Count it all JOY

IMG_05132018 was a year of anticipation.  As the year began we looked forward to two graduations (me – MA from BGSU and Emma – graduating from high school),  a new job for Kevin, a new job for Julia, and a family VACATION – the first one in many many years!  And all of that was wonderful!  

Finishing my Masters was HARD and stretched me in ways I didn’t know I could stretch… and worth it.  I learned so much and I am confident that the process has helped me be a better teacher. Even though I lost a lot of TIME… and brain cells (or wait, did I gain some??)… I didn’t lose MYSELF.  I worked by booty off to still keep 1st things first – God / Family / Work – and stayed grounded in all that I know to be TRUE (Jesus, His Word…) despite various ideologies that were consistently presented (um, persuaded).  In the end – I summed it up on my graduation cap with “A DIOS sea la GLORIA” – To GOD be the GLORY” for what I was able to accomplish through Him. 

We enjoyed Emma’s last basketball and softball seasons and were proud of her many accomplishments as she graduated from high school and began college.  To GOD be the GLORY! 

We had a wonderful vacation in Ft. Myers Florida.  We stayed at a friend’s condo and enjoyed Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva Island – – the beaches, the seafood, the CAKE!  It was relaxing and fun and created memories that I will cherish forever.  

That’s where the record screeches to a halt – time stands still – and all that you know and love and plan is literally changed in an instant.  I’ve already shared about the accident here and here and here,  and I supposed this is not the last you will hear of it – major life instances take time to process.  But GOD  – who I trust in and believe in and LOVE, works (is working) all things for good.  

I would not wish a major car accident on my worst enemy – in fact it is a mother’s worst nightmare to receive a call that their kiddo has been in an accident (in this case we were together in the accident, but it’s still a nightmare/fear).   And this accident could’ve been a million times worse… just a millisecond later.  TO GOD BE THE GLORY!  That horrific evening, however, changed the trajectory of the remainder of 2018.  The last six months has been filled with physical and emotional pain, broken bones, bruised bodies – and spirits, disappointments and many appointments,  discouragement, decisions, frustrations, mental replays, reality checks and unexpected anxiety.   But despite all of that I can honestly sit before you today, because of my relationship with Christ, and COUNT IT ALL JOY. 

James says it this way – “Consider it a great JOY, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

Paul explains that, “‘We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’” Romans 5:3-5

I always thought that SOMEDAY – when I can say that I can count my TRIAL(S) as JOY I will FINALLY be a mature Christian.  HA!   Well, I am counting this joy – but I definitely have a LONG way to go to continue growing in my walk with Christ – I’m thankful He’s giving me the opportunity to continue the journey.

 *I count it JOY that we experienced/are experiencing this trial because I know that God is using it to grow us, strengthening our endurance and faith. 

* I count it JOY because my physical body can endure WAY MORE than I would’ve ever thought and by His hand of healing is getting stronger every day.  I WILL walk my dog around the reservoir in 2019 and I can. not. wait. 

*I count it JOY that when I have felt relationally alone on this journey, when it feels like no one cares/understands, I am never alone and HE CARES FOR ME (1 Peter 5:7). 

*I count it JOY because I truly can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who gives me STRENGTH (Phil. 4:13).   This is not a sports verse – this is a verse about being content in a hardship. And when every step hurt and when the replays diminish sleep and when fear creeps in and what ifs paralyze, CHRIST is the One who has given me strength. He is so faithful. 

*I count it JOY because of the many health professionals who have taken good care of us.  Special shout out to our friends @ Opti-Health Physical Therapy.  The PTs and PTAs have definitely been a bright spot of this healing journey – for both Emma and myself.   

*I count it JOY because I now have the car I’ve wanted… just a few years earlier than planned (and with a payment – HA!).  But really, I do like my car and I’m thankful for it :).

*I count it all JOY because of the HOPE I have in Christ has been strengthened, renewed and present.  His hope does not disappoint – God’s love has ben poured out to my heart through the Holy Spirit throughout this journey.  I can’t imagine this accident not happening and I am thankful for His sufficient grace and presence in my life because of it.  To GOD be the GLORY. 

What are some things you fear?   Let me encourage you that should XYZ happen, God is faithful, gracious, constant, loving and sufficient for whatever you may face in the coming year.  In this world we will have trouble (John 16:33), but He does not leave us to deal with it alone (Heb. 13:5).  And that, is how we can have JOY in the journey. 

2019 will surely bring some GREAT times and will surely bring some hardship.  My hope is that God will continue to give me eyes to see the JOY in the journey.

