Who I Am

Have you thought much on how would you describe yourself? I suppose that may seem like a silly question. Every day we are barraged with how the world might describe us. Sometimes we just adopt those. But how do you really see yourself?

Any given day I’m sure there are multitude of descriptors you could use. I look at myself and know there are many. Children’s Librarian. Lover of Books. Soon-to-be Wife. Friend. Sister. Daughter. Knitter. As well as playful, thoughtful, caring, scatter-brained. Most of those are things I see on good days. Knowing I am these make me smile. Things seem well in the world on these days and I’m glad to be described with any of those (yes, even scatter-brained).

On not-so-good days the bully in my brain is unleashed and the devil whispers in my ear. Those days I am more apt to think of these descriptors: careless, unlovable, ugly, worthless, incompetent, undeserving, fat, shameful, unwanted, lazy. These days look a little different. I question choices I’ve made. I question how others can love me when I am all these things. I wonder how long it might be until someone decides I’m not worth the effort. I withdraw into myself and want to hide from the world. But there is One I cannot hide from.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.                                                                                          ~Psalm 139: 11-12

Not only can I not hide from Him, the Lord of heaven and earth, but He truly knows me for who I am. He calls me loved (1 John 4:10), a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), and His child (1 John 3:1-2). This is where my true identity lies; with Christ, my God & King. Here, too, is where my Joy is found; in knowing that, no matter what, I am His and He is mine, and nothing can ever change that.

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”            ~John 10:28-30

While I know this to be true, there are times when the stress piles on and I forget. I forget that my identity in not in my job title, or anything else, except Jesus Christ. Two men I greatly respect reminded me of this one day when it felt like the walls were closing in and everything was tumbling down. One was a great friend (really more like an older brother) and the other was my soon-to-be husband. When both of them reminded me of this just hours apart, I knew it was something I needed to focus in on. Something I needed to make known not just in my mind, but also in my heart.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs this reminder from time to time. I encourage you to get in your Bible and really see who you are (or can be) in Christ. Write verses down. Post the around your house. Put them on sticky notes on your desk at work. Remember that you are loved. Remember that you are valued. Remember that you are His.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

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I’ve come to realize something about myself as of late. Maybe this applies to you, too. So very often, if something’s not right in front of me, I tend to forget about it. This happens with tasks that need to get done at work, emails I’ve read but didn’t have time to reply to right then, chocolate I might have stashed away for just that reason (though that is always a happy surprise to stumble upon). I will be the first to admit that I am rather scatter-brained. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But then there are days when this rings true for what I hold most dear. Days when I cannot see Truth clearly and the promises of my Lord and Savior seem hidden. I forget them for a time; a few moments or a few hours, and everything looks grey, like an overcast sky just waiting for the rain to fall.

Yesterday was one of those days. I made poor choices and ended up rushing out the door to work. Frazzled, I stopped for breakfast along the way and made more poor choices (PopTarts are hardly a good breakfast option). I had storytime and that was all well and good and a bunch of fun, but when it was over and the kids were gone, I went right back down to where I started. I could feel my heart racing and anxiety rising with no idea where it was coming from. Having rushed out the door I had no time to make lunch so had to go out for that too and was not pleased with myself. Kellie, don’t you remember you’re trying to save money for a wedding? That was probably the most tame thought running through my head. And then, at lunchtime, I stumbled upon it.

I was escaping into the world of social media (something I do much too often), but even there God found me. Someone had posted these verses and it made me pause.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  ~Isaiah 43:1-3a

It made me pause because these words were familiar. I had just used them to illustrate a point in youth group last week. We were going over the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. I spoke to the teens about how we can stand firm in Christ, whether He chooses to rescue us or not, because either way, He is by our side. Five days later this truth had fallen through the cracks of my mind; it was lost in the crawl space among the dustbunnies. I was trying to right myself, pulling “happiness” from things of this world and not the Word of Truth. And I found, as I have many times prior (though perhaps never so clearly), that the world cannot satisfy.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me clinging to a Savior I so desperately need. It leaves me knowing I need to be more diligent about getting into the Bible every day so I can be reminded of His promises. It leaves me knowing that I, indeed, know the only One who can truly satisfy, and I need to follow Him more closely.

Yesterday was gloomy & overcast. It rained off and on; drizzling then pouring. But by evening, the clouds were breaking and the sun was shining through. I felt it was a pretty good reflection of my soul that day. I ended with recounting the little things throughout the day in which God showed His goodness to me. Something I think we would all benefit from doing more often.

