I am Not My Own

Lord, You have redeemed me,

How can I ask for more?

How can I be selfish and just ask

and ask

and ask

When You have given all for me

That I may serve & worship You forever.

 

While I was still a sinner

You loved me

You love me enough to more than cover my debt

You overwhelmed it and thus

overwhelmed my soul.

Knowing the price You paid

I still back away and ask for more.

 

Let me love You & serve You

However that may look

Whatever that may mean

So that I may enjoy You forever,

Serve Your kingdom and worship You,

As You so rightly deserve.

 

The life given for me

So much more valuable than I can repay

And yet so often I turn away

I ask for still more,

Thinking His life was not enough

to make my life complete.

 

Lies; such lies surround me

Thinking I deserve so much more

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

Let the lies fall dead on my ears

Let my heart not yearn

after that which is not You.

 

I belong to You

Assign me my place as You will.

The place You have for me

to do good works for You;

That which You have prepared for me

before the foundations of the earth.

And let me be content in that place

that I may glorify You & enjoy You

All the days of my life.

I am not my own.

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

 

 

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

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

Despicable Soil & Spiritual Growth

“The soil that we despise grows the spiritual fruit that we most desperately need. It can become a greenhouse for spiritual growth, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to live through. It’s awful space but God can do some wonderful things in it.” – Jeff Manion

Listening to a Boundless podcast from earlier in the year, this was said in response to a question about feeling like your life is always in the “in-between” stage or that you’re just waiting for the next thing to happen. It speaks such truth and I’m glad I can say i can see it in action in my own life.

I have not felt like I’m just “waiting around” for a couple years now, and it feels pretty great. As my bestie would say, “You’re going out there and livin’ life!” And that really is what it’s about. Through this time of singleness, God has grown me. I am no longer wishy-washy or uncertain in my faith. I know where I stand and am confident in it. I have moments of doubt, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t get stuck in them like I used to. I know where to go, who to talk to, to find the answers I need.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. – 1 John 5:13-15

The word “know” there refers to an intimate knowledge, a personal knowledge, one that can only be gained by spending time with the One who created knowledge to begin with. While I’m sure that there is still much more for me to learn and some that I will never attain this side of heaven, I know Him in this way. I know with certainty that nothing can snatch me from HIs hand.

If you would have told me 3 years ago that I’d be working with teens or training for a half-marathon in the future I would have laughed at you. Probably in your face. These are the things God has me doing now; leading the youth group at church & getting ready for a half marathon come February. He gave me a strong desire to start the youth group at the beginning of the year. My heart was pulled to do it and I could not say no; here was an opportunity to share my faith with those younger than I; to be a role model for them – someone I desperately needed when I was their age. I take joy in getting to know these kids more and letting them know how much God loves them and all He did just to have a relationship with them. It’s even better when they show me examples of this from their day-to-day, acknowledging that God is the One behind it all.

As for running, I’ll just leave it with saying there is no way I’d be able to do it in my own strength. I haven’t started the long runs yet, but I plan on relying on Him even more through those 🙂

So, basically, if I were where I really want to be (married with a kiddo or two or three), there’s no way I’d be able to do what I’m doing now. There’s no way I would learn to trust God in these situations (though I’m sure there would be many other different situations I’d be dealing with). This space in time is fertile soil for the growing & maturing of my faith. Exactly what it’s maturing me for, I do not know. But He does.

If you are in a place in your life where you really don’t want to be, a place you cannot wait to get out of & on to the next thing, just stop for a moment. If you cannot think of anything good that has come out of this time, ask God to reveal it to you. But even if He doesn’t, know that He’s got a plan for it. And a plan for you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

God is Good…All the Time

I first want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers over the last few weeks. The well wishes, phone conversations, visits, and cheery cards in the mail are all very much appreciated.

The day of surgery was somewhat nerve-wracking: we got stuck in traffic and got to the hospital at least an hour later than I was supposed to be there. I was really worried that they would say, “Sorry, no time for you now. You’ll have to come back another day.” Thankfully, they did not and everything got moving less than an hour after I got there. God is good.

It’s funny the things you remember before and after a surgery, especially when anesthesia is involved. I had an epidural (though it didn’t really work as it was supposed to), and while I remember sitting up and getting ready for them to do it, that’s the last thing I remember – not that I’m complaining. The next thing I remember was darkness and someone asking about my pain. I remember saying it was an 8, but thankfully, again, I don’t remember the actual pain. God is good.

I don’t remember a whole bunch from the days in the hospital either. I remember one of the sweetest, most gentle women I have ever met – a nurse – coming early in the morning, while it was still dark, to wash me. Her words were soothing and soon they were all about a God who could get me through this pain and trial. “Oh yes, I know Him.” I wanted to say. “He’s the one I’m leaning on.” But the words just weren’t there. When she was finished, though, she asked to pray and I agreed. I don’t remember the prayer, but I do remember the comfort and peace given in that moment. God is good.

There were countless requests for ice and water that my mama was quick to fulfill (because the surgery was later in the day she spent the first night with me). There was a visit from friends during which I’m sure I made little sense (I suppose drugs do that to a person 🙂 ). There was a phone call from a friend just to let me know that she had been praying and was wondering how I was doing. There was the news that the tumor, though 8 pounds (yes, you read that correctly), was benign, just like they thought, and little else was taken with it. God is so good.

I have been home now for 2 weeks and recovery is going well. I drove for the first time today and there was no problem there. I still walk pretty slow and felt a little in the way when I entered into the crazy bustle of Walmart today. Bending over is tricky and I can’t lift heavy things, but as I sit here typing, I’m in no pain. And the worst it comes to is this soreness like I just did 100 too many crunches. God is good.

There’s not much more I can say. I knew before this all happened that God is good, all the time. This, perhaps, is my first time of being aware of the complete truthfulness of that. I wouldn’t change this experience or wish it never happened because of that;

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

Remember the last time I posted that? It might have been one of those times when you say something because you know there’s truth in it and you very much want to believe it. Not this time. I had no doubt in it’s truth before, but now I know I have experienced its truth for myself.

Are you struggling to see God’s goodness in your life? I pray He will make it evident to you. For He is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Love & Blessings,

KJ