Sunday, November 27, 2011

Joy in THIS Season

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Pounds have been gained and are desperately desiring to be shed. (Although, I did quite well and didn't gain any from our turkey dinner!) :) Now, as we head into the Christmas season, shoppers are hitting the malls and stores. Christmas tree lots are sprouting up faster than ever. Putting up Christmas decorations and tree decorating have been the focus of the weekend for many homes. Christmas is a time of great pleasure and joy for me. I love Jack Frost nipping at my nose. I love putting on my heavy jacket and gloves just to walk across the street to 7 Eleven. I enjoy seeing my breath hang in the air as I leave the house at nine in the morning. Winter and Christmas, for me, is a joyful season. But that is not the Season I am referring to in my title.
The season I am referring to is the season of life you are in right now. Are you on cloud nine because everything is going your way? I pray you will find joy in that. Did you get that Christmas bonus you were hoping for? You did? Find joy in it. Did your kiddos make the honor roll or get the lead in the school program? Find joy in that! Did you get THE envelope saying the company needed to down size and had to let you go? Find joy in that. Did you get the mid-night call a family member has passed away? Find joy in that.
You see, I did. I received a phone call on Friday morning just a little after 4:30 a.m. My sister, nephews and I had just returned from Black Friday shopping. My head hit the pillow some time after 2:30 a.m. I awoke to the tear-stricken voice of my sister, Kim, telling me Vic, my step-dad, had passed away just a few hours beforehand. I was shocked, stunned, just as she was. We knew his time was getting closer because he was in the hospital with pneumonia while battling stage four lung cancer. We just didn't realize it would be a measley few hours later when he would take his last breath. My mom and sisters are heart broken. The loss for them seems to hard to bear at times, and rightly so. Vic is the first death we have had to face on my side of the family. I have walked down the path of death before in Chris' family, 4 times, to be exact. It's hard. It can be devastating when someone you love leaves this earth before their time, or so we think. So, where is the joy? Joy and happiness are two totally different things. Am I happy Vic died? Nope. Do I have joy, no matter what the circumstance? Yes. Why? Because I have Jesus. Please don't misunderstand me. I am in no way happy at the circumstances that have fallen upon my family. I have been doing Max Lucado's study, and this week, I am studying joy. He says this, "Jesus embodied a stubborn joy. A joy that refused to bend in the wind of hard times. A joy that held its ground against pain." So why is it that I can have joy? Just because Jesus did? Yes. Look at what John 15:11 says, "These things I have spoken to you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be made full." Jesus wants His joy to be in me. I can have His joy. I am not happy, but I can have Jesus' "sacred delight" as Max Lucado describes it.
My family is walking through the shadow of death right now. I don't see that changing any time soon. My grandmother is often telling my sisters and myself she has nothing more to live for. She is 90 years old and tired. Her body is wearing down, and she says she is ready to go to heaven. She isn't sick or depressed. Just tired. The shadow of death may linger over my family. How long will my grandfather live without my grandmother? I don't know. God does, though. And I can rest in His ever capable hands because He tells me, "I will go nowhere toorrow that He hasn't already been. Truth will still triumph. Death will still die. The victory is mine. And joy is one decision away-seize it. The sacred summit. A place of permanence in a world of transition." (Max Lucado). Joy. It isn't hard to find, but it is sure hard to keep, isn't it? It doesn't have to be, though. Jesus is willing to give it if only we are willing to accept it. In this season of your life, may you experience the joy Jesus is giving to you. During this season of heartborkenness in my family, in the midst of sadness, I am choosing joy. Max and I will leave you with this, "Take a trip with the King to the mountain peak. It's pristine, uncrowded, and on top of the world. Stubborn joy begins by breathing deep up there before you go crazy down here." May you experience His joy during THIS season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hope for Tomorrow Book Signing

