Advent’s Longing Cry

SONY DSCAt the heart of sojourning is this,

Will we live for the promise even if we can’t see it?

The sojourner says, “Yes.”

Amidst the unknown and chaos, the sojourner travels on, practicing faithful endurance with each dusty step. There is a promise, but we can’t see it. Not until heaven rains down Glory and Jesus comes to call us home. But even in this, even in the spectacular unknown, in the walking on water, like the sustaining air we breathe but cannot see, we trust the Holy Invisible, for it is–He is–the only one who settles our rattled souls and stills the storm of our heart. In Him we move and live and have our being.

We who have been overwhelmed with the grief and joy of Calvary, we stand secure in the empty tomb. Our debt is paid, our ransom bought. We are free, free! dear ones. No longer are we children of the slave woman, but children of the free (Galations 4:31). We have been captivated by the Truth and He has set us free (John 8:32).

So we say “yes” to the promise we cannot see. We say “yes” to the homeland we’ve yet to  touch. We say “yes” to the one born to set us free as we fall to our knees, chains crashing down, our hearts reverberate His praise,

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Oh, but the journey is long and tedious. We crave the completion of home. We grow weary in doing good, fighting against the flesh, and the devil’s relentless attacks.

There are times we lament, “Why, Lord! Why?” We shake our finger at the Holy God and with Jeremiah cry,

“Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:18).

Against our accusations all He asks is our return, our repentance. Always the Shepherd, our Emmanuel, “…for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jeremiah 15:20b-21).

We cannot see the end from the beginning, but our hearts cry for the end. We deeply desire the culmination of our faith, to be in the presence of the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. In the world’s injustice, in our sanctified struggle, in poverty, in homesickness, in anxiety and in peace, though we ache in our wanderings we are not without hope. We are not alone.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:20-23

And yet, we remember him “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Our longing is not in vain.

In all this, He truly is our Emmanuel. Though we mourn in our exile, he will come and we will rejoice.


The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:26

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Advent…He is coming

This is my favorite time of year. The sparkling lights, cookies baking, friends gathered. The wonder and holiness of God becoming feeble babe. It’s a miracle. A beautiful, desperate miracle.

In my mid-twenties, I began to discover the liturgical church year and was pulled into the beauty of the advent season. There was something that kindled my sojourning heart. The light making the darkness flee. The simplicity and ancient tradition in advent liturgy. Walking in the shadows of saints of old, advent created in me a deeper thirst to know Jesus and see his return I didn’t have before.

Advent is

What is Advent really about?

Advent is so much more than a colorful, chocolate countdown to Christmas. It’s a holy mourning, a cry for mercy and for justice. It is a season of repentance and a call to be the hands and feet of Christ. It is remembering the prophets precious promises fulfilled. It is a desperate and yet, ever hopeful longing for Christ to return to take his people home, right every wrong, heal every wound, wipe every tear, and reveal his glory and majesty to all of creation. All will know and all will see and every knee with bow. It will be the ultimate jubilee.  

This advent perspective of Christ’s second coming was so different from how I had heard people talk about Jesus’ return. With their eschatological verbiage they’d dive into the rapture, point out the signs of the times, and analyze  whether you’re you post-trib, pre-trib, or amillennial. Discussions were more focused on how and when Jesus was going to come rather than He is coming. There was a fervor for the facts, but lacked a passion for the person.  I didn’t see a reason to long for Jesus’ return if it was one big guessing game ending in havoc and chaos.

And then I found advent, I met Christ in a way I hadn’t before. He was nearer. He was compassionate and humble. His presence closer, His companionship real. Sorrow had an answer. He was eager (and is!) to meet the needs of his people. He is patient that more would be lead in kindness to repentance.  Longing for the second advent gives me a purpose and hope I didn’t have before. There was a promise made long ago and He is that promise.

“God has given no pledge which He will not redeem, and encouraged no hope which He will not fulfill.”

Charles Spurgeon

 

Jesus is ready. Home is on the horizon. He is coming, for now we wait.

 

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! 

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

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Lingering Grief of the Named Unspoken

The Named Unspoken: The Lingering Grief of MiscarriageThere are some hurts that never go away.

It’s been nearly eight years since we lost our first baby. It hurts to even say that. Seven years ago, I should’ve been holding a baby in my arms, due a week before Mother’s Day. But my arms were empty.

Miscarriage is a painful and twisted story that never really leaves. Sometimes it hurts so bad I clench my teeth in screams, there have been days where death seemed a better welcome. I know some would say that’s ridiculous and that these children of mine weren’t really babies. They hadn’t breathed yet, right? Were they viable outside the womb?

Or they tell me at least it wasn’t worse than so-and-so, that somehow losing a child at 10 weeks is easier than losing a child at 20 weeks, full-term, etc. It doesn’t feel easier. It feels lonely and painful.

