True Thanksgiving, True Joy

The one day we designate for Thanksgiving each year is soon upon us and of course that means we can just go thankless the other 364 days of the year. I am just kidding but seriously there is something to be said for continuing the tradition of thankfulness all throughout the year.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -Ephesians 5:20

It’s a nice thought to say,” let’s be thankful all the year”, but I truly mean it. When sorrow waits at your gates or lives in your home we can combat it by remembering the sweet grace and mercy given to us as we count our blessings ,count it all joy. I wrote that post that I just linked before a very recent sorrow and it still rings true before, during and after. As always I am preaching to myself. When complaining flows from ours mouths like dark water meaning our hearts are sick and broken, true thanksgiving can battle broken hearts, because the source is of joy is immense and forever.

The reason I believe that true thankfulness can battle brokenness and darkness is because it comes from a place of that knows there is nothing that I deserve, you deserve and yet we can have so much despite that. This may be a theological difference of opinion for readers and I but I see ring true in my life and I see it ring true in scripture, so it is not purely anecdotal. Thankfulness, not for things, not for possessions, but for His hand moving in our lives. Yes, we can give thanks for the physical things too but they are temporal and their time is soon coming to a close, there are eternal things, made out of nothing things, made with an astonishing power.  Ann Voskamp says:

And when yet another harvest globe rolls off top, off back of the wagon, and I bend for the stem, for the blessing overflowing, I know but this.

Thanks is never for the things. Thanks is for His touch.

That gifts have no significance in and of themselves. Gifts only have meaning in that they trace the outline of God’s heart.

Ann Voskamp aways has refreshing view on looking at life as a gift:

To thank God in all is to bend the knee in allegiance to God Who alone knows all.

To thank God in all is to give God glory in all. Is this not our chief end?

When I only give thanks for some things, aren’t I likely to miss giving God glory in mostthings?

Murmuring thanks isn’t to deny that an event isn’t a tragedy and neither does it deny that there’s a cracking fissure straight across the heart.

Giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.

Our thanks to God is our witness to the goodness of God when Satan and all the world would sneer at us to recant.

I lay my hand on the rain-filmed windowpane and I see clearer. But this is not easy: That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

The grey sky’s drumming steady on the truck’s tin roof.

I wish my words recently could be as poetic because I am at a word loss these days. I struggle to articulate what’s going on deeply but I know that whatever God is doing in this season is changing me for more joy, for more thankfulness. Not a once-a-year, lip service, thankfulness but a thankfulness that stems from true joy planted in the heart of the believer.

 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;

to one who orders his way rightly

I will show the salvation of God!” -Psalm 50:23

Life is not a “things” race yet we as broken humans want to make is so. The most joyful people in life have the simplest of pleasures and I wonder if sometimes we are too over stimulated, over coddled, over praised to know what those simple joys pleasures look like, we don’t recognize them anymore.

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake.
If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon]

Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, always seems to say the words I need to hear. I want to, from a genuine heart, take joy in all I have been given and to be satisfied in him. Let us look to the Lord and say “I am satisfied in You’. My heart like the deer that pants, pants for and thanks God for the many blessings that sustain us.

One look at our social media streams speak a much different picture and I can say I have participated in the loud protestations, be it on Facebook or in real life, that do not make way for joy and satisfaction. We feel our complaints are important at the moment and then they seem fleeting in the passing of time. As we learn to take joy and be satisfied in Christ and know life is what pours from our lips instead of complaining, comparing, jealousy, anger, we can remember there is a comfort that comes from Him.

One of my favorite songs is below, I listen to this song in my lowest lows and even in my best of times to remember what he is delivering me through. Listen to it, I’ve shared it many times before, but listen to the words:

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is you

Listen to it and from a heart of true thanksgiving remember it every day of your life. True Thanksgiving, True Joy.

 

 

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

I have been absent for awhile, absent although not absent in thought. The words have failed me. I couldn’t speak because I didn’t know how. You see this is a post about loss, specifically my recent loss, our recent loss, something so deep and painful for me that it would be easiest to lose the words forever and shut them up in my heart letting them wilt into nothingness, That is even more painful though, and pain is powerful but can be redeemed. But this is not really only a post about loss it is much more a post about Joy, Rejoicing. I will explain later.

