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A Beautiful Mess

Last week, I read about another Hollywood celebrity that committed suicide. My heart always breaks when I read about someone who commits that act. Suicide is something that affects my heart because my brother David ended his life 20 years ago this past July. Suicide affects everyone that loved that person. It seems to represent failure—but I would like to look at it from a different perspective. (Hang in there with me as I try to explain myself.)

I mentioned in my last post the verse that Joseph spoke to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Good can come from horrible situations. I believe that the good that came from my brother’s death was a changed life for me.

My brother and I grew up in the same home, but the toxic environment affected us differently. I was the first born, performance oriented child who was going to please everyone and keep the peace. David was the more sensitive child. He was quiet and more reserved. He was very intelligent and spent many hours playing alone. We were exact opposites. I have learned from being a parent that each child is different and each one reacts differently to situations.

When David ended his life, I felt like he was telling me, “There is something wrong here! We have pretended that everything is okay, but it isn’t. Stop doing that! Stop acting like there aren’t serious issues here. It isn’t just me! Quit being in denial. Please do something and for goodness sakes, say something!”

It took a few years after his death for the panic attacks to hit full force—and when they did—I knew I needed help. I knew I was going to have to face things I had been in denial about. That is when I went on my journey to go after God like I had never done before. I knew deep down inside that I needed His truth in my life. I also knew I needed a counselor who could guide me and show me truth. Thankfully I found a wonderful woman who wasn’t afraid to get in my face and show me God’s truth.

Here is the thing I want to explain to you. We are all born into different types of environments. Because of the things that happen to us or are said to us, we can easily fall into the trap of believing lies that aren’t true about ourselves. I was spending time with the Lord yesterday and He impressed upon me to write down the lies that I have believed. I would like to share a few with you. “I need to make everyone happy.” “I just need to work harder.” “I am all alone.” “There isn’t anyone who can help me.” “There isn’t anyone who is going to come to my rescue.” “I am trapped and helpless.” “I am always going to live in fear.”

Lies and wrong thinking can easily get ingrained in you and cause you to feel utterly hopeless.  God has shown me that the majority of my thoughts were not from Him—they were from the enemy. All those lies and thoughts were sown into the fabric of my upbringing. I can’t speak for my brother, but chances are he had a lot of the same thoughts. Of course, I didn’t realize how much those thoughts affected me until later in my life.

I realized that there was a lying spirit inside me that wanted to destroy me—and almost did. I had to go through all the lies that I believed and command them to leave. I had to write them down and renounce them in my life. Now, they didn’t leave without a fight and sometimes they come back—but when they do—I have to go to the Lord and realign myself under His authority and renounce them again. (There are some pesky ones that like to try to get back in!)

The one lie that got me more than anything was the lie that God wouldn’t want a messed up kid like me. That one brings tears to my eyes because I kind of think my brother thought the same thing. If you have ever thought that way, it simply isn’t true. You need to stop that thinking right now. I want you picturing God whispering in your ear, “I love hot messes like you! In fact, I think you are a beautiful hot mess and I love you! You are my specialty! I want to take all your messes and make beauty from them. I am going to love you and help you.”

The lies the I mentioned earlier are from my past, they are not going to define my future. “Heartbreaking seasons can certainly grow me but were never meant to define me.” TerKeurst We must be bold and take the lies that we have believed and get rid of them.

I can say that I no longer wish I had a decent relationship with my Dad. I had to say goodbye to that fantasy in order for me to have a thriving relationship with my Heavenly Father. I had to give up what I thought I wanted and turn to God and say, “If this relationship isn’t what you want for me, then I don’t want it.” There are some relationships that aren’t healthy for us and God wants something even better for us. We just need to let them go and give them to God because He is the only One who who can fulfill our desires and dreams.

