Wednesday, May 21

A belated birthday post, for a daughter who is a gift from God

I am blessed.
Simply yet profoundly blessed.
I have two daughters.
Both gifts from God.
One through birth.
One through marriage to my son.
Today, I want to write this birthday post (although belated) 
to the daughter who is a gift from God
through marriage to my boy

Happy Birthday to my daughter Leah!!
your day was on Monday, but today, I celebrate YOU

How my heart overflows with praise, and thankfulness for you.
As we have just celebrated your birthday again this year
I look back and see the many years you have been in my life…
first as my son's girlfriend
then his fiancé
and now his wife

You are my daughter
And I thank God for you.

I watch how you live your life
with intentionality
with determination
with great love 
with grace

I have watched you, but I have also learned from you
about loving God
about loving your husband
about loving your children
no matter how hard, or how easy
no matter how complicated or simple
no matter whether the day was grey or sunny
You my daughter, have loved well, and continue to do so

I have watched you and learned about living simply
you don't seem to want much
you seem content
you are happy with the simple yet beautiful and eloquent in its simplicity
I love that, and have learned from you

I have watched how you love-on your siblings (on both sides)
I have watched how you love-on your friends (of whom there are many)
I have watched how you carefully decide where your energies will be used
within those relationships, within the relationships at church as well
You seem to know how to guard your time, so that it is used for God's best intent for you

You listen
You learn
You research
You make decisions
HOWEVER you have also taught me that sometimes a decision made
has to be changed for a better decision
I see how you parent your boys. 
with grace and mercy
and with unconditional love
Hard work sometimes, but you are thankful for the energy and strength and grace God gives you

You my dear daughter, have taught this Mom a lot
I have spent many hours with you talking
in silence
in togetherness
just you and I
but often you and all of us
I love going on outings with the kids
as well as spending times after a good meal together, just talking
(after the kids are in bed)

You have taught me a lot, as I said
and I know I will learn more from you.

I see your strengths and your weaknesses
I also see how you know them as well - 
And you are not a quitter
I love that.  
That in itself, has taught me a lot about persevering under tough times
and how it is so worth it.
I love your laughter - your sense of humour
I love watching you and Ashley together - as sisters
I remember that in those early days, it was so important that Ashley also connected with you
As she only wanted the best for her brother.
And you are the best.
Together you make an amazing whole.
Together you compliment one another
However first, you are individually strong, gifted and multi talented
Amazing how God uses you individually and together.

So my sweet daughter
better late than never - today I say
~ Happy Birthday Leah ~ 
You are loved greatly - more today than all those years ago
However our love will only keep growing.
It is my prayer for you, that this year brings many many blessings,
Many new and exciting things
Many "aha" moments
as you live life fully for God, with Josh, and with that gang of boys you have.
(who we love so much I might add!)

Happy Birthday dear One 
You are greatly loved 
and greatly cherished Leah!
I look forward to this year ahead
and all the others too!

Mom K

Wednesday, May 14

Healing is complete

Ben's fight is done here on earth.  He is in Heaven - and I just have wondered if Ben has met our Jay yet.  I can't imagine how many children are in heaven.  Sometimes the thoughts are overwhelming.   When I read the newspaper article that was posted today, I sat in the parking lot and wept as I prayed for strength for Mindy, Andy and their kids.  I can't imagine their sadness … and pain of loss.  I just can't imagine losing a five year old.

Last night I went to our prayer meeting at Eastview again.  We meet on Tuesdays, and begin with some teaching on prayer, and then we began to pray.  Well, I should say that the others prayed last night.  I was not able to … it had been a really emotional day, and I was struggling.  I just could not accept easily that God was choosing not to heal Ben on this side of Heaven!!  I hard really felt that He was going to.  Well He did!!  But not the way I was praying.

We began to pray, and Kelly was praying for Ben I figure, right at the same time God was preparing to take Ben.  When I saw his mom's post about Ben breathing his last here and going to be with Jesus about 8:05 pm, I just could not help but think of how our prayers were being spoken on their behalf.
And, well - Ben is healed - completely healed.

