xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Fullness of Joy

Monday, August 15, 2016

Psalm 46 (ESV)

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear 
  though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah


Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Giver of Life

I am always amazed at how God perfectly orchestrates His will. Nothing takes Him by surprise, and He often makes sure nothing takes us by surprise either.

Just a few days before my miscarriage, I was reading the story of Hannah. God impressed on my heart the truth that all life belongs to Him. Our children are just a temporary gift--a loan. He can choose to take them back at any moment.

When my miscarriage started, I was in denial. It couldn't be happening. My husband convinced me to call the midwife. Even then, I wasn't sure. I couldn't be miscarrying. I had cramping and bleeding at 8 weeks with Quentin. This was the same, right?

But when the cramping became pain so bad I couldn't sleep or move, I knew.

When I hemorrhaged on the way home from church, I knew.

When my hormones went crazy and stayed that way for months, I knew.

It was hard to grieve. It was harder to cry. This tiny life I barely knew existed was gone without us ever meeting face-to-face. I never got to hear a heartbeat. I never got to feel the first flutters that turn into violent kicks. I wanted to grieve; I just didn't know how. It seemed as if God had let me go.

But He hadn't. He prepared me. He led me to the story of Hannah. He gave me a friend who had gone through this a couple of years before. He gave me Himself. He too knew the pain of being separated from a child.

He is the giver of life. That title grants Him the right to take it away, too. He did.

And, in His time, He gave us another life.

Sometimes when I watch Elena (5 months) laughing and playing, I wonder about the other baby. S/he would have been almost a year. Learning to walk. Starting to talk. Was I right? Was that baby a boy?

But if that baby had lived, Elena wouldn't be here. How do I wrap my mind around that? I want both of them, but one wouldn't be here without the other being gone.

God had a plan. He knows why. Maybe someday I will know, too. What I do know is He was faithful through the loss and provided healing through the gain.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Psalm 103:1-18

           of David.

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children's children,

18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Couch Makeover

I love my couch. I love the deep brown with the undertones of gold and red. I love the elegant, carved feet. I especially love the way it curves inward in the center. The one thing I didn't (note the past tense!) love was the sagging cushions.

The back cushions never had enough stuffing. They came starting to sag, and the problem was exacerbated over the last 5 years.

I finally had enough of this problem and bought 10 pounds of Fairfield 10-Pound Poly-Fil Premium Polyester Fiber. (It was probably more than I really  needed. 5 pounds should have done it.)

I unzipped the cushions and stuffed in the fill. 

Quentin had so much fun pulling out the stuffing and handing it to me. At least he didn't throw it all over the living room!

Here is the project halfway through.

It probably took me twenty-five minutes to stuff both cushions.

Isn't it stunning? It looks (and feels) like I have a brand new couch!

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Inside of the Cup

We finished a kitchen remodel recently. It looks gorgeous--new countertops, new sink, new floor, new trim, and a new coat of polish on the cabinets. Before, it was a narrow, dark hallway of a room with peeling linoleum, chipped, painted countertops, mismatched trim, and nasty appliances. What a transformation!

Underneath the polish, though, our kitchen hides a dirty secret. Mice.

I HATE MICE! Throughout the two years we managed in our dark, decrepit kitchen, we never had rodents. Now we have at least two (well, "had" might be more accurate--one died in the garbage can a couple of days ago) rodents pooping on our new floor and causing other rodent-type mischief.

Our kitchen looks beautiful, but I can't stand being in it right now. I am terrified at any moment I will see something scurry by out of the corner of my eye.

I was reminded how my kitchen parallels our lives. We dress up, pull ourselves together, and try to appear like we have it all under control. We may look clean and beautiful, but too often sin dirties up the hard-to-see spots under the polish. It is easy to get proud of our external appearance--to focus more on the outward than the inward.

But focusing on the outward only leads to a proud and judgmental attitude. We become proud of how good we look and start judging others who's outward appearance isn't as put-together.

One of my favorite Bible verse is I Samuel 16:7b: "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Samuel was a wonderful man of God, but he was judging the fitness of Jesse's sons to be king based on external appearances.

I like to look put-together. Most people do. But the inside matters far more than the outside. God cares more about the quality of my devotions than any demeanor I can fake for an hour or two. He cares far more about my thoughts and attitudes than any show I can put on. There is no faking it with Him. He sees the mice behind the cabinets.

Friday, August 22, 2014

When it is Hard to Live in Fullness of Joy

Some days it is hard to live in fullness of joy. It is a struggle just to get out of bed, to do the bare necessities of living. Forget about living with joy.

A year ago I was in lost in the middle of one of those times. If you've never struggled from postpartum depression, praise the Lord daily that you've been spared. Treasure every wonderful minute with your newborn child. Some of us never had that chance.

My son turned 1 last week. I'm finding myself spending a lot of time comparing last year with this year. What a difference! But it is not just getting more sleep--though that is a huge bonus--it is  the emotional difference.

This year my son and I are inseparable. We eat together, play together, read books together, garden together, and even play the piano together. He wants to snuggle and give me hugs. I want to kiss his chubby cheeks and tickle his tummy. He can't bear to go to the nursery at church. I can't bear to leave him with a baby sitter for the afternoon. A lot has changed.

Last year I lay on the hospital bed watching him sleep and wondering at the lack of emotions I felt. The love and wonder I felt during my pregnancy was gone. Here he was. He was perfect. I'd never seen a cuter baby. He was my son. But I felt nothing. My husband was experiencing the bliss of fatherhood, but where was the bliss of motherhood I'd read about? Maybe it was because I was so tired?

We came home from the hospital. Nothing changed. I had no desire to hold him. There was no bond. I felt he viewed me as a milk machine. I can't describe how I viewed him. I longed to love my son. To experience love as both an action and an emotion. Days turned into weeks.

I think it was fairly obvious that I was struggling. I've never been good at pretending everything is fine when it is not. I will thank the Lord every day of my life for using the sweet lady from church to set me on the path to freedom. I don't know if she realized what was going on or not. All I know is that she told me about the births of her three children and mentioned she didn't bond with one of them right away. When I heard those words, I realized I was not alone. God used those words to begin the healing process. My guilt began to be replaced with love.

Nothing was perfect over night. There were some hard months ahead of me. Postpartum depression is more than just a struggle to bond with your baby. There were many times when I felt I couldn't keep going. Times when life seemed too hard. Times when the depression seemed to be winning. I am so thankful God never gave up on me. I'm grateful my husband kept supporting me. And I am so amazed my son kept loving me. They supported me through the dark times and were waiting for me when I emerged on the other side.

My greatest encouragement during that time was reading David's psalms. Here was someone who was brutally honest about what he felt. Here was someone who was willing to admit to times of darkness and despair. David showed me that it is human to question God. His words, inspired words from God, taught me how to transition from despair to joy.

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth. . . .

I sought the Lord, and he answered me 
and delivered me from all my fears. . . .

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps 
around those who fear him, and
delivers them. . . . 

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry. . . . 

The Lord redeems the life of his servants; 
none of those who take refuge in him
will be condemned.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Choosing to Forgive

What is Biblical forgiveness?

If you asked me what I've been thinking about lately, that would be the answer. What is Biblical forgiveness? What is it not?

There have been a number of situations in my life that have caused me to ponder this question. Each situation was unique, but they all had one common factor--the perpetrator did not repent or seek forgiveness for what s/he did.

It is easy (relatively) to forgive someone when that person repents and asks for forgiveness. Compassion and love eventually win over the hurt. We want to believe the person will change. We feel compelled to try to forgive. We know it is what we must do.

But then the time comes when someone does something terrible and doesn't seek forgiveness. Maybe the person even is proud of what s/he did. What then?

The first thing I did was look at Jesus' example. While dying on the cross, He forgave a number of people. One person He forgave was the thief hanging next to Him. The thief demonstrated repentance and a desire to be forgiven. Christ promised him eternal life (Luke 23:40-43). From this I gleaned the truth that we are to forgive even before the perpetrator demonstrates a change of action. If a person asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive immediately.

But thief repented. . . .

Then I looked at Jesus' other act of forgiveness on the cross. Shortly before His death, He cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He forgave His killers even though they were unrepentant. What was I supposed to do with that? What did that forgiveness entail?

At first, I was bothered by that occurrence. But as I thought about what happened there, I was reminded of what one of my favorite Bible teachers at MBU told me: "Forgiveness is not letting the other person off the hook for what happened, but instead putting your desire for justice in God's hands and trusting Him to take care of what happened." When Christ forgave His killers, He wasn't asking God to let them all into heaven. He wasn't asking God to bless the rest of their lives. Aside from repenting and placing their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, none of them could ever get into heaven. He was simply recognizing that it is not our place to seek vengeance. He was asking God not to pursue a vendetta against them.

Forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook. It is about recognizing that bitterness hurts us more than the perpetrator. It is about letting go and turning my hurt and desire for justice over to God. It is about remembering that He forgave me; therefore I am called to forgive others likewise (Ephesians 4:32).

It is not about pretending nothing happened. It is not about tearing down all boundaries and throwing all caution to the wind. Rather it is about choosing not to be bound by the past so that I can move forward in the present. The perpetrator is still guilty. Someday s/he will face the consequences for his/her actions. In the meantime, I need to leave justice to God, discarding bitterness and vengeance behind me.