good gifts

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17 (ESV)

I have loved this verse for quite a long time, and over the years have spent time pondering good gifts. Of course there are the more obvious ones:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Health
  • Salvation (the best gift ever!)

But, what about the good gifts that we don’t recognize as good in the moment? What about the gifts that don’t seem like gifts at all? Or what about the gifts that we don’t realize how good they are until later? I have a few of those to share.

In the fall of 2000, I was at a women’s conference with a group of ladies from my church. While there, I wrote down a verse thinking, “I want to use this for my New Year’s card.” I also thought that it would be a good verse to encourage others. What was it?

Psalm 103:19 – “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” (NASB)

This verse was a good gift, and I didn’t even know it at the time. Five months later when both my parents were in the hospital (different hospitals) and my mom ended up passing away, this verse was a comfort to me. God’s love for me was so evident in Him giving me this verse (which I thought was to share with others), because He knew I would need it. He gave it before I realized it was for me.

Now that was a good gift.

A few years before that conference my husband left a job to go into business with his dad. Had he never left to work with his dad, there was a good chance that we would have been transferred to another state. Yet, in Texas, we lived about 10 minutes from my parents. So, when my dad was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, I was nearby to encourage my mom. And I was there to care for my dad when my mom unexpectedly passed away.

That was a good gift.

After my husband and his father closed their company, my husband did the job search thing. He applied for a position with a company he had connections with from his time building houses with his dad. The job was out-of-state, and he felt really good about it. Yet, he didn’t get the job. There was some discouragement during the job search season. However, he ended up getting hired by the company he had left, keeping us in Texas, close to his parents. A little over a year later, my husband’s parents were killed in a car wreck, and we were able to be there with his sisters. How good of God to keep us near family for that time.

That was a good gift.

I could also tell you of a car rental experience that went so very wrong but ended with us having a bigger and better suited vehicle for a family vacation. In the moment of frustration, I didn’t know God was going to give us a good gift.

I could share many more examples of God’s good gifts that don’t appear good at the time. I also imagine you have your own stories of His good gifts.

Stories of a lost job or a delayed job

Stories relating to the health of a loved one or yourself

Stories where you received a disappointing “no”

I also imagine some of you are waiting and wondering how a good gift could come from your circumstances.

I don’t know what you are going through, but here are two things I do know:

God’s sovereignty is ruling over ALL

God gives good and perfect gifts

Today I am praying that God will give us the eyes to see the good gifts He has already given and trust that He is the giver of good and perfect gifts yet to come.

 

 

creativity

Creativity has been a recurring theme in my life lately.

My friend, Jann, who I believe to be one of the most creative/artistic people I know (she is definitely one of the funnest – real word), shared a story of a time someone expressed that she did not have an artistic bone in her body. Okay – those are my words, but it was close to that. She shared this story in the process of encouraging others to spread their wings and attempt art in a new way. Jann creatively expresses her faith by Bible journaling and teaches others to do the same. You can check out her website here. Scroll to the bottom of that page to see some of her art. She can create!!!

A couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a women’s event with some sweet ladies God has brought into my life. He really gives good gifts (a blog for another day). As the speaker was sharing some of the attributes of God, she pointed out that as image bearers of God, we are all creative beings with the ability to create. We can create!!

My honey and I had the opportunity to get away with some friends for a few days and explore part of our new state. One day, the wives went to a painting lesson where we created a nice winter scene with the help of our wonderful teacher, Stephanie. Now, I will not be painting for money anytime soon, but it was so much fun to start with a blank canvas and see it transformed into something new. And, although all 6 of us in the class painted the same basic scene, each one was unique. We created!!

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As I have been pondering each of these experiences, my heart always lands on the One who makes our creating possible – THE Creator.

“All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” – John 1:3

While on our get away, my honey and I were able to see much of God’s creation in the nature around us. I was thankful to get away and take time to admire His creation. Oh, how creative He is, and how kind He is to share it with us.

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As I took in the beauty of His creation, I was overcome by His glory and majesty. I was overcome by the gospel.

God created a perfect world that fell into sin and darkness. The people God created didn’t want him – they loved the darkness (John 3:19). But, because of God’s love, he sent Jesus to gather a people for Himself. Jesus purchased redemption for His people on the cross. And all who receive Jesus by faith are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

The Creator of the universe made a way. How wild is this!?!?