You have to read Mindy's post, if you haven't already.
It is so beautiful.  She has given us permission to enter into their lives through her writing.  I for one thank God for the privilege of being able to pray for Ben, and for them all.  And, I will continue to do that.

And, I will imagine that Ben and Jay at some time, will meet, and run together.  I am not sure how that all works in heaven - as I know there are many many people there.  But I get delight in thinking that they will meet, and play together.  One day, we will all be united again … what a day that will be - for many reasons.  Till then, I will continue to live life here - and to intercede for others as God gives me strength.  In the meantime Ben knows that Heaven IS for real!!  Absent from the body, and present with our Lord!!  Ben's healing is complete.

Lord, please be their strength now … carry them, dry their tears, wrap your arms around them.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 13

"I do believe, help my unbelief"

I went to sleep last night, after posting the previous entry.  And as I laid in bed trying to fall asleep, the tears rolled silently down my cheeks.  I woke up this morning, with a heaviness.  We sat in the hot tub bright and early.  Well maybe not so "bright" as it is dreary, grey and rainy here again today.  But the hot tub was a good place to talk out loud about some of the things that are heavy on my heart.

First of all, I can not stop thinking about little Ben as he gets closer to being with Jesus.  Why is it that a family that I only know through being directed there by a mutual friend, and yet, they feel like family that I know well?  I don't get that, but I believe that this is an example of how the family of God works.  
My husband is very taken aback with all of this too, and last night's blog post by the mom, Mindy has greatly touched his heart as well.

People are praying.  I have to tell you - about something that took my breath away, although not sure why - as we KNOW God works in mysterious ways.  But we have begun to pray on Tuesday nights, at our church.  We are very aware of the Holy Spirit at work, and this is just one piece of where the H.S. is moving.  The thing that surprised me so much, was last week, when on our online prayer site, a prayer request came marked URGENT and it was about Ben and his family.  What?  So when we got together for prayer, they mentioned that the request came in, although none of us know the person who asked for prayer on their behalf.  Oh, that is the family of God - surrounding people in such crisis.
So we petitioned God last Tuesday, and since.  

I guess my heaviness this morning is just a mess of things:  brokenness over a a family losing their little 5 year old.  (My heart knows what these little ones that age are like, as my grandsons are around that age).  I can't imagine the pain.  My thoughts are confused.  I honestly, really and truly believed that God was going to answer with physical healing.  And it seems like the healing will only happen in Heaven.  I am confused at why at times we have this assurance of God going to move and do something great … and then become confused because He doesn't seem to "act".  I know I know …. God's ways are not our ways.  But for some reason, I just really believed He was going to act the way we were praying.  My thoughts are confused and complicated because they draw me right back to losing our Jay.  If I prayed with boldness - it was then.  God chose not to answer us the way we prayed.  I have prayed with boldness for little Ben.  It appears like once again, God is choosing not to answer us the way we prayed.  Alvin said this morning, is it because we did not pray "hard enough" or "with the greatest faith" ???    What in the world does it mean to pray with faith - just even faith the size of a mustard seed.  Now, do you KNOW how big that seed is?  Pretty tiny.  But in the scope of faith - that is all that is needed.    What about praying so that we say to the mountain MOVE IT!!  And, it moves.
O God, my head and my heart is such a broken muddled mess.  Lord God, help my unbelief!!
Give me faith - the size of a mustard seed.  Help me not to pray with entitlement or with demands, but in align with your will.

This morning I said to my husband.  So, when we get together - is there room for us to talk out loud about our dismay, about our confusion, perhaps even our doubt as to whether our prayers even are necessary or not, or that God answers them or not?  Don't worry, I KNOW our prayers are necessary.  I KNOW he answers them. And whether I share my confusion and dismay tonight or not, God knows all my thoughts.  Because I know, my God knows my heart.  He knows my cries.  My unspoken words.  My confusion.  HE KNOWS.

