Redemption

The following is from Kelly’s heart. Not on behalf of Sufficient Grace.

I can tell this will be one of those nights when sleep eludes me. Words, begging for release, like they do.

I’m not sure where to begin these ramblings from my depths.

There is a woman, quite dear to me, who no longer lives earthside, but has made her home in heaven. For her, all has been redeemed. Which makes my own wrestlings regarding her life and the sorting through of my thoughts on the matter seem rather futile. Except…the thing about complete redemption… It is not so this side of heaven. We still ache for full redemption in our broken state, for the day when our Savior returns to make all the wrongs right, once and for all. How it must grieve His heart, the damaged state of our current dwelling place.

Her body lies in the ground, but her soul lives. This woman who is dear to me.

When she walked on planet earth, she was never loved as she deserved. Not once. She didn’t even love herself the way a woman of her stature ought. For she carried more grit and grace in her pinky than most people do in their entire being. She just didn’t know it. She didn’t see herself the way He saw her. If she did…if she knew her worth was of far more value than rubies, life would’ve been different.

What she didn’t know, was that it was a man’s job to protect her, to love her, to treasure her. She learned a different lesson from the women she knew. And, some of the men. The men who gave her their names during various seasons of her life didn’t behave worthy of being called her blanket of protection. In many ways, they weren’t.

So, the dilemma in my wrestling is this. I know that all the broken that occurred this side of heaven has been redeemed for her on the other side, where she now lives. She is covered in the blanket of the love of Jesus, clean and set free from everything that entangled her and held her back in this life. She is all that He created her to be…and she knows…deep in her deepest depths that she is lovvvved….loved like we have never known this side of heaven. Every wrong has been made right.

So…why…why do I still long to give her back her name? To take a piece of the land back for her? Pieces that were stolen. What does that say about my heart thumping and stumbling along earthside, trying to shake off the broken and longing…always longing for redemption…even as we drink in grace?

Redemption is an interesting craving. And, I’ve been mulling it’s inner parts…the longing desire we have within us…for rightness and justice. For brokenness to find restoration.

I tend to be drawn to the broken hearts and people, seeing…always seeing…the redeemable qualities in another. (Well…almost always.)

Recently, my “therapist-ish” friend asked me about the attraction and fierce love I feel toward broken people as we sorted through my inner pieces.

She said, “Are you trying to fix them?”

“No,” I replied, “I can see the beauty…the good in them. I can see the redeeming qualities. And, I want the good to win.”

I want the person I see and love to see and love themselves…to know their own redeemable qualities, the ones God sees, the things in them Jesus saw when He laid down His life on the cross…to redeem every broken place inside every mess of a person.

I want to see redemption in the souls of those I love. Of those around me. I want to reflect back to them, like a mirror, shining light on their best side…on the potential I see in them. I want them to lift their heads and hope.

I want them to look to Jesus to be their Redeemer, for He is the only worthy one who can.

And, even still…I long to give that woman back her name. At least this side of heaven. In eternity, it likely won’t matter so much.

The One Who Restores

I stood on the steps, waiting to meet them.

I don’t usually drive to the house of strangers, to meet with a family in person. But, I immediately felt compelled to do so when I read Kaila’s email requesting Dreams of You items for their baby Sam. Kaila and her husband lived only 40 minutes away. So, the next day, after exchanging emails and settling on a time, I packed a gown, bracelets for a baby boy, a Comfort Bear, a Dreams of You Memory Book, and some other resources and made the drive.

I didn’t have any reservations about the meeting until I stood on the steps, wondering how I would be received. They greeted me at the door, with warm eyes and a kind smile.

