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 …“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (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

 

 

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

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

Another Change of Season

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