Listen, I know how hard it is to overcome lies and doubts and hopelessness. It is a fight! When you have an upbringing like I did, it is an uphill battle. It has taken me years to deal with a lot of issues. I had to become determined not to let Satan win. There were days that I didn’t want to live—but I also knew that killing myself was not what God wanted me to do either. 

The only way I have been able to move forward one day at a time is focusing on the character of God. God is good. His plans are good. C. S. Lewis says, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” (How true!) 

I am going to tell you that my biggest fear has always been that I would end up like my brother. I have been scared to death that I would end up so mentally ill that no medication or treatment would be able to help me. I saw him suffer so much and nothing helped him. I have to renounce that lie and remember that I am not my brother. I am not going to fall for that lie! I have to fill my mind with scripture and the truth of who God says I am. 

If you are suffering, please get some help. Find people who can pray for you and find a counselor who can help you with your issues. The best way to get to know the character of God is to read the Psalms. Immerse yourself in God’s word. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him and tell Him how you feel. Ask Him to help you see the truth about yourself and Him. I want you to see how much you are loved by the God of the Universe!

I am going to leave you with some scripture that I pray will be helpful to you. Keep reading His word and claiming HIs promises! (I am doing the same!) Until next time…

Psalm 16:1-2 “Keep me safe, O God, for I come to You for refuge. Every good thing I have comes from You. You are my Master.”

Psalm 16:8-9 “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.”

Psalm 16:11 “You show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Psalm 37:23-24 “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds Him with His hand.”

*Thank you Dyan Larmey for pointing me towards the right counselor. Thank you Marcia Mills for your countless hours of counseling, prayers and truth.

*This picture represents two kids who were “beautiful hot messes” in God’s eyes. (Gotta love the 70’s style!)

Fixer Upper

I started refinishing furniture when I was in my twenties. (I am a trash to treasure kind of  girl.) I just love taking old pieces and giving them a new look. Whether it is a coat of paint, stain, or new hardware—I love to take old furniture and make it beautiful. And if you think about it—that is what God is doing with us on a daily basis. He is making us new.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “But forget all that —it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

I don’t know about you, but I want the Lord to redo me and make me into the best possible version of myself. I know that being an open vessel to Him is key to that change. I want to be willing to do the things the Lord asks of me. “Offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness…Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 6:13; 12:1

A piece of furniture isn’t human, but it is there ready for me to work on. I also want to ready myself for the Lord to do His work in me. John Eldredge says it best in Moving Mountains. “First, they consecrated themselves. Meaning, they dedicated themselves afresh to God; they renounced every way they had wandered from Him; they presented their lives, their gifting, and their calling completely to Jesus, to be filled again with His Spirit, to be His and His alone.”

“It is the fresh act of dedicating yourself —or your home, a relationship, a job, your sexuality, whatever needs God’s grace—deliberately and intentionally to Jesus, bringing it fully into His kingdom and under His rule.” Eldredge  I am trying to do this on a daily basis. I am intentionally aligning myself with God and asking Him to be the authority in my life because He knows far better than I do the best way to live my days. I am giving Him authority over my house, my husband, my children, my blog, my job, my schedule, my health, my finances, and even my car and everything else I can think of every day. I know this might sound extreme to you, but this is what it means to align myself to Him. I like to think of it as being under the umbrella of His care.

When I am redoing a piece of furniture, I want it to be beautiful. I want others to see the beauty that I do. I am the craftsman that is changing that piece of furniture. I like to think of God as the Master Craftsman of me. I am in the process of being made beautiful by the God of the Universe. My job is to let Him do whatever needs to be done in me. But, sometimes I don’t like the sanding that has to be done in order to make me look good. (OUCH!)

As I write, I dedicate my blog to the Lord. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me the words He wants me to say. I also dedicate my computer, my chair that I sit in, my bedroom and my house because that is where I am when I am working on my blog. I bring it under the umbrella of His care. “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

God is in the business of doing amazing things! I want to be a part of His work. I still struggle with focusing on what isn’t happening instead of what is happening. It is a battle and I must keep my mind on what scripture says instead of how I feel. I need to be listening to the Holy Spirit instead of myself. (I have a tendency to be a bit negative with myself!)

