See that dark spot on the bench? Thankfully, that’s not blood, even though it kind of looks like it. It’s not water either. It’s soap. Why would I show you a picture of a park bench with a spot of soap? Why indeed.
Well, after I picked the kids up this evening they asked to go to the park nearest to our house. I agreed and when we got there the two older kids ran off to find friends to play with. Baby E swung in the baby swing for a few minutes and then he was content to follow me around as I walked. I found this bench to sit on and he decided to climb up next to me. As we sat there for a moment, he suddenly said, “I’m stuck.” He didn’t look stuck to me, I mean, he’s sitting on a bench. How could he possibly be stuck?
I guess Baby E thought it would be a good idea to stick his fingers in between the cracks of the park bench and two of them got stuck. REALLY, REALLY stuck. So stuck, I had a sinking feeling I’d be calling the fire department just to remove my child from a seemingly innocuous park bench. Thankfully the park is right in front of a Boys and Girls Club so I had Big E sit with Baby E as I inquired after some soap. A nice gentleman returned a few minutes later with soap and some help. It took three grown adults, a large amount of dish soap, and about 12 curious children to finally free Baby E from his park bench.
On Saturday we had to run some errands and we realized early on that we were all very hungry. There was a new restaurant in town, and we get pretty excited when we get new restaurants, because we have very limited choices. So on a whim, we decided to go. When we got there it was a little fancier than we expected (not very fancy, but fancier than we would normally take small children.) They showed us to our table and I noticed that the table seemed a little unsteady, but we didn’t think much of it. They took our order, brought us our drinks, and some hot soup. The kids were behaving very well and I was pretty pleased with how our outing was going.
That was until poor C leaned down on the table. That’s when we found out that the entire top of the table wasn’t attached to the base AT ALL. It came crashing down, thankfully not on top of her. The drinks and hot soup went flying through the air and landed squarely on C and me. We were absolutely drenched. The entire restaurant turns to see what the commotion was and there we were, sopping wet, smelling of soup. C started crying but I assured her that she didn’t do anything wrong. The restaurant workers came over and moved us to another table. The rest of lunch was pretty uneventful, but we left pretty smelly and disappointed in the whole experience.
Seriously, do these kinds of things happen to other people on a regular basis or are we just special? 🙂
Today marks the one year anniversary of the loss of our pregnancy. A year of coming to grips with an event that shook our world and left me reeling with an ache I still feel deep in my soul. This morning I was invited to speak at my church, to talk about our women’s retreat last weekend on the topic of joy. I thought I’d share it here tonight, in hopes that it might touch anyone out there that is struggling with a hurt or pain, fear, anxiety, or hopelessness- anyone in desperate need of Christ’s unfailing joy.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be standing in front of you today talking about joy, I likely would have scoffed at you. Because exactly one year ago today, I woke up in an incredible amount of pain. My husband rushed me to the emergency room, and that is where we learned that our much wanted, much prayed for, much loved pregnancy was in fact, ectopic. And it had ruptured, causing significant internal bleeding. Time was of the essence and within hours I had emergency surgery to save my life. In the process, the baby was lost. When I finally came to after surgery, and the full weight of what had happened began to settle on me, I was devastated. We were between 7-8 weeks along, but it might as well have been 8 months for the amount that I loved that baby. So if you had walked into my hospital room on October 29, 2016 and told me that I would be up here, speaking about joy, and joy for the journey, I would have told you that that would be impossible, because nothing good could come out of what I had just experienced.
And yet here I am.
Last weekend I had the privilege to attend the fall ladies retreat, which was entitled “Joy for the Journey.” 196 women joined us for the weekend here at the church. They ranged from all ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. About 40 of the women that attended were not from our church, but from at least 8 other churches in our community, and even some from DC. There were women who had been Christians for decades, and some for only a short time. There were even women that didn’t know God at all, and for some of them that changed last weekend. There were at least three women that prayed to accept Jesus into their lives.
I was pretty nervous going into the weekend, partly because I had been asked to lead a small group, which is very far from my comfort zone, but also because I have spent the better part of the past year wrestling with God on the topic of Joy. You see, often I confuse joy with happiness. But over this past year, and especially last weekend, I was reminded that while happiness is a feeling. It is temporary and fleeting. Joy, on the other hand, is a choice. And it is a choice that must be made daily.
The definition we were given last weekend was “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”
It was a beautiful thing to see so many women come together for worship, prayer, fellowship, and teaching. At one point there were five prayer stations set up here in the sanctuary, and we spent time wandering from station to station praying for each other, our country, those affected by recent natural disasters, ourselves, and the pastors and congregations of the various churches in our community. We had break out sessions that focused on reclaiming the joy we have so easily given away. And there was also a prayer room to talk about and pray for the things that lay heavy on our hearts.
Our speaker Sue Heimer, lead four keynote sessions, each focused on “Joy for the journey.” We talked about the kinds of things that can rob our joy- fear, comparison, busyness, toxic relationships. We talked about how if we search for our confidence in anything or anyone other than God, we will always come up empty. God is the source of living water that truly satisfies, but we often draw water from somewhere else, leaving us parched and dry. I think the talk that hit closest to home for me was when she discussed God being Enough, through all of our circumstances. One of the things Sue said was that as Christians, we don’t get a detour around pain, but a guided tour through it. And that if we are struggling with something, a past hurt or pain, or perhaps a fear of some unknown, we need to walk it out with God, settle it with Him so that Satan will cease to threaten us with it. Whatever has happened to us, it is part of our story, but it is not our whole story. We can look forward with hope, and Joy.