Before I go any further please stop reading now if you will be uncomfortable with how real I am about to get with my account. I feel I cannot better explain except for truthfully and plainly. This is all part of my healing process as God pours grace and mercy on me. Additionally this is my pain, yours may be much greater in the scales of things that hurt, so know there is no comparison and I am not saying I understand all pain, nor do I even understand mine. This is just a story.

I am no good with dates, so some of these that I am throwing out are arbitrary. A few months ago as I started to feel the familiar queasiness and exhaustion I had a feeling that there was something happening, that familiar something that had happened twice before. We checked and positive was the answer. Mixed emotions of joy and worry ensued. Joy because a child is always a joyful occasion and worry because the “What are we going to do?”s start. We we’re happy, as happy as a couple could be as we started dreaming and planning. We we’re keeping it a secret for most until the time we felt was appropriate, it was still really early and we felt it was best. We still talked and dreamt about this little one forming and growing and starting making plans as we anticipated.

I was less than a week out from my first OB appointment because we could not calculate the date of conception correctly. I hadn’t even seen a doctor yet when scary things started happening. Over the weekend I started feeling very off, I felt off before any signs there was anything wrong happened. The feeling started on a Friday and mild spotting followed. Because spotting could be normal I tried to remind myself of this and just rest my mind. What started mild became much worse and alarming, enough to require an Emergency Room visit on Monday of the next week. There was nothing they could say, everything looked fine but my body said different. They told me it was “o.k.”. The ultrasound said I was still pregnant, they said I was fine but to go home and rest. They tried to assure me. I don’t know if it was that I knew different or that I couldn’t trust them in that situation, but I knew it felt like empty assurances. The next day I knew for certain, I cried and prayed for the bleeding to stop, for everything to go back to normal, rewind the last few days. It didn’t. I miscarried on Tuesday Morning. It was the worst and most painful experience and there is no point in sharing the minute details but know it was tramautic, emotionally and physically.

Not because I am super spiritual but there hangs a picture on our bathroom wall of a woman robed in white clinging to a rock amongst a lapping torrent of waves. The only thing I could think of was to stare at it and out of a need for comfort I started to sing Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee. I needed that rock for comfort in my time of need and sorrow.

So, on Tuesday Morning I knew and the Doctor confirmed it on Wednesday Morning. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, it still feels a little that way. The Doctor was telling me that it wasn’t my fault and there are the statistics and the good news was that it probably won’t happen again and I was screaming on the inside not knowing if I should sit and listen or run away and I was just trying to make it through the appointment, praying silently, without passing out.

Emotions are like a wave now, sometimes it hits me so hard I feel like I’ve been kneed in the chest and other times it’s a smaller ebb of pain intermingled with this growing peace. I prayed for peace and am still praying for peace, it comes, if you ask. It may take time for you to ask. It may take pain ebbs lessening, perhaps anger too, to learn to rejoice in the suffering and in your sorrow, but I am learning so much about the sweetness of God in even my sorrow. I need the reminders to myself.

Charles Spurgeon said “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” and isn’t that such a beautiful quote. I hold that quote very close to my heart because I feel a lifetime of dissapointment with people, with the world and as I struggle with depression and recent events I need that rock. This is not a post about a miscarriage or loss really or definitely not a request for pity. This a post about learning to kiss the waves, those hideous waves.  This is an encouragement. It is about being sorrowful, yes, sorrow is appropriate and needed for healing but in that sorrow there is a source for that can bring joy and rejoicing despite it. I am preaching this to myself.

That title Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing did not come from my own head, it comes from 2 Corinthians 6:10:

 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This foreign notion that I could have sorrow and rejoice as well is not of the World. It is an otherworldly notion. It is a mark of a believer, joy.

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven”

I have had to ask myself very recently, am I joyful person? I may look joyful on the surface, but am I truly joyful? The answer most times has been “No”. Truthfully, my human nature is one of a bitter, jealous and angry person. I am in need of that joy, desperately. Jesus is transforming me daily and I want to grasp and cling to that joy as slowly or as quickly, I pray, as it comes for me.

I am definitely not telling you to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, to just feel better, or that it’ll all work out or whatever bad advice you have been given. Well meaning people give a lot of bad advice. This is a hurting person saying that there is a source that can heal all wounds. There is a reason to rejoice in our suffering, believers.

There is a line in Rock of Ages that goes:

Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.

