I stumbled, God carried. I wept, God loved deep. I wandered, God stayed. I wondered, God sang. He is the only story I have, the only one I want.

You won’t read these words for a few days. There are fireworks going off in the lot a few doors down. To my left is a glass of sparking white grape juice. And all over the world millions are either celebrating a new day or counting down ’til midnight.

My introvert self is quite happy sitting here in my pajamas, typing quietly away. I’ve been reflecting on this past year, thinking about how I want 2015 to be a Right Here New Year, and wondering what my One Word might possibly hold during the next 365 days.

There are recap blog posts galore this week, and I’ll spare you another one to read, but I can’t help but say that 2014 was a good one. It was joy-filled and new, beauty-full and challenging. It was hard, too. It was hard. I’m barely able to see it in the rearview now, but the littlest glimpse shows me that all those places I felt so stretched thin are spaces for Him to shine more brightly.

I’ll take that.

To love is to be vulnerable, according to C.S. Lewis, and I’ve been real vulnerable this year. I’ve loved deep and been loved deeply in return. The deeper I love and the further into community I wade, the scarier it becomes. I thought it would get easier, and in some ways it has, but mainly I find that there’s more a chance of my heart breaking. But this has proven equally true: the bitterness that has been makes the sweet stuff even sweeter.

It’s worth it.

People carry stories. And I really love stories. One of the best secrets about the power of a story is that it’s almost impossible to know a person’s story without looking long.

Past the fluffy words or their eyes darting around, past the assumptions to the real, nitty-gritty messy and beautiful. And when you look long at someone, it’s nearly impossible not to love them. The longer we look, the more we see with Jesus-eyes.

Isn’t that glory? Seeing His reflection across our sin-stained existence and, in turn, looking long at Him with our lives? And isn’t that love? Turning to another and looking long?

Sara Hagerty, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet

I’m not sure what you would see if you were to look long at my story. I pray that the story I tell is the story I live, and more than anything I pray it speaks of God’s goodness.

He has broken but He has mended. He has torn but He has carried. And the truth of the matter is, when everyone ran out I wanted them back more than I wanted Him there. Just typing that makes me sick inside.

The road that I never wanted to travel, the journey that lasted years longer than I imagined, was ugly and dark and lonely and scary. It was bitter.

My only companion on that road was God and somewhere on that path, after many U-turns and roadblocks and thunderstorms of tears shed, I realized that the gift I wanted at the other side of my imagined rainbow was no longer friendships restored or hopes fulfilled — it was the One walking beside me.

He was the gift. He was what I wanted more than anything. Suddenly the darkness was lighter, the bitterness was sweeter. I think something happens in the heavenlies when we want God more than we want His promises. I think they dance.

I wanted Him. Whether He came and lifted my circumstances, or He just came.

Sara Hagerty, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet

I stumbled, God carried. I wept, God loved deep. I wandered, God stayed. I wondered, God sang. He is the only story I have, the only one I want.

Mine is an Ezekiel 37 story, one of dry bones and hope lost. But then God… always God. He says speak, prophesy to this dead place, proclaim healing and restoration and life. Believe the words I tell you to speak. The Word made flesh brought life to my dry bones and finally I could breathe. And with that very breath, I was hungry for Him.

Always, He is the best part of a story. Any story, every story. Look long enough and you’ll see Him. Winter turns to Spring but He is in the Winter, too.

He is beautiful in both.

++++

Every Bitter Thing Is SweetEvery Bitter Thing Is Sweet is the love story of Sara Hagerty and Jesus, told along a road she never would have chosen. All along the way, there is a tender sweetness as she learns to wade through the dark while looking to the Light.

It’s a hard read that’s an easy read, in that the story is difficult but her writing is beautiful. You won’t be able to put this down, not because you want to know the ending (although you do, of course), but because you want to meet Jesus with her all along the way.

Having walked a road I wouldn’t have chosen, I was encouraged by her faithfulness to paint the picture and tell the story of God’s goodness in all things. Truly, joy is ours for the taking and every bitter thing really is sweet.

While her story is written along the road of barrenness, this book is for all women. The truth of His goodness is for all of us, no matter what road we are walking. While I certainly would be able to relate more as a married women or as a mother, this was still a great read and one that I enjoyed. Highly recommend, no matter where you are in life.

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