March 14, 2018

By Faith Episode #6: My Husband and I talk about Beauty in Pain

Each week this season on my By Faith podcast, I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?”

I’ve spoken with men and women about longing insingleness and infertility and about betrayal through infidelity and about thedifficulties and opportunities in feeling unseen. Today, the special guest on the show is actually the host. My husband Kyle turned the tables (and the microphone) on me in celebration of my new book, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All ThingsBeautiful in Time. He asked me about the message of the book, why I wrote it, and how I myself have had to apply the very things I’ve written about. In our conversation, I share what my own winter seasons have been and what is helping me walk forward by faith.

This is Us

Listen to the episode on iTunes or, if you're reading this on my blog, in the embedded player below. If you are enjoying the podcast, would you please share it with your friends or leave a review on iTunes? Thank you! It's been a joy to serve you in this way.

Links from the show

Order Your Copy of Searching For Spring 

Register for the Enjoy the Word Conference

Subscribe to the "By Faith" Podcast

Connect with Christine
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March 6, 2018

By Faith Podcast, Episode #5: Shaun Groves on Depression

Each week this season on my "By Faith" podcast I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?”

This is the theme of my new book, Searching for Spring, which releases TODAY! Yes, that’s right! Have you gotten your copy in the mail yet? If so, it would make me so happy to see your smiling faces holding up the book on social media. Tag me and let me see!
Hi Susanne!
If you haven't yet ordered your copy, I hope you'll join in the fun. Read more about the book here and then order your copy on AmazonBarnes & NobleTargetBooks-a-MillionBaker Book House, or

You may wonder what I mean by "searching for spring." Searching for spring is really an analogy I use for our search for God’s redemptive work, where suffering and death in us become fruitful life. Using Ecclesiastes 3 and the changing seasons as a framework, I invite readers like you to join me in my own treasure hunt for beauty in both familiar and unexpected places. I wrote this book for anyone who is in the midst of suffering, who finds their faith withering, or who is questioning whether God is at work—or even present—as they wait for something in their lives to become beautiful.

My guest today knows exactly what searching for spring looks like. His name is Shaun Groves. Shaun is a musician and Bible teacher who travels and speaks all over the world for Compassion International, which you’ll hear more about in our conversation. Shaun has also battled with debilitating depression, which he spoke openly and honestly about with me, and will be so helpful to anyone listening, whether you deal with depression yourself or are a friend to someone who does.

In our chat, Shaun and I reveal that we actually went to prom together. Yup. Here's the picture to prove not only that we were once young but that we also went to prom together:

And I wanted you to see this picture as well. When Shaun talks about his work, he talks about a moment and a conversation with a little girl named Kiran that came back to him when he fell headlong into depression. This is Kiran:

Listen to the episode on iTunes or, if you're reading this on my blog, in the embedded player below. If you are enjoying the podcast, would you please share it with your friends or leave a review on iTunes? Thank you! It's been a joy to serve you in this way.

Links from the show

Order Your Copy of Searching For Spring 

Subscribe to the "By Faith" Podcast

Connect with Shaun

Connect with Christine
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March 5, 2018

Why We Shouldn't Always Live in the Present

Friends, I'm thrilled to say that tomorrow, March 6, is the release day for my new book, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. I believe so strongly in the message of this book and am praying for its words to encourage many who are discouraged, suffering, or simply needing a reminder of God's beauty and his redemptive work. 

Now on to today's post, which answers the question, "What does it mean to search for spring?"

In the transitions between seasons, when the calendar begins its countdown, I stand vigil, searching for even the smallest signs of change.

In the height of the heat and humidity of summer, I anticipate the feel of crisp fall mornings, when the sounds of the cars whipping by on the highway near our house inexplicably carry farther and when socks again become necessary.

In the fall, I obsessively circle one specific tree, a sugar maple, watching as its green bleeds more and more into bright orange each day, and I think of how, though beautiful, I'm standing vigil over death. I think of how winter, unseen for now, marches silently toward the horizon, coming for me and for everyone else.