I had my very first book signing on Friday, November 11 from 5pm to 7 pm.  As the day arrived, I went about my normal tasks. I got the boys up for their Friday school. I volunteered my hour and a half at the school. I went to Starbuck's to get my peppermint mocha (decaf of course) and then went grocery shopping and back to the school for Gage's science fair. By the time I got home, it was nearly 1 o'clock! I put away the groceries, ate a quick lunch, and sat down to read for a few minutes before I was supposed to pick up the boys at 3. Once I picked them up and we arrived home, my sister called to tell me she and her boys were on their way down to my house. She had canceled her plans with a neighbor just to come to the signing! Steff took the boys to Sam's Club for dinner and a treat and met me at Mardel Christian Bookstore. I was greeted by Jason once I walked in and informed him I was the author. He showed me the table and offered to get me pens and whatever else I needed. Dana, I believe the store manager, brought me two bottles of water, and then, I waited. I spoke with a man who had some physical issues, but he bought the book and sat down and talked with me some more. Jim is in need of a liver transplant. I immediately put him on my prayer list! Sarah came by on her way doing errands before she left for Kansas for her grandmother's funeral. Steff and the boys showed up with Chris, Russell, and Uncle Dale. Debbie, a woman from the church we used to go to, stopped by and bought a book and filled me in on her and her husband's lives. It was a blessing to have her there, even though we don't go to the same church anymore, she took time out of her day to support me. Rachel, a woman with three kids whose husband was out of town from our current small group, came and bought the book and talked with me a bit. Daniel and Tasha and their three kids showed up, as well, to buy the book and encourage me (they are from our current small group, too). It was a blessing that by 6:30, I had signed and sold 4 books! I had prayed for only 5 because I still don't know a lot of people in Colorado, and I didn't know how it would turn out. By 6:45, I had to use the bathroom, so Steff sat in for me. Of course, while I was away, a woman came and took a book and talked with Steff. Once I came back, I was able to meet Lisa and sign her copy. Overall, the book signing went well. Dana told me that selling 5 books was a huge deal because many authors don't even sell one! :) That made me happy. She even invited me back in January! When I got home, Steff had a cake that said, "Congratulations Joi" on it and had bought sparkling cider to celebrate! As I look back on that day, I was surrounded by family and friends who have been encouraging me in this crazy ride of writing! I am blessed beyond all I could ask, hope, and think! So, my signing was a success, and I look forward to having more! Perhaps I can even get to CA for one! :) Thanks, friends and family, who put so much time in encouraging me and showing me your love and support! I can't thank you enough!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Amazing Love

We all have those days. Days of doubt. Days of dispair. Days of discouragement. Don't we? We wake up and all of a sudden, what we thought we were isn't good enough. We went to bed thinking we were okay, life was good, and then something happens. It could be a mean word from your boss. A harsh statement from your spouse. What about an honest opinion from a child? Ever have one of those? "Mommy, why is your tummy bigger than (Fill in the blank)?" Hm. Moments of sadness can cloud our vision, take away our security, and leave us feeling blah, rejected, and dejected. They happen in a split second and sometimes it takes days to move on. It hurts. Life hurts. Words hurt. So, what do we do? When those moments of someone else's reality hit us like a ton of bricks and lead us down the road to dispair, where do we turn? What do we do?
I posted on Facebook today I was discouraged. I prayed about it this morning, spent time in the Word, yet I just couldn't shake it. I received some wonderful words of encouragement from my dear friends, had an email or two encouraging me, and even had a few phone calls from those who just wanted to lift me up. I had truth spoken into my life from so many dear ones! And all of those things helped! And then I remembered a verse I posted (althoug incorrectly) on Facebook yesterday: Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed."
Isn't it funny how what we learn just a few days ago can come back to encourage and uplift us? Isn't amazing that the God of the Universe knew exactly what I needed even before I did? That He cares enough to share His love for me? My spirit was crushed yesterday. I was dwelling on it today. And what did He do? He reminded me of this verse and caused so many people to pour forth their love into my life! What a wonderful Savior! That He would do those things and send these amazing people is astounding! I love serving my Lord who cares for me! Don't believe that He does? Take a look at 1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you." Awesome, isn't it? God has time for me! God cares for me! Did He come down and sit with me on my couch while I cried? Not in a physical sense. But He sent His Spirit of remembrance as well as His people. For those of you who contacted me, thank you! Thank you for listening to Him! Thank you for "encouraging one another." 1 Thess. 5:11. I am blessed, truly blessed!