Take some time to see God’s creation around you.

Take some time to marvel that the Creator of the universe has made a way for rebellious people to be made right and have a relationship with Him.

Take some time to give thanks – I know I am.

 

 

knowing > feeling

“When is the time you felt most loved?”

That was the question asked of me while grabbing breakfast with a friend years ago – pre-husbandkid years ago.

I paused and tried to think of THE moment, the time I had felt most loved.

I couldn’t.

I answered that I had always known that I was loved so couldn’t think of the time I felt most loved. Growing up, my family was an “I love you” kind of family. My parents took time to be involved in my life. Were they perfect? No. Did they frustrate me at times? Yes. Did they get upset with me ever? Absolutely. Yet even then, I knew I was loved.

In the moment of answering that question, KNOWING I was loved was more powerful than FEELING loved.

KNOWING I was loved was more powerful than FEELING loved.

And this is how it should be. What I KNOW should be more powerful than what I FEEL. Truth needs to have more power than my feelings. But, sometimes I give my feelings more power. Sometimes I don’t dwell on what I know to be true. And that causes problems – problems in my relationship with God and in my relationships with people.

I often encourage others to walk “by faith, not by sight”(2 Corinthians 5:7). But, sometimes I fail to take my own advice. Do you ever do that?

How do we walk in faith? We do it by letting ourselves be guided by truth. Jesus states that the Holy Spirit guides us in truth (John 16:13) and that God’s word is truth (John 17:17). Perhaps walking in faith can also be stated as walking in truth. In his third letter, the apostle John states, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

Spending time in God’s word is key to walking by faith. By reading and meditating on scripture, I grow in what I know. I grow in my knowledge of God and His character.  And “growing my knowing” impacts how I deal with the feelings or emotions that surface in my heart. By no means am I saying that feelings don’t matter or that we should not have feelings. Feelings and emotions are part of being human; however, we need to allow God’s truth to walk us through the feelings. We need to make sure we let the truth of God’s character and His word inform our feelings rather than letting our feelings inform what we believe to be true about God and His word.

Scripture tells us that the heart is deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9) and that one who trusts his own mind/heart is a fool (Proverbs 28:26). I don’t want to be a fool, do you? Join with me in making it a priority to read and meditate on God’s word. Ask God to surround you with people who encourage you in this journey. Find a Bible teaching community that will speak gospel truth over you. Ask people to pray for you when you find yourself giving more power to the feelings in your heart. And, thank God that even if we are faithless, he remains faithful.

my mom

“My mom says you make the other moms look bad.”

For about five years I had been making lunch for students from the Senior High by our house once a week when a young girl said this to me. What started as lunch for around 6 students had become lunch for around 50 – sometimes more. I had no intention of being compared to other moms. I was just being obedient to something God had placed on my heart while working with youth at our church – something small that grew over the years (especially when my 2 kids were both at the Senior High).

I remember pondering this comment while cleaning up that Friday afternoon, thinking how things that come easy for one person can be daunting for another. I also thought about how we have to fight to keep from comparing ourselves to others.  Then I remember thinking about my mom. You see, it was my mom that taught me to serve in this way, to cook for large groups, to love people. She did that well.

Growing up, we would tease that she did not know how to cook for just the four of us. I am now like her. You should see the chili in my fridge from dinner a couple of nights ago – cooking for two is HARD! Good thing I like leftover chili. (If you want to try a good recipe, try this).

Not only did she cook too much for our family, my mom showed me the gift of feeding/loving people when she provided meals for a local community program that was serving men and women with AIDS. This was in the late 1980s at the height of the AIDS “crisis.”  I can’t remember the name of the place, but I remember going with her to deliver the meals when I was home from college and watching her engage the people there. I remember taking the meals for her if she had a conflict and talking to the men and women who were so appreciative of what my mom did. She made it look easy.

She taught me to love people. She didn’t just tell me to love; she modeled it for me. So, when my small “Friday Lunch” became quite large, I just did what my mom had taught me – I cooked another pan or two of whatever was on the menu for that day and loved on those students. And, I know that if my mom had been around, she would have been there right in the middle of it all, helping me, loving me.

Yet, as much as she loved me and others, her love was not perfect. And, as thankful as I am for my mom, I am so much more thankful to my God who has demonstrated perfect love to me.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

In God’s perfect love, He saved me.

In His perfect love, he has given me His Spirit.

