Christmas

Even Me

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This wasn’t what she dreamed about as a little girl. She was supposed to get married and quickly start a family.

It’s how it happened for her sisters. For her friends.

She had a husband—a good, strong, faithful man—but her dream of having a baby hadn’t come true.

By now, she could’ve wished upon a thousand stars. Could’ve dreamed a new dream. Could’ve walked away from the God who was supposed to hear her prayers.

But she stayed. Kept hoping. Kept waiting.

Until it was too late.

All of her siblings and neighbors had children and grandchildren. Their homes were filled to the brim with laughter, their voices spilling across the street to her quiet house.

But her home—and her womb—remained empty.

Months of disappointment turned into years. Years turned into decades. At some point along the way, Elizabeth stopped counting. It hurt too much.

Everyone in town knew, too. When she walked through the market, she could see the other women’s mouths droop in sympathy. She watched them exchange glances with one another, their eyes seeming to say, “Oh, Elizabeth. That poor, barren woman. She couldn’t give her husband a child.”

She never stopped hoping, never stopped praying for God to answer her prayers. But God didn’t answer. Actually, God hadn’t answered anyone in a long time. Four hundred years had passed since He had last given words to His messengers.

Elizabeth and her husband were old now. Even if there wasn’t something wrong with her, she was well past the timeframe where she could become a mother.

acs_0220.jpg

One afternoon, she stood in a crowd of people outside of the temple, praying and waiting for her husband. Zechariah was a priest, and he had been chosen to go into the temple and burn incense. It was a sacred, serious honor. A role not to be taken lightly. Elizabeth was eager to hear about it. She looked in the direction of the temple’s entrance, shading her eyes with a wrinkled hand. What was taking him so long? The crowd was growing restless.

Suddenly, the crowd gasped and Elizabeth craned her neck to see what was happening.

“Zechariah! What is it? What did you see?” a man in the crowd called out.

Elizabeth pushed her way through the mass of people until she reached her husband. When she spoke his name, he turned to face her. Though his eyes were on hers, it was like he wasn’t even seeing her. Like he was mesmerized by something invisible.

Elizabeth reached for his arm, took it in her hands. “What’s wrong?” Her eyes searched his pale, bearded face.

He opened his mouth to reply, then brought a hand to his throat. His eyes widened, taking on a manic sheen. He opened his mouth again, but no words emerged. Instead, he began wildly gesturing behind him, to the entrance where the altar of incense was kept.

“A vision!” Another priest spoke up. “He’s seen a vision in the temple!”

Elizabeth gulped. A vision? Of what? She clutched her husband’s arm tighter to steady herself. Had God actually spoken after all this time? What was going to happen?

acs_0218

Through gestures and writing, Zechariah explained some of what had happened that day at the temple. An angel appeared to him, telling him God had heard their prayers for a child. They would have a little boy, and they were supposed to name him John. He would grow up to tell people to get ready because the Rescuer was coming. Many people would get to know God because of him.

Zechariah hadn’t believed the angel. After all, he and Elizabeth were old and had never been able to have a baby. Because of Zechariah’s doubt, the angel took his ability to speak but promised it would come back once everything God had promised happened.

It was such a wild story. Elizabeth didn’t blame Zechariah for questioning the plan. And to think, God had broken the centuries-long silence with a message about Elizabeth, an old, barren woman? It was incredible!

Six months had passed since that day at the temple. Half a year of living with a mute husband. Twenty-six weeks of watching a miracle unfold.

It started with headaches and nausea, followed by back pains. And then, gradually, incredibly, miraculously, her abdomen began to grow.

Elizabeth the barren was having a baby!

Now, Elizabeth stood in the doorway, one hand pressed against the small of her aching back, her eyes intently watching the street for signs of her cousin. They had so much to catch up on during their visit.

A young woman rounded the corner, and Elizabeth stepped outside. She raised her hand to catch the girl’s attention.

The girl’s face split into a grin as she began to run. “Elizabeth!” she called.

Suddenly, something flipped within Elizabeth, like her stomach had somersaulted into her rib cage. She stumbled and reached out to steady herself against the doorframe. Laughter bubbled from her mouth as Mary threw herself into Elizabeth’s arms.

