All the Way, My Savior Leads Me

Ten years ago I left my first job & first career in order to pursue my second. I had spent two amazing (and difficult) years in the Yup’ik village of Tununak, Alaska teaching 2nd & 3rd grade. I’m sure I learned much more than I was able to impart to my students, but that’s another story.

I knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a teacher. I couldn’t do as good of a job as I wanted to; so I thought about what I could possibly do next. I had wanted to be a teacher since the time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (except that one time I said I wanted to be a ballerina…). I then remembered that when I was in elementary school I once thought that being a librarian would be an amazing job. I also remembered a time while I was in college when I was telling my fellow soon-to-be teachers about all of the books in the Scholastic book order and what I loved about them. So that’s what I settled on, I would be a librarian.

Close to this time, ten years ago, I started grad school. Nine years ago I graduated with my Master of Library Science degree. Sounds super cool, right? Eight and a half years ago I was offered a job in a place I had never been; a place I had never even thought of. Cape May County, New Jersey. I, of course, accepted it.

I could tell story upon story of all the things that happen in my typical day to day at the library: parents telling their kids they need to leave or they will get locked in and the library monster will get them; getting Storm Troopers to come to a Star Wars program we hosted; moms being surprised that I remembered their child’s name 3 or 4 years after they started going to school and stopped coming to storytime; eating bugs because kids read over 7,000 books one summer. Maybe one day I’ll write about all of those and more. But not today.

What I want to share, and try to process through for myself, is how amazing God has been through all of this.

I came to this strange place called New Jersey knowing only one person in the area. I soon connected with a family that welcomed me with open arms. God used them greatly to guide me, teach me, grow me, comfort me, and support me through these years filled with many ups and downs (and I don’t think He’s done with them yet). Through them I got connect to a church that also welcomed me with open arms. The people there became my family, as mine was so many miles away. They, too, have been used by God to help me grow in my faith, encourage me, love me, and speak truth to me.

The past eight and a half years, as I delighted in my career, as I gained loving, godly relationships, God grew me immensely. I’m not sure I would recognize the 27-year-old who came to a place she had never been all those years ago. For that I am oh so grateful. Words cannot fully describe just how much.

In a few short months, I will be moving on again. But this time I won’t be on my own. And this won’t be a big move where I know few to no people. My husband and I have bought a house and are moving closer to where he works. This has always been the plan and we are both excited for it. Excited to be living near our church family & community. Excited to have a place of our very own, to paint and decorate as we please (I may be more excited about the decorating part than he is). Excited to be close enough to friends to have them drop by just because. Excited to be more active in our community.

But this time, I will have no official job title. We will be moving outside o the county so I will no long be able to work there. I am not searching for a new job as a librarian. It has been our hope to start a family. I have been looking forward to the end of my job title as “Head Children’s Librarian” in the hopes that I could replace it with one I desire even more “Mother”. That is not the case…yet. And even in this, especially in this, God is growing me.

Why do we constantly look to titles, people and other things to fill that place that only God can? Above all else, I struggle with this. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked with others about where our true identity lies. Or even how many times I’ve written about it. Do you know why that is? Because it’s the one thing I most need to be reminded of.

In the midst of this world, I get stuck.

I get stuck thinking that my career is the most precious thing.

I get stuck thinking that if I find out one more friend is pregnant I’m going to lose it.

I get stuck thinking that if I can’t have what I want the world is going to end.

Lies. Plain and simple. Lies.

Truth:

My career has been an amazing blessing. I’ve met so many precious souls and got to work in a place & with people I thoroughly enjoyed.

I rejoice with all of my friends expecting children. They, too, are a great blessing. I preemptively ask forgiveness if I ever act strange/rude/distant around you. Some days are just harder than others.

Who is here who knows what’s best better than the Creator of it all? Don’t I remember the times when I wanted something so badly (marriage) and God said, “Not yet. He’s not who I have for you.”? Don’t I remember all of the amazing things He’s done in the past? How do I forget those so easily? Why do I get so wrapped up in this world and forget about my God?

