Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fail under pressure

Proverbs 24:10 says that "If [I] fail under pressure, [my] strength is too small" (NLT).  The King James version says that "If [I] faint in the day of adversity, [my] strength is small" (emphasis mine).   The Message translation says it this way:  "If [I] fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn't much to [me] in the first place."  And the NIV translation words it, "If [I] falter in a time of trouble, how small is [my] strength!"

Confession time:  I have failed/fainted/fallen to pieces/faltered under pressure/in days of adversity/in a crisis/in times of trouble.  I fell to pieces just this past week when my vacation wasn't as perfect as I'd dreamed it would be.

It was miserable hot.  Everything cost more money than I was willing to pay.  We all wanted to do different things at different times.  It was miserable hot.  Where we went was nothing like what I expected it to be--it turned out to be nothing but a tourist trap, in spite of the fact that many people I know and love have visited the same place and LOVED it.  Personally, I didn't see at all what the fuss was about.  It was ok, but I don't feel that I would have missed out on much if I'd never been and I honestly don't care whether or not I ever go again.  (I probably will go again, but not because I want to go THERE, but because a conference I want to go to is there next year.)  And to make my failure complete, I fell even more to pieces when a family member's dog and I tried to occupy the same space and I was the one who had to move--and got hurt in the process.

Boy, oh boy did I ever fail, and faint, and fall to pieces, and falter.  Things prior to my vacation had been going so incredibly well.  I'll even go so far as to say that they were going "my way."  I was on a high and I was feeling the presence of God--of the Holy Spirit--such as I've never experienced in all of my 44 years.  I was feeling as if I was finally coming out of my deep depression and severe anxiety and that God truly did have me in the palm of His hand.  Hallelujah!

And then I go on vacation and things didn't go EXACTLY my way--the way I wanted to go or the way I expected, and I failed....I fainted....I fell to pieces....I faltered.  Lord, help me, I wish I could say that my faith/strength was so much stronger than it proved to be.

How exactly did I fail?  I complained the whole trip.  I tried not to.  I really did, but the fact of the matter is that I did.  It was too hot.  The drive is too long.  It was too hot.  I don't want to go there.  It was too hot.  Everything is too expensive.  It was too hot.  Dad won't let me drive.  It was too hot.  I don't want to eat there.  It was too hot.  I don't want to swim in the in-door pool.  It was too hot.  I don't want to get in the jacuzzi.  It was too hot.  I don't want to sleep there.  It was too hot.  (You get the idea.)

Worst of all, when the dog and I came to "fisticuffs" and I lost, I was angry--not that the dog had bitten me, but that I wasn't given the pity I felt I deserved after the "attack."  And I ended up not visiting with my family and spending quality time with everyone as a result.  I moped and pouted and told anyone who would listen at every opportunity I had how much it hurt--my bruises, that is.

My family loves this dog in the same way I love my son, yet I acted as if this dog was crap in a dung pond.  I had no more respect for her than I did for the fly I swatted dead that landed in front of me.

I wish I could say that when I leave home, my joy--my strong faith--goes with me.  But it is clear that the minute I get out of my routine, I fail.  Just as soon as I think I'm doing well, something comes along to show me that my faith is still very weak and I have a LONG way to go to become who and what God wants me to be--who and what I want to be in the Lord.

The bad news is that my faith is not as strong as I think it is...when I am home safe and sound and in my own daily, personal routine.  When my routine is interrupted, I fall to pieces and fail like the weakling I am.

The good news is that God is a God of grace and mercy.  The good news is that God loves me no
matter what.  The good news is that I can keep working on it.  I can keep growing and striving on a daily basis to grow stronger in the Lord--to grow my faith.  The Bible says that I only need faith the size of a mustered seed, so I know that staying strong under pressure is possible--through and in God.  I just can't give up.  I have to keep reading my Bible on a daily basis.  I have to keep doing devotions on a daily basis.  I have to keep showing my Gratitude to and for God in everything.  I have to keep Praising Him.  I have to keep worshiping Him.  I have to keep on keeping on.

Daily I must CHOOSE to trust in Him and to remember that when I am WEAK, He is STRONG.  I only fail--I am only a failure--if/when I give up and not longer trust in my Lord and Savior.  I will, no, I DO CHOOSE JOY.  I may have failed, fainted, fallen to pieces, but the best part is that my God makes all things new--He picks up the broken pieces and makes something BEAUTIFUL.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My Journey to Joy

Yuck.  When I was much younger--with my whole life ahead of me, all I saw were sunshine and roses.  My life was everything anyone could dream of having.  I had (still do) wonderful, amazing God-fearing parents who taught me more than I ever express.  I had (still do) and older brother with a bright future ahead of him--he was married, already had a gorgeous little girl, and was working towards becoming a chemist.  I had (still do) a younger sister who was everything I'd ever wanted in a sister and who brought light into everyone's life.  My grandparents were very much a part of my life and I loved and appreciated them very much.  In the summers, we spent more time with them than we did our parents and we loved it that way!  I was in college to become a teacher.  I had wanted to be a teacher even before I had started school--way back when I was three years old, I would play "School" in the family bathroom--for hours!  I had many friends.  I had a boyfriend who eventually became my fiance.  

Life was soooo good!  I had so much to look forward to.  My future was bright and I was excited about what God was going to do.

I was so young and so very naive.  I had NO idea that life was NOT all sunshine and roses and that just when I'd think I could at least have some sunshine with a few roses, something would happen to bring tremendous storms and to kill my roses even down to the roots.  (Read my previous blog posts for the trials I've suffered.)

If you had shown the image above to me way back then, I would have laughed and said, "Bring it on!"  I believed that I honestly, truly, and seriously handle any turn in the road life brought.  I was excited and READY for my Life Journey.  

