A Mighty God

In reading 1 Samuel 2 tonight (you can read it here) one thought rose above all the rest; our God is mighty. Hannah goes to the temple with Samuel to give him into the Lord’s service (he’s about 3 or so years old) and she prays a heartfelt prayer. Overarching the whole prayer is the fact that God is in control.

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and on them he has set the world. ~1 Samuel 2:6-8

I don’t know about you, but I find much comfort in this fact and was glad to be reminded of it once again. I can never be reminded of this too much, as I am all too quick to forget this in times of stress, anxiety, worry, and fear. BUT, knowing God’s got this, as well as everything else on the earth, brings me peace. This bit just adds to the comfort that this knowledge brings:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Through the whole part of Eli’s sons being awful and not following the rules God set for them I wanted to have a “REALLY?” moment; like “God has instructed you as to how you are supposed to deal with the offerings from His people so that they also provide your food and you are so unsatisfied with that that you take what rightfully belongs to God? REALLY?” But then I realized that I do similar things each and every day. I take time that rightfully belongs to God and squander it on things that don’t matter. I take potential gifts and talents that God has given me to use for His kingdom, and I ignore them because I don’t want to put in the effort. How grateful I am that Jesus came to be my redeemer so that I will never come to the same end that Eli’s sons did.

It was not only the sons’ actions that were in the wrong though; there was also the fact that Eli heard about it, told them to stop, but did not seem to go any further when they did not listen. A man of God comes to him to tell him that he has put his sons above God and there will a drastic price to pay; the death of his sons. And again I’m reminded of how I easily put things in my life above God. Some of them are even good things, but as God is the best thing, nothing should come close to comparing to who He is and all He’s done for me.

There’s a lot for me to still think about here; reminders of God’s great promises and also conviction of things that need to change in my life. I am grateful to have God’s Word; that through it the Holy Spirit can open my eyes to these things, help me to change, and draw me closer to my God. I pray you’re aware of His work in your life, too.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Not Relief, but Redemption

I’m starting my Bible reading in 1 Samuel. I have read through this book before, but it was brought up a couple of weeks ago and I thought I would like to read it again. Looking through it, I found it has 31 chapters – I think I’ve found what I’m going to be reading through for this month ūüôā If you don’t have a Bible on hand, go ahead and read 1 Samuel 1 here.

A couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to Spring Ladies Day at America’s Keswick. It was a lovely day that we got to spend in worship and fellowship, and teaching from God’s Word. Susie Larson was the speaker and she reminded me (and the other thousand or so women there) of some great truths about who we are in Christ and how disappointments can lead us to believe otherwise. In this, she brought up Hannah and how she looked for more than relief from her disappointment, she sought redemption.

Hannah was barren. Her husband’s other wife had many children and didn’t think twice about rubbing that fact in Hannah’s face. This more than saddened Hannah and every year when they went up to the temple she would find herself in sorrow for what she did not have. Her husband would ask her the reason for her sadness, for he loved her, and at one point, said to her, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?”

It is here where I stopped to let this sink in. I am reminded that I, too, am blessed with a loving husband. Someone whose existence I doubted at one point (or rather many points) in my life. I am reminded of God’s great love and provision and perfect timing throughout our relationship. I am reminded that he and I are a family, with or without children. And I feel¬†convicted by not being content with that, for now.

Perhaps Hannah was stuck in the trap of “if only.” I, for one, do not begrudge her for her deep desire to have a child. She went to the only One who could help her in this situation; she went in the temple and turned to her God. She could have just prayed for Peninnah (her husband’s other wife) to leave her alone. She could have just prayed for a child. But Hannah sought more than relief from her disappointment, she sought redemption. And so, Hannah prayed, not only for a son, but also that if her prayer was answered, she would give her son back to the Lord; she would entrust her son to the Lord’s service.

Hannah wasn’t just looking at how her disappointment in not having a child could be assuaged; she was looking to how her prayer could be answered to the benefit of God’s Kingdom. She was looking at a bigger picture than just herself and her desires and God, in His wisdom and compassion, fulfilled her prayer. She went home, no longer saddened by her circumstance, and soon she and her husband conceived a child.