Postscript: Upon some further reflection, I am declaring (after the fact) that JOY is (was) my word for 2018.  With counting trials as JOY, and with faith producing steadfastness (in the ESV, endurance in the HCSB) comes some responsibility.  James 1:4 says “endurance must do its complete work” in the HCSB, but worded a little bit differently in the ESV, it says “and let STEADFASTNESS have its full effect.”  Whoa – LET it work.  Trust the process. Don’t just drown in the intensity and the self-pity and the weight of the trials.  I can already testify that the trials of this past year have created opportunities for God to work IN me, now I must let steadfastness have its full effect so I can be “perfect (mature) and complete” … “lacking nothing.”  Lacking nothing.  When all I need/want is God.  

Trials ->  grow the genuineness of faith -> resulting in praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus (1 Peter 1:7).

Trials -> rejoice with GREAT JOY -> revelation of Jesus (1 Pet. 4:1-13).

When the trials come, and we count as JOY because of the work He is doing in/through them, and remain steadfast, keeping the focus on HIM, He gets the glory – all honor goes to HIM.  And that’s the way it should be.   

Lord – help me to be steadfast in these trials you have entrusted to me and in the trials (and joys) to come, so that YOU may receive the honor and glory and praise.  Amen 

(Previous Words)

2018 JOY (this Post)

2017 – Didn’t declare a word – – could’ve been “survival” or “hustle.”

2016 PERSPECTIVE

2015 It’s whatever, man

2014 FOLLOW

2013 THRIVE

2012 RESTORE

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Picture Perfect

We don’t post broken stuff on social media. We post the happy, what shines and what is bright. Keep in mind, however, that all that glitters is not gold. 

IMG_0487The first picture is a broken ornament.  It fell tonight while taking down the tree (yes it is early for us to take down the tree, but I’m making room for something special :-)). I wouldn’t normally post a picture of a broken ornament, or taking down my tree for that matter, but something I read earlier today has been resonating in my mind over and over… 

“We’re just actually all people in need of a Savior.”

-from an article on ChurchLeaders.com

My cuties (aka pups) take up a lot of my timelines.  Never mind that they  (one culprit in particular) have eaten about half of the GrubFam Cookie-Palooza – – my waistline thanks you – – but they have been ornery little “poop emojis”!! And tonight they somehow got into an open drawer in the upstairs bathroom and tore up some feminine products as if they were the chew toys in their stockings! 

The secoIMG_0331nd pic is from a shopping trip in Toledo from 2012.  We laugh about it now, but I
purchased that ornament to be facetious. To put in perspective our financial status – the kiddos were on reduced lunch @ school (that’s seems like an oxymoron – if you’re from this area you know why – but alas was our reality throughout many years of ministry).  I’m not saying that to mope or get pity, but so you can understand the background of the ornament purchase.  We were shopping @ Franklin Park – trying to meet all the unspoken expectations of present purchases for all the people, including our own littles, despite the scrawny number in our bank account.  Going to the Toledo Mall was like eye candy and the Grub Kiddos had a strong case of the wantsies… and Mr. and Mrs. Grub had a strong case of “intense fellowship.”  I remember there was a Best Buy mini-store in the mall… and, being facetious/sarcastic/itchy (with a b), I was like – hey – who wants a new IPOD – oh look – let’s get the new gaming system – new BEATS headphones for EVERYONE! HA!  Whatever you want – – it’s YOURS!  The kids eyes were the size of cannonballs and all of the sudden no one wanted anything.  Just call me BUZZ KILL MAMA! Then, we walked by the ornament kiosk where the “perfect families” get their “perfect family” ornaments with their “perfect names” and the “perfect date.”  HA!  You better believe I was getting our “perfect family” ornament.  I chose one with five SMILEY snowmen tobogganing down the HAPPY. HILL. OF. LIFE.  L.O.L. 

The bottom line is we weren’t a perfect family then and we aren’t a perfect family now.  We are selfish, annoying, sinful, greedy, hurtful people in need of a Savior daily.

That’s who Jesus came for.  People like you and me, who despite our best efforts, are not good enough – we mess up, we fail, we fall short.  Jesus came to reconcile our brokenness, our sinfulness, even our facades to Himself. ‘When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ‘ Mark 2:17 https://my.bible.com/bible/72/MRK.2.17

Jesus came for the broken ornaments (relationships, dreams, expectations) in our lives and the picture-perfect ornaments masking a horrible, no-good, very bad shopping trip (sin, disappointment, sadness, hurt, deficiency).  And so when you see the perfect family/church member/co-worker/neighbor/home/student/dog 🙂 you can be darn well sure that despite the social media shiny and bright, they’re just someone who struggles (or has struggled) with xyz, and they’re actually just a normal person in need of a Savior.  We all are.