There were seven other women in my small group and I didn’t know most of them. But I was blessed with a group of women that honestly opened up to each other. We shared our fears, our struggles, and our victories. And as we shared, I was reminded that while the circumstances and the characters in our lives might be different, all our stories carry the same the thread- we are sinners, we are broken. We need God’s grace and we need his Joy. The joy that only the confident assurance of Jesus Christ and His provision in our lives can provide.
So my question to you today is “Is God Enough?”
Have you lost your job or hit some unexpected financial burden. Is God Enough?
Are you out there sitting next to a spouse you barely even recognize anymore? Is God enough?
Are you single and lonely, and longing for companionship? Is God enough?
Are you dealing with an illness that is ravaging your body? Is God enough?
Or are you like me? Does your heart ache for a child you never got to hold in your arms? Is God enough?
After a year of wrestling with this very question, I can say in all honesty he can be and he is.
In just over a week, the time will be changing and our evenings will be very short indeed. In anticipation of this, I have been keeping the kids out and about every evening. Soon enough we will be hibernating inside, away from the cold and germs, but for now while we can, we play!!
Tonight we went to a local playground, then for a long walk on the boardwalk and a visit to the fish ponds nearby. The weather was definitely chillier than it has been, but we all enjoyed our excursion. 🙂
I took lots of pictures, but the internet is slow tonight, so I’ll post them another day.
I sat down this evening and my mind drew a blank. Nothing. Nada. I’m enjoying one of the last few peaceful nights in our house before we set to the task of actively packing it up. I’m running a mental list of all the things we need to get done before we leave, the repair people we need to call, and the paperwork we need to get in order. The next few weeks are going to be intense, but then it should ease up pretty quickly. I have been working hard to make sure my kids don’t feel overwhelmed by all of the shuffling, and I’m trying to spend as much extra time with them as possible. Moving is a stressful endeavor, so if there’s any way I can help to lessen that for them, I will. 🙂
A year ago I did not know the storm that was brewing on my horizon.
I had no idea that in a matter of days I would be in the hospital losing the baby we so desperately wanted.
I didn’t know how drastically my life was about to change and that there would be no going back.
And yet, this year has taught me so much…
- Pregnancy is painful to watch from a distance. And while you are happy for others, that happiness is shadowed with a sadness that goes deep in your bones.
2. Joy and grief can mingle together, but to bear the second without the first would be too heavy a burden to carry.
3. God’s plans are not my own, and my eleventh hour crisis is often his perfectly timed provision.
4. The little moments are so much more important than the big ones. Heroic acts often take the shape of daily victories.
5. It’s ok to ask for help.
6. Our baby mattered.
7. It’s ok to move on.
I was sitting in church yesterday morning with Tim and C. We had just finished singing a praise song and we were sitting down in our chairs when I glanced over at C as she sat. That’s when I noticed there was something in her hair. Stuck near her scalp and caught in her hair were small white specks. Not one or two, but a large amount of them, centered in one area of her head. I’ll be honest, friends, the room got warm and I got an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. No, no, no. I stared in horror, “please Lord, don’t let this be lice.”
Everything I read about lice was that if you blew or wiped at the eggs, they wouldn’t wipe away easily as they are attached to the strands of hair. So, I blew on her scalp and when nothing moved I started to brush my hand over the top of her head. Nothing. Oh no.
With my anxiety creeping up, I grabbed her hand and headed for the door, but not without asking a friend to come with us. When we got into the foyer, I asked my friend to look at her scalp and see if she could tell if we were dealing with lice. After examining her hair very closely, and checking her entire scalp, we came to the conclusion that what we were seeing was not in fact lice.
It was sand…
And given our lifestyle, that should have been my first guess!!
Happiness is the feeling I get when I hear my children laughing as I tickle them, or when I find a new book by my favorite author, or discover a new British miniseries on Netflix to binge. It was the flutter in my stomach the first time Tim held my hand. It’s watching the leaves change from green to gold and orange. It’s a Sunday afternoon nap. It’s reminiscing stories from my childhood, it’s eating cake at a birthday party, and it’s having a kitty fall asleep on my lap.
And while there are a great number of things that happiness is, one of the things it is not, is Joy.
Joy is not a feeling. Joy is a choice.
Joy is living in the confident assurance of Jesus Christ and his provision in your life.
Joy is going to a funeral and seeing hope in the midst of grief. It is watching your sick child and trusting God with the ‘what ifs.’ Joy is standing with your life in tatters and believing God can and will redeem the broken pieces. It is being unshaken by the future because the future has already been conquered. It is living uncondemned by your past because your past has been reconciled. It is walking through the pain and realizing you didn’t walk it alone. It is knowing the hairs on your head are numbered and your days have been counted. It’s trusting the cross is more powerful than the grave and that death already lost.
That, my friends, is joy.
Not a feeling.
Not a fleeting moment.