Dearest family and friends,
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain. – CS Lewis
It’s with a tender heart that I say farewell to 2014 and move forward into 2015. I could tell you that I still call downtown Minneapolis my home away from home. I could mention that I continue to work at Wells Fargo. I could talk about The Vine or any number of other things. Those things haven’t changed much. But much has.
I don’t recall much from earlier in the year; just the significance of loss and heartache. It amazes me how quickly life can shift. In an instant, you become different. Life becomes different, valuable and precious; a gift. You’re forced into a crisis of faith and it changes you. What do you really believe about life and God? Why do you believe? Can you really trust Him?
I’m not walking through this alone. God is at work, even in this, and His Word has become even more real and precious. Old verses have become new and fresh in ways I never thought possible. They have many faucets and hold deeper meaning and because of that, my relationship with Him has deepened and grown. I am walking day by day with a greater appreciation for each moment and for each relationship in my life and I can’t help but share what I’ve been learning these last few months, mostly the following:
Love: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
– Jesus, Mark 12:30-31
Each of you reading this Christmas letter is part of the larger body of Christ that continues to extend the loving arms of God. Experiencing and receiving the command to love your neighbor as yourself has been brought to life by all the unconditional generosity and kindness I’ve received and has made God’s love so incredibly tangible to me. There are no words to convey the deep gratitude I have for all of you. God’s goodness shines through each and every single action, thought, prayer and kind word. Even the silence in just sitting with me at times speaks volumes.
Peace: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. –Paul, Philippians 4:6-7
Peace was one of the very first things I remember asking God for the moment I heard Ashley had gone home. I didn’t know how I was going to get from one moment to the next, but it was because of that peace that God enabled me to make decisions, to start processing and to shelter me from the onslaught of emotions that come during times of crisis. It is that same peace that carries me now.
Grace: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” – Peter, 1 Peter 5:10
God never promised that life would be easy if I chose to follow Him. He promised I wouldn’t walk through those valleys and peaks on my own and I haven’t. Through the grace He bestowed upon us when He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, He made a way to restore the relationship He created us for. Nothing is beyond redemption and restoration. Nothing.
Joy: “Count it all joy…hen you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James, James 1:2-4
Joy is more than an emotion. Unlike happiness, joy does not depend upon our circumstances. It does not simply happen to us. Joy is a choice and one we must choose every day. It’s hard to be joyful when facing trials, but through this season of my life, I’ve found that joy leads to gratitude and a fullness of life I never expected.
Hope: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” Job 13.15
Faith has found its footing in the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). I will continue to place my hope and faith in Him, but through His grace, I accept the invitation to wrestle over these matters with God. In finding the answers I seek based on the truth of His Word, hope abounds and is made new.
Ashley was so much more than a sister. She was one of my best friends and there are so many aspects of her character I pray God will bring, not just into my own life, but yours as well: her firm foundation and faith in Christ which she continually shared with others, her selfless acts of thoughtfulness and putting others before herself, her uncanny ability to focus on the truths of God rather than let her physical condition or the harshness of this world keep her down, her ready smile and gentle spirit and the love she had for those around her. She would be pleased to know that her life, even in death, has stirred something within each of us: a longing to know God or grow deeper in relationship with Him. He gave everything so that we could have Him. I do not know what my future holds, but I do know who holds my future. God is good. He always been and always will be and I trust that no matter what comes my way, He has a better plan than what I can currently see. My hope and prayer for you is that as you pursue Jesus, you will not only find the answers you seek, but be redeemed, renewed and restored. Only Jesus can fill the void. Only He knows and nothing is beyond redemption.
And [I] know that in all things [including this] God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28
With love and gratitude,