Beauty in the Brokenness (A Beautiful Life: Week 3)

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WEEK 1 – INTRODUCTION

WEEK 2 – DANCING AMID DISASTER

ALLISON
Say hello to my friend Allison. (Hi, Allison!) I asked her to send me whatever pic she wanted to accompany her introduction, but truth be told, I squealed with delight when she sent this one because it’s my most favorite ever. This picture — this is the picture where there’s hope behind her eyes and a little bit more ease in her smile and if you look closely, it’s almost as if there is a sweet relief of a recent exhale in her expression. I don’t know if taking the picture resembled anything like what I see — but it’s a message, I believe, from God right to her. 
 
Allison & I attended the same church in Atlanta, and while we knew each other, we weren’t close. Then I moved to the mountains and suddenly that changed. I don’t remember how it happened — I just know that it did (thank you Jesus) — and now it feels like I’ve known her forever because I can’t remember what it was like before I called her friend.
 
Allison loves her family and her Jesus and can’t do life without them. She identifies with the weary warriors in life and writes to give others comfort and hope that they are not alone. Her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury over 8 years ago, and she’s chronicled her families’ journey ever since over at www.dannyandallison.com. And she over-shares (her words, not mine) more personally at www.allisonmdiaz.com for her fellow comrades in the battles through life

It is never beautiful to find yourself unexpectedly standing at the end of a hospital bed. Your husband of almost four years lies there comatose and brain injured while his son is kept safely tucked under rib number 3 in your belly.

Yet, this was the beginning of a path, a journey that started with 80 feet and now holds more than eight years of endurance.

Ours is certainly not a path worth choosing, though I imagine the same can be said for many who find themselves living life on the parallel.

Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on Him completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions.Give Him the credit for everything you accomplish, and He will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead. (Proverbs 3:5-6, Voice)

But, Friends, there is everlasting value in the suffering. There is comfort during the grief and there is a stretching of faith in the grasping of hope.

DANNY&ALLI

He wakes me every night for help.

He leans on me to stand strong.

He calls me to be his hands, his mind, and his memory.

He relies on me to guide him.

He hopes in me for strength.

And, it is often too much for one person to bear.

The pulling, the leaning, the calling, being everything to even but one, is an understatement of challenge.

And, I think of Him, of Jesus, who came to be pulled, to serve, to love, to save, to die, to be everything for all and I am greatly humbled.

As I kneel at my husband’s feet each night to remove his shoes, my Savior postured himself a servant to the ones he loved.

Am I not called to do the same?

Am I not called to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Am I not to love as He loves me?

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21)

Oh, but, a bounty of joy can escape your view because of the clouds of loss.

I am not Jesus.

I am flawed and imperfect every moment of my wrestling. Yet, in my full blown weakness, I know that His strength is then revealed.

Sometimes the most terrifying test can bring about the most beautiful masterpiece. (click to tweet that)

Oh, Friends, life can be hard. Life can feel like a box of only black Crayolas, but He is oh so present in the darkest of places. He comes like whisper on the breath of your faith and he draws into you, covering and protecting you under his wing. He is the One whose joy, whose assurance of life abundantly comes storming mightily in to your brokenness.

You may find yourself on a path that is bleak and seemingly hopeless. You may find yourself in a wilderness of monotony, but I promise you, He promises you, that He will uphold you in his right hand. He promises to carry you through it. He promises to love, to cherish, and to keep you.

The God of Universe is the God of your circumstances. The same Father that sacrificed his Son for you, will sacrifice your planned path for His glory, to share in His suffering to make His name known to the masses.

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And, as I care for my husband, serving him and meeting his needs, I wonder are we not also called to serve those, to love those who know not of Him? Oh, Friends, understand that the greatest beauty is found in Jesus, the Way and in Jesus, the Life.

Bend then to the Truth and hold fast to the knowledge that one day this possibly tragic path of life will lead to the face of God.

And, it’s there at His feet, we can stand knowing that in all things we kept the faith, we finished the race and have found beauty everlasting.

I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing. (2 Timothy 4:7)

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Additional Resources: Looking for some tools to help? Check these out!

1. Glorifying God Through the Obstacles in Marriage. This is a 2-part broadcast from Focus on the Family with Mike and Renee Bondi, and how they found beauty in the midst of physical tragedy, celebrating 25 years of marriage.

2. BrainLine.org. Wonderful website dedicating to preventing, treating and living with traumatic brain injury.

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)
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Dancing Amid Disaster (A Beautiful Life: Week 2)

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To read last week’s introduction, click here.

