the joy of the Lord.

Anytime we foresee or face change in what we call our “normal”, there is an uncertainty of what it will bring.  The change may be a moving to a new town or state, starting a new chapter as a college student, or simply a change in schedule.  Whatever the change, whether it be anticipated or completely out of the blue, whether you’re prepared for it or grasping for air, change affects us.

It’s my tendency to wonder if I am ready for the change.  Am I strong enough to face the unknown and even the discomforts of the change?  Is there any possible way to stay in “the normal”?  And with this thoughts afloat in my mind it is easy to give way to the worry and anxiety and fear that accompanies change.  Please don’t tell me I’m alone in this, the I-can’t-sleep-because-I’m-to0-busy-planning-all-the-what-if-scenarios in this so called season of change. Please.  Why is there an unspoken negative connotation to the current changes we face?  There is hope that this change will be over soon, things can go back to normal, and none of this ever happened…whew, I can breath again. But like I said, in the meantime worry and fear lurk behind the corner of “what I know” and “change”.

As David and I are a few weeks into a changed lifestyle (he started classes at the end of July) and the change will continue through the course of his program and as the leaves change in the Fall so does my schedule as a paraprofessional and personal fitness trainer, I have had the constant “what if I’m not strong enough” flash through my mind.

What if I can’t handle the pressures of being married to a medical student?  What if my schedule is too packed with responsibilities?  What if I struggle to make it through the day? 

But then I took a step back, gave myself a reality check and asked isn’t there a better way to approach change.  Yes, change is difficult. Change is uncertain. But change is good.  It’s good because I realize I can’t do it on my own- I need something outside of myself that is constant, unchanging. (“For I the Lord do not change…Malichi 3:6)  It’s good because change brings forth personal growth and refinement.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:25

  • My strength is not my own.  The original Hebrew for strength is ‘oz, a masculine noun from the root meaning to prevail, to be made strong. The same word has been used to describe God’s character.

“You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.” Psalm 89:13

To cloth myself with strength is to cloth myself with God.  I am strong enough to face change because I look to God for  strength and counsel and provision.  I choose to rely on him to meet the challenges of change and uncertainty.

“Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
1 Chronicles 16:11

  • I surrender to God.  Strength and dignity are so much a part of her character, that it is described as her clothing.  Her character is reflected as such because she has allowed God to change her from the inside out.  She has surrendered herself to God and she has submitted herself to be used by Him.
  • I am free to face the day with joy.  Fear and worries about life do not define her.  She laughs at days to come. She does not run from change, but embraces it with joy.  Can you imagine…To laugh at days to come and approach change with a thankful heart verses being overcome by fear and worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,  present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

This season of change is filled with uncertainty for David and I.  I could easily sit here and continue to add to the list of fears and uncertainties, the what-ifs,  but instead I will choose to be thankful and laugh at what is to come.

I’m thankful for new friendships.

I’m thankful for jobs that engage my interests and education.

I’m thankful for a home with two bedrooms so David can study at home.

I’m thankful for the resources to bake. (a good study break tactic) 

What are you thankful for in your season of change?

Proverbs 31;25 

 

Advertisements

joy’s thief.

Just write.

That’s what I had to tell myself to do.

“You haven’t blogged anything recently,” David mentioned in our now passing conversations.  He officially started classes last week and with a quiz almost every Monday, studying has been in full swing.

Truth be told, I haven’t had much of a passion to write.  As I sit on my computer and read blogs others write, I quickly retreat, thinking I don’t have anything worth sharing.  I don’t have a strong opinion or knowledge about the best beauty products or latest fashion trends.  I’m not a gifted photographer.  My cooking is not anything special, or unique.  My hobbies or skills have not be perfected to be anything close to lucrative as these other blogs.  Well, no wonder my passion to write or blog has gone out the window – I have compared myself to everyone else and have it stuck in my mind  that in order to be a sucessful blogger or a blogger who others would follow, I have to do EVERYTHING that EVERYONE else is doing, and I have to do it WELL.

And then I had to ask myself, why I started blogging in the first place.  I started because I wanted to document life happening now. Life as a wife. Sister. Daughter. Friend. And Child of the King.  When I remembered that, everything about the blogging world seems so much smaller.  And everything about God’s story so much bigger.

