Joy!

This post is long overdue.  (It’s a good thing I don’t get paid to write or publish!)

My excuse is that I was busy, and my reason is that I was struggling with the topic of JOY. 

I started and stopped several times, and I didn’t quite know why joy was such a difficult topic.  I am not a particularly unhappy person. However, each time I sat down to write about joy, I found myself overwhelmed with frustration as I kept being reminded of so many obstacles and hardships that many of us face.  Joy just seemed too lightweight compared to things like depression, anxiety, death, grief, loss, fear, and especially now – loneliness.  And, I was especially confronted with those experiences in my own family, especially as a mom.

And then this morning, I finally felt released to revise and publish this post according to what the Lord shared with me. 

I still am not a fan of this empty nest thing.  I miss my kids a lot, especially now. (I was supposed to be back in the US right now helping my daughter move.  Stupid COVID-19.) 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Apparently, it is quite obvious how much so.  Our young adult children were able to come visit us in December, and I made sure they made it to my school so I could take them around to meet as many staff and friends as possible.  Over and over, my co-workers greeted them by saying, “I’ve heard so much about you,” and “Your mom is really glad you’re here.”  As I’m standing there grinning from ear to ear, I realize the refrain is becoming a bit of a joke. I am not a bit ashamed of how much I talked about them.

I love my kids a lot, but I can’t love like God.  I know this because I recognize that as much as I devoted and poured into them, I still don’t know or love them as our Heavenly Father does.  I did a lot of things right, AND I made lots of mistakes. Even as hard as I tried (and still do), I couldn’t (and can’t) love them well enough to keep them from experiencing fear, doubt, grief, and losses – sometimes from my own choices and words.

But God is their Heavenly Father.  He has provided redemption for me, and He can heal what I harmed.  There is no room for pride.  There is all the room for joy. 

Have you heard the song, The Joy of the Lord is my Strength?  I mentioned this song briefly in the post, Music in Me.

It is my joy in the Lord that strengthens me – my joy in knowing the Lord and trusting Him. I trust Him to complete the work He started in my family and me.

Perhaps joy is like a muscle we all use, but don’t realize how it works until we try to isolate it.  It’s important, and it needs other muscles working collaboratively to be effective. 

Photo by Content Pixie on Pexels.com

More importantly, we need to work collaboratively with God. 

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 – 30  “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (HCSB)  This is what I read this morning that helped me feel free to publish this post.  I will continue to collaborate with the work God is doing, and trust Him. 

This is how I find my joy in the Lord and find strength.

  • Joy in knowing that God loves them more than I do.
  • Joy in knowing that God knows them better than I do.
  • Joy in knowing that God has heard all my prayers.
  • Joy in knowing that God has a plan for them, and He will work it out according to His will, a plan that has been arranged since well before they were born.
  • Joy in knowing what He has done for me, He will do for them.
  • Joy in knowing that God understands our weaknesses, and He has provided a way to bring us into a right relationship with Him.
  • Joy in knowing God’s love really is perfect.
  • Joy in knowing that God forgives.
  • Joy in knowing Jesus Christ.

There are so many songs written about ‘joy’- old hymns and new praise and worship pieces.  Here’s a list of just 10, https://www.mediashout.com/worship-songs-about-joy/

So when I get down, I sing.  I worship God.  I praise the Holy One.  I claim Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I let the Holy Spirit fill me with joy.

Friends, there is nothing lightweight about that!

Here is where I find the Truth in the scriptures:

Nehemiah 8: 9-12 (At the reading of the law) “Do not grieve, because your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord.” (Verse 10, HCSB)

Psalm 30:5 “For His anger lasts only a moment, bus His favor, a lifetime.  Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning.”

Psalm 30:11-12 “You turned my lament into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to You and not be silent.  Lord my God, I will praise You forever.”

Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me.” (ISV)

Scripture even talks about God singing over us!

Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (ESV)

John 15:11 “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (NLT)

Here’s something to lift you up! Overflow by Tobymac. Enjoy!

The Music In Me

Have you ever woken up with a song already playing in your head?

black vinyl player

Photo by Anton Hooijdonk on Pexels.com

It happens to me with some regularity.

How does that even happen? Am I somehow picking up radio signals floating through the air? Or is it some leftover subconscious remnant from a forgotten dream?