I sometimes have thought that we pray at times as if we are "giving God an out" so to speak.  NOT like God needs us to give him anything, let alone an "out".  However, too often I hear people praying and tacking on "if it be your will" at the end of every thought, every request, every petition.  I want to think that because of my relationship with God - my walk with him - HE KNOWS that I am praying HIS WILL on things.   My friend  lost her son in a car accident back in 1998.  I will never forget when she said to me "Joy, we gathered around the car that morning and prayed"  and she also told me that her husband said, "God just does what He wants anyway, why bother praying."  

I remember talking with her about the analogy of having our kids come to us, and sometimes we answer them with a yes.  Sometimes we say no.  Sometimes they are angry at us because of our answers.  Sometimes we just want the kids to sit on our laps with their heads leaning against our chests.  But regardless of the answer to their requests, we delight in the fact that they are coming to us, and we reserve the right as their earthly parents to do/allow/not do/allow the things in their best interest.  Or sometimes we would grant things knowing that they would go through something hard as a result.  While our kids don't say, "Mom if it is your will, please ….."  NO they just come, cuddle up, sometimes stand in defiance, sometimes sit unable to speak and just weep … but they come to us because they KNOW us, and that they are loved, and listened to …

So I am trying to put all of that into my spiritual perspective, to get some insight into what is happening - and bold praying, and prayers not being answered in the way you think they should be - and trusting God with it all - all the pain, sorrow, extreme sadness, confusion, disillusionment, despair …

This morning, my quiet time takes me to Acts 3 - the first section where Peter and John come past the temple gate called BEAUTIFUL … and there is a beggar there - he can't walk.  People bring him there every day.  And he calls out to them, hoping someone will hear and give him what he needs …. which he believes is money.  They stop and Peter tells him "look at me".  I can just imagine this man, raising his eyes and gazing into Peter's eyes, fully expecting to get something from Peter.  LOOK AT US!!!  and then hearing Peter tell him - I don't have silver or gold to give you - but I have something better - so in the name of Jesus Christ - WALK!!!!  And Peter extends his hand, placing it over the beggar's hand - and instantly it says, his feet and ankles get strong!!  He gets up and walks, and jumps and is praising God.  WHAT A MIRACLE.  Crippled from birth - now walking and leaping and people recognize him and are filled with wonder and amazement!!  

I want this Peter faith.  The faith that makes me look someone in the eyes - and extend my hand - believing God will heal.  I want the mustard seed sized faith - that moves Mountains.  I want to believe in the amidst of my confusion, in the midst of my brokenheartedness, in the midst of knowing God is God - and is still sovereign ALWAYS and no matter what.

I realize that all of this messy faith stuff relates fully with my word for this year - ABANDON.  Being abandoned to the Lord Jesus Christ - fully, without hesitation, knowing it is risky, and not always easy, and that being abandoned to the Lord is about leaning into him even when I can't see the sun for the rainclouds.  So today, with all of these thoughts, I just say - like the man (Mark 9)  who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus disciples, and they could not cast out the demon because they lacked faith.  And the man asked Jesus "if you can" and Jesus answered him,  "what do you mean IF I can, anything is possible if you believe"  and the man says, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief."  

So Lord, I do believe too.  I know you are at work in us Holy Spirit.  I know you are doing miraculous things - more than we could ever ask or imagine.  So I ask you - increase my faith Lord - please increase my faith.  I believe - help my unbelief!!  AMEN.

Monday, May 12

there is so much I just will never "get" this side of Heaven

My heart is so broken.
Broken for a family - little Ben's family
A mutual friend told me about them back a few months
And I began to pray
and with great hope
that God was going to do a miracle
I guess I thought I knew what this miracle should look like
I am thinking that many of us who prayed, were praying for the same miracle
As the mom Mindy said in one of the early posts - that the ground was ripe for a miracle
I remember she said "Only God"

Here I am - 56 years old (almost) and once again questioning God
Oh yes, I know God is sovereign.
I know that.
I also know that I just don't and can't wrap my head around this 
why God would give them twins
and then, when they are 5 … take one of the twins to heaven
that is what breaks my heart
and at the same time, takes me back to our prayers for our little Jay
something seems familiar

Little Ben isn't in heaven yet, but as his mom wrote today on the blog ( they know that Ben is in his "eleventh hour".
Soon it seems, their sweet Ben will be in heaven with our Jay too.
God - I can't even fathom how many children are with you 
my mind is way to small to imagine this
But I know it is true.