Thankfully, He always finds away to draw me back. Sometimes it’s a sermon that sends me running to His open arms. Sometimes it’s a verse that causes me to cry out to Him. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds me of things so easily forgotten.

“All the way, my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His faithful mercies?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Ere by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well”

Forgive my winding trail this time around; one idea lead to the next. I’m sure you know how that goes. If not, you’ve just got an insight to my thought process 🙂

What I hope to convey to you (and to remind myself) is that if you find yourself struggling in this world; stuck in the mire and weighed down by worries, turn to the one Whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Let Him direct your path. Delight in where He leads you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

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I am Not My Own

Lord, You have redeemed me,

How can I ask for more?

How can I be selfish and just ask

and ask

and ask

When You have given all for me

That I may serve & worship You forever.

 

While I was still a sinner

You loved me

You love me enough to more than cover my debt

You overwhelmed it and thus

overwhelmed my soul.

Knowing the price You paid

I still back away and ask for more.

 

Let me love You & serve You

However that may look

Whatever that may mean

So that I may enjoy You forever,

Serve Your kingdom and worship You,

As You so rightly deserve.

 

The life given for me

So much more valuable than I can repay

And yet so often I turn away

I ask for still more,

Thinking His life was not enough

to make my life complete.

 

Lies; such lies surround me

Thinking I deserve so much more

That somehow other things could fulfill me more than Christ alone.

Let the lies fall dead on my ears

Let my heart not yearn

after that which is not You.

 

I belong to You

Assign me my place as You will.

The place You have for me

to do good works for You;

That which You have prepared for me

before the foundations of the earth.

And let me be content in that place

that I may glorify You & enjoy You

All the days of my life.

I am not my own.

King of the World

I realized very soon how silly it was to set up a writing challenge for myself just a week before I was going on a 10 day vacation…especially when I wasn’t planning on bringing my laptop along. I’d like to say that I kept up with my reading, but in all honesty, I did not. I still struggle to go deep into God’s Word each and every day. Thankfully, His mercies are made new each and every morning; and so I brush myself off and try once again.

I did read 1 Samuel 8-10 before we left on vacation. It tells of how the Israelites wanted a king because that is what they saw in all of the neighboring nations. God sent Samuel to them to tell them of all the things a king would do to rule over them, things that no one really wants. He warned them, and yet they still insisted that an earthly king is what they wanted. One to judge them and seek justice on their behalf. One to go before them and fight their battles. After Samuel relates this all to God, God tells him to do as the people want. To find a king and set him to rule over them.

We can read this and ask how blind the Israelites were. We can ask why they didn’t see that God Himself was their King, so why would they want a fallible man ruling over them instead. Did they not see and remember how God had judged them and sought justice on their behalf? Did they not remember how He went before them into battle and secured their victory?

Surely it’s not hard for us the think these things of the Israelites. But how often do we look at out own lives and think similar things of ourselves?

Have we sought after something more than we’ve sought after God, thinking “This is the way the world does it, so this is the way I want it too”? Are we surprised when we get our way and then realize it wasn’t what we wanted at all? How about when God doesn’t give us what we want and then we see the mess it could have been if He had; has that ever happened to you?

After reading these chapters I heard this song on the radio. It seemed to sum up what I had been thinking so completely that I knew I had to share it. I hope you take a few moments to listen.

 

Wherever you are, I pray you have faith to trust the King of the World with all you hold dear. Decisions you must make, the ones you love dearly, your very life. Never forget that He is holding you in His hands.

 

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

God Within Us

In 1 Samuel 7 the Ark has been returned and the Israelites have returned to their God. Samuel tells them all together and he will pray for them. As they are gathered the Philistines see an opportunity to attack and the Israelites plead for Samuel to not stop praying for them. As a result, the LORD thundered a mighty sound that drove the Philistines into confusion and they left.

