If you had told me one year ago today that I’d sit in my office chair breathing a sigh of relief after what I can only describe as being burned at the stake in our foster care journey I’d laugh in your face. If you had told me a year ago that my family would have to endure what we endured to be able to stand today I’d had said you were mad. One year ago today, if you told me flames would burn down everything I thought was mine, I’d have told you to come at me because there was no way in hell that would happen.

It couldn’t happen because first, a year ago today, I was elbow deep in the foster care work that I had been passionate about for as long as I can remember, probably even before that. I have always been called to love on children. Foster care was a part of that journey. Did we have fires? Sure. On occasion. But nothing we couldn’t kill.

A few weeks before October 14, 2021 I had prayed that God would make me into new wineskin. I knew what that meant. I just didn’t know how He’d make that happen. But, I was willing. Willing to go deeper. Willing to find my identity in Him. Willing to drop the baggage, heal from the trauma. Willing to say yes. I fully believe today that “yes” put a bullseye on my back, on my husband’s back, on my family’s back to ensure the new wineskin was never to come.

In the beginning stages of writing my first book (shameless plug – it’s a great book, a testimony of strength, faith and love. If you want it, here it is: Arise Daughter. You can also get an author’s copy – basically a signed copy with a little note – here) all hell broke loose in my household. As a foster parent that wasn’t uncommon. But, this was different. This was an all out war.

I thought the war was because of my book. When I finally finished my book and got it published I suddenly realized my book, my testimony, was important but that wasn’t what the battle was. When my book was published the world became even darker. My husband and I battled for our family and yet against each other. Nothing was making sense. I clung to my faith unsure of how much more we could take.

When April 2022 hit our world crumbled. And there was nothing we could do about it. The system we fought so hard to help was suddenly fighting so hard for us to walk away. Before I knew it my house stood empty of children. The laughter was suddenly gone. The joy of experiencing things were gone. What was left were two broken hearts, grieving differently yet clinging on to each other in hopes something would make sense.

I’ll be honest, between April 2022 and September 2022 I can’t remember a lot of things. I’m told grief does that. It blacks out pieces of your world as your heart and mind find ways to coexist in something new. This loss and grief never became defiance like the other losses had. I knew Who could get me out so I walked through the grief as much as I could. I cried. I wrote. I hid. I made myself available. I prayed. I worshiped. I connected. And each time I felt like I was gonna break I told God, “Even still, Lord. Deeper still.” I wanted more and yet felt like I was just somehow floating outside of my body, not being able to feel or heal. I knew I wanted more but I felt so incredibly broken.

As I sit here trying desperately to remember even a little of the last year to encourage you the only thing I can see is God picking me up every time I got knocked down by a bullet. I took His hand every time He offered it. I cried every time He reminded me that it was ok to do so. He held me, rocked me, soothed me with every wail that came out of my heart. As I sit here and remember the year I don’t see a world burnt to the ground. I see life. The grief has lifted. The joy is returning. Ashes cover my feet but not my heart. I feel life. And maybe that is the encouragement you need?

One of the toughest journeys my husband and I had to endure refined who we are. Refined us as a couple. Refined us as parents. Refined our identities to align with the One who walked us through it. The fire may have burned what we thought was our world, but in reality we were sifted, challenged, pushed to lean in to be processed and made new.

You see, when I sat at that table in 2021 asking God to make me into a new wineskin, telling Him yes, I was given the opportunity to become more. More of the woman God had always intended me to be. More of the wife that encourages and speaks life into her husband. More of the friend who intentionally builds her relationships. More of the employee who has a willingness for marketplace ministry. My world may look different then what I thought it should be. But, I can tell you without looking back, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Maybe there is fire burning around you. Maybe there is no longer a steady foundation. Maybe your world has become ash. Look up. God doesn’t want you to grow in the old. He doesn’t want you in a forest that can’t sustain you. He doesn’t want you on a foundation that is crumbling under the surface. He wants to show you the little seed that has sprouted through the ash. He wants to take your old wineskin and pour you into something new.

The minute I said yes God walked me through my broken world. And He will do the same for you. xoxo