Miscarried babies are easily dismissed in our culture, even among Christians. They’re the not real babies, the practice pregnancies, the ones we don’t talk about because we’re not sure how to make sense of a baby that dies in the womb. It makes the journey even more isolating and heartbreaking.

I’m jealous of those people who’ve gotten to hold their babies as they passed or at least gotten to see their little faces. I didn’t get that. I got “That’s just how things go” along with “Better luck next time” and “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Lonely and painful.

The Named Unsoken: The Lingering Grief of MiscarriageI’m pregnant with my seventh child. With every prenatal appointment, the nurse goes through the list. Blood pressure. Good. Any new meds? No. Same address? Yes. Seventh pregnancy. Yes. The number seems unreal. I have to recount myself, is that right?

I’ve prayed that if I lose this baby, Lord please let it be far enough along I can see their face. Each prenatal appointment is a prayer of “Oh God, please let there be a heartbeat. Please don’t let this baby be dead.” When those ocean tones come through, especially after a lengthy time finding the heartbeat, the praise is “The baby’s not dead!” Morbid, maybe. Reality, yes.

It’s a tormenting, twisted reality. I miss babies I’ve never met. And I feel guilty for missing them. If I had our first and fourth babies I wouldn’t have Joey or Olivia, same with our sixth baby and this current pregnancy. I feel guilt for loving the ones who are here and loving the ones who are not, that by somehow loving one I’m denying or ungrateful for the other. I fear when Joey and Olivia understand the overlap in pregnancies and if they see me cry or sad over these children they’ll think they aren’t wanted or loved. I feel torn between loving the living and the dead.

I’ve struggled to see God answer other’s prayers and see miraclesof what science says should not be. Was sustaining the life inside me so hard? I believe He could do it, why did He choose not to? It would’ve been simple for him. A word, a breath and it would’ve been a different story. Why does this have to be my story three times over?

There’s a story behind each baby and each miscarriage, of the way God carried me even when it was dark and He seemed more than absent. One day I’ll tell those. But for right now, I want to do something I’ve never done. I want to introduce you to our children in heaven by name.

We’ve held their names close for so long. It’s felt too vulnerable to share them at large. Their names are the one thing that marks their existence in a world where they left no evidence. But I love them just the same and I know one day I’ll meet them in glory without a tear on my face. That day…I can hardly imagine the joy of meeting them and seeing the beginning from the end. So be it.

The Named Unspoken: The Lingering Grief of Miscarriage

Addison Justice ∫ September 2007

The Lord is righteous in all his ways  and kind in all his works. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.Psalm 145: 17, 19

Jordan Ebenezer ∫ December 2011

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;  the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16-17

Riley Glory ∫ July 2014

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. Psalm 3:3,5

* * * * * *

I’m going to be bold here for just a minute. I know miscarriage, stillbirths, and infant loss are more common than most imagine. I know this is a painful time of year to remember babies we didn’t get to hold, children we had to bury.

If you’re willing, and I know it’s hard, will you share the names of those you’re longing for? They may not have been long for this world, but they are still our beloved children and, even in this, you are not alone.

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Songs for Life

Songs for LifeIt’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write, to truly type out words of the heart. I’m aching for it, but pregnancy exhaustion and the depths there are to delve hold me back. Soon, I think. I hope.

There are words waiting.

When words are absent and slow, let the poets, the songwriters, the Truth proclaimers speak for us. For me, that happens in song.

I have playlists for everything—seasons, birthdays, getting dressed, parties, moods. This one I originally named Mother Artist, which makes sense to me in my life, but…they really apply to everyone.

I’m not a fan of most mainstream Christian music (including worship music), on the whole I don’t feel it gives an honest portrayal of life, especially when you consider how wide the spectrum of a life of faith is. Here you’ll find some of my favorite songs for life, for when life is a struggle, depression and sorrow loom, for love, for all those bits and pieces of life that don’t always fit into a neat category. 

And, of course, I had to include some of my favorite lyrics.

You’ll find a lot of repeats from Sara Groves, Christa Wells, Andrew Peterson, and JJ Heller. These are artists I love who write and sing the struggles and joys of life, loss, apathy, depression, thanks, love, redemption, and identity in a beautifully truthful way. I’ve said it before, but Sara Groves has done more for my theology than probably any one author or theologian.

You can find the playlist on Spotify: Songs for Life.

Just click shuffle and you’ll be set.