When I watch episodes of “Fixer Upper” I am amazed at what Chip and Joanna Gaines are able to do in homes that people pick to renovate. (I love watching that show!) They get a vision of how they want to transform their houses—and then go in and do the work they need to do. Sometimes the houses are in pretty bad shape—but after the work is done— that house is even more beautiful than it was at the beginning. Again, that is what God does in us. “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:37

In order for God to work in us, we have to remain in HIm. John 15:4-11  That is why I dedicate my days to HIm. Listen, I am not perfect at this. There are many times that I wake up and get so busy with my day that I forget to give it to Him. There are many times I jump into projects without praying first about them. (I am a work in progress.) But, I am really trying to be different this year and I am asking the Lord to help me change. (I am a first born child. Need I say more?)

This is what I want to say—I have had a lot of bad things happen to me. Abuse has changed me. For forty years, I ran away from it and denied it. It took my mind and body falling apart to make me deal with it. It took years of counseling, reading, praying and God’s hand on my life to get me where I am today. I have given the bad things to God and asked Him to make something beautiful out of them.

The difficulties I have experienced, have made me into who I am. I have laid my abuse at the feet of Jesus and asked Him to use it for His glory.  But, it took me years to get where I am today. Trauma affects all of us differently because we are made differently. How I react to something is going to be different than how someone else reacts. That is how we are wired.

I sometimes still feel the effects of the abuse. My body can get scared in an instant especially when someone like a doctor or dentist is hovering over me. I get scared when someone has power over me because the person I should have been able to trust the most, abused his power. I immediately go to God and ask Him to help me deal with my feelings. He is always there for me.

I will be a “Fixer Upper” until the day I die. Some rooms have been renovated and others are still being worked on. Like I said, I am a work in progress. But, I couldn’t have a better person working on me than my Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me better than anyone else on this earth. That is why I need to remain under His care.

I want to give you a verse that has helped me deal with all the bad things that have happened in my life. It helps me put things in perspective. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20

The man that said those words was Joseph. You can read about his life in chapters 37-50 of Genesis in the Bible. I have studied the life of Joseph on and off for years. Each time I read and study about him, I still come to the same conclusion. God works through suffering. God works through abuses and God works through unfair situations. Joseph rose to power in Egypt because God was with him. He had a chance to lash back at his brothers, but he chose to show them love and forgiveness. (He kind of messed with them a bit, but who can blame him?) He chose to take the high road and honor God.

My father is no longer alive. But, I have looked at his picture and said the words from Genesis 50:20 to his face. I have had more than one abuser and I have said it to his face as well. I have witnessed first hand that God brings good out of horrible situations. If you are struggling with the aftermath of abuse, I encourage you to give it to God. Say that verse out loud to whoever mistreated you. God is working. God is able to make beauty out of our ashes. Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and to set us free! 

Until next time dear friends….

Snow Days

Hello friends!!! We have been covered in snow in southern Indiana. At first it was beautiful, but now it is getting on my last nerve! When my girls were living at home, I loved snow days. They would have their friends over and play out in the snow—come inside to get warm—then go back out again. I loved having all the kids here and I enjoyed being with them so much! But now that they aren’t here, it isn’t quite the same. Snow days are different for me now. Instead of playing in the snow, I get to spend more time with Jesus and that is definitely a good thing.

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to be a space for God in 2018. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” This verse makes me want to put on my Indiana Jones hat and have God reveal to me great and unsearchable things. I feel like an explorer on a journey to uncover wonderful mysteries about God that I know are going to change me. (I love a good mystery!)

