Monthly Archives: January 2016

Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

January 15, 2016

Selecting a word or theme for the year – that’s never been my thing. In the past I haven’t felt the urge or conviction to be tied to any one thing for 365 days.

Until now. Like a 2×4 over the head, I felt compelled to focus on one big idea as 2016 rolled around. And not just on any word or concept, it was clear that JOY was needed in my heart and mind.

2015 proved a difficult time for my family, and while I’d love to say that choosing joy means that this coming year is going to be all roses and smooth sailing, with happiness just shooting out of every area of my life, that’s not what joy is about. In fact, joy has nothing to do with what’s going on around me.

In my friend Elisa Morgan’s book Naked Fruit, she writes, “joy is something deep that celebrates God’s character despite the circumstances.” She goes on, “joy is the ability to hold up because we know we are being held up … a confidence in God no matter what happens.”

Joy relies on a God bigger than my circumstances.

And while I’d love to have a year of ease and happiness (boy, would I), that’s not what I am focusing on while I pursue joy.

In Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah tells the people to stop grieving, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” While the Lord understands our grief and this passage should not be taken to mean never grieve (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). This is a great reminder that our grief should not keep us from the joy that comes from Christ and in that joy we find strength to face any circumstance.

Joy is an assurance in the Lord that sustains us through whatever life brings.

In other words, we are called to have joy in any circumstance and it’s through that joy that comes only from the Lord that we’ll find the strength to face the challenge.

Joy hasn’t been my natural response lately but in 2016 I’m choosing joy. I’m choosing to focus on the God of this universe who holds me close through the journey. Won’t you join me?

Do you choose a word or theme to focus each year on? If so, what are you focusing on in 2016?

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Daring to Trust God in the Midst of Heartache

January 7, 2016

“If I just knew the end result, then I could trust, God.” I would pray in a whisper. And then laugh disparagingly at myself. Knowing requires little trust. Trust and faith happen in the face of uncertainty.

For 15 months my husband and I had tried for another baby. At first we assumed it would happen quickly. Even with our losses, we had never had any issues getting pregnant. Staying pregnant had always been the problem.

Now, it seemed, this would be hard too.

I kept thinking, if I just knew, then I could move on. If I knew that we were never to have another biological child, then I could grieve and move forward. If I were to find out that we’d have another child but not until a certain time (preferably given the knowledge of the exact month and day we’d find out, because planning) then I could relax and live fully in the now without worrying about the future.

But where is the trust in that?

Then it happened. Two little lines on the pregnancy test, “I don’t believe it,” I cried as I called a friend. “Can this be true?” And it was true.

Early pregnancy symptoms kicked in, but I didn’t care. I felt awful, but I was finally pregnant and so full of joy. “Thank you, God.” I prayed, not taking a minute of it for granted. This is probably my last pregnancy, I’d tell myself and I wouldn’t allow myself to be consumed by worry or complaint.

Then the best news of all: TWINS! God’s grace and favor felt abundant. Perhaps this is why I needed to wait for another baby, I reasoned as I googled double strollers and non-minivans that could hold three car seats. But the good news was couched in some concern. The babies were smaller than they should have been and the doctor was uncertain of what that meant. As I left the appointment, anxiety overwhelmed me, but my husband and I quickly concluded this was just another area we needed to trust God, and provided another means for Him to show His glory and power. I began to plan our Christmas announcement.

A week later – in early December – we were devastated to learn that both babies had been lost. As we prepared to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child, I felt numb and void.

I had trusted God to make things go my way. But that wasn’t how it went. Could I still trust? In the midst of this shattering heartache and new uncertainty, I didn’t know.

TRUST AND FAITH HAPPEN IN THE FACE OF UNCERTAINTY, NOT IN THE KNOWING1.

This is where my sticky friends came to my aid. I didn’t want to talk – I didn’t even want to see anyone. But cards starting pouring in with words like “I don’t understand but I’m sorry” and included gift cards for coffee and treats. And I realized that even in the midst of my hurt, God heard my cries and provided comfort. I began to want to trust. I prayed for God to fill my lack of trust with faith that only He could provide, and I looked up verses on trust.

Two verses especially stuck out to me:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4

Notice that both begin with “Trust in the Lord.” Perhaps He’s trying to say something? Even in the middle of my pain, I’m choosing to trust. Not because I have any idea of what’s next. And not because trusting is easy, because it isn’t. Rather, I’m choosing to trust because I know that I know that I know, that God is good and His love for me (and you) endures forever. Even when we can’t see what’s coming next, He has a plan, and we are just called to trust in the Lord.

After all, trust and faith happen in the face of uncertainty.