Songs for Life

10553633_10152188421137190_2649990657033543279_nFor When the Darkness Will Not Lift & It’s Difficult to Breathe

  • Maybe There’s a Loving God, Sara Groves, “Maybe this was made for me, For lying on my back in the middle of a field, Maybe that’s a selfish thought, Or maybe there’s a loving God”
  • It’s Going To Be Alright, Sara Groves
  • It Might Be Hope, Sara Groves
  • Peace, Peace, Sara Groves, “Peace, peace, it’s hard to find, Trouble comes like a wrecking ball to your peace of mind”
  • This Thing Is Not Going to Break You, Christa Wells
  • Who You Are, JJ Heller, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who You are. You have a Father’s heart and a love that’s wild and You know what it’s like to lose, yeah, you know what it’s like to lose a child” 
  • A Thousand Things, Christa Wells, But in the midst of the most exquisite pain  you’re drawn into a peace that you cannot explain and the praises you sing of a sovereign God reach the girl whose last hope is gone she never thought there was purpose in anything here now the seed has been planted and it’s taking root there”
     (This song’s not on Spotify, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.)
  • How Emptiness Sings, Christa Wells, “Sister carries her loneliness,In a hidden hollow inside her chest, And sometimes all that she wants is an end, To the long, long night, But ooh her bow is on the strings, And the tune resonates in the open space to show us how emptiness sings, Glory to God, Glory to God! In fullness of wisdom, He writes my story into his song, My life for the glory of God.” (Also, not on Spotify. But so, so good.)
  • Even Though, More Than Rubies (Christa Wells/Nicole Witt), “Even though we lose it all, we’ll not be lost, Behold this love of God has ransomed us, He’s ransomed us”
  • You’ll Find Your Way, Andrew Peterson, “And I know you’ll be scared when you take up that cross, And I know it’ll hurt, ’cause I know what it cost, And I love you so much and it’s so hard to watch, But you’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna get lost, Just go back, go back, Go back to the ancient paths, Lash your heart to the ancient mast, And hold on boy, whatever you do, to the hope that’s taken ahold of you”  This is my prayer for my children.

1422462_10152212924402190_6924853881215478006_nFor When You’re Ready to Wake Up & Fight…for Life, for Joy, for Purpose

  • Wake Me Up, Aloe Blacc, “Feeling my way through the darkness, Guided by a beating heart, I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start”
  • Just Showed Up for My Own Life, Sara Groves, “I was in love with an idea, Preoccupied with how a life should appear, Spending my time at the surface repairing the holes in the shiny veneer, There are so many ways to hide, There are so many ways not to feel, There are so many ways to deny what is real”
  • Eyes on the Prize, Sara Groves
  • Painting Pictures of Egypt, Sara Groves
  • Redemption, JJ Heller, “Someday we will remember how to fly and we will rise like embers burning bright, everything broken will be whole again” (this is what I wear on my wrist)
  • Set Free, More Than Rubies (Christa Wells/Nicole Witt)
  • Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson
  • Run, Delta Rae
  • Dog Days Are Over, Florence + The Machine
  • Learning to Love Again, Mat Kearney, “‘Cause that was the real you running through the fields of gold wide open, Standing in places no picture contains,That was the real you, windows down, we could smell the mint fields crying”

10570505_10152212925102190_4366846145370972846_nFor When You Need to be Reminded You Actually Like that Guy You Married

  • Dancing in the Minefields, Andrew Peterson, “We bear the light of the Son of Man, so there’s nothing left to fear, So I’ll walk with you through the Shadowlands until the shadows disappear”
  • Home, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes
  • Different Kinds of Happy, Sara Groves
  • Boat Song, JJ Heller
  • Wherever Is Your Heart, Brandi Carlile, “Wherever is your heart, I call home” 

For When You Need Grace for Yourself

  • Thy Mercy, My God, Sandra McCracken, “Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own, And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son; All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine, Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.”
  • Control, JJ Heller
  • The Broken Beautiful, Ellie Holcomb

10268662_10152607539867190_3343918001854171576_nFor When You Need to Be Reminded of Truth & Beauty

  • Something Beautiful, NeedtoBreathe
  • Don’t You Want to Thank Someone, Andrew Peterson, “Don’t you ever wonder why, In spite of all that’s wrong here, There’s still so much that goes so right, Beauty Abounds”
  • Add to the Beauty, Sara Groves, “And I want to add to the beauty, To tell a better story, Shine with the light, That’s burning up inside”
  • When the Saints, Sara Groves, “And when I’m weary and overwrought, With so many battles left unfought, I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard, I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars, And when the Saints go marching in, I want to be one of them”
  • Feed Your Soul, Christa Wells
  • Shine Your Light On Me, Andrew Peterson
  • Sparrow, Audrey Assad

10437560_10152596173737190_1415132247035116072_nFor When You Need to Come Into Your Own

  • I’m Gonna Fly, Amy Grant
  • Shine, Christa Wells, “He shines his light through a prism, We give back what we’re given to color this world”
  • Brave, Sara Bareilles
  • Sooner or Later, Michael Tolcher
  • Loved, JJ Heller, “Do you keep your thoughts inside your head? Will you regret the things you never said? You have a voice, You have to use it, You have a choice”
  • Fool With a Fancy Guitar, Andrew Peterson