My husband discovered a book called “The Book of Mysteries” by Jonathan Cahn about a year and a half ago. He told me how much he liked it and that I should read it. At that time, I couldn’t quite fit it in because of everything else I was reading and studying. But now, I have the time to sit down and read it. I can already see that this book is in front of me at just the right time in my life. (God’s timing is perfect!) 

Day 1 in this book talks about being an open vessel, which I think is very relatable to being an open space. Cahn says that an open vessel has no limitations. He states, “Only by opening yourself up can you come to know that which you don’t already know. And only by becoming an open vessel can you contain that which is greater than yourself. The truth is always greater than our knowing. Your mind and heart are finite, clay jars. But the truth has no end. God has no end. The Eternal is infinite….always flowing.”

I want to open myself up to God so He can become greater in me. The greater He becomes in me the more I am able to function in His power and strength. I must decrease so He can increase. I used to be afraid of God becoming powerful in me. When you have been abused by someone, it is hard to think of anyone being in power over you. I had to get to the point that I could trust God and that He would never hurt me.

That is why God’s word is so important to me. We have to know what He says so we can know who He is. I see a dangerous trend happening in so many churches today because they aren’t teaching God’s word. (Big mistake!!!) How can we have a relationship with someone we know nothing about? You simply can’t. We can’t rely on others to tell us about God. We have to read and spend time with Him. We have to talk to Him. He doesn’t talk back in an audible voice, but He speaks to our hearts through His word and He tells us what we need to know through His word. 

“So open now your mind, your heart, and your life. For it is only the open vessel and an open heart that can contain the infinity of God.” Cahn It seems like I am forever fighting old habits. It is so easy for me to go into performer mode without talking with God first. There are days when I flat out forget to talk to Him first thing in the morning. My mind goes to my agenda or my phone before it goes to God. I am praying that will change this year. God needs to be the first person I encounter each and every day in order for me to be an open vessel. That phone or agenda is not going to give me a fulfilled life—Only God can do that.

Acts 17:28 “For In Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, “For we are His offspring.” I think I missed this verse somehow in my life or I didn’t pay much attention to it. I knew I existed because of Him, but the wording of the verse makes me pause and think. There is a purpose to my existence and I don’t want to miss out on anything God has planned for me.

“To not only live for Him, but to live your life from Him, to live from His living, to move from His moving, to act from His actions, to feel from His heart, to be from His being, and to become who you are from who He is … I AM.” Cahn I can hardly take it all in. My mind goes to Jesus. He lived, moved, acted, spoke and felt exactly like God because He was God. God loved us so much to show us who He truly was through the life of Jesus. He gave us the best visual representation of Himself. So when you feel like you don’t know God or understand who He is, look at Jesus. That is who God is. It is so easy to forget that little fact.

And, even better, we have the Holy Spirit inside us to help us live, move, act, speak and feel like God. We just need to yield ourselves to the Spirit. (Not so easy is it?) When someone comes along and says horrible things or treats you with disrespect or lies to your face, it takes every ounce of energy to survive those moments. That’s when my mind needs to respond, “Lord, help me react the way I should,’’ instead of, “Who do you think you are acting like that or talking to me in that way?”

It is so easy to fall into old habits and it is way to easy to go to the dark side. Feelings can take over and control you in an instant. “But you must choose to live in the supernatural and walk in the will and power of Him who makes all things new. Live on earth in the power of heaven…and you will walk in the newness of life…and the year ahead will be year of change.” Cahn

Every year I say I want to change—I think we all do. But, this year I want to experience a radical change. I want to open myself up to God and see things I haven’t seen before. I want to give God each and every day of my life so I can accomplish His purposes. I need to want what He wants more than what I want. My agenda to get things done needs to take a backseat to what God wants me to get done.