The falling heralds will soon be swept away by November rakes or December winds. Winter, barren and cold, long and harsh, comes. A sense of dread grows in me with each acrobatic leaf leaping off its summer home, for winter always seems the longest waiting.

Winter, the desperate vigil, the season when I stand at the window and search for signs of spring. I watch for the forsythia bushes beside my neighbor's mailbox to explode with yellow blooms, for the forsythia is the first to signal spring here at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. After the forsythia, my attention turns toward the leaf buds on the long dormant oak trees in our yard, and then I watch for the daffodils throughout the city, knowing they sprout up before the tulips. I hang the hummingbird feeder from the porch and wait expectantly for our buzzing friends' return from their long trip south.
Life is full of watching and waiting: for change, for transition, for life to spring forth out of barrenness.

We've been taught that this search for what's next is somehow wrong, labeling it discontentment and scolding ourselves to remain in the present moment. But isn't it so hard to see clearly in the present moment? When we're knee deep in winter's snow, doesn't it warm us even to consider that the day will again return when we walk barefoot in the grass or along the shore?

We tell ourselves unhelpful tales, how all restlessness is to be resisted, and that all searching is shot through with sin.

I remember as a young mother, chasing a toddler around, praying he would look me in the eye and speak a word, any word, how I cried and cried and cried. Tears were constant, like the gray overcast of winter.

I'd always lived with hope for the future, but then, suddenly, the future appeared like a thunderstorm in the distance, and the sunny hopes I'd had disappeared behind looming clouds. In all my blue sky, bright sun days, I'd never considered that the future might hold hard things, hard things that don't go away.

As my tears poured, I realized my hope for the future--the tales I'd told myself--hadn't been real but rather something like a vapor. My hope had been carried along upon human ideas and human plans and a human agenda. And no human agenda writes pain into the plan. No one wishes for a shattering.

My tears were bitter as I swallowed them and as they trickled down onto my wet pillow, because the hope had gone away. Or perhaps it was clear then how my hope had been in myself all along, with a little Jesus sprinkled on top.

What's difficult is when there are no signs of change, when we're knee deep in winter's snow, and living in the present means only barrenness, not spring's life. Living in the present means only more tears. Strength for the present is more of what we need, for we cannot notice enough to actually see, we only see blurry though our tears. It's a comfort then that Jesus teaches us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," for he knew we'd need strength to walk not in sight in this present day (or strength simply to raise the blinds and let the day in at all) but rather in faith, believing in what's come before and in what he's said will come still.

Living in the present is right and good, and we should take notice as much as we can take in, but our restlessness teaches us more than that. We must also live in the past, looking back, taking notes, and remembering how the daily bread has been given before. When I stand over my heater grate in winter and see only brown, I close my eyes and see instead with my heart the trees flush with green and the warmth of the summer sun on my skin. I remember winter will come to an end, for the seasons are steady and true, and I've experienced summer many times before.

And if the seasons are steady and true, what shall we say about their Maker?

In those years when I cried and cried and cried, I began to be glad. I wasn't glad for my present circumstances, not one single bit. I was glad, however, my own heart had been revealed to me and all the hopes I'd so carefully crafted were ripped out at the roots. I was glad to walk in winter because it made me start to search for spring. My restlessness led me to a true hope, where God is. He was and is in the pain and difficulty, pulling the eyes of my heart forward, teaching me to live for the future.

That is precisely what it means to search for spring: to sit in the restlessness of "this isn't how it's supposed to be" but also to hope and long and believe that, as the seasons are fixed and sure, there is a fixed and sure God who promised full redemption is coming.

