How I Found Joy In A Fortune Cookie

 

Have you ever found yourself struggling with something that used to come easy to you?

I seem to have fallen into a season where it is more difficult for me to find joy every day.  Those who know me well may find this puzzling for me to say right now. So, I must clarify. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. I choose happiness every day. Or I try to. I choose not to be negative and contentment has always come easy.  But happiness is circumstantial. Happiness is temporary.

Joy is Spirit filled and rooted deep in the vine of Jesus Christ. Joy remains regardless of circumstances. Traumatic accidents are not a happy occasion, but we can still find joy among the ashes.

Back in January, I chose a word for 2017. Actually, I truly believe the word was given to me by a God who knew what was coming for me and my family this year. Trauma and uncertainty.

The word is ‘trust.’

And let me just tell you I have been doing a real good job reading about trust.  I’ve memorized a few Bible verses and read them every morning like a good Christian should. I’ve even got a book sitting next to me even now, “Trusting God” by Jeff Bridges. I am the poster child for going at this with passion.

Perfect, check the box passion.

If you’ve been following my blog at all you know that God tends to bonk me on my hard head when I least expect it. If you ask me, that’s how I know it’s God. I find Him most often in the un-ordinary. He’s not a God of routine, that guy. And I was out of mine this morning.

I try to start each of my days with prayer and Bible reading. I use the same devotionals and right now I am clinging to the same Bible verses on trust. I go about my day with happiness and try to count it all joy.

Well, this morning was a little different. I was meeting a friend for breakfast and I didn’t have time to do my usual routine. I arrived a few moments early, so I decided to dig out my Bible app on my phone and check my quiet time box.

Y’all.

Why do they call it quiet time when God seems to be so loud and clear?

I found a reading plan that I had started back in March and abandoned. I don’t know why I abandoned it. I only read the first day. But March was the month my husband suffered a traumatic injury and I’ll be honest, my spiritual needs changed dramatically at that point. You know, it was a great time to flash the word ‘trust’ around.

So, today I read day two.  I’ll leave the verses right here for you:

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

“Lord, God why do I not have that joy anymore?” I asked aloud in my empty car. “Why am I not like this man who knows about you and sells everything he has just to be with you?”

“Because you still don’t trust Me.”

My head fell back against the head rest as the truth pierced through to my heart.

He’s right. I don’t. I haven’t.

There’s no guarantee my husband’s arm will heal. There’s no guarantee he will be able to return to his manual labor job. And then what?

I say the words that I ‘trust’ God to heal him. I read the verses and grasp for that joy, but I haven’t really trusted him.

I just got a job I’ve been praying about for years. There’s no doubt in my rational mind that God has prepared me and marked my way for this.

But what if He picked the wrong girl?  What if I screw up? What if I can’t do it like I thought I could?

All of those thoughts are a lack of trust.

I was so convicted. I’ve been faking it all this time. No wonder it’s so hard for me to find joy. I put my faith in myself and not the Love of My Life, Jesus. I’ll never be able to find joy when I rely on anything other than Him.

So later, at lunch, my husband and I had gone out for some Chinese food. And I am telling him about my revelation. I can’t help but shed some tears as I am telling him the story and how I’ve been placing my trust in the wrong hands. And because my husband and I are walking together on a rocky road right now, he could empathize very easily with me. We wiped our tears with sweet and sour sauce stained napkins and then reached for our fortune cookies.

God is everywhere. Even inside fortune cookies.

We couldn’t help but laugh out loud about that ‘God-wink’ right there in the restaurant.

A little taste of the joy surely to come.

 

 

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Dancing With Regret {A Guest Post}

If I had to describe how I feel about Tracie Collier in one word, it would be “thankful.” She’s a safe place, a best friend and a Godly voice of reason on many days. And today she has come over to visit from her own blog, Shades of Mercy and Grace. I’m so thankful that God gave her to me, a ministry partner and a partner in crime.

Check out what she’s got in store for you today, and then head on over to her blog and check out just how amazing she is!

 

“Don’t blink,” they say.

