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.”

Road Trip Retreat 2012

Ladies, if you’re a woman in ministry or a pastor’s wife, mark your calendars for November 12-14, 2013 and plan on joining me at the Leading and Loving It Retreat in Nashville! Last week I went to the Road Trip Retreat in OKC and it was a blast!!! Lauren, our worship leader’s wife went also and we laughed, we cried…. It moved me, Bob! :). Seriously, it was awesome to meet in person some ladies I’ve grown to love as very dear friends (that I met via L&LI virtual community groups and other social media). By the way, virtual community groups (VCGs) are kicking off next week and you should really join one :)))

Some highlights:
*The marriage team’s song!
*Meeting other women who share the same “lives” as I do as a woman in ministry
*Lori’s fun leadership, Brandi’s insight, Tiffany’s sincerity, Lisa’s laughs and Jessica’s heart!
*Movie preview…
*Barbecue
*Gifts, books, giveaways galore
*Time with my sweet friends
*and So. Much. More.

Here are some photos to see the fun we had. Now, make plans to join us in 2013!!!

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Be The One

With the start of another school year underway, I thought I’d repost this blog post from last year. Be. The. One.

Be The One.

 

Another school year is well underway for some of you, and starting this week or in the coming weeks for the rest of us.  Does this time of year muster up any emotion(s) in you as it does me?

Do you remember the nervous energy (that’s denial terms for AnXiEtY)?

I think the biggest transition for me personally, was from Elementary School – 6th grade to Jr. High – 7th Grade.  Our school district had 10 elementary schools and 2 Jr. Highs, so 5 elementary schools fed into each Jr. High.  That’s a lot of people, yo’!  And 7th grade… well that was just the worst, I don’t care who ya’ are.  That age/grade is just weird. Awkward. Gross.

No matter what clique ya’ did or didn’t belong to or how many friends ya’ did or didn’t have – everyone experiences some level of insecurity/anxiety in new situations.  Don’t let the trendy clothes or the nose piercings or the skateboard or the football jersey or the black t-shirt or the tough guy/girl attitude fool you.  Underneath we all have a desire to be liked (loved even) and included.  In fact, we each have a God-shaped hole in us that longs only He can fill, but that’s another blog.

One smile.  A hello.  An invitation to sit with.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to brighten someone’s day.  That’s all it could take to make someone feel special, included, valuable.  That’s all it may take to save someone’s life.

It’s not just at school.  Do you realize how much anxiety someone feels when they go to a church for the first time?  Do we realize people that regularly go to church often don’t feel loved, welcomed, included?  It’s a sad, but true, state of affairs that church can often be just as cliquey, if not worse, than the 7th grade.  We gather with our friends, chat it up, laugh, and make social plans all while another is alone – just longing for a hello.

Something’s gotta’ change.

Be the one.  Be the one to smile at someone in the hallway.  Be the one to sit with someone who is sitting alone.  Be the one who welcomes, invites, includes.  Be the onewith open eyes and a caring heart.

It could change your school. It could change your church. It could change someone’s life.

We may never know the significance of something so simple.  

Well, Hello There!

I can’t believe my last post was the HEARTBEAT Bill post!  Ay Ay Ay!!!  Well, if we’re friends on FaceBook, or follow each other on Twitter – I pretty much keep those updated.  (If we’re not friends of FB or Twitter pals, feel free to “friend”/follow me as as long as you’re not a creeper, I’ll “friend”/follow you back!!)

Soooooo, here’s a lil’ update on the past month or so:

Sept. 25th I ventured out with Valerie to drive 24 hours to Albuquerque, NM ~ her new ‘home.’  Let me tell ya’, me n God had a few chats about this one!!!  We had only met Val and Jesse last year around Christmas – but totally fell in love with them.  I was NOT happy with His plan of moving them away… *sad face*. But, His ways are NOT my ways… so instead of sulking in my self-pity, I helped her with the long drive (since Jesse had already been out there since August).  Plus, my aunt lives in ABQ, so it was a perfect fit – help with driving, visit my aunt, spend time in ABQ, FLY home :).   OH!  And did I get to mention, that my sweet Leading and Loving It friend, Steph, let us crash at her house at the 1/2 way point… near Tulsa, OK!  What fun it was to to hang out, talk ministry, laugh, meet her family that  I read about on her blog!  That part of the visit was TOO SHORT, but such a blessing!!

Anyhoo, I got back from that trip on Wednesday evening… and that weekend we had our 20th reunion… Whitmer Class of 1991… HOW DID WE GET SO OLD!?!  It was a blast seeing ‘old’ friends at the football game, Friday and at the reunion, Saturday.  T-W-E-N-T-Y years ago I graduated from high school.  CRAZINESS!

After the reunion weekend, I left Monday morning for 6th Grade camp at YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson,MI to be a cabin leader of 8 eleven-year-old girlies, including my Emma!  WHAT A HOOT!  We had the best time canoeing, horseback riding, rock wall climbing, snake petting, GPS adventuring, square-dancing and So.Much.More.  Funny thing is, I went to Camp Storer when I was in 6th grade (a few years ago…). It was such a blessing to get to go.

