Joy Is Possible After Grief

Hang on whatever is grieving you today will one day turn to joy! This is one of Jesus’ promises. (John 16:20)

I just graduated from college and landed my first real job at one of the most prestigious clothing retail stores, Nordstrom. I was so excited to work at Nordstrom and as a benefit, see my wardrobe increase with high level fashion, especially at a discounted rate. I was originally hired as a seasonal worker during their half-yearly sale, but I was certain I would be hired as a full time employee. I was one of the top sales people so I assumed a full time offer was a shoe in for me!

The high season quickly came to a finish and it was time to reduce the labor force. I was fighting for that full time position. I was a poor college graduate so I needed and wanted this job badly!

The answer was NO!

How could this be? It seemed like the perfect job for me to gain the sales experience I was pursuing. My wounded heart was wrestling with the NO. I felt like the child in grade school that was chosen last for the dodge ball team. Rejection at its finest!

The loss of a job caused grief to set in. Thoughts of, “I’m not good enough” battled in my mind. My sense of joy and peace began to wither after several other job interviews. The NO’s were piercing my spirit causing so much internal strife. Was I ever going to land that perfect job setting my career into motion?

Grief doesn’t linger forever. God often turns our grief into JOY, even in the NO!

It finally happened. Several months and interviews later, I landed a great first job giving me the experience I desperately needed. My grief was turning into Joy. God had a plan for the NO. I just needed to trust Him in the NO.

Lessons from our past are good anecdotes for our future. I am currently gripping at this core truth again, experiencing lots of NO’s.

Jesus is our great teacher about grief. He was warning the disciples of what was soon about to take place (his death). He understood their hearts would be heavy with grief.

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world,”. John 16:24, 33 (NIV)

Jesus uses a great illustration through the birth of a child to reveal His promising truth. Yes for a short time, our labor (pain) can seem unbearable. For some of us excruciating pain. But, the pain of childbirth is nothing in comparison to the great joy of coddling our precious baby across the bosom of our heart. Pain doesn’t last forever and if practiced correctly, it’s replaced with much joy!

Unfortunately, this world is not trouble free. No one is free of trouble and pain! I’m so glad I serve a God who is bigger than my pain! This helps me to pass through those painful moments.

For those of us today who are experiencing great grief, loss or pain, can you be so brave to open your clenched fisted hand, and give your grief to the one who promises…

One day your grief will turn to JOY!

Advertisements

Life’s Fearless Plunge

jesus-walking-water

One of my favorite memories is enjoying the hot summer sun riding swiftly down the river banks in a speedboat. My family has enjoyed quite a few river trips with friends and I absolutely love the sights and sounds of my kids playing and splashing in the refreshing river water. Standing on the edge of the boat with a rainfall of sweat pouring down my body, taking a plunge into the fresh cool water is a refreshing moment in the hot river sun.

I remember one instance at the river where we passed along a 20 ft. high platform and my kids were yearning to jump. No fear entered their adventurous minds! Mama however, a different story! Why is it that children can easily take the plunge into the water, but as we get older, we stand, pause and contemplate our jump? I don’t seem to have the courage to jump that I once had.

Perhaps life experiences have caused fear and doubt to grip my once courageous heart!

This visual of jumping into deep water reminds me of the story about Peter’s encounter with Jesus walking on water. After Jesus escaped from the noise of life to pray on the mountainside, He realized His disciple’s boat had drifted into the sea. He desired to be with them so Jesus in His supernatural spirit didn’t swim out to the boat, he walked on water.

The disciples were terrified of this occurrence—they thought He was a ghost. But Jesus answers them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27 (NASB)

Peter was the brave one of the bunch. Without hesitation, Peter takes the plunge and jumps at Jesus’s request, “come.”

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord save me!’” Matthew 14:30 (NIV)

Peter presumably took his eyes off Jesus to observe and notice the surrounding wind. In this moment, he began to sink.

It amazes me how Peter at first was not afraid to jump! He was confident in the Lord’s calling. He was excited to meet his savior on the water. But when he chose to look at something other than Jesus, fear overcame him.

I relate to Peter. In life and ministry, I see opportunity and plunge right in. My natural adventurous and pioneering spirit overrides my fear. But once I’m in the water and look down at its murkiness, or I see a ravaging wind ahead, fear grips my spirit. In this moment, I take my eyes off the source (Jesus) who provides me the courage to “walk on water.”

In Matthew 14:31, Jesus teaches his disciples to be confident in their faith in Him. He calls Peter out:

You of little faith, why did you doubt me.”

