New beginnings. January is one of my favorite months. I sift through the past year’s pains and joys and plan for the upcoming year. I smile at the good times, bury the bad times, and drink coffee while I make my checklists on how I’ll do better next time.

As I think of the upcoming year, I can’t help but be struck by the whirlwind of the past few years. There were many good times, but overall, I’d been confronted with some harder realities. I had boxed God into a corner of my life and trusted my own checklist, narrative and expectations rather than his.

In 2019, God ultimately granted me some needed rest from myself, with the painful loss of life expectations. As God and I had a tug-of-war over my heart, he eventually took my checklist of life narratives away and slowly ripped it up in front of me. The pain in life was only soothed by words of fellow believers and reminders of gospel truths of his finished work. I used to believe that sharing the gospel only meant telling non-believers about Christ. But the more I grow, the more I recognize that I need to hear it myself—over and over.

Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of seasons and emotions in life. It speaks of a time to be born, to die, to plant, to harvest, to heal, to break down, to build up, to weep, to laugh, to mourn, to dance, to keep and to cast away, to love and to hate. I know these emotions and seasons.

A few months ago, I uprooted my life and moved from Seattle, Washington to DeWitt, Iowa. Iowa has rolling prairies to hike through, and I recently learned that the root system of a prairie is 10-20 feet deep. Every few years they conduct controlled burning to kill off things growing that will harm it. The deep roots of the prairie survive as the burning is done to ultimately revitalize it.

For me, these past years have felt like prairie burning years, mixed with God’s grace and the encouragement of fellow believers to control the burning.

As I have been encouraged by God’s narrative, rather than my own, this new life season has felt like a time of building up and restoration. I can’t help but be grateful for friends both new and old in my life who constantly speak and live out God’s gospel and grace.

Hebrews 13:9 says, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace….”

As this heart of mine has been scorched in the prairies, it is now being revitalized—strengthened by grace in the reminder of the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. In this life that God has gifted with changing seasons, emotions and life situations, I crave this good news. I can’t help but share this good news with believers and non-believers alike, but also with myself.

Andrea Bernard formerly served as Women’s Ministries President for the Pacific Region–North. She now attends Emmaus Road Church, DeWitt, Iowa.

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