A few bullet points that may get their own blog posts in the near future, if I don’t wait SIX weeks to blog again:

  • I’m co-hosting a Leading and Loving It LOCAL Event tomorrow night for Pastor’s Wives & Women in Ministry.  It’s a Mix-n-Mingle Mocktail Party!!  Can’t wait!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
  • God has lead us to a fabulous company, Melaleuca.  We have loved the products for years and recently became “preferred customers”.   We are able to use and share about products that are amazing, safe for your home and family and get what we need delivered right to our door! Yippeeeee!!! We also have referred a few friends/family and are starting to build quite the business.  God’s timing is perfect.
  • Joey has to have another foot surgery.  We were discouraged at first as this news caught us off guard.  But, we are all thankful that he is able to get these corrections done and that we don’t have to deal with anything more serious.  We had just gone to the Matthew West concert a week ago, and Joey said to us at lunch after his Dr, appt, “Well, at least I’m not the little boy Matthew West wrote a Christmas Song about.”  True that, buddy!  However, Matthew West’s song about “Survivors” pretty much sums up our little man!
  • We’re going to Connecticut for Thanksgiving!! YIPPEEEE!!!  So excited to spend time with my BFF from high school and spend Thanksgiving with her family.  We’ll miss our family’s dinner, but looking forward to this adventure.  We hope to hit NYC during our visit too, which I’ve NEVER been!

Ok – that’s all (well, not really, but those are the highlights!)

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO??

Never Once

If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have noticed this week I posted with great excitement that we have given the BOOT to Joey’s boot.  All he has left is a few weeks of PT and he’s DONE with his feet ordeal.  As we left his appointment on Monday, I was caught off-guard with how emotional I was.  Just seeing the light at the end of this seven year tunnel, thinking on God’s faithfulness and the strength that He gave us to endure this long trial and how He worked it out in His perfect timing (new ortho doc in Findlay that specializes in feet).  Never once did we ever walk alone. He was always with us. Never once did God ever leave us on our own.

That’s my new favorite song by Matt Redman.  I can play this over and over and over – shouting in praise to our Faithful God – hands lifted so high I stretch my shoulders out of their sockets.

This song also stirs up emotions as I reflect on LifePoint‘s three years of existence. Even though at times it felt like more negative things were happening than positive – I can look back see how far we’ve come, knowing every victory is His power in us. There’s been scars and troubles… but God never once left us to walk alone or left us on our own.  He has been faithful.  He is faithful!

Finally, I can stand here on this mountaintop and see how God has healed/is healing from some deep hurts, some scars and struggles that pretty much knocked the wind out of us.  Battles that Satan tried to use to take us down… But, for every step God was with us and because of His power in us, we made it through. Now, with JOY our hearts can say:

Never once did we ever walk alone.

Never once did You leave us on our own.

YOU ARE FAITHFUL! GOD, YOU ARE FAITHFUL!

Enjoy this song by Matt Redman.  Close your eyes and raise up your hands in praise and shout YOU ARE FAITHFUL! GOD, YOU ARE FAITHFUL!!  PS – TURN IT UP!!

You! Follow Me!

How many times do we tell our children, “Worry about yourself”  or “I didn’t ask what so-and-so is or isn’t doing” or “You are responsible for you”  or “I didn’t ask so-and-so to do this, I asked YOU” and on and on???

God says the same thing to us, as believers, throughout scripture.  Most recently, as my mind was swirling, my pulse was quickening and emotions rising over what someone was or wasn’t doing, God brought to my mind this story from John 21:

Jesus had been dead, but is alive again, and He’s hanging out with the disciples – you know, doing all the things you would do after being dead and now alive… fishing, hanging out by the fire, grabbin’ a bite to eat.  It was all fun and games until the conversation turned to the future.  A grave future.  How Peter would die. Peter, in typical Peter fashion, didn’t camp there very long, ‘cuz if he had to suffer he wanted to know what everyone else was going to have to do to glorify God.

(Hear the children shouting, “It’s not fair!” and “What about so and so?” and “I cleaned up the dog poop yesterday!”)

Peter asks, “Lord—what about him?”

This is where warm-fuzzy Jesus becomes firm TRUTH (in LOVE)…  His reply, “What is that to you?” The Amplified Version adds in parentheses, “What concern is it of yours?”

What concern is it of yours?

He continues, “You follow me!”

See, Jesus didn’t tell us to worry about everyone else, what they’re doing or not doing, what they believe or don’t believe, what they participate in or don’t participate in.  Nope, His simple, yet firm command is just to FOLLOW HIM.  If they’re a believer, then they too have the Holy Spirit, and unless He chooses to use lead you to speak truth to someone, He probably has it all under control and doesn’t need our help :).  We can, though, bring those concerns to Him – which is where they belong anyways.  Or maybe, it bothers us so much because God’s trying to teach/show us something…  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that He wants me to worry about what He’s called me to be, do and believe.

Apparently I needed to be reminded of that – so maybe there’s someone else that needed that reminder too.