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

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Just Like a Roller Coaster

Up, down, around, and back again…

Sometime last week I realized Mother’s Day was coming up soon. I was worried about what it might bring with it this year: heartache, sorrow, bitterness, a few tears (or many), maybe, just possibly, a little joy? We’re in the middle of a lot. Ok, that’s not so very true, but with the extra hormones I’m on, this week has seemed about 20 days longs with all of the ups and downs and very far downs. I typically have some pretty awful mood swings a couple days a month and wasn’t too thrilled when I found out that the effects of the drug could be worse than that. But first, let me back up a little.

We first saw a fertility specialist a couple months ago. It had been almost a year since we’ve been trying and with my only having one intact fallopian tube (the result of surgery a few years ago), we decided it was time to see if there was anything else preventing this all from happening. After a month of collecting info from blood work and other tests the doc found nothing out of the ordinary and ruled it as “unexplained infertility.” Not something really encouraging, but it also means it’s not impossible for us to get pregnant.

When we met with him again, one of his first suggestions was that I take Clomid. It stimulates ovulation so that there’s a better chance that I’ll actually ovulate from the ovary that has a tube intact to carry it down. And before you think I’m crazy and could end up with septuplets, let me tell you that I’m taking a low dose and it has only 10% chance of twins and less than 1% change of triplets. I will admit I’m at the point where I think I’d be ok with twins and wouldn’t have to think about all this any more 🙂

Along the way & through all of this we have been praying and have been prayed for. For a child to be conceived. For strength from and trust in a God who knows what He’s doing. For His will to be done. There have been ups and downs and I’ll probably write about those later, but back to where I started.

Mother’s Day has been hard in the past when I was single and not knowing if I’d ever be married so that I could have a chance to be a mom. Last year it was hopeful and I don’t remember being at all sad. This year I was uncertain.

Yesterday marked day 3 of 5 that I have be taking Clomid and I felt it. I’ve been watching two sweet kiddos since we moved into our house and I left the library. Yesterday we went out for a stroll at Walmart. I needed just one thing but we wandered around and after a little bit I felt like I was slogging through mud. My brain was foggy and unfocused and I just couldn’t get my thoughts together. That, itself, made me start to freak out a little. Anxiety rose as thoughts wracked my brain, reasonable and irrational alike. I made it to the check out and as we left (me pushing the kiddos in the cart) the greeter called out, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I took my sunglasses from atop my head so I could cover my eyes before the tears started to fall.

I knew this reaction was not my typical one. I’ve been watching the kiddos for over 6 months now and have gone on many a shopping trip where I get complemented on how cute they are or asked if I think one will have curly hair like me (ummm, no, I don’t think so :)). It has never bothered me; sometimes I correct them and let them know I’m the “aunt” and sometimes I thank them, smile, and go on my merry way. This time, though, it tipped me over the edge. I knew the hormones were mostly to blame, but I still didn’t know what to do about it. We grabbed a snack and went to the park as I tried to regain myself.

The rest of the day I felt like I went from one extreme to the next, mostly between getting annoyed and angry to being desperately sad. We had dinner with friends and that was nice, but I felt pretty quiet and reserved most of the night. Once we got home and were doing family worship I told Steve all about my day. He, of course, let me cry on his shoulder, waited patiently while my thoughts collected themselves into communicable phrases, held me tight, and prayed to our great Creator.

I felt better, getting all of those pent up thoughts out of my head where they swirled relentlessly around. I felt better, being reminded of a God and Savior who will never leave me, forsake me, or stop loving me.

Today I woke up and felt like a new person. I got lunches and breakfast made and even prepped some for dinner while I thought about what I’d do with the kiddos today. When I got to their house, there were some lovely flowers waiting for me, along with a sweet note of support & encouragement. As we headed to Walmart again…we needed things for a secret project, G (who’s 2 1/2) started asking me about the songs on the radio. As I explained to this little boy that people were singing songs about God and how great He is and how they are glad that He’s always with them, in good times and in bad, my heart swelled.