“How blessed you are, Mary!” Elizabeth cried, holding her cousin as closely against her as she could. “And how blessed is this baby you’re carrying!” She took the girl by the shoulders and held her at arm’s length. Tears ran down Elizabeth’s weathered face as she said, “Who am I to have the honor of a visit from the mother of my Savior? When I heard you call my name, the baby in my womb jumped for joy! You’re so blessed because you believed God would do everything He said!”

She took Mary’s hand and pressed it against her stomach, where the baby still kicked in excitement. Mary reached for Elizabeth’s hand and pressed it against her own abdomen, still flat beneath her clothes.

“This is really happening!” Mary said, her voice shaking. “We’re having babies!”

It was true, even though Elizabeth was too old to have a baby and was supposedly barren. And then sweet Mary—not only was she too young to be a mother, but she was a virgin.

And yet, life swelled within them. Two miracles in the making.

Three months later, Elizabeth delivered a son. She choked on a sob as the baby was placed on her chest.

The baby drew in a shaky first breath, filling brand-new lungs with air. He opened his mouth and cried out into the night.

As he cried, the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah rang in Elizabeth’s ears: “Listen! It’s the voice of someone crying in the wilderness: ‘Get ready for our God! Make a path through the desert for Him!’”

Beside her, Mary looked as if she’d seen a ghost. She slowly reached out, ran one trembling hand over the baby’s hair and rested the other against her own abdomen.

Elizabeth smiled at Mary—the girl who would give birth to the promised Rescuer in just a few months. He was the One her own son had been announcing since before he was even born.

Eight days later, Elizabeth and Zechariah made their way back to the temple where it all started. But this time, Elizabeth cradled a swaddled newborn baby against her chest. The whole town—all of Elizabeth’s relatives and neighbors—celebrated with them as they approached the place where they would dedicate the baby to God.

“You’re naming him Zechariah, right?” one of the neighbors asked. They weren’t wrong to assume that’s what they would name the baby. Under normal circumstances, they would name a firstborn son after his father. But these circumstances were the opposite of normal.

Elizabeth looked down at the baby, his eyes closed, his breaths deep, his small fist nestled against his face.

“No, he will be called John.” She smiled up at the people around her. Immediately, they turned to Zechariah, who stood at her side.

“Write down his name,” they told him. “The name you want him to be called.”

Someone handed Zechariah a tablet, and he wrote in clear, bold letters: His name is John.

 Then he coughed. Coughed again. And with the voice of a man awakening from deep sleep, quiet at first then increasing in volume, he said: “Praise God! He has come to His people and is bringing us a Rescuer, just like he promised through the prophets long ago. This baby belongs to Him. John will get everyone ready for the One who will forgive their sins and give them a brand-new life!”

He looked over at Elizabeth and smiled, his eyes shining with amazement and tears of joy just waiting for their chance to escape.

Elizabeth hugged the baby closer to her. John, whose name meant God is gracious, was proof that God heard the longing of her heart. God did not forget Elizabeth, and God did not forget His people. In the waiting, God was working. His rescue mission was unfolding.

“Thank you, Father God,” Elizabeth whispered. “I’m not worthy to be a part of this story, but still you chose me. You truly do love your people. Even me.”

IMG_1656
Dear friends,

If this Christmas find you you in a season of waiting, longing, or grieving, I pray you’ll find hope in Elizabeth’s story. I used my imagination to retell it, but you can read the real account in Luke 1.

The Bible tells us that God came to earth for the barren, the lonely, the broken, the outcast. For me. For you. He shows His goodness in the most unexpected ways. He is the joy of every longing heart.

One day, He will come back and make everything brand-new. There will be no more tears, no more pain, no more wondering.

But in the meantime, remember that He has never, ever broken one of His promises. Even when He seems silent, He is still working. He sent a Rescuer for you because He loves you. And He isn’t finished with your story.

In His love,
Anna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just One Thing, Writing

A Story About the Story

On October 15, my alarm woke me up at 6:00am. I spent some time reading my Bible and talking to God, then rolled out of bed to get ready for the day. I worked from 8:00am until 5:00pm, met a friend for dinner, recorded a video, and watched the newest episode of This is Us.

All of that is pretty standard for a Tuesday. Except for one more thing: My second book released into the world.