“What an amazing thing,” you might think, “to see God work in such an obvious way.” I would not disagree with you. There are many events in the Old Testament that would be a marvel to witness; Noah building the ark, the parting of the Red Sea,  Daniel coming out unscathed from the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking out of the fiery furnace without a burn and not smelling of smoke. You might also think that it may have been easier for them, being able to see such physical evidence of God’s existence. I may have thought the same at one time, but not anymore.

In reading this last chapter I was reminded of a book I read a year or so ago, Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan. At one point in the book he sets up a scenario of what it might be like in heaven; us getting to talk with people we’ve read about in the Bible & getting to ask them what it was like to be in the midst of such things. With the same fervor, he thinks, they might be wanting to know from us just exactly what it is like to have God Himself living within us.

Do you typically think that way? That you have God living within you? If you are in Christ, you have exactly that, the Holy Spirit, living within you.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. ~Ephesians 13-14

And not only do we have Him, but we have direct access to God the Father, because of the once and for all sacrifice of God the Son, that is, Jesus. Because of this we need no human priest to intercede on our behalf. We are able to talk directly to God without fear that He will strike us down, as He did to the men who looked upon the Ark in the previous chapter (1 Samuel 6:19).

So, while miracles like those in the Bible may not be as prevalent today, we can find peace in knowing we can approach God, in any circumstance, and He will hear us.

do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

We can draw upon the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, who resides within us, to get through this life, with hope, one day at a time.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13

Those are great and amazing things. I strive to remember them, more often than not, and pray the same for you, dear friend.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

A God Above All Other gods

I read through 1 Samuel 5 & 6 this morning in order to stay on track. Together they tell the story of the Philistines taking Ark of the Covenant into their land, its effect upon their people and land, and their ultimate return of it to Israel.

I didn’t really understand the part about Dagon in the beginning of chapter 5, so I did a little research. Dagon was a god of the Philistines and in bringing the Ark back to their land they brought it to a temple of Dagon’s where they left it by a statue of the god. This makes more sense as then the next day they find the statue of Dagon face down in front of the ark and they “put him back in his place (v 3).”

I cannot imagine what they thought upon seeing this scene; a statue of a god they worshipped looking as if it was worshipping a symbol of a God from another land. Perhaps, at first, they thought it an accident, for they just picked the statue up and put it back. But the next day it had fallen again, this time its head and hands cut off. Not broken off from having fallen, but cut off, intentionally so. This shook them up more as so they began to move the Ark around their land to different cities. In each place its effects were felt; tumors, death, mice infesting the land.

The Philistines had heard about what happened in Egypt, they knew all about the plagues and the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. They also attributed this to the God of the Israelites, and so they learned from those mistakes and sent the Ark back to Israel, not on its own, but with guilt offerings to this God as well.

I find it so interesting that the Philistines were aware of God, they had heard of what He had done in Egypt and yet they waged war against Israel. God allowed them to win, perhaps to the purpose of showing the Philistines His power directly. In sending the Ark back, they watched the cows pulling it in a cart go right back to the land of Israel; a sure sign that it was this God who worked these things against them. And while many Israelites died in the battle with the Philistines, God ultimately won that battle, by no help, really, from them.

It doesn’t say that the Philistines then came to worship Israel’s God, though they had evidence that He was higher than one of their own. They paid Him tribute, offering sacrifices, in the hope that He would cure them of the ailments He inflicted upon them. But they did not then follow Him, though they had come to see the truth.

How many people see evidence of God’s existence and still refuse to acknowledge Him for who He is? How many times do we, half-heartedly, pray or do things that we think will “placate” God without really trusting in who His is and what He is capable of?

When the Ark makes it back to Israel, there are people there, even, who die (God’s own people) because they looked upon the Ark and were not worthy to do so. Those around said,”Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (6:20a). A holy God cannot abide sin. No one can stand before Him, be they other “gods”, or even His own people. That was true then. It is true now, as God doesn’t change. He still cannot abide sin.

BUT…

God, Himself, took on sin. Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived a perfect life that we could not. Being fully God and fully man, He was able to stand before the Father, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because of Him, we are able to stand before the Father and not be struck down, for He sees Christ’s righteousness upon us.

