Beauty in the Son

I never fully appreciated the sun and all its splendors until I got sick.  Yes, I always liked summer and all it had to offer – tractor pulls on cool summer nights, days of county fairs amidst Ferris wheel rides, and canning just about everything in sight that grew from my family’s garden, just to name a few.  But I never truly appreciated the sun until I realized the magnitude it had on my soul.

I have always loved daisies.  They are so cheery and bright – I can’t help but smile seeing one of their beautiful blooms shooting out from their green foliage.  Every year for our anniversary, my husband has gotten me a daisy planted in a pot for my deck-viewing enjoyment.  I would like to tell you that I have them planted all around the boarders of our property, but since I firmly believe that if we can’t eat it, why plant it, in a pot it goes!

Burned upon my heart during one particularly rough health period of my life, I recall my husband brought me in a single daisy.  It had broken off on its own and my caring husband thought enjoying the beauty it shed would be of some healing for my mind that day.  He had placed it in a cup of water and put it on the window sill – the same window sill I gazed out from my bed-ridden confinement.  I just stared at it, for days – admiring the beauty it held and jealous of the new freedom it had found.  Oh, how I wished to be plucked and placed in a new area in my life and no longer riddled with the pain and depression I was trapped in.

As I watched and studied that daisy, I realized something – it was moving.  It was ever so slight – so slight that I almost missed it.  It was moving with the sun.  It needed the sun. It desired the sun.  As the sun evicted each previous space, so followed the daisy.

Surely, a broken off daisy couldn’t do that…

I was trapped in utter confusion when the Lord whispered to my heart, “Dear one, as the broken daisy follows the sun, so should you follow my Son”.  My mind raced – this daisy had no roots anymore, yet it moved.  It had been broken and if no one had cared for it in its current state, it would have withered and died quickly.  This daisy and I had more in common than I thought.  While I had been jealous of its freedom and was now in awe of it’s movement, I was being shown I could attain this also… with the Son.

The daisy was broken, but it still followed the sun.  It was its instinctive nature – broken or thriving, it still followed the sun. If the sun wasn’t out, it drooped and was limp, obviously missing what the sun provided.  And when the sun peaked back out, it would turn towards any little ray and perk back up to its fullest self.  And you know what’s unexplainable?  The broken off daisy lasted way longer than anticipated – it was beautiful in that cup for over 3 weeks. THREE WEEKS.  It was sustained by the sun and beat all odds.

I too, was broken and in need of repair.  My Maker’s Son scooped me up out of such utter darkness and decay and placed me in a cup of His refreshing love.  But I had a choice to make – would I turn with the Son into His life-giving rays, or turn from the Son, where I would shrivel and decompose?  The latter was the path I was on and where I was headed until that daisy reminded me just how important following the Son was.  It overcame all expectations and lasted longer than predicted by man.

Could that be me?

This pain-filled world had fogged over my mind until I believed the Son was never going to cast His rays of mercy on me again.  And to be honest, any ray He had previously casted on me in that difficult period had been met with my turned head.  But, the Son was showing me just as in that daisy, just because my heart, my spirit, my body had been broken, I could still thrive.  My heart could heal and my soul could heal. Come to find out, that’s all the healing this fractured body and my withering heart needed to continue and push through all the insurmountable odds against it.

Yesterday I stood in a field of sunflowers.  If you have never stood in a field of sunflowers, add that to your bucket list – it’s breathtaking.  The sun was out and I could feel its warmth on my pain-filled body, reminding me of the healing warmth on my aching joints.  As my children and I carefully chose the sunflowers to sever and take home, I was so gently reminded of that daisy’s truths.  All the sunflowers were turned away from us (this world) and toward their source of sunlight.  Oh what a beautiful reminder of the choice we have to make on a daily basis.

Will we turn away from this world’s hurts and pain and towards our source of light, the Son?  Will we live every single moment with our face in the Son’s beautiful glorious rays of light and love?  For it is there that we feel the healing warmth on our souls and true beauty makes its mark upon our hearts.

I’m so thankful that even in the midst of my tough physical pain yesterday, God touched my heart.  Even through pain, even through utter exhaustion, even through crowds of unknowing multitudes, God made His intentions for my light-seeking so clear.  Who would have thought that He uses daisies and sunflowers to show us the way – the way of daily seeking out His Son.

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

Jodi

Unsuspecting Peace

Can I be honest with you, friend?

I’m weary.

And I would rather not be sharing this. I would much rather be telling you my body is great and my heart is solid, all the while with a smile plastered on my face and makeup and wardrobe exquisitely sculpted to a T.

But no matter how hard I try to master that, that’s not me. And more importantly, that’s not who God calls me to be.

So here we are.

It has been a rough couple weeks and my body, mind and soul are paying the price. Too many emergency trips, doctor visits, and pills have come my way, leaving me depleted and exhausted.

To be real – I’m struggling.

One blow after another leaves my heart crying out for respite and I have found myself pleading for just one day – one day protected from the the winds this torrential storm keeps surging at me.

One day God, please, just one day.

One day without sickness. One day without heartbreak. One day without the pain this world leaves imprinted upon my heart.

The rain coming down outside matches my tear-stained face. I am tempted to ask God where He is in all this and why my suffering has not come to an end. I am tempted to run to Him and demand an answer as to how this, THIS, could ever be used in His Kingdom? Is there enough mercy and grace that could ever swallow up such brokenness and pain? I am tempted to hide in my hole and suffer alone.

