Brokenness Doesn’t Define You

I wake up every day surrounded by broken pieces of a life I used to know. It isn’t a novelty. After four years, I am familiar with this unexpected life that greets me each day.

I am not alone. If you’re an adult, you know brokenness- maybe in yourself or in someone you love. I hope it isn’t the first thing you are aware of each day.

But it might be.

The reality is that childhood’s broken toys give way to an adult life where the stakes are higher. Broken things are the least of our worries. Instead, we encounter a world full of broken dreams, hearts, bodies, and relationships.

As I have recently wrestled with my own brokenness, the Lord showed me something beautiful and hopeful and transforming: my brokenness does not define me. 

I will say it again, just for you: your brokenness does not define you. 

Our brokenness can only have as much power over us as we give it.

It is a demanding tyrant. We can feel hopeless and helpless as we survey the pieces. There is no way back to the life we had before. It all seems impossible, or at least impossibly complicated. Depression, anxiety, anger, shame, self-absorption all clamor to flood in.

Sadly, our brokenness can often distance us from the One who can help us. The One who loves us in the midst of our broken, ruined lives. The One whose body was broken so we could be made whole.

Nothing is beyond His ability to heal, restore, or transform. We see God’s love for us poignantly at work through Jesus’s life of ministry to broken people. Never did Jesus say someone’s brokenness exceeded His ability to help and heal. There were no lost causes.

God is bigger than whatever is broken in your life. When Jesus gave His life for ours, He covered all the brokenness this world could ever generate.

When He enters our lives, He trades us: beauty for the ashes, joy for the sorrow, praise for the despair. He tells us that He alone defines us. Our identity is as His deeply loved child.

Several years ago, shortly after John had died, my children went to a camp for kids who had lost a close family member. Many of the activities were designed to work them through different aspects of grief. One day they were each given a terra cotta pot and told to go outside and hurl it onto the pavement.

Shattered shards of pottery surrounded them. I watched them from a distance. It is how our lives felt: whole one minute, shattered the next.

They were given bags to carefully gather the pieces. Then, they were told to write on each piece something they loved about the person they had lost. Next, it was time to try to glue the pots back together. It was painstaking. Nothing fit right.

But, hours later they were done. The haphazard shapes didn’t resemble the previous pots. Yet, each pot was transformed when the lights were out because candles had been nestled within them.

In fact, they were beautiful. They shimmered forth more light than ever before because the cracks, the broken places, were the very spots where the light could shine.

It was a holy moment when the room was filled with their glow. Brokenness transformed.

As a widow, I can feel like I will always be broken and diminished by my loss. It is tempting to believe my life will always have less joy, less fullness, less purpose, less meaning, less peace. I can feel resigned to a second-rate, broken life and future.

But, it isn’t true, and I am beginning to deeply believe it. His grace and abundance is big enough for even this. For even you and your story.  Our circumstances don’t exempt His promises.

They don’t get to have that much power.

Jesus Christ promises us true fullness of life. His love for us brings peace and hope and purpose and joy. He fills us with love to share and kindnesses to give and praises to proclaim and people to bless with the overflowing love He has given us.

Brokenness is not the end, nor the final word. Instead, in the gentle hands of God’s redemptive love, it can be the beginning of a new kind of beautiful.

believing more beauty & joy are yet to come,
because His love wins,
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When Joy Seems Impossible: A Wedding Surprise

The summer of 2016 is now in the Carroll family record book:
2 graduations,
1 wedding,
3 wedding showers,
1 girl’s month long journey to Bolivia,
4 birthdays,
2 vacations,
3 girls packed and moved to 3 different places
and the grand finale: my son’s baptism!
All of this was just within our little family of five (now six with my new son-in-law!)

Our parents 50th wedding anniversaries were bookends to this amazing collection: one in April, one this past weekend.

So if you’ve been wondering where I have been, now you know. I have been living faster than I could write.

It was stunning to have so many of life’s poignant moments condensed into such a short time. It was also challenging to have one event after another where John’s absence was so conspicuous. Missing him became a familiar, frequent emotion again.

