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

Hope and a Future

As I finished a run the other morning I was recalling all of the things I was thankful for. So many good things are happening right now, it just all feels so right. But there are times when I feel like I’m just waiting for the bottom to fall out. A verse from Jeremiah came to mind at that instant and struck me in a way it never had before.

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 hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

How many times have you heard this verse? Maybe you’ve written it in graduation cards (I have). Maybe you’ve shared it with friends who can’t see a way out of the valley they’re in (yep, done that too). Maybe you’ve spoken it to yourself when you’ve needed encouragement, knowing our God’s promises are never failing and certainly things should get better (all the time!).

But what about when the bottom does fall out?

How in the world could He bring us hope through that?

And I was thinking about that when the lightbulb turned on. How in the world indeed?

Our hope is not in this world, nor is our future, ultimately. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. In the cross on Calvary. In an empty tomb. Our future is more amazing than we could ever try to imagine. Enveloped in the full glory of our God and King, for eternity, rejoicing and praising Him. There’s nowhere I can even think to start about how awesome that will be.

So, while there are blessings here on earth, and our Father does give us good things, it’s important to remember this in times when they are hard to spot (and even when they’re evident). Our everlasting hope and eternal future are not in this world, come what may. They reside in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Praying you have found security in your hope & future, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

In Which I am Undone…and Put Back Together

There is a reason my Bible falls open to a certain page. The spine is broken from pouring over the same words time and time again. Words that lift my heart. Words that give me hope. Words that led me on to Christ some 13 years ago.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.                                                                                                               You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.                                                                       You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.                                                             Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.                                                                                         You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.                                                                               Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.                                                                                     Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?                                                                             If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.                                                     If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,                                                                               even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.                                                                                 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”                                                           even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.              For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.                                                                 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;                                                                                                    your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139: 1-14

Not only have some events of today pulled me down, but also battles within myself. Battles that I want to ignore or explain away. Ones that, more often than not, find me glued to a screen or my nose in a book in attempts to escape. Because facing them head-on would be hard. Facing them could hurt. Acknowledging they exist would mean…my being aware that they exist. And that makes them rather hard to ignore.

I lost one such battle this afternoon and yet…

I came to a place when I knew I had to turn to my Father. Much too often I try to do these things on my own. I let it all out, no holds in telling Him the things I desire most. Things I’ve spoken of too many times to count. At first, He does not answer, but the author of lies does. “Really? What makes you think you are worthy of such things? Why would any man spend the rest of his days with you?”

Tears fall once again as I attempt to retreat within myself, somewhere no one can find me. But then there is the still small voice. The nudge that tells me I know just what I should do, just where I should turn to find His answer. So I take the worn book off the shelf. Pages are falling out. Tears have soaked through many pages. Yet it still gives me what I need to hear as it falls open to the place where the spine is broken. Open to what I know I need to read. What I know I need to remember. What He knows needs to be refreshed within my heart. “O Lord, you have searched me…”

He knows all I do before I do it, even before I think of it. He knows what is to come. If anyone is to know that, I’m certainly glad it’s Him. He’s got a plan, one He created way before I was born; I can rest & trust in that. He will hold me through it all.  I may have lost this battle, but the Lord is victorious in the end; and as I’m on His side, what have I to fear?

There is no place of escape that is too far away from Him who loves you. There is no place so dark or dire where He cannot reach. There is no act too horrid that cannot be forgiven by the One who stretched His arms out wide to save the entire world. His works are wonderful. As He is the Creator, and we, the creation; so what does that make us? Sometimes it just takes a reminder, maybe a word from a friend or a Bible opening to where the spine is broken, to let us know that we are loved. More than we could ever fathom.

In days ahead that might leave you broken, I pray you’ll look to the One who completes us all, Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Delight in Hope

It struck me Friday, as I was at church for music practice, singing “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin. It marked 3 years since my grandma went home to be with her Lord. While the date marked that, back in 2011, Good Friday was the day of her funeral, and as we sang, it hit me with double the impact. I didn’t really take that in then. All I remember was that it was my daddy’s birthday, and how sad it was that he said goodbye to his mom on that day instead of celebrating the blessing of another year.

My grandma was an amazing, God-fearing woman. She taught me so much; never knowing that when she was gone I would learn even more. I would learn about hope.

ImageI remember my mom calling me at work that Monday morning, telling me Grandma was gone. While she was old (95) it was unexpected and caught me off guard. I cried, of course, I cried. Then I went outside behind the library and cried some more. I called my pastor and he told me something I’ve heard him say many times since. It is okay to mourn, we are sad and missing our loved one; but unlike the world, we are to mourn as those who have hope. Hope in what? You may ask…

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Later that day I went to the beach. To sit and think and pray. I laid back in the sand, wind softly blowing around me. Closing my eyes I saw Grandma running into the arms of Jesus, smiling like never before. Running? My Grandma? I had never seen her run in my life. But I imagine that when it’s His arms you’re running to, you can’t get there fast enough 🙂 It gave me peace, knowing, without a doubt, where Grandma was going to be spending that Easter morning, just 6 days away. And I was jealous, to be honest. To be completely honest, I still am; for she’ll be doing the same thing today. I imagine, in heaven, it might seem like every day is Easter morning.

So, yes, I discovered hope. Hope in the promise of 1 Thessalonians 4:14 – that I would see Grandma again. More importantly though, is the hope I have in this promise:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

Do you believe this? I do.