Yet, even though my flesh is so clearly trying to take control of my heart, my soul, though weary and tired from the long battle, is harboring something deep within itself. Like a spring flowing silently under the ground I am collapsed upon, I can feel it’s power deep below. It’s just right under the surface and I can feel it deep in my bones. And on those days when I make my head get out of the way of my Jesus-loving heart, I can feel it as I starts to wash all over me.

PEACE.

But, how can I have peace amidst constant pain and trials? How can I have peace when doctors are leaving me speechless with diagnosis and treatment plans? How can I have PEACE when the doctor says I’m too sick to even be treated right now?

Jesus.

Because Jesus is the only one that knows the deep wounds of our hearts. He is the only one who loves us enough to hold every tear we shed and know the very number of hairs on our heads. JESUS is the only one who has seen me through more than I ever dreamed I would walk, all the while holding my quivering hand every unsteady step of the way.

So when my sinful mind tells me He will never be there for me, I can shout that He already has and will again. Every time. Always.

Peace.

When I am tempted to listen to the lies of the Enemy telling me Jesus has forgotten me, I can open up the history book of my life and point out chapter after chapter of His presence in my life.

Peace.

When I’m tempted to feel as of no use to His Kingdom, I can close my eyes and recall each fingerprint upon my suffering that He has used for His glory.

Peace.

And when I am tempted to hide away somewhere, because things are just too hard, I am reminded of the cross Jesus willingly took up for me, was beaten for and died on, all for me and all for you.

Such peace.

Now that’s worth wiping away the tears of disappointment and frustration. Because if Jesus hadn’t willingly taken up that cross for me, what hope would I have to stand on today? What peace would there be in all this suffering?

And yes, some days we are still going to be frustrated and heartbroken. That’s where my weary heart is hanging out these days. But let me give you permission here – it’s ok to not be ok. For on those days, as we are stripped of strength and crumble into a heap on the shaky ground of this fallen world, one hand suddenly becomes very clear.

The peace-filled hand of Jesus.

If today finds you in a heap of brokenness with no words to even cry out, simply look for the outstretched hand of Jesus and find the unsuspecting peace He offers, even amidst the pain your heart and body are experiencing. Guess what? I think you will find it’s been flowing under you all along.

Sweet Jesus. Today is hard for my heart to cope. It’s broken and it’s raw. Yet, as I look back upon all the paths you have walked alongside me, I KNOW you love me. I KNOW you are holding me as I cry and I know these tears will not be wasted. Thank you that all the suffering that is surrounding my heart will not swallow up the grace and mercy your will has for my life. Even amidst uncertainty and even amidst pain, today I CHOOSE you. Every day, I choose you. I choose your peace, even as unsuspecting as it may seem to my blinded earthly eyes. Thank you for reminding me, yet again, that you are HERE and that your peace is free for the taking, if only I accept it. I pray all of this in your precious and grace-filled name.

Amen.

Jodi

Roller Coaster

Over the past eight years of my chronic illness journey, God has brought so many blessings upon my heart. One of which – friends to walk this journey alongside my struggling spirit. More times than I could ever recall, God has placed some amazing women to pick me up, encourage me, and most importantly turn my eyes toward the only One who can lay peace as a covering over my aching soul.

One of these dear friends is Rebecca Cassmeyer. Even before I knew we shared a diagnosis, God wove our hearts together. She checked up on me and sent texts of encouragement. And when the diagnosis of Lyme Disease left me in shock, Rebecca was the first person I told. And this is why.

In a text message that same day, she sent me a picture of a lit candle and these words, “Maybe we can be each other’s reminder to call on God’s light when things get really dark”. She is that exact reminder to me and her encouragement is contagious. Today, I would love for you hear her heart and the blessing she brings to so many.

The following is written by my sweet friend, Rebecca Cassmeyer. May she bless your heart as much as she blesses mine.

“Imagine if Six Flags had a new roller coaster with the moniker “Chronic Illness.” Would anyone willingly get on the ride? Let’s check the common criteria… Nausea and fear-inducing. Check. Death-defying twists and turns. Check. Headache producing. Check. The thought – “is this ever going to end?” Check.

Maybe it all fits the criteria for a thrill ride, but the reality is no one would ever want to get on if you knew that there was no getting off. No sigh of relief when your ride pulls in to disembark. No “whew…don’t think I’m going to do THAT one again.” Chronic illness is this roller coaster in “continuous mode.” Every once in awhile there will be those slow, coasting moments where you can take a breath, but most of the time, you can’t really prepare yourself for what’s coming next.

So, how does a person with chronic illness face this daunting challenge?

Every single person’s illness creates a different experience for them. Each diagnosis, support network, and all the minutiae in between create a different story. But there is one area that we can share in common – the fact that the love of our ever-present God never changes for you and for me.

I have been actively battling Chronic Lyme’s disease for over 6 years now. I really thought I had my life on target with a fulfilling, albeit challenging, career, a loving family, and a brand new home.

And then things changed.

My health declined pretty rapidly for 3 years. I was traveling all over to find someone who could diagnose what was going on in my failing body. I look like someone with Multiple Sclerosis, but I never met the diagnostic criteria. My emotions and my spirit were all undergoing an endless assault. My identity was changing. My ability to be a wife, mother, and health professional changed.

