This is a story of the old made new—a personal love story of God’s inconceivable tenderness and continual pursuit of me and my husband, Ellis. This is a story about revival, deep transformation of hearts, love, the power of forgiveness and of witnessing our God’s ability to perform the impossible healing we have been graced with. It is a truly miraculous love story that has little to do with Ellis and I and everything to do with who God is and how He came in when we needed Him most. He fearlessly stepped into our mess in the midst of our brokenness, grief and great loss and lavished on us an undeserving tale of restoration, renewal and unending mercies and faithfulness. Our prayer is that while we peel back the layers and let you peer inside our personal lives, God would use our past pain and current vulnerability to draw you closer to our Lord.
This past week, in honor of our 10-year wedding anniversary and in celebration of all the Lord has done in our marriage, Ellis and I renewed our vows. This day was more meaningful and more emotional than the day we married, because it carried a weightiness and joy having come out of a very stormy season. In a private, backyard ceremony, alongside our children and in front of our family, we recommitted ourselves to one another and celebrated God’s victory over the enemy, His rescue of our marriage, His redemption of our household and His renewal of our hearts. We stood together weeping at the altar in gratitude—crying for all the past struggles, failures, pains and regrets, and shedding tears of thanksgiving to our God who didn’t give up on us. Together we thanked Jesus, the only One who kept the covenant, for being the never-ceasing faithful One in our lives.
Our story is one of failures and heartaches, but is ultimately one of victories, healing and triumph! On my pathetic search for significance and love, I found myself in the depths of the valley of despair—a place of tormenting dependences and soul-fragmenting strongholds. I was a deeply wounded and broken person; a type of brokenness that cannot be seen on an x-ray or from the outside based on how it all appears. I made great efforts to look like everyone else. I appeared happy and kept up with the status quo, yet I was completely empty and pain-filled on the inside. I couldn’t let anyone know what was going on in the depths of my heart—the shame was too great, and I felt as if I was the only person who ever struggled. I felt defective, purposeless, ashamed, a fraud, and worst of all, an unloved failure. I chased after a futile, performance-gospel and a haughty self-savior mentality. I was partaking in life destroying, addicting, self-sabotaging, codependent, self-loathing behaviors—savagely feeding a broken side of my wounded heart with everything but Jesus, which inevitably broke my spirit and mutilated my soul in the process. This stronghold was born and suddenly something else became the author of my self-esteem and self-worth.
I had hit rock bottom. I was in a state of palpable hopelessness. Thankfully my story (our story) doesn’t end there. The soil of rock bottom is one of the richest and most fruitful places you can find. Everything is stripped away, there are no more delusions of strength, striving ceases, and you have nothing to offer but everything to receive. When all you bring to the table is your own sin, when you have nothing to bring but your failures, that’s when Jesus get to show up and do what we could never do for ourselves. The God of “immeasurably more than you could ask, think or imagine” is able to rescue you from yourself. When the real you finally shows up to the real God, you get real change. Freedom is unleashed.
Jesus is the friend who sits with you and does not judge you while you are in the pit. He is also the very one who has the power to save you, to break you free from your man-made prison and to deliver you into everything you’ve been looking for. He is in the business of restoring souls, transforming hearts and deliverance. Trust me when I say this is not a pain-free process, but who better to trust with your pain when you are at your lowest point than Jesus, the Refiner? He is the Ultimate Heart Surgeon who is equipped to repair the root and underlying problem. Humbly recognize that this is why Jesus came: Jesus came for the pretenders, screw ups, Pharisees, frauds, hypocrites, sinners, scoffers, the ones hiding, the ashamed, the broken, the hurting, the lost, so that we would know, learn, experience and let His loving truth wash over us.
Matthew 18:11-14 tells me, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly I say to you, HE REJOICES MORE OVER THAT SHEEP THAN OVER THE NINETY-NINE THAT DID NOT GO ASTRAY.”
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a NEW THING; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
I have been the recipient of immeasurable grace. I have been given the privilege to have a true, heartfelt understanding of grace and just exactly what it is and what it has the power to do in a human heart. Grace is an action packed word that is often devalued and misunderstood these days. Grace does not make wrong a right and it does not permit wrong. It also doesn’t blow past a wrong or cover it up. Grace says that wrong is a wrong and that is exactly why it is needed. Grace is a choice way of dealing with wrong; not turning your back on or enabling wrong. Grace had to come because the ‘law’ (rules of right and wrong) alone didn’t hold the power to rescue, heal, transform, forgive or save—it only has the power to call a wrong a wrong. The law could never do what grace could. That law has no power to liberate, alter or redeem. But grace does.