We all can make grand plans and say that if God answers a prayer in our favor we will somehow use it for Him. I’m not saying that God will not honor that, but, truth be told, He doesn’t really need us for anything. And honestly, anything we have, be it material wealth, time, talents, etc., we should be using for His honor and glory anyway.¬†Please don’t read this as if I always do…for that is nowhere near the truth.

But if there is a great desire you have; for a certain kind of job, for a child, for a spouse, what have you, take it to our Lord. Earnestly pray, asking Him to fulfill your desire, knowing first, that He is the only One who can truly fufill¬†you. Look to Him for your redemption; knowing He is good, His timing is perfect, and His ways are not our ways. This is my focus in my prayer today as I work through disappointment to find not just relief for a day, but redemption for a lifetime. I pray, if there is something you’re struggling with, that you will look to the cross and find your way there, as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

The Danger of “If Only”s

“If only I could get that raise…”

“If only I could lose 10 pounds…”

“If only I could…” you fill in the blank.

Have you found yourself there lately? Thinking that if only this one thing would happen then all would be well in the world? It’s such an easy trap to fall into.

I found myself there one night as I tried to fall asleep. I went for a run after work before cleaning the house up a bit and making dinner, so I welcomed sleep, but my mind was still going full speed. Thinking about what the future holds I wrote a few notes in my phone before trying again. I turned to my Lord, where peace can always be found, and I prayed.

Thank You, Father, for this day. Thank You for the ¬†great blessing of my husband and all he does for us. I’m so grateful for where You have us right now, if only…

I stopped in my tracks; knowing the words that were going to come next and realizing all I was insinuating about my precious Lord & Savior. How often have I been reminded …‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ (2 Corinthians 12:9a), and¬†His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to¬†his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3)?¬†And yet that is where I found myself; caught up in a lie thinking that I didn’t already have all I need, that Christ’s sacrifice for me was not enough, and that God may be holding out on me.

Without really thinking about it, I fell into the “if only” trap, and I was reminded how, on this side of heaven, I still have my flesh to contend with. I was thanking my God & then going on to say how what He has for me isn’t good enough. That, for whatever reason, there should be something more for me. And only a few months ago I was writing about how I knew I deserved none of this amazing life He’s blessed me with.

Being content with what God’s given us and where God has us, at any point in life, can be difficult; especially when the world around us is always shouting that we need more, we should be reaching for the highest rung on the success ladder, and the most important thing in life is our own happiness. That is why it’s so important to stay focused on what really matters; the amazing gift of grace, purchased at such a high price, by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that because of His sacrifice, this grace reconciles us with God; so that we may glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

I admit, I fall into this trap often. When you are waiting and hoping for something, it’s not a hard thing to do. I know the things that will help keep my focus (there’s a good chance you probably know them, too); prayer, reading¬†the Word, seeking community & fellowship with other believers. But while I know these things, I’m not so good at actually doing them. I know of the great benefit they hold, and yet I find myself shying away from them. Do you find yourself there, too? If so, I have a proposal.

Of the above three things, I find it the most difficult to stop and get into the Bible every day. With a lot of craziness and changes going on in life in general right now, though, that is exactly what I need to be doing the most. For the next month, I am going to endeavor to read, every day, and share some of my thoughts and findings with you. I would be delighted if you joined along and posted comments about what the Lord has been showing & teaching you, day by day.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

 

Dear Baba,

Two years ago today…

I didn’t write much about it because I didn’t know where to start. I had been through a lot already that month and was recovering from major surgery. I was both in shock and not surprised, if such a thing is possible. Most of my childhood memories included Baba as she lived with us since I was 4. I couldn’t write about it then, but feel drawn to write now.

Dear Baba,

Thank you for all the memories shared. For telling me about when you were a kid and how you almost broke the principal’s arm (though I’m still not sure if that’s true or not). For letting me keep you company when you were watching your “stories” and I was playing with my paper dolls. For being honest with me when I tried to make you promise that you would never die after I experienced loss for the first time; “No one lives forever, Kellie.” For looking out for me (like that time you yelled at Teresa and Kimmy for locking me outside in the pouring rain). For being generous and helping me out in college when I felt things were falling apart. For eagerly listening to me read Harry Potter to you and telling me that listening to Jim Dale read the last one couldn’t compare to me. For the money you gave me at least 7 years ago, that was to be for my wedding “or whatever you might need.” I did use it for my wedding, Baba; I found the most lovely dress. Thank you for your contribution to that day. It was more than just the dress.