October 15 will forever be a milestone day. Not just because it’s the day I became multi-published, but because it’s a day I wasn’t sure would come.

See, All of This released in July of 2015. Before that happened, I’d already outlined a sequel for it. But then grad school happened and a lot of other life things happened and there were many days I just wanted to quit. Not because I didn’t believe in the story or because I didn’t love the characters, but because it was just so difficult.

I wanted to tell a story that was even stronger than the first one. Readers had expectations of what they hoped would happen in a sequel. You all knew my writing style from the first book. I wanted to write something that exceeded all of those expectations. For me, that was even more pressure than launching a first book into the world. Plus, there are a thousand details that take place behind the scenes in publishing. Most of which we as readers never even hear about.
But the story stayed in my heart. The characters kept talking, insisting they had things to say. And God kept reminding me that He wasn’t done with my writing.

Over several months, I assembled a team: an editor, a designer, early readers. I worked through all those other behind-the-scenes things like ISBNs and LCCNs and copyright. And I prayed.

On July 4th, my designer sent the book cover to me. This was exactly four years from when a designer sent my first book cover to me. Crazy timing.

DSC_0582.jpg

On September 21, I returned to my hometown to sign books at a festival. While at my local bookstore, the owner and I discussed a book release party. Then we looked at the calendar…annd scheduled a party for 3 weeks later. The cool thing about it was that the party would happen four days before the book actually released. That meant that people who came to the party could take home a copy early.

The only thing was, at that point, the book hadn’t gone to print yet. We were still working through some technical details. So when I got home from the event, I quickly finished up details and ordered a proof copy. You guys, I did a lot of praying that the proof copy would turn out okay and that all the books would arrive on time because maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking a book release party without any books would be a flop. DSC_0590.jpg

The books arrived, and we celebrated with a release party on October 12…Exactly 4 years and 2 days since the last book release party (Because of the whole moving-two-states-away and starting grad school thing, my last book release party happened a couple months after the book actually came out. 0/10 do not recommend doing all those things at once).

DSC_0583.jpg

Y’all, the party was a blast. We had apple cider and little book cookies and giveaways and a signing. I got to see people whom I hadn’t seen in years—including two professors from college who walked me through the creation of the first book.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but oh, so fun.

DSC_0584.jpg

Then I returned back to North Carolina and the book officially released that Tuesday.

As I’m drafting this post, I’m sitting on a plane heading west for a cousin’s wedding. It’s another full circle moment for me, because Sadie’s story began with a girl getting off a plane in a new place.

DSC_0601

There’s a verse I held onto during the editing stage of Just One Thing, when I felt like it could all fall apart at any minute:

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

I held that verse as a reminder that, yeah, I have so many expectations and plans for my life, but it’s God who makes each step of my life happen. He’s the One who decides if and when I release a book.

DSC_0612.jpg
Sometimes it happens right after you graduate college in a crazy series of events. And sometimes it happens after you sense God telling you to take a break for a bit. Either way, it’s all in His hands.

And now, over a month after Just One Thing released, I can’t help but smile. I get to share this story with you, and that’s just the best ever.

Anna

P.S. I haven’t been very active on the blog lately, but I’m over on Instagram and Facebook all the time. I love mini-blogging on those platforms and keeping you all up to date. If we’re not friends over there, find me and say hi! :)

Book party photos courtesy of Ruth Anne Crews.

Just One Thing, Writing

COVER REVEAL: Just One Thing

It’s finally here! The cover for Just One Thing! 

Can I admit something to you? This book almost didn’t exist. For starters, I didn’t originally plan on writing a sequel to All of This…but then, before AoT was even published, my dear friend Em and I took a trip to Seattle. I outlined Just One Thing on the flight home.

That was five years ago.

All of This released in July 2015. In August 2015, I moved away from home to go to graduate school in North Carolina. Turns out, a master’s degree kinda eats up your free time, so I paused the new book.

In May 2018, I graduated with my MA, began a full-time job, and dusted the cobwebs off of the story. I tweaked the plot, strengthened the characters, and poured stuff I’d learned during grad school into the manuscript.

I also made sure it could stand alone as its own story. So although it’s technically a sequel, you don’t have to know All of This in order to step into Sadie’s world through Just One Thing.