Since then, of course, I have learned.  Oh, have I ever learned.  

One thing that continues to stay with me, though, as I am coming out of my cave is that for every single step of my journey, God in Jesus Christ Himself has been with me.  Sometimes He has walked beside me.  Sometimes He has carried me.  Sometimes we have simply sat together while He has held and comforted me.  Always, though.  A.L.W.A.Y.S. He has been with me.

What is even more amazing to realize is that while I am bruised, battered, and broken and feeling
beyond repair, all I'm supposed to do--all He expects me to do--is to be able to STAND.  He is fighting for me.  He is my Protector.  He is my Shield.  So many scriptures demonstrate the truth of the fact that God fights my battles for me.  All He asks me to do is to STAND--and be courageous!  (For right now, I'm not going to take the time to list all the scriptures with such a reference, but trust me.  If you don't, then please go ahead and look them up!  I hope you'll be wonderfully amazed and excited to see how very many times God has said that He fights for us!)  My whole job is to wear my armor--keep it on--and to STAND AND SEE WHAT HE IS DOING/HAS DONE for me!!!  

As I look back over my life's journey so far, I see so many places where He fought for me.  He did the best He could considering the battle He was fighting.  I have no idea what it is that I am still meant to do in this life, but I know that I am still here on this earth for a reason....that God still has SOMETHING for me to do to glorify Him.  Otherwise I would be dead now from the attacks of the enemy.  And let me tell you, the enemy has attacked.  He continues to try to attack me, but just as He has always done, Christ runs interference.  

Yes, some of the enemy's servants broke through and got to me while Christ was busy fighting elsewhere.  But He has never failed me in spite of those attacks.  I'm still here, right?!  I believe that just as I have wept and mourned my losses, He has wept and mourned with me--all while comforting me--and still fighting the attacks of the enemy.  
I am humbled as I realize what Christ has done for me.  Yes, He came to this earth as a baby to live and die (a horrible, horrific, horrendous death) because He loves me so very much.  And that means the world to me.  It is what originally drew me to Him and gave me the desire to accept Him into my life.  But what has kept me following Him with every fiber of my being is the knowledge that He loves me so very much that He has fought and He continues to fight the enemy--doing everything in His power to keep me Safe.  

His word says that He will NEVER leave me.....I am so incredibly thankful that so far, He never has.  I know that because He has been with me so far on this journey of mine that He will ALWAYS be with me.

For some reason or another, He loves me so much that He has chosen to anoint me with His oil of JOY more than on anyone else (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9).  So in spite of the twists, turns, side roads, getting lost, and so on as we have taken this journey of mine, God still wants me to find Joy in Him.  Because of what He as done for me, I find it impossible not to be full of the Joy of the Lord!  

My journey isn't even close to being finished.  I still have healing to do.  I know that God has more for me, especially for my ministry.  He has put dreams and desires in my heart.  I know He will bring them to pass.  I am simply trying to hang on and do my best to EnJOY the ride!

Learning to Fight back with Joy

Margaret Feinberg, Fight Back with Joy

As 2008 came to an end, I bought my new datebook on a whim--it was a beautiful, purple engraved leather-bound book with "Joy" beautifully embroidered on the cover.  Little did I know when I made that purchase that God was already working in me to pour out His oil of Joy on me more than anyone else.  (Psalm 45:7 & Hebrews 1:9)

Prior to that time, I had suffered a stillbirth and two miscarriages--both at approximately 11 weeks.  My marriage was crumbling and my health was going downhill faster than I realized...until at the end of 2009, I found myself in the hospital at death's door--truly.  I had to have emergency surgery to save my life where I was given an ostomy bag that I had to wear for the next three months.  Praise God, the doctor reversed the surgery at the end of those three months and removed 8 inches of my colon.  A few months later, I had another surgery because of severe bleeding.  This surgery truly brought any hopes of a future pregnancy to a screeching halt.

I did NOT handle these challenges with grace, dignity, or joy.  There was a lot of depression, severe anxiety, and, quite possibly worst of all, Rage.  

In the midst of all the health issues, I also had to deal with a boss at work who clearly had decided that it was time for me to leave.

My life was a mess, in complete shambles.  I was a broken, beaten, wounded warrior unable to stand any longer on my own. 

In the midst of this mess, God met me.  In spite of the darkness of my days (literally and figuratively), I continued reading everything I could get my hands on about Joy--most specifically, the Joy that comes from the Lord.  I have marked every single verse in every single Bible I own that uses Joy.  I have purchased and read one book after another on Joy.  I have done one Bible study after another on Joy.  

I clung to my study on Joy as if my life depended on it.  In so many ways that I will more than likely never know, it did.  God has used my study on Joy to bring me out of a deep, dark, black, lonely cave of depression, anxiety, fear, and Rage.  I am still on the path to full and complete Joy, but at least I am out of my cave and well on my way to complete healing!

As I read through Margaret Feinberg's book Fight Back with Joy, I
was amazed at how God has used Joy to help Margaret fight cancer while also using Joy to help me find Joy regardless of my circumstances.  I am excited to see that while our stories (especially our studies on Joy) have many similarities, God is using Margaret to demonstrate how we must Fight the trials and tribulations in our lives with Joy and how so often, it is a fight to live the fullness of God's Joy.  Just as we so often give God a sacrifice of Praise, it is the same with Joy--we must sacrifice our feelings to fight back with Joy.  It is that sacrifice that brings Joy into our lives even though we didn't feel Joy when we started!

I am so excited to have read Margaret's book and to meet her at next year's Women of Joy Conference.  One way or another, I WILL get there!

God is using JOY in a powerful way in the lives of many....How is He using Joy in Your Life???

Margaret also has a 6-session Bible study to go with the book:  FIGHT BACK WITH JOY

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