I remember sitting on the beach and watching my last sunrise with Nick.

Much like this morning in Kentucky, the dark clouds attempted to hide what I knew was tucked right behind them.

I knew they could try to mask the beauty of that morning,

but they really had no power.

The sun was still rising.

We just couldn’t see it.

And, honestly, I was struggling to feel it.

I held back tears that summer morning of 2008 as I feared the sky was somehow

preparing my heart for what the doctors had already tried to do.

Nick and I sat in silence and now I often wish I would have had the courage to say what was on my heart.

I wish I could tell Nick I knew the sun was really rising.

I wish I could tell him there were no clouds dark enough to take away the light of eternity.

I wish I could tell him the power of the resurrection was so unbelievably real that there was no need for either of us to fear tomorrow.

But I didn’t.

I just sat beside him and snapped pictures as we quietly watched a few random tourists stroll the mostly dark and somewhat ominous beach.

Life can be so dark.

Life can feel so ominous.

_____________________________

Eventually, the rays of light fought boldly with the atmosphere, and without warning,

they began to burst through from every side just like they did today.

Relief flooded my soul as light began to win that morning,

because I needed to know before we walked to our car that

NO MATTER WHAT THE NEXT FEW MONTHS HELD

the Light would eventually WIN.

Darkness overwhelmed our family four months later.

In spite of all our prayers for earthly healing,

Nick went Home.

Tim reminds me often that we don’t know what Nick was praying in those last days………..

and honestly, knowing Nick’s love for God,

I think I fully know.

He didn’t fear the darkness.

He knew more deeply than most adults will ever know just how magnificent the light is just on the other side.

_________________________

Two years passed by in my grief, and I found myself at a writer’s conference in North Carolina sitting beside a woman who had recently and unexpectedly lost her husband.

We sat face to face as she began to cry, telling me all about him.

She told me how early morning was the most difficult part of the day for her,

because she and her husband had always eaten breakfast together before they left for work.

As our conversation ended, I asked if I could pray with her,

and I realized we had talked for nearly an hour without knowing each other’s names.

Shared grief is like that.

Names are so much less significant than heartache when it comes to bonding.

She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Dawn.”

I could feel every part of me catching my breath.

Here I was, facing someone whose very name was the time of a day she found most difficult to face.

I was literally “facing Dawn” with tears running down her cheeks.

We prayed, and I was overwhelmed with how God moved in that moment,

speaking words from me that I knew were really from Him to her.

Her name was no accident.

Her tragic loss was not unnoticed.

The dark clouds were only blocking the sunrise for a season.

She would see the sun again.

___________________________

Dawn would one day be able to face each new dawn

with strength and hope and joy and peace.

————————————

I blogged my way through my own dark-cloud season of life and reached a day where I knew it was time to share my journey in a way that could help others journal their way through their own dark days.

As we prepared the book for publishing,

I knew the photo on the cover had to be of my last sunrise with Nick,

and I knew the title had to be

Facing Dawn.

I don’t know what you’re facing this morning,

but I do know this.

Light has already won the battle.

The Son is there.

Even if you can’t see Him.

 He conquered death,

ripping every dark cloud away…….

FOREVER.

Because of this, we can boldly face each new dawn,

no matter how dark,

with Hope and Joy and Peace………….

until we see Him face to face.

The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Facing Dawn:  A Morning Devotional for the Brokenhearted

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Finding God in Your Mess

April 3rd, 2017

 

I somehow managed to avoid it for months.

Endless craft supplies,

all kinds of notebooks,

and

enough glue to hold together every science fair project in the county.

I’m not sure if it was the hard work I was avoiding or the precious memories I would surely face along the way.

Messes are like that, aren’t they?

We find ourselves in the middle of them time and time again…………

yet it’s so much easier to look the other way,

stay busy,

or

pretend they’ll somehow disappear on their own.

The day finally arrives, though, when we realize there’s only way to deal with a mess.

We have to face it.

Dig in.

Sort.

Purge.

Messes take hard work and lots of time to fix.

So container by container,

I faced mine.

Remnants of school projects.

Half-used drawing pads.

Jewels and ribbons from the days of making homecoming and prom bouquets.

Supplies for making a princess tiara, along with satin gloves and a frog that would hopefully one day become a prince.

Visions of Olivia dressed in a Princess Tiana costume danced through my mind.

Sometimes messes make you stop and realize just how precious the past truly was.

Paint brushes, fabric scraps, and old notebooks piled high,

mixed with colored pencils and assorted candles….

Messes never make sense until you sort them out.

A homemade treasure that served a special purpose eight years ago-

when Olivia needed something at school

to keep Nick’s memory close by-

will now serve a new and special purpose,

keeping both Olivia and Nick close to me while I write.

Messes, when examined up close,

 hold their own kind of beauty and have their own kind of purpose.

Photographs, found tucked behind shelves, took my breath away.

I remember how excited the boys were to have this swing on the back porch.

They swung together all evening……….what I’d give to hear their conversation today.

Messes make us realize we need to listen closely…….

voices, like memories, can so quickly fade away.

A Mother’s Day gift from Nick.

“#1 Mom”

I can see him grinning as he handed this to me.

Messes remind us that even when life was hard we were doing the best we could……

and they encourage us to do our very best today.

Without warning today,

my mess began to speak not just to my mom heart,

but also to my soul.

“This is love……..

not that we loved God…………..

but that He loved us and sent His Son.”

I remembered this box of decorative duct tape, a gift from Mamaw to Olivia.

She used it along with a pack of Post-it notes to fill her car with Bible verses when she was 16.

Messes remind us of who we need to hold onto……………

and also of who is holding onto us.

Jesus truly is the duct tape, holding our broken lives together (Col. 1:17).

———————————————————-

I was getting pretty tired of my own mess this afternoon,

so I almost didn’t tackle my desk.

Sometimes when we’ve faced a mess for a long time,

we just need a break.

And I had definitely had enough.

The thought of organizing paper clips and rubber bands was more than I thought I could bear,

but I pulled my desk drawer open anyway

and immediately knew…….

God was clearly not finished with the mess inside of me.

Messes can’t be fixed on our own timetable………..

when God says,

“Face them.”

He means, “Face them all.”

You can imagine the look on my face when I moved an old calendar and unopened stamp pad set

and discovered the head of Jesus and a penny hiding underneath.

That’s right.

Jesus was right there…….

well, part of Him anyway……..

looking right up at me from the middle of my mess.

Not far from Him was an old rusty stake that I’ve kept in my drawer for years to remind me of just what He went through for me………….

and for you.

He entered our messes over 2,000 years ago,

and He still wants to enter them today.

___________

My blogging has been very sporadic this year.

My words have felt emptier……………and the gap between them has felt like a canyon in my soul.

So I started my cleaning project this morning by telling a friend I was going to take pictures along the way,

hoping God would somehow show up in my mess.

I miss writing.

I need writing.

For me, writing is like breathing……….

and lately my oxygen level has been low.

Messes surround me every day,

and I know how badly God’s presence is needed in each of them.

I needed God to show up,

because I needed to know He’s going to show up for so many people I love who are hurting, confused, discouraged, broken, and sad.

Just as I began to type this post and share these images,

a Facebook notification popped up in the bottom right corner of my computer.

I couldn’t see the picture, but I read the words,

“Found a heart shaped leaf.”

 I had to go look!!

A beautiful high school student had sent these two photos………………

 

And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

She not only sent a leaf in the shape of a heart…………..

she sent love in the shape of a broken heart.

_______________

If your heart is broken or your life is a mess,

please know this.

God is right there.

He was broken for you………………so that you could be whole.

Stop running.

Stop pretending.

Face the mess.

Dig in.

Do the work.

See the beauty………….even when it hurts.

Ask God to show up.

And when you feel too tired and you just want to quit………………..

open one more drawer.

I’m so glad I did!

________________________

God loves you with a never-ending love,

and He promises to make all things beautiful………

in His time.

And we know that in all things

God works for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

He has also set eternity in the human heart;

yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Eccl. 3:11

Thank you for sharing this often-messy life with me.

I love you all so much.