Today, in July 2019, we’re weeks away from the release of Just One Thing. In fact, as I write this, the manuscript is with my designer, getting the pretty chapter headings and everything all in place. It’s almost here.

But for now, I’d like to show you the cover, designed by the amazing Roseanna White. I’ll also share the synopsis.

Please feel free to share about the book – that will help out a lot!

Thank you for reading, friends!

P.S. The most popular question I’ve gotten from readers since All of This released is: “Does Sadie stay in Pecan Creek or go back to Seattle?”

This’ll answer that question ;)

And now, allow me to introduce you to Just One Thing…

Just One Thing 1.jpg

Sadie Franklin wants to move on, but first she must return to everything she wants to forget. 

Senior year in Seattle is the perfect chance for a former party girl to start over, right? All she has to do is build a relationship with her detached father, make decent grades, and avoid her ex-friends. Oh, and convince everyone she really has changed. Easy peasy.

The first chance she gets, she wants to hop on the next flight back to Pecan Creek, Georgia. Although the tea there is sweet enough to give her cavities, at least the people love her and believe she has a purpose bigger than her painful past. 

Sadie meets a new friend looking for her own fresh start, who shows Sadie the value of true friendship and reminds her there’s always more to a person’s story than what’s on display.

But figuring out the next step is messy, and it’s hard to change a reputation. An after-school job, constant arguments with her dad, and an undefined relationship with the wonderfully annoying Georgia guy who won her heart only add to the crazy.

When tragedy collides with Sadie’s carefully re-built life, she learns that trusting in a God she can’t see is more difficult than she ever imagined. 

Is starting over worth the cost?

God Talks, Singleness

Bouquet Tosses & the God Who Sees Me

“Here we go,” I muttered to myself as I clutched the long skirt of my plum dress in my manicured hand. I walked toward one of my best friends in all the world. She was a stunning bride – her hair curled, her eyes shining, her joy contagious. It was truly an honor to stand by her side as a bridesmaid.

She held a pale purple bouquet over her head and posed for a mini photo shoot with the photographer, while those of us who had never had a wedding of our own – the maid of honor, the flower girl, a few other female guests, and me – gathered behind her.

Earlier, I’d offered her money if she would just turn around and hand me the bouquet. Figured it could go into the honeymoon fund. She’d just laughed.

Though I’ve jokingly offered bribes to brides over the years, I’ve never actually caught the bouquet. It doesn’t matter that I’m tall or that I can have laser-focus when needed. It’s just never happened for me. It’s part of wedding reception tradition: the girl who catches the bouquet is said to be the next one to get married.

Of course, that’s not how life works. God doesn’t glance up from disc-jockeying some tectonic plates or something and say, “Oh, she’s next. Alexa, remind me to start working on that.”

It’s all in good fun. But at the same time, in some small way, it matters to me.

[This is the part where we pull some folding chairs into the vulnerability circle and get real]

I have my share of date stories. I’ve been taken out for a nice dinner, given gifts, and treated with admiration, but none of those kind, generous guys have been The One. And that’s fine with me. I don’t regret any of it.

Yet weddings do a really good job of pointing out what I don’t have. That unfulfilled dream, that hope deferred, that birthday candle wish. That middle-of-the-night whispered prayer.

That little bouquet seems to mock me every time: “You’re all alone. No guy loves you. You’ll never know this kind of happiness.”

In those moments (usually with Beyoncé singing for all the single ladies to put their hands up) when I’m surrounded by little girls who believe in Prince Charming and happily-ever-after, and when I’m standing next to girls with boyfriends waiting back at the table, I’m most susceptible to those lies.

And my heart always hums this prayer: Do you see me down here, God?

Every time the bouquet sails in a direction that is not in the direction of where I stand with a smile plastered on my face like a piece of duct tape hiding my real feelings, I feel my heart sink toward my stomach.

Then the catcher of that clump of flowers – the lucky winner – poses with the bride. She most likely imagines the coming day when she’ll be the one tossing the flowers over her shoulder to all the single ladies who put their hands up.

In case this realness makes me sound like a cynic, please know I’m not. I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. I love weddings and all the special details surrounding them. I get teary-eyed watching the groom watch his bride walk toward him down the aisle.

I love sweetness and tenderness, the white dress and unity candle, the dream come true and the start of forever.

It’s just that pesky bouquet toss.

