September 15-18

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

You can read Psalm 42 in its entirety here.

I knew at the beginning of the month that I would find out if I was pregnant while away on a girls’ weekend with my mom and sisters. I dreaded the thought of getting my period and my reaction to the let down. The emotions, the sorrow and the disappointment, had started to grip me with such intensity that I worried about it happening around them. Not that they would see it, but that they would see it and question, “Where is your God?”

And the morning came. I woke up and there was blood. I had since stopped being hopeful that it could be implantation bleeding. I couldn’t raise my hopes like that just to have them dashed. Self preservation mode was what I was running on. I went back to bed trying to control the flood of tears. Sobbed into my pillow in hopes that no one would notice. Tried to gather myself as everyone else started waking up much earlier than I had hoped. I just wanted to stay in bed, but we had a full day ahead of us and adventures planned. I hadn’t flown to Minneapolis to stay cooped up in a hotel room. I prayed for strength. For grace for one more day. For contentment in Christ and not to obsess with what was or wasn’t happening within my body. He brought me through to the other side of the day. I dealt with it as well as I could. I don’t remember any other melt downs that day. It wasn’t the best day ever, but I remember being able to enjoy the time with my mom and sisters and I was grateful for that.

Despite not wanting to get my hopes up, they were slightly. That or I was in denial. I spotted through the next couple days and still went in for the blood test because this period just didn’t seem normal for me. I went to watch the kiddos and tried to forget about the phone call that would be coming in a few hours. We went to the grocery store and as I was just getting them back in their car seats when my phone rang. I knew what was coming, but had to hear it to be sure. “I’m so sorry, but it’s negative.” I tried to coherently speak with her about details and cycle days and setting up the next appointment. I’m sure she heard my voice crack and the extra moment of silence it took me to gather myself. As soon as I hit the red icon, the tears came freely. Another disappointment. Each got harder and harder as I wondered why. And I wondered how much more of this I could take.

I honestly don’t remember much more of that day with the kids. I went to help a friend with wedding plans that night and quietly skipped over a telling of highs and lows for the day. I just couldn’t muster bearing all to them, though a little later that evening it did come up as one of them asked me how it was all going.

What I remember most is lying on our bed with Steve. Not being able to look him in the eyes as I voiced my fears. Fears that I knew to be untrue but had such a tight grip on my heart.

“Am I doing something wrong?”

“Am I not good enough?”

“Is God holding out on me?”

He answered a firm and confident “No.” The answer applied to all the questions swirling in my head and he continued to remind me of the Lord’s great truths and promises, something I needed so very much.

Dear friends, have you had such moments? Ones when circumstances seem dire and there’s nothing but sorrow and fear and oh so many tears? I believe those times fall upon us all. And while we may not see how we could possibly praise God in that moment, take hope in knowing, like the psalmist, that you shall yet praise Him again. He is our only salvation and God.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

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Thankfulness: Day 20

Today I’m thankful we were able to share this news with the everyone: come June we’ll be welcoming a little one into our family.

It has been a journey, but really it’s only just begun. We are thankful for the faithfulness of the Lord. For Him allowing us the opportunity to be His ambassadors to a child.

I have some things I’ve written in the in between; before I got pregnant, before I knew I was, and after I knew I was but didn’t yet want to release that info into the world. I’ll be posting periodically and hope they may be an encouragement to those of you going through similar situations.

I know not all stories of infertility end this way; with the happy news of a baby on the way. I still know that feeling and I pray for those of you going through it. It is a difficult, exhausting, heartbreaking journey. Through it all, know that you are thought of, prayed for, and loved. By me, yes, but more importantly by the Good Lord above.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Thankfulness: Day 17

I am not really the sort of person who sets up the Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. It’s rare that I’ll listen to Christmas music before then either. There is one Christmasy thing I do enjoy before Thanksgiving has had its day, though.

One word.

Shoeboxes.

If you’ve never heard of Operation Christmas Child, I highly encourage you to check it out. This organization collects shoeboxes filled with gifts and distributes them to children around the world. More importantly, though, is the fact that the Gospel goes with it. Each child who receives a box is also taught about Christ and many take part in a longer program to learn more. The gift acts as a physical representation of God’s love.

Think about it. What would you think if you received a gift from someone across the world who didn’t even know you? Surely there is another power at work here. I challenge you to go to the site and watch some videos of adults who received boxes as children and then try to tell me that’s not true. God uses unusual means to get His message across; I believe this is one of them.