Following Jesus is about real life and real life is messy.  So maybe this Christmas season and New Year,  we can take off the masks, be a little more open, share a little more grace, be a little more patient because “we’re just actually all people in need of a Savior.”

I Called to the Lord

Psalm 120:1 says, “In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.”

In the scary moments after our split second accident, last July, Emma and I could not get out of the car at first. She said “I’m OK. I’m OK”, I said, “I’m OK,” and I grabbed her hand and cried out, “Jesus, help us.”  JESUS HELP US!

This was not a flowery prayer or a long, drawn out prayer exercise following an acronym for proper prayers to be lifted up. This was not a perfectly written quote with a comma before the One we were addressing… This was –  in our distress we called out to God – and He answered us. 

I tried my door again and could open it.  Miracle? I don’t know, but we did just call out to God.  I’ll leave that up to you to decide. 

That prayer has sustained us throughout these past four months as we deal with the emotional and physical aspects of being in a traumatic car accident.  JESUS HELP US. And He is near.  

I don’t know where you’re at in life, but I do know whatever you’re facing you too can cry out – Jesus, help me – in your distress and He will answer you.   What you need help with may not disappear in a split second (in this world you will have troubles…) – or it may – but He will be near in the process, faithful to use it in your life and give strength for the journey.   

I cannot sing this song @ church (by Bethel Music) without crying as I reflect on God’s goodness, nearness and faithfulness. 

I will sing of all you’ve done

I’ll remember how far you carried me

From beginning until the end

You are faithful, faithful to the end.” 

And if that doesn’t get me – which it does, then we get to this part…

THERE WASN’T A DAY

THAT YOU WEREN’T BY MY SIDE

There wasn’t a day

That You let me fall

All of my life

Your love has been true

All of my life

I will worship you. 

THIS is why I’m passionate about sharing Christ.   It’s not about rules or what we believe or don’t believe as Christians, but it is about a relationship with a LOVING Father who cares, who is compassionate, who is GOOD.  It’s about His Son who took my place on a brutal cross so we could have forgiveness for our wretched ways and access to this loving Father.  It’s about a Holy Spirit who guides but also provides supernatural comfort and strength.  Life is hard, y’all. You don’t have to have a car accident to make that statement.   I could write 1000 pages of the faithfulness of Christ in my life through hard things (many written in this blog).  Don’t go it alone when the One who created you longs to be there for you.  

The Sacred Slow – a book review :)

the sacred slow.pngIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book, so when “Sacred Slow” showed up at my house (even though I hadn’t requested it or offered to review it) I thought… God must have a purpose in me reading/reviewing this.A book about creating margin and being still before God was exactly what my soul needed after a crazy busy three years being back in teaching with a full load – – and accidentally getting my Masters – – and just about the busiest time as a parent with three active teenagers.   Yes, let’s slow down.  Let’s be still.

So, I started this in early June.  There’s 52 days of devotions and response activities to complete, and it is even advised to take a few days to reflect on one chapter so it can take even up to 52 weeks to complete (hey – that’s a full year) if you really want to chew on the concepts, reflect on what God is showing you and truly find the sacred in the slow.

On p. 3 Alicia Britt Chole writes, “Relationship with God is best fed by a steady practice of attentivenessto God.”    The book is divided into twelve movements and the first movement is a reminder that God is with us and to take the time to focus on Him.  Listening and attentiveness leads us to REST in Jesus. In this crazy world of over-scheduled chaos, this book provides practical and biblical ways to build in and intentionally have days/seasons/hours of a sacred slow.

For me, on a personal level, the irony of the timing of doing this devotional of slowing my booty down is not lost on me when a life circumstance slowwwwwed me down…. After a car accident this summer, God was faithful and gracious to show me in my slowed-downedness (is that a word?) that He is with me and that my rest and healing would come from being with Him.  Life crises tend to open the door to intimacy with the Savior and I don’t believe it was a mistake that I was already in the process of this sacred slow journey when this happened.  The Lord is so good.

All of that being said, I would recommend this book/journey/intentionality to anyone that is seeking a reprieve from the chaos, peace in the rat-race and practical application of stillness with the Father.  The first few months of “back to school” are always a busy season for me, so I’d love to hear – what are some ways that you create margin and intentionality in your time with Jesus in chaotic and time-pressed seasons?

 

I did receive this book for free in exchange for an honest review, positive or negative, as a contributing member of the Booklook Bloggers.

His GRACE is Sufficient

I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but was not going to get one until I knew exactly what I wanted…

Throughout my walk as a Christian, in any sort of valley or hard time, God’s Spirit is always faithful to whisper to mine that His Grace us sufficient.

