Renewed

The cold water lapped against my ankles as I took a step out into chilly Lake Johanna. Smiles and sounds of celebration surround us, but all in one moment the noise dims as the water surrounds me. Die to self, live for Him. The air met my lungs once again as I emerged; new life coursed through my body.

Rising up from that water renewed.

Last month marked a year since this day and last week the memories flooded my mind as I found myself meeting the woman who snapped the photograph that speaks a thousand words straight to my soul. The picture that shouts, oh death where is your sting? Where is your victory?

Memories of tear stained cheeks and desperate cries to God are mingled with joy and unexplainable peace as my faith grew in the year leading up to being washed by the water. I grew up believing in God and knowing all the answers, but couldn't quite grasp what everyone else seemed to have. What a relationship with Him really looked like.

After hitting rock bottom with Derek's health relapse, my anger-clenched fists were slowly opened. At first simply in defeat and overwhelming sadness. But through it all He reached down and clasped my hands, slowly turning those limp limbs into arms held high in praise.

It really doesn't make much sense. In the midst of the most heartbreak we have ever lived through, in Him I found peace to take on the unanswered questions. Patience to live through seemingly endless doctor appointments. Greater love for my husband than I never knew existed. Kindness as we connected with others who were and are living through similar circumstances. And faithfulness and unexplainable joy as my baby faith grew.

Not overnight, but day by day as we learned to trust in Him. My faith was shaken for the better.

Stepping out into that water a year ago was a fresh start. One that was desperately needed to continue in the battle for life daily. In that moment of complete surrender, I was changed.

And now looking back at this past year, the one that followed that life-filled moment, I can see ups and downs. The days flecked with countless decisions to surrender my life's plans, unclench my fists, and embrace the story that's been given to me. Because it's just that, a choice. Not a one and done kind of thing, but a never ending opportunity to turn to the one who holds life in His hands. When we hold our arms up in praise, He scoops them up as a father would with a small child. His life giving hands envelop ours with so much love that it overflows.

Although I wouldn't have chosen those dark days in my life story, I am eternally grateful for the perspective that opened my eyes to what faith is really about. I'm thankful for His unfailing love that has led me to this moment words trickling out of my pen singing, This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.

Special thank you to Tracie of Tracie VanWechel Photography for capturing our baptism and preserving a memory I never want to forget.

Damage Control

Sometimes the hard things in life seem to come out of no where.

We live near an elementary school and often young children cross our cul-de-sac and yard to reach the bike path that leads to the school. In the winter the snow is piled high, so I always double check to make sure there are no kiddos hiding in the path of my vehicle.  Last winter I was reversing out the driveway taking extra care to check for kids as usual when out of nowhere - wham! My car hit something solid.

The panic rose instantly inside me. The next 3 seconds seemed like an eternity as I realized what had actually happened. I had hit... the garbage can. Derek, being the wonderful husband he is, set it out at the end of the drive the night before so it would be ready for the garbage man (who comes incredibly early) the next morning. Maybe the garbage can was in my blind spot.. Maybe I was too focused on the giant snowbank where kids could be playing.. I'm not entirely sure, but I am SO thankful it wasn't a child. Despite my best intentions, what I had been trying to avoid (hitting something) happened. I had not been in a hurry to leave, was looking in all directions to check for danger, but somehow I was blindsided and damage occurred.

This happens a lot in life. Do you ever feel like you're going along in-control, even cautiously looking out for warning signs of danger, but out of nowhere something hits you like a ton of bricks? Maybe it's the news of an illness of a loved one or a big bill that you just weren't expecting. Maybe it's an argument with your spouse. Maybe it's a car accident. The list can go on and on.

Earlier this year I wrote out our hopes and dreams for 2015. Today I'm realizing there will always be things that come up and threaten to push me and you back down and put dreams on hold. Sometimes life seems to be full of these near impossible obstacles, but we need to go through them so God can prepare us to face bigger challenges with Him.  "Obstacles are opportunities to display God's power. And when we see God heal a bad marriage, turn around an impossible career, remove an addiction, or restore a rebellious teenager, it increases our faith. Setbacks and deficits are opportunities to display God's power and to build our faith." (7 Simple Choices for a Better Tomorrow; Merritt).

Over the past two years, Derek and I have faced many ups and downs. Many times I found myself crying out to God wondering if we would ever get a breath of fresh air. I was stuck in the negatives because of the weight of the compounding surprises that just kept coming up month after month. When going through difficult times, it is so easy to focus on the bad things that are happening (such as I now have to repair my tail light...) instead of focusing on the good things that come out of a bad situation (no children were hurt!). Given the opportunity, I do not think I would change any of the circumstances Derek and I have been through. Some challenges are as silly as replacing a damaged tail light because of a mistake and some are as big as not knowing how much life we have left to live because of illness. We are closer as a married couple, our relationship with God is stronger, and we have a lot to be thankful for!

"Sometimes He calms the storms in our lives. Sometimes He rides through it with us."

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"I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33