MISSY

I’m so excited to introduce you to Missy! We first became friends through the power of the blogosphere, and when we met in person at Allume this year, it was more than obvious we were sisters from another mister. My goodness, we’re practically the same person — down to realizing we’re even sorority sisters! Laughter is her spiritual gift (one of her many, many gifts) and she blesses me to no end with it. 

Missy writes anonymously at www.missindeedy.com. She longs to get it right, but often gets it wrong (her words, not mine!). The mishaps are a’plenty, but there is grace galore. She’s wife to one, a mama to two, and likes to write words. But above all, she’ll tell you that she’s saved by grace and strives to remember that mishap by mishap. Oh, yes indeedy!

We love to dance in our house. We love to crank up the music really loud and go all dance-crazy! This fun activity has proven to be quite the stress reliever and family bonder. We’ve even discovered that the pace of our dancing has a pattern: the more challenges adventures that our family is experiencing, the slower we like to dance; and the more relaxed our family life is, the wilder our dancing becomes. It’s almost like the calm brings on The Carefree!

Lately, though, we’ve been experiencing a budget crisis in our home. And this stilted our dance parties.

A huge lack was suddenly present when, with little warning, we were forced to work with roughly one-third of the previous monthly budget amounts. I found myself in the middle of a financial disaster as I scrambled to relearn words like “budget” and “delayed gratification”. Readjusting our outgoing to more responsibly match our incoming revealed a lack, alright, but not really in our budget…it was in my heart.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also be.” (Matthew 6:21)

I first realized that my idea of treasure needed some major rethinking while standing right in the milk aisle of the grocery store. Because our cost-cutting measures involved a very tight meal plan with no deviations, we were trying to limit the number of times we visited the grocery store to once a week. The need for a quick stop to pick up what we honestly needed to finish out a week of meals, provided a jolt to my mindset. That few dollars left in my purse for the remainder of the week was a stark reminder that there was no room for frivolous “just because” purchases.  “Is your treasure in the Oreo aisle, Missy? Or is it with the knowledge that I will feed you all you need?”, I heard God whisper to me.

My eyes were opened, yet again, in the middle of the mundane of my typical daily errands. Driving through town became painful, as I passed shop upon store upon restaurant that I used to frequent without thought to “what was in MY wallet”. Once I began sorting through my emotions relating to the “treasure” I missed having the freedom to buy, I realized that my daily routines demonstrated a complete disregard for The One who provided it all. And I began to see that I was counting on what was in those stores to fill an emptiness that was in me.

And then, there were my pants.  Our budget wasn’t the only thing that was tightening! My pants were getting tighter, too. Those pants of mine seemed to be trying to tell me that I’ve been feeding the wrong hunger.  With less money to carelessly throw on a muffin “to go with that coffee”, I miraculously found extra room in the budget and in my pants! They became a literal reminder that being bound up in debt can result in other, physical and mental, kinds of binding, too.

But, the turning point came when I was on the verge of lying. I found myself engaged in a discussion with other parents at the bus stop about the coming school vacation. Everyone was sharing the exotic locales they’d be visiting or the hot-chocolate laden snow-skiing trips they would be on. The conversation left me waffling between trying to make our pending “staycation” sound glamorous and fudging the truth. “Do you treasure the opinion of these people so much that you would lie?” I heard God pointedly asking me.

It was then, that I began to grasp that what I really needed wasn’t another trip to this or that place, a meal from such-and-such restaurant, or even a new pair of pants to match “that shirt” for that special event. My need wasn’t in the threading that covered my heart, but within my very heart, itself.

At that point, I looked into the eyes of The One who gives me All Things tearfully asked His forgiveness.  I laid my head on His shoulder and entered into a slow dance of rediscovering the treasure, from Him, that I desperately needed to begin storing up in my heart again.

Treasure like:

His promise to place a new song in my mouth. (Psalm 40:3)

His reminder that He will provide “pleasures never-ending” if we will but walk (and I’d add, dance) with Him. (Psalm 16:11)

His reassurance that He is aware of my every earthly need. (Matthew 6:31,32)

I wanted my heart to rest, again, in the truth that God will provide all that I need. And that realization brought on a desire to turn that slow dance, with Him, into a jig.

Not only because my heart began to sing for the newfound understanding of what had been missing, but because joy had been restored. The joy that comes from knowing that Jehovah Jireh, who knows everything I need and considers me far more valuable than the sparrows in the sky, will indeed provide.