As I try to better keep Christ in the forefront of my mind, as well as His many promises, I pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to make is so. My prayer is for you as well, my friend, that, though you cannot physically see Him, His promises are tucked into your heart and brought to your mind, not only on days when the clouds are threatening roll in, but also when the sun is shining.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Another Change of Season

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Spring is here! Or so they say. It’s a little hard to be sure when the daffodils bloom one day and then a layer of snow falls on them the next.

However, it is always so wondrous to me to see the first blooms of spring. It seemed that overnight the blossoms on the trees had budded and a patch of daffodils appeared in my neighbor’s backyard. The earth warms up and new life begins as plants of all types awaken from their long winter nap. Every year it is the same; spring always follows winter.And yet it seems like such a surprise to see those first signs of it. I believe that is how God designed it; to help us remember the hope He gives us in what is still to come in times when we may have forgotten His promises.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Just as this fall brought a season of change in my life, so has this spring. It was actually the day before, but it was one of the best lead-ins to it that I could imagine. March 19th was chilly and overcast and it could not decide if it wanted to snow or rain. I know that doesn’t sound like the greatest lead-in to spring…and it wasn’t. But this was: on March 19th, my boyfriend asked me to be his wife.

I knew it was coming. We had talked about marriage. He took me to look at rings a few weeks prior. I overheard him ask my dad if he could call him some time. I even had a pretty sure feeling that he was going to propose that day. All the signs were there.

And yet…when he turned to look at me and whispered, “You ready for this?” right before he dropped to one knee, I couldn’t help but think, Is this really happening? When he asked the question I, of course, said yes, though at that time I couldn’t tell you how he phrased the question (thanks for thinking of having someone film it, my dear). I was happy and stunned all at once. There were many smiles and much laughter and surprisingly no tears (if you know me, that just goes to show how stunned I was). It wasn’t until about 30 minutes later, when he asked me if I liked my ring, that I realized I hadn’t even looked at it. Then he added, “We’re going to get married!” and it all came together. I processed all that had just happened and knew my life was never going to be the same.

If you’ve been with me on this journey from the beginning you know of the heartache I’ve been through. The desires of my heart and the topic of oh so many prayers. And the waiting. All the waiting. And now this prayer has been answered. God has brought into my life a wonderful, God-fearing man. One who is caring and responsible, trustworthy and forgiving. One who makes me laugh more than I ever have before. And soon he will be my husband. And I will be his wife. Words cannot fully describe how amazing this all is to me. And though wedding planning is in full swing, I do not think it’s fully sunk in yet. I don’t think it really will completely until I’m walking down the aisle arm-in-arm with my daddy.

I want to thank you all for your prayers and encouragement over these past few years and appreciate those that continue to do so. Big changes are up ahead; exciting and scary and wonderful. And while the topics of my writing might change, the focus of it won’t. As God is the author and perfecter of my faith I cannot deny His presence in my life, nor the great many blessings He’s bestowed upon me. Stay tuned…our journey is only beginning.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Some Thoughts on Joy

Now is one of those times where there are a few (ok, a lot) of different thoughts swirling about in my mind and I’m not entirely sure I can do any one of them justice in attempting to express them here. So that’s my disclaimer – you’ve been warned😉

We had a women’s retreat at church this weekend and the speaker spoke on joy. Not only on joy though, but also on how it manifests itself through sorrow; and how, through sorrow, we can gain a firmer grip on our joy.

You see, as a Christian, my joy is not a result of any given situation or circumstance in my life. My joy is found in the Rock of my Salvation, the Prince of Peace, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. My joy is found in Jesus Christ.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

It is a difficult truth to grasp. It’s one that, on most days, my mind knows to be true; but on more trying days, my heart has a hard time following suit. A new thought was added to that today as well, that joy is not the absence of sorrow. They are not feelings that are mutually exclusive, but rather, they can happen simultaneously.

In our sorrow, in our brokenness, we can still experience joy. “You’re crazy!” you might be thinking…and you probably wouldn’t be too far off…but not because of this. This is something shown to be true in God’s Word.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials ~1 Peter 1:6

She also shared a definition of joy from John Piper:

Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.

We can still see that through our sorrow, can’t we? It may not be easy, but it is still there. There’s also the wonderful truth that our joy is indestructible, while our sorrow is merely temporary.

Little by little, we grow in this way.

Trials come.

We cling to our Lord.

He guides us.

Grows us.

We come through the other side and marvel at His grace.

And we see the beauty of Christ all around us. In a prayer from a Sister when we are broken and hurting; carrying the weight if a burden too heavy to bear any longer. In the conversation with a loved one, being reassured that God knows what He’s doing, and it’s ok to lose any semblance of control, because it’s not really ours anyway.