I remember hearing that when he was a brand new baby and I found it super annoying.

Blink?!  Seriously?!  How about SLEEP? I would have enjoyed one LONG 5-hour blink.

There is no tired in the whole world like “New Baby in the House” tired, right?  It seemed to me that the exhausting newborn stage was going to last FOR-E-VER.  I wasn’t sure I was going to survive it.

I know when folks say “Don’t blink,” it’s meant with good intentions.  “Don’t blink” means “you’ll be amazed how fast the time is going to go, so you better keep your eyes open so you won’t miss anything!”  They were right.  It did go fast.  So stinking fast.  I don’t know who coined the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short,” but they’re right.

Back when I flipped the calendar over to May, I found myself face-to-face with a date that seemed so far away not so long ago…graduation.  He’ll graduate from High School this month.  For the life of me, I don’t know how that happened.

While I find myself feeling a mixture of sad and sentimental that this chapter of our lives is almost over, I’m very excited, too.  I’m excited for everything he’ll experience and for the “new beginning” college will be for him.  I’m excited about the friends he’ll make and the lessons he’ll learn.  I’m excited about how God is going to use this next chapter to mold him into the man He intends for him to be.

But in the midst of all of the nostalgia and excitement, I find myself dancing around with an old, familiar partner:  Regret.

Regret and I have danced a few times before.  I know this partner well.

Regret is a stupid jerk-face that likes to show up, usually in the quiet of the nighttime, and yell in my ear that “everything is ruined” and “nothing good has happened.”  In my experience, regret is loud and bossy and rude.  Regret wants me to spend my time constantly looking behind me, reliving poor decisions and actions.  When it comes to this particular season of motherhood, regret really wants me to wallow in the times I have failed as a mom.  Believe me, there are plenty of instances for regret to bring to mind.

In this dance, I find myself feeling regret over the things I didn’t do, didn’t say, or said too loudly.  I feel regret for decisions made, consequences that were unrealistic, and opportunities missed.  Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.  I can always see what I “should have done” so clearly once the opportunity to do so has passed.  Tell me that happens to you, too?

See, if I dance with regret long enough, I get dizzy and disoriented and forget which way is up.  And that’s just what regret is hoping for! Regret wants to teach me a history lesson, but not a whole one. A history lesson that only includes the bad parts (the mistakes), but doesn’t include the good (the forgiveness), is really not a complete lesson.  Teachers who don’t tell the whole truth should be fired, shouldn’t they?

What is regret’s motivation?

I think it’s simple.

Regret lives to steal joy.

And what is the remedy for regret?

That’s simple, too.

Truth.  Specifically, God’s Truth.

See, nothing shuts down regret faster than Truth.

Regret says, “You could have been a better mother to him.”

Truth says, “I was chosen by God to be his mother.  I’m a human.  God’s been aware of that all along.  He knew I’d need forgiveness and has granted it through His Son.”

Regret says, “Your son is only going to remember the times you failed/yelled/were distracted.”

Truth says, “He’s also going to remember the times I asked for forgiveness, showed up when it was hard, and helped him succeed in crazy, wonderful ways.”

Regret says, “This chapter is over.  Look at how you failed.”

Truth says, “Yes, this chapter is over, but a new one is beginning.  God will be just as much in the new chapter as He was in the old one.  In God’s economy, even our failures can be used for His glory.”

Regret wants me to forget the truth and to only see my life through a lens of loss.

God’s Truth just isn’t having any of that!

No, God’s Truth redeems and makes things whole again.  His Truth calms storms and heals the sick.  His Truth even takes the ordinary, everyday mistakes of a mom in Alabama and uses them to teach and mold a boy into the image of His Son.  Go figure. God does amazing things. Held up against that kind of power, regret doesn’t stand a chance!

When regret invites you out onto the dance floor, you have a choice whether or not you’ll go.  You can tell regret to take a hike.  Truth is what shows it back to its seat.