Usually, I can identify why a song is at the top of my mental jukebox. But last week, I woke up with snippets of a song, a hymn mind you, that I haven’t heard or sung in decades! I just heard in my mind –

“ . . . let us have a little talk with Jesus, let us tell Him all about our troubles . . . ”

That led to me thinking about –

Sweet Hour of Prayer and Heavenly Sunshine with undercurrents of In the Garden, It is Well With My Soul, and What a Friend We Have In Jesus.

I guess it was a hymnal day.

purple lavender over note pages

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

The hymns I grew up singing played a significant role in developing my childhood foundations of faith, and even now, help sustain truths that are often buried under the weight of so many distractions and adult responsibilities.

Last month, I wrote about the Voices of Encouragement seminar I attended and J-L’s statement of affirmation. After letting the idea of creating my own affirmation statement stew for a while, I decided to put together key phrases from some of those important hymns and scriptures to read each day.

Here’s the draft I have so far:

I sing because –

Love Lifted Me

What A Friend I Have In Jesus who has

Established a (How) “Firm Foundation in His excellent Word

This knowledge is like Heavenly Sunshine “filling my soul with joy”

And even when I am weary and dismayed

I can –

Have a Little Talk With Jesus in my Sweet Hour of Prayer with

My Blessed Redeemer who gives me peace so that I may say

It is Well With My Soul as I kneel and remember

My salvation purchased At the Cross, The Old Rugged Cross

Then I’m Standing on the Promises and move confidently

Onward Christian Soldier Because of His Amazing Grace.

God, You remind me that –

You have known me from the beginning.

You formed me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

You have created me for good works

And equipped me with every gift I need (2 Tim. 3:17).

You will complete the good work You started in me (Eph. 2:10).

You give me courage, faith, and grace.

You loved me before I knew You (1 John 4:10).

You hear me and know me.

Therefore,

I will put my confidence in You, for You are mighty to save.

You are steadfast and strong.

I will praise Your Holy Name.

I will keep my eyes fixed on Your and fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12).

I will daily put on the armor,

the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth,

shoes that are ready to spread the gospel of peace,

the helmet of the knowledge of my salvation,

holding the shield of faith, and the sword that is Your Holy Word (Eph. 6: 13 – 17).

I will trust You.

I will believe in Your promises, that You are good, true, and faithful (Deut.32:4 and 1 Cor. 1:9).

For your love endures forever (Psalm 136). Amen

I’m new at this affirmation thing, but I’ve noticed on the mornings when I read this, I feel more confident going into the day.

My hope in sharing this is that you will find your own way to put together the things God has shown you, to strengthen, and encourage you.

Interestingly, you may have heard the song, The Joy of the Lord is my Strength. I’ve always wondered, what is the joy of the Lord? How can I bring joy to the Lord, and how does that give me strength? Is it by being more obedient, giving more in service, having more faith?

I don’t know for sure yet, but maybe I’ve had that idea backwards.

This week, it occurred to me that maybe it’s not about what brings joy to the Lord that strengthens me. Maybe it’s when I find joy in the Lord that gives me strength.

What do you think?

I’d love for you to share your own affirmation statements!

I

Confident, Strong, and Beautiful!

Have you ever considered the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?

Who finds you “beautiful?

Who is “beholding” you?

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I have long thought the pressure placed on young women in the entertainment industry to look a certain way, to be constantly judged, has to be part of the reason why so many self-destruct. Who can handle that constant barrage of criticism? And how can we expect adolescents who are in the middle of developing their self-identity to do so in a healthy way?  We ALL go through awkward stages of growth.  That passes, but the messages we identify with about who we are can stay a LONG time.

Yet, here we are with all of our social media apps, filters, swipes, and likes. The strangest things can go viral, being seen by millions. And with all those views – inevitably – critical, judgmental, hateful comments are posted by those who don’t care, and honestly, whose opinions really don’t matter.

Haters are gonna hate.

Haters Gif

 

Oh, but friend, there’s Someone who beholds you who calls you beloved.

Read on . . . .


Confident with Strength and Beauty

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I’m still learning  to trust God’s love and His plans.

The objective here is to understand the difference between what the world says is beautiful, and what is beautiful to God. It is summed up in the lesson title. We take our confidence in the knowledge of our value to God, His plans for us. It’s ok to care about how we look, but our evaluation of beauty uses a completely different standard than the world’s standard. We clothe ourselves with dignity and beauty befitting a princess, a daughter of God, not spoiled, but using modesty and an internalized confidence.

