declaration (n): a formal or explicit statement or announcement.

foreshadowing (v): to show or indicate beforehand

“Summer ’17 is going to be the best summer of our lives.”

We made this declaration in March. I didn’t know the power of words until we started speaking these ones. Each time we’d sit and pray, we’d declare these words over our futures. We promised we’d stop at nothing to make this summer the best we’d ever had. Bon fires and kisses and too many PBRs. Praying in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, and in the middle of tears flooding our cheeks. We didn’t know this would be our reality when we made our declaration. But our words foreshadowed the path set before us by the Author of our books. The Author of this book, my first book, the book I need to write for you to know that hope goes beyond these words. Hope is present and living and true. And this is why I need to tell you my story.

Pain. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all been uncomfortable and our hearts have ached. It’s not often when we say “thank you” for the pain we feel. Especially not when we’re in the middle of feeling it. But pain brought me to this summer, Summer ’17. The pain of loss, the pain of having my heard weeded out, the pain of quitting jobs, the pain of trying to quit life. I’m half way through the summer, and I can already confidently say that I would relive my own pain and the pain of a million others just to be brought through these sweet days once more. Days when promises made are always kept, days when grace fills the cracks of our brokenness, days when friends hang in hammocks together and wedding flowers are on our dining room table.

When I declared that this would be the best summer of my life, I really had no idea what that would mean. I didn’t go into it with any expectations other than God would deliver, he would provide and make the words that Erin and I spoke aloud come to fruition before our eyes. I don’t really know how to write a book but this is my attempt to share with you the beauty that stems from our broken hearts. I think of God as this beautiful Gardener whose glory and majesty is woven into everything he gives and takes away. He plants seeds in us — through circumstances, through art, but most importantly through people. And those seeds are watered, by us and by the people he’s chosen to bear life with us. And they grow into glorious flowers and trees and fruits. But there are confusing times, too. Times when we don’t understand why things are being ripped from our lives, things we cannot grasp on to, things insisting on leaving. And we are lost and scared and more than anything we are alone. The thought that anything good could come from this is so far removed from our minds. It’s impossible. Life will never be beautiful again. If this Gardener loves us, why is he ripping things away from us? Why is he letting these things that bring so much pain happen to us and the people we love?

But (and there’s always a but) then an old friend sends a text message. Or a stranger pays for the car behind them in the drive thru. Or your mom who is usually always critical of you tells you she’s proud of you. And the holes in your heart that the Gardener had to make start being filled in with new seeds — seeds of life and newness.

I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’m actually saying I have all the questions and the prayers. And I think that’s where I want to live. I want to live in the space where my mind is yearning for more but always accepting what I currently have as enough. I want to rest in the space where faith rules everything around me. My declaration at the beginning of the summer was more of a bold prayer. God, let this summer be the best one of my life. Move mountains, break hearts, remake hearts, shape hearts, and restore our souls. God, thank you for maple syrup and pink hoodies and baby chicks. And God, thank you so much for being the Gardener of my soul and that this season is full of beautiful smiles to harvest.

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