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

Fix My Eyes

A new year has come and my goal is firmly set. This seems like a good theme song for it. It took a while for me to really hear all of the words – in fact I think it was only yesterday when I really heard & understood the first few lines. This morning I also read some verses that seem to speak on the same thing:

A discerning man keeps wisdom in view,

but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. – Proverbs 17:24

So here’s your challenge (and mine) for the day: fix your eyes on the One who gives all wisdom. In doing that, anyone else who is watching will see where your heart and priorities really are. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll ask you what it’s all about.

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

All Things New

A year has come and gone and I’ve done what most of us have; reflected on what was accomplished in those 365 days and found areas that could still use some improvement.

One big goal I have accomplished this past year is losing weight & actually keeping it off. Every year for at least the past 10 I have said I would do this when it’s time for making resolutions, but the resolve was just never there. In 2013 I started running, and I have a spectacular running buddy (though we are on a kind of hiatus for these really cold winter months), and, by the grace of God, we are getting fit and feeling good. Which does beat out losing weight (though it is nice to start buying smaller sizes). In this year, my goal in the fitness department is to keep going. It’s actually kicking off tomorrow with a trip to the gym before work in the morning. I’m going to keep running, getting fit, losing weight, and ultimately train for a half marathon that will take place in 2016. My friend, Johanna, had this crazy idea for us to do the Disney Princess Half Marathon when she gets out of the Peace Corps. I ran two 5ks last year; surely, by 2016, I can work my way up to 13 miles…And what better way to do it than to have Disney cast members cheering you on? It’s hard to see it actually happening, but if you would have told me a year ago that I would be able to run a 5k, it would have been just as unbelievable. 

Another area that I have grown greatly is in my faith. This is, by far, the most awesome thing. Words cannot describe it accurately except to say that I feel so much more secure in who I am in Christ. A new creation. A joint heir. God’s workmanship. It is truly amazing to think about & one thing I am going to do better this year is make the time to think about this, to talk with and praise God for this, and not get so caught up in the day to day junk that I completely dismiss the One who gets me through each day whether I acknowledge Him or not.

The message in church this morning spoke, so loudly, to this rekindled faith of mine that I cannot help but share it. Pastor just showed the title of it on the screen and I knew I was in for it. I made up my mind that I didn’t want to hear it and it would be too hard. Maybe someone else in the room would hear what he was saying and think of deep desires I had shared and think of how pathetic it all sounds. His title, you ask? A Love Worth Longing For.

If you know me, or have read my blog from the start, you know there is one thing I struggle with above everything else in this life; the fact that I am still “on my own” in a world where my sisters, friends, cousins, coworkers; everyone else but me, it seems; has gotten married and are happily starting their families. While this is not a thought in my mind every second of every day, it is something that I think about and is definitely a button of mine the Devil likes to push as he roams this world. I would be lying if I said I have never looked on these relationships of my friends & family with envy. It is something I long for, a kind of love I long for, and so when Pastor began his sermon asking about the kinds of relationship people might envy, I did not really want to hear anything that was coming next.

But I’m glad I did.

The message focused on John 17:20-26, the end of Jesus’ high priestly prayer right before He was arrested. I’m sure I have read through this section before, but new things were brought to my attention this time around. the first being in verse 20:

“My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,

Do you see that? “Those who will believe in me.” Jesus prayed for all of us who come to believe in Him through the message of the Gospel. How amazing is that to know that the Lord of all creation has prayed for you!

Jesus goes on to pray that the disciples, and indeed all believers, would be unified as one, so they/we might show the world the love of God, knowing that God’s love for us is the same as His love for Jesus.

Through this walk of faith of mine, I have not much doubted God’s love. It’s what first drew me in, finding out there was One who loved me so completely. And while I think of it time to time, especially when I think of the great ways He has blessed me and how much He must love me to do so; or how about the fact that He sent His Son to die for me? Yes, I know God loves me, but what was said today about it all makes me see it differently.

So while I have been fighting with being envious of my friends and family who have these amazing relationships; who have found their “perfect match,” that perspective was turned on its head a little today – I realized that a relationship I have, am a part of, is worthy of longing for as well. I actually have something others look longingly for, usually not knowing what it is. I possess something that good – the love of Christ and my relationship with Him. I’m not sure I will ever look at this the same again, or ever be so quick to be envious of a relationship that I don’t have – I have something amazingly better. It’s hard to keep in the forefront of my mind because there is no physical person always by my side, who shares my home, my life, my bed; but this relationship will never fade away. No matter how I might want to run from it or decide I’m unworthy of it – because I am – He finds me, His grace finds me and He delights in me. I am His and He is mine, and nothing can change that. Ever.

And I feel made new all over again. I have a Love worth longing for. I pray you do as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