deep. So does mine. Simply: it could have been me.

We are called to stand in the gap.

Church, don’t let politics steal from you what God has called you to do: Love like Jesus.
Likewise don’t confuse standing for your faith with shunning the community that needs to hear that faith from a heart that will show up on the hard days and mourn with them.

Showing up at those memorials was not a political statement, nor are these words you are reading. It was a statement that said: “I will stand and mourn with you. I’m sad someone came and killed your friends. I hate that this happened. And as Christians, we are going to stand in the gap and protect you if someone ever pulls a gun. We are going to lay down our lives for you because that’s what Jesus did for us. What He did for you. We won’t stand for violence against image bearers of God.”

I loved this quote: “You have never looked into the eyes of someone who was not deeply loved by God.” and as I spent that week with people of the LBGTQ community, I knew it to be true. I felt overwhelmed with a fierce protective love. I’d take a bullet for any of them.

Not because we were the same gender or race, but because laying down your life for others is a calling placed upon us by the God who made them and who made me. (John 15:12-13, 17) At the time, we expected that this would be the start of many terrorist attacks in our neighboring city of Orlando, and this became the fundamental cry to many of my prayers for our neighbors.

We had nothing to lose, they had everything to gain: Jesus.

We are called to stand in the gap. We are called to die for others if need be.
We are called to sacrificial love, exemplified by a Savior Who died for sinners. 

We know the answer to the question being asked.

We are all searching for something. We are all looking for our life’s greatest fulfillment, whether we label it our identity or dream or purpose. But we have been given the answer to the secret yearnings of every soul on this planet. And we know it every day when we walk out the door. We know it every time we see a Pulse sticker or tattoo and have an opportunity. We know it with every prayer we offer up for our LBGTQ communities. As I urged last year, please don’t let this great opportunity go. Love instead.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus {John 10:10}

Church, WE KNOW Who saves the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, we know Who gives life, we know Who is God and Who reigns over our world, we know the answer to the cry of every lost soul and every heart longing for love and His name is JESUS.

Don’t stay silent. Proclaim it. 

Five Ways to Make it Through the Darkness

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing this. Not even a few weeks ago. I’m glad I am. I’m glad I have the space to be open, and I’m glad knowing I’m not alone in this. This is a hard and deep post, and I won’t tie it up in a tidy little box for you or for me.

Within the past month, within two weeks of each other, dear friends and acquaintances of mine have lost their sons. First, it was our dear friends losing their 24 year old son very suddenly. Then 2 weeks later, our friends lost their 3 month old grandson and nephew within 48 hours after finding him unconscious during a nap.

It’s been a heavy and hard year and a half, and I’ve undergone many “why” moments in that time, but I never thought it’d be 2nd hand grief that would completely break me.

I sat at that first funeral of the month, staring at what seemed like the hundredth wooden casket, looked over to my weeping friends, and back to the casket, and it was then that something incredibly thin snapped inside me. 

Tears streamed down my cheeks as my heart cried out these eight words to God:
“I don’t know how to do this anymore.”

*THIS* was life. *THIS* was death. This. I don’t know how to live this anymore.

I wasn’t grieving for me, but I was grieving. I barely made it through the next week and a half, crying in the night, weeping in prayer, begging for comfort and mercies for my friends, and leaving myself quite out of the healing process that should accompany grief.

Only I wasn’t out of it. I was in it. In it and utterly unable to remove myself from it.

I went to a baseball game with my friend at the end of that unbearable week(s), only to have my friends lose their little 3 month old baby boy the very next morning.

I drove 7 hours to comfort my friends with hugs and tears, and no words; truly, there are no words in this kind of loss and pain. The wind fluttered pictures of his sweet life of 3 months that were hung up around the chairs of those who had gathered to celebrate his life. Onesies he would never wear again danced in the breeze; worship songs rang with hope we would not let go of. A monsoon sized storm darkened the skies and fittingly as we left it opened up and drenched the grass that held our tears.

So much deep loss, so much clinging to Jesus, so much pain, so much hurt, so much sorrow….the darkness has been deep and inescapable, and I recognize my footsteps in the valley that I’ve walked many times before. The days the darkness will not lift are the days you need Jesus the most, and yet I’ve been without a way to put words to the night.

Today was the first day in a month where I woke up and didn’t feel like I was dying. 
Unable to write or work or share my heart without bawling, today was the first day I didn’t feel like a hypocrite to share 5 ways to make it through the darkness.

So here we go:

#1. Stay in the Word however you can

Listen, I’m not here to tell you that every day you need to stick to a strict schedule of memorize the entire book of Psalms, but I am telling you that you need to stick to a committed schedule of, at the very least, opening the Bible once a day.

Why? Because when you’re dying, you need life. 

You aren’t going to gain LIFE back into your soul faster than dwelling on the words of God, Who is the fullness of Life. You need this more than air, more than water and food.

I’m calling you to dwell, not conquer. Often it’s the same verse for days. Over and over and over again, hundreds of times. Find what comforts, find what pierces, and dwell.