This is one of the reasons I so very badly desire a child of my own; so I can share with them the greatness of God, the awe and wonder and majesty of Him and the amazing things He’s done for us all. And yet, I can do that while I still do not have children of my own. Is it the same? Absolutely not. But seeing knowledge and wonder of God grow within these little kiddos is amazing, and I wouldn’t trade that, either. There’s still an ache in my heart for a child of my own. A dark-eyed, curly-haired misfit who will drive her parents crazy (because there are only ever girls in my family 😉 ). But as I walked out of Walmart today and was, once again, wished, “Happy Mother’s Day” I simply smiled, said “thanks,” and strolled out the door.

I cannot say that tomorrow or Sunday will not bring different emotions. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

If you anticipate Mother’s Day to be difficult this year, because of the ache you have to be one or the sorrow of having lost yours, know that you are not alone. I’ll be praying for you. If you think of it, please send one up for me.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?” Last night and this morning those words ran through my head among the lies that floated in last night and made for a difficult nights sleep. I couldn’t remember the rest of the words but I knew who’s voice I heard singing it. Just looked it up and thought I’d share, because maybe, just maybe, you’re in need of this encouragement too.

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 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 if 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.

All the Way, My Savior Leads Me

Ten years ago I left my first job & first career in order to pursue my second. I had spent two amazing (and difficult) years in the Yup’ik village of Tununak, Alaska teaching 2nd & 3rd grade. I’m sure I learned much more than I was able to impart to my students, but that’s another story.

I knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a teacher. I couldn’t do as good of a job as I wanted to; so I thought about what I could possibly do next. I had wanted to be a teacher since the time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (except that one time I said I wanted to be a ballerina…). I then remembered that when I was in elementary school I once thought that being a librarian would be an amazing job. I also remembered a time while I was in college when I was telling my fellow soon-to-be teachers about all of the books in the Scholastic book order and what I loved about them. So that’s what I settled on, I would be a librarian.

Close to this time, ten years ago, I started grad school. Nine years ago I graduated with my Master of Library Science degree. Sounds super cool, right? Eight and a half years ago I was offered a job in a place I had never been; a place I had never even thought of. Cape May County, New Jersey. I, of course, accepted it.

I could tell story upon story of all the things that happen in my typical day to day at the library: parents telling their kids they need to leave or they will get locked in and the library monster will get them; getting Storm Troopers to come to a Star Wars program we hosted; moms being surprised that I remembered their child’s name 3 or 4 years after they started going to school and stopped coming to storytime; eating bugs because kids read over 7,000 books one summer. Maybe one day I’ll write about all of those and more. But not today.

What I want to share, and try to process through for myself, is how amazing God has been through all of this.

I came to this strange place called New Jersey knowing only one person in the area. I soon connected with a family that welcomed me with open arms. God used them greatly to guide me, teach me, grow me, comfort me, and support me through these years filled with many ups and downs (and I don’t think He’s done with them yet). Through them I got connected to a church that also welcomed me with open arms. The people there became my family, as mine was so many miles away. They, too, have been used by God to help me grow in my faith, encourage me, love me, and speak truth to me.

The past eight and a half years, as I delighted in my career, as I gained loving, godly relationships, God grew me immensely. I’m not sure I would recognize the 27-year-old who came to a place she had never been all those years ago. For that I am oh so grateful. Words cannot fully describe just how much.

In a few short months, I will be moving on again. But this time I won’t be on my own. And this won’t be a big move where I know few to no people. My husband and I have bought a house and are moving closer to where he works. This has always been the plan and we are both excited for it. Excited to be living near our church family & community. Excited to have a place of our very own, to paint and decorate as we please (I may be more excited about the decorating part than he is). Excited to be close enough to friends to have them drop by just because. Excited to be more active in our community.

But this time, I will have no official job title. We will be moving outside of the county so I will no long be able to work there. I am not searching for a new job as a librarian. It has been our hope to start a family. I have been looking forward to the end of my job title as “Head Children’s Librarian” in the hopes that I could replace it with one I desire even more “Mother”. That is not the case…yet. And even in this, especially in this, God is growing me.

Why do we constantly look to titles, people and other things to fill that place that only God can? Above all else, I struggle with this. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked with others about where our true identity lies. Or even how many times I’ve written about it. Do you know why that is? Because it’s the one thing I most need to be reminded of.

In the midst of this world, I get stuck.

I get stuck thinking that my career is the most precious thing.

I get stuck thinking that if I find out one more friend is pregnant I’m going to lose it.