It is a fitting time of year to be delighting in hope, don’t you think? Today Christians all over the world will be celebrating the hope we have in our risen King as we remember His resurrection. Jesus rose from the grave, on the third day (just as He said He would), victorious over death. He did it for us. For you, For me. Because we have all fallen short of the glory of God. And there’s just no way we could ever make it to heaven on our own. We cannot be good enough, go to church enough, give enough. Period. But Jesus is good (no enough about it). He lived a perfect life here on earth and gave Himself as a sacrifice for all. Of course, it would be for naught if He didn’t rise again – but the empty tomb proves that. Those who believe, who have accepted God’s gift of faith, stand in that hope. Knowing we will see our Lord one day, whether it is when He takes us home or comes again, it doesn’t matter; we will see Him.

This morning, when I’m in church, singing “I Will Rise” I will be doing so standing in the assurance that it is true. Knowing that, one day, I will rise. I pray we all are able to keep that promise of life, and of hope, in the forefront of our minds. Not just on Easter Sunday, but every day.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Christmas, in Retrospect

I hope you all have enjoyed a wonder-filled Christmas season! For me, it was the first time I was not traveling at Christmastime since I as living at home with my folks some 13 years ago. I had spent most of my vacation time with family earlier in the year and I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to fight the holiday traffic & craziness at the airports. I love my family, don’t get me wrong (you hear that, Ma – I love you!), but have also been blessed immensely with friends here who might as well be family too.

Christmas Eve at work included a surprise visit from Santa (who was supposed to visit the local hospital but there were no kids there; a Christmas blessing, indeed), lunch with friends, and me playing various Christmas CDs on my computer (including the soundtrack to The Muppets’ Christmas Carol). After work I got home in time to pack my overnight bag, gather some goodies for the evening, make a couple last minute gifts (more info on those Friday), throw everything in the car, and head to church for music practice before the service started. After service my friends, Michael & Robin, hosted an open house. This time was full of friends, food, & fun. I spent the night there so I could celebrate Christmas morning with them and their family. It was a nice, quiet, and relaxing day that ended with some more friends coming over to have a lovely Christmas dinner of Chinese take-out. It was a wonderful couple of days; I was able to talk with my family & even video chat with some. There was much to enjoy, but I feel as if I’ve left something out. Let’s rewind (you do know what that means, right?) a bit; back to church on Christmas Eve.

This was also very special to me – being able to be a part of our Christmas Eve service. Always traveling, I had never been able to attend. Words cannot adequately express what it is like to be in a darkened chapel with 60-75 people all holding candles, singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” It is beautiful, awesome, and powerful; realizing some 2,000 years ago the Son of God, the One who was with God in the beginning, the One who is God, humbled Himself & put aside His glory, to be born, of a virgin, as a human. He was born, as all babies are, completely vulnerable and dependent upon His earthly parents. The Lord of all creation came to us, a mere baby, because He loved us so and wanted to make things right between us and our Father again, once for all. He did not stay a baby, of course not. All babies grow up into children, and those children into men and women. This baby, this Jesus, grew into a man; a man who worked many miracles, taught many truths, and saved many lives. In fact, He’s still doing that today. This humble babe, born in a manger, grew to a man, knowing one day He would die for many; for as many as would believe in Him and call upon His name. He lived a sinless life, and when the time came, He gave up that life; no one took it from Him; He gave it up freely as a perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could ever reconcile the sinful heart of man with the God who created him. Of course, we know, it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’ death was followed by His resurrection, proof that He has overcome death and the grave. And that, my friends, is what gives us hope. If He is indeed our Lord & Savior, we have the greatest hope; that we will, one day, be reunited with Him. And that, truly, is the best Christmas Gift.

I pray your Christmas was not only merry and bright, but also that you had time to reflect on what it really means and the great Gift we were all given, those many years ago, as a star shone brightly over a baby asleep on the hay.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Seemingly Delightless Days

Today is one of those days. If we’re honest, they are not hard to come by in this fallen world of ours, but they are hard to take.

A little boy died yesterday; he wasn’t really even a little boy yet, just 2 years old. Again, not hard to believe. I did not know this toddler & I do not know the exact circumstances of his death. I do know the small Yup’ik Eskimo village where he lived. I do know the community he was being raised in. My heart goes out to them all.

Eight years ago last month I set out on my biggest adventure. I moved to a small Eskimo village in Alaska to teach. I could see the Bering Sea out my bedroom window and walk down to it whenever I wanted. I lived there for two years and then God led me elsewhere, but those are two years I would not trade for anything. I learned more about community there than anywhere else I had ever been; a lot more about friendship; and a whole lot more about finding God in the quiet, lonely places of life.

I taught this little boy’s mom in my high school knitting class and one of his aunts was in my 3rd grade class. Having found out about this tragedy this morning, my mind has constantly gone back to them and their family, the whole village. I cannot pretend I know the pain they are going through, but my heart breaks for them.

Yes, these are the times when delight is hard to come by. But when these times come barreling down on us there is one thing we need to hold on to with a grip so fierce and strong; the Light is still with us.

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

God knows what is going on. Indeed, He is sovereign over all. I have no doubt that that little boy is being held tight in the arms of Jesus right now. I pray that all of those who are left here without him can find comfort in those same strong arms. My love and prayers go out to you all. Kenkamken.

Love & Blessings,

KJ