My 33rd birthday was just 10 days after you left us. On that day I finally decided to set up an online dating account. Don’t worry, I was safe and didn’t let any of them come to my house on the first date and I always drove myself to meet them. I thought it would be a good use of the money I had just received, and I’m happy to say, Baba, that it was indeed. I went out with a couple of what you might call duds. They were nice and all, but not for me. And then I met him, Baba, 6 months after you had gone, I met the man who’s now my husband. Thank you, again.

I regret that you were not at our wedding and that you never got to meet Steve. You would like him, of that I have no doubt. He has a great sense of humor and he would make you laugh. And, yes, Baba, he loves me and treats me well. I’m sad that my children (when we have them, Lord willing) won’t get to grow up with you in their lives. I admit I’m a little jealous that you were at both Teresa’s & Kimmy’s weddings & that you got to meet their firstborns. Don’t worry, though, my husband and my children may not meet you, but they will know your stories. They will taste your peanut butter pie and pierogies. They will gaze upon a Christmas tree with ornaments you made hanging from it. You are not gone as long as your memories are passed along.

Thank you, Baba, for the memories.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

It’s Not Really About the How

It happened after we had been dating for a couple of months. It was the first time he introduced me as his girlfriend. And then the inevitable question came. “So how did you meet?”

I don’t think I was nervous about this (ok, maybe a little bit), but we both looked at each other for a very long second and then he answered. “We met on eHarmony.” Apparently I rolled my eyes at this. I was totally unaware, but his friend called me out on it. I couldn’t help but wonder where that reaction came from, but I really probably knew all along.

I’m a romantic at heart. Totally. Completely. Hopelessly. Romantic.

That’s a huge reason why I struggled with the idea of online dating for so long. “It’s great for other people,” I thought, “But how could that possibly be the way I’m going to find my husband? How romantic could that possibly be?” (And here I just imagine God chuckling, “Just wait, dear one, until you see what I have in store for you.”) Meanwhile, I had a few good friends who met their spouses through online dating. It only took me a year or two or three to decide to actually try it for myself.

More than that, though, I came to terms with the idea that God can use any means to bring about His will. I didn’t think a lot of people would understand that, though. For whatever reason, I had the thought stuck in my head that people would think I was desperate to find someone if I had to resort to online dating.

*I do not quite understand the double standard I set in my head about this. I have never thought of anyone who chooses to go the online dating route in that light, not my friends or the guys I met, much less the one I’m about the marry. For whatever reason, this thought only applied to myself.*

And that was the reason for my hesitation in answering how we met, the first time it was asked. And the reason for the¬†eyeroll. But I have more to add to that now, a year later (to the day, in fact). And it doesn’t involve any heavy sighs, or eyerolls, or shrugging of shoulders.

Yes, the first time I saw my now soon-to-be husband was on the screen of my laptop. The profile he wrote up was thoughtful, well written (with no grammatical errors), and I wanted to know more about him. Because I felt awkward initiating communication, I sent him a “smile” (think poking via Facebook circa 2004). He then sent me questions that I answered and then sent a few of my own. We finally got to writing our own messages and within a short time decided we wanted to talk/meet. That was put on hold for a week or so as I had just left for a family vacation of California, and then just one more week as I had plans with friends for the weekend I got home.

For our first date we met at Starbucks and walked around a mall for an hour or so. He said he’d like to see me again and I don’t think I could say yes fast enough. The rest, as they say, is history. For as much as I was worried about what people would think when they found out how we met, I don’t really think of that anymore. That is not really important in the defining of our relationship. I freely give the answer when asked; hoping perhaps I’ll encourage someone else to step out of their comfort zone, into online dating or whathaveyou, and trust that if it’s in God’s plan, He’ll make it come about whichever way He chooses.

No, I may not have a movie worthy love story (those aren’t real anyway), but romance, yes, it’s there. It’s in finding & reading a book to find out how it ends (because the librarian you’re dating wouldn’t want to spoil it). It’s in long walks and park benches by the water. It’s in hearing, “I love you” for the first time, under a starry sky. It’s in having a hand to hold that helps steady your clumsiness. It’s in a welcomed hug after a half marathon eventhough you’re sweaty & smelly. It’s in the quiet prayers, seeking God’s direction for your future. It’s in hearing the words, “I have never second-guessed myself; you are the only one I ever want to marry.”

