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

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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

Princess for a Day

This past Saturday I got to be a princess. I just got back to work last week and was so looking forward to this. We hosted a “Frozen” event at one of our libraries and such great fun was had! We had games, crafts, snacks, and more all going on while playing the sing-a-long version of the movie. We knew it was going to draw a big crowd, because despite being about a year and a half old, Frozen Mania is still going strong. Plus it’s been a cold week and I know some parents just wanted to get the kids out of the house. We estimate that we had about 200 people there! So many little Elsas and Annas running around (there was even one Spiderman).

I, myself, dressed up as Anna. She has quickly become one of my favorite princesses for her spunk and charming awkwardness. I admit, I had no idea what I was going to do for a costume until a week prior when I mentioned it to a friend. She helped me pull something together with items she already had and a little magic on the sewing machine from the both of us. It was a far cry from professional, but I felt like a princess, for sure.

I had the privilege of greeting everyone as they came in. When I first went out into the lobby there were two or three little girls waiting with their parents. I swear I head a tiny gasp from one when she looked up to see me and the look on her face was pure happiness. Apparently my costume was convincing 🙂 At some point in the afternoon I heard one little girl call out, “Anna!” She then proceeded to ask me where Elsa was. When I told her I was not sure, perhaps on an adventure, she decided she was away in her ice palace.

I won’t lie, I loved the attention. But even more, I loved talking to the kids (and parents) who came out for this crazy event. At one point I talked to a little girl, who couldn’t have yet been two, as she was in her daddy’s arms. Placed on her head (atop her very little hair 🙂 ) was a paper crown (one of the crafts) with colors scribbled all over. I went over and commented on how lovely it was and asked her if she made it herself. Her big smile and “Yeah” was all I needed to know that I am in the right place. And if that wasn’t enough, her daddy’s “Thank you, for this,” definitely sealed the deal.

I can’t say exactly what it was, but in crouching down to their level and talking to the kids there was something magical. At times I felt it was because I had this giant full skirt and crinoline around me. I remember wondering if this is what the women who are princesses at Disney feel like. I wonder if they know what a huge impact they have on little girls when they wait in line forever just to meet them. Regardless, I felt like a princess that day and I hope I was able to pass that feeling of specialness and magic on to the kids I came in contact with as well.

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

Joy-filled Worship

Standing in front of the congregation at church this morning, singing praise and worship to the Lord, there was joy in the room that I could not only feel, but also see. Most of the time I have a dual focus; 1) worshiping my Lord and Savior and 2) making sure I change the slides at the right time so the congregation can follow along :).  I do not often look at individuals in front of me because I feel awkward doing so, almost as if I’m an intruder in something that is very special to each person. This morning, though, I couldn’t help it. As we started service with “Come, Now is the Time to Worship” my eye was caught by one of my Sisters joyfully singing and moving to the music. I heard her separate from the rest of the congregation and no other word could better express her whole being than joy-filled. It was contagious and I could feel the smile broadening on my face and my spirit lifting as I sang praise to God. ‘This is what worship should feel like,’ I thought to myself as the song continued.

While acts of worship come in various forms (from singing and praying to giving and studying His Word), I have always been especially moved by worshiping through song. I sing at my church with the music team that can consist of 2-5 people on any given Sunday. I am not standing in front of the congregation to perform for them, but rather, I am standing and singing praise to my God, giving glory to Him, and encouraging others to do the same. Every now and again I am reminded of where my focus should be and last week it happened as I was watching TV.

Strange, you think. Well, I do, too, but let me explain. I was at a friend’s house indulgently watching her TV (I do not have cable at my house) and caught “Dancing with the Stars.” I remembered hearing that Candace Cameron Bure was on this season and wondered if she was still in the competition. To my delight, she was (and still is!). The remaining stars had meetings with someone they respected and looked up to and they showed a short conversation Candace had with Angela Thomas (Angela’s thoughts on taping the segment can be found here) who is a Bible teacher and author. I was thrilled when I heard them discussing the joy that is evident in Candace when she is dancing and that is because her joy is complete in Jesus Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy.  – Psalm 16:11a

And then Candace spoke of how, while she does enjoy dancing in front of all the people, she is really performing for an audience of One. I was just so amazed by seeing her so strongly and solidly standing in her faith in an arena that very rarely shows appreciation for such convictions. You can watch it for yourself here. When I relayed that part of the show to a younger friend of mine she commented, “It kind of makes you think, ‘What am I doing?’ doesn’t it?” Had I been 12 as well, I might have thought the same thing. Instead I was able to explain to her that our faith is something we live out and is evident to the people around us. We have influence that reaches much further than we imagine and God uses it for His glory when we stand in and exhibit that faith, whether we are on national television or hanging out with our friends. What matters most is that audience of One. As long as it is Him we are serving, praising, worshiping; as long as He is our focus, nothing else really matters.

And that’s when I thought of myself, standing up in front of church, and wondered how often I really do focus on my audience of One and how often the words come out of my mouth but my mind and heart are elsewhere. When the latter happens, I know there is no joy there; how can there be when my focus is on how I’m going to get my finances in order or how I do so wish a guy would walk into my life and sweep me off my feet….yea, not so much where my focus should be. But when we focus on the One who gave it all on our behalf, taking our sin upon Himself that we might become His righteousness, then and there do we find our joy and rightfully worship the only One who is truly worthy of any of it. Then can we lift up our hands and give it all to our audience of One.

Praying you are able to find your joy complete in the only One who can complete us all,

Love & Blessings,

KJ