December 29, 2016
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
Friend to Friend
I’ve been through hard times. I’ve asked the question why on many occasions. I’ve begrudgingly said goodbye to family and friends in order to say hello to strangers and scary new places. I know the matter of being shattered.
There was a season when Brad and I lived in four different homes, in four different states, within four years. It was a very difficult time of my life. From Ohio to Pennsylvania to New York to North Carolina, we made our way across the East Coast with three little ducklings in tow. Back then, the uncertainty of tomorrow caused me a great deal of stress. A certain muscle in my back is twitching just thinking about it.
The chaos began back in 2000…
We lived in a snuggly little town just outside Akron, Ohio and God had just nudged me into public music ministry. I sensed Him asking me to join Him on a new faith adventure, and I said, “Yes!”
So, after much praying and planning, I sifted through a list of songs I had written, connected with a producer, flew to Nashville, and recorded my first CD. Did I mention that I also had two very active little boys who were under the age of three, and that I was pregnant with our third child? (Go ahead, laugh at me. The timing didn’t make sense to me either.)
At the same time, Brad was doing well with his company and would soon be promoted. It was also a time of rapid and rich spiritual growth for Brad. He became the leader of our adult Sunday school class at church and led admirably. I was so proud of him.
We loved our church, were plugged into ministries, and got along famously with our neighbors. We were comfortable, content, and settled. Life was good.
But it seems to me that God doesn’t necessarily always want us to be comfortable and content. (I say that tongue in cheek, of course.) Our comfort turned to chaos quickly when, just weeks before Kennedy was born, Brad accepted a job promotion that would uproot us from Akron, and transplant us in the suburbs outside Philadelphia.
Saying goodbye to our community was torture. We had blossomed into young adults in Ohio. We exchanged our sacred marriage vows there. Gave birth to our babies there. We grew in faith as a family there.
With each farewell, the weight of sadness grew heavier. When moving day arrived and all the boxes had been loaded, we hugged our neighbors one last time then drove away. As our home faded from sight, I realized that a part of my heart would always live in Ohio.
Once we got to our new house, I cried buckets of tears out of frustration, exhaustion, and sadness. Tension and stress became my new closest friends. The moment I said yes to God, so much of what had been comfortable and familiar was stripped away from my life. Of course, the timing wasn't coincidental. God allowed what was comfortable to be removed. He then led me to a place where I would have to trust Him and lean on Him in ways I never had before.
Broken became my middle name.
When we moved the only thing I could do was hunker down, spread out my motherly wings, and care for the babes in my nest. I changed diapers, chased toddlers, and cherished naptimes for almost a year. Friendships blossomed between me and other young moms, and the ladies’ Bible study at church became a vital link to both God and other women. As I studied Scripture, the Lord began to birth new songs in my heart, and although I wasn’t serving in music ministry right then, I processed my faith and life by writing songs.
Fourteen months after our transition, when the chaos had finally turned to calm, Brad hesitantly announced that it was time to move again. He would take over a territory in Syracuse, New York. Were we the punch line in someone else’s joke? We always said we wanted to live in a sunny, warm place. Now we were heading further north. Yuck. We prayed fervently about the move and felt God leading us in that direction, but I wondered if God’s compass was broken. As we packed boxes once again, questions danced around in my mind.
Had I heard Him wrong?
Why would God call me to a task and then herd me across the country like a nomad’s cow?
Starting over in New York had a strangely familiar feel. The first few months were busy and lonely. I spent much time meeting neighbors, figuring out the aisles at the new grocery stores, and finding out the best routes to take to Wal-Mart, to the post office, and to the pediatrician’s office. Finding a new church was a whole ‘nother challenge. But, in time, the matters of being shattered eventually lessened as we assimilated into the community and a wonderful church family.
The Syracuse summers were lush, but the winters were long. Though snow fell often, to the tune of 150 inches a year, God’s grace fell even more. He blessed me with deep friendships, intense Bible studies, and godly leadership from the pastors at our church. Brad and I immersed ourselves into the community, even though we anticipated that our time in New York would be brief.
Then, seventeen short months after we unpacked in Syracuse, Brad accepted a new, can’t-pass-it-up business opportunity, and we moved to sunny Charlotte, North Carolina.
What an exhausting journey. With each move I experienced both bitter and sweet moments, but the aftertaste of the bitter moments seemed to linger a little longer than the sweet ones.
It was a difficult four years.
I’ve heard it said, “If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t climb it.” There’s a lot of truth to that. Through the mountain of pain I scaled in each move, God brought me closer to Him and taught me important lessons that I surely wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Lessons about trusting God with my friendships, with goodbyes, with loneliness, with my family, with anger, stress, and faith. Through it all, I’ve come to know this for sure: in all things—even the hard things—God is sovereign and can be trusted.
I know from personal experience that in the painful, tear-filled days, God is still good and can still be trusted. He is faithful. I’ve witnessed His strength in my weakness. I’ve felt His comfort in times of loss. And though we aren’t always kept from experiencing shattered matters, we never have to endure them alone.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
Thank you for always being by my side and for giving me your strength and grace when I am simply weak and broken. Please help me look to you in every shattered matter.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Psalm 34, then write out your favorite verses and commit them to memory.
CONNECT: Is there someone you know who needs to read this message? Forward this devotion. Post it on your social media sites. Share the hope of healing. Then let’s meet on my blog to PRAY for one another today.
More from the Girlfriends
Today’s devotion is an excerpt from Gwen Smith’s book, Broken Into Beautiful, which features Gwen’s testimony, along with Scriptural truths and stories of how God has brought restoration the hearts of many other women who had painful life wounds. Explore God’s purpose and hope for your life today as you read Broken Into Beautiful. To order the book, go to Amazon, your favorite Christian bookstore, or for a signed copy, order from Gwen’s web store.
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Originally published Thursday, 29 December 2016.