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

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

A Guarded Heart

Guard your heart. What does that make you think? I have often thought of it in the negative, like stacking bricks around it so nothing can get through. That’s not really the intent though:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. -Proverbs 4:23

This makes me think more of someone standing guard, not only protecting my heart from that which seeks to enter, but also that which longs to be made known.

One of my great friends is constantly sending me links to articles and things she thinks I’ll enjoy or find helpful (I love it, Sara, don’t stop!). As we share so much with each other, she is in a good position to know where I’m coming from a lot of the time.

A while back we had a conversation on the topic of keeping your heart guarded while a relationship is developing. I had just read about it, probably in an article she had sent me, and had come to a realization. My heart is poorly guarded. I, too quickly, think of where something could lead (and in turn rather freak myself out) instead of paying attention to the here and now. I easily share thoughts that come from the very deepest part of my heart and then wonder why I feel heartbroken over a relationship that never really was one to begin with. Now, I can’t say I have the answer to how to guard your heart (or mine), but I know Who does…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  -Philippians 4:6-7

If you don’t recognize this verse then you must not be reading my blog nearly enough 😉 It is often my go-to verse when I am anxious or worried, when I need to be reminded to hand things over to God & He will take care of them, when I don’t know what’s going on or what is to come in the future…basically all the time. But the part about guarding hearts did not ever quite resonate with me as much as it does now; now I understand it a bit more. And I will faithfully put my heart in the hands of He who can guard it best.

Praying you are able to do the same, no matter the situation, for your peace & His glory.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Let it Begin

It seems when a new year comes along I always make goals that never become reality. They can be crazy big (I’m going to lose 70lbs) or basically simple (I will wash my dishes every night); but sill, the next year comes around and sees them unfulfilled.

This year goals will be met.

What makes this year so different, you ask? I know I cannot do it by myself, and I know I’m going to have to rely on God, as well as the family and friends He has put in my life, to get through it. This really isn’t a new thought for me. I have known this for a while, but it’s the putting-it-into-practice part that trips me up. Every time.

Choices I have made and the road God put me on has taught me to be a fairly independent person. The only time I’ve lived close to family in the last 15 years was when I moved back in with my folks after I finished grad school and was job hunting. I’ve always made friends fairly easily, and do have those I confide in and rely on. But when it really comes down to it, more often than not, I don’t ask for help when I need it.

The same can be said when I approach my Lord. Yes, I have grown and matured, and I thank Him for that, but I still find myself not asking for His help first. I’m guilty of trying to work things out on my own and then (usually after failing) sheepishly turn to Him. I cannot help but picture Him looking down on me, shaking His head with a sigh, and saying, “My dear child, I might not have saved you that hurt, but I could have carried you through it, if only you had given it to Me.”

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

Oh, I know I’m not the only one. Maybe in reading this, you come to realize that you do it, too. I have no real explanation for why I do this other than a simple issue of pride. I can do this on my ownI don’t need anyone’s help. Or, what gets me the most; I don’t want to bother anyone with my problems because they have their own to deal with. These, especially the last, are such blatant lies. We are to share our burdens. It was not intended for us to do this alone.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I’ve touched on this before, which just goes to show how much I need to be reminded of it. And now comes the test. When I have to put it into practice. Relying on God to see me through & others to do that which I cannot do myself.

A few weeks ago I had a routine doctor’s visit. Which led to the scheduling of an ultrasound. Not two hours after which came a phone call and the words “large cystic mass” followed by “GYN oncologist.” My breath caught for a couple seconds. Did I just hear what I thought I did? Yes, I had.

The following week I had the appointment with the oncologist. I asked a friend to come with me, a dear Sister who had also been a nurse and just a great support to me all around – a mom when mine lives over 600 miles away. Surgery was scheduled and then came the news I was not fully expecting. The cyst is so large they cannot operate laparoscopically. The incision made will be about as big as the cyst to insure they can get it out without difficulty. Depending on where it is in relation to other things, I could most likely lose an ovary as well. If it is cancerous (which, from what they can tell of it short of a biopsy, they think not) I could be losing more than one ovary.

I don’t really think I need to tell anyone who knows me that it was at this point that I lost it. One of my greatest desires is to, one day, get married and have a family of my own. I know that adoption is a viable option, but still. The possibility of losing that ability myself scares me. And there it is again, my ability.

I do not doubt God has a great plan. I do not doubt that He is sovereign over all. Do I wonder about His methods? …….yes. Do I love HIm less or blame Him? Absolutely not. Am I leaning on Him to see me through? There’s no other way i could make it.

As for relying on others. There’s the fact that I’m going to be out of work for 4 weeks or so and my awesome coworkers stepped up to take care of my weekly programs so they wouldn’t have to be cancelled. My mom is coming out and staying with me for a couple weeks. Friends are going to be driving her and I to and from the hospital (which is not local). Many have offered help with the only condition that I ask, including one threatening a smack upside the head if I don’t ask when I need it – how well he knows me 🙂

So, after all that, you may think me crazy for this: with less than a week before surgery, I’m doing fine. My God is in control. The path He has before me will only bring me closer to Him when I reach the end. Yes, I will still get anxious. I do not doubt I will end up in tears at least a few more times. But above all else, I know He’s got it in His hands. And who am I to say He’s doing it wrong?

2Count it all joy, my brothers,b when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

So, my goals for this year? They all stem from this main one:

5Trust in the LORD with all your heart
            And do not lean on your own understanding.

