Defiance: How to Fight for Joy

Today I almost cried as I read a book aloud to my kids. The scene wasn’t poignant. No one lay dying nor was anyone confessing unrequited love. Still the darkness pressed in around my heart. The heaviness of life, friends fighting cancer, the ton of feathers falling on my shoulders, and my ongoing battle to get my foot healthy again.

They are acts of defiance. The thought came to me as I looked at the horn, streamers, and stickers on my knee scooter.

Defiance against the blues – against the sadness that makes getting out of bed harder than it should be. They are weapons in the war for joy. The battle that rages each waking moment. It is a war I cannot afford to lose because my kids need to know how to fight it. How can they know unless I teach them?

“You have such a good attitude about your injury.” I’ve heard the words and every time they feel like lies.

“Well,” I bravely reply. “I could complain and make things even more difficult for me and those around me…”

And though my words ring with truth some days they feel hollow.

My good attitude isn’t something I was born with or lucky to have. It is something I fight for. It is my battle cry to keep from falling into the dark deep abyss of self-pity and sadness. It is my cry against injustice and evil in this world.

The streamers, stickers, and horn on my scooter are visual reminders to keep up the good fight. They are acts of defiance against the tears and frustration. They help me find joy and laughter in the ridiculousness of life. Soon I remember I have a hope and a joy that goes beyond a healthy foot. They are reminders that God uses broken people and broken places in our lives to bring His glory. And so I must not allow my mind to wander, but I must think on:

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV

These crazy reminders are not bold declarations of strength. No, they are reminders that in so many ways I am weak, but God is strong. They remind me to put my hope and trust in God alone – for He will fight for me.

Are you fighting for joy? You are not alone. Let’s battle together.

How are you fighting for joy today?

Angela

Silent Grief: Pregnancy Loss, Grieving, and Hope

It still hurts and I can’t explain it away.

There are these babies who crawled into my heart, but died in my womb. And a part of my heart still beats for them 13 years later.

Even thought I only held them in my body a short time, I began the process of planning their nursery decor, of how we would tell their older sister, and dream of who they would become.

Those dreams and plans left marks in my heart, empty places, tender spots, broken places.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 ESV

And still there is hope. There is a God who draws near to us – the brokenhearted. He does not watch from afar and He does not waste one tear we shed.

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book? Psalm 56:8 ESV

God knows the tears and the pain and He is comforting us, He is near us, He loves us. He is using these tears to make us more like Him – more compassionate, more willing to love on babies. He is using our tears to remind us this world is not our home.

My babies I lost would be 12, 11, 9, and 7 now. They would all be grade school aged, reading. My van would be full, but this side of heaven I have some empty seats at my table. While the emptiness hurts, I know that one day I will see them all in heaven.

So until then I pray God will fill the emptiness with love for all children and with His compassion for all who are grieving.

How is God using your grief today?

Angela

Letting Go to Grow: the Startling Secret to Contentment

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24 ESV

“God, I don’t understand why Sandra has a beautiful green leaf and I am stuck in this hard shell,” Lucille prayed.

“We were seeds together, God, but she let go of the flower before I did and then she disappeared. Now she is getting taller every day. I wish I had her height and if I had a leaf I would be able to serve You, but I can’t now. Not here I can barely hang on.”

Sound familiar? Fear often keeps me inert. I decide if I can’t sing like her or don’t have the resources he has or I just don’t want something to change then I can’t serve God. I fear failure and sacrifice.

“At the beginning of every act of faith, there is often a seed of fear. For great acts of faith are seldom born out of calm calculation.” Max Lucado

Often God calls us to let go of things so that He can grow better things. And there is fear involved. Fear of losing something special, of change, of growth, of saying goodbye. Still there is excitement. It reminds me of my days at the public swimming pool climbing up the high dive ladder. Walking to the end of the board heart wildly beating fearful and yet tingling with excitement. I’d bend my legs and jump – I was never brave enough to throw a flip – pencil straight into the water. God often brings us to these acts of faith where fear and excitement collide. And we have to decide if we are going to jump or climb back down the ladder.

Jumping means leaving the comfort of the ground. It means sacrificing what we know for what is next. And it hurts, it breaks us of the things we hold dear of the things we believe will make us secure. As the air whistles around and we speed to the pool below, we don’t have time to compare ourselves to others. We just trust that God called us to this act of faith and He will handle the results.

It is time we stop comparing ourselves to others and let go. In the free fall of faith, we will find our hope and joy in God alone.

I can’t wait to see how God will grow us as we let go and find contentment in Him.

Angela

Rest and Watching: How to See God Move in Life’s Challenges

 I [Jesus]  have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.   John 16:33 ESV

Life’s challenges.

Physical injury.

Plumbing leak.

Saying good-bye to some really dear friends. Transition in my husband’s office.

At times emotions run wild and I start wondering where is God? I prayed things turn out differently. That my foot would no longer be an issue, my friends would not have to move away, transitions would be less uncertain, and pipes would stay whole…I even figured out ways God could get the glory if He worked these things out my way.

But God’s ways are not my ways. Instead He brings or allows challenges in our lives for our good. Just like I allow my children to understand the challenge of washing their laundry so that they will know how to wash their clothes when they go off to college. God uses challenges in our lives to make us more like Jesus, to teach us to trust Him.

So how do we see God move in life’s challenges?

  • Change our thinking. We have to remind ourselves that when challenges come they are not bad, they are opportunities to know God in a new way, to discover something new about ourselves, to find out where we really are placing our joy, security, and hope.
  • Pray like Jesus prayed. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane essentially told God what He wanted (for the cup to pass), but He also prayed not “My will, but Yours be done.” May we have the faith to pray that powerfully, knowing God can do anything, but trusting His way is the best way.
  • Look for God. Often when faced with challenges I look to myself. I want to be smart enough or strong enough to figure out the best path or the best solution. But God wants me to look to Him. Look for the way He is meeting my needs. Look for the doors He is opening in the midst of the challenges and the lessons I can learn in the midst of them. When we look for God, we will find Him nearer than we realized.
  • Look for ways we can be thankful in our challenges. For instance, “Thank You God that our plumbing issue wasn’t a sewer issue, we caught it early, and although it was really close it never damaged our electronics.”
  • Rest in God’s promises. The best place to be is resting in God’s promises. They don’t fail. We need to read God’s Word so that we can know His promises. We need to trust Him when we can’t see a way through because He has great plans for us.

So God is there moving in the challenges of life: guiding us, loving us, comforting us, teaching us. May we rest and watch so we can testify to what He is doing in the midst of our challenges.

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Angela