I think that because I am a granny to boys that are this age - my heart just can't fathom the pain, the sorrow, the reality that God is not going to answer with a healing on this side of heaven.
Even if we thought that his healing would bring great glory to His name.
God … i just don't get it.

And that is when I am reminded that I have been here before
Petitioned for a miracle
And felt like God did not answer
at least now how we wanted, how we asked, how we thought He should.
For me, that is the hard part … especially when it involves babies, and little 5 year olds.
Oh God … I am on the periphery of what is happening,
just got to know this family through blog posts
but prayed, O I prayed.
and I feel like they have become part of my family
and when I read today's post …. I hurt so much for them.
So very much.
There are no answers
Only God has those answers
and we will never know
and when we are finally able to ask him, once we get to heaven
getting an answer will no longer be important.
So in the meantime Lord God, please answer this . please wrap your arms so tightly around little Ben as you transition him home to be with you.  Give strength to his parents as they see him edge closer to heaven.  Lord, walk through this with the other children.  And for any grandparents - O Lord, give them strength in this journey.  I don't know what else to ask for Lord . they need you . O Lord, they need you so much.  Please Lord, hear the cries of their heart - for their son, for their other children - for themselves.   
Please God.
Please.  Amen.

In the midst of these broken hearted thoughts, has been a tune running through my heart.
All I could hear were these words:  My heart will sing, no other name - Jesus, Jesus.  So I googled those words and found the song.  We've sung this in church - it is beautiful.  May this be our heart cry as Ben and his family are running to your arms!  O Lord … even if you did not answer the way we wanted you too …. you are still sovereign, you are still good, you are still love….

Friday, May 9

forgive and bless

I should have known that putting the lies to death is not so easy
Burying them so to speak is one thing
But silencing the lies that continue to echo in my head … that is another thing
But I am doing it.
But there is one lie that just seems to have this hold on me.
I will be honest here.
The biggest lie is the one that says "you are so stupid"
It is a lie that I know is not true, and yet, I realize that over the course of time, I began to feel that I was.

This lie is tied directly to someone I worked with for a few years until I resigned from the position I had, and walked away.

Someone who used their "power" to make me feel inferior, "less than", or just plain stupid.
Someone who should have known better if for no other reason - because of the position they were in.
Someone who should have perhaps dropped the bully tactic, and just tried to be relational.
But instead, they hid behind their prestige and power.
Or at least, that is what it seemed like.
And now I realize that what they did to me, is called bullying.
And bullying is wrong.

As I look back to the years we worked together, yes there were some good things
Many many good things.
However there were some very hard things.
Only it didn't really hit me, until I was done.

I have come to hate it when I see/hear/experience a bully.
But I have also come to understand something.
The "bully" that hides behind his/her  power/prestige/big words/academic awards and achievements -
I have come to see that they are usually this way, because they are insecure and lack self-confidence.
And even though I am held hostage by their sense of power, prestige and use of words
I feel sorry for them.
However, God has also called me to pray for them.  So, I do.

I guess I have really been thinking this over lately, as we were at our prayer time the other day, and Pastor Kelly encouraged us to make sure we are right with others - and we talked about forgiveness, even if the other person doesn't ever say they are sorry.
We talked about "blessing" those that we just really don't feel like blessing, but we do it because Jesus said to!
I began to think of this person, and well a few others
Years ago, I struggled with God as He called me to forgive those who had hurt me badly.
Even if none of them ever said they were sorry.
And while we talked a little about forgiveness at our prayer time, I realize there are layers to it.
And while I have forgiven them, and told them I had.
I realize that doesn't mean I want to hang out with them.
I am okay to just see them from across a big room, if that.
But I need to forgive.  To keep on forgiving when the old lie makes me feel stupid again.
I do not want the lie to win.
I want God to crush Satan under his feet … and to silence the echoes in my head.

