Monday, October 12, 2015

Putting In and Taking Out

She sat in the recliner to my right and continued her story of grief and pain.
No one she loved had passed away....
She had a safe warm place to live....
She was well fed and clothed.....
She had body pain that came with age, but otherwise was in good health....
But was just too much for her and once again, her disappointment spilled over and filled the room. And my heart hurt for her.

Months earlier, she had her own personal space, but was unhappy with the cost, the neighbors, the landlord, so she moved.
Years earlier she had a large home, but was unhappy with her job, her failed marriage, her children, her responsibilities, and she lost her house back to the bank.
Money had always been an issue......
She never seemed to have enough money for bills, for food, for the raising of her children (although her children, by the grace of God, did receive the material things they needed), for her mortgage, for her car payment...but she did have enough money to shop at thrift stores for knick-knacks, garage sales for books and clothes, and home decor items. There was enough money for craft shows, and flea markets, occasional trips to K-mart, and Walmart, and a multitude of other places that was more than willing to take her money, where she might be able to pick up just one more item that might bring her happiness - just one more "thing" to brighten her day....and when the joy of those items wore off, there was money for alcohol to numb the disappointment and pain.  Now with her kids grown with families of their own, she still struggled with the concept of money.

And people had always been an issue....
Someone always needed something from her. An hour of babysitting, a ride to the grocery store, a new pair of shoes, a safe loving home to live in, sobriety, ...some things she could do with much effort and groaning...other things were beyond her capability.
She lived in a clouded mind and a with a darkened heart. She alienated people with her lies (although she never thought of her exaggerations that way),...with her life choices...with her attitude. No matter how someone helped her, it was never the way she wanted, liked, or would do for herself. No amount of money that others offered was ever enough because there was always something that she was left paying for.
Years of anger and sadness surrounded her and wounded all who came near.
And she couldn't understand why she felt alone.

Now, sitting beside me she retold the story that had become the only one she knew by heart...a story of pain, loneliness, heartache.
Of how her body hurt, of how she felt like she was being treated as a child, of how her life will be better when she more aches, a new place to live, more money, a better.....(insert anything here.)

I silently agreed that life had given her hardships. Some were out of her control, but some were of her own making...and she was making new ones everyday.
I understood her attitude.....I was part of the mix over the years so I lived it and felt it, too.
This entire story that she repeated...COULD HAVE BEEN MINE....
But - I chose to make these experiences part of my story to grow out of, to look back on, to move away from, leaving the drama and pain behind.
She decided to allow the experiences to define her.
She nurtured them, she fed them, she chose to allow them to grow until they consumed her.

And now she sat in my living room, either oblivious to the love that so desperately wanted her to step out of her darkness...or aware of it and unsure how to take that first step.
She didn't need someone to pour INTO her misery...she needed Jesus to pull her out.
But trying to talk to her about the Lord and all He had done and all He is capable of doing in her life was always brushed off.
Still, I prayed that someday her heart would soften and that I'd know that a seed had been planted with the efforts.... 

I do not judge her, for her story could have been mine. I can understand, I can have compassion, but the truth of it all is this....
I'm not sure if life will ever improve for her. I'm not sure she truly wants it to....
But, my sincere hope is that she someday trades in her misery for the love that is waiting to welcome her in.
My hope is that she someday sees that circumstances will never be perfect, and things can never bring happiness. That joy can be found in recognizing all the ways you've been blessed that money can't buy. That happiness comes from your life and identity in Christ, in faith in His provisions, in appreciation of all He's already done.
That life is more about what your put INTO it...not what you get OUT of it.
All things on this earth - our living arrangement, money situation, material things we surround ourselves with are temporary...and can not buy us love or happiness.
...Love, joy, comfort, laughter, good. Or - complaining, deceit, ungratefulness, bitterness, wastefulness, self-centeredness...In this life...what you put into it, is what you get out.

But you MUST do the work. You MUST make the effort. You MUST want better and DO different than what you've been doing all along. It depends on YOU and how you choose to live each day.
Change in attitude = a change of heart.
And when the heart begins to change, your eyes begin to open and see that the good in your life really does outnumber the bad.

“Words can never adequately convey
the incredible impact of our attitudes
toward life. The longer I live the more convinced
I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us
and 90 percent how we respond to it.” ~ Chuck Swindoll

If you can relate to this post in the sadness....Don't let your experiences and circumstances define you. God has great things in store for your life. In no way am I claiming that joy and goodness will fill every day of your life in Christ, but when we turn our attitudes and hearts around, we can have HOPE for our futures, we can overcome our circumstances, we can have faith that our set-backs are only temporary and that joy WILL come again.

If you've not already done so, seek Him out...pour out your pain to Him. Recognize your part in your situation, and confess all your sins. Ask for forgiveness, and show repentance (turning away from your harmful actions and behaviors and doing your best to not return to them). Acknowledge and accept Jesus as your ONLY Savior - your friends, family, money, job, "things" can never save or fill the hole in your heart that was designed for only Him to fit into.

But you must want it, and work toward it.
Others can not do it for you. Only you with the help of God.
Decide to bring joy back to your life and joy into the lives of those around you.
Drama and misery grow and spread like plagues. Decide to stop poisoning yourself and those around you.
I promise you, when you let go of yesterday, purposefully work to bring joy into someone elses life will come back to you. 

My prayer is for you to feel the tug of God on your heart, open it up to Him, and accept all He has to offer for you in your life.

If you can relate to the position of seeing a loved one stuck in their them, pray for them, try to be an encouragement to them. Help them IF the help will move to improve their situation - but do not enable them. Share the love of Christ with them and have faith that a seed will be planted. And please be sure to protect your heart - and the hearts and minds of your family - from the plague of darkness that follows when drama is welcomed in.

This is a hard story to share, but I pray that it reaches those who need to hear it.
It is written in love.

may your day be JOYfilled! ♥~

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! ♥~