I keep returning to and relishing in what God asked the prophet Jeremiah: "Jeremiah, what do you see?" Jeremiah looked and saw an almond branch, just as I look and see the forsythia bush and the oak tree and the hummingbird feeder. They are our signs of spring and they tell us that the promise, although made, has not yet been fulfilled. The Lord said to Jeremiah, "You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it."
In conjunction with the release of Searching for Spring, I'm honored to be a speaker for an upcoming online Bible conference called Enjoy the Word. The goal of the conference is to help women understand the Bible and know how to study it for themselves. I will tell you more about it soon here on my blog, on Instagram, and Facebook, but I wanted to tell you about an incredible Bible study giveaway in advance of the conference that ends today. Click on the image below to enter to win an ESV journaling Bible, several Bible studies and books (including Messy Beautiful Friendship), Scripture memory cards, and a whole lot more. In addition, when you sign up for the giveaway, you'll be among the first to know the details about the Enjoy the Word conference, and you'll get $5 off early bird pricing. I can't wait to tell you more! Look for more details soon.

February 28, 2018

By Faith Podcast #4: Sara Hagerty on Discouragement in Parenting

Each week this season on my "By Faith" podcast, I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?” (This is the theme of my new book, Searching for Spring, which releases next week!)
Today my guest on the show is Sara Hagerty. Sara is the author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and her more recent release, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves To Be Noticed. That subtitle says it all and has been such a necessary book for me personally. Sara also has one of those Instagram accounts that when you notice she’s posted, you stop and read every word. She leads her readers daily to adore God according to his different attributes.

I think you’re going to love my conversation with Sara! Sara is married to Nate and together they have 6 kids, 4 of whom were adopted after many years of infertility and then 2 biological gifts came along. I wanted to talk to Sara about taking the long view of parenting, and how years of infertility taught her to turn to God in hard things and wait on Him.

You may not have children, but I hope you’ll listen anyway because Sara shares insights that we all can benefit from as we take the long view in our work or caring for elderly parents or in whatever way we're waiting on God. We chat about feeling unseen and how we can use our unseen life to cultivate a dependence on God.

Listen to the episode on iTunes or, if you're reading this on my blog, in the embedded player below. If you are enjoying the podcast, would you please share it with your friends or leave a review on iTunes? Thank you! It's been a joy to serve you in this way.

Links from the show

Preorder Searching For Spring 

Subscribe to the "By Faith" Podcast

Connect with Sara

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter

February 26, 2018

Redefining Beauty

Friends, "Searching for Spring" releases in one week! The following is an excerpt from the first chapter, which gives you a small taste of the book and what it's about. Preorder a copy of the book and redeem your receipt for preorder goodies before next Monday when they go away!
Life can be hard for many reasons, but I think one of the primary ways we make it harder on ourselves is that we struggle to define beauty properly or in a way that leads to wonder—to God. We define beauty in ways that are finite and, often, self-serving or self-gratifying. We are a people content with calling a purse or cityscape beautiful, ascribing ultimate value to decaying and lifeless things. Our definition of beauty limits, confines, and destroys our own joy, because decaying or lifeless things cannot produce unending beauty nor can they transform a life.

What if beauty could actually be found in the very things our skewed hearts deem ugly? What if all that we resist—suffering, confession, brokenness, loneliness, and death—were the very things in process of becoming beautiful? All of these experiences are painful, but each can produce or lead us to the unexpected beauty of perseverance, hope, redemption, heaven, and God himself.

That is precisely the point: God is beautiful. All he’s created points back to him, reflecting who he is and what he’s like. Forgiveness and reconciliation, justice and mercy, peace and joy—a life transformed points back to him. He is beauty hiding in plain sight, leaving clues as to his whereabouts through both his artistic words ("And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.") and his written words. He calls us to come and seek, so we can come and see, so we may discover how everything—everything—he touches turns beautiful in time to reflect his own beauty. That means me and my life, and you and your life, even the most hopeless and dark parts.

When we go past the cicada's design and the transformed life in search of God, we find a beauty that drives out despair and adds color to muted, mundane days. He in turn hands us beauty to fight hopelessness in the difficulties of life, and he offers beauty as a present medicine for our souls.

Oh how we need this medicine!

We need it not only to battle despair but we also need it to wake from our numb distraction. We’re made to be beauty seekers, but too often we’re merely surviving. We are restless from a lack of wonder, and sometimes we're pierced by more than just restlessness: depression, anxiety, apathy, bitterness, and hopelessness. We exist in a crafted busyness where we attempt to silence our heart’s craving. What is the point of seeking beauty anyway? Why awaken our hearts to the risk of emotion when life's pain is too deep?