We sat at their kitchen breakfast bar, and the words flowed quickly and easily, as we talked about their journey so far, carrying their son to term, despite the possible fatal diagnosis. Her husband joined us, and also shared his perspective with openness. It was refreshing to hear their honesty. The love they shared for one another and for their son was unmistakable and captivating. They were wonderful parents to sweet Sam, still in his mother’s womb, but dearly loved. Sam’s daddy read him stories each night, making memories during this precious time….soaking in the gifts of right now. I believe it was helpful to them to be able to talk to someone who walked this path. I learned that they were blessed with a beautiful church family, and had just had a type of prayer shower, where they were given gifts to honor the life of baby Sam, still yet to be born. They showed me some of the gifts. It was encouraging to know they had such a support system and a foundation of faith.

Hours passed, as I sat in their kitchen, as if we were old friends.

I thought of how amazing it is, encounters with other souls, the knitting together of hearts that God performs. We may just have these brief moments to brush past another in this life. How often do we make those moments count? Or rather, allow Him to make us a vessel of His love and truth. It’s so simple. He just asks us to go. It can happen sitting at kitchen tables or while pushing our children on a swing at the park, or sitting at a picnic table on the 4th of July, standing in the grocery store, or watching a baseball game. Encounters. Moments when life and the craziness of it seems to stop and the connecting of two lives, mystically takes place. If we’re looking, we can see the preciousness of it. We can feel the imprint on our hearts, allowing the encounter with someone else to mold us a bit. Allowing God to work.

I listened, and shared. The hours passed. But, it seemed like minutes.

Then Sam’s mama told me a bit about her childhood, inspiring me with a tale of the One who Restores. The Restorer of my soul. And, yours, if you let Him in.

She told me of needing to know the phone numbers of all the local bars growing up, in order to find her parents because they battled alcoholism. This brave, beautiful mother, choosing life for her son, clinging to faith told me of going to college and becoming a scientist. She mentioned how few scientists believe in what they do not see. Few believe in the One Who Restores…the One Who Saves. She agreed with them, for the most part, denying God for a time.

Until…

One day, her father went to church. He was inspired to accept Jesus as His Savior, and to give up alcohol. Kaila didn’t believe him at first. But, then she saw the changes in her father. She saw that he meant what he said. He passionately followed Jesus, and stopped drinking. A few months later, her mother followed suit. Delivered and saved, both of them, miraculously and completely by the One Who Restores. Today, they have a ministry for others who have battled the destructiveness of addiction.

Well, even a scientist couldn’t deny God’s existence and power after that. I suppose sometimes if we’re determined to only believe what we see, He will just show us then. He will meet us where we are, and He will never give up. Our God is that big. And, His love that fierce for us.

Her parents’ salvation led to her salvation. God knew what she was about to face. He knew, years later, she would be mother to Sam. He even knew that I would one day sit in her kitchen and hear the amazing tale of how she became His.

He knew I would be encouraged and reminded how much He delights in “restoring the years the locusts have eaten”.

Then I did something else I don’t usually do.

I never used to be a hugger. My family didn’t hug a lot. While that’s changing, I still don’t randomly impose hugs or the touching of a pregnant mom’s belly to people I don’t know. But, as our time was wrapping up, I felt a tug on my heart to lay hands on Kaila’s tummy and pray for baby Samuel. I kept trying to shrug it off, but the prompting continued. So, as I stood to leave, I asked the strange request. I was grateful that they welcomed my prayer and even the touching of the belly without any discomfort or awkwardness. What a privilege, I thought as I left, to have heard the amazing story of restoration and salvation, and to have prayed over baby Samuel during his time on this earth. A privilege I am allowed, in part, because I am the mother of Faith, Grace, and Thomas.

Samuel was born on April 30, 2012, and lived on this earth for 30 minutes before going home to heaven. I’m so grateful to have met his sweet family, and blessed to have heard a piece of their amazing story. Please keep them in your prayers.

 

Our Trip to the Creation Museum ~ A Good Friday Indeed

*If you haven’t watched our Grace for Today television appearance, please click here to read the post and watch the video.

