Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Spiritual well-being, our relationship with God, is like other relationships, skills, hobbies…stagnancy results in decline.  We must make time for practice, reflection, communication.  We must be honest with ourselves.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear with signatureFor me, my work lately (and always) is trust.  Trusting God is a funny thing.  I’ve always trusted that He would be there, trusted that He has a greater plan.  That doesn’t mean I’ve always let go of worry though.

Lately, I have had/am having a lot of high stakes possibilities in my life, both personally and in my family. I’m learning that trusting God means letting go of worry.  He will take care of the details; He always does. I don’t always succeed at letting the worry go completely, but when I do it feels amazing!

So, as a I enter another high stakes situation this morning, I am going to really try to let my trust in God to also carry away my worry.

One day at a time, one situation at a time, one prayer at a time…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                             Philippians 4:6-7

-S

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All I Can Do is Say Thank You

“All I can do is thank You

For this life I never deserved

Wanna thank You for the grace

I know I don’t have to earn

You love me, You love me

Your mercy is proof

All I can do is say thank You”

Mikechair, All I can do (Thank you)

More and more this is how I feel, when I allow myself a moment of rest…

thank you

In my over stimulated- under cleaned house

In my overly exhausted – under construction body

In this home, this life overflowing, how could I not take a moment to stop and say thank you.

I don’t deserve it, and rarely know what I’m doing.

I certainly haven’t earned it.

Truth be told I was on a different track. Not entirely sure where I was headed, but with my series of selfish decision-making I can attest it wasn’t here.

Life changes (a theme this spring…in my life, thoughts, and blogs)

And all I can do is say Thank You.

For this beautiful mess of chaos we’re creating in middle America. This Godly life growing, this home overflowing.

And sometimes the blessings feel like more than I can carry, which is a slap reminder that I’m carrying it wrong. When blessings become burdens, I need to loosen my grip.

So at the end of the day, I can look up and say, Thank You.

-J

Thanking God for the Coffee

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits

Psalm 103:2

Most who have known me for a long time would say that I am a complainer. Which in all fairness was 100% true the first 24 years of my life.

However, now when people say that it feels like a small stab and I want to explain to them (in detail) the ways God is at work in me and how it has changed my life (and attitude) completely.

And gosh darn it, I’m no longer a complainer.

(ok, sometimes, too often, I am still an outward complainer. It is a 24-year-old habit and I’m still working on breaking it)

But inwardly I give thanks, not complaints!

complainerMy day starts with a gratitude journal and, ok some mornings the first thing I write down is coffee. But, hey, I truly am grateful for it, and God knows that! I try to add 5 items to the list every day (often more and always forgetting things).

When gratitude became my way of starting everyday, it slowly changed my life.

I wasn’t born with a lucky, go-getter, cheerful personality. I am all those things, but I am also blunt, sarcastic, opinionated and aggressive.

It has taken me a long time to accept those personality traits as good things, and I’m slowly adding in patience and gratefulness. I’ll admit, the attitude of gratitude has come easier than the patience.

I firmly believe every single day, every single person has at least 5 things to be thankful for, and it’s ok if coffee and bedtime frequently make the list!

I’m on number 3,031 for this year- some serious, some frivolous. God appreciates every single thank you and I am trying harder to appreciate every blessing no matter how big or small.

Ps. Read, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp if you think your life could use a gratitude make over!

-J

Avoiding the Belly of a Whale

2bc9cdfc81cb737a4d2e28370d909744Most of us are probably familiar with the Sunday School version of the story of Jonah.  God sent him somewhere, he refused and tried to run away.  God sent a storm to the area his boat was, he was thrown overboard, and then he stayed  in the belly of a whale before being spit out three days later onto dry land.  The morale of the story as I always learned it was to obey God when He calls or you’ll end up in some metaphorical or actual belly of a whale.

As I read the story this morning, I was overcome with how overly simplified this was.  Yes, it is true, but really there is a much greater story here about Jonah as a human being and the reflection it could lead to for us.

Jonah’s story doesn’t end there.  It is actually only half of the book of Jonah.  What happens next is that Jonah is sent to Ninevah to tell them that they will be destroyed in 40 days.  The people of Ninevah repented and changed their ways; so, God showed them mercy and changed his plans.

 

Here is where the story got interesting for me.  What was Jonah’s response?

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away…I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” – Jonah 4:1-3

For me, the lesson of Jonah is one of character.  I’ll be honest: I can’t help but not like the guy. He acted out of selfishness and pride.  He ran away in selfishness.  He didn’t want to do what God was asking.  His pride took away any compassion for others.  He was afraid of how he would look because of God’s compassion.  He was so wrapped up in himself, how he would look, and how he was affected that nothing else mattered: God’s plan didn’t matter and neither did the people of Ninevah.  He would have preferred that the 120,000 people in Ninevah had died than for his reputation to be questioned.

The story of Jonah ends shortly after this.  We aren’t really told if he changed or realized the error of his ways, but I hope so.

However, for me, the story of Jonah is a reminder about humility and priorities.  It was fear for himself that stopped Jonah from obedience and pride that led to his resentment and anger.  I want my heart, mind, body, and soul centered on the will of b0e51b324d6965df91c0288b522e1474God.  I need to remember that all my work should be about Him and pointing to Him.  I’m human and I have hopes and goals as well.  However, I have to make sure that my earthly priorities and pride do not get in the way of what God is calling me to do or in showing compassion to others – not because I don’t want to end up in the belly of a whale, but because I want to live a life of intentional purpose.