 

For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

That very realization, that we are HIS workmanship gave me joy, purpose, and freedom.  It gave me joy in who I am. Gave purpose to my day. And freedom to not be perfect, but to be God’s work of art, which HE prepared in his infinite wisdom.

For me it was comparing myself to other bloggers; sometimes its comparing our stage of life, our possessions, our talents, our appearance to others’.  Whatever it is you compare, you are robbing yourself of joy and the fullness of Christ who is at work in you.

Comparision robs joy

So what would happen if we stopped comparing ourselves to others?

I can tell you as soon as I stopped comparing my blog to all of the wonderful blogs out there, God gave me something to write about and my creativity started bloom.  Just think if I stopped comparing my appearance to CoverGirl, I would embrace my curly, sometimes unruly hair.  If I stopped wishing to be in another stage of life, I would enjoy all that is happening now.  And if I stopped comparing my hobbies or talents to what other people have chosen, I might find some creative outlet or something else that I’m skilled in.

And the opportunity to really find joy in who God created us to be will flourish.

Invisible Blessings

It was a blessing in my life and in our marriage that I did not see nor understand.  I had mentioned in a previous post about “a year of disappointment”.  I did not go into much detail about this disappointment and how it drastically changed our intent to move to Vermillion, South Dakota.

As news of David’s acceptance into the University of South Dakota’s (USD) Medical School begins to spread.  I thought it appropriate to write about last year’s disappointment, and share the unseeingly blessings that bloomed in a time of fog and uncertainty.

The place where David will be spending the majority of his time.  Congratulations David!  I am so proud of you!!

The place where David will be spending the majority of his time. Congratulations David!

David’s journey of preparing for Medical School started much before we met – studying for the MCAT, shadowing doctors, maintaining a competitive GPA, traveling abroad for a Medical Missions Trip. I joined him in this rocky terrain of applications, interviews, and awaiting acceptance letters during our engagement and now first year of marriage.  In December 2012, David and I took our first trip to Vermillion, South Dakota.  He interviewed with the faculty and we were both introduced to the curriculum David would be enrolled in upon acceptance.  The reality of David becoming a doctor set in. I was realizing the time and energy and commitment of applying was just a tip of the ice burg.

As January 2013 passed with much excitement – we got married!  And as the winter brought its annual gift of snow and spring brought the promise of warmer days, we waited and waited for an acceptance letter.  Finally, after much anticipation, the letter with a USD return address  arrived.  This is it.  David nervously opened the letter and I eagerly waited for him to read it.

11th on the waiting list.

Not exactly ideal.  But it was a promising spot.  On average 20 people on the waiting list end up with admittance into the school.

Each week David called.  And each week he crept his way up the list by one to two spots.  As May came, David was still number 2 or 3 on the list.  So we made the decision, took a leap of faith and began looking for places to live in Vermillion.

June came and went.  Number 1 alternate.  July came.  We waited and waited.  By this time David and I are both unemployed.  The uncertainty of our year ahead started to set in.  Disappointment lurked. We would mostly embark on the rocky terrain of med school applications and interviews for another year.

Like I said, it was a time of disappointment.  So close.  Any closer David would have attended the White Coat Ceremony and started classes in August.  But instead of numerous hours spent studying the human body and instead of time scheduling around class and studies for dates, our year was nothing like we planned.

And as for those invisible blessings I mentioned earlier, they all came as a result of not being accepted.  Because if he was accepted we would not have had experienced these blessings in the same way.