On Good Friday, My youngest son James and I went to the Creation Museum, just south of Cincinnati, in Petersburg Kenntucky. It was a beautiful, sunny day…an uncharacteristically warm eighty degrees. The “Tims” had to work, so it was just the two of us. Usually, I spend Good Friday reading the gospel account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, watching a Passion play, re-watching The Passion…or something to reflect on His sacrifice and what it means to my life. I was wondering how a visit to the Creation Museum would tie in with that, but I would soon find out. Since our church was going as a group and we were getting discounted tickets, it was too good of an opportunity to pass it up.

So, we packed some snacks and hopped into my friend Susan’s Suburban early Friday morning, as the sun was still awakening. With the sound of three Nintendo DS’s in the background, we chatted away, looking forward to the adventure awaiting us.

(Thank you, Susan, for driving us…you know I don’t like those crazy four lane highways!)

We were welcomed by a giant dinosaur at the entrance…a promise of things to come. Oh…the anticipation. I love adventures like this. What does God have in store for us?

Upon our arrival, we were told that the cost for the tickets, was paid in full, due to the generosity of another church/pastor that wanted to bless our church family. We didn’t have to pay one penny to enter the museum! We were promptly handed a pass that meant we didn’t have to stand in line, and we were given a ticket to the planetarium, as well. I have a name for moments like this: It was a “Daddy’s Little Girl Moment”. They are sweet moments of blessing when you just feel God’s love shining down on you…when you know that He sees you, loves you, and just wants to bless His precious daughter. You feel like “Daddy’s little girl”. At least, that’s how I feel when that happens.

Paid in full…

The message was not lost on me. He whispered to my heart, “Your debt was paid in full.” I smiled…That’s what my Jesus did for me on that Good Friday so many years ago. He paid my sin debt…in full.

It was a day filled with the glory and splendor of God’s creation…



Viewed through child-like eyes of wonder…

Fun moments of little-boy silliness…




And moments of little-boy sweetness…



A little more silliness…

Being still…

…and knowing He is God…



The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
~ Genesis 2:7

James probably watched the video shown in the above photos five times…in awe of the miracle of God making Adam from dust and breathing the breath of life into him.

A Garden of Paradise, made by a loving Creator…where every living thing dwelled in harmony with one another…

And then…the serpent…hanging from the tree…

The fruit…the lies…temptation…disobedience…sin…the fall…

The result…

Death…grief…broken fellowship with God…guilt…disease…pain…hard work…broken relationships…

None of it existed before sin…oh the cost…

It was no longer the world God made for us…No longer what our loving Father intended for His creation…

How it broke my heart to see what God intended for us…to feel His love in beholding the creation, and then to see the effects of the ugliness of sin on the beautiful world He made…

But in His love and mercy…even in our disobedience…He made a way for redemption…

We chose the ugliness of sin…while in the midst of paradise…

He gave His Son…so that we may know Paradise eternally with Him…so that we may be restored in our brokenness, healed from our disease, freed and forgiven from the bondage of sin, so that our grief may be turned to joy…

Behold…the empty tomb…

Evidence of His everlasting love…

It was a Good Friday, indeed…especially when we know…that Sunday’s coming…

Not Really One for Resolutions…

I’m not really one to make resolutions. For one thing, I don’t put a lot of faith in the human will, especially my own. Since most things I attempt in my own power fall hopelessly flat, I think there’s evidence to support my theory. It’s interesting to note, however, that a life-altering event occurred fifteen years ago, on January 1, 1995.