It’s hard.  My grace is sufficient.

I can’t.  My grace is sufficient.

It’s impossible.  My grace is sufficient.

There’s no way out. My grace is sufficient.

It’s unfair. My grace is sufficient.

It hurts. My grace is sufficient.

I’m alone.  My grace is sufficient.

It became quite clear that if I ever got a tattoo, it was going to include at least the word GRACE, if not this verse in some way, shape or form.

With the word or verse about grace, I wanted the tat to be pretty and feminine.  I thought it would be nice to accent with a flower, and since Gerbera Daisies are one of my favorite flowers I created some designs with a daisy. I tried yellow and pink with different placements.  I liked what I was coming up with, but I never felt like this is it.  And I wasn’t going to get the tat until I was sure.

Throughout a particularly loooong and brutal season, God’s promise that His grace is sufficient continued to be a lifeline of hopein dark days and difficult moments.  In that valley I heard the song “Amaryllis” on Christy Nockel’s Christmas album.  The words are so precious and spoke so deep to my heart that that year for Christmas I printed off the lyrics and bought several friends and family members an Amaryllis plant for Christmas.

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Photo by Nastasia on Pexels.com

“Here I am waiting
In a winter of my own
If it’s gonna be this cold here
Why couldn’t it just snow?
At least I could say through the pain
That it’s somehow beautiful…
And everybody knows that the time to bloom is spring,
But You’re asking me to break through the hardness of this freeze
And You say that You’re with me
And I can make it through anything….

Like an Amaryllis, blooming at Christmas,
When everything is cold and dark
Your love breaks through and I shine
With the brilliance of summer,
Right in the middle of winter!
Somehow surprising the night
Like a Christmas Amaryllis…”

In the coldest and darkest days, God was growing me, creating something beautiful, making all things new. He is doing the same for you. He works ALL things for good for those of us that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).  God is a constant, even in the dark and His work breaks through the toughest, hardest, frozen soil.

Jesus did and does that for us. When it seems like there’s no hope, no way out, when it’s unfair, it hurts and you’re alone.  When you can not. The Light of Life comes.

Talk about a winter
The world had never known,
Talk about a silence
That hardened up the soil;
No more life left in Eden,
But You knew the time would come…
‘Cause You were growing up a family
That You would call Your own,
And through a fragile people
The Light of Life would come,
And when it seemed like we’d never see Spring,
Heaven gave a King!

So, I ditched the Gerbera and redesigned my sketches with an Amaryllis flower. It’s a perfect representation of the work that Christ does in the winter of our lives. He is with us. He is creating something new.  And even through the tough, hard soil, something beautiful can come from it.  The work He does in us is an Amaryllis flower, with the “brilliance of summer”in the midst of the winters.

Finally, while I was studying in Spain last summer, my roommate had a few tattoos and I shared with her the plan for my tattoo.  She was hype for me to get the tattoo while in Spain and I was down for that – – so I made one final edit… Su gracia es suficienteand switched it to Spanish.  Spain, the Spanish language, how God has allowed me to use Spanish in my life… that was the nicely tied bow on top of the gift, so to speak. 🙂

I didn’t end up getting the tat in Spain but earlier this year in 2018 I did.   The Holy Spirit is my first reminder of His precious, sufficient grace in my life, but this tat is a close second.  Laying on a gurney after the car accident, alone for the moment in my room in the ER, in pain, scared, thankful, nervous, overwhelmed – I glanced at my right arm and there it was.  His GRACE is sufficient.  Su GRACIA es suficiente.  In my spirit I knew that this was going to be another winter season, there was going to be some hard, frozen ground to plow through – and it has, and I have – – but I have confidence in His work through this trial that He’s at work in and through me, making all things new.

“There are the rare and beautiful treasures
That grow when it’s coldest
When nobody’s watching…
Sending a message to a sleeping world
That You are here with us now
And You are making all things new again…”

His GRACE truly is sufficient.

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Cleanin’ Up The Teeth (Before Going To The Dentist…)

I hate going to the dentist. To clarify, I don’t hate my dentist – he’s a great person :). But, going to the dentist is NOT my favorite thing; getting the plaque scraped viciously off of my enamel, the saliva pooling up in the back of my throat trying to choke the life out of me and the hygienist trying to have a conversation with you to which you can only reply mmmhmm or uh-uh while all this is going on – HA!

When I have a dentist appointment coming up, I usually start flossing.   This past time between appointments I actually did floss sometimes between then and now, but the few weeks prior to my appointment I stepped up my flossing game (not the dance, y’all ;)).  I guess I wanted my teeth to be kind of clean, with a little less plaque and be ready to meet the dentist and hygienist.