I need to forgive.  I know it.
And with God's strength, I have … and I continue to offer it up.
I know God has given me gifts, talents and smarts :)
I am NOT stupid.  I have a lot to offer.

However, I need to continue to lay that lie at the foot of the cross,
lay it down at the cross
lay it down
down …
because it is only God that can cover that lie with truth
it is only God that can bring healing to this deep deep wound.
Somehow, I keep catching the edge of the scab and ripping it off
And that never feels good.

Oh, one more thing.  Lord God bless this person - do a work in them and make them more like you.  Put to death the things that are hindering or harming your work in them.
And bring them into a growing transformation - becoming more like you every day.
Lord, I forgive them, and I bless them.

Thursday, May 8

In His eyes alone

It was back in November.  I was down in Colorado, sitting under the teaching of Dr. Larry Crabb, in NextStep School of Spiritual Direction, in the beautiful setting of Glen Eyrie Retreat and Conference Center.  It was a Tuesday night.  Our night was going pretty much as per normal - we would do some class time, and a break, and then Dr. Crabb would spend time in spiritual direction with someone that he had selected at the beginning of the week.  We would sit there, and listen/watch, as if we were invisible observers in meaningful conversation.  Two nights in a row, he ended the time a little earlier than most other nights.  I learned so much from him, and one of the things I learned on those nights, was that when you were in meaningful conversation with someone, we were NOT relying on our own strength, or our own agenda, but on the leading of the Holy Spirit within that one on one time with another.  So he ended the night.  We all filed out, as if we were still walking on holy ground.  The thing is, as I walked, I was feeling something welling up within me.  My room was just a short walk down the hall, and as I fumbled with my card to open my lock on my door, I felt like I was holding it together.  I unlocked the door and came undone.  The tears flowed like they had not flowed for a long time.  I wept and wept.  

I realized God was speaking to me about something.  That day in our quad time, (where four of us met for a period of time to work through what we had learned that day) we were talking about what our "prophetic burden" was.  What had we been called to, beyond a shadow of a doubt.   I had not trouble pinpointing what mine was.  After all I believe that it was the same thing that God had me in pastoral ministry for at the church I was at as a pastor for seven and a half years.  
My prophetic burden was to help women see how beautiful and loved they were in the eyes of God.  However, that night, as I came undone in my room - I realized that I did not believe this for myself.  Yes, Joy - the one who could pour into the lives of others - as a wife, a mom, and a granny.  Joy - the one who obeyed God's call to open a retreat ministry for women, and to pour time into the different aspects of the ministry, so that women would come to see their value in the eyes of God.  Yes, me - Joy - the one who already at that time in November, had sat with women and listened, and prayed, and encouraged them as women made in the image of God.  I realized as the tears poured down my face - that I did not believe it.  I did not believe that I was beautiful in the eyes of God.  I did not believe I was beautiful - period.  Now, I am not talking outward beauty, although everything seems to get muddled up in the whole thing.  

It became very important for me that night - to try to remember times when I heard  someone tell me "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL"  … whether it was my dad, who I knew believed that.  Or my husband who I knew believed that.  Or my family, or friends.  
I wept as I poured out my heart to God - my maker.  He knew what was in my heart - and when it would all come pouring out.  I prayed.  I cried out as I wept.  
The floodgates opened and they felt like they would be open for a while.  I fell asleep weeping and woke up in the morning with eyes that felt like they had cried all night.

That was the beginning of many things …. some processing with my "quad" … some processing in class with Dr. Crabb while the rest of the class listened in.  It also was something I talked with Alvin about … and was the basis for a lot of thinking and wrestling with God on ever since.  I think however, the one thing that sticks in my mind, is when Dr. Crabb lovingly said that I needed, (we all need) to go to God as the one who gives us our identity and who is the one we get our worth from FIRST.  That only HE can give us that, and then - if others also pour into our life, into our sense of "feeling loved and beautiful" … it is a sweet bonus.  