-S

Flesh vs. Soul Satisfaction

“ Peace comes, at least in part, from learning how to control…the power of the tongue”

 “ The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a forest on fire” James 3:5

This week has been testing. I’ve been feeling a lot of feelings (thanks hormones) and dealing with a very trying situation.

I have a lot of words I want to say. Words that will sting and bite and thoroughly prove my point.

Words that will wound and hurt despite the pleasure I’ll momentarily experience when letting them free.

It has taken me a very long time to learn to control my tongue. I still have a very long way to go.

The last word is flesh satisfying, but soul hindering.

I want soul peace, not flesh.

In the words of Belle (via Beauty and the Beast): You must control your temper!

fleshy tongue pleasure

Some words need to be said- even if they are painful to hear.

However, I’m slowly learning to wait on my delivery until the anger has passed. Until I can extend some compassion and grace with the heavy words.

Sometimes that’s hours, sometimes that’s weeks.

Until it is that right time, I pray. I use all my words.

The bitter, angry, biting words.

The joyful, grateful, happy words.

All the in between words.

I give them to my God who graciously listens,

Who has heard and felt the full spectrum of my words many times over.

He holds me and my words close. He calms me down, he loves me (ugly words and all)

He is helping me learn to leave some of the ugly with him, He can handle it. He wants to handle it.

I’m a work in progress. My mouth still explodes far more than I would like it to.

This week has been trying. I have a lot of feelings and a lot of words.

So I pray: God grant me grace. Grace to extend outwards towards others; to keep the ugly between us and give the hard words in love. Grace to extend towards myself when I fail. And wisdom to know what is hard and must be said and what is just fleshy pleasure in delivery.

-J

Mary, Highly Favored

mary highlyMary: highly favored

Mary: blessed among women

Mary: mother of Jesus

You’d think with phrases like that to describe her that her life would have been easy…or at least full of sunshine and flowers, maybe never ending starbucks or permanently pedicured toes…

And while I have no doubt it was full of joy and happy times, it was also doubtlessly full of immense sorrow, worry, and confusion.

The exhaustion of raising one headstrong, spirited strong boy wears me out. I can’t imagine raising the most spirited, strong little boy to ever exist (because before he was a man, our Messiah, he was a little boy, and there was a tired momma) and then his ministry began and the trials of His earthly life…those also wear on a momma.

My point, I guess, even for the highly favored, and blessed among women, life is hard, faith is hard.

Who am I to demand a break, to expect a break?

I’m not convincing my husband the child within my virgin body is from God, I’m not fleeing King Herod for fear of my baby’s life…I’m not riding anywhere on camel ro donkey back!

When I give a faithful “yes,” who am I to complain the whole time, worry the whole time, or micro manage every current and future detail?

Do I have such little faith?

My God is the God who provides:

“And this is my prayer in the fire

In weakness or trial or pain

There is a faith proved

Of more worth than gold

So refine me, Lord, through the flame…

All of my life

In every season

You are still God

I have a reason to sing

I have a reason to worship”

I can only fathom the roller coaster of seasons in highly favored Mary’s life.

The strength and pure faith required over and over and over. Daily.

I’m in a transitional season in many ways:

-mother in law moving in

-my parents moving away

-Ainslee preparing to come

-my soul preparing to be her mom

-Nici pushing and growing and headstrong

I could continue; this isn’t even half of the list of changes headed our way.

My heart is often overwhelmed these days, in obvious and subtle ways throughout this God given season of change.

But I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship.

-J

Standing on the Edge of the Cliff

I’ve always said that I am blessed because faith comes easy.  I’ve never doubted God’s existence, His love for me, or His intentionality  As I grow in my relationship with Christ, acting out my faith becomes both easier and harder though.  It is easy to profess my belief and to live my everyday life.  However, growing faith also means that God will allow more things to come to help you grow: sometimes we don’t have choices and it’s a knock to the head.  Other times, though, God gives us the choice to make a move, take a risk on our unknown.  Risk has never been easy for me. As I mature in my faith, God asks me to risk more, to grow more, which cannot happen in comfort.

“Say goodbye to comfort and peace and safety and doing everything your way, and say hello to a life of faith and adventure” -Ann Spangler

For us to act on faith, we must take risk.  Faith without risk, without discomfort is belief.  I believe faith develops when we completely let go of what we want and allow ourselves to be carried by His will – even when it the opposite of what we want.

Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:3

All of us are on a journey to be closer to Christ, to work to the growth and betterment of His kingdom.  We all have work to be done.  Stagnancy or complacency is dangerous for those of us looking to always go deeper.  Reaching the deep does not happen without faith that has been tried and tested, where we come out victorious because we responded to God’s nudges.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Woman at Yosemite National Park in 1902
Woman at Yosemite National Park in 1902

This is a huge verse that has such a large impact.  I no longer live.  Transforming faith takes us to the edge of a cliff.  We have a choice.  God has always given us a choice.  We can continue to operate in a safe faith playing on the cliff side.  What he really wants us to do, asks us to do, is to jump.  When he sends us that nudge, we need to respond.

I’ll be honest.  I can’t jump without some fearful shifting of my weight from left to right foot.  Some extra worrying about things I can’t control.  Some questioning if this is actually waht God is telling me.  BUT when I know, I don’t want the fear to stop me.  I know God has greater plans than we can ever realize.  He’s just wants me to hand my entire life to him, to take the leap of faith.  He’s waiting. With much greater things than I can possibly imagine!

-S