But God didn’t.

Looking back over the years, I always felt that my faith was strong. Yet, chronic illness has become my ultimate test of surrendering to God’s plan for my life. The days of crushing fatigue, unrelenting pain, failing body, and whirlwind emotions would be a challenge to anyone.

But do you know who understands? Jesus does.

And that has been one of the most grace-filled realizations that I have made over the past 6 years. Jesus understands, and he is walking every step with us. Breathing every breath with us. And he will not lead us astray.

He will carry us when our bodies cannot continue, wipe away the tears that fall, and remind us without fail that he loves us. If we find ourselves doubting, we can ask God to help us in our unbelief. He NEVER fails.

But I do.

I get wrapped up in “how in the world am I going to accomplish task A, B, C, etc.” and forget to seek His guidance. I forget to thank Him for the innumerable blessings and for his faithfulness, even when the challenges seem to be front and center. I fail all of the time, but I’m trying. I’m building that relationship with God he so desperately desires with all of us.

Now, back to the question I proposed at the beginning. Would anyone willingly get on the “Chronic Illness” roller coaster? Willingly accept pain and suffering?

Jesus did.

Jesus willing entered His passion…willingly suffered through the anguish of the road to his crucifixion. He did it for all of us. And there was such love in His actions, and such beauty in the resurrection.

If I can trust…if I can surrender to God’s “roller coaster” plan for my life…then my life will produce beauty and love much greater than I could ever have done on my own.”

What a beautiful testimony of what it looks like to walk willingly straight into God’s will, no matter the storm clouds that loom overhead.

Whatever God is calling you to do, dear one, He is first and foremost calling you to submit – submit to His ways over your own ways. It’s not easy – I understand that. Especially whenever God is calling you to walk some seemingly treacherous and winding roads (or rides).

BUT, as Rebecca reminded us, God NEVER fails us! And someone who never fails is Someone I can definitely put my trust in. I encourage you to today, right now, take all that pain, all that frustration and all that confusion and submit it right into His trustworthy hands. Trust that no matter where His will takes you, you will come through the fire stronger and more in love with the One who protected you from the burns of this world.

And maybe, just maybe, you will learn to enjoy the ride.

Jodi

10 Ways to Support a Suffering Friend

When someone around us is suffering, whether it be from heartbreak, loss or illness, we want to be able to help, don’t we? We want to find the perfect words to say to ease them in their pain, and help them feel encouraged and loved. Yet those words are hard to find, especially when we may not be able to relate to the road they are so bravely walking.

Because I know your heart is true in wanting to help those around you facing some giants, I have some tips to help you along the way. Please read these with an open heart, even if it’s beyond what you would ever consider doing, saying (or not saying) to your friend. Some of these are practical and some of these will not only support your friend through their struggles, but my prayer is it will soften and mold your heart to those suffering in the process.

1. Send encouraging texts or messages.

“Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees.” Job 4:4

This may seem trivial, but there have been so many times a sweet text, or even a funny meme, has brightened my day. Sometimes amidst dark trials, we tend to shut the world out for a time, and that’s not always a bad thing. There have been days I just can’t handle any more news, any more drama or any more sadness – my heart and body just didn’t have it in me to process. But, those positive, encouraging messages can bring light and joy to a rough day. Something this simple can help your friend know that you love them and are thinking of them.

Also, give them permission to not respond. Saying something as simple as, “Julie, I woke up thinking of you today. You are a warrior and I’m so proud of the strength and perseverance it takes to walk out your daily life. You don’t have to respond – just wanted you to know I love you! I have included a funny raccoon video – hope it makes you laugh as hard as it did me!”. It’s that simple – simple, yet powerful to a weary heart.

2. Pray for them and TELL them you are.

I once had a friend tell me that God laid me on her heart and He told her to pray for me, right then. In her obedience, she stopped what she was doing and prayed, then sent me a simple text explaining what had just happened. All I could do was cry. It had been a particularly rough morning and all my hope had seemingly blown away with the summer winds. But, it was in the fact that my Father would interrupt my friend’s day, on my behalf, that made me feel the renewing of His love, thus renewing my hope. And I never would have gotten to experience that deeper connection with my Father if she had never revealed that story and that prayer.

3. Don’t tell them God will definitely heal them.

“So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleased with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

You might not agree with me on this one, and that’s ok. But, see, God has already whispered to me that I will not be healed this side of heaven, so when someone tells me they KNOW God will heal me, it sends me in a tail spin. I have been spoken to by God Himself, yet the very words of others can make me doubt that, on those pain filled days when all I wish for is physical healing.

God doesn’t physically heal everyone here on earth, does He? Yet, He uses suffering to soften our hearts and mold us into a better likeness of Him, and as Christians, isn’t that our ultimate goal? So instead of telling your friend that God will definitely heal them of their physical pain, remind them of what happens even if He doesn’t.

It could go something like this, “Sarah, I pray for God to reach down and heal your body and your mind, and I truly believe that if it’s His will for you to be healed, He will HEAL YOU! What a glorious day that would be! But, EVEN IF He doesn’t, EVEN IF it’s not in His plan for you, I KNOW God is willing to heal your heart and draw you closer to Him. His grace covers even this. He wants you healed, yet maybe it’s your heart He’s longing to mend. I am here for you if I can help you in seeking His will for your life. I can’t wait to see how God will use these hard days to strengthen you and heal you, according to His purpose.”