My days need to have purpose—All of ours do. But, I think that I am finally realizing the fact that I must be more intentional than I have been in the past. I must intentionally give each and every day to God. “You appoint your days in God to bring what is good. You consecrate them for the purposes of God. And then you use your days to accomplish those purposes. Don’t let your days determine your life. Let your life determine your days. And don’t just let your days go by. Prepare them, that they might become vessels of blessing and life. Appoint your days…for the purposes of the Most High.”Cahn

Prayer is the key here. I must go to Him every day before I start to function and give Him the day because I want to be a vessel of blessing and life. What He wants is more important than what I want because He has the heavenly perspective that I lack. I can’t see what He can see.

I have to be honest with you–I love to get things done. It makes me feel so good to check things off a list. But, I can easily lose sight of God and His will for me because of that list. That list can become obsessive to me. Might sound weird to you, but it is a struggle. (OCD runs in the family!) I have to remind myself that God just wants me to open myself up to Him. He wants me to give Him my days so He can accomplish His work in me. I have to be intentional about giving it to Him.

All of our days are numbered. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth. My hope is for all of us to remember that fact and turn to the Lord and say, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Until next time friends….

*The girls pictured above are my three beautiful daughters–Sarah, Rebekah and Leah.

Becoming A Space For God

I have been reading though some of my posts from 2017 and what a year it has been. But, when I look back at all the things I was able to do and places I have gone, the things that stand out the most to me are the times I have learned something about God. He remains my constant friend and Father through the good and bad times. He doesn’t change and His words are true.      

When God told me in 2015 that He wanted me to write a blog, I said, “No!” I told Him that I couldn’t do it. I told Him that I wasn’t equipped to do it. I told Him He needed to find someone else. There was no way I was going to be able to do it. Well—because He can be a tad persistent—He didn’t allow my answer to be the final answer. It took about six months for me to realize He was right and I surrendered to His calling.

So here I am–a little over two years into this–and I still question Him and He keeps responding, “This is what I want you to do.” So, I keep writing and sharing. There have been many times I wanted to stop because I couldn’t see why anyone would want to hear what I had to say. Then, I would run into someone who told me they enjoyed reading my blog. (God knows I need encouragement!) And to be honest, we all need encouragement doing what we do.

With social media, it is so easy to get wrapped up in all the “likes.” And, it is so easy to get discouraged when you write something that you think is helpful and then only a few people respond. I have to remind myself that I am writing for the Lord and not for myself. As long as my heart is where it should be, that is all that matters. But, boy oh boy is that hard! You want people to like what you write.

But then I came across this comment from Ann Voskamp. “There is no need to produce or perform or perfect—simply become a place for God. That is all!” That statement has had a huge impact on me. So,I have decided that in 2018, I want to simply become a place for God. I want to quit trying to produce, perform and perfect because it has brought me nothing but stress, anxiety and panic. I want to sit before the Lord and just be what He wants me to be. 

I am sitting in my chair—where I normally write—and I am closing my eyes and asking the Lord, “How do I become a place for you?” I had asked Him into my life when I was twelve years old, but I don’t think I had ever thought about becoming a place for Him. And, what does that mean?

Voskamp states, “When you are a space to receive whatever the will of God is in this moment as grace, you take hold of God. You most take hold of God when you simply receive Him in this moment taking hold of you. Taking hold of your unsure hand. Taking hold of your unseen needs. Taking hold of your unknown stress. He wants to take hold of you, to be with you. He wants to carry you, to be carried by you, to have relationship with you.”

It is dawning on me that in order to be a place for God, I need to be able to receive what God wants for me. There is a reason why God chose Mary to give birth to Jesus. She had the right heart and attitude to receive what God wanted for her. When the angel approached her to tell her about the baby she was to carry, her response was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38

Just think about that for a minute. I would like to say I would have responded in that way, but who am I kidding? I am embarrassed for all the times I have argued with God. I have doubted Him. I have tried to run and hide from Him. I haven’t listened to Him. I have said, “NO!” to the God of the Universe. (Who do I think I am?) I have even gotten mad and angry, which is probably how I would have responded to that angel! I am so glad the Lord has been so kind and patient with me. (I haven’t been struck by lightening yet!) And, I like to think He laughs at me, but I know I need to make some changes on how I respond to Him.