It may feel like tears will forever flow and I can’t tell you they won’t but we can learn from Christ and others that have gone before us to rejoice through our sorrow that there is nothing that this world can offer to heal my broken heart, to heal yours but there is one we can hide ourselves in, the Rock is cleaved for me, for you, for all that would plead for it. Thank God.

I am not trying to make anyone uncomfortable with this post but the fact of the matter that through this very personal suffering some things have become very clear to me about my personal faith and I can only respond to God’s grace with boldness. I can only want for you joy.  If you do not know the comfort of Christ in your situation and have long suffered or would like to know God, I want to pray with you, for you. Let us run to the throne and rejoice, the wonderful, frightfully beautiful throne of the Rock of Ages.

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I am sharing the artwork I made for this post. I hope it can be a comfort, as well as this song by Liz Vice that has brought me much comfort recently. Also if you like big words like Christian Hedonism you can read more about Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing from people that know much more than I: The Ethos of Christian Hedonism; Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing-John Piper

SYAR print 4×6

SYAR print 8×10

Also, I hope you like the new look to the site, I worked on it to make it more clean, readable and fit my aesthetic. Hope you enjoy.

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Christmas Trees Can Wait

It’s four in the morning. I can’t sleep. I have been up since 2 am and have been sitting in a tub of tepid water all the while, pruning while I think. Of all the nights when I needed sleep, this is the one. A week of cooking, Thanksgiving-ing and Nutcracker practices and performances for the tiniest tin soldier have me feeling gnawed at. I am thankful though.

We avoid the Black Friday shopping crowd, in fact I hate the whole occasion. We went to some thrift stores instead and our thrift haul was sweet. We found Kenny a new-old Wool Blazer to replace the one I decided to put in the dryer. Tired Mom strikes again. We found a cute fall skirt for Emma for 1.00. Also, we found a beautiful wooden train set for Alice for Christmas for 5.00. Kenny found some Santa mugs for pennies, He’s been collecting them every Christmas from thrift stores and shops. I was able to get some new ornaments for our tree Saturday as well, I can’t wait to add them to our humble collection. I am so thankful.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were packed with performances but I managed to stop at the Book Tavern for Small Business Saturday and get 90% of our Christmas shopping done there. I am very thankful for places like the Book Tavern and our friends that own this gorgeous place.

After promising my daughter we’d go Christmas tree shopping Sunday after her last performance and realizing on the way to the Christmas Tree Farm that with bills coming and a need for groceries we were going to have to wait, I couldn’t help letting the stress of week hit me with a guilt flood and cry until I realized Christmas Trees can wait. They aren’t the most important things about this season anyway. Advent is primary, time spent with Family is also so important to us. We, instead of Christmas tree shopping, took a detour to my Parents’ home and had leftovers to suffice for the night. In the busy-ness race, I’ll happily come in last and not worry if our Christmas is Pinterest-worthy or not. There is provision for today and Christmas Trees can wait. I am truly thankful.

Thanksgiving is over but let’s not stop showing Gratitude and giving Thanks throughout the seasons. God is good and there is enough for today and Christmas Trees can wait. When I forget and get discouraged hopefully I can remember Psalm 37 and wait patiently on Him with Joy.

Deep Distress and Joy

 

I don’t believe that heart ache and joy come independent of one another, at least in my life. Some of the biggest joy times are intermingled with things that hurt and break our hearts. I so wish it wasn’t the case at times but I see the beauty in the darkness while it blends and becomes light. That is why I am not afraid to talk about what I wrestle with and what I see in that struggle.  I believe in transparency, I believe in showing our true selves over the facsimiles of perfect people we so easily pass ourselves off as in the arena of watching eyes. If that is too much for some, I do not apologize. I am imperfect and I don’t feign what I can never be in my own right, so I lift the veil that hides my bare face in hopes to see….

This year has been the one; the one where I cried the most, I felt the most, I called out the most, and felt like the vice of brokenness harm me the most. It seems (I know) as though God is teaching me through this and even though I don’t know the message on the other side of this yet, I am hopeful in the hurting. There is so much grace in the joys that we receive in the dark times, when we feel the furthest from any and everyone. We bought a house this year, thank God, and we are expecting another child, a blessing. All things that sprung forth in hurting and broken times, are beautiful. Some are easier to notice like a house and a baby, some will take some time for us to recognize. All things working together for good, and His good is beauty unending, a story in trans media. He tells it and it is beautiful, we listen and wait for the next chapter anticipating the next and the next. We know that He protects us and shows his grace and love when we feel we are at the end of what we can handle. We know it, it doesn’t make the hurting less hard but it gives hope to know I am not alone, we are not alone, He is with us, He has been with us and will be at the end and forever after that.

