"the fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth..."
This song has been a prayer that my family has been singing for months now. As we are finally able to catch our breath and begin to process all that God has brought us through, we are so thankful for the refining process.
Only true crisis has the power to melt away all of the little, insignificant worries and burdens we as humans allow ourselves to carry on a daily basis. So much "excess" has fallen away. Our priorities were completely turned upside down and we never gave it a second thought. Survival mode can be incredibly freeing. Things that used to be so essential no longer hold us captive.
As we reflect back over the past nine months (has it really been that long?!?) we continue to be amazed and astounded by all God has done in and through our lives. The blessings and sweet treasures continue to surprise us as we recognize the deep work of healing, deliverance and redemptive work He has done. (And, He's not done yet!!!)
Don't get me wrong, the process of refinement is painful, especially when you find yourself in the fiery furnace instead of on the mountaintop rejoicing in LORD's goodness. And yet, He always knows what we need exactly when we need it.
We set out on an adventure of obedience that we knew involved risk. We knew there were going to be sacrifices and hardships. But, we trusted God's gentle leading and sought Him every step of the way. We weren't haphazard, nor were we ignorant of the potential dangers. However, the reality is that where we thought we were headed was some place very, very different than where God intended to take us.
He didn't trick us. That's not who He is. He just didn't give us all the details until we needed to know them. One would think after hearing our story that we might feel resentful towards God for the ways things have turned out. I won't lie. There have been (many) times when our faith has been frail and we've questioned what in the world He was thinking - but there has always been that tiny mustard seed of faith that has kept us hanging on. But rather than resenting His will for us, we are humbled and so very, very thankful that He loves us so much to not leave us in the condition we were in before we embarked upon this journey.
God has worked glorious miracles through a situation many would deem irreparable and hopeless. He is SO amazing!!!
We know that only true riches come through suffering. Growth only happens through the hard times. Our lives are only transformed by going through the pain. Resurrection only comes through death. We can't go around the problems and running away will only bring more trials. When we go through the fire, we are not alone, we are delivered and we are set free from our bondage.
All of God's principles have proven true over, and over, and over again throughout my life. My life is a true testament to the goodness of my God and His steadfast love and forgiveness.
We have endured extremely painful pruning in our lives. We have experienced grave loss. We've had to let go of relationships we thought were going to look a certain way and are sadly, quite, quite different than we had hoped. We've had to allow other people to step in and play the roles we firmly believed belonged only to us. We've had to trust ourselves to systems and processes that we had absolutely no control over. In fact, we have lost absolute control over every single aspect of our lives - except for one. Trusting God and following His lead.
It's an interesting prospect when you find yourself led to the edge of a cliff and your back is to a wall. Nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. Voices around you questioning your decisions and your sanity. It's been impossible to please man in our situation. Our choices have gone against what many on the outside believe to be the best for our family. And, yet God...
Day after day, He brought us to the edge of a cliff and we chose to jump off into His will. He caught us and brought us to the edge of yet another cliff.
I laugh as I write this as I'm sure many will think that I'm being overly dramatic. Oh, how I wish that were true! One of my close friends has said, "Amy there are so many facets to what you are going through, it's overwhelming!" Indeed. I continue to shake my head at how complicated all of this has been.
I recently heard that some people were concerned that I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I laugh now, because that's exactly where I was several months ago. Completely and totally at the end of my rope. (I have to ask, who wouldn't be near complete and utter despair when dealing with this type of trauma and horror? The human heart can only bear so much grief.) The pain was too intense, the burdens too heavy, the losses too great. I wasn't able to sleep at night - the nightmares I was facing during the day became even more terrifying at night.
Every single day brought more bad news, more struggles to face, unimaginable decisions to make. Geoff and I spent countless days barely hanging on as we clung to each other in sheer desperation. Each one of my children were falling apart and their needs were so intense. Forget about the daily things that needed to be done like preparing meals, grocery shopping, washing dishes and doing laundry. Quite simply, I didn't have what they needed to heal. I didn't have what I need to survive. I was beyond broken, devastated and empty. The grief I was carrying quite honestly should have and could have killed me - and it should have destroyed my marriage and family along the way. But God.
He gave me the strength to cry out for help and answered it with His gentle and faithful love. He surrounded us with trusted friends and faith-filled counselors to help us through those unbearable days when we didn't think we could continue on. His love brought us through and held us together when the reality of our situation should have destroyed us all.