Isn’t that how it goes? We want to clean up a little, before going to the one who is going to clean and take care of us.

We can view God the same way.

Sometimes we think we have to clean ourselves up before coming to God.  We think we’re too dirty, we’ve made too many mistakes, or we have too many issues.  So, we quit the bad habits (drinking/drugs/sex/drugs/rock-n-roll…. lying/cheating/gossiping/bad language… you get the point) and maybe even start some good ones (serve the community, go to church, or give money towards a worthy cause).

But, here’s the thing – we do NOT need to clean ourselves up before coming to Jesus. And nothing we DO can earn His love.

Jesus says in his red letters, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick DO need one” (Mark 2:17).  In other words, those who have perfect teeth (no plaque, no bleeding gums, no cavities) do not need to go to the dentist.   There is NO ONE with perfect teeth – thus the need to go to the dentist.  Likewise, there is NO one who is good enough to come to Jesus.  Paul says in Romans 3 that we are “all under sin, as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one” (vs. 10).  Later in that chapter he says we all have dirty teeth – – not really – – he says, “For ALL (emphasis mine) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23). We all have DIRTY TEETH.  We are all in need of the GREAT PHYSICIAN (or dentist ;)).  The second part of that verse (Mark 2:17) Jesus is saying, “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You don’t need to clean up before coming to Jesus.  In fact, you CAN’T clean yourself up. And that’s ok.  Jesus accepts you and me how we are – dirty, plaque-laden, gingivitis, halitosis and all.  John 6:37 says that whoever “comes to Me (Jesus) I will never cast out.”  In fact, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” HE does the cleansing.  In fact, when the Lord cleans us up, we can “be clean… whiter than snow” (Psa. 51:7).

Psalm 46:10 says to “stop your striving and know that I am God.” Stop striving to clean yourself up and let Him do it.  Come to Jesus as you are, confess your sin and surrender to Him.  Accept what HE has already done for you. He will clean you (forgive you, sustain you, strengthen you, give you hope).

I Don’t Like to be WEAK…

I don’t like to be weak.  I’m sure most of us can say the same thing.  I don’t like to be weak physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.  I don’t like the weight of weakness, the dependency of weakness, or the helplessness of weakness.  Can you relate?

A month ago, I was in the habit of taking my pup to Findlay’s reservoir to walk.  It’s a four mile walk around the most scenic spot of Hancock County.  I walk an 18-20 minute mile around so it takes me about an hour and twenty minutes to an hour and a half (depending on swim stops for the pup :)).  It’s good exercise and a fun, relaxing activity to do with my pup. And, the biggest challenge is when you get halfway around and have to use the bathroom (TMI – I digress – HA!).

Three weeks ago today, my daughter and I were in a car accident.  I don’t want to over-sensationalize the accident – it was a bad crash, but we walked away with non-life-threatening injuries.  Although it wasn’t life-threatening (thank You, Jesus) it was, in a way, life-altering. I’m dealing with a bum foot and sore leg and my daughter is dealing with a shoulder injury to top the list.  Again, I don’t want to over-sensationalize the injuries and make them more than they are – it could’ve been a LOT worse – but they are injuries.  And they have altered some day-to-day functions.

Overall, Em and I have remained positive, trusting in God, our health professionals and “the process” for our healing.  But yesterday, when going to do some low-impact movement exercise in the pool my foot was giving me more trouble than usual, I felt weak.  I thought to myself, “I don’t like to be weak,” and had a “this sucks” moment rehearsing the fact in my mind that in three weeks I need to be able to be on my feet all day, with non-stop activity and responsibilities with the focus on OTHERS and not myself (#backtoschool).

But, God is faithful.

One of the signs at the pool said something along the lines of FAITH is greater than our fear.

Another said, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you” quoting Isaiah 43:2.

Ok, my Faithful Comforter. Thank You.

Today, in my devotions I read 2 Corinthians 12.  If you know me, you know my tattoo is based on this chapter, but I’m going to blog my tat😉 later this week – stay tuned. Today, my heart was comforted and encouraged by this passage on weakness.   Jesus reminded me that in our weakness, He is strong. Paul didn’t like being weak either, using the phrase “torment” to describe his “thorn.” Jesus, in His love and sovereignty and purpose and plan reminded Paul that “HIS power is perfected in weakness” (vs. 9).

The dependency of our weakness drives us to depend on Him. The weight of our weakness is lifted in Him. The helplessness of our weakness is comforted by Him.

THAT is the POWER of CHRIST in our weaknesses – because in CHRIST, we can become strong.