In fact, as I began to consider this Truth more and more, and desire what was inside one of those stores less and less, I realized that He already has. God truly has uncovered my lack and filled it with His best, just as He promised. (Click to tweet that)

“You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing; You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light.” (Psalm 30:11)

That calls for some dancing.

Don’t you think?

Additional Resources: Looking for some tools to help? Check these out!

1. Who is Jehovah Jirah? A deeper look into this name of God meaning “God is my provider.”

2. Tools for Getting Financially Fit. Resources from the infamous Dave Ramsey on getting yourself financially healthy.

3. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. One of the greatest ways to intensely get out of debt!

4. Cheaper, Better, Faster: Over 2,000 Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day by Mary Hunt. Come on, who doesn’t need this??

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)

She (FMF #45)

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing can buy.

Today’s topic: SHE

WOMAN-SUNSET-SILHOUETTE

GO.

She haunts me at times.

Those times when I’ve fallen or am crawling or have done the things I don’t want to do and haven’t done the things I want to do…those are the times she haunts me.

I see her gliding by on waves of grace, unencumbered by her flaws and failures, her sin and pain. Her chin is high and her eyes are bright and she seems very content just being who she is.

She haunts me.

I watch her with envy and longing and awe, really — it’s her confidence and peace that sometimes seems so unattainable. It lights from the inside out, like a refuge on a dark night or a beacon to a weary traveler.

I am a weary traveler.

Those times when I’ve fallen or am crawling or have done the things I don’t want to do and haven’t done the things I want to do…those are the times she walks by slowly and purposefully and looks into my face deeply, as if she’s trying to pass along her confidence and peace; as if she’s trying to make me shine from the inside out, too.

And those are the times she suddenly changes. Instead of being one who haunts me, she becomes a beacon of hope. She is the image, the eikon of Christ. The one who I am again and again and again being transformed into.

She is who He is trying to make me to be.

And so this weary traveler picks herself up and shakes the dust of her feet and carries on. Her gait is awkward and she’s weighed down with her flaws and failures, but she decides to burn her yokes and moves forward anyway.

And each time her eyes brighten just enough to light the way for the next step of the journey.

STOP.

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Losing (Thanksday #83)

I know someone who was 22 weeks pregnant with twin girls this week. And her health had been deteriorating, and just yesterday the doctors determined they had to deliver the babies in order to save her. And the girls were born and then went to sit in Jesus’ lap and wait for their parents to greet them in eternity.

My friend posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

[The girls] passed through this world on their way to heaven today. They are now in the everlasting tender loving care of our Father God and his mighty son Jesus Christ. We cannot wait until the day that we will meet [them] again. We have no regrets: we enjoyed getting to know them these past weeks and during our very precious goodbye time; we will never forget them. Please, we beg you, if you would like to have a glimpse of the peace and love that we have felt during this time, and still feel do this very minute, lay your burdens at the foot of the cross and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.”

And after reading that, any needs or wants or requests that I have suddenly seem so insignificant. I imagine God is beside Himself with pride in her and her husband. Knowing that despite the greatest loss a parent can experience, their faith is unshaken and unwavering, and that still their greatest hope would be that others know The One who gives that kind of peace.

I’ve experienced this — not a loss as great as they are now walking — but those moments when your faith is shaken and the foundation that once seemed so sure is broken in two. Those moments when the pain and grief sucker punch you and leave you breathless and your knees give away and all you can do is crumble to the floor in a heap of devastation.

But the thing I learned in those moments, laying on the floor in a crumbled heap, is that while I question and cry and shake my fist at a Most Holy God…I still believe. I still trust. I still have faith. And sometimes, when disaster strikes, it’s not to show God how strong our faith is, but to show ourselves. For we never know how sure our own foundation is until it’s broken in two. And then when we stand, each foot on a separate piece of uneven ground, we know that we know that we know that despite it all, yet will I praise Him.

I wonder if my friend is experiencing this today — this I-can’t-explain-it-I-just-still-love-Him feeling? I pray that today, the day after a loss only God Himself can identify with, that in the midst of grief and pain, she will be able to stand with assurance that though she be slain, yet will her mouth ring praises to the King.

I’m thankful for her post yesterday. I’m thankful for her faith. I’m thankful for her reminder that everything that hope grows strongest in the broken places and to never take our eyes off of Jesus.

What are you thankful for today?