Worth the Pain

The last few nights, as I’ve bathed Josiah and dressed him before bed, I can’t help but revel in his little banged up legs.

Bruised Little Knees

 

They tell of climbing mountains, traversing rocky paths, conquering giants…a little boy on an amazing journey to becoming a man. Childhood at its finest.

I think of the days when scrapes, cuts, and bruises only slowed me down enough to get iodine and bandages applied (If you’ve ever had iodine poured on an open wound, you KNOW pain). My friends and I built bike ramps out of scrap wood and cinder blocks, roller-bladed down steep hills, and ran barefoot across steaming concrete and grass full of bees. It was glorious and so worth the pain. I wonder if I’ll ever feel as alive as I did then.

Looking at Josiah’s knees makes me wonder at what point in our lives do we start avoiding pain. Somewhere between bruised shins and adulthood we learn to pad ourselves from or totally avoid all sorts of hurt. Not everyone of course, but I would venture to guess that most adults don’t run barefoot across hot gravel willingly.

But there are so many things in life worth enduring pain. Ask any woman who has endured labor to birth her beautiful children. Ask the athlete who won the gold, the doctor who endured medical school and saved a life, the couple that overcame the odds to restore a broken marriage, the cancer patient who endured treatments and survived, the dad with calloused hands who works day in and day out to provide for his family, the family who intervenes in the life of a drug addicted loved one. Nothing worth having comes with ease.

Just ask Jesus.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB).

The joy set before Him is YOU. Jesus endured the cross to save YOU, ME, and anyone who is willing to come to Him in faith. Romans 3:23 tells us that we’ve ALL sinned. We all need a savior, and despite the ultimate pain of taking our sin upon Himself and being separated from His Holy Father, Jesus died a criminal’s death for us. With His death, He said that we are worth the pain.

As we enter this holiday weekend, let us not forget how deeply Jesus hurt for us. His longing for our redemption led Him to crucifixion. Having His children for eternity was worth our Father’s heart breaking.

But that isn’t the end of the story. Praise be to God, Jesus overcame the grave! Pain wasn’t the end, but the avenue to LIFE. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57, NIV).

You can have life in Christ, and if you don’t, I beg you to seek Him. It may not be easy to open up your heart for God to change and heal you, but He can free You from your fear. He will sustain you through trial. He will save you from eternity in Hell. Life is full of pain, but LOVE and LIFE are worth the risk. Won’t you come? Surrender your heart, share in Jesus’ death, and be raised to life with Him!

If you need help finding life in Jesus, I will walk with you. Please don’t be afraid to ask. If you know someone who hasn’t met the Savior, please share this message with them. And have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

 

Confessions: Not Until I Read My Bible

I have a confession to make. I am NOT a religious Christian. I hear some people saying, “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.” I feel ya on that, but it’s becoming evident to me that God commands up to pray without stopping and to write His words on our hearts for a reason. We need to keep coming back to Him, being reminded who He is and who we are to Him.

I do not believe that we should read our Bibles like a daily chore, but I do believe we need to be in the Word daily. That seems contradictory, but our faith will starve if we don’t feed it.

This conviction is fresh and far more apparent to me than it has been in the 17+ years of following Christ. I have always been a person has to understand why something works before I’m willing to accept it. God is patient with this stubborn child. He’s showing me the why…

We have moved into a new neighborhood, and the drive to reach out to the families around us is strong. However…I feel myself pulling back. Why don’t I tell people that they are sinners in need of a Savior? I really started pondering that question, and I had a real come-to-Jesus-meeting with, well, Jesus. I asked myself and sought God in prayer…”Do I not believe they are going to go to Hell if they don’t come to Christ? Because if I really believed that, wouldn’t I be more compelled to tell them about Christ and beg them to come to Jesus? If I do believe, do I not love them enough to share Christ? Do I not care if they go to hell?” Wowza. Talk about a conversation to knot your stomach.

Fast forward to today when I was having a discussion with a friend about a doctrine we disagree on, and I couldn’t refute what she was saying. I know what I’ve believed most of my life. I even know there are scriptures to support it. But I wasn’t ready. Again with the knotted stomach.