I have struggled with Clinical Depression for over a decade, sometimes it has gotten so deep that I truly felt I could not survive another day. Other times, it has been a soft, sad lapping over me that brings me down with its ebb a little, a little, a little at a time. Only those that have dealt with the horrors of the darkest points of depression can truly know what it feels like. The suffocating grip and soul wrenching, you can’t breathe, can’t see, can’t believe, and feel you can’t endure, all the while, putting on the joyful face of someone else’s happiness. Those that know will try and help with well meaning words, so be thankful for those that pray and grieve for you. I don’t know why some of us fight this conflict in mind and heart, but we do.  If there is one thing I know for certain is that deep despair will never defeat me, even if I woke this morning crying for the loss felt of once present people in my life or the nights I cry over the circumstances that feel like the world, there is still victory because this is just the middle of the story working it’s through all of my being, the silver strings that connect this present, to that past, to what we all feel in our broken bodies is coming.

This Poem by Isaac Watts speaks to me :

Psalm 130:2 [From Deep Distress And Troubled Thoughts]

From deep distress and troubled thoughts,
To thee, my God, I rais’d my cries;
If thou severely mark our faults,
No flesh can stand before thine eyes.

But thou hast built thy throne of grace,
Free to dispense thy pardons there,
That sinners may approach thy face,
And hope and love, as well as fear.

As the benighted pilgrims wait,
And long, and wish for breaking day,
So waits my soul before thy gate;
When will my God his face display?

My trust is fix’d upon thy word,
Nor shall I trust thy word in vain:
Let mourning souls address the Lord,
And find relief from all their pain.

Great is his love, and large his grace,
Thro’ the redemption of his Son:
He turns our feet from sinful ways,
And pardons what our hands have done.

The life change wave laps all at once

“Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1
Life has bit a bit overwhelming lately, in both the good and the bad, kinda crazy, a lot awesome. There are so many things happening to us right now as a family and we are just trying to embrace every moment as it comes, regardless of the circumstance. He is teaching through these times, through the overwhelming seasons of joy and pain all mixed into one another like so many flavors of ice cream that melt together in the sun, creating a new and different flavor. I love melty ice cream. Thank God for what he is giving us.


A new baby, How blessed are we to bring a new life into the world? I pray that God will refine us to become vastly better than the flawed Parents we are now, in preparation for this little one and for the life of the one we have been loving for the past five years.

this silly one

I am 13 weeks pregnant at this date in time and have made it through a grueling first trimester. Praying for the second trimester burst of energy, I remember from last time. God knows I need it to handle some of the things coming up, like…

A new house; we are purchasing our first home, they accepted out offer this past week and we are signing papers and getting keys at the end of this week, it feels surreal. It feels like we are finally growing up, perhaps only a tiny bit, but we’ll take it. I am praying for this house to be a home that honors God first and foremost, a place of a pouring out of love, friends and family, laughter, joy and authenticity.

This is the picture from the real estate site, I will get better ones once we move in.

So thankful for God providing this for us. I am not going to lie, knowing that I was pregnant for the past 12 weeks and not knowing if we would have a place to move into before the baby came that would provide some breathing room for us, was very stressful. We are so thankful for not only a place to live for the next season of our lives, but a place to grow and love others in. We are also praying for Harrisburg, the neighborhood we are moving to, that God will allow us to love those there. If you do not live in Augusta, you may not be familiar with this area, Harrisburg is an urban neighborhood in our city that has a lot of people that need love. We pray we can just simply do that. Also living in the same neighborhood with our dear friends the Duke’s, is a plus, and we have several friends just blocks away from us. Love that they sent us this cute photo of them in front of our very soon future home. Isn’t Jessie and Nick precious? I am so thankful for Jessie’s friendship and am happy we will be so close.


So all in all these are some of the things that are going on, as well as Kenny looking for a second job to help lighten our financial burdens and searching for a new church home. We are in the process of visiting a church we really like and are praying that this will be a good place for our family. You can join with us in prayer about all these things above, let me know how I can pray for you. I want to join in prayer with you. We relish the prayers of friends and loved ones.