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
 for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
 she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
 and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
 she can laugh at the days to come.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
 her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things,
 but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
 but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
 and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Discussion Questions

  • What does a beautiful woman look like?
  • Do you agree with the phrase, “Pretty is as pretty does?”
  • How often do you compare yourself to someone else and concentrate on your physical “imperfections?” (Or someone else’s)
  • Does it even matter if someone is beautiful, or feels beautiful?
  • Is it ‘Confidence creates beauty’, or ‘Beauty creates confidence’?

I think most of us recognize the importance placed on physical beauty. But I also believe there is spiritual beauty. Some may have one without the other. Is this something God cares about? How does this matter to our being daughters and disciples? Let’s look at a few verses that mention beauty, glory, and confidence.

  • Zechariah 9:16 – 17 (HCSB) “The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people; for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land. How lovely and beautiful they will be? Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the young women.”
  • Revelation 19: 7 – 8 (HCSB) “ ‘Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.’ For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.”  (Note: This is a reference to the bride of Christ, the church.)
  • Psalm 112 (HCSB) Hallelujah! 
Happy is the man who fears the Lord, 
taking great delight in His commands. His descendants will be powerful in the land;
 the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, 
and his righteousness endures forever. Light shines in the darkness for the upright. 
He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous. Good will come to a man who lends generously
 and conducts his business fairly. He will never be shaken.
 The righteous man will be remembered forever. He will not fear bad news;
 his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord. His heart is assured; he will not fear. 
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He distributes freely to the poor;
 his righteousness endures forever.
 His horn will be exalted in honor. The wicked man will see it and be angry; 
he will gnash his teeth in despair.
 The desire of the wicked man will come to nothing. Don’t get caught up in the male pronouns here. Read it with your name substituted where appropriate.

Questions to Consider

  • How does what we wear contribute to our appearance of beauty?
  • If even God recognizes that fine clothes and jewelry are significant items to show beauty and honor, then is it considered vanity to care about them?
  • Does being confident in the love of Christ for us really cause us to be beautiful?
  • Where does that confidence and strength come from?

Why It Matters

When a woman is truly loved and she knows it, she carries herself with a confidence that speaks louder than her physical features or her clothes. There is nothing wrong with the desire to be seen as lovely. However, thinking that our outward loveliness is in direct correlation to our worth proves to undermine the very value God has for us. There is something wrong when we accept a definition of beauty that contradicts what is true and destroys the confidence that we can have in God’s love. Again, we fall into a trap of listening to the lies that the world tells us, trying to compete in a system that leaves us frustrated and inevitably on the losing end. God’s righteousness, that which we have received through the blood of Jesus Christ, is what makes us beautiful and worthy to be clothed in fine linen and jewels. Collectively, we are the bride of Christ as members of the church. When we trust God, we have nothing to fear for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

My Story

In Stasi Eldredge’s, Your Captivating Heart, she discusses a woman’s beauty. Beginning on page 39, she writes, “God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both. Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is. Like God, beauty is her essence.”   She compares how it feels to be caught in loud, smelly city traffic and to be in a quiet, beautiful place like a garden. “Amid beauty, there is room for your soul.” She describes how beauty brings in peace. “That is what beauty says: All will be well.”

When life gets chaotic, uncertain, and mean, we have the Prince of Peace in our hearts. We know God loves us. We are confident that He is trustworthy. Bad things are going to happen, but we are not lost. Hard things will come our way. It is especially at these times that we can call on our Heavenly Father to provide us with a way, with hope, and to help us through them. This peace and assurance is beautiful. We can stand up straight and face the day with strength.

I came to this section thinking mostly of the strength and confidence part. I am not considered traditionally, physically beautiful. There are days I don’t feel too unattractive, and other days I would rather not be seen. By God’s design, I found someone who finds me beautiful and appreciates me for who I am. God has shown me over the years, that a beautiful woman is one who trusts Him. The strength of His love for me gives me the confidence I need to face all of life’s uncertainties. He causes me to be able to handle the trials of the unknown with grace. Anytime anxiety comes over me, even if it takes me a while to recognize it, I know I can go to Him to find peace. This joy, this level of confidence, this certainty that He hears me, knows me, loves me, and wants to spend time with me helps me find the grace I need. By His grace, I am made righteous, meaning one day, I will be adorned in fine linen as a member of the church. The knowledge and belief that His love – for me – endures forever gives me peace, confidence, strength and beauty.

I didn’t always have that assurance. At least I didn’t recognize it. (The world’s standard is in direct opposition to the firm foundation we find in Jesus Christ.) Our appearance is one of the frontlines for this battle. He patiently helped me work through the lies that kept me from being able to receive His love. Sometimes, I still get lost in the turmoil of relationships and life. There is so much more to learn. I look forward to the day when I will be able to fully comprehend His love for me without sin and the confusion of this world getting in the way. I long for you to have the unshakeable knowledge of God’s love for you, too.