Today I am thankful for this ministry and getting to be a part of it. At my previous church I organized our participation in this project and even got to volunteer at one of the processing centers. This year I got to organize the packing party at our current church. This morning members gathered with items they bought to pack their shoeboxes and write notes to the children who would be receiving them. It’s just so neat to see the love of Christ at work in people’s lives; especially when they are passing it along to others.

While Monday is the last day to take shoeboxes to a local drop off location, you can still build a shoebox online.

Whatever you may do to celebrate this holiday season, I pray part of it includes sharing what blessings you’ve received with those less fortunate. Take some time to spread good news with great joy.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Thankfulness: Day 8

Since yesterday I’ve had the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer” stuck in my head. I found it ironic, because if I were to add up my prayer time for the month so far, I might get up to 30 minutes.

This has been something I’ve been struggling with for some time; finding taking the time to spend with my God. To cry out to Him. To call upon His strength. To repent and ask His forgiveness. To praise Him for His many blessings.

And then this songs pops into my head. And I suggest it as one we use to open our LifeGroup tonight. It reminds me that I can leave it all with Him. All my worries, sorrows, pain. And I can find rest there.

So today I am thankful for two things: these songs that were written to remind us of Truth when we’ve forgotten; and a God Who is always ready to listen when we come to Him.

Oh that I would remember that daily and put it into practice. I hope you’re able to do the same.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Delighting in the Little Things

On days like today when I want to pull the covers over my head and not leave the comfort and refuge of my bed I need these reminders the most. Reminders that in every moment we can find something to delight in. The kiddos help me so much in this and I see so much more than I would have on my own.

There’s delight in the happy growlings (yes, growlings) of a one-year-old successfully feeding herself with a spoon. There’s delight in the shouts of, “Come look!” by a two and a half-year-old proud that he was able to stack all of his LEGO cars together.

These accomplishments may seem small or trivial at first, but there are other things that need to be considered. Like when I previously let her use a spoon, T would continually take it, full of yogurt, and put it down in her high chair. Or that when the LEGOs won’t connect together the way he wants, G can get so frustrated that he tears his creations apart.

We adults are oh so similar. We, so often, miss the small delights, thinking they are “no big deal,” because we don’t remember where we started at. I, for the past few days, have passed on cakes and cookies (sooooo difficult) and have chosen some healthier options. While I doubt the scale reflects any of that yet, I can delight in knowing I made some good choices. Better than ones I have made previously.

All in all, when you’re feeling down and out, take a moment to reflect at where you are and where you started at. Even when things seem dire, God does not forget you and He will not forsake you. He uses circumstances that you’re in, circumstances that I’m in, to sanctify us. To refine us, as gold.

As I continue to delight in the small blessings He’s bestowed upon me, I pray you’ll be able to do the same. If you’re having difficulty with that, then think on the greatest one – remember where you once were, dead in sin, and where (I pray) you are now, alive in Christ. Ultimately, if we find ourselves in Christ, that alone should fill us with delight that will last many lifetimes over.

If you don’t have the delight of Christ in your life ask questions, pick up a Bible, venture into a church, talk to someone of faith that you know and respect. Don’t miss out on the greatest delight you will have in this life, and in the life to come.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Of Sorrow & Shame

I want to be honest and real. Not to gain anyone’s sympathy or pity, but to let those who feel the same know that they are not alone. To let those who are living through similar circumstances know that those things they feel in secret, behind closed doors, are not ridiculous; they are deep and real and raw.

This has been my biggest struggle in the last year, bigger than the heartache of being single when I so very much wanted not to be. It was a desire I had while I was single, but really couldn’t do anything about it then. It is my desire to have children.

Now that I’m married it’s something that just comes next in my mind, and as I’m 36, sooner rather than later would really be great. And before there are pat responses that I have time and God’s timing is perfect, know that I know these things. His Spirit within me reminds me that I am His, He is sovereign, He is good, and He holds all things in His hands. These things I know. These things I cling to. I speak them to my broken heart again and again. I whisper them in the quiet. I say them out loud to myself through the tears. At times I want to scream them.

Because the truth of the matter is, while I know that God is good and sovereign, almighty and all powerful, I cannot help but mourn that which has not come to pass. And because I know these things to be true, I also feel shame in this sadness. Which only serves to make the sadness deepen.

And that is really what I want to share. That is really what I want those who feel the same to know. The shame felt in this sadness is not something you are alone in. More importantly, I believe it to be a lie from the enemy.

Mourning is not wrong, as long as we do not mourn as those who have no hope. The clincher is, though, that that hope isn’t the hope of one day being pregnant, it is hope in the eternal life we can only find in Christ. I, myself, am just realizing this and speaking this to my heart as I type these words.

