Category Archives: Joy

Joy, Where Are You?

Some mornings I can barely find the energy to get out of bed. I’m exhausted and worn out and in pain and I simply don’t want to do anything but lay there. This morning was one of those mornings. My alarm clock (AKA, my children) started screaming in my ears and I had to get up and face the world. Before I could even get out of bed, the girls were already dressed for church and chattering in their fastest, most excited voices about what they might do at church today. So, begrudgingly, I got up, showered, and got ready for church.
And I’m glad I did. 

We sang some of my favorite Christmas songs, which immediately lifted my mood a bit.

  

“I rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”

Today’s sermon was titled, “Joy” and based on Luke 2:8-20. My first thought, from anxious and depressed mind was, “oh great, joy. That’s the last thing I want to talk about right now.” But that’s exactly why I needed to hear it. 

Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭ESV

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

So apparently, joy is command. My pastor opened up the sermon with that and all I could think was, “great, we’re starting the morning off with something I suck at.” But as he kept talking, I understood it more. God doesn’t want me to have fake joy, like the fake smile I tend to plaster on my face when I tell everyone I’m doing great. But God wants me to a real, genuine joy – the kind that only He can give me; the kind that comes from being awestruck by an amazing God. 

  

Let me be real here for a minute, the last few weeks I have been stuck in a cycle of sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I’m having brain surgery in four days and I’m scared – really scared, about all the “what ifs” and things that could possibly go wrong. I really haven’t felt much joy at all. I haven’t been praying. I haven’t been reading my Bible. I’ve just been quietly simmering with anger at God for not making me healthy. But the more I’ve ignored God, the worse I’ve felt. The more I’ve pushed Him away, the angrier I’ve gotten. My joy has been nonexistent.

I feel like an outsider in this world, like I just don’t belong anywhere. I have some wonderful friends and great church family – but often, I just feel different, like I don’t fit in with anyone. I feel lost. My pastor’s first point today was that joy is for the outsiders. We explained how God sent His angels to the shepherds, of all people. He could’ve sent the angels to someone powerful, like a king or ruler, but He didn’t. He sent them to shepherds – to the outsiders. 

In the same way, in our current society, God doesn’t come only for the “insiders.” He doesn’t come just for the powerful and popular – He comes for the outsiders. But here’s the thing, if you really think about it – we’re all outsiders. None of us in this world are insiders; we are all OUTSIDE of Heaven. And my pastor made a good point, even the people who I look at and think have it together and appear to fit in so well – even they struggle with feeling like outsiders, it simply part of being human. And we all feel like no one else feels the way we do so none of us talk about it; but if we did, we would know we weren’t alone. 

  

So in acknowledging that others feel like outsiders as well and many of us never speak of it, how well do I reflect God to others? How well do I reflect God’s love to those who feel like they don’t belong?

The second point that my pastor made today was that joy comes from Heaven. We don’t create joy from within ourselves. I can be sad or depressed or going through a rough time and still feel joy in my heart. God is perfect and Holy and separate from us, but He is also imminent and close through Jesus. 

The glory and power of God reassuring, but it should also leave a healthy fear in us. When the angels came to the shepherds, they were scared because they felt unworthy of their holiness. But the angels told them not to be afraid, for they had new that would bring great joy. The birth of Jesus brings us joy by reminding us that even though we may be going through a rough time now, even though we’re scared, even though we feel lost, even though life is hard – a savior has come to save us. 
How much different would my life be if I believed, I mean rally believed deep in my heart, that Jesus came down from Heaven for me? 

  

Lastly, my pastor touched on having joy in the valley – this was, I felt, the most fitting part for me today. I’ve had “mountaintop experiences” – times where God’s love and glory are so apparent that I am in awe and filled with joy. The goal is to live out the joy from those mountain top experiences while we’re in the valley. God wants me to treasure His words in my heart and live my life in faith. It doesn’t sounds THAT difficult. But when you’re in the valley, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative – the fear, worry, pain, and anxiety. But God calls us to remember the things we know to be true, to remember the mountaintop, remember what His closeness feels like – those are the things that will bring us joy in the valley. 

Each day that God gives me in a gift and I should rejoice in every day – even the days when I’m in the valley. 

