A Crack in the Concrete

A Crack in the Concrete

I confidently walked to my parents’ carport door – something I’ve done thousands of times.

However, a small crack in the concrete sent me flying. It was a leap I had not intended to take. In that split second, I thought, “This is not going to end well.”

After my knees, elbow and hip hit the hard surface, I decided to lay there for a bit before attempting to move. I’m not even sure which area hit first, but they all hurt. I’m pretty sure I landed 6 feet from that crack.

Have you been there? Confident and sure of yourself. On a mission. Then, something stops you in your tracks. Out of nowhere, you’re hit with devastating news. Your plans crushed. Faith shattered.

Or maybe you’ve nailed down your schedule for the day, and you’re eager to check things off your to-do list. Then, one small crack takes you in a completely different direction. Or a sliver of doubt lets in all kinds of negative thoughts.

A bold mission

Those cracks in our lives can take on many forms.

I imagine Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, never thought he’d see his young daughter at the point of death. But when we find him in scripture, he was on a mission to find hope and healing.

We don’t know all the details, but here’s what we do know — his confidence was in Jesus.

Mark 5:21-43 tells us in desperation he broke through a great crowd by the sea to beg Jesus to heal her. He demonstrated great faith, saying “come and lay your hands on her that she may be made well and live.”

In his wilderness season, Jairus cried out to the only one who could save her.

He did not know what Jesus would do that day, but he put his faith and trust in Him.

However, as Jesus walked toward Jairus’ home, the worst happened. Someone from his house came with the devastating news — his daughter had died.

In that moment, did Jairus’ mind jump from hope to despair? Did the news stop him in his tracks? Did it paralyze him with fear?

We don’t know, but Jesus overheard those who came with the news and said to Jairus, “Do not fear. Only believe.”

Jairus got to see the miracle-working power of Jesus. As did many others that day by the sea and in Jairus’ home.

Battle scars

I have a few scars from that fall a few weeks ago, but I did recover. And thank goodness I can laugh about it.

Sometimes I even think I need a keeper.

Wait.

I do have one and He’s the one right by my side when I fall. When I doubt. When I make a mistake. When life doesn’t turn out how I planned it.

These “cracks” have also taught me that you can recover from the twists and turns of life . . . from pain and loss to live an abundant life of joy that is grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ.

No matter what happens in our lives, there is one constant. Jesus Christ is the Truth and through Him, we can not only survive what’s going on in our lives, but we can also learn to thrive again.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD, my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12

 

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

We got reacquainted while seated by each other at a funeral. I shared some things from my heart. She committed to pray for me. And she has done just that.

At random times, I receive a text with scripture and words of encouragement. Each time, they meet a specific and timely need in my life.

Even while in my quiet time early this week — as I struggled with an anxious heart — these words popped up on my screen.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19

How does that happen?

God somehow placed this verse and me on her heart.

She answered the call and sent it to me at exactly the right time. And I happened to glance at my phone at that moment (which I try to avoid during my quiet time:).

God at work

Two other instances came up this week.

Dennis Swanberg, America’s Minister of Encouragement, who wrote the forward in my book Grief Unwrapped: Discovering Joy in a Season of Sorrow, called to check-in. At the end of our conversation, Dennis repeated back to me the same message I had presented throughout the book. Live your life with joy and to the fullest.

And if those two weren’t enough, I was encouraged a different day by another friend who I only see occasionally – Bonny Van.  She encouraged me by listening and making me laugh.

Friend, it wasn’t until this moment (as I write this post) that I realized God has been at work in my life this week.

How many more have I missed?

How many times do we miss a message from God because we’re knee-deep in our own struggles? Our own busyness? Our own messes?

Through Sandy, Dennis and Bonny, God had a word for me each day.

Knowing He is speaking to you — even through another person — reminds me that He is the God who sees me and cares for me. He is personal and He reveals His presence to me in amazing and wonderful — and sometimes ordinary — ways.

He IS

And I’m so glad He does.

Because even in distress, I can have joy because I worship the one who IS my joy. He IS my strength. He IS my help. He IS my keeper.

My God IS my rest. He IS my shelter. He IS my hope. He IS my confidence. In all things, He IS.

I pray that as we begin each day, we will take these words — and my encouragers’ examples — to heart. And as God calls us to speak or share a verse, we would also “answer the call.”

Presented with Great Joy

Presented with Great Joy

I have good news!

As I was reading Jude, a few words from verse 24 struck me and I can’t get them out of my head.

Many of you know that my book Grief Unwrapped: Discovering Joy in a Season of Sorrow talks about having joy even in our sorrow or difficult circumstances. And Jesus is the source of that joy.

I admit I don’t typically think about Jesus having joy over me. Yes, I think He is pleased when we follow His will and His work for as long as we’re here on earth. But Jude takes it a step further. Read this.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy —  to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  Jude 24-25 (NIV)

Did you get that? For those who know Jesus — those who claim Him as their Savior — He will present us to his glorious presence, the Almighty God. He will present us without fault and with great joy.

Blameless before the Father

I have been taught all my life that Jesus is our advocate, that He redeems us and that because of our relationship with Him, we will be blameless before the Father. But to present us with great joy?

The ballroom dancing world offers a similar picture. For the guy, it is a presentation. It’s not about him. His sole purpose is to present his partner on the dance floor. Every turn. Every step. Every dip and twirl is to show her to others.

That’s what Jesus will do for us one day. With pride, He will present us to the Father.

This means that not only can we live a life of joy through a relationship with Jesus Christ, but He will also have joy because of us.

I am unworthy of God’s grace, yet I am presented with joy. Wow.