“If a human could change another human, Jesus (or Grace) would have never needed to come!” Paul David Tripp
Grace is what transforms, grace is what exposes wrongs, but it never asks you to pay for them. God’s grace will expose what you want to hide, not to shame you, but to forgive you and deliver you. Grace shatters our darkness. Grace illuminates those dark, hollow and hidden places. Yes, there will be the pain-filled light of exposure, but the blood of our Savior has already covered what will be exposed! It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance, and it is His tender mercies and unfailing compassions that cause the scales to fall and enlighten the eyes of our hearts! It is love, gentleness and mercy that brings breakthrough to people and it’s what brought breakthrough to me. I am thankful today for God’s patience and unrelenting commitment to process.
“Theology that isn’t zealous to promote forgiving and transforming grace, the kind of grace that changes your life, is simply bad theology.” Paul David Tripp
“You will not send me from Your presence. You will not drive me from Your grace. You will not separate me from Your glory. You will not eliminate me from Your promises. You will never ever ever send me away. Because Your anger was borne by Another. Because my separation was carried by Him. Because He was sent away, I will never be. So, in weakness, failure, foolishness, and sin, I stand before You once more with courage, hope, comfort, and joy, because I know that in all the dark things that may be whispered to me in this dark and fallen world there are two words I will never hear from you: ‘Go away.’ And so with gratitude and joy I get up to face the day but as I do, I do it without fear.” Paul David Tripp
Since our marriage had been torn down to the studs, Ellis and I felt we had two choices: we could either build a moment to the past or draw a line in the sand, place an Ebenezer Stone (1 Sam. 7:12) there and choose to walk forward in to this 'new thing' the Lord had promised us! Because we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning and whose loving kindness never fails, who is constant, unchanging and eternally steadfast, we chose to trust Him with our pain, our healing and our restoration. If the offender and the offended alike take their pain to the Lord, what comes next will astound you—you will partake in a joy so grand, a restoration so rich, a wholeness so majestic, a hope so stunning!
God didn’t deliver Ellis and I from this horrific pain, but He delivered us through! He was faithful just as He promised! During our renewal ceremony, Ellis gave me two new diamond eternity bands, to serve as Ebenezer Stones—as stones of remembrance for what is past and hope for the future. They are a reminder that the Lord has delivered us through our heartache, pain and great loss and that the Lord was with us then and that thus far the Lord has helped us, yes, [and will help us now and always. For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20]
“Let these bones you have crushed, rejoice!” Psalm 51:8
Praise God He cares about us enough to not let us stay like this! Less-than, lacking, or hurting. "God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, accepts us as we are, but by His grace, He doesn't leave us as we are!" Tim Keller
"He who promised is FAITHFUL!" Hebrews 10:23
"After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you!” 1 Peter 5:10
"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds!" Hosea 6:1.
"He will turn darkness into light and He will make rough places smooth!" Isaiah 42:16
God promises us in Jeremiah 42:10 that He WILL "rebuild you and not demolish you, I will plant you and not uproot you!" His grace abounds and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed my sins from me (Psalm 103:12)!
He’s given us redemption money cannot buy, a rescue no friend could provide, a restoration only The Carpenter could rebuild, a treasure that cannot be taken.
"He was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. He will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; He will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." (Isaiah 61:1-4)
If you are in a tremendously painful season, know that the safest place to be is kneeling at the foot of the cross. This is the only way that leads to full redemption – fullness of peace, lasting joy, wholeness of your soul, life abundant! “Put your hope in the Lord, for WITH HIM is unfailing love and WITH HIM is full redemption!” (Psalm 130:7) Trust Him with your terror, pain, fear and heartache.
He longs to bless you, rescue you and heal you! He is for you! “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31.
Jeremiah 29:11 promises that His plans for you are “to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future!”