Friends, I have been a Christian for almost two decades. I have read through the Bible, front to back. And yet, the Bible isn’t fresh in my mind, because I don’t study it regularly. I believe in God, and I have been faithful to Him in many ways, but I’m a Christian slacker. Without those constant reminders of Truth, my convictions about what I believe and about sharing that message with others has seriously waned.

I have reasons to believe that we meet God in all sorts of ways, and being in nature is one of my favorites. However, Deuteronomy 11:18 says, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead” (NASB). That is not an image of a person who reads the scriptures once and then goes about his life, only communing with God in the ways he enjoys. The Bible was given to us as a gift and a command, and it should be a constant in our lives.

You want to know what is constant in my life? Eating. Sleeping. Showering. Working. Mothering. Wifing (Is that a word? I just made it a word). Facebook and Instagram (I loathe myself). Housework. Schoolwork. Reading other books.

How many life lessons is God going to have to teach me before I make [TIME WITH JESUS] a constant? So here’s a challenge for me and for anyone else out there who is a terrible Christian (Ha!)…Choose one thing that you do daily to which you can say, “Not until I read my Bible.” You know you want to do that thing that you do everyday. Use that as a catalyst for making your communion with God a habit. If you have trouble concentrating, putting the Scriptures in context, or understanding what you’re reading, grab a Bible study guide and allow it to guide you. Chances are, once you are deep into a study, your learning and growth in Christ will far surpass what the author even considered when he or she set out to write it. Just pick a starting point and go from there.

For now, I’m off to bed…but not until I read my Bible. Let’s do this thing.

Leaning on Grace

Mommy Fail

This is the kind of night it’s been, and I feel so defeated. After almost two solid years of being a working mom, I just can’t get the hang of it. I’m mentally and emotionally drained at the end of the day, and I’ve got very little to offer the two most important people in my life. By 5 p.m. I have heard and said my limit of words for the day, but Josiah wants to SAY ALL THE WORDS.

In the midst of this season, I can’t ignore that every time I turn on Pandora, Hillsong’s “Oceans” comes on. “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders”…I’m not sure if God is leading me to a giant leap of faith or if Jesus is just reminding me to trust Him in my everyday mess.

When it comes to parenting, my mom always says you do your best and then you pray for God to fill in the gaps. In a time when I feel like my gaps have turned into gaping canyons, I need to trust that God will hold Josiah and give me grace for all the ways I fail my child.

At the end of this gloomy day, Josiah still wanted to hold my hand until he fell asleep. God’s grace is sufficient for me.

To My Birth Mother on Her Birthday

Deborah Ann

Dear Mom,

Today, you would have been celebrating your birthday. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed that you’d be in your mid 50’s. I usually recognize your birthday, and then try not to think about it much. Avoidance has been my way of coping with your and Jamie’s “dates”…birthdays and last days. I have your tender heart, and these days are usually too much for me to dwell on.

Your suicide wrecked me, and I used to carry that burden every single day. I was supposed to be able to trust you. When I learned that you’d left me, the world became a very scary place. I didn’t trust anyone, not even God. You gave me life, but in a way, you also took it away. You thought you weren’t lovable, worthy, or needed…I wish you knew how important you were. A mother’s love and presence are one-and-only.

My story has been transformed over the last five years, though. Sitting in a church service a few weeks ago, I heard the preacher talking to the congregation about how so many of us were carrying emotional and spiritual baggage. It hit me in the best way that I can’t relate to that anymore. I was now a spectator, where I was once a serious participant. I don’t carry the weight of your life and your death anymore. I am free. Hallelujah! I have been held and healed by God, my Savior, my Rock, my Redeemer. His love is a healing balm to my heart’s greatest wound. I laid my anger and hurt and abandonment down at the foot of the Almighty. He saved me from my own sin, and He freed my heart from the consequences of yours.

I’m still sad, though, for you. No person should ever have to feel that her life isn’t worth living, but you did. You endured worse pain in your short life that I could even fathom. I grieve for you that you never had the chance to be healed by the One who speaks love and worth into your heart. I don’t know what your relationship to Jesus was, but I hope He is holding you now.

