Wednesday, November 12, 2014

His Promises Fulfilled [& celebrating twenty-four years]

Twenty-four years have brought me here, to this chilly, damp morning deep into the fall where the leaves swirl around and the scent of a distant fire floods the air around me. These years have disappeared and brought me to this odd collision of feeling quite young and ever-aged all in one breath. I certainly don't know a whole lot about life this early in, but I do know the One who gives it. And that has changed everything.

After spending nearly the first two decades of life trying ever-desperately to end it all, there was darkness that didn't cease like the night that carries on. My tongue plotted destruction and I loved evil more then good. And somewhere in the middle of that all-consuming season of hopelessness, He gave me a promise. And each year I continue to walk closer to Him, I become all the more indebted to and humbled by that promise. This year, I have seen it more boldly fulfilled then ever before--and that is something to rejoice in! 

When I think back over this year, I see a faithful God who has loved me from before the foundation of the world, a God who ever-graciously chose to knit me in my mamma's womb and breathe out every single second of these twenty-four years before one of them came to be. The promise starts right there, you know? 

Six years ago, God gave me this passage and told me that if I would abide as a branch which is completely dependent upon the vine, that He would prune away for a season of three years (as is necessary for most fruit-bearing trees). God assured me this process would be painful and hard at times, even to the point where I would see very little fruit and then none for a time. But after three years, He promised me there would be abundant fruit for His namesake, lasting fruit. He etched this promise upon my heart in this season, so that as those years fleshed out, even amidst the pain, headache, doubt and fear--I knew that I knew that I knew He who promised was indeed faithful! I claimed this truth, this promise, even when I knew I may never get to see it. 

At the time it made no sense, but after living life and seeing a few years of that fruit He promised long-ago actually happening in my life, I know He was teaching me the faith Paul took note of in Abraham's life when he says, "as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not existNo unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."

Even when God had quite literally brought me from death to life, He didn't stop there. He ever graciously promised me something that was yet to be--fruit in my life, He gave me something to cling to as He led me. He put me in situations where I could choose--to believe or not. To trust or not. And so many times, I choose wrong. I lived enslaved to fear and pride and sin, even in knowing this promise. And yet, He allowed all of it, that one day I would be fully convinced God could do what He'd promised. It may have taken me twenty-some-odd years to really know it, but ya'll, HE IS ABLE! There are days even in this season of life I doubt and forget--we all do right? So we anchor down and claim what He has already done. What a gift! 

Paul goes on to talk about how this faith wasn't even about Abraham--it was about YOU AND ME, those to come! This faith will be counted also to US who believe in Him who raised Christ from the dead, who delivered us from our trespasses and was raised for our justification! (Rom. 4:22-25) That is good news! I am so thankful for God's grace in my life these past six years and the faith He continues to grow as it yields to His perfect plan. 

It doesn't stop with us, right? John talks about how we must choose to abide in His love, as He has loved us. That we must love one another as Christ has loved us. I'm learning lately that is only possible if I really do abide in His love. This year has been a full one--full of challenges, doubt, loneliness, confusion, grace, dreams, joy, redemption, and great, great love. 

This year I finally got that degree and these days I nanny for four precious kiddos that challenge me to love more outside myself then I ever could have imagined possible. International students continue to bring so much joy into my life as we walk together, learn the gospel, and celebrate life often. My church body has become more like family through this season and I have fallen in love with the church this year. My heart delights in doing life--the good, bad, ugly, hard, scary, joyous--with them. We are searching for a new head pastor to Shepard our body and they asked me to be apart of that team. My group of friends have very much become the best and life with them spurs me onward. God gives so much more grace.

My adopted family welcomed a miracle baby this year and my love & gratitude towards them could not be any fuller. Three years in, and they continue to give so much for me and guide me along the way. My brother and sis-in-love had brought new life into this world as well--and what a gift he is! My dad is bound up in his chains of alcohol yet again, and yet Christ has never more perfectly fulfilled His role as Abba Father in my life up to this point. God called me the mission field this year and that has meant laying down nursing school and all of the plans I had in mind for the time being. I have had to trust Jesus all the more--to believe that He who promised is faithful, even in this great call He has given that also calls me away from a lot of my own plans that used to make so much sense. 

And yes, there is this man. His pursuit of me has been such a tangible picture of how deeply Christ loves me and cares for me. It is still a bit surreal. Our story has been a crazy whirlwind that I never could have dreamt up! So often we find ourselves sitting and looking at each other without anything to say but--Jesus is ever faithful, (even in all of our shortcomings and failures) and all we can do is continue to trust Him to lead us. Joshua makes me desire Christ more and I see so much redemption in these days we share. As His grace allows, we cannot wait to see where He leads! He is the greatest gift from a gracious Father. 

Six years later, I have clung more tightly in certain seasons and glimpsed from afar in others, but that promise has come to fruition in ways I never could have dreamt. His promise to me way back then is a sweet picture of this twenty-fourth year for me--even as Abraham never saw the promise fulfilled, His faith was counted to him as righteousness! All the more, how encouraging it is that we in fact get to see Him fulfill some promises to us, especially that of Christ--what grace! 

If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:15-16)

I'm so thankful He didn't allow me to go back. That even in the endless number of times I have and continue to choose my flesh, my desires, my way over Christ's, that as we abide in Him, His spirit leads me to the better country, the heavenly one. 

Going into this next year of life, God has given me a new promise. He hasn't spoken so boldly since I heard him proclaim this one six years ago. It comes out of Psalm 52. The first seven verses summarize the mess of my life apart from Christ. Then these last two, they are a promise for all of us who beleive and my personal prayer for the years to come. 

But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.

I trust and praise and thank because He has done it. He is doing it. May we wait with full assurance that He who promised is faithful, all the way until we see that better country, that heavenly one! For it is good, in the presence of the godly. 

As the leaves are blown an tossed by the wind outside in that chilly air, I see this fledgling of a green olive tree firmly planted in the green pot on the windowsill. I got it about a month ago when God spoke of this tree. A pillar of sorts, a reminder of His faithfulness up until this point as well as a reminder of the future and hope to which He has given and called us, ever graciously! It stands firm, unmoved by the wind. May this be us as well, I pray, unshakable and immovable, as we abide in the one true Vine. 

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