  • Conflict brought about intimacy in our marriage. David was hired as a CNA at a Care Center.  And I as an Educational Aid.  David worked night shifts, I worked a convenient school day schedule with personal fitness training on the side.  Needless to say our schedules were backwards which caused a lot of communication mishaps. But the conflict that aspired from such wonky schedules created a deeper intimacy between David and I.  We cherished the time we were awake at the same time and learned (not always easy) how to be intentional with each other, how to care for each other, and how to serve on another.
  • Humility with a vote of confidence.  Any kind of rejection is a slam to the ego.  As a wife it was not easy to see my husband’s confidence shrink while uncertainty rose to greater heights. Not to mention the lessons of humility that accompany care and patience with the elderly.  My prayer early on was asking God to rebuilt David’s confidence, showcasing His faithfulness and goodness.  And He did.  David got multiple interviews (unlike last year) with more than one offer to attend medical school in the Fall.  What a vote of confidence from God!
  • A cherished trip to San Diego.  David’s mom, Jo, was receiving cancer treatments at a facility in Mexico.  As she took a drastic change for the worse, Jo was checked into a hospital in San Diego.  Upon realizing time with her was ending,  David’s dad flew us and his sister to San Diego.  A trip that would not have been possible if David was in school.  I will forever cherish this trip and the time spent with Jo – crying, laughing, and talking.  Whenever I looked at her in that hospital bed I would smile at her knowing should would return the gesture and I would have a mental picture of the joy she held.
  • Generosity from new friends and old friends. I wish I could go into every kind and generous gesture we have received from others, but the list would not end.  It has meant everything to me and David to stay in touch with our friends back in Colorado and Wyoming.  Numerous calls have been made, texts sent, and letters written from friends that continued to encourage us.  New friends in Vermillion have blessed us with their hospitality and kind words.  Many of them have taught me that generosity doesn’t just come in monetary form, but from homemade meals, bags full of groceries, and “get-well soon” packages.

What are your invisible blessings?

He Came Close

I am on Day 7 of my 30 Days of Gratitude Devotional by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  The reading is found in Luke 17:11-15.  It is a story about a leper healed by Jesus.

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  And as he entered a village, hew was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’  When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves o the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.”

One of the ten lepers, who stood at a distance, came close to Jesus and gave him thanks.

It is an insight I have never given much thought to, but after reading Nancy’s words, it opened my eyes and made me reflect on how thanksgiving affects my relationship with Jesus.  When I am thankful, when I “praise God with a loud voice” meaning I tell other people what God has done and what he has given me,  I am so much more aware of Him – it becomes natural and automatic to give Him thanks.  And in turn I am drawn closer to Him because I realize my need to be healed and forgiven.

Just a few weeks ago I came home and immediately unloaded on David. I didn’t greet him, or ask him about his day, but the first words that came out of my mouth as soon as I opened the door were ones of complaint, anger, and annoyance about my day at work.  I am so thankful that I married a man who isn’t easily ruffled by the day, because he put a stop to my not-so-pleasent mood.

He said, “Tanya, I understand that you feel this way and I am glad that we can talk about our days, but its feeling very negative.  Can you tell me 5 things you were thankful for today?”

  • I am thankful for the sound of laughter.
  • I am thankful that we both have jobs with similar scheduling.
  • I am thankful for a clean kitchen.
  • I am thankful for the friendships I have with my co-workers.
  • I am thankful that God is teaching me how to care for others.

Sharing, aloud, with someone the things I was thankful for in they day, turned my mood 180.  It went from frustration and anger to joy.  My day went from being about me to praising Him.  I was reminded of the gospel.  Its power to bring upon true awareness of my helplessness apart from Jesus.  But even more, its power to transform my life with grace.  It evokes so much more than a muted thanks. And it brings me closer to the feet of Jesus.

So say it LOUD and say it proud- give thanks and be drawn closer to our Savior.

"Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” - Psalm 27 vs 6

Digging Deeper

Monday was  my first day back to work after a wonder, extended weekend of spring break.  And Sunday night I could already feel my skin crawl with irritation.  I don’t want to go back to work.  I want one more day at home, one more day relaxing with zero obligation or responsibility.  The wearisome of the week ahead was so overwhelming, I found it difficult to enjoy my final evening.  David continually asked me, “Tanya, what is on your mind?”  “Is something wrong?”  The anxiety was written all over my face and it dictated the my mood.  The list of anxious toil was beginning, and I was caught in the self-woven web.  Why is it so easy for me to make a list of things that boil my blood?

I did not want my week to be robbed of joy.  I do not want to be wishing for the weekend, just to see it pass by as quickly as the last.  I want to enjoy they day, with a positive outlook, and contagious-upbeat attitude.  Not fake or pretending to be happy, but realizing all there is to be thankful for.  So this week, I decided to dig deeper.  Thanking God and others for everything that comes to mind.

