Joy…Down in my Heart to Stay!

When you were a young child, I bet many of you, like me, sang the song… “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. Down in my heart. Down in my heart. I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. Down in my heart to stay!

Down in my heart to stay…

There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is something that can come and go…and may even last for a moment in time. Happiness is being content and satisfied. I don’t know about you, but I want to feel more than contentment and satisfaction in my life.

Joy on the other hand is great delight, a euphoria.  When we find true joy, it will last forever. It is down in our hearts to stay. That is what I desire for my life.

I believe we find that forever joy when we learn to surrender our life to God. I have found during the trials in my life, my immediate response is to try and control the situation in front of me. The more I try to control it, the further God feels from my life. Sure, I still pray and ask Him for what I desire. I ask Him for peace in my heart. And, that is what makes it confusing sometimes…I am still praying and asking, and He still seems so far away.

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Sara personally defined joy as…”The unwavering trust that God knows what He is doing and has blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it. Not despite what is happening in my life, but because of it. When everything earthly feels heavy, He gives me an internal lightness that can’t be touched.”

“Unwavering trust that God knows what He is doing”… Am I truly surrendering to God’s will for my life…even when it is hard? Surrendering is trusting that even when it’s not what I want, I trust that He truly knows what is best for me and walking His journey in faith. “Blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it”…In prayer am I thanking Him for the blessings that I see coming from the trials and pain? Am I open enough to find the blessings and trusting they are there, despite what is happening in my life?

When life is hard, I find myself questioning whether I have lost the joy in my heart because there are times I don’t feel the joy. Instead of questioning and trying to control the sorrow and pain, I must surrender it to Him. I must give Him my unwavering trust and just be with Him.  Faith is believing without seeing and feeling.

We are human beings, not human doings. First and foremost, we must stop and just be. Be with Him and listen.  The doing follows the being. The doing is then following the path that He has laid out in front of us. I believe when we start with the doing, we start with controlling and that is not what He wants from us.

As Sara reminds us, this life is not about me, my wants, my needs, my desires. This life is about what He can do through me. This life is about Him. My prayer must not stop with what I want to have happen.  Instead my prayer must continue on, asking God that His will be done and to give me humbleness in my heart, wisdom in my head and courage in my hands and my feet to follow his will.

The joy down in our heart doesn’t mean we are exempt from sadness or hurt. It is during those times that if we surrender ourselves to Him, when we stop and first just be with him, we will find joy. He promises us His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5).

It is when we fully surrender to Him that we will have that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our heat to stay.

I want that for me and I want that for your too! What are you dealing with today that you need to stop and fully surrender to Him?

A Godly Father

I woke up this morning unable to sleep and as I lay in bed with my own thoughts, they are about my dad. I miss him everyday and as I walk this cancer journey, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t long for his big strong hug.

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Sunday is Father’s day and although dad is no longer here for me to celebrate with Him, he is with me and I will celebrate him.

I was definitely a daddy’s girl growing up. I grew up on a farm which meant there were lots of chores to do.  Mom and dad had six kids (3 sons and 3 daughters) therefore, they had lots of help. I remember the evenings while planning for the next day, I would find my way to dad and begin giving him all the reasons why I needed to go help him with the hog chores instead of staying in the house to help mom with household chores. He would listen to my case and talk with mom who was always gracious enough to let me go.

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I know it sounds a little strange…why in the world would I want to clean up after hogs instead of cleaning up after people? All I can tell you is that I don’t remember a moment with my dad that wasn’t fun, meaningful and uplifting.

Proverbs 20:7 says “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”

Dad lived a life of honesty and strong moral principles and not only is that how he lived, it is what he taught. We prayed together as a family and we had conversations around the dinner table. We worked together as a family to pick up the yard and cut wood for the fireplace.

Dad also lived and taught us the importance of a life of fun and playfulness. The conversations we had in our moments together would go from him horsing around and telling jokes… that sometimes only he found funny…to deep personal ones about trusting God in times of doubt, hurt and fear.

After I left home, I would get phone calls from dad in the middle of the day. I would be at work in my office and he would be at work in his office (in the tractor doing field work). He would ask me about what was going on in my life and then he would share with me what was happening on the farm. Mom would often tell me she thought he was on the phone with one of the boys because he would share with me the prices of hogs and the size of pig litters born. I will always treasure those moments.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Reflecting back, I would have to describe dad as the essence of the Holy Spirit working through him showing me in some small way the love of my Heavenly Father. He was a Godly Father. He was a Godly Man. He loved unconditionally. He taught us how to love and honor God. My family was blessed through Him. Dad lived out what God calls fathers to live and for that I will be forever blessed.

Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.”

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Thanks, dad. I love you to the heavens and back!

 

When I am weak, He is strong.

This week has been hard…my spirit has been weak.

I am tired and don’t want to do this anymore.

We can all handle change and feeling poorly for a certain amount of time…and then we hit a brick wall. I hit that brick wall.

I want my energy back. I want my hair back. I want to feel well and live my “normal” life again.

I am having conversations with God. I am having conversations with Sara and thinking about the life she was stripped of because of her disease…and I hear her words…”This life is not about me….”

When I look at the road ahead, it feels daunting to think I still have 10 weeks of weekly chemo and then 6 weeks of daily radiation, and yet there is an end. In 16 weeks I will be done with treatment and will begin the process of healing.

With Sara’s disease, there was no break and there was no end. Her life was always going to be a life of pain, sickness and being homebound. I may not have a lot of energy, but I am able to sit outside and feel the breeze. I am able to feel the sunshine on my face. I am able to be blessed with things that the last 3 years of her life, she never experienced.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

In order for us to be strong when we are weak, we need to realize the difference between giving up and letting go. As I seek out my purpose while going through this cancer journey I am listening to Sara….

There’s an important difference
between giving up and letting go.
                       – Jessica Hatchigan

“And I realize that part of seeking out what my purpose is, what my goals should be, how to fulfill what God has put in front of me, is to let go.

Let go of the ideas that I can’t make happen. Let go of the expectations I put on myself to be more than myself. It’s a constant process as I lose more abilities, to adapt and adjust and let go of the notion that what I should be is anything other than what I am.

It’s a fine line, between giving up and letting go. Because I’m not giving up on having a purpose. I just may have to let go of putting energy into the things that no longer work so I can focus my