Do we lack the confidence of Jesus in the water ready to take our hand and walk with us on the water?

I desire an “oceans” kind of faith. I want to walk upon the waters without borders. I desire the radical faith I see in others who take the plunge, fix their eyes on Jesus, and live a courageous faith! I don’t want to hear Jesus’ words, “you of little faith.” I’m sure you don’t either!

Is your faith gripped by fear and doubt? My challenge for you is to be fearless, act on something that causes you to be afraid. Take the plunge, step out of your secure boat, and remain focused on looking up (at Jesus), instead of looking down (at self).

It’s Time To Get out of our cages and be set FREE!

dog in cage

As I interface with more women, I have come to realize most of us (myself included) have something in common.  There are some areas in our life where we are trapped in our cages and It’s time to be set free!

I’m not much of an animal lover, but one of my fondest memories as a child was going to the pet store when my mother would take us to the mall.  I couldn’t wait to see the adorable, vivacious puppies, but their long, solemn faces broke my heart.  I wanted to take them home and set them free from their cages!

Like the puppies at the pet store, I too have experienced living in a cage. Feeling trapped by lies, negative thoughts and behaviors, all holding me back from being ALL God has appointed me to be.  I’ve made strides to be set free, but something still holds me back.  Perhaps fear, insecurity, comparison sets in, causing me to feel “not good enough”.

Have you too been trapped in a cage of fierce emotion and are desiring to be set free?

I do believe we have a choice to be set free!  Believing the lies of the enemy keeps us trapped and caged. As a believer in Christ, the last thing the enemy favors is for us to be set free.  He knows the power we possess when we are set FREE proclaiming His name and glory to the world.  He really is the devil isn’t he!

The enemy has fed me a head of lies for numerous years. I was bullied as a young girl in school by one of the meanest (prettiest) girls on the school campus.   Not sure why I continued a friendship with her.  I think it was because she was tall, gorgeous, smart, popular, had many boyfriends and I thought I could be those things too if I was her friend.  For some reason though, I was her target. She tore me down in order to build herself up.  My mother always comforted me saying, she says and does those things because she is a damaged person herself and wants what you have.  How could she be jealous of me, on the outside she looked like she had it all together!

I don’t think I ever realized how her hurtful words and actions found a place deep in my soul.

We have to fight the lies, abuses, wrongdoings if we want to be set free! We have to be that persistent, barking dog that becomes so irritant there is no choice but to be set free from the cage. The unwillingness to fight keeps us in bondage to our cage!

The bible gives us a powerful example of a persistent widow who was finally set free and given justice by a judge.

And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think,

 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ “. (Luke 18:3-5). NIV

As I read, meditate on God’s word, and surrender more of my life to Christ, I am watching my life become changed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  His spirit is strong when I am weak.  Living by His spirit enables me to immediately take my thoughts captive, dress myself daily with His armor, and refute the lies the enemy uses to try and destroy me.   I am now being equipped to lock the enemy in the cage, instead of myself!

If God can do this for me, my precious one He can do this for you!  The more we give God our hurts and pains, speak His truth, and resist the lies, the closer we get to freedom.   Don’t give up my friend for one day you will be that adorable puppy who has been set FREE and found a lovely home!

Time Out for a “Beauty Treatment”

I can spend a lot of time and money trying to make myself beautiful and attractive.

beauty-treatments

My trip to the beauty salon is no short encounter, sometimes up to three hours. The time (and money) I spend getting dolled up is no comparison to my husband’s trip to the barber.  Seriously, my husband can probably receive ten haircuts for the price of a cut, color and manicure!  Ouch!

Why do we as women choose to spend hours and money on our beauty treatments?  Let’s be honest, our beauty defines us.   We find favor with our husbands, our significant others, and even our female friends in the way we appear.

It is a sacrifice to look beautiful!

Esther was a woman in the Bible who was required to have 12 months of beauty treatments before she could enter the king’s presence. The king wanted to appoint a new Queen but all the young virgins were required to go through extensive beauty treatments before they could enter his presence.  Esther ultimately won the favor of the king and she was crowned as the royal Queen.

 “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than any other women, and she won favor and approval more than any other virgin.” Esther 2:17 (NIV)

Queen Esther was part of God’s unfolding plan.  There was a plot to kill all the Jews and because of Esther’s favor with the King, she helped preserve her people.  She risked her life and displayed an increment amount of courage, instead of fear, by speaking up to the king even when not permitted. Not an easy task for a woman in those days, as women had no rights nor even a voice.