The moment with the greatest heart tug was obvious: at my oldest daughter’s wedding. Not having him here to walk our daughter down the aisle was a hard reality to accept. Like most families, John and our girls had talked about that moment since the girls were little. He took his future responsibility seriously, and the girls knew they’d have his strong arm to lean on in the midst of their joyful days.

We all knew there was no way around it. That moment in the ceremony would be teary. Full of if-onlys. We hoped that we’d get all of our tears out at the dress rehearsal.

But, we underestimated God’s ability to bring grace even to the hardest places. Those hopeless places we think are impossible for Him to touch with wonder and surprise and grace.

Shortly after being engaged, our daughter asked her almost 15 year old brother to take his dad’s place. He agreed, even though it was a little intimidating to be in the spotlight. Walking a gorgeous young woman in a beautiful, white gown with 250 people watching you is a big job, even if she is your sister.

Finally, the day arrived for the wedding, which was held in the garden of an historic home. The moment had come for them to walk down the aisle.  The two of them paused at the back of the garden, to allow the music to begin and the guests to stand.

At that moment an unexpected mishap occurred! The haircomb holding her veil slipped out, and her veil became unattached! As she walked forward, it floated to the ground!

Just a second before all of the guests turned to look in her direction, I turned first and saw the wedding coordinator roll up the veil and quickly hold his hands behind his back- a very professional, smooth move!

Stunned, I looked at my daughter; she was keeping her composure. “Oh well,” I thought,”there is nothing I can do about it now. We’ll just put it back on for the photos.”

As my daughter gracefully walked by my aisle, she gave me an ever so slight shake of her head. The expression in her eyes told me,”Don’t worry about it.”

She and her brother reached the front of the ceremony site and stood side by side as our pastor welcomed everyone and prayed. Then, it was my turn to come forward and stand beside her so that I could answer the question: “Who gives this woman away?”

As I walked up beside her, she turned to me and quietly asked,”Mom, will you please put on my veil?”

All at once, I knew we were in the midst of a holy moment. More precious than I had ever expected to have in this moment, on this day. Peace and confidence settled over me. I knew I was being given a gift.

Calmly, purposefully, I turned and walked down the aisle to retrieve the veil from the wedding coordinator, who still stood at the back of the garden with it behind his back. With it gently in hand, I walked back and tucked the veil’s comb into the back of her hair. Then, I took my time getting the veil arranged over her gown, alongside her face and each of her shoulders. I savored the moments.

I knew those were my last official moments as her momma. And they were beautiful.

For twenty two years John and I had loved and raised and prepared her for life. Now she was ready. I truly felt like I was putting the finishing touches on those twenty two years as I arranged her veil…presenting her to her new husband and to the Lord.

And, then I stood by her side. Her radiant smile of thanks was her confident goodbye to me.

“Who gives this woman to be married?” I heard our pastor ask.

“I do, and her father, John, would be delighted.” I said loud enough for all to hear.

And, then a kiss on the cheek and twenty-two years of being her momma were over. My job was done.

I sat down. Amazed. Stunned. What had just happened? The moment I had dreaded most, we had dreaded most, didn’t happen. The veil distracted us all and instead, I had been given one of the most precious, meaningful moments of my life. Truly, I will treasure it forever.

Grace. Unanticipated, glorious, abundant grace. The Lord surprised us beyond anything we could have imagined!

I keep on learning this lesson in this unexpected journey. His grace will meet me and will meet you every. single. time. Don’t fret. Just trust that those things in the future you dread, those moments you aren’t sure you will be able to get through, know that you can trust Him to meet you there.

The past four and a half years have been full of moments I wasn’t sure I could do alone. This summer they came in droves. And, every time, He surprised me with strength I didn’t know I could have; joy that I didn’t know would find me; peace that was bigger than my problem.

“I will turn their mourning into joy; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13

As we planned my daughter’s wedding, my hope was that joy would take the day. It did. That evening, my heart was too full of joy for tears to surface. Instead, we danced the night away under a summer sky.

With God all things are possible, even joy.
Maria

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