While I cannot say I am a most grand example of a joyful woman, or even a good one, really; I do know true Joy. Traveling through sorrow has only made it more evident to me.

If you are a follower of Christ, you, too, have a joy that no one can snatch away from you. Just as you cannot be snatched from His most precious hands, your joy cannot be taken from yours. I pray in this day you are able to see it for what it is, regardless of what is going on in your world around you. Christ is there with you; always. And nothing can take Him nor the joy He gives, away.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

What a Difference a Year Can Make

As I look back a year ago today, I am in awe of all that has taken place. I’m amazed at the goodness of God; seeing His hand guiding me through the trials and bestowing unmeasurable blessings upon me.

A year ago today I was somewhat of a mess; awaiting a surgery to which I did not know the outcome. Coming out of it, too, with one of the better outcomes. It left me with a sizable scar as well as abdominal muscles that needed to knit themselves back together. Pain and discomfort were feelings I became very familiar with. I walked around for the first few weeks (very slowly) clutching a folded blanket to my belly because if I let go I felt as if my insides would come pouring out. Through all of this I learned, firsthand, just how good God is.

And I remembered His goodness when I found myself flying to Michigan for a funeral, not even a month afterward. I was thankful that my mom had gotten home (after spending time with me, helping me recuperate) before her mom left us. I’d have to say that 2015 did not have the best start (probably one of the worst in my 33 years)…and yet…

This is not meant to be a sad story, a woe-is-me-because-bad-things-happened story, nor a feel-sorry-for-me story.

You see, the story of last year was not about me being broken (though I admittedly am), but how God used that brokenness to make me stronger. Not just physically stronger, but spiritually stronger as well.

In those dark, broken places it’s difficult for me not to see God. He is the Light shining in the darkness. There is truth to be found in the words, “Was blind, but now, I see.” With my eyes being opened to Him I am able to see some of the ways He is working in my life. I trust Him more than ever, for He’s gotten me this far. Oh, and this little promise helps boost my confidence in Him as well:

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ~Philippians 1:6

So while 2015 didn’t have the best start, much more happened this past year that is worth noting:

*I stepped into the world of dating

*I helped start a youth group at my church

*I had to say “See you later,” to friends who moved away

*I got to go on a super amazing vacation in which all of my immediate family was together (and then some) which hasn’t happened for about 3 years

*I met a pretty amazing guy who is now my boyfriend

Highs and lows: God saw me through them all; He will see me through them all in the future as well.

Last year I was on leave from work, recovering from surgery, until February 18. This year, on February 18, I’m flying to Orlando. I’m spending a week there and going to have a grand time. I’m going with a great group of friends, my parents are joining us there, and so is my boyfriend. But wait – that’s not all! I’m going to be running in the Disney Princess Half Marathon as well! This has been a goal of mine for  a few years and the fact that it is only a month and a bit away is a little nerve-wracking. The thought that I can actually accomplish this seems crazy to me; even more so when I remember that I had to take a hiatus from running for 3 or so months. Or the fact that before last year the longest distance I ran was 3 miles.

Last Saturday I ran 7. This is nothing short of amazing. Amazing how God designed our bodies to put up with the craziness we put them through. Amazing how God has given me strength and endurance when I’ve wanted to give up. Amazing that He’s brought me this far and will not fail to bring me the rest of the way.

So while today I might still be somewhat of a mess, I know God’s not done with me yet. I know there are great amazing things ahead in this year. I know there are hard not-so-fun things ahead in this year. But I also know He will be with me, all along the way.

I pray that whatever God’s brought you through in this past year has changed you for the better. That you see His hand in it all and know that He is working all things out for the good of those that love Him. That you give Him all the glory He so rightly deserves for seeing us through.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Giving Thanks

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It seems to happen around this time every year. I start to think on all of the things I’m thankful for. There are always the “basics”: a loving God, a great family, amazing friends, a job that is just right for me. But there is so much more.

The night of our Thanksgiving Eve service at church always helps me see the great ways God has been working in my life in the past year; tonight was no different. As people stood to give thanks to the Lord for His provisions, love, guidance, mercies, and blessings I was reminded of how this year started out for me. I was trying to put my thoughts together and wondering if I should say anything. Of course at that moment there was silence as everyone waited for the next person to stand. I suppose someone noticed me and the face I make when I have something to say but am unsure of saying it (yes, I’ve been told I have such a look), because I heard someone say, “C’mon, Kell.” It’s now or never, I suppose so I stood.

