Tag Archives: finding joy amidst struggle

clinging to Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 3: 14-18

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”


I remember reading these verses with Megan a few nights before the Nebraska State Track Meet a couple of years ago. To say that she was nervous would have been an understatement, she was a wreck. The stress of competition had depleted her confidence and left her in a pit of fear. Instead of looking up and remembering the love of her Father in heaven, she had tied herself into knots worrying that she wasn’t good enough. I don’t know exactly how she felt as we read these verses together, but my “mama’s heart” calmed as the Holy Spirit assured me that Megan was beloved and held by the Father. She would be just fine.

She, in fact, was just fine. Jesus carried her through the state track meet all the way to the medal stand. The gold medal from the Nebraska State Activities Association was awesome, but the lesson she learned about faith made it seem pale in comparison. She learned to cling to Grace and her roots have since grown deep into God’s love to bring her a new kind of strength. The strength that is found in the realization of the power of God’s love. I’ve read the above passages from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians many times since that day, and I always take a moment to remember how these verses came alive for Meg in the spring of 2018 and then again in the spring of 2019.


We all pass through hard times. We experience moments, days, perhaps even years that shake our core and threaten our peace. I would venture a guess that each of us has experienced some level of this in recent months as our lives changed dramatically due to Covid-19. Over and above the physical challenge of Covid, we have also experienced a growing emotional chasm in our country fueled by passionate and often opposing opinions. Instead of living in community with hearts united for a meaningful purpose, we’ve fallen into a trap where fear overrides our ability to accept and share Grace. I know that I need the daily reminder of how wide, how long, how high and how deep God’s love is. That love calls me to cling to Grace in order to find strength, patience, peace, and joy. It battles directly against the fear, frustration, anger, and temptation to judge that threatens my heart.

Today, a small group of awesome middle school and high school students finish up our four week Bible study on “how to chose joy regardless of circumstance”. While we specifically studied another of Paul’s epistles (to the people of Philippi), I believe that the above verses to the Ephesians also speak directly to this topic.

I believe that our ability to chose joy and to experience peace through challenging times is directly related to the depth of our understanding and trust in God’s love.

When that trust runs deep, our hearts fill with love and gratefulness. We then become able to recognize fully the beauty of what we have, instead of getting hung up on those things that we do not have.

Clinging to Grace becomes a habit when we choose to make it one. Some days it is really hard, and some of those days I fail to accomplish it. But, I believe that it provides the answer to what we all inherently search for: acceptance, love, value and purpose. I know that the days that I truly believe and trust in the vast power of God’s love are my good days. They are the days that He hangs the gold medal on my heart – the medal that allows me to chose joy, find peace, and cling to the beautiful Grace of a good, good Father.

I pray that as I prepare to send my girls back to school – two to college and one to high school – that we will all cling to Grace and be inspired to share God’s love, the ultimate medal to be found on our earthly journey 🙂

 

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On the other side…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


Life’s not perfect. As much as we might long for unlimited happy days where the sun always shines and the journey is easy, that’s just not what happens. I’m going to reach 45 years this February and my favorite farmer has been with me on the journey since I was 18. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and yet we’ve been challenged beyond anything I might have imagined. It’s hard to wrap your brain around how those two things can go together until you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a letter of thanksgiving – written from a prison cell – during a time when he faced the very real possibility of execution. It is a great reminder that there is joy to be found in every situation, even those times of great struggle.

Last week I spent time thinking about what happens on the other side. Not just that “eternal high five” that greets us at heaven’s gate, but the other side of difficult times that we pass through during our years on earth. I spent five years battling Graves Disease and some unusual complications resulting from treatment beginning when Karyn was an infant. It was unexpected, it was hard. We had three small children (5 and under) as well as a farm to run. And, there were many days that I could hardly function. I looked anorexic, was terribly anemic and got so weak that I couldn’t lift the girls.

On the “other side” of Graves Disease 🙂

As hard as it was for me to get through each day, it was harder for Matt. Watching someone you love suffer has to be one of the hardest things that we are asked to do in our lifetime. It brings on a litany of emotions – none of which resemble the perfect happiness that we dream of on the day that we say I do. There have been times in our marriage where we have looked at each other and asked the question:

If God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer?


As I was visiting with a friend last week, the pieces all fell together and my brain made sense of this question. God uses every experience to shape us and to grant us various perspectives that help us to share His love with others on the journey. We can’t learn these things if we are never challenged. We can’t learn to lean into Jesus’ love and strength if life is never hard. We can’t have true understanding and empathy for others if we never hurt ourselves.

I’ve revisited many of these lessons over the past nine months as I spent long days on crutches and went through three surgeries to heal my leg. Today, I’d like to share the five most important lessons that struggling has taught me — looking back now that I am on the other side.

  1. Everyone has a story. Each and every person that we come into contact with battles a challenge that we may never get to see. A smile or a few words of encouragement likely makes the difference in their ability to find joy amongst the struggle.
  2. Life is not meant to be taken for granted. Each day brings the possibility of many blessings – the ability for us to share Jesus’ love with others. Slow down. Take the time to see those opportunities and then embrace the confidence of Christ in order to turn them into Holy Moments.
  3.  A loving spouse is a gift to be cherished. Matt carries a lot of medals on his heart. God’s placed them there as we’ve walked together through the past twenty seven years. He is an amazing man with a heart that never stops giving. Being his wife is one of my greatest blessings and inspires my heart to be grateful as we greet each new day together.
  4. Our children learn with us as we walk together – they learn from us and we learn from them. Never discount the power of TEAM. One of the greatest blessings that came out of my illness was our ability to come together as a family to find strength and remain stubbornly rooted in love. There’ve been days that the girls have carried us — spiritually and emotionally — as Matt and I struggled to make sense of things. Today I believe that there is nothing more beautiful than a child reflecting Jesus’ love and light to his/her parents. It not only helps them to own their own faith, it shows them the purpose of faith!
  5. We never walk alone. When I was sick, someone told me “Anne, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I really struggled with that as some days I was just plain not enough. The last ten years have taught me that faith allows Jesus to fill that gap. God often gives us more than we can handle on our own, but those are the times that Jesus comes into our lives to carry us through. He is the perfect Coach — the one with divine discernment and a never-ending well of love and strength.

I’m sure that Matt and I and our girls will face more struggles as we walk through life together. But, just as I know this, I also realize that there is joy to be found in each and every day. We find it when we abide in Christ and welcome the peace and strength that He brings. Just as Paul reminds us in the above scripture verses, the secret to being content in every situation is to recognize that we are never alone. God walks with us and offers the comfort that leads to peace – on the good days and the tough ones. It may be hard to see the value in the moment of hardship, but it becomes clear once we are on the other side.

 

 

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