Maybe I have missed out on things because I haven’t responded to the Lord with a servant’s attitude. It breaks my heart to think that—but it is probably true. But I can change because the Holy Spirit resides in me. I can become a space to receive the Lord’s will for my life.

Part of my problem is that I have never been a good receiver. It has always been easier for me to give than receive. It is the curse of the performer-pleaser in me. But, I am ready to change. I am ready to be a better receiver. I don’t want to miss out on the gifts God has for me. When you think about it—in order to get a gift—you have to be able to receive it. If you refuse to receive, then you miss out on the gift. Well, I don’t want to miss out on any gifts that God has for me.

I know that being a receiver is out of my comfort zone. It is almost too simple. I think to myself, “You mean, I only need to come before the Lord and receive? He actually wants to give to me? All I need to do is ask?” John Wesley writes, “Nothing is more repugnant to capable, reasonable people than grace.” Ouch!

“Your greatest gift is not your gifts, but your surrendered yes to be a space for God.” Voskamp So, I am going to surrender, and say yes to be a space for God in 2018. Being a space for God really takes the pressure off me when I think about it. When I close my eyes and say, “Let me be a space for you,” I can have peace because I know that He is the one that is doing the work, not me! Oh, what a relief that is!

A little over a week ago, God was urging me to do some things. Instead of my usual reluctance or procrastination, I decided to follow through on His leading. I can’t tell you the joy it brought me to see Him work. I need to remember on a daily basis that I need to stay in communication with Him because I will miss out on so many wonderful things if I don’t.

So, I am going to surrender my agenda, my dreams, my plans and my days to be a space for God. I am going to let myself off the hook and watch God work. His plans are far better than I could ever dream or imagine anyway. The pleaser, performer and perfecter in me is going to have to get in the backseat. I want Jesus to be the driver and I want to be in the seat next to Him. I want to be at His right hand because that is where I am supposed to be.

I am having this visual illustration right now of driving in a car. Jesus is at the wheel and I am right beside Him. The kids—perfection, performance and pleasing—are trying to get my attention in the back. (Which is what most kids do!) And I am asking them to be quiet, so I can listen to what Jesus is telling me. I need to keep those kids in the backseat and let Jesus take the wheel in my life. 

I would love for you to join me on this adventure. I want to encourage you to be a space for God and allow Him to do the work in your life. I have a feeling He is going to do some amazing things through us and in us. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings! Until next time…..

 

Finding Joy This Christmas

Like most of you, I am listening to Christmas songs every day. And for some reason, the words “joy” and “rejoice” have been speaking to my heart. So—because I have nothing better to do with my time—I decided to find out how many Christmas songs have those words in the lyrics. At last count there were fifty!!! So I started thinking to myself, there must be a reason why these words are used so much. I mean the obvious reason is the birth of Jesus, but I think it is so much more than that.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14

Talk about a spectacular birth announcement!!!! Can you just imagine how those shepherds felt when they heard the good news? They were afraid at first, but then their fear turned to joy! They had a front row seat hearing about the birth of a new born King—and not just any King—He was the Savior of the world! For years the Jews had been waiting for their Messiah to be born—and when the news of His birth finally came—God chose to reveal it to the shepherds. Their evening was changed in an instant! I can picture them looking at each other, dropping their staffs, and running toward the stable to see their newborn King!

“The Lord will appear. The Lord sees. And He will see to it. And He will be seen.”Voskamp And that night was a night like no other. I can’t even imagine what they felt like gazing at the baby. I’m sure they couldn’t believe it! I can imagine them thinking, “Why were we chosen to witness this birth? That baby over there—born in this place—is our King? Why isn’t He in fine surroundings? What is He doing here with us? What in the world is happening here? This isn’t what I pictured the arrival of our King was going to look like.”