I wish you could see me now, Mom. You’ve missed so much. My grand slam in third grade, my middle school dances and the time I went to state for shot put, how I excelled in all things art and crafts (you passed that down!), my graduation from high school, my first date and first kiss (yes, they came after high school), my graduation from college where I finished #6 in my class. I did all that without you, but it wasn’t easy. I thank God for the man you married. My dad’s heart is tender, his back is strong, and despite his own heartache, he was with me every step of the way. And the woman he asked to raise me after you’d gone…boy, is she a force to be reckoned with. She’s carried the weight of your choices with grace and mercy. You see, Mom, what Satan worked in your life, Jesus redeemed at the cross. The LORD was working out my salvation long before the world began. I wish you could see what He’s done in my life through Jesus, my family, and my friends.

I know you’d be proud of your girl. I made it through. I married a man of God, and although we’ve struggled, we didn’t give up. I brought the most beautiful baby boy into the world. I was afraid I wouldn’t be a good mom because I was so broken, but if there’s one thing your life taught me, it’s that I am irreplaceable. My love for Josiah is important, worthy, and needed.

I wish we could bake you a cake today. I wish you could see Josiah, snuggle him close, and let him help you blow out the candles. He has your crazy big eyebrows and your sweet dimples. I’m sorry that you’re missing out on him. I am thinking of you today, and I hope you do see how well things worked out in my life. I hope that you have peace from the torment you endured here. I hope that my testimony about you and about Jesus can be a beacon of light to others who, like you, see only one way out of their pain. If you would have given Jesus a chance, He would have healed you, too. My birthday gift to you is my faithfulness to Christ and my commitment to tell others about His healing mercy.

Happy Birthday, Deborah Ann. You mattered. I love you still.

Love,

Felisha Joyce

The Quiet Before the Whirlwind

I’m sitting in my favorite chair while Josiah snoozes and the fan runs. It’s so peaceful in this tiny apartment. I should have packed more or gotten to bed earlier, but I’m being like a preschooler and resisting sleep. This week should hold a lot of wonderful things, but I know it’s going to be a whirlwind.

Dustin and I are holding onto our motto: Wait upon the LORD. Apparently, the LORD did not see fit for us to wait long for a new place to live. We are both stunned and overjoyed and thankful.

I thought that saying goodbye to our little apartment on Main St. would be hard, and I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic as we leave, but God’s timing is always perfect, and we know that we have outgrown this place.

As many people in the Bible set up altars to remember God’s faithfulness, I will call this apartment A Place of Refuge. We weathered our greatest life storm to date here, and we will never forget the LORD redeeming us from our brokenness.

Change is challenging in various ways, but we will move forward and continue to grow. I’m thankful for the people and places God gives us to love us, to teach us, and to remind us of who we are in Him.

Father, we praise You, and we thank You. To You be the glory. Amen!

My Word for 2015

I make resolutions all the time; daily, even hourly sometimes. So although I do make New Years Resolutions, they are usually just extensions of things I’ve been doing the year prior.

2 Reasons for that:

1. I make resolutions constantly because my desire to be my best self goes in direct conflict with my lack of will power.

2. You can’t live like a sloth for 6 months and then get up January 1st and expect to become a fitness expert. So although New Years Day does feel like a fresh canvas for me, ready to be painted, I’m not usually doing something brand new.

December 31, 2014, I sat and contemplated what I would declare as my “2015 New Years’ Resolution”, but nothing jumped out as definitive. I have a whole #30Before30 list that still needs finished, so there’s no shortage of goals. However, that’s not what’s holding me back. Like many other bloggers I follow, what’s defining my outlook on this new year is a word. Wait.

As in, wait upon the LORD.

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Despite all my striving and controlling and pushing and pulling, God has always been in control of the entire universe, my finite life included. If the last year taught me anything, it’s that I have no control over what is to come.

This year I want to own that truth. I want to wait and see what God has planned. Dustin and I will continue to work hard for things we believe are important for our family and the Kingdom, but we are basking in contentedness. This year, we choose gratitude for exactly where we are. And rather than striving to control the future, we are waiting to hear from God what He wants for us.