The box of tissues was placed next to me within the span of my first few words. A dear friend took my hand before I finished the first sentence. My smile was ear to ear as the tears fell; as I spoke of a God so good, great, marvelous, amazing, and how He got me through the rough patches in the beginning of the year and led me into the wondrous season of today.

Amazing things happen when your feelings are spoken out loud; especially when they are things you might not want to say out loud, for everyone to hear. Saying them out loud seems to make them more real, while, at the same time, gives them less power over you, for you are no longer the single bearer of these thoughts.

So I remembered and spoke of the fear that came with going into surgery with the outcome unknown. A surgery & recovery that God brought me through with my hope still in tact that I could, one day, have children. For He is so good. And as I spoke, the fear, though it was from something in the past, was finally freed, and the gratefulness enveloped my heart.

I went on to speak of the joy I found in that outcome, as there is now someone in my life who I could see spending my future with. And those words, spoken out loud, (not just to one person here or there, but to over 30 all at once) hit me with the amazing reality of it all.

I spoke of my gratitude for my security in Christ. Whether the future turns out how I imagine it, or not, His will will be done. I know His plan is the best. He’s got me covered, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. A few years ago I would not have recognized the woman speaking these words. They were spoken with such conviction and confidence, as one who not only believes them, but knows them to be true.

1Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

We all have much to be thankful for this year. I pray you’re able to take time to share your thankfulness with not only your family & friends, but also with the God to Whom all our thanks should be given.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

A Changing of Seasons

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A couple Sundays ago my pastor opened his sermon by thanking God for the change of season. Fall is such a welcomed time here; not only does the weather start to get cooler, but our population decreases hugely as we live in a popular summer vacation destination (I, myself, like the fact that I can go grocery shopping whenever I want and don’t have to think about avoiding the store on the weekend). We start thinking on the beauty of changing leaves, the aroma of home-made applesauce, and pumpkin spice flavoring in almost anything you could imagine. I love all of those things, but when Pastor commented on the changing of seasons, none of them were going through my mind. At that moment I was struck with the thought of how God was bringing a change of seasons into my life. And how thankful I was for it.

Over the past few months God has gone and changed seasons on me. He (along with some of my friends) nudged me into the “dating scene” earlier this year. It was with a varied mixture of hesitation, anxiety, excitement, and hope that I joined a popular online dating site. After a month or two I had down a pretty good system for figuring out if a guy’s priorities lined up with mine. Ladies, well, this goes for the gents too, don’t ever be afraid to ask someone what they believe in and why. If you do not want to end up “unequally yoked” – 2 Corinthians 6:14 – it’s a question that should be asked straight out of the gate. There are many people who identify themselves as “Christians” yet tend to leave Christ out of the reason for calling themselves such – I know this for fact as I came across more than I cared to when I asked that question.

After jumping through hoops of communicating in online dating (and feeling good about the answers to the questions I asked) I actually talked to a few guys and went out on a few dates. They were scattered through the spring and summer. I got to experience the “guy who thought there was chemistry when there was none” and the “guy who decided he shouldn’t be dating right now” as well as the “guy who fell off the face of the earth.” I was none too sad about any of these meetings as they proved to be good learning experiences. I certainly didn’t expect to connect with the first guy I met…the fourth, however, is a different story. He’s the one who ended up (after about a month of dating) being the “guy who asked me to be his girlfriend” AKA, my boyfriend.

*I shall now take a brief moment so you can all shriek and/or giggle like 14-year-old girls. This is what my friends do when I mention him, including an actual 14-year-old girl (and a 36-year-old one😉 ). I myself would never do such a thing; I tend to either get a ridiculous grin on my face or blush at least 5 different shades of red. Or, if I’m in particularly rare form – both.*

This season is a totally new one for me. It’s not like knowing winter always follows fall; i’ve experienced that many times (32 to be exact): this has only ever happened right now. I will be completely honest in saying it has been exciting, strange, nerve-wracking, and wonderful – all at the same time. As much as I don’t know where this will lead, I’m not too concerned with that. I’m enjoying it and jumping in with both feet.

What I do know, is that every season prepares us for what’s to come; good or bad, joyful or sorrow-ridden.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1

My past has prepared me for this season. The heartache of the past pulled my focus where it should always be, on my Lord & Savior. Building upon that is the knowledge, and practice, that now, when new and exciting things are happening, that is where my focus should still be…that is where my focus still is. These events, in time, will prepare me for whatever future He has planned. And whatever it is, I know it will be good.

I am thanking God for this changing of seasons. I pray, that no matter what season He’s taking you through right now, you’re able to see His hand working through it, for your good, and His glory.

Love & Blessings,

KJ