Have I mourned as one without hope? I would be lying if I said I haven’t. But His mercies are new each morning. I may forget that and that is when the shame drags me deeper into the pit. There is great sorrow felt when I feel that I have let my emotions overtake me. Sorrow that I have not rested in knowing God will provide. Shame that I have looked to something else to be my source of joy in this life.

There is a difference between feeling convicted and feeling condemned. It is right that we, as followers of Christ, feel convicted of sin so we can repent and be in right relationship with God once more. Not resting in God and putting something before Him as our joy is sin and being convicted of that and repenting of it is only right. But when such shame and sorrow is felt so that we believe repentance is not possible or will not be accepted is a feeling of condemnation. In Christ, we cannot be condemned, for we stand in His righteousness. God knows our hearts. That feeling should have no power over us.

I’m sorry if this has been a jumble of thoughts. It is what comes from me wanting to share my story for the benefit of others as well as process through it myself.

Just as the pain of singleness is real and can be overlooked by the Church as a whole, so can the pain of infertility. It has been so rarely spoken of that I often ask myself and those around me how other women deal with this because I am at a loss. And at that same time, I know nothing we go through in life is wasted. This season has its purpose. I can’t tell you I know exactly what it is, but whatever it may be I pray I can glorify God through it.

I want those of you who do experience that to know you aren’t alone. That pain is real and it can cut deep. I will not say that knowing Jesus takes away the pain; but knowing Him definitely sees me through it. Each month I come out on the other side knowing He’s still beside me, still loving me, still my everything. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but ultimately I know the God of the universe has this all under control. And if anyone does, I’m sure glad it’s Him.

So as not to give the impression that I’ve been mucking about in all of this, just me and Jesus, I haven’t (though if I had, I have to believe that would be enough). I have been blessed to have friends and family who regularly encourage me in this and keep my husband and I in prayer, not to mention a husband who is by my side through all of this, loving me through the sadness; ugly crying and all.

If you are going through similar circumstances in life, I pray you’re going through them with Jesus, the Light shining in the darkness, the One who provides Hope, and Rest, and Peace, and Joy, even through, especially through, trials and pain. And if you don’t know Him, I pray you would come to. The pain may not go away, but you’ll have the Creator of the universe by your side. And He’s a pretty good traveling companion.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

PS – if you see this through Facebook and comment there, don’t think I’m ignoring you if I don’t respond – I’ll be present there once again come April 1.

Giving Thanks

It seems to happen around this time every year. I start to think on all of the things I’m thankful for. There are always the “basics”: a loving God, a great family, amazing friends, a job that is just right for me. But there is so much more.

The night of our Thanksgiving Eve service at church always helps me see the great ways God has been working in my life in the past year; tonight was no different. As people stood to give thanks to the Lord for His provisions, love, guidance, mercies, and blessings I was reminded of how this year started out for me. I was trying to put my thoughts together and wondering if I should say anything. Of course at that moment there was silence as everyone waited for the next person to stand. I suppose someone noticed me and the face I make when I have something to say but am unsure of saying it (yes, I’ve been told I have such a look), because I heard someone say, “C’mon, Kell.” It’s now or never, I suppose so I stood.

The box of tissues was placed next to me within the span of my first few words. A dear friend took my hand before I finished the first sentence. My smile was ear to ear as the tears fell; as I spoke of a God so good, great, marvelous, amazing, and how He got me through the rough patches in the beginning of the year and led me into the wondrous season of today.

Amazing things happen when your feelings are spoken out loud; especially when they are things you might not want to say out loud, for everyone to hear. Saying them out loud seems to make them more real, while, at the same time, gives them less power over you, for you are no longer the single bearer of these thoughts.

So I remembered and spoke of the fear that came with going into surgery with the outcome unknown. A surgery & recovery that God brought me through with my hope still in tact that I could, one day, have children. For He is so good. And as I spoke, the fear, though it was from something in the past, was finally freed, and the gratefulness enveloped my heart.

I went on to speak of the joy I found in that outcome, as there is now someone in my life who I could see spending my future with. And those words, spoken out loud, (not just to one person here or there, but to over 30 all at once) hit me with the amazing reality of it all.

I spoke of my gratitude for my security in Christ. Whether the future turns out how I imagine it, or not, His will will be done. I know His plan is the best. He’s got me covered, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. A few years ago I would not have recognized the woman speaking these words. They were spoken with such conviction and confidence, as one who not only believes them, but knows them to be true.

1Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

We all have much to be thankful for this year. I pray you’re able to take time to share your thankfulness with not only your family & friends, but also with the God to Whom all our thanks should be given.

Love & Blessings,

KJ