But back to my friend’s wedding…

There I stood with the other single girls, waiting on the bouquet. Not bribing the bride, but just letting things happen.

The photographer snapped that picture. The bouquet sailed through the air. I reached out, and…

Dear reader, I caught the bouquet.

It landed in my hands, the bride turned around, and we threw ourselves at each other in a hold-on-tight hug.

We laughed and grinned and the photographer snapped pictures of the hoopla. The bride glanced over at me and said one of those best friend things  that only the two of us would understand, and it made tears spring into my eyes. There was the picture with the guy who caught the garter and then I carried that bouquet back to the wedding party table where a taco was waiting for me.

I know catching that bouquet doesn’t mean I’ll get married next. But as I drove home that night with my makeup melting off my face and my hair rebelling against the bobby pins, I whispered, “Thank you, God, for seeing me.”

It was just a wedding tradition. Just a little detail. But I’m a big believer that God does everything with intention, and that He wants to show us how much He loves us in those little details He designs.

So when I caught the bouquet, I heard God speak. It was more of a deep-down knowing, but I heard Him as clearly as if He’d stood in front of me and said, “I love you, kid.”

I heard Him whisper to my heart, “You’re mine. I haven’t forgotten about you. I care about your dreams, and I see you.

That last part is actually one of God’s names in the Bible: The God Who Sees Me. Or, El Roi in Hebrew.

This name is spoken by a lonely woman named Hagar, who we read about in Genesis 16. God had promised a man named Abram and his wife Sarai a son, but as they got older, they got impatient. Sarai told Abram to sleep with Hagar, Sarai’s maid, and have a son that way. Hagar got pregnant, and bad blood brewed between the two women. Sarai treated Hagar so badly that she ran away and camped out in the wilderness by a spring.

She was pregnant and alone, with no way to support herself or her unborn child. She had nowhere to go.

But then the angel of the Lord showed up right in front of her, told her to go fix things with Sarai, and gave her some promises about the baby she carried.

Hagar called out to God and said: “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.”

She called God El Roi. The God Who Sees Me.

In the middle of her loneliness, God let her know He hadn’t forgotten her. What a tender, sacred moment when God spoke through the details of her life.

My situation at the wedding was very different from Hagar’s, but like Hagar, I saw God  at work in the details of my situation. How unbelievably kind of Him to remind me He’s near and that He cares for me.

When I got home, I placed the bouquet in a cup on my desk. Not as a reminder to make a Pinterest wedding board since my prince is on his way, but as a reminder that God cares about even the smallest details of my life.

Because He is El Roi. He is the God Who Sees Me.

And He sees you, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Hey, friends! It’s no secret how much I love books. You can usually find me in the middle of one of these activities:

  1. Reading a book
  2. Talking about a book I’m reading
  3. Talking about a book I want to read.

Plus, English majors tend to be really into stories, so I call it using my bachelor’s degree.

Anyway, today I want to share about a brand-new book I read a few weeks ago: Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill. I’ve shared about several of her books on the blog over the years (The Lost Girl of Astor StreetThe Revised Life of Ellie SweetThe Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, and Throwing Stones), so it’s an honor to get to do it again!

First, I’ll share the book’s synopsis, then I’ll post my review and info about the author andhow you can get a copy! Happy reading!

IMG_8194.JPG

About the book:

When Evalina Cassano and Taichi Hamasaki are torn apart by the events following the attack on Pearl Harbor, they must fight if they want any hope of returning to one another before World War II steals their future together. Within These Lines is one unflinching, haunting, historical novel you don’t want to miss; perfect for fans of Monica Hesse, Ruta Sepetys, and Elizabeth Wein.

Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to a Japanese-American internment camp.

Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

My Thoughts: 

IMG_8177.jpegIn December 1941, Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor, officially bringing the United States into World War II. As fear spread through the nation, the U.S. government forced Japanese Americans to leave their homes, jobs, friends, and lives behind and enter internment camps. 

Set against this historical backdrop of turmoil, fear, and racism, Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill tells a heart-rending, yet beautiful story of love that perseveres, even when all else is against it. 

Though Evalina Cassano and Taichi Hamasaki are fictional, their lives pulse with such compelling authenticity that you forget – even if for a moment – they’re characters in a novel and not living,breathing souls. 