I pray you find encouragement in my story, and not necessarliy in knowing that online dating can work. Most importantly, I hope you come to realize, as I did, God uses whatever means He chooses. Sometimes we hesitate to try something new because we think He can’t possibly bring anything good about in that way. We are talking about the Creator of the universe, remember! He spoke the world into being. He is not constrained to that which we can wrap our minds around (praise Him for that!).

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

That Girl

I never wanted to be that girl.¬†The one who thought she wasn’t good enough, or pretty enough, for any guy, much less one with admirable qualities. I didn’t want to be that girl¬†who thought she didn’t deserve to be in a relationship. I read all of the Twilight books (a mistake, I know), and wanted to smack Bella every time she mentioned or thought about how undeserving of Edward she was. I vowed never to be that girl…until I realized, I am.

In this season of preparing for a wedding & marriage there have been many well wishes and congratulations. When I talk with people, many have expressed their happiness for my fiance and I, and many have said, “You deserve this.” It has always rubbed me a little funny, that phrase. And I have finally figured out why. I don’t. I don’t deserve any of this.

Hear me out, now, and let me explain. In this life, I deserve nothing. Wait, that’s not quite right. In this life, I deserve death.¬†For the wages of sin is death ~Romans 6:23a.¬†I have sinned against a righteous and holy God. More times than I could ever count. Death is all I deserve.¬†But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23b

I deserve death, but have been granted life. and not just¬†any life, but¬†eternal¬†life! You know that means forever, right? Because Jesus paid the price for my sin (and for yours), I can accept the free gift of life eternal (and so can you). That is an amazing thing all on it’s own. And now here is the rest of my point – it is all I’ll ever need.¬†3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to¬†his own glory and excellence,¬†4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~2 Peter 1:3 & 4

Because of my salvation in Jesus Christ, I should want for nothing. In not getting what I deserve (death) and getting what I don’t deserve (eternal life) I should be forever grateful. I¬†am forever grateful. Any other blessing that God chooses to bestow upon me is icing on the cake. My job that I love, my comfortable home, a car that still runs, and, yes, even a wedding at the end of the month and a future with a man I adore. All of those are bonuses on top of the most precious gift I could ever be given. Especially considering I had all but given up that that last one would ever happen.

God never promised we would find a soul mate, but He promised rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30)

God never promised us a spouse, but He promised to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

God never promised us each a wedding on earth, but He has prepared a marriage supper for those who belong to Him (Revelation 6-9).

If you are single and struggling, I pray this gives you hope, knowing that all you will ever need will never be found in a relationship here on earth. I have been in your shoes and it is a hard pill to swallow, but as long as you are in Christ, He will sustain you.

If you are married and struggling, I also pray this gives you hope, knowing that your spouse can never be your savior, but Jesus Christ can. With Him in the center of your marriage, you and your spouse can focus on how your relationship is working to glorify Him.

And if you find yourself with a¬†that girl mentality, know that it’s ok, but also remember my most favorite two words;¬†but God. You may feel undeserving, but God knows you are worth the greatest sacrifice, and He gave it all so He could be in relationship with you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

What I Love About Sundays

A simple list; because that’s sometimes all you need:

*Being with the family of God

*Sharing; joys, needs, praises, hurts

*Sunday morning I’m-so-glad-to-see-you smiles (and hugs)

*Singing praise & glory to our God & King

*Hearing the voices of loved ones that stand out from all the rest while singing

*Witnessing love as a husband’s hand sets upon his wife’s while they worship together

*Being in communion with God, though there is not one thing I’ve done to deserve it

*Being reminded that “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe”

*The voice of a sister in prayer, giving thanks to our God for His provision, always

*Being reminded, once again, at only Jesus saves; as much as we love things and/or people of this earth they can never provide us with the same benefits as He does

*Resting in and being renewed by my God; the only One able to take this mess of a person and use her for His glory & the good of His kingdom

I hope you’ve gotten to experience at least a few of the same today.

Love & Blessing,

KJ