The Big Question

  • Can you see how being confident in God’s love for you brings you grace and honor?
  • Does it make you feel beautiful?
  • Knowing you are a beloved Daughter of God, does that change the perception you have of yourself when you look in the mirror?
  • What can you do to make yourself more available to hearing and recognizing God’s love for you? Watch for it, He’s reaching out to you every day. Listen. He’s singing a song over you.

Dig A Little Deeper (HCSB)

  • Proverbs 11:16 A gracious woman gains honor,
but violent men gain only riches.
  • 2 Samuel 1:24 – Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with luxurious things, who decked your garments with gold ornaments.
  • Zechariah 9:16 – 17 The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people; for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land. How lovely and beautiful they will be? Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the young women.
  • Revelation 19: 7 – 8 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.
  • Matthew 6: 28 – 34 “And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you – you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But see first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  • Ephesians 6: 13-17 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waits, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 Yahweh your God is among you, 
a warrior who saves.
 He will rejoice over you with gladness.
 He will bring you quietness with His love.
 He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”
  • Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Your Captivating Heart, Pages 37 – 43, Stasi Eldredge


Here I am, several years older and a little bit wiser from when I first wrote this post. Many things have changed, and I am experiencing the truth in the fading of youthful beauty. I’m okay with that. It doesn’t mean I’m not coloring my hair or using certain moisturizers designed to slow down the forming of wrinkles. I’m going to make the most of the resources at my disposal. But, I’m also learning how to place my trust in God daily, and I find my confidence is increasing even when, and especially when, things seem to be out of control.

Earlier, I wrote a blog post, What is Beautiful? I think that message corresponds well with this one. It speaks more of how God works through our brokenness.

Who is beholding you?

Whose beloved are you?

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Strong and Confident!

Help My Unbelief

I promise to be honest with you every time I post. I confess I haven’t always fully believed and trusted God, the Bible, and the love of Jesus. The good news is, God is patient, God is faithful, and He has redeemed me. In fact, the process of redemption is still ongoing. Although I don’t understand everything right now, I DO trust He is revealing to me His goodness in His time.

I just finished Wait and See by Wendy Pope. In the past several months, one word has popped up again and again – cooperation. Wendy puts it in the last sentence of the last chapter. “Breathe deeply and ask the Lord to help cooperate with the work of His Word and the Holy Spirit so you can become more like Him.” (page 251)

And that is what I am doing. I used to think cooperating with God was about being good and obedient. While it’s important to live right, it isn’t the key. When I was young, I tried following the rules. I was kind, loved others, obeyed my parents, and didn’t curse; all the things it means to be a “good” Christian. My life’s circumstances seemed to contradict the good things I expected from living a life that was pleasing to God.  I didn’t trust God because of and with the pain I experienced.  I put up a shield to protect my vulnerable places from others, including God.  Unfortunately, I wound up with a bitter and cold heart.

After God renewed my faith, one of the challenges I faced was believing God had a purpose and a plan for me. The promises about His knowing me from before I was born, and His completing a good work in me seemed farfetched. The chaos of frequent moves and instability seemed to have no relevance to a plan at all.  I felt small and overlooked.

Several years ago, I came across a video about the Star of Bethlehem. I have often wondered about the many references to stars in the Bible, and how people could see constellations, or use them for planning purposes. There are so many stars, and they seem so arbitrarily situated! But in the documentary, I learned how the stars’ movements in the sky match what is recorded in the Gospels. Since we know how long it takes light to travel through space, it shows the purposeful and exacting placement of those stars when God first put them in the heavens. It caused me to reevaluate the apparent randomness of my life. I realized I needed to trust God more.

I have since seen walls torn down in my mind and heart. God is gently and patiently building a stronger faith in me as I spend more time with Him and allowing Him more access to my inner most being. Wendy writes, “Conquering selfish thoughts and behavior initiates a domino effect, and cooperating with God’s work in our life starts with getting personal with Him.” (page 84) A skeptical and compartmentalized mind won’t allow me to develop the intimate relationship I need to trust God completely. He is helping me overcome my unbelief. He is faithful. I know He will do the same with you.

To find out more about Wendy Pope and her book, click on  Wait and See,  or go to:  http://wendypope.org/book/

 

Star of Bethlehem Video: