Monday, March 27, 2017

2017: Brand New Territory

This year has been a whirlwind of changes and challenges. I usually write a New Year's post and a post reflecting on my new birth in Christ (which was Saturday). Time has been limited - and so has mental clarity - and writing has taken a setback to many other things. While I have a few moments to spare (and this is my third day working on this), I thought I would combine my three annual posts (New Year's, spiritual birthday, and Easter) into one. 

So much has happened since I last had the opportunity to write. This year literally began with change as we moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on January 1 for Daniel's new job. I was seven months pregnant at the time. We have had a lot of change in a very short amount of time (new job for Daniel, new church family, new city, new routines, new house, and a new baby). My introverted and routine-oriented self is still coming to grips with it all. Almost nothing is familiar, which is why I titled this post "Brand New Territory." 

As much as I did not enjoy living in the city of Pittsburgh, it was very painful to leave our church family and dear friends at Renaissance. God used the leadership there as well as the members to grow us in what it means to live by grace, to point others to grace, and to live in deep community with other believers. I miss them so much.

One of our biggest fears in leaving Renaissance was that we wouldn't be able to find a church where living in community with out believers was so central. The Lord was so very kind to connect us to Safe Have Church - Big Sandy the first week we arrived in Tuscaloosa. It wasn't long before the Lord started giving us new friends and opportunities to serve within the church. Even though the people there hardly knew us, they took it upon themselves to take care of us when we arrived and when our son was born. It will take time to develop the depths of friendships that we crave, but we are excited for what God has in store for us in and through this local body of believers. 

During the first month, I spent most of my time cleaning our new house (yep - we're home owners now!) and making it feel like home. I wanted to do a lot of the deep cleaning before our baby boy was born. I thought I had more time than I did, but he surprised us by coming two and a half weeks early. Justus Garrison* was born on Valentine's Day, weighing in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces. 

This is not only new territory for us, but uncharted territory. 

I expect this new year to keep up the theme of new territory as we settle in here and grow in parenting Justus. Even though we don't really have to teach him much in the way of verbal lessons, we can already see our lack of wisdom and strength for this awesome task.

As almost everyone had warned us, the first few weeks were rough. Add to this the fact that Justus was admitted into the hospital when he was two weeks old with omphalitis (an infection in his umbilical cord stump). He was in the hospital for a total of 9 days. It was a very difficult and dark time. It was so hard to see him poked and prodded so much. He had to receive strong doses of IV antibiotics and his IV blew 4 times. Every time they had to do a new IV, they had to stick him multiple times before they could get it to take. It was almost unbearable to watch. I struggled with understanding how this could be for Justus's good and became angry at God as the week wore on for allowing everything to be so hard and painful. He reminded me that He knew intimately what it was like to watch His Son suffer. 

Indeed, that is why we celebrate Easter. God was not only willing for His Son to suffer to save a people for Himself, but He ordained it (Isaiah 53). I confess that this truth, as marvelous as it is, only brought me a little comfort at the time. My heart was embittered towards my heavenly Father for what He was permitting to happen to Justus. I have since repented of my hardness of heart and apathetic spirit - which is why Jesus had to die, to save hard-hearted sinners like me. The cross of Christ proves the depths of God's love for me, even though I had lost sight of that at the time.

I mentioned that Saturday was my spiritual birthday - the day when Jesus Christ gave me new spiritual life (John 3). It has now been 16 years of following the Lord. As I grow in faith and in the knowledge of Him, I realize more and more how much I need His grace. He saved me by His grace and He sustains me by His grace. I bring nothing to the table, except the sin that required His death on my behalf. The Lord reminded me today as I reflected on Him saving me that it is only by His grace that I still believe in Him. It's only by His grace that I did not walk away from the Christian faith when enduring that dark week at the hospital with Justus. We never outgrow our need for the gospel. We need it to save us from our sin and bring us to God and we need it to continue believing in God until we reach Heaven, where our faith will become sight. Reflecting on these truths helps me see Easter, as well as my spiritual birthday, in a different light. These were not just events that happened in the past, but they are events that continue to impact the here and now. 

As Christians, we have much to rejoice in as we think about the Lenten season leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Our sins have been paid for. We have been redeemed. Perfect obedience has been imputed to us. We have been made right with God. We have been adopted as His sons and daughters forever. We have been given the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. And God Himself will see to it that we endure in faith until the end. Celebrate God's grace with me this Easter season. Without it, we would be hopeless and dead in our sins. But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5)!

Photo credit: Gary Franklin Photography (
*We chose the name Justus (besides the fact that we just liked the name) because we liked its meaning ("just"). Plus, I liked how it was a biblical name (though not a common one). Garrison is a play off my dad's name, Gary, and means "fortified stronghold" and "son of Gary." 

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