And if you find yourself out on the dance floor wishing you hadn’t agreed to dance in the first place, remember that you don’t have to let regret take the lead.  Regret is pushy, but ridiculously weak.  At their core, bullies usually are, you know.  You can totally overtake it with truth.  In no time at all, you’ll see regret sulk away.  Bless its heart…it tries so hard.

So, whatever season of life you find yourself in, remember that God’s Truth covers every situation you face!

And regret?

Well, you really don’t have much time for that, do you?

You’ve got too much of a life to live!  You’ve got people to love!  It’s way more fun to dance with them, anyway.

To read more from Tracie visit her blog at www.shadesofmercyandgrace.com

 

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Clear and Present Danger {A Backyard Lesson}

“Look, mom!  There’s a hawk sitting on our back fence!”

I stopped what I was doing in the kitchen to join my eldest daughter, Abby, who was peering out the back door window.

“Isn’t he pretty?” she said in awe.

Sure enough, in the dusk of the day, there sat the enormous bird. It was so still I wondered for a second if it was real.

“Ooh! And look!” My daughter’s excitement grew. “There’s a little bunny right there on the ground next to him!  Isn’t it so cute? Just look at them!”

The sweetest little rabbit was nestled in a the grass nibbling away like Thumper in a patch of clover.

‘This could get interesting,’ I thought to myself.

“Just look at them! They are becoming friends! Look, they are talking to each other!”

My daughter. The perpetual Disney Princess with the voice to match. It was as though she expected them to start singing and sewing her a dress to wear to the ball.

My youngest daughter, Lucy, strolled in from the laundry room. She had been doing her laundry and had a fist full of dollar bills. No doubt her sister had once again left her change in her jeans pocket from the day before. The show going on in our backyard distracted Lucy from the inevitable squabble she was about to start over who gets to keep the money. Stroking her newfound fortune, she too began to peer out the window.

“What are you looking at?” she inquired, dramatically displaying the wad of cash as if it could pull us away from our own personal episode of “Wild Kingdom” unfolding in front of us.

My eldest, still wearing her rose colored glasses responded, “A hawk. And a bunny. They are talking to each other!”

“Uh, honey I don’t think they’re ‘talking’ so much as they are negotiating dinner plans,” I said.

“What?! No!” She was appalled that I would suggest any sort of malice. “They are becoming friends!  Just look how cute they are!”

“I don’t think so, babe. Pretty sure that little bunny is in trouble.”

As soon as I said that, the hawk jumped from its perch on our fence, opened its talons and swooped down to snatch up the poor defenseless rabbit. Lucy was horrified. She panicked and screamed throwing dollar bills in all directions. She ran to her room, slammed the door and hid under her covers. Abby just stood there in the window feeling betrayed and speechless. Her mouth wide open, dumbfounded.

I’m a horrible person. I couldn’t stop laughing at the whole spectacle. I saw it coming. I tried to tell them both. And, as usual, my children didn’t listen.

As I began to pick up the dollar bills that had been abandoned on the floor by my horrified child, I got a little nudge from the Holy Spirit.

Our enemy is a lot like that hawk. He disguises himself as sheer beauty sometimes. Magnificent even. He can seem silent and nonthreatening to those who are not aware of his danger.

We are a lot like the rabbit (or my children). Clueless to the predator watching our every move just waiting for the perfect moment to snatch us up and devour us.

As much as I admire my children’s naivety and want them to maintain their innocence for as long  as possible, it’s my job to warn them of the dangers of the enemy. If you keep up with the news at all I don’t have to paint any pictures for you of the terror out there.  But, that’s not what I’m most worried about.

I worry the most about a predator disguised as a sweet teenage boy willing to manipulate and swoon my daughter’s into doing things they don’t want to do and scarring them for life.

I worry about the enemy using friends they think they can trust with their most precious dreams and secrets only to have them plastered all over the school. Betrayal.

I worry about the fun of social media turning into a horrible viral nightmare.

The temptations to cheat. Temptations to steal. One bad decision that can lead to a lifetime of regret.

I could have my children watch the news and warn them about terrorists, military actions and criminals. But I think it’s easier to shield them from the world than it is from the predators in their own backyard.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil  prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

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