4. Listen to them.

“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.” Psalm 5:1

It’s hard to find a safe person to talk to that won’t judge your words or your emotions during trying times. The best friends I have just listen when I vent and cry. They hold me and love me and pray over me. They don’t try to fix me, especially in a moment where I need to get out all that is going on in my heart and in my head. Satan’s lies are all too clear some days, and just saying them out loud, releases the power and hold they have on us, so just listen. Once I am done crying and venting and my heart has calmed, I am ready to hear Truth and encouragement, but until the river of emotion stops flowing, not much else can get upstream.

5. Don’t send too much research.

I have friends who used to send me article after article on health and healing (related to what I was going through at the time) and I so loved their hearts! All they wanted to do was help and I felt so loved and cared for – they wanted me to get better and those articles talked about different ways to do that. I appreciated their thoughtfulness. But, honestly, I didn’t read many of them. It was too overwhelming to me.

What would have helped me more? If someone had asked me if there was something they could research FOR me and give me the bullet points, I would have been elated! I know it’s in our nature to want to pass along information and that is so sweet and thoughtful, but just be aware that too much information can make our hearts weary and overwhelmed. Moderation, dear friend, would be so very helpful to our already burdened hearts.

6. Offer to help them in little ways.

When my husband had back surgery, our lives were in a tail spin. Not only was I sick, but now my wonderful, care-taker husband was down for the count, also. My friends rallied around us and set up meals for us. They even went to the grocery store for us and shuttled kids around. If someone you know is suffering, helping them in small ways speaks volumes to how much you love them and care for them.

As far as meals go, if someone has some dietary issues, consider learning about it and cooking for them anyway (unless it’s an allergy, then the cross-contamination is more serious). I had many friends take time to study my medical diet and cook something for me, as well as for my family! That was a tremendous gift to me and it means so much that they took the time to bless us in that way.

7. Be in the Word to give sound Biblical advice.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

If you aren’t grounded in the Word of God (the Bible), how will you be able to comfort someone going through grief or hard circumstances, especially ones you haven’t personally experienced? More so, the advice you give needs to be Truth based and life-giving, which can only come from knowing God’s very words. That doesn’t mean you have to stress about having the perfect verses memorized for your friend. But, if you come across a verse or commentary in your studying that could encourage and uplift her, pass it along. I have even written out verses and handed them to a friend at lunch, so don’t be intimidated by not having hundreds of verses memorized. God has used the most seemingly random verses to speak to me, so just listen in your quiet time for Godly words to speak over your suffering friend.

8. Give them grace.

I have heard from countless suffering women that they don’t really have friends anymore. Due to pain, sickness, anxiety, or grief, the need to cancel plans (even last minute) happens more than we would like. Be patient with them. If they don’t respond back to your texts, don’t take it personal. Instead, when they are silent, commit yourself to praying over them, because odds are, they are struggling and just can’t reach out. Send a text telling them you are praying for them and you love them, and give them that permission to not respond. Don’t give up on them. Continue to invite them and reach out to them. Because in my experience, the ones that have had the toughest battles are some of the wisest, kindest, God-seeking people I have ever met and you definitely don’t want to miss out on all they have to offer.

9. Don’t tell them God only gives them what they can handle.

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure… But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10

I know this seems comforting to say to someone who is walking a hard road, yet this is not in the Bible. More so, it’s false. Many people get it confused with 1 Corinthians 10:13 that says God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. That’s two very different things.

If God only gave us as much as we can handle, why would we ever need to turn to Him? Our hearts would then be self-reliant and our need for God would be minimal, at best. God absolutely gives us more than we can handle, because it brings us to our knees before the Throne in desperation of God’s hope, His love and a yearning for a greater understanding of His will. So, if you have tried to encourage someone with those words in the past, just pray over them. Pray that God would use their suffering and not let it go in vain in their own lives.

And don’t say those words again. I know you didn’t know and it’s ok, friend. Now you do!

10. Help them feel seen.

I can’t count the number of times that suffering women have cried out that they don’t feel seen, either by the world or, sadly even by their Father. That breaks my heart, mostly because it seems to be an epidemic amongst the broken-hearted. How can you help? Reach out – it’s that simple. If someone is trudging through the grocery store, stop and ask them how their day has been and WAIT FOR AN ANSWER. Make conversation with the person handing you your Sonic tea or ask the lady having a hard time lifting her groceries if your teenage son may help. It’s all about relationships, yet our lives are too busy and too rushed to make time for those anymore. So slow down and look around, because odds are, someone around you is feeling lost and unseen by the world around them. The amazing thing is, by you simply showing them you care, they are getting a glimpse of the Father’s love for them in the kindness of your eyes. Help someone feel seen today.

I hope in reading these, God has shown you some insight into the workings of the needs of your friend’s suffering heart. The fact that you took time to read these, shows how much you love them and want to support them – they are blessed to have you in their lives! If by reading these suggestions, you have realized something you have said or done may have inadvertently not been the best choice of words or actions, don’t worry friend. There is grace in this space. We know the right words are hard to come by and we don’t hold that against you. We appreciate you making an effort to ease our pain and support us – that matters more than you know.

I encourage you to try some of these ways of support for your friend. If their road is rough and their heart weary, they will gladly accept your loving encouragement.

