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.