Yet their story of hope in the face of utter darkness and their courage to fight for what is right is inspiring. Even though this story takes place many decades in the past, it rings with timeless truths about the dangers of letting fear dictate our decisions, and reminds us of the value and dignity of all human life. That’s a message as needed today as it was in 1942. 

This story gripped me from page one. By the time I read the final line, I’d not only learned more about our country’s history – and events that did affect real people – but I was also reminded of the importance of acknowledging the truth of where we’ve been so that we can  live justly and love our neighbors today. 

I believe that’s a testament to the power of stories like Within These Lines. 

About the Author: 

Stephanie Morrill Low ResStephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and three kids. She is the author of The Lost Girl of Astor Street, The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, GoTeenWriters.comTo connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out StephanieMorrill.com

 

Within These Lines is available from all major book retailers.

Christmas, God Talks

Even Now

This past May, I sent out resumes by the handful as I raced toward seminary graduation. I networked, made calls, and sent emails, but didn’t get any responses. A month before graduation, I had to submit a move-out notice for my apartment, since I lived in campus housing. My on-campus job was going to end the last week of the semester, and at the same time, I would age off of my parents’ health insurance policy. Life was about to get really expensive really quickly, so I made the decision to move in with my parents back home while I continued to send out my resume.

I asked the women in my small group to pray for me – that I would handle this situation in the opposite way I usually do. Rather than stressing out and trying to fix everything on my own, I desperately wanted to trust that God was working behind the scenes.

Though I had zero proof that God was working, I somehow had a peace in my heart that He wouldn’t decide He’d had enough and abandon me.

The week before graduation – my birthday week – my brother-in-law told me about a job opportunity on campus. I mentioned it to a staff member on campus whom I greatly respect. I asked if she thought I’d be a good fit for the position, even though I knew next to nothing about it. The next day, she told me she’d submitted my resume.

I didn’t hear anything else.

Then my sister who works on campus happened to run into the woman in charge of interviews.

In the bathroom, of all places.

My sister called me as I was walking into a doctor’s appointment (I was stacking appointments like crazy before I rolled off that insurance plan), and asked if I’d heard back about the job. I told her no. She told me I should’ve received an email and I needed to reach out as soon as possible.

So I made a phone call right there in the doctor’s office parking lot.

I didn’t have days to pray about whether or not I was making the right decision. Everything had to happen super quickly. So I prayed in a way I don’t do too often. I told God if I was offered the job, I’d take it as a sign that I was supposed to accept it. And if I wasn’t offered the job, I would know I was supposed to move home.

I didn’t have time to think or process or weigh pros and cons. I was just trying to survive finals and graduation and saying goodbye to the place and people I’d come to love.

Mom texted me one day and asked how I was doing, and in reply, I sent a picture of my bedroom floor, completely covered by about a foot of laundry.

I was running on empty and emotionally maxed-out.

Through a crazy series of events where just the right people were in just the right places at just the right times, I applied for the job. A couple of days later, exactly one week before graduation, I interviewed for the position. Later that same afternoon, I interviewed again.

Then nothing. I didn’t hear anything at all. I was so overwhelmed with everything else going on in my life that I didn’t let myself worry. I poured my focus into studying, taking final exams, and steaming my graduation robe. I collected boxes to pack my stuff, my parents rented a U-Haul, and I invited my friends over to celebrate my birthday and to tell them goodbye.

On May 9, 2018, I walked across the chapel stage and received my Master of Arts in Ministry to Women. Still jobless. Still moving back to my parents’ house the next day.

I left the chapel and met up with my family for pictures. Then a member of faculty and his wife stepped over to congratulate me on my graduation. And to offer me the job.

Right there in the middle of graduation excitement, while I was still riding the did-I-really-just-get-my-Masters?! adrenaline high and clutching my degree in my clammy hands, I was offered the job.

I pulled my mom over and said, “Dr. L, this is my mom. Mom, Dr. L just offered me the job.”

I cried, my mom cried. It was a whole lot of emotion all at once.

When we left campus for lunch, I had about an hour before the housing office closed for the weekend. So I quickly called Housing and asked if I could retract my move out notice. I prayed they hadn’t already filled my spot.