For When You Need to Raise Your Eyes to a Higher Purpose

  • Kingdom Comes, Sara Groves
  • Love Is Still a Worthy Cause, Sara Groves
  • Planting Trees, Andrew Peterson, “So many years from now, long after we are gone, these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn”
  • You are the Sun, Sara Groves
  • Visible Invisible, More Than Rubies, “The broken wait for healing, the orphans long for home, the slaves all cry for freedom, There is hope, There is hope. We are the visible invisible, We are the flesh and bone of Your redeeming love”
  • We Will All Be Changed, Seryn

For When You Need to Know This is Not the End

  • Be OK, Ingrid Michaelson
  • Kingdom Come, JJ Heller, “Life is but a dream at best, Morning’s coming soon, Kingdom come will bring us rest, All will be made new”
  • The Reckoning (How Long), Andrew Peterson, “And I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight, You see the teardrops as they roll tonight, Down the faces of saints, Who grow weary and faint in your fields […] I believe You will come
    Your justice be done, but how long?”
  • After the Last Tear Falls, Andrew Peterson, “We’ll see how the tears that have fallen, Were caught in the palms Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all, And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales”

For When You Need to Know You’re Loved

  • You Cannot Lose My Love, Sara Groves
  • Everybody, Ingrid Michaelson
  • The Pretty & The Plain, JJ Heller, “I know you came for the pretty and the plain, I hear you calling out my name. I know you came for the sinner and the saint, and I will never be the same”
  • Being Loved, Christa Wells, ” ‘Cause being loved is a hard thing to take, We are born unclothed, As we came, we will go, From the first we are known”

For When You Just Need to Get Up & Dance

  • Shut Up & Dance, Walk the Moon
  • Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey
  • Hey, Soul Sister, Train
  • Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars
  • Hey Mama, Mat Kearney
  • She Got the Honey, Mat Kearney

My current favorite playlist is Midsummer Night, just be warned it’s full of bluegrass, folk, and indie goodness. If you’re in a season of sorrow, Songs for the Brokenhearted is a playlist I put together last summer after our third miscarriage. I wanted music that would allow me to grieve, but still point me to Jesus.

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Why Go to IF: Gathering?

IF Gathering header

When I’ve talked to women about IF and encouraged them to come, many shrug their shoulders and say, “Why? What’s it for? What’s the purpose?”

Why should you even come? Is it just another women’s event? Another feel good opportunity, but life doesn’t really change? A chance for Christian authors and speakers to build their brand and add to their sales?

Honestly, any of these are possible. It’s a matter of our own hearts.

But, why? Why do I say you should come to IF: Gathering? Is it because I’m on our local planning team and want to see it succeed? It’d be nice to have big numbers and max out our seating, but no, I don’t want you to come just to fill a chair. {Success in the Kingdom of God is only measured by faithfulness, never numbers.}

Why should you come to IF: Gathering?

It’s an opportunity.

A chance to stop and pause in our busy lives and intentionally seek the face of God together as His daughters. To let down our false walls of age, music preferences, and denominational differences to seek the One who made us with his own hands, the One who saved us from the pit of despair and calls us to be one.

It’s an opportunity to breathe and reflect, to worship the Lord unrushed.

Sure, we’ll hear from popular speaks, but honestly, what I’m most excited about is the chance to sit around the table with you—sisters in my own community and share what God is doing in our lives and to seek how He wants us to live and work together to build His kingdom. 

I know it can be weird, perhaps even off-putting to hear someone say, “God is moving! Won’t you join us?” There is nothing inherently special about IF: Gathering. You can not come and still seek His face and see God moving. He moves everyday.

But this? This is an opportunity for you, for us to move together. To let Him transform our lives, not just in our homes or our churches, but to grasp hands across our cities and say, “Let’s do this together.” We are not individual units, but one whole.

Maybe you’re nervous, scared, think you’re too messed up. Come. We’re nervous too…all carrying a bit of our own baggage.

You haven’t been to church in years, don’t even know if you like God anymore. Come. There’s no gimmicks, no member rolls. Come and listen.

Your heart is broken and weeping loss. Come. So many of us have been there too. We’ll hold your hand and weep with you.

You’re busy, life is hectic, you barely stop these days. Come. Rest, breathe, be poured into by the Bearer of Burdens.

The harvest is ready, the broken and lost are many, God is ready and we are the hands and feet of Christ. 

We won’t do this thing perfectly, I assure you. But with God among us we will be blessed.

10885533_10152436878141568_8791353344812636549_nIf you’re local we’d love to have you join us at our local IF: Gathering. You can find more information here and join our Facebook group to stay in touch.

You can find a IF: Gathering in your area here.

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