“I will go to the King, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish,”  Esther 4:16 (NIV)

Esther was one courageous woman!

esther-one-night-movie

How was Esther successful at winning the Kings heart?  She willingly took a time out.  Twelve months to be exact!  She prepared herself for this un-daunting task. I imagine she planned, prayed, prepared, and I’m sure lots character building in the process.  Her success didn’t just happen overnight! There must of been some serious facial masks, cleansing and plucking of the eyebrows in preparing to meet the king!

Time outs can be a difficult process for you and I.   Often times, a time out involves some form of character building and for most of us, this is an uncomfortable place.  God may be revealing areas we need to change or sin we need to repent. However, unless we go through the required treatment process, favor may not be granted.

I had to recently take a time out in my ministry in exchange for a beauty treatment.  Like Esther, I needed to prepare myself for what was to come.  If not, consequences were at stake.  God needed to refine rusty areas in my heart and create a pure heart.  A beauty treatment was necessary in order for me to get my priorities back on track.

Are you in the midst of a beauty treatment?  Be patient God is preparing you for what is to come….great and mighty things. Are you noticing a beauty treatment on the horizon?  Don’t resist it.  Otherwise one day you may regret it!

We can all learn from Queen Esther.  She displayed an incredible amount of courage because of her obedience to take a time out to pray, plan, prepare and most importantly, the willingness to be refined.

A beauty treatment at its best….

Train Instead of Try

train instead of try

I get exhausted by “TRYING” to make things happen in my life!

TRYING to stay in shape and eating healthy, TRYING to stay positive when my mind fights the negative, TRYING to have a better relationship with my husband and kids, TRYING to achieve and reach a level of success. TRY, TRY, TRY!!

For most of us, it was ingrained in us as children to “try harder” when circumstances don’t go our way.  I don’t know if you have had similar thoughts, but sometimes the more I seem to try the more I feel like I fail.  Can you relate?

I have had the great privilege of attending a discipleship group these past 10 months.  Honestly it has changed my life.  The material we cover is extremely rich and relevant.   During one of the readings, my eyes were open to a new concept I had never contemplated.

TRAIN RATHER THAN TRY!!

Wow!! Those words shouted through the pages like the scream of a mother reprimanding her children.

When I think of the word train, I immediately visualize an athlete in training.  My kids come to mind as all three of them are athletes.  My oldest daughter has been playing on a club soccer team since she was eight. Soccer is her passion.  She trains endlessly to be the best she can be at the game.

Her training came to a pivotal moment.  Her team tied and it was time for the penalty kick to determine the tie.  Five girls are chosen to kick the ball about 10 yards from the goalie.  My daughter was the last girl up and it was her kick that would determine the win.

No pressure right?

She paused for a moment… focused on what she needed to do, said a quick prayer, prepared her stance, and kicked the black and white ball fiercely in the net.  She kicked the winning goal and mama’s lungs exploded all over the field.

It was her countless hours of training, both mentally and physically, that led her to the prize!  She didn’t go out on the field on a whim and try to win, SHE HAS BEEN TRAINING FOR THE WIN.  Just like a runner who doesn’t try to run a marathon without countless hours of training.

3223389991_84a0e82e4c

Paul gives us great encouragement to TRAIN INSTEAD OF TRY.

“Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into STRICT TRAINING.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that last forever. “. 1 Corinthians 9:23-24 (NIV)

Life is not about winning the prize for the moment.  No, Paul is trying to discipline our minds so that we run our race of life with continual effort, growth and an eternal perspective.

There is an enormous difference between trying and training.  When we get caught in the rut of always trying, we can be susceptible to moving from one thing to the next without landing anywhere.  But when we train, we do not give up!  We incorporate the disciplines of practice, repetition, routine, focus, and self-control to lead us where we want to go.  Winning our race of life includes replacing bad habits with good habits.

TRAIN INSTEAD OF TRY! 

Where do you need TRAINING right now so you are not exhausted by the TRYING?

A Beautiful Destination May Require Some Recklessness

How would life be different if we allowed ourselves a dose of reckless living? Totally going for it without hesitation.

 

Recently my husband and I celebrated our 20 year anniversary on the coast of Italy.  What an incredible place!  The Amalfi Coast is a taste of heaven.  The coastline is covered with mountainous cliffs and Aqua Blue Ocean at its feet.

coastline of italycannon and I italy

Our arrival was a reckless adventure to say the least.  My respect for Italian drivers just shot up a notch!