Because life's pain is deep, and beauty is the most potent weapon we have with which to fight back.

 But here’s why we prefer numb hearts rather than alive ones: beauty is not immediate. It often unveils itself slowly, through much waiting, much seeking, and sometimes much heartache.

The cicada and the wise man tell us this as well. The wise man said, “God has made all things beautiful in time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The cicada proves this truth by waiting seven years before continuing his story, which happens to be prompt reproduction and death. In the cosmic game of Hide and Seek, it seems there is a big picture element to beauty; one we must embrace in order to find it.

Because the most beautiful beauty—a transformed life—is not immediate, we must be patient, lifetime seekers, not only mining our past and present circumstances for beauty but also cultivating a hope for future beauty.

I find it difficult to fully comprehend beauty in the present anyway, for I can only see the present through a glass dimly. In a moment where I try to etch a joyful occasion on my heart, I can’t quite wrap myself completely around it. When I’m holding my husband’s hand across the table on our wedding anniversary, I'm overcome with joy at being married to such a man. But then a little bit of fear creeps in. What if he’s taken away from me? What if the future holds dire and difficult things for us? I tell myself to enjoy the moment, but pure beauty has been eclipsed by my fear. In the present moment, I cannot escape my distractible emotions.

This is why beauty needs time. We comprehend and value true beauty most significantly over time. Once again, come with me to my anniversary table, as I’m holding the hands of my beloved husband. As he and I discuss the years we’ve had together, recalling stories of our newlywed days and the rough patches along the way to 18 years, I see the beauty of our love so clearly in time past. I recognize how the struggles firmed our commitment to one another. I rejoice in all the Lord has helped us overcome and how he's used our partnership for his glory.

There is no fear to eclipse the beauty this time, only concrete years displaying very real beauty that makes me hopeful for the future and happy in the present.

And so it is with God and why he doesn't make all things beautiful immediately. Before the unveiling of the complete transformation he's made in us, we have the opportunity that will vanish when all is made beautiful: the opportunity for faith. Our faith pleases him so, and this is not a faith built upon happy emotions. This is a faith built upon something concrete: what beauty he's already orchestrated in time and what beauty he says he will make in time beyond. We may not be able to see and comprehend clearly all of what God is doing in the present, but we can always mine the past and the future for treasures.

This is the pattern of Scripture, really. In the Old Testament, God repetitiously requires his people to build altars, recall stories of his acts to their children, and celebrate feasts that mark the miracles he’s done on their behalf. Over and over, he says to them, “Remember.” They were to remember how God made freedom from slavery and provision from lack so they’d trust him in their present.

Then God’s refrain through the prophets became, “Look forward.”

They were to look forward to a perfect deliverer and forever rescuer, when God would make beauty from their ashes, so that they might trust him with those ashes in their present state.
In the New Testament, the pattern of the Old Testament emerges. After the gospels, the writers point back to the death and resurrection of Christ and then forward to his future coming, all so that we’d look at the past with gratefulness and awe, the future with faith, and the present with eyes wide open to beauty and hope.

Look back. God has created and God has come.

Look ahead. God will come again.

A question emerges, no matter where we stand in the timeline of history: And so, having looked behind and ahead, how can you live now in light of who He is?

In all of it, the pulse of the beauty of God has played in seen and unseen places, and we’ll spend the rest of this book playing in a big game of Hide and Seek. We'll do this by discovering the heartbeat of God that's moved him to action on our behalf. We'll find out how he's still acting, working to bring all of time to culmination when all things will be made right and beauty will be forever. As we look at how God has acted and is acting, we can then know what we must do and how we must live in response. This is a book that describes how faith—waiting for All Things Beautiful—is lived out in real life.

Why? So you can live alive today, you can know rest and peace, you can face whatever you’re facing with hope, you can do the work you've been given, so you can obey even though obedience costs and even hurts sometimes. So you can see beauty rising and worship God.