2015 could bring incredible joy or incredible sorrow, or even both. The last few months, I’ve learned what a gift the unknown can be. I don’t have to carry the weight of the future on my shoulders, because God is holding it in His mighty hands. May I spend no more energy fretting over the future, but resting in the present.

Come what may in 2015, I will wait upon the LORD.

Things 2014 Taught Me

2014 was a year of learning. The best ones always are. Some of the lessons were new, and some were strong reminders. Without further ado and in no particular order, here are the things 2014 taught me…

  • I can survive winter without being completely bummed the whole time. Get out of the house and keep moving, even if it means wearing extra layers and braving time among sick people…it’s worth the risk.

  • Stress over illness can be more harmful than illness itself.

  • Communication is critically important in relationships, and that is not as simple as it sounds. Keep talking to each other, even when it hurts.

  • We can survive far more than we can imagine, but only when we rely on more than ourselves. My own strength, Dustin’s and my strength together, your strength, isn’t enough to brave the trials of this life. And that’s okay.

  • Humility goes a LONG way. It is one of the most important elements in a healthy relationship.

  • Marriage can survive a separation.

  • Not everyone is going to be happy when you succeed. Sometimes your success will hurt another person, because they don’t understand how you have what they don’t. Because of that, you might feel guilty about the happiness in your life.

  • You shouldn’t be ashamed at how far you’ve come or how much the LORD has given you. Walk in humility and gratitude, and recognize that not everyone is where you are in their journey.

  • You should give more grace than you think people deserve. That’s one way to be like Jesus.

  • Not everyone is in the same place in their spiritual walk, but that doesn’t mean they love Jesus any more or less. Everyone is learning.

  • Good girlfriends are precious gems.

  • Life is best lived when you choose to be grateful for the unexpected. And there will always be unexpected things. Don’t hold too tightly to your own plans, because God’s plans are always better.

  • You cannot just show up and expect everything to fall into place. You have to work hard and then work harder. Life will not hand you success.

  • Two tall adults and one little boy can live a very joyful life in a 500-600 square foot second floor apartment…even if those two adults hit their heads on the surprisingly low ceilings and door frames.

  • You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.

  • Going to school gets harder with age and more responsibility, but you appreciate it more.

  • There is a much greater sense of accomplishment when you pay for things with cash, especially if that means waiting a long time to get them.

  • Sometimes dreams coming true looks a lot more like hard work, sweat, and tears. Also, you rarely feel the way you expect to when things happen, for the good or the bad, but it’s so much better to take chances than to sit back and always wonder what could have been.

  • You don’t have to be a slave to debt. Whether you are just starting out or starting over, you can have freedom. Again, that means working hard and sacrificing.

  • Judging between right and wrong is far different from being judgmental. The first seeks to be right in the eyes of a Holy God. The latter places oneself in the throne of God, and pride certainly leads to a fall. And oh, how far I’ve fallen.

  • Potty-training is rough.

  • Your children will become just like you. Be someone you’d want them to become.

  • If you have a will as strong as an ox, you’d better gear up to raise a strong-willed child. No joke.

  • I married an incredibly patient and loving man.

  • Time alone is good for personal reflection and growth, but should not be a constant in your life.

  • If you seek opportunities, you will find them, especially opportunities to serve others. There is need all around you.

  • Cliches exist for a reason. It really is more blessed to give than to receive.

  • You can allow people to make you feel bad for just about anything, but don’t. Once upon a time, I let someone make me feel like less of a mother because I only have one child instead of many. How silly.

  • You can be miserable doing something you love, and you can be happy doing something you don’t. A lot depends on your attitude and the people around you.

  • Painting murals makes me very happy.

  • You cannot do everything, so ask the LORD to guide you in how you spend your time. And on that note, you can’t go wrong spending time with Him.

  • Prayer is the most powerful tool a person can use. Miracles happen when you hand control over to the LORD. He can heal hearts and repair relationships. He can and will do far more than you could ever ask or imagine.

  • I firmly believe the entire Bible, but sometimes God uses life to highlight verses in our hearts. If I could use a verse to describe this year, I think Ephesians 3:14-21 would be fitting…

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”