A list of to-dos that can be crossed off
Smiles I receive from the kids at work
Running
Earl Gray Tea
Clean sheets
Finishing laundry
Seeing my sister on Thursday (WAHOOO!)
Sunshine
Soap for dishes
Reading “Into the Wild” by Jack London
Trying new recipes, and having a husband willing to test them out
…the list can go on!

Another…and Another

Bless the Lord , O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

I will try my best not to be brought to tears as I sit in Barnes and Noble, drinking my carmel macchiato, writing this post.  I first started meditating on this passage back in September.  The month David and I flew to San Diego.  The month I sat at Jo’s side.  The month I said good-bye to my mother-in-law. And I struggled to understand how the Lord heals all diseases?

I have yet to write in any sort of detail about this month, about this time.  I’m not sure how my emotions will be expressed once its written.  When I first started blogging and sharing my journey about our move to the Mid-West, Jo was my biggest follower and encourager.  As soon as I my first post was published, my phone ceased to buzz from her encouraging texts and transparent excitement about me documenting life. And I am so thankful I have her words saved, to cherish and remember.

It flows, it speaks of beauty and hope and God’s faithfulness, it expresses who you are and it honors David as your husband. It is such a great way to express this season of “new beginnings” even while being honest and authentic about the disappointments of the summer. I just love the balance and the honesty and refreshing-ness (word?) of it!

These words continue to encourage me in so many ways.  I remember her infectious smile. Her joyful laugh.  Her genuine faith.  She drew people together, and connected them in a deep and intentional way.  Her eyes gleamed of pride for her family.  As David and I venture through Med School applications and interviews and await an acceptance letter for the second year,  I can just imagine her pride and joy in her son’s persistent work this past year.

This is the first of many events in our lives where “telling Jo” will cross my mind.  And each time my eyes will water with sorrow and my heart will smile with hope.

I spent the day looking at pictures from our wedding day.  And remembering Jo.  Time with Jo plays like a movie.  I replay the conversations we had and everything she taught me in such a short amount of time.  I rewind just to see her smile.  And I pause, thanking God for the moments with Jo.

Let the Redeemed Say So

Scripture reading for today was found in Psalm 107: 1-32.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

whom he has redeemed from trouble.

                                                   Psalm 107:1-2

Throughout the Psalm, those who have been redeemed record their testimony and have reason to give Him thanks.  Each express their state of distress, desperately crying out to the Lord for help.  And each testimony concludes in divine deliverance.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wondrous works to the children of man!

                                                           Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21

After reading and even relating to the testimonies given,  I was then instructed to write out my own personal testimony of God’s saving grace.  Here are the questions that provoked some reflection and praise for how God has redeemed me.

  • What was your life like before He redeemed you?
  • How did God bring you to the end of yourself, to the place where you cried out to Him for mercy?
  • What has changed in your life since He delivered you from your slavery to sin?

Then,  I was reminded of a poem I wrote in 2012.  I thought I would share it with you and encourage you to get your creative juices flowing, write your testimony, and give thanks to God.

Once stood a mirror in prairie’s country

where tumbleweed followed winds bridle path

and thick grass gave way to a rabbit’s burrow.

Rolling hills held morning’s shadow;

an attic’s golden dust.

While hawks hunted, and the mouse hid in wind’s slumber.

The mirror stood dull, no echo of sun’s glow

Her dirt  covered glass stained gray’s grim

And stood wondering time past since morning’s yield.

Her glass once glistened dawn’s early mist,

but now gathered dust  in drought’s  unforgiving spell.

Then a drop fell from heaven’s Creator

opened the sky’s midnight wonder,

awakening the thirst ground,

lifting petals to praise, and creatures  to sanctuary .

As the cloud burst forth natures longing

in prairie’s country.

Her glass now without blemish, swinging in night’s flutter.

Her still reflection once grim and insentient

Now redeemed by the rays, being promptly swept spotless.

Dust and ashes once covered her bleak pose

As the rain ceased and the thunder abandon lightening

she stood afloat disclosing the King’s splendor.