Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Beauty of Broken Shells

I sat by the surf with my family, half covered by a beach-towel, secretly comparing myself to other women who walked by.
Whether tanned and shapely, or pale and curvy...they all seemed to carry with them the self-confidence I desperately wanted to have in myself.

My swimsuit fit a bit tighter this year, especially across the belly. Stretching out the fabric on a cotton T helped to conceal this area when away from the shore, but the elasticity of swimwear is not so accommodating. I had gained weight since last vacation - while part of it was a "middle aged spread,"
the *tumor growing in my mid-section did not help the situation.
Little cellulite ridges rippled down the back of both of my thighs, and my head was not shaped right for a beach hat. When I moved, my knees gave out a crack loud enough for my husband to look my way. Oh, how I longed to walk the 2 miles to the pier with my hubby as we did just last year, but this year I was feeling like a 70 year old woman crammed into a 43 year old body.
Did others see all this when they looked at me, too? My twisted mind said they did....

As the day wore on, bits of self-attacking personal digs continued to pick at my brain and my heart, and made me more anxious the longer I sat there.

The beach used to be my favorite place on earth, but the older I got, the less of it I liked.
While the beauty of the ocean was unchanging, the years on this body were taking its toll and in turn, my memory of happier carefree days begin to slip away.

No mater how hard I tried to change my train of thought, the self comparison was making me miserable. Why was I being so vane? As a child and teen I struggled with self-image, as a young adult I worked hard to love the body I was given and now, as a grown woman with grown children, I thought it was all behind me, but on this day all the negativity came rushing back like waves before a storm.
Fed up with my thoughts, I gathered up my beach things, shoving them in my tote ready to head back to the hotel room when my 4 year old niece, Kaity ran over to me with an outstretched hand.
"Come get shells with me!" she exclaimed, bouncing in the sand with a bucket in her other hand. "Let's find shells, Aunt Jenn!"
Putty when it comes to our family's little ones, I put my tote back down on the ground beside my chair, I took her little hand and we set out to find her undiscovered treasure.

We had only walked a few feet when Kaity reached down, grabbed a large broken shell, and held it up for me to see.
"Oh! How Pretty!" she shouted, quickly dropping the shell into her bucket.
Within seconds, the next shell a little smaller but just as broken was snapped up, held for me to see and dropped into her bucket.
Over and over again, her little hands grabbed at the shells.....some in perfect condition, but most broken and battered from the trials they suffered before being washed up to rest in the sand.
Her bucket filling fast, I was beginning to worry that when she really took the time to sit down and look over her treasures, she'd be disappointed to find that the large clunky broken shells far outnumbered the smaller colorful perfect looking ones.
"Kaity," I said, "let's slow down and look for a few nicer shells, ok? I bet if we looked really hard, we could find a few that are absolutely perfect without all of the edges broken off, ok?"

And that's when the Lord used a 4 year old to teach me.

"But Aunt Jenn, God made all these shells, right? So they are all beautiful, right? Even the broken ones." And she reached down to pluck up another shell from the sand without really looking at it and dropped it into her bucket.

I'd love to say that that moment changed the rest of the day, making it wonderful and happy and instantly erasing all my insecurities, but that would be a lie.
But what DID happen was a bigger than life God, used a tiny little girl to whisper a bit of love and hope into this not so perfect heart.

And this reminder was placed into my mind that day as well....Just as He made each and every shell, He has formed each man, woman, and child. And as we are created in His image, we are all perfect in His sight. Age, illness, body shape, abilities....nothing is a barrier to the way the Lord sees us. It is only a barrier to the way we see ourselves.
Broken shells...and broken people...have a story to tell.
For the shell, its story may end in the bottom of a little girl's bucket.
For a broken person (whether broken physically, emotionally, or spiritually), the story can find a new beginning in the gift of love, grace, and forgiveness found only at the foot of the cross and by the gift of Salvation, given to us by a Man broken for us. And it can end in a Paradise more beautiful than the most gorgeous earthly ocean, in a body that is perfect in every way.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

* Recently it was discovered that I have a large tumor in my uterus.
I will be having surgery late this Fall/ early this Winter. I would be so honored if you would please join me in praying for guidance for the doctors and healing. Thank you so much.

may your day be JOYfilled! ♥~

Thursday, September 10, 2015

JOYful JOYful JOYful

©Jennifer L Nilsson

 Make a JOYful noise unto the Lord!
Whether it be singing, humming, clapping of hands, or silent whispers of the heart, make it all unto the Lord for He is worthy to be praised!
He is no further away than the beat of your heart, the whisper of a breath.
Take JOY in His presence, take hope in His provisions.
He loves you more than you will ever know!

Just a bit of happiness to encourage your heart today.

may your day be JOYfilled! ♥~

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Discounted Blessings

It was another rainy day and I was beginning to feel like I was under house arrest.

Gray skies are always a challenge with my chronic Vit D deficiency and my batteries were running low and patience wearing thin.
I always laugh to others that I am "solar powered" when they ask about the dark circles under my eyes that concealer never really conceals, and the slow cramped up movements on my stiff body from the inflammation that loves to visit during the dreary days.
 "Once the sun pops out, I'll be just fine," I usually reassure...but this was the 4th day in a row without sun and I was at my breaking point.

The walls of our old farmhouse seemed to be closing in.
Living on only the bottom level of a 2 story home was fun at first. "It's like living in a cabin," I jokingly said to my hubby. If the Ingalls family on Little House could live in a small space with their large family, surely the two of us could make a go of single floor living for the next couple years while the upper levels gets renovated.

I fell in love with the farmhouse the minute I saw it.

The adorable wooden bridge, the gorgeous brick chimneys, the sprawling 12 acre partially forested farmland with outbuildings...THIS was the home we prayed for!

 But 9 months in...the blessing we so joyfully gave thanks for, was quickly being forgotten and ungratefulness was starting to settle in.
Feeling overwhelmed and sorry for myself, I grumbled under my breath, but God spoke to my heart...

"It's not all it will someday be, but it's enough."
What God? What did you just whisper?
I let it sink in a little.

The first half of that statement was a reassurance but the second half washed over me and repeated itself once more...."it's enough."

And it is.

We have a roof over our heads, we have a comfortable bed to sleep in. We have a garden filled with nutrition and sustenance ripe for the picking. Crickets lull us to sleep each night, and peace and privacy surround us each day.

 My health may be not be perfect, but I am able to wake each morning, I am able to work, I am able to spend time with family and friends, and I am able to worship.

 And we have love. Love for one another as husband and wife, and the love of a Holy Father who always meets our needs.

Sometimes it's easy to let your heart wander to the "somedays" and "what ifs" and allow our minds to get bogged down with the "have nots" but I'm learning that those negative reactions cloud the truth of what really "IS." And in a way, discounts the blessings that He has already given us...and the blessings we have waiting ahead of us.

 And I am reminded that this...this is all just temporary. Our situations, our possessions, even our health.
There is something SOOOO much better ahead of our days here on Earth. And that is where I am placing my hope and joy.

The house will get finished...or not.
My health may improve...or not.
But of this I am certain....the blessings we have had given to us should not be discounted by our grumblings.
He has plans for us that are SO much better than any plans we could have for ourselves.
His mercies are new each morning.
And I am going to make every effort to show gratefulness and joy in every situation.

       Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits
Psalm 103:2 

may your day be JOYfilled! ♥~