That said, we are still in the process of accepting our new reality, uncovering heinous memories, making difficult decisions, setting painful boundaries, pouring ourselves into the healing and restoration of our children and letting go of dreams we once held so dearly. But, rather than living on the brink of a nervous breakdown, I have hope. I have peace. And, I have unexpected joy. God is SO good!
The only reason we are able to look back and be thankful for all of the blessings we have experienced through something so intense, dark and ugly is because God is real and He is so good. The fact that we are able to count our blessings today is testament to who God is. We give all the glory to our God and King, for without them, all of this would have been impossible. On our own, we were definitely headed towards breakdowns and far, far worse.
When I am able to find the time to write about our experience, I am purposefully vague about what we are working through. The details are not something that should be shared in such a broad forum - at least not at this time. Rest assured, though, God is writing incredibly beautiful stories upon each of our fragile hearts and giving us new strength. Some of those stories already reveal His redemptive plan; while others are still, sadly, looking hopeless and full of despair.
He's not done yet.
And, I can't wait to see what He is going to do. And it is for that reason that I joyfully jump off this next cliff and trust myself to His trustworthy hands - and His glorious will. Not my will, but His. Yes, there will definitely be more suffering and pain. But, I know that it will be worth every single tear and sigh.
My family continues to be incredibly thankful for the faithful love, support and prayer our friends around the country continue to pour into us. We are also blessed to have an incredible team of professionals to help us navigate our way through this wearisome journey. We are so thankful to each and every one of you. Words will never enough to express our gratitude, but to each of you, I would like to say this:
My Sweet Friends, your love has taught us so much. You've sat with us in our grief when there simply were no words to speak. You found creative ways to make our daily lives more bearable with cards, gifts and meals. (I never knew how nurturing a schmorgasborg of leftovers could be, Ruth! Your love and creativity runs deep!) You helped us to laugh when our tears ran out. You've walked alongside us and held up our arms when we felt too weak to go on. You've listened to us talk about unbearable details when we needed to get outside of our heads. You check in on us regularly and keep us from isolating ourselves. You respond faithfully to each and every prayer request we've sent your way. You've stood by us through the long-haul, allowing us to likewise support you in your trials as well. Friendship is such a magnificent gift!
You've taught us that love is a verb and is best fulfilled through actions rather than sentiments. We are already using all that you've taught us, Friends, and are finding ways to bless others who are hurting and in need of support. The blessings you have poured so generously into us are now being shared with others. What a JOY it is to spread love and kindness!
Quite simply put, you are treasures far more precious than rubies and we love you all!!! May God bless each of you abundantly for the endless sacrifices of time, resources and love you continue to generously bestow upon my family.
We continue to find ourselves walking in places we never expected to be and it is then that Geoff and I are reminded of our prayer that God would break our heart for those things that break His. Although we had no idea what we were asking Him for at the time, He is answering in ways we never could have imagined. As heart shattering as this season has been, we find ourselves praising God for not only answering our gloriously naive prayer, but for giving us the perseverance and faith we need to continue walking this painful, tiresome road. We no longer try to foresee where He is leading us, for He only gives us what we need each day. Rather, we've learned to trust that His plans for us are always good, that He will never leave us alone and that the journey will always bring us closer to Him.
The pain has been excruciating and I never would have chosen to walk this path. However, I never will regret my choice to be obedient to the calling God has placed on my life. I know that we have all suffered greatly, but I can't wait to see how He will continue to heal and strengthen my family and redeem our pain.
While I continue to protect my family's privacy by carefully choosing the words I write, it is also my hope that writing vaguely will allow you, my Friend, to be able to find yourself somewhere in the midst of God's refining love as well.
The best encouragement I can give you is that no matter how overwhelming, hopeless or painful your current situation is, my Friend, that you will put your trust in God and allow Him to lead you through the fires and into His arms of redemption. He can turn your ashes into beauty, your mourning into dancing and your tears into joy.
He has given us a Savior who has walked this road before us and an assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
The God of this universe loves you, my Friend. He knows your struggles and your pain. I can only imagine the burdens you carry and the scars that need healing. I am so very sorry for the losses you have experienced and the wounding your heart has endured. My prayer for you today is that you, too, will choose to leap off the cliff you find yourself on today and into His arms of love.
He loves you.
He will bring you through the fire "until only love remains."
Keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!
With love and grace,