You are in pain, don’t deny yourself the medicine you need.

#2. Preach the Truth to your soul

You are in a battle between what you FEEL and what you KNOW. Constantly trusting either truth about the God you believe or what you see around you right now. When you’re surrounded in darkness and can’t see a way out or any glimmers of light, preach to your soul that there is a God Who loves you and is with you in the darkness.

The darkness might feel like the most pointless holding pattern and an empty desert that isn’t producing the fruit you feel like waiting should produce, and it might feel like a million losses that have piled up that are crushing you. You need something to hold onto. 

Make it Jesus. 

In the night, in the day, in the weeping, in the laughter, in the sorrow, in the loss. Come what may…..remind yourself that there is an answer to your pain, and it isn’t anything this earth can give you. It’s the One Who is trustworthy, the One Who is sovereign.

Don’t ground yourself in something that will not hold you forever secure. It will not comfort. C.S. Lewis writes this: “To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?” 

We are not strong enough to lift the darkness or tear the veil. Jesus is. Preach it to your soul.

#3. Reach out with both hands

Yesterday I shared openly and honestly with two dear friends and mentors about how everything seems completely overwhelming and I can’t do it anymore. Within a half hour, I was beating myself up for sharing my heart. Don’t do that. Reach out with both hands.

Text your friends. Be honest. Be specific. Be raw. Ask for prayer. Ask for lots of prayer. Ask for prayer that won’t have a tidy bow in a week and let them know that.

Let your community know your hurts and the darkness you see. There won’t be a lot that will be able to handle it without wanting to fix it, but there will be a few. They may be scattered in different places, but reach out and let them minister to you in this season.

Don’t weep alone when we’re called to weep together. Do not feel as though you must fix it before you share, because you can’t fix it, and neither can they. Only Jesus can.

On a practical note, realize that there WILL be something in the dark that brings joy. If it’s hymns/worship music, play those on repeat, if it’s being outdoors, go. If it’s the ocean: get there as often as you can, if it’s mountains: hike, if it’s creating beauty by hand on a rainy day, create. Find what heals, and DO IT. You are worth the healing. Reach for it.DCIM100GOPRO

#4. Don’t let go of Hope

Ohh, this one. Could there be something else so vital to life besides hope? I’m not sure there is. Don’t let go of Hope, no matter what you do. Don’t let yourself let go.

The Hope we have been given is an everlasting, never changing, never failing hope.
It lives in Jesus and His triumph over sin and death. It’s the hardest thing to do when you feel like you’re drowning in the dark, but there IS hope. There is always, always, always hope, because Jesus lives and reigns. Hope is alive even when you are hidden in the darkness and cannot see it.

Do not depend on your finite vision when you trust an infinite
and sovereign God with a Hope that will not be taken away from you. 

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” – Psalm 39:7

“For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” – Psalm 38:15

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” – Psalm 16:1

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” – Psalm 42:5

“For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” – Psalm 71:5

“Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” – Psalm 119:116

“I rise before the dawning of the morning and cry for help; I hope in Your word.” – Psalm 119:147

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” – Psalm 130:5

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the
presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
– 1 Thess. 2:19

#5. Trust the One Who brings light out of darkness

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” – Psalm 139:11-12

Once upon a time, the God Who made everything created light out of darkness. He spoke light into being: “Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.” {Genesis 1:3}

When sin brought darkness, He sent His Son to permanently shatter the darkness by His presence: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat
in the region and shadow of death LIGHT has dawned.” {Matthew 4:16} and “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” {Luke 1:79}

This is the same God Who is with you in your darkness. Do not equate the darkness with His absence. He is present. He has promised never to leave you and has given you the Holy Spirit as a promise. You are not alone. You never were. He is with you always.

The darkness cannot cover His light. The darkness cannot fully triumph where the Holy Spirit reigns. Yes, you may see it and feel it, but trust that the One Who has conquered this darkness once and for all LIVES IN YOU and has defeated that darkness already for you. Look to the sunshine of His countenance and trust that one day, that light will again dawn upon your face. Indeed, it shines in you even now, albeit weakly on hard days.

“He knows what is in the darkness and light dwells with Him.” – Daniel 2:22

“When I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” – Micah 7:8

“Be of GOOD COURAGE, and He shall strengthen your heart, all You who hope in the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24View More: http://shannonashleyphotography.pass.us/wetlands-shoot

“O for grace to lay down all my dreams in Him be found,
O for faith to keep it true and never stop believing You,
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.

And oh for love to trust some more, to fix my eyes on Heaven’s shore,
and for hope with every step, every word, my every breath,
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.

For Your life, I lose my home,’cause I’m not staying here, I’m moving on,
so give me strength to hold on tight through stormy gales ’till morning light.
And when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh, when it’s strong or when it falls through,

When it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know the answer is You.
Oh when it’s strong or when it falls through,
Oh Lord to know my answer is You.”
– Brady Toops (2017)