Guess what? They hadn’t. I got to stay. Which, admittedly, was super convenient because I hadn’t even had time to start packing yet. I think my sisters were the most excited about not attending my packing party later that night.

All of that happened on Friday. On Monday, I started training. I’m now seven months into my full-time job.

photo credit: Alexa Mahan

One of the pieces of the Christmas story that strikes me every year is the waiting. Not just the generations of Israelites longing for the promised Rescuer to come. Not just the four hundred years of silence between the prophets of old and the second half of the Bible.

But the time between Gabriel appearing to Mary and the birth of Jesus.

Can you imagine? What was it like for Mary to have the angel’s announcement still ringing in her ears, yet no proof that she was pregnant? Those early weeks before any signs of a new life inside her began. She believed everything had changed, but she couldn’t tell yet. She just had to wait and trust that God was even now knitting Redemption together in her womb.

I get emotional whenever I think about the song of praise Mary sang to God as soon as the angel left. She praised God for all He was going to do, even though she hadn’t seen any of it happen yet. Morning sickness hadn’t set in, little feet hadn’t kicked, and her arms hadn’t cradled a baby. Yet she believed.

And nine months later, she wrapped the Promised One in swaddling clothes and looked into the face of God Himself.

All of those childhood years of hearing a Savior would come. All of those weeks of waiting without any sign. All of those months of carrying this child, now answered in the Word made Flesh resting in her arms.

Even when she couldn’t see God working, He was. His plan was unfolding behind the scenes and, at just the right time, the Light of the World entered the darkness.

Everyone’s story doesn’t happen like mine. Believe me, I don’t take the craziness of it all for granted. And our stories certainly don’t look like Mary’s. But all of us, in one way or another, are aching for something. Many of us are begging God to intervene in our situation. Many of us just want a sign – some hope to cling to.

What is your heart longing for this Christmas? A job? A mended relationship? A husband? A baby? A friend?

I don’t know what God has planned for your life or mine, but I know He is already carrying out those plans. Though we aren’t promised everything we want, we’re promised everything we need: His Presence. And the assurance that everything will ultimately work together for our good and His glory.

Trust Him this Christmas. Trust that He is working behind the scenes, even when you don’t feel Him, hear Him, or see Him.

Even now.img_3811

“The Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name.”
– from Mary’s Song, Luke 1:49

Uncategorized

God Breathes

Something shifts
on the sixth day.
God spun the universe
into being by His Word.

But now
He bends down,
breathes life into dust.
Love into smallest substance.

Breath into flesh
meant to fill the earth
with beating hearts,
breathing lungs,
songs of praise.

But in the breadth of a breath,
teeth sink into pride.
Tasting glory,
swallowing mortality.
Baring souls
bearing shame.

The One who
set earth on its path
calls prophets to proclaim
the God-breathed Word.

He’ll crush the head,
snuff the breath
of the serpent of death
by His own death.

Mighty God is on His way.
Mysteries of the ages
will unravel
in the swaddling cloths
of a child.

But first,
centuries
of aching,
waiting,
longing.

 

Silence.

 

A virgin
overshadowed
by sovereignty,
conceiving divinity.
Accepting a plan
to usher in
The Promise.

A girl carrying
the King of Kings,
breathless
as all of history contracts
in a single moment.

On the manger floor
a baby enters the world
to save the world
and the Hope of the World
inhales oxygen.

Breath of life
from the Bread of Life
declaring life
to all who were condemned
to death.

The Son of God takes
a first breath
in a barn.
An infant’s cry
splits the skies
and breaks the silence.

The Word made flesh
bends down,
into the dust
to serve those He made
from dust.

A splintered cross
displays the One born
King of the Jews.
A man nailed to
beams and struggling
to draw air.

God breathes
one final time.
The earth quakes,
darkness falls.

The Lord of all
gives it all.
The Lamb slaughtered
for the sins of the world.

Three days in a grave,
lifeless.
Until lungs inhale
oxygen.

 

God breathes.

 

Something shifts
on the third day.
God spun the universe
into being by His Word.

But now
He conquers death.
Once-for-all battle
in a grave.

Breath of life
from the Bread of Life
declaring life
to all who were condemned
to death.

A promise of
a future restored,
a King to reign
on a throne forever.

Recorded on pages
passed down
through generations
as an invitation
to believe in
a God who breathes.