Do you have any other ways to support a suffering friend? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments!

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

-Jodi

Respond

We live in a fallen, broken world that sometimes is so full of pain we are unable to catch our breath between blows. Sickness attacks our bodies and pain-filled scenes invade our hearts.

I have a feeling you are all too familiar with this. I know I am.

Right now, I have friends all over the country who are suffering greatly and my heart is breaking with them. Some sweet friends are trudging through crumbling marriages, financial ruin, and crushing custody battles. Others are desperately seeking health answers, dealing with unexplainable loss, and learning to live without basic needs. Their hearts, spirits, and for some, even faith is breaking under the weight of the storms that are surging around them.

Yet these very trials and storms are being allowed by God’s own hand.

How do you feel about that? The very God that loves you enough to count the number of hairs on your head is allowing these hurtful situations? Situations that cut so deep we don’t know if we will ever be able to recover…

When I start to ask the age old question “why?” in my suffering, God gently draws me back to Job and I am reminded that it’s not the why that matters, but the way that I respond to the pain that holds the key to my heart transformation.

I love Job. The Bible tells us that Job was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8)

But did you realize that God not only allowed Job to be tested by Satan but He actually suggested Job specifically to him? God chose him for such a task and removed his hand of protection over Job. He allowed Satan to test him and do whatever he wanted, as long as Satan didn’t kill him.

Now I know what you’re thinking – why on earth would God withdraw His hand of protection over a man who was such a devoted true follower?

The answer is simple – God knew that Job would never let his worldly circumstances change his view of God’s goodness. God knew that Job would remain a true and faithful servant even if he walked through unimaginable pain and loss – even if the rest of the world and those around him advised otherwise. God knew the intricate workings of Job’s devoted heart, just as He knows yours.

Dear one, God doesn’t want you to suffer just to suffer – that is not how He works. He loves us entirely too much for that. He just knows what it takes to bring us to our knees to have a deeper relationship with Him and a deeper understanding of His love for us. Unfortunately, it usually takes pain to get us down before Him, hands raised in total surrender. For it’s in those deep wounding moments that we realize just how out of our hands our lives are and how much we need our Jesus to be our tether to His peace-filled side.

And once we learn to submit to whatever trials have been given us, only then can we praise Him in the midst of the storm.

For it’s in those trials, in the midst of the muck and the mire, that we grow.

Last night, my heart was struggling with the idea that healing, not the journey, should be my ultimate goal. Then God, in His all knowing way of my heart, reminded me of His truth – a truth I knew, yet I had let be clouded. God whispered to me to look at the book of Job and count how many chapters were in Job – 42. Then He asked me to count how many verses spoke of Job’s healing – 10.

There are 42 chapters about Job’s suffering, his relationships with friends and family (as rough as they were), and his crying out in agony to his Father. Yet, there are only 10 verses about his healing and his life thereafter. That’s a big difference! Suffering matters and the way Job was responding amidst it was more important than the actual physical healing that occurred later.

If you are fighting a hard battle, dear one, you have been chosen and allowed by our Father to walk this road. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow. But just like Job, you have been chosen to walk through this storm for a reason. Maybe you have been chosen because you are a faithful follower of our Savior and the world needs to watch your chapters unfold as they watch that faithfulness play out in your life. Maybe you have been chosen because you are seeking something greater than this storm and Jesus wants to show you He is that THAT. Maybe you have been chosen to be reminded that God’s will is greater than yours, and that He is worthy to be praised.

No matter the “why” God has you in this battle, how are you going to respond to the pain? Because how you respond is the part that fills the chapters of your life and one that can give great glory to our Lord and Savior. And that, dear friend, is what matters the most.

Jodi

Perfect Love.

Last night, my husband and I got to reminiscing and opened the door to so many memories. Some we laughed about, while some launched a flood of hurts that had been long forgotten. We talked of my being rushed into heart surgery and a doctor we called Dr. Meany-head (just so you know, he totally deserved that title). We laughed about when my diet consisted of only Sonic slushes, lactose-free ice cream and icees, as opposed to my now strict way of eating. We walked back through what it was like losing so much from the toxic mold in our home and living in our dear friends’ basement for six months as we rebuilt. The memories and experiences kept flowing past our usual bedtimes and something my husband said struck a cord.

“We’ve done a lot of living in eight years.”

Our lives aren’t exactly what the world would call perfect. Instead of being a Hallmark movie, our life script reads more like a country music song, complete with an old rusty truck and the dog dying in the end. Yet, it is so, so good. My God has given us more than we need to overcome all that life has hurled our way – His perfect and unmeasurable love. When things look bleak and it appears the storms of life are surely going to overtake me, God reminds me of His love. It’s usually in the smallest of ways but they are powerful reminders to my ever absentminded heart. He uses those sweet, small moments to drown out my fears, worries, pains, and doubts.

I just have to be looking for them.

In November, God called me to be still this Christmas season and with the Lyme Disease diagnosis being handed down shortly thereafter, I can now see why. I deemed this Christmas to be stress-free and it really was! Instead of shopping for hours, smiling for countless social media pics, and running around like a crazy person, I opted for Amazon Prime, puzzles and games with the family, and hot chocolate and movies by the light of the Christmas tree. I dug deep into His word instead of digging deep into the clearance bins. God whispered to my heart to be present this Christmas – the rest didn’t matter. Guess what? It was the best gift I could have gotten.

God loved me enough to give me just what I needed. It wasn’t a fancy gift to flash all over social media. It was the one I needed in the silence of my own seeking heart. God knew what it took to fill my heart with joy and contentment, more than I. He knows the very irregular heartbeat of my heart and loves me just the same.

But it’s the littlest of ways that God loves me that makes my heart melt.

On the evening of Christmas, God used someone to bless us and show me the immense scope of His love. Inside our front glass door, someone dropped off a jar of change and an envelope of some cash. The message written on the envelope simply told us to have fun on our trip and Merry Christmas. Tears welled up and fell… hard. My mind raced – who would do such a sweet thing? And who would come out on Christmas night to drop it off? I instantly knew this was an “I love you” from my Father. It was a standing-with-a-boom-box-over-your-head-declaring-His-undivided-love kinda event to my anxious heart. You see, the experience we planned in lieu of gifts this year was proving to be more expensive than we thought.

Enter Love.

That jar of change sits right next to my bed and reminds me that God loves me so much that He would prompt someone, even on Christmas, to put a lid on their change jar and drop it anonymously in our door. Their love for us, spurred by God’s own loving whispers, still wells up humbled tears. We are grateful for that act of love shown by one of God’s chosen people and pray for them often. See, those coins symbolize so much more than pocket change – they prove that God sees me, that He loves me, and boy, that love never ceases to amaze me.

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94: 18-19

I don’t know what storms you may be facing right now or what your heart’s cry has become. But I do know this – you are LOVED. No matter the disease that is ravaging your body, no matter the empty crib once full, no matter the marriage broken or finances thinned, God is loving you through each tear shed and each stab to your already broken heart. He sees you and He knows the pain you are in. He is wrapping his arms around your brokenness and radiating His healing love into every crack and crevice that needs repair. When you feel alone, unseen, and beaten down by this world obsessed with perfection, ask our loving Father to reveal His repairing love to your heart. And prepare to be healed.

Yes, my life is definitely not “worldly” perfect. We have to scrounge together money to go on a trip, yet God is already in so many of the details that it’s amazing to me. And although we drive old cars that don’t always start, God loves us enough to get them running and save us from having car payments. My loving husband and empathetic children are a certain kinda special to this momma’s heart and we have so much fun spending time together. Even in those pain-filled days where bed is my home, God’s arms are felt wrapped around my frail body and holding me close, loving me through the journey and through the storm, filling every crack with His repairing love.

That my friend, is a life made “perfect” – all because of the perfect love of Jesus.

My sweet Jesus, your love not only amazes us but it surpasses all our understanding. I humbly come before You today asking You to not only show us your love, but engulf us in it. We need You, Jesus and today we ask to feel seen by You. In our fast paced world filled with comparisons and criticism, we feel lost in the shuffle and unseen by a world so bent on being showcased. Please rain down your love upon our weary hearts today. Give us eyes to see it, Lord. Reveal to us and remind us of the many blessings you have already bestowed upon us and fill our hearts with a desire to stand in your presence regularly in thanksgiving. You are a good and gracious God and we give you all the glory and honor for all that you have done and are currently performing in our lives. Thank you that when we know you intimately, our lives are filled with all we need – your perfect love. We ask this in your holy and love-filled name. Amen.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43: 1-2

– Jodi

Name.

I have been waiting for this day for almost eight years now – the day all my pain and illness would get a name. Well, that day came, and to my surprise, it didn’t feel near like I thought it would.

Today, I found out I have Lyme Disease.

Those words, this name, doesn’t quite hold the magical power that I once thought it would. I have clung to the fact that a name would give me instant peace in my circumstance, instant validation of the pain, and instant release from the unanswered questions. In my mind, that day would be filled with me skipping out of the doctor’s office, arms thrown up in elation, and celebrating with a Name Party! (You would have been invited, of course.)

Yet, today my heart is filled with something entirely different.

I’m fumbling around in-between shock and collapse. I feel nauseous and as though my insides are shaking uncontrollably. The peace I was hoping that came attached to a name has eluded me, and I sit trembling. How could I have gotten this so wrong? I just knew having a name for my core illness would solve everything, so why hasn’t it?

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and this is a tough blow. I am, indeed, thankful for the answers, the wonderful doctor who has walked with me though this squall, and a husband who has held my hand the whole time. Yet, I’m having a hard time letting it all soak in. I am an expert, after all, at building walls no one can get through, not even myself. So here I sit, the day before Thanksgiving, trying to stay too busy to shed one tear in my acceptance. This isn’t how it was supposed to go… A name was supposed to fix everything.

But, you know what? It had already. I was just looking at the wrong name.

See, it didn’t take too long after that doctor said those words to me, that God started working on my heart. I soon realized, I was clinging and putting my hope into the wrong name. No name, no diagnosis, was going to heal my heart and give me the peace I so desperately longed for in this lengthy journey, except one.

Jesus.

God so graciously showed me today that this was one area I still needed work on. See, God has already given me more names for my brokenness than I could ever count. For, He is my Mighty Comforter, Prince of Peace, Healer, and Provider. He is my Strong Tower, my Shepherd, Messiah and Redeemer. He is my own personal Physician that not only wants to heal my soul, but my wounded heart and my struggling mind.

You see, I realized that putting a name to my illness held no power at all. All I needed, this whole time, was to put a name to my heart’s cry for peace. Only the name of Jesus can bring me the peace I so desperately craved in the middle of this storm called life. We all have real fears, and pain and struggles that only one name can solve. Jesus.

Jesus.

Lyme Disease.

Fibromyalgia.
Supra-ventricul tachycardia.

Ulcerative Colitis.

Gastritis.

Gastroparesis.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

Mercury Poisoning.
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.

Hypothyroidism.

 

Jesus. The name above all names. And that is the only name I will ever need.

– Jodi

Defined.

I am defined by my struggles.

Not what most people would want to claim, right? We fight this battle of NOT being defined by our life circumstances and the storms we perceive as weaknesses. Being weak is the last way we want someone to see us, but do you know what is real weakness? Wanting to seem strong by hiding those struggles, and worse yet, not helping others by sharing the lessons we have learned and the wisdom we are so graciously given through those storms of life.

My family knows storms. My family has had to set another place at the table for our storms – like an unwanted guest who just won’t leave. Even though hurts and pains of life seep into every crack of our daily lives, I am not ashamed. For through these struggles, I now know just how loved we are. Through these struggles, God has revealed my calling. Through these struggles, my defining in this storm is made clear.

Time and time again, God has reached out and shown His presence. And do you know the path He takes to show me? He guides me along my struggling, stumbling, painful trail. He uses my rough days. He uses my tears. He uses my newly softened heart for those suffering by sending me pain-filled women in parking lots. He sends me lonely women who just need a stranger to say hi – to show them they are seen, not only by me, but by our God.

Yes, our painful struggles are all different. My struggles doesn’t include cancer or losing a child, as yours might. My struggles are filled with chronic illness, a child with quirks, and our fear-stricken children being abused by another’s words. So our struggles may differ, yes, but the pain – the pain is the same. Pain recognizes pain, doesn’t it, dear one? Yet, when we walk right past another one suffering, do we keep walking and bustling through our time-crunched day, or do we stop and interact with the all too familiar pain radiating from their weary heart? Once engaged, how then, can we share Christ’s hope for their circumstance?

Simply by sharing ours – that is defining our storms.

God once brought me a woman in a parking lot who had had 3 brain tumors. She just needed to talk and I just needed to listen. Have I ever had a brain tumor? No and I’m very thankful for that. But, since I could relate to the pain and exhaustion a long storm carried, I understood her heart’s cry.  The beautiful thing is God will bring people into our lives to connect our hearts upward to Him. Just saying “I’m here. I understand. How can I pray for you specifically?” is God’s way of using my newly softened heart towards suffering women.

However, I once asked the Lord, in a season of deep physical pain, why He kept bringing women who needed to talk. (Not one of my proudest moments.) I just wanted to put my head down, shuffle into the store, and ease my way back into the car. I felt I didn’t have the energy or strength to walk alongside anyone as I was trying to endure my own teetering cliff walk. In His sweet, soft whisper to my heart, He simply told me that women opened up to me “Because you ask”. Wow – still makes me teary-eyed today. Women are broken, hurting, all alone in their suffering and would give anything to feel seen. Someone looking them in their beautiful eyes, noticing them, and speaking sincerely is all it takes to allow them the opportunity to open up and share their struggles. And if you’re like me, you might me amazed at how many women have your same story.

So don’t hide the path you are walking. Stop for a minute and look back at the person you used to be before this storm entered your life. In so many ways, God has changed you and molded you into the woman He is intending you to be. Do you see it? It may hurt, dear one, and it may seem like your world is turned upside down at the moment, but you were made for this moment. You were made to take these hurts and share them with others walking the same road. Let these softenings and reshapings make you proud to be defined by them.

Be proud you are a fighter, for your strength is drawn in Him. Be proud you are wiser, to the ways of God’s own heart. Be proud you are just putting one foot in front of the other, for someone else may be paralysized in their pain. So why not let others see that you actually are defined by your struggles? Share where God has moved and what you have learned. For in those moments, grace abounds and true heart healing begins, for you both.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV

Jodi

Fearful.

Our dog, Crosby, is a bit of a hot mess.  Some would say he fits in perfect with our family, which is pretty much the truth.  When we adopted him, he had been rescued from an abusive home.  We aren’t sure what happened there, but we do know that whatever it was, it left him fearful of pretty much everything and everyone.  I mean he gets scared of rugs, y’all – bless his heart.

I’ve never been a dog person, so I find it funny that God gave me one that would steal my heart.  That dog loves me so much that on days I can’t move well, if I call him over to my side of the bed, he knows I need help.  He simply turns around so I can grab hold of his collar and he proceeds to pull me out of bed.  God is THAT good to give me an animal to show His all encompassing  love through. And sometimes, He uses that pup to teach me a much needed lesson.

While visiting family, our cousins noticed that Crosby hadn’t eaten since we arrived, despite his food dish being full.  We had been there for two days and he hadn’t touched it.  When they asked why he hadn’t eaten yet, I explained that he was too scared to eat.  His surroundings had changed and he wasn’t used to the new environment yet.  “But he must be so hungry!”, my sweet cousin responded.  And I, being the expert of this quirky dog, reply, “Yes, but his fear trumps his hunger every time”.

The moment those words flowed so freely from my lips, my sweet Savior pressed into my heart.