Friend, that just made my day. I hope it makes yours too.

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.” Jeremiah 17:7 (NLT)

Additional verses for reference and reflection 

Colossians 1:22, John 10:28-30, Philippians 1:6

Surrounded by Joy

Surrounded by Joy

Not long after we got a new puppy, Parker sat on the floor beside our two dogs. One old. One young. From an overflowing of his heart, he declared “I feel surrounded by joy!”

Such simple words, but impactful. What would it take to feel surrounded by joy? To have an overflowing of “wonder?” A heart bursting with gratitude?

I felt the same way this week when returning Parker to scout camp after soccer practice. I stood by the campfire and looked at the stars in awe. Seeing the night sky from the quietness of the woods does that to me. I could have watched for hours, reflecting on our incredible God, the creator of the universe.

How can someone see the expanse of the sky or witness the birth of a child and not believe in a creator God?

Misguided beliefs produce a lack of hope

There are many who do not. This week, a Facebook headline drew me in. I’m not one to click on links on the platform, but this one gave a list of famous people who are known to be atheists. My curiosity got the better of me. Soon after, my heart broke because of their lack of hope for a future beyond this life and missing heaven because of misguided beliefs.

The assurance that one day I will spend eternity in the presence of Jesus tops my gratitude list. That alone gives me peace and joy.

This Thanksgiving let’s allow ourselves to be surrounded by joy. There are plenty of things to focus on – the beauty and innocence of our children, an encouraging word, a visit from a loved one, a surprise phone call with good news, a meal, a beautiful sunset, a good checkup, a new beginning, an opportunity presented, a restored relationship, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and many more.

Truth is, giving thanks in all circumstances is the will of God.

Today, take the time to rest and reflect . . . and fill in the “many more” on your own gratitude list.

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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably, with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28

 

Claiming joy

Claiming joy

A year ago, I stepped out in faith to write and publish a book. Oh, I had written some before then, but it was intermittent at best.

But last November was a turning point for me. And what a journey it has been. I can’t even count the number of obstacles there have been to get to the point of releasing it.

The joy stealer

Even yesterday, I received news that set me back a bit. As I sat with my head in my hands and tears threatening to overflow, I thought about the theme of my book Grief Unwrapped: Discovering Joy in a Season of Sorrow.

Joy. Would I let the enemy steal my joy? I thought for a second. No, I’m not going to let him steal my joy over this.

Because that is what he wants to do. Like David defeating Goliath, we need to come against Satan in the name of the Lord Almighty.

So, what will I do? I will stand firm in my faith. With Jesus by my side and His name on my lips, I will press on and accomplish the task. He is in control. May His name be exalted. May His name be praised.

A simple request

So with that, I am excited to say all three versions of the book will be available to the world this weekend. The paperback has already been published and is available. The Kindle and hardcover versions will be available Saturday, November 5th. If you would feel led to buy and read it, I would be grateful. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

Many people have asked how they can help. If you believe it will benefit others, you can help by

  • Writing and posting a review on Amazon or goodreads
  • Telling others about it, especially if you have found nuggets that have helped you
  • Sharing it on your social networks
  • Asking a library to buy it and make it available on their shelves

Thank you

Many have been alongside me as I have grieved. You’ve cried with me; you’ve laughed with me. You’ve met specific needs and you’ve encouraged me in countless ways.

And if I don’t know you personally, I pray that you have received these same blessings and that God has or will give you opportunities to be there for someone else in their grief journey.

I am living proof that God

  • Still works
  • Still cares
  • Still speaks

I am proof that you can experience joy even through trials and loss because of faith in Jesus Christ. I can attest that you can find a deep connection with the God who knows you. My experience proves that your life can be fulfilling again.

You CAN discover joy in your season of sorrow.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 94:19 (NIV)

All Joy, No Stress

All Joy, No Stress

I heard the words to a song one morning this week “All joy, no stress.” I didn’t even know the artist’s name, but those words clung to me like a dryer sheet on a dry-fit shirt. I couldn’t get the prior day’s mistake — or oversight — off my mind. I went to bed worried and woke up the same way.

My friends and I recorded a Facebook live video to tell people about my book’s progress. Not wanting to stuff myself in jeans, I put on my most comfortable skirt. We positioned the camera so people could only view our waist up. Or so we thought.

I didn’t even think about my skirt since it wasn’t in the camera screen. To my horror and dismay, my skirt — and top of my legs were clearly “on screen.” How could I have let that happen? In all my years of training, I should have known better.

Here I was, sharing what God had done in my life while showing way too much leg! My friends tried to encourage me, saying it wasn’t that bad and that no one would notice. (Thank God for friends!) But I wasn’t convinced.

The true test? My mom. Of course, she noticed. It still makes me shudder. I want to crawl in a hole.

Joy in all circumstances

So, the song lyrics seemed to mock me that morning. After all, my book focuses on having joy in all circumstances. I, however, was far from “All joy. No stress.”

That’s just like God, isn’t it? I had anxiety in droves. He sent me a song to release me from that worry.

I just had to grab hold of that joy, even when I wanted to stay in that hole and pretend the embarrassing moment didn’t happen.

What about you? Have you been there? Has God spoken to you through a song? A scripture? Or through a friend’s voice of reason?

We can find joy through any circumstance. Even when our own weakness, neglect or oversight is to blame.

I’ve got to tell you. I had a hard time keeping my anxiety from ruining my day. That would have been truly a waste. My stress served no purpose. I had to give it to the Lord.

All joy. No stress. Let’s try to live that way today. Let’s not waste the day by allowing our anxiety to get the better of us.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. – Proverbs 17:22

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