“Mightier than the waves of the sea is His love for YOU!” Psalm 93:4
“What can make us whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”
In Romans 15:5, Paul calls the Lord the “God of endurance”. He is the unending Pursuer of any of His "lost sheep". When we cannot endure or completely lose heart, HE will not! For He cannot deny Himself; it's who He is. I love how it's said in 2 Timothy 2:13 - “If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself.” His faithfulness rests on who He is, not on who I am or on what I’m doing. It's actually not about me at all, it's about Him. It’s about who He is. And “His faithfulness never comes to an end” (Lamentations 3:22-23) . Do you really know Him? Know who He really is? I met Jesus long ago, but I didn’t really know Him until recently!
God’s covenant faithfulness, grace-centered love and never-ceasing commitment to process of healing, refining and redeeming our once ugly hearts is the reason Ellis and I are here together today! He longs to do the same for you and your’s!
He is here to be the lover of your soul, the healer of all your wounds, the one who never leaves you or forsakes you in your weaknesses. He came for situations just like ours. He is the only answer, the only way. He has come to rebuild and renew, so that we might have life and have it abundantly!
And today, we walk hand in hand, coming out of this devastating season in our life. We choose Him and one another. Every day. Ours is a redeeming love story, one that could only be written by the Giver of all good things, the Giver of all we need, the only one who satisfies our souls. We are thankful our three kids were able to be apart of our ceremony so they could witness how much their parents need Jesus and grace, just like them. So they do not feel alone. Our deepest desire is for our kids to know early and often that their parents are far from perfect and what a BIG God they serve!
“Not to us, not to us, oh Lord, but to Your Name be the glory because of your love and [unending, never ceasing] faithfulness." Psalm 115:1
The scars of this will never leave. They will always be visible for anyone to see and for anyone to ask, “What happened to you?” Thankful for the scars of grace and this testimony of who God is and what He has done! What joy!
“He saved them for His Name’s sake, that He might make known His mighty power.” Psalm 106:8
Take comfort that you can never go too far to ultimately return to the Lord! Personal heart and life change is always a process. But He is in the “process” business! He transforms those who seek Him and makes all things NEW to those who call upon His name! In Him we lack no good thing, He is our Helper, our Deliverer!
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are FORGIVEN, whose sins are covered!” Psalm 32:1
The blessed person isn’t the perfect person; the blessed person is the forgiven person (as it says above in Psalm 32). The one who humbly comes before a worthy Father, recognizing their need for help and allowing Him to come in a make all things new! The one who unashamedly throws themselves on the mercy of the courts and desperately partakes in His covering love!
Only our God could turn heartache into glory from Himself, ashes into beauty, mourning into praise, addictions into refinement, wounds into wonders, trash to treasure, shame into joy, bringing us closer to one another and to our God in the process. That is redemption. My God is faithful - even unto death - and every word He says is true, every promise He makes He will fulfill; come call upon His Name for that relief and rescue!
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
“But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be WHOLE. He was whipped so we could be HEALED. All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. We have left God’ paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6
“We will song of the Lords loyal love forever and will proclaim His faithfulness from one generations to the next!” Psalm 89:1
“Praise the Lord, my soul, who forgives all your sins and who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:2-12
10 years ago today we said I do. We didn’t know on our wedding day just what we were saying yes to! By going through the depths of despairs and the immense joys of life together, there is real power in the fact that we choose each other again today. Not because we have to, or because it was what’s right for the kids, but because of the Lord and because of our God-centered, renewed love for one another. Tested and refined through fire; now strengthened. Reinforced. By the grace of God and against all hope, we stand stronger today! Better together, better than we were, in a place I could have never imagined possible! Thank you Jesus for coming into our mess and making our healing and restoration possible! Thank you for making us more like you through our season of suffering! Thank you for never leaving us to our own devices! We owe you everything and you are truly worthy of it all! Praying we are believers that have been changed by you – we’ve brought You all our baggage and messy conditions of our hears, and pray now that our lives would reflect the same grace we’ve been shown. Lives full of compassion for people, forgiveness and grace-centered love for others! To point them to You!
Praying you are encouraged and rejoice alongside Ellis and I in the victory the Lord has won in our hearts, our marriage and our family. I am praying that the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the only Name that saves, falls heavy on you today and you run to (not from) this Helper, Healer and Blessed Redeemer.
“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a NEW song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:1-4