Sunday, December 29, 2019

Joy and Grace - A Connection

Today, December 29th is my oldest daughter, Joy's 15th birthday. As I reflect on her life, this post came back to mind. It was good to revisit, I pray it is a blessing for you as well. 

From December 29, 2015 -

December important day in our house - the birthday of our oldest daughter. Today we celebrate Joy's 11th little girl is growing up. Though this is a day of joy and celebration it is also a day that marks another anniversary. On July 29th, our niece, Grace was killed in an accident, so today we've been grieving her loss for 5 months.

I'm grateful God has blessed Joy with another year of life, but we still don't understand why it seems Grace's life was cut short. I know Scripture tells us God knows the number of our days (Psalm 139:16) and I believe that to be true, but in the grieving process we do wonder why. I trust that's why Scripture also tells us to lean not on our own understanding, but to trust God with all of our heart. (Proverbs 3:5)

It's obvious there are many things in this life we don't and won't understand, but as I think about Joy and Grace today I'm reminded of something I've been learning.

The night of Grace's funeral I remember Joy saying to me, "Mom, Grace was like a big sister I never had. I want to play basketball like her. I want to love people like she did. I want to tell them about Jesus like she did."

Death is hard...grieving is a process. And when you're a mom something is added to this - pain for your personal loss and hurt for your kids as they grieve. Joy was 10 and Grace 20 at the time of her accident and Joy did look up to her, enjoyed being with her and liked laughing with her. Grace was a role model, who took the job seriously and included little people in her life. She shared grace and brought joy.

Awhile back as our pastor preached from Philippians, he made this statement, "Joy and Grace aren't cousins. Joy is a sister to grace." He was not talking about two people in my life, but about things you and I both need.

He came to this conclusion by studying the words in original language. In the Greek, the word for grace is "charis" which means grace, favor and kindness. In the same language, we see the word for joy is "chara", which means joy or gladness.

I'm no scholar, but I've dug into this a bit you see how similar these two words are in the old, original language? There is a connection between the two and it's more than a base word or similar spelling. One commentator kept it pretty simple - joy is grace recognized, while another explained joy is being properly aware of God's grace. Ultimately they both come from Him.

Friend, I know death can diminish our joy and Satan will try to steal it, but when we remember God's grace nothing can destroy it. This isn't some superficial, happy all the time joy, but a fruit of the spirit. A joy the world can't offer and doesn't understand. A joy that still sheds tears and experiences all kind of emotions. A joy that comes from the Lord because of God's grace.

Today, on the 29th of December, I remember Grace with Joy. She's a girl we all loved and now miss. We remember gifts she gave and things she said. Joy dreams of doing things she did and living a legacy like hers too. I also remember Grace with joy. Because of God's grace, our Grace is with Him today and one day we'll all celebrate together again.

Until then, I pray God will continue to pour out His grace on us. As we receive it, experience it and share it, I hope we will be filled with joy because of it. Today, we'll celebrate Joy and remember Grace, but I pray all of us embrace God's grace and experience His joy!

"So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (Jesus' words in John 16:22)

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-3)

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Afraid of Nothing

Are you ever afraid? Me too. Do you ever wish you could agree with the title of this post and honestly say, "I'm afraid of nothing"? I'm here to share it is possible. I recently learned this, but just this weekend needed the reminder. So, in case you do as well, I'm here to share another story and more importantly a lesson.

I have been afraid of birds for as long as I can remember. I'm not exactly sure when or why the fear began, but I know the fear is real. Sparrows, chickens, it doesn't matter which one, all flying, feathered creatures tend to freak me out. So, needless to say a few weeks ago when my son needed to deliver his turkeys to the butcher, I wasn't the first to volunteer.

Well, life unfolded and I was given the job. And a crazy job it see, because of details you don't need to know and I don't have time to share, we transported them not in our typical farm trailer, but in my oldest son's old minivan. So this bird fearing lady made a 45 minute drive with my two young sons and 14 fully grown monsters, I mean turkeys. My ten year old turkey farmer sat behind me amongst his feathered friends. It took all the courage I had to sit down with just a big piece of cardboard between me and my fear, but I did it and my little guys loved every minute of it.

A few miles down the road, the cardboard started to move. My scream was followed by my boys' laughs. I could see the turkeys flapping their big wings in my rearview mirror as Jed informed me one was sitting on his lap. My heart was racing and my muscles were tight. I simply focused on driving, wanting the trip to end.

About half way there, Jesse says to me, "Look mom, you're afraid of nothing. You're just singing your favorite song." His words had my attention. He was right - in that moment I had peace. Ryan Stevenson's, "Eye of the Storm" was on the radio and I was singing along. More importantly my focus had was no longer on my fear, but the object of my faith. I was singing about the One who remains in control and guards my soul. God is my anchor. He loves me, protects me and has a plan for me. Like Ryan sings, "I find my peace in Jesus' name."

I was so grateful for my little man's observation. I pray it impacts his faith and I know it has strengthened mine. The song had come to an end, but God had my attention. He clearly taught me a lesson and reminded me of an important truth.

Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things."

Hebrews 12:2s tells us to, "fix our eyes on Jesus" while Isaiah 26:3 says, "You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you."

Clearly, God's Word tells us who and what should be the focus of our thoughts. When we live this out, even in the midst of our fears, we have peace.

As I shifted my focus from the ones with feathers I feared to the all powerful God in whom I have faith, my whole attitude changed. Truths about my heavenly Father came to mind, His Spirit filled me and another verse brought perspective. Hebrews 13:6 spoke to my heart - "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" Surely, God can protect me from turkeys as well!!

I can't say that I'll volunteer for this job again, but the last half of our journey was more enjoyable that the first. I relaxed and appreciated a unique experience with my little boys. I'm pretty sure I'll always remember Jed saying, "Mom, it would be funny if you got stopped by a cop for having too many passengers!!"

Now after sharing the story, I hope I don't forget the truth Jesse helped me see. And friend, I pray the same is true for you. I've wrestled with some parenting fears this weekend and have some health ones as well, but no matter what the storm or fear we face I know God can and will be our anchor. The question is - will we focus on Him or our fear?