Not long before that day, I sat crying on my knees in our little one bedroom apartment while our oldest son, not yet one-year-old at the time, bounced in his crib without a care. I, on the other hand, felt the weight of the world on my young shoulders. I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being a young wife and mother. It was something I knew I could never do on my own. I felt the void of what Billy Graham calls a “God-sized hole” in my heart with an intensity that drove me to my knees and pierced my soul. I knew that I had tried life on my own for awhile and was falling hopelessly short. That day, it was abundantly clear that I needed a Savior. On my face, I confessed my need. The hopelessness fell in cleansing tears as I gave my life to Jesus on the floor of that one bedroom apartment. When I stood, there was hope for the first time in a long time. The first steps I took as a new creation were with a renewed sense of purpose. Of course, I had no idea what life would hold for us, or the incredible journey we would be asked to walk in the coming years. All I knew was that we no longer walked this path alone.

Knowing what I know now, I cannot imagine the life we would have had if that day hadn’t occurred…if I hadn’t been rescued by my Savior. It would have meant certain destruction for our little family, and who knows what else. I shudder to think of it. This isn’t a path I would want to walk without Him.

So, back to January 1, 1995. The first day I walked into Harvest Fellowship. It was before they had a beautiful building to worship in on Sunday mornings. We met in the library at our local high school, the same high school I attended as a rebellious teenager. I can close my eyes and remember, knowing even then that my life would never be the same. They were singing, “As the Deer Panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee…”. I was mesmerized. My former Algebra Teacher, Pastor Jim, was teaching through the book of Acts. The verse-by-verse teaching of this non-denominational church was different from my Lutheran upbringing steeped in tradition, and I was intrigued. Not only intrigued, but something lept in my spirit, and I felt like I had come home.

From that day on, I carried little Timothy into church on Sunday mornings. I poured over God’s word, soaking it in and learning everything I could. Pastor Jim was a wonderful teacher, and I was a willing student. Much of what I know today about God’s word was laid on the foundation of those early years in our little high school library.

Many years, walks through fiery trials, births and deaths, visits to other churches and countless prayers later, Tim walked through the doors of Harvest with us on a fateful Mother’s Day years ago. That’s his story to tell. But, I have seen him become part of this church family as well. We are growing as we walk together with the Lord, loving the teaching of our current Pastor James (not the one who taught us Algebra…but one who attended high school with us!), enjoying the ministry God has given us to worship through music, and standing in awe of God’s amazing grace.

Having said all of that, I suppose I shouldn’t completely write off the idea that a fresh start could be made on January 1st. After all, we serve a God of fresh starts and second chances…one who redeems and restores. In fact, His “mercies are new every morning” (see Lamentations 3). And, obviously that particular January 1st was life-changing. A very good kind of life-changing.

The kind of life-changing that involves the Holy Spirit working in us…that’s a change I can believe in. I loved Big Mama’s post about hearing Him in 2010. I could relate to feeling a little stagnant lately, myself. And, while it does seem a little cliche, I would like to make some changes. I just know that I have to rely on His strength to accomplish anything. In 2010, I pray for renewal, that I would listen to His voice and not the noise around me, that I would seek His will and not my own, that there would be less of me and more of Him. Sure, I would like to eat more healthy, exercise, lose weight, be more purposeful and faithful with my devotions and prayer time, keep priorities in order, work on my organization and time management issues, and focus on being the wife and mom God has called me to be. But, I know that any of that I try to do in my own power will fall hopelessly short. This is not to say that I will just give up and accept the pathetic mediocrity that is me. No, I will press on, and instead give Him the desires of my heart. And, I will do it knowing that I CAN do all things through Jesus Christ, who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)

He Came…

In a quiet church, almost fifteen years ago, two young kids made a promise to love, honor, and obey. Like two sparrows in a hurricane, they held hands, shaking under the weight of the promise and unaware of what would be required of them.
And He Came…

Weeping on the floor of their one bedroom apartment…overwhelmed with the loneliness of a little girl lost and the consuming responsibility of being a wife and mother, she cried out to Him.
And He came…

On the first silent snowfall, on a cold November day, they held each other and wondered how they were supposed to say good-bye. Forever changed, robbed of the invincibility of youth, robbed of a lifetime of dreams and moments, and all the blessings two little girls would bring.
And He came…