I have since, wrestled with this.  I have tried to just "sit" with God on it - to get my worth from Him and him alone.  To not depend on anyone or anything else.  That is a hard one, because let's face it - we do get our worth from others whether we want to admit that or not.  We get our self- worth from our jobs, our friends, our spouses (if we are married).  We get our self-worth from the affirming words of others.  We tend to "feel" beautiful if we are a certain size, or shape … or if we are outwardly pretty.  Oh I know that struggle all too well.  For me, I have seen that the struggle with my ever presence love/hate with my body size/shape/weight directly plays into how I feel about myself - whether I feel beautiful - and sometimes I don't even THINK of being beautiful in God's eyes because I can;t see it in my own mirror!!

I have purposely done some things as little reminders about what the important thing is …  I have a nice coffee cup - it says, GOOD MORNING BEAUTIFUL.  It reminds me of how much God loves me and thinks I am beautiful in His eyes.  First thing in the morning - this simple cup of coffee speaks into my being!!  I am thankful.  

Then I have just recently purchased two rings.  One has my word for 2014 on it - Abandon  (see my post in February called My One Word for 2014) and the other ring has the word BEAUTIFUL.

These two things are visuals.  God knows that I also love to use visuals to continue to point my eyes ahead to Him.  

However in the midst of this, I continue to struggle ….Oh Lord, I am so human aren't I?  I continue to struggle with embracing fully the beautiful woman He has created me to be - I hear it - but I struggle with fully believing it.  I can tell others - and pray for them - but sometimes feel a little like I am wearing a mask - because no one knows the extent that I struggle myself with this.  I have tried to figure out why - WHY is it so hard to believe.  WHY is believing I am beautiful and loved in the eyes of God - so connected with my struggle with my weight.  So many people have told me what I need to do - or how silly it is - or just do it - on and on.  Yet it continues to be my struggle.  My thorn in the flesh.  My thing that constantly pulls me down …  and now, I have put a name on it - and realize it is LIES that I have come to believe over and over and over again.

Today, I have written down the LIES that the accuser wants me to believe.
Lies that I have believed obviously and have allowed to taken root in my life.
And like the thistles that I pulled out last year in our garden - I know that the roots can be big and ugly and need to be pulled out and put to death.
So I have written them down, in black and white … and have given them to God.
You know, satan is not called the father of lies for nothing!!

But then I wrote down the TRUTHS that I know are true and truths that I need to continue to place before me - as I walk this walk.
I realize that God is way bigger than it all - and it is only in Him that I can walk in truth.
I think I will likely still be aware of the struggle, and aware of the daily laying it all down - but what a realization to know HE is in control - and speaks truth over my life because HE IS THE WAY and THE TRUTH and  THE LIFE!!

After I did that, I listened to a song that played in my room the morning after I came undone, down in Colorado.  As I wept to those words then - I also was washed over with his love again as I realized I am held by his love!!  
Only My God can make sense of this - and take it all - and not only hold me, but walk with me.  
One more day in my life - but oh what a life it is!!  I am thankful - because even in these struggles, He is making me more like Him.  

Thank you Jesus - for loving me and for the knowledge that in  your eyes alone - I have all I need - my love and beauty in you.  Only YOU.

May you also know, how beautiful and loved you are in the eyes of God!! 

Bob Fitts

I'm held by Your love
Upheld by Your strength
On Your shoulders You bore me
By Your faith I stand
Cherished by You, Lord
Treasured in Your sight
So close to Your heart
Held firm in Your hands

So awesome is Your love
So mighty is Your hand
On eagle's wings You carry me
Your grace shall be my strength
So perfect is Your love

You sacrificed Your Son
Amazing love reached out to me
With joy to You I come

also wrote some thoughts that also pertain to this on another of my blogs,