Now, whether I think we’ll actually be able to stand on our feet before God Almighty, that’s another conversation altogether. I, myself, think I’ll be on my knees or, more likely, on my face, before Him; knowing the great gift I’ve been given but such a loving and unobligated giver. Knowing I’ve been saved, by no merit of my own.

I pray you know of the great gift God has given us, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. And not only that you know of it, but that you are living it out daily. Because of it, we are able to stand before Him justified, Non-guilty. And while we will all bow before Him one day, those who find themselves in Christ will not perish.

If you’re unsure about all of this, I highly encourage you to do some investigating. Pick up a Bible and read the book of John. Talk to someone you know and trust who is a believer. Visit churches near you to learn more about it all. I pray the LORD will reveal Himself to you so that you may see Him, truly see Him, all He has done for you, and your great need of Him.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

An Omnipotent God

I’ve read through 1 Samuel 4 a couple of times and the one thing that I keep coming back to is the fact that the Hebrews thought bringing the Ark of the Covenant into battle would give them the victory. Instead, though, they were met with devastating ruin and that which was most treasured by them, the Ark, was taken as a spoil.

Now, I know that God is not surprised by anything. Nothing catches Him off guard and there’s nothing He cannot handle. If God had wanted the Israelites to win the battle, they would have won, no question.

 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? ~ Jerimiah 32:27

I do wonder the reason for them losing. These are my two thoughts on the matter:

  1. God foretold that Eli’s sons would both die on the same day. In the loss of the battle, both of them were killed, thus bringing about what God foretold. That is a pretty easy conclusion to come to, the second is more of my pondering.
  2. What did God think that they just brought the Ark with them? There is no mention of them petitioning God Himself before the battle, but still they thought the presence of it would save them.

That second thought has just made me wonder how often I do that. How often do I think God will get me through something without actually reaching out to Him? Granted, He knows what’s going on, and yes, He can help us without our asking. Ultimately, as I said before, His will will be done, but I think I tend to take such things for granted, thinking that His will always matches with what I would like to happen. Sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t and who am I to say that’s wrong?

So, where’s the good news? Even when things seem darkest, God knows what is going on. He is not looking in the other direction. He is not taken by surprise. Perhaps He is using the darkness so that when the light comes you cannot help but be drawn to it.  That you will have no doubt of its existence. The flame of a candle burning in a lit room may be hard to see. A flame in the darkness cannot be mistaken.

If you are experiencing darkness, keep your eyes upon the flame. I pray it becomes evident to you and that it grows so that the darkness flees.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

A God of His Word

Have you ever doubted the truth of God’s word? Have you ever thought He’d go back on His word because surely things could never turn out for good? In trying times it’s sometimes difficult to trust that God’s promises are true, though, to those that do, they are a great source of comfort and encouragement. What if you knew that He said things would get worse?

Reading 1 Samuel 3 reminded me of the truth of God’s word. That what He says will come to pass. And regardless if we see that as good or bad, who are we to judge the Creator of the universe? Eli was a good example for us in this. Previously a man of God came to him and told him his sons would die because of their actions in the temple. When God called to Samuel and told him the same, Samuel passed the news on to Eli. Did Eli stomp his foot and say it wasn’t fair? Did he curse God?

No.

He simply said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.” (V18)

To be completely honest, I’m amazed at his response. Eli knew that God was true to His word. Eli also saw the bigger story and was not focused on just himself. With his sons gone, there was no one to pass his priesthood down to but Samuel. The boy God put in place to be His prophet to Israel in a time when they so desperately needed him.

How are you at looking at the bigger story? Most times I stink at it. I get so focused in on me that I can’t see any possible reason for my circumstance outside of how it affects me or those very close to me. This is also a big reason why I’m trying to get into God’s Word more, so that I know what it says. So that when time are trying (regardless of how they got that way) I can rely on God’s word, His promises, knowing they are true. Knowing He says that nothing can separate me from Him.

For I am sure that neither life nor death, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39

I pray you are striving for that understanding, that comfort, that assurance, as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