 

A one lane highway shared by passengers going to and from.  Curvy roads winding around open cliffs.  The view stunning, but oh how my stomach was churning.

 

It was amazing to witness gigantic tour buses dominating the road, yet smaller cars inched their way by.  No hesitation!  It was like a bunch of kids in the playground all getting along.  Each driver respected the other.  The big did not overrun the small.  Each drove aggressively, but confidently to ensure the opposing car could pass without difficulty

windy road italycars in italyReckless! A normal life for Italian drivers.  For me, not so much normal, in fact scary!

 

As I reflected on the Italian way of life, I thought to myself wouldn’t it be nice to approach life with a hint of recklessness.  Not being afraid to navigate the curves, not hesitating when the situation looks a little hairy, going for it even when self-doubt lingers in my mind.

 

Playing it safe is not always the best solution. Often times it prevents us from experiencing a beautiful destination, a place of enjoyment, fulfillment and purpose.

 

I buckled up and held on tight as our driver made his way to our final destination, a beautiful hotel nestled on the rocky cliffs with a view one can only imagine.   A place of paradise, but at the expense of enduring reckless travel.

 

Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, demonstrated a reckless heart.  He saw Jesus walking on the water and when Jesus told him to come meet him, without any hesitation Peter immediately jumped.

 

No tip toe into the water. A big RECKLESS jump!

 

“Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  Mathew 15:29  (NIV)

 

Unfortunately though, fear and doubt overcame his reckless spirit and Jesus had to rescue him.

 

I am enamored by the human side of Peter.  After he realized what he just did, he got scared.  He struggled just like you and I. But Jesus helped him in his attempt to be reckless and did not condemn, but helped him to have greater faith next time.

 

If you have a destination in mind, how can you demonstrate a dose of recklessness?  For some it’s forgetting our past and moving into our future bravely.  For others it’s taking initiative in our marriage to rekindle the love and passion that drew us together, even if we are timid to make the first move.   Or for some it’s going online to register for college and pursue that degree you never finished.  It’s never too late!

 

Exercising caution is good, but perhaps it’s time to throw caution to the wind and insert a degree of recklessness instead.

 

We can all learn something from the Italians.  Exhibiting a bit more recklessness on our road to life may find us in a place of living a dream with more purpose and passion.

 

Feeling Lost? Seek Him and You Will Be Found

seek god

Jeremiah 29:13.  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. “

A missing child can be one of the most frightening experiences.  We will do ANYTHING to find our lost child!  We will seek until we find!

When my son was a toddler he decided to quietly move inside the house while the rest of us were outside enjoying the sunny breeze.   It was time to go inside and Cole was nowhere to be found.  My husband and I started our search calmly.  I wasn’t panicked (yet) because I had just seen him out of the corner of my eye. But after a few minutes, my heart was beating rapidly like the Nascar race.  My calmness turned to panic!

Sometimes life can take us for a U-turn and before we know it, we are that lost child…  Scared, lack direction, isolated, and feel like God doesn’t seem to care.  God  is not pursuing us  like a parent does for a lost child.

The Israelites felt these same emotions.  They felt invisible to God for seventy years while they were exiled in Babylon.  They were taken away from their land, stripped from their identity, removed from their comforts.  But God had a plan amidst their captivity.  He told them to carry on with their lives, be fruitful, multiply and don’t allow this exile to rule your life. I have a plan for you, but first you need to seek me and learn a few things before this prosperous plan is revealed.

Jeremiah 29:10. “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”

Seventy years that is a long time!  Why did it take so long for God to find and rescue his cherished people? Perhaps they continued to rebel and take their eyes off what God desired for them.

I recently went through a season captivated by life.  I didn’t see God’s good plan.  I prayed and prayed but didn’t feel like God was listening. Did he have concern for my broken heart and depression?  I felt like a lost child… invisible, scared, wondering if I was going to be found.

Gladly, I was found, or should I say I found God again. I learned how to seek God with ALL my heart, not just part of my heart.   I learned things about myself that needed some change.  God was orchestrating his good and prosperous plan for me, but I had to do my part first.   Seek Him!

Has life taken you for a U-turn?  Can you identify with the Israelites,   captivated by life and thinking it’s just taking too long! Are you wondering is there a plan for these circumstances and where is God in all this nonsense?

Seek Him!!  He is your Daddy and will do ANYTHING to be found by you again.  What is He asking from you? Are there some life lessons He wants you to learn?

Then, watch his gracious promise be fulfilled!!