I, too, know deep-rooted fear.  I, too, get paralyzed by the hauntings of the past.  I, too, will let my heart starve instead of facing that fear.  But when we allow that fear to overtake our hearts, we can miss out on all that God is trying to usher us towards.

Sometimes our hearts are crying out for peace, in the midst of a hard-fought battle.  Other times, God may be gently nudging us to step out on faith and trek down a new, uncut path.  And then there are times when simply laying down that fear time after time, is the next rung on that ladder of trust our hearts are needing to take.

Have you been there?  Are you hungry for what only Jesus can bring, yet waver when He reveals the next step?

Lord, how many times have I been hungry and called out to you, only to be too afraid of the answer to move?  Sadly, too many.   I hunger for Your words and Your ways, yet fear, too easily, keeps me from the callings the seeking brings. Open my plugged ears to Your calling and thaw my frozen feet to swiftly follow Your paths.  Jesus, today, may we not only have a fresh desire for YOUR Bread of Life, but may we not FEAR the paths You are revealing to us.  May we put our total trust in You and not be so afraid to move, that we miss out on our role in growing Your Kingdom.  Move in us, Jesus.  Stir in us, Savior.  Change us, our gracious and mighty Conqueror. Let faith trump our fear, and peace fill it’s place.  We ask all these things in your precious and mighty name.  Amen.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

* Don’t worry – Crosby eventually stopped shaking and ate his food.  He is happily sleeping next to me now, resting in the presence of his master.  Just as I am happily resting in mine.

– Jodi

Bypass.

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:30-31

I have always been insecure and uncomfortable in my own skin, even from an early age.  I don’t feel like I have much to bring to the table, or as the world points out, a college degree to stand behind.  I over-analyze the words that come out of my mouth and even the way I was standing as I said them.   It’s a stressful way to live, really.  Yet, God’s immense grace has overflowed on my heart as I dug deeper and deeper into His word this past year.  The harder I pressed into Him, the more I have felt those insecurities slowly fading away and for the first time, I found myself able to gently unclench the handle bars and rest in who HE says I am, instead of what the world calls me out to be.  And that was a big feat for me!  The peace that came with it made it easier to hand over those insecurities before they even formed.

Funny, though, how one day can make all our work, and my peace, completely undone.

Damage to our children and hurtful words pierced my heart.  One left a burden my heart couldn’t carry, while the other brought me back to an insecure girl feeling worthless, and a young wife being treated as such every day.  Funny how an instance can open old wounds and bring up so much emotion, isn’t it?  What was once healed, was now free flowing, and don’t you know it – Satan took notice. The nightmares started back up again and no matter how hard I tried, I felt like I was drowning in the ugly words being hurled at my heart.

Yet, in the midst of my tailspin upon deep waters,  my sweet Savior whispered to my heart… “Stand up.  You aren’t drowning dear one, stand up – your feet will find the solid ground. It’s been under you all along.”   Oh, Lord, you’re right.  Why hadn’t I seen that?  Sigh.  I was flailing about for no reason.  HIS truth was there the whole time – it was me that was listenening to the lies of the world instead of to HIS truths.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

But, sometimes the volume of the world can be deafening, can’t it?  It bombards us with plenty of examples of what we aren’t: thin enough, smart enough, tidy enough, our job isn’t important enough, our house isn’t big enough, and our kids aren’t good enough at sports (because that’s somehow a direct reflection on us, right?).  So how can we cast out these destructive words constantly being hurled at our heart?  God has so graciously pointed out that it really is pretty simple – we just need a bypass.

Just like a surgical heart bypass, sometimes our hearts are just too broken or too injured to continue in their current state.  Sometimes we need assistance with our heartbeat while changes are being made – changes to improve our lives and to let the healing begin.  As I cried out to Him, completely undone and broken, I heard my God’s urgency to allow Him to bypass my heart.  I was trying so hard to heal it by sheer will or by firm bravery,  that I missed the real truth God was speaking into my tangles.  Bypass. It was time – nothing I can do can drown out the lies and the hurts that had fractionated my heart.  It was time to allow God to control the weak heartbeat of my injured heart and do the work that needed to be done.  We can’t operate on our own hearts can we?  Then why do we try so hard to?

Yet, while God does His work, I have mine.  TRUTH.  Earmuffs to drown out the lies have been strategically placed over my under-construction heart, and Truth is being imputed into my veins.  The world tells me I am not – God proves that I am:

I am LOVED: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

I am CHOSEN: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

I am NEVER ALONE: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:5-6

I am SAFE: “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him.” Psalm 91:2

I am PROTECTED: “If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you , no disaster will come near your tent.  For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:9-12

I am HEALED: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our sufferings, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

As I go before my Savior tonight, I lay His Word physically upon my chest.  The weight of it soothes my anxious heart, as I let the words penetrate and heal the damage that was done.  I remind myself of HIS truths and HIS promises, instead of what the world tries to guarantee for my life. A spirit of refreshment wells up inside me as I realize that not only will this bypass heal my damaged heart, it will correct my eternal perspective and priorities my soul has been screaming for.

Slowly, the lies of the world fade away, along with the pains of the past, and even though my bypass is still underway, I can already feel the glimmer of that once-known peace and security only found in the very Word of my Savior.  And what sweet peace it is.

“But the LORD says, ‘Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.’ ” Isaiah 43:18-19

Jodi