And, in His perfect love, he gave me my mom.

Today marks seventeen years since my mom passed away. Oh, how I miss her. She was a silly, crazy, loving mom.

In honor of her, I want to encourage you  –  find that talent or ability God created in you. If you aren’t sure what it is, ask God to reveal it to you. Ask your friends to help you. Then, ask Him to show you how to use it to shine His light through you.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

two dads

Sixteen years ago today my dad died.

It is hard to believe it has been that long.

I miss him.

He was a giant of a man in stature and in personality. He had a big heart and big emotions (for better or worse). He loved me.

When I was in the fifth grade he chaperoned a field trip. I thought that was so cool that MY dad would choose to miss work to go on a field trip with me and my classmates. That was back when dads didn’t really do that; it is one of my favorite memories from childhood.

When he was sick and living with my family, my kids got to share a room. One night I went in to check on the kids, and the girl child was missing!!! I peeked into my dad’s room (which had been the girl’s room), and she was curled up in the “hospital” bed with him – both sound asleep. What a sweet memory.

He may not have been perfect (nobody is), but he was one of the first people to introduce me to my other dad – my heavenly Father.

Here are some truths about my Father:

My Father has adopted me into His family – changing my status from slave to child (Galatians 4:4-7)

My Father is the giver of good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).

My Father loves (1 John 3:1, 4:7 and many more).

Knowing my Father loves me, calls me His child, and gives good gifts is a blessing.

When I am discouraged, these truths encourage.

When the world seems hopeless, these truths bring hope.

When I am sad and miss my dad, these truths are comfort.

Knowing my dad was a gift; he made a huge impact on my life.

Knowing my Father is a gift; He has transformed my life.

 

failing before starting

How do you fail before starting? Well, I did just that. I had the desire to begin writing some of the things I am learning, experiencing, thinking. I wanted to name this blog something that fit my personality – maybe something catchy. Driving around my old stomping grounds (I miss you – here come the misty eyes), I came up with “a joyful adventure.”

Adventure was a given. It is the word I use to describe all kinds of daily experiences. My family thinks I am a little crazy as I find adventure in so many things – like when God buys my soda at the gas station (you can ask me about that later), or when I find myself chatting with a stranger, or when I join a neighborhood boot camp. Adventure is EVERYWHERE!!

Joyful just seemed to fit. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and I believe it is a choice. It is a word I want to describe my life, my heart, my interactions. So, the name was determined.

And then…

I failed at joy.

Before my first blog post, I failed at joy.

In the process of packing up my home of 21 years to move to another city in another state where I only know a handful of people, I failed at joy.

Basketcase would have been a better description. My precious, kind husband has experienced too many unexplainable tears. He blames it on hormones, which is a big possibility, but it is also much deeper. I was having a hard time explaining it.

It wasn’t the goodbyes (although those were tough) – I was (I am) very excited for this next part of our journey. It wasn’t getting rid of things – that was extremely freeing. After getting our kids off to their spring semester of college, I think I have pinpointed it.

It is fear. It is doubt. It is sin.

I was afraid of what I was going to do. For those who don’t know me, I am a stay at home empty nester. Having lived in the same area for the past 24 years, I realized my identity has been tied up in the many things I was doing at our church, in our community. I was moving to a new place. It is like a blank page that is exciting with so much promise yet terrifying with all the unknown. Insecurities, I didn’t know I had, surfaced, and I believed the lies.

When people ask you what you do, what will you say?

How will you find new friends?

How will you fill your days?

In these questions, I doubted God’s goodness. I doubted His sovereignty. I doubted His plan. I am so thankful that failure isn’t final. My failure to walk in joy and trust God is not the end. It was just a moment in my adventure. I am thankful that God graciously and patiently showed me the sin in my heart. I am so thankful he reminded me that my true identity is in Him alone. I am thankful for forgiveness.

I am spending 2018 reading through the New Testament. I am asking God, like the father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief.” And, I am asking Him to let me walk this adventure with joy. There is so much joy to be found in my new neighborhood, and I don’t want to miss it!

So, if you are experiencing some of what I have been feeling. If you feel like a basketcase, I am praying that you will stop and look to Jesus. I am praying you will join me in asking God to help our unbelief. I am praying that you will join me in receiving God’s grace that he lavishes on His children (Ephesians 1:8). I am praying that you will find joy in your adventure.