And isn’t it just like us to think that way. In our minds, we picture what we think things should look like or how things are supposed to happen. We have our agendas all planned out because it makes us feel better to have control over what is going to happen. Ann Voskamp says, “When we have an agenda for God, we can’t see the gifts from God.” So true!

There is a story in the Old Testament about a woman named Ruth. She had a very close bond with her mother-in-law Naomi. They both lost their husbands and were left alone without a way to support themselves. So, they decided to return to Naomi’s original home which happened to be the city of Bethlehem. Ruth had to find a way to feed them, so Naomi told her to work in a field for a man named Boaz. (She was doing a little matchmaking and it worked!) Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son named Obed. He marries and has a son named Jesse, who has a son named David, who becomes the greatest king in Israel’s history. And then many years later, a man named Joseph has a son named Jesus, who is no ordinary baby–He is the face of God–Savior to the world!

My point in mentioning all of this to you is…. no matter what our plans are or whatever has happened to us, God has an agenda for us that is far better and greater than ours could ever be! Even in tragedy, He is working on our behalf. Even though sometimes it is hard to understand or see, God is working. “God comes through mangers. The mundane holds miracles. Every little thing is going to be okay—You have a Kinsman-Redeemer who takes you and is redeeming everything. The miracle of gifts is always unfolding under the impossibles.” Voskamp

“Joys are always on their way to us. They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.” Amy Carmichael  I know that is a concept that is hard to grasp sometimes. At times, I have a hard time comprehending it. But— when I look back at Ruth—it isn’t so hard to see. Even though she experienced the death of a husband, a move to a different city and culture and being destitute—she met a man who wanted to marry her and take care of her. She then had a child who became a descendant of Jesus! God redeemed her situation.

The great thing is that God can use any situation and bring joy from it. We have to turn our focus off of ourselves and on Him. It has taken me my whole life to do this! When I decided eighteen years ago to go after God in a way I never had before, He changed me. He has given me the assurance that no matter what happens, He is right there with me. I have gone through a lot of trauma in my life. Trauma that brought on intense pain. Trauma that caused many emotional issues. Trauma that I never thought would end. But because Jesus is in the business of redeeming—He is turning it around and I am getting stronger every day. He is redeeming my past. God greets me every morning and shows me who He is. My joy comes from my relationship with Him. He is my JOY!

If we want joy, we have to let our agendas go! We have to let our dreams go! We have to let our expectations go! We simply have to or we aren’t going to see the gifts from God and experience joy! I can testify to that. I have learned to say something like this. “Lord, I would really like for such and such to happen or so and so to change. But no matter what, please keep me focused on You and your will for me. If that isn’t what You want for me, then I don’t want it! I place it in your hands and You do what is best. Help me to let it go and trust you with it!” After 58 hard years on this earth, I am finally learning to do this. I am constantly asking Him to redeem things and turn them into good. I want to have joy despite my circumstances or the people in my life.

“Looking comes first if you’re ever to find the life you want, if you are ever to ”see you a king.” Always, always—first the eyes. Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see.” Voskamp

“You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see” is truth! My life has changed because I have changed the way I see. I pray this Christmas season, you will be able to see Jesus’ birth with a changed perspective. I pray you will look at Him as our great kinsman-redeemer and experience joy like never before!

Before I end, let me share with you what kinsman-redeemer means. “In the New Testament Christ is often regarded as an example of a kinsman-redeemer because, as our brother, He also redeems us because of our great need, one that only He can satisfy. In Ruth 3:9, we see a beautiful and poignant picture of Ruth, unable to rescue herself, requesting of Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer; that he cover her with his protection, redeem her, and make her his wife. In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ bought us for Himself, out of the curse, out of our destitution; made us His own beloved bride; and blessed us for all generations. He is the true kinsman-redeemer of all who call on Him in faith.”

Merry Christmas dear friends! May you be filled with joy and wonder when you look at Jesus! Until next time……