So let me rephrase my current thoughts and worries…

  

I’m having brain surgery in four days. I may be scared, but even if the worst happens – if I were to die, I would go Home to Jesus and have no more pain. If it’s successful, I will stop going blind and my vision will be saved. If something goes wrong and I come out of surgery with some type of disability, God will use that to glorify Him. I am scared and I really don’t want to go through with it. But just like He always does, God has me in the palm of His hand and whatever happens will not be a surprise to Him, He already knows and He will care for and provide for me no matter what.

I simply need to trust Him and find my joy in Him, not in this world.


To Run or Not to Run…

Why is running so important to me? – That’s a really good question. I’m not sure if I can fully answer it, but I’ll try.

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I was never a runner in my child or adolescent years. In fact, I hated running. Running was the bane of my existence. I always felt like I wasn’t good enough in most things I did, and running only backed up that thought. I always said I “couldn’t” run. I didn’t know how to breathe and I didn’t know how to handle the ache in my muscles. So I just stuck to swimming – I loved swimming. Being in the water was, quite possibly, one of the best feelings to me. I was not, nor would I ever be, a runner…or so I thought.

Then, one day last May, I decided I wanted to run. The thought was insane. I hated running, why did I want to run? But I gave in to the thought and I ran. And you know what, I fell in love with it. Even at 240 pounds and even though I could barely run a quarter mile without thinking I was going to die, I fell in love with it and I kept trying.

Running was the first thing in my life that was hard for me and I knew would be a challenge, but I kept going anyway. You see, I’m my own worst critic and I’ve never been very confident in my ability to do anything. When confronted with anything that might be hard or challenging, anything that there was even a possibility of me failing at, I would quit. Quitting was easier than trying and failing…or so I thought at the time.

So back to why running is so important to me, running taught me a very important life lesson. Running taught me that, if I was willing to try, I would find out that I was capable of much more than I thought I was – both mentally and physically. Running became a release for me. When I had a bad day, I ran. When I had a good day, I ran. When I was sad, I ran. When I was happy, I ran…you get the picture.

Then, running became an addiction and it took over my life. I lived and breathed running. I got injured, but I kept running.

Now, as I’m recovering from surgery to remove the sesamoid bone that I shattered…from continuing to run on an injured foot, I am reassessing my deep desire to run again. Last month, I was told by my rheumatologist that I should NEVER run again. I have a rare disorder called Elhers-Danlos Syndrome that effects my joints (and many other parts of my body). Because of this disorder, my joints are very loose and I have had frequent dislocations and sprains of my joints, throughout my life. My ankles and knees are some of my most unstable joints and, obviously, running is not very productive when then joints in the legs are weak.

But running brings me so much joy. I can’t really just STOP running altogether, can I? I mean, running does not define me. Whether or not I run is not the most important part of my life, and I do recognize that…but to be totally honest, I’m just not ready to give it up. So I’ve been doing some research. My joints will never be as stable as most peoples joints, but there are things I can do to protect them. There are things I can do to run again.

I’m not going to give up on running. I will protect my joints and I will be smart about it. But I will still run. It may not be much, and that’s okay.

Being a runner is so much more than running. It’s the determination and the drive to want more for myself and my life than I ever dreamed possible. It’s the willingness to dream big and do the work necessary to achieve those dreams. Being a runner has given me to confidence to also face struggles in other aspects of my life because if I can run, I can do anything. I am an overcomer!

I refuse to let this disorder control my life. Some of the most joyful times in my life have been during a good run and I will not give that up without a fight.

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7-in-7 Day 6: Help Me

I’m at a loss for words
I just don’t know what to say
This world is broken
And I don’t know how to pray
It feels like it’s over
Like You’re not even here
I’m just trying to trust you
In this gut-wrenching fear

Life or death
That’s the question at hand
Trust and doubt
I just don’t understand
To be blind or have vision
Help me to see
I can’t see like You do
Help my unbelief

You’re holding my life
You know my every moment
Even though now
I feel so forgotten
Where is Your hand
Why aren’t You moving
If life is a war-zone
This is a battle I’m losing

Life or death
That’s the question at hand
Trust and doubt
I just don’t understand
To be blind or have vision
Help me to see
I can’t see like You do
Help my unbelief

Caught up in doubt
Confused by my fear
Are you weeping with me
I really can’t hear
I’m hoping for more
Longing for grace
Do I have faith to believe
That You’re in this place

Life or death
That’s the question at hand
Trust and doubt
I just don’t understand
To be blind or have vision
Help me to see
I can’t see like You do
Help my unbelief


Am I Home Yet?