They stood in the hallway of the hospital as her tears fell in unison with the raindrops trickling down the window pane. How could this be? How can they walk this journey once more knowing it will end not with the joyous sound of a newborn cry but with the heart wrenching emptiness of another good-bye? Presented with a hopeless outcome, an impossible choice, and the mocking question…”Where is your God now?” They drove home in the storm.
And He came…

She prayed and searched day and night for the answers, the evidence that He hadn’t turned His back on His two sparrows, leaving them to the merciless destruction of the hurricane. She wept from the unspeakable depths of a mother’s heart. Fumbling around in the darkness, she searched for Him. Every step was taken blindly, surrounded by fog so thick, she couldn’t tell if her next step would be the one to send her over the edge of the cliff. Would He catch them if they fell?
And He came…

Another silent birth on a warm day in July, they met their fourth child…their second son. They said hello and good-bye.
And He came…

Storms of rage and regret, disappointment and grief, rolled in as the clouds of darkness and doubt, bitterness and pain surrounded them. When the winds of the hurricane threatened fierce and certain destruction, one sparrow flew away and the other remained with broken wings to face the storm.
And He came…

Baby number five…For a moment there was silence, and her heart sank. And then…there it was…life’s most precious, miraculous, beautiful sound…the cry of new life…the cry of their baby. They held him and cried in complete awe and gratefulness for the gift of this life.
And He came…

She watched helplessly as her mother painfully and slowly slipped away. As she reassured with promises from His word, they repeated together…He will carry me, He will carry me…and in the depths of her heart, she wondered where He was, and if He would really come.
And He came…

Because He came…
The two sparrows were not alone when they made their commitment to love and cherish each other for all of their days.

Because He came…
She stood up from the floor of their one bedroom apartment, He lifted her head and wiped her tears and gave her courage to begin a new journey.

Because He came…
There was peace in the silent snowfall, beauty in the brokenness, and the hope of the most amazing reunion filled with the unending joys of two little girls who have never known pain, sorrow, regret, sickness, or tears.

Because He came…
There is an answer to the question, “Where is your God now?” There is complete confidence in the sufficient grace of our loving Savior, comfort in the arms of the Comforter, hope in the promise that we will never be forsaken. That His arms are always faithful to carry us. There was strength for the journey. When darkness should have smothered her, joy overcame her at the meeting of her boy…the boy she would only hold for a little while, and yet carry for a lifetime. She felt Him brush past her, and it was almost as if she could just reach out and touch the hem of His garment. Never did she feel His closeness so much, as when He whispered past her to take her sweet boy home. She sang songs of peace and praise as he left her arms. And because He came, one more precious little one will join the forever reunion, with their forever family, in their forever home.

Because He came…
The sparrow flew home, and the other sparrow’s broken wings were mended. They learned to hold on tight, so that when the hurricane winds blow, they will not be separated…but held together…closer still.

Because He came…
He carried her mother home just like He said He would, and He carries His sparrows still today…through storms and sunshine, laughter and tears.

More than two thousand years ago, the world ached for salvation, swelled with yearning for deliverance, redemption, restoration…for a Savior to rescue from sin and death. And He came…a baby King, born in a lowly stable on a quiet night to a peasant girl and her betrothed…a carpenter. He was in the still, small voice when He whispered past Elijah. And He was in the quiet stable birth when He came to rescue us and sent His angels to tell the lowly shepherds the good news.

His name is Jesus…and He came for me.

His name is Jesus…and He came for you.

And Because He came…there is hope for tomorrow and a promise of a joyful, forever reunion. He will wipe away all of the tears and wash away the loss and regret. He will cleanse and forgive and clothe us in robes of white. The empty arms will be filled. The hungry hearts will be fed. Brokenness will be restored. Mourning will be turned to dancing. And sin and death will be no more.

Because He came…He will carry us through this life.

And because He came…He will come again…in all His glory…to take us home.