      6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
            And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

What about you? Are you starting this year with plans to do it all on your own? Or are you, willingly and actively, leaning on Him with Whom all things are possible?

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Feet of a Deer

For who is God besides our Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He make my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:31-33

A deer’s feet are such that they can bound quickly and steadily through uneven ground and not fall even when the terrain is most treacherous. God does the same for us – we might not get through the rough spots as quickly as a deer, but He helps us stay steady and not fall.

I “just happened” to come across these verses this morning and sent them along to a friend to encourage her. Little did I know that God would work these verses out in me this very day.

If you know me, you may, or may not, know how this crazy brain of mine latches on to thoughts sometimes and will not let go. It happened this morning on my way to work. I tried rationalizing and talking myself out of it; “You don’t need to be thinking about that; let it go and move on,” which never really works. I don’t know about you, but often this is my first reaction. Why, I ask you, do we look to ourselves to fix these problems when we have the God of the universe on our side? Eventually my thoughts will go to Him, but not too often first thing; I’m working on that.

After getting to work, the anxiety began to grow and I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own. I texted the same friend asking for prayer and I went to a quiet place where I could get some work done, alone and out of the public eye. After praying myself and just standing in one spot for 5 or so minutes, wondering where to start, I busied myself and got to work. After an hour, it had mostly subsided, and I returned to my desk for some more organizing and such. There was still a knot in my stomach though and after a few more hours I decided a change of scenery would be best. I left a few hours early and went to my friend’s house.

We went for a run and I got to talk it through with her. While we were no where near as quick as deer, I felt God doing just what the psalmist describes in the verses above. He was getting me through the rocky terrain and helping me stand on the heights, so that I might be able to look at it all from a different angle. To see it objectively from a distance, rather than getting trampled in the midst of it all.

How good He is to enable us to do that! I pray I’m able to keep that mindset as I don’t think this particular trial is yet at end. Not thinking about it as much is half the battle; handing it over to Him is the other. Though I have no doubt that when I let go (and not pick it back up) He will be faithful in taking the burden from me and helping me bound along the path He’s set before me to whatever lies ahead.

Praying He is making your feet like the feet of a deer; that you may not falter when the terrain is rocky.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

One Step at a Time

I was at the store last night, trying to find some goodies for my Secret Santa exchange at work, when I overheard two women having a conversation just down the aisle.

“I’ve been praying for you,” one of them said. “I hope things are getting better.”

“That’s funny; things have been getting harder again & I was going to call and ask for you to pray. It just seems like this is the hardest time to pray. I’m in so deep, I don’t know where to start.”

“That’s when you need to pray the most,” the first woman consoled. “Pray and run to God – He can get you through. Get in His Word and He will sustain you”

The conversation went on as they traveled down the aisle and over to the next. I, very much, wanted to follow them down the next aisle and let them know the blessing their conversation was to me, but I couldn’t get up the courage. I was so amazed at what I had heard. It is not often that I hear talk of God so out in the open (when I’m on my own), but that wasn’t what surprised me the most. What surprised me was the fact that the first woman could have been having that conversation with me and would have gotten the same response.

Something snapped this past Sunday; and in a manner of minutes it felt like the rug was yanked out from under me. So many thoughts were swirling around my head and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It’s scary to be fine one minute and to be sobbing the next. I’m ever so grateful I was at church when it happened as they have become my family here. Enveloped in hugs and prayers I pulled it back together and headed off to work.

Later that night I felt it again. Unable (and somewhat unwilling, I admit) to formulate words of prayer, I texted a friend. “I feel as if I’ve fallen in a hole,” I told her. “And I have no idea how to get out.” She reminded me of what I already knew: I can work these things out when I work through them with God; one little bitty step at a time. Indeed, the ladies’ conversation at the store mirrored the one we had the day before.

It seems to me that whenever I get a good grasp onto something, that is when the Devil comes knocking. He whispers lies, and I, relying on only myself, fall for them. I don’t know if it’s because over the years I have become rather self-sufficient or what, but it is not often enough that I go straight to Jesus when these things happen. It’s so silly, when you really think about it, pretty dumb too. Jesus was tempted in all ways. He faced the Devil directly. And through it all, He remained sinless. I am so far from that, why would I not choose to rely upon Him? It is something I am still trying to figure out, but I do know this: I am relying on Him more than I did a year ago. I am aware of my need for Him, for a Savior, now more than ever. I trust Him with so much; my very life. But as you may have heard, the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps getting up off the altar. Often we lay things down at the foot of the cross – worries, troubles, heartaches, bitterness – just to pick them back up, again, and again, and again. All because we, as silly humans, think we can do better than the Creator of us all.

It is always in times like these that a specific Bible verse or passage is brought to my attention, one way or another, and through it the Holy Spirit gives me comfort, reassurance, and grace to continue on. This morning it was again through today’s entry in Jesus Calling. The entry itself spoke right to my heart as it opens with, “Make Me [Jesus] the focal point of your search for security. In your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe.” I was blown away as it put into words the exact thing I had been doing. Then it referenced Isaiah 41:10.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I do believe this is the next verse to go up on the chalkboard in my living room. A constant reminder for when the bottom falls out. Turning to Him sooner, rather than later, I will not sink as deep. But regardless, He finds me in the dark places, for the dark is as light to Him, and He will guide me out; one step at a time.

Love & Blessings,

KJ