I get stuck thinking that if I can’t have what I want the world is going to end.

Lies. Plain and simple. Lies.

Truth:

My career has been an amazing blessing. I’ve met so many precious souls and got to work in a place & with people I thoroughly enjoyed.

I rejoice with all of my friends expecting children. They, too, are a great blessing. I preemptively ask forgiveness if I ever act strange/rude/distant around you. Some days are just harder than others.

Who is here who knows what’s best better than the Creator of it all? Don’t I remember the times when I wanted something so badly (marriage) and God said, “Not yet. He’s not who I have for you.”? Don’t I remember all of the amazing things He’s done in the past? How do I forget those so easily? Why do I get so wrapped up in this world and forget about my God?

Thankfully, He always finds a way to draw me back. Sometimes it’s a sermon that sends me running to His open arms. Sometimes it’s a verse that causes me to cry out to Him. Sometimes it’s a song that reminds me of things so easily forgotten.

“All the way, my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His faithful mercies?
Who through life has been my guide
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Ere by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whate’er befall me
Jesus doeth all things well”

Forgive my winding trail this time around; one idea lead to the next. I’m sure you know how that goes. If not, you’ve just got an insight to my thought process 🙂

What I hope to convey to you (and to remind myself) is that if you find yourself struggling in this world; stuck in the mire and weighed down by worries, turn to the one Whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Let Him direct your path. Delight in where He leads you.

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

True Beauty

Ever have one of those days when you’re just not happy with the person staring back at you out of the mirror? Those days where you change outfits at least 6 times and finally settle on something only because you’re going to be really late for work? I’ve done those things more often than I care to admit…but less and less as of late and for a very good reason.

A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend about beauty and it really got me thinking. I was used to seeing beauty in many things that God has created; not only in the visible & physical aspects of creation like nature, but in people and relationships that I observed. The perfect fit of a wife’s head on her husband’s shoulder. The joy of a parent seeing their child accomplish something for the first time. I saw His beauty all around, but never when I looked in the mirror. Over the course of this summer, I have begun to see things differently, though. I have begun to see myself differently.

I’m not sure what started this snowball; but something that really got it rolling was when someone told me I was beautiful. I know this is a simple thing to say. I know it can be said by people who do not mean it. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say it to me who wasn’t family or one of my girlfriends (not that when you say it you do not mean it, don’t get me wrong. I just have typically taken it as a “whatever” kind of comment because I never saw it myself). So how was it different this time around? It was said by someone who is blind.

The insistence with which he said it struck me. Who was I to tell him he was wrong? But if he could not physically see me what was it that led him to think such a thing?

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

If you are in Christ, not only are you a new creation, but you are God’s workmanship. In a Bible study I went to the teacher said that the word translated to workmanship could also be masterpiece. We are each a masterpiece of God’s. Do you think He could ever create anything ugly? Anything that is not beautiful? Take a moment to let that sink in. After it has, ponder this:

I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Psalm 139 is what the Holy Spirit first used to draw me to God. It spoke to me in a very broken place and told me of the great love He had for me; so much so that He would be with me wherever I was and would “hem me in, behind and before,” which always gives me this wonderful visual of being safe in God’s pocket 🙂 I go to it often when I need to remember these things, but verse 14 always stood out. I wanted to believe it so badly, but it was just a matter of my heart not believing what my head said was truth. Or that it was true of other people, but not of me. Now, on most days, I know better.

Being a wonderful work of God, you can bet there is beauty within me. My problem before was that I was searching for the beauty of the world. Something that has been distorted by sin and mangled by lies of the devil. That is not beauty.

True beauty is a cross on a hill.
True beauty is Jesus dying to cover a debt I can never repay.
True beauty is an empty tomb.

Just as Christ’s love and grace should be reflected in our lives, so should be the beauty of all He has done for us. It is something that people might not see with their eyes, but it should emanate from us so that they can sense it and know there’s something different about us.

Over this summer I have changed in ways I cannot fully describe. I am often surprised by the girl in the mirror. There’s a hint of radiance in her I don’t remember noticing before. I feel content in where God has me in this life. I have assurance that I am doing what He would have me to do. I have grown; in confidence, in faith, and, yes, in beauty, for I am growing in Christ. My prayer is that you are as well.

Love & Blessings,
KJ