Home. It’s a short, four letter word with a very long meaning. What is a home? What does it mean to be home? The dictionary defines a home as “a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.” But as I think about how good it feels to be at home, I started wondering, what does that really mean?

Being “at home” is much more than a physical place of residence. It’s much more than having a roof over your head and walls on each side. A home is a place where pains and joys are shared with those you love. It’s a place where children grow and messes are made. It’s a place where love is felt between family and friends (who are often just an extension of the family). It’s a place where mistakes are made and lessons are learned, but everyone still loves you the same. It’s a place where memories are formed and bonds are tightened. It’s a noisy, chaotic, sometimes unbearable, but heavenly, place.

For the first time in my life I can say, I AM HOME!

For much of my life I have felt like I was searching for something; a place where I could quit trying, striving, and pretending. A place where I could feel loved even when I made mistakes. A place where I could find rest. A place where I felt safe, even if the world around me was crumbling.

But when God found me, I found that place I had always been searching for – my Father’s arms. In God’s arms, I am safe, I am loved, I can rest, and I can heal. No place on this earth can provide that same feeling.

It’s ironic though, that once I learned how to rest in God’s love for me, I began to also feel at home in my physical environment.

I am a beach girl from San Diego, so living in Central Texas has been a challenge for me. There’s no beach and it’s ridiculously hot. But then, God brought me to a fabulous church and gave me an amazing church family. He gave me some wonderful friends who love me unconditionally and who will walk through life’s ups and downs with me.

Because I have learned to be at home with God, He has also given me the gift of being at home on this earth.

Ultimately, my home is heaven; and I look forward to the day that God calls me up. But in the mean time, I’ll enjoy the home He has given me right here, right now.


Running to Him

A few weeks ago, I was standing in my garage, looking out at the beauty of God’s creation (the wind, birds, flowers, green grass), and I decided – I want to run. If you know me at all, you know how ridiculous this thought is for me. My entire life, I have loathed running with a deep burning hatred. I assumed that the random thought to run was just that, a random thought, and it would soon pass, but it never did – in fact, it only got stronger. Instead of burning hatred for running, I quickly developed a burning desire to run.

So, I started running.

I started running and something amazing happened. I began to trust God more and myself. Some people may think this is silly or crazy, but in the last few weeks, I have heard God speaking to me more than ever before. It’s a wonderful feeling to be running down the road, wind in my hair, sun on a face, and freedom in my hands.

Running feels like freedom. I’ve spent so much of my life running from the truth and now I feel like I’m running, literally, to the most beautiful truth there is.

1 Timothy 4:8 – For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

It’s an amazing feeling to challenge myself. For so long, I have been my own worst enemy and discouraged myself from doing ANYTHING that might be difficult or that had the possibility of me failing. And let me tell you, feeling like I can never do anything gets tired and discouraging after a while. As an all or nothing kind of person, I justified not trying many things because what was the point if I would only fail, if my “all” wasn’t enough? The sad part is though, that you never know what you’re capable of until you try.

That’s how I feel about running – I didn’t know I was capable of running, until I tried.

I am sure that this, seemingly out of the blue, desire to run came from God. It’s too bizarre for me to be something I came up with on my own. (Although, I also think some of the blame also falls on a sweet friend of mine who has somehow implanted her love of running/working out in my head.) It’s funny how, when I tried to ignore what I thought was just a weird, random though, God kept persisting and telling me to go for it; to at the very least, try!

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 – All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

God has this funny was of changing our hearts sometimes – using things that we think will NEVER have an effect on us.

A few days ago during a run, I felt a strength in me that I had never felt before – a supernatural determination. It was in that exact moment that I realized something that God has been trying to show me for over a year – I can do ANYTHING with His help. If I trust Him, I can push through the pain. I can stay strong through the struggle. I can succeed through the doubts. I can trust Him through my brokenness.

Isaiah 40:29-31 – He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Seems kind of odd how God would show me so much about Himself through running, but I am eternally grateful for it. Not only has He changed my heart to love Him and trust Him more, but for the first time in my Christian walk, I finally understand what other people mean when they talk about joy. I finally understand that joy that overflows and loves others. That joy that runs so deep, that even in the midst of pain and sadness I still have a solid foundation to rest on.

I know that my life will always have its ups and downs. I know that things in this broken and fallen world will not be easy. But what I also know is that even in the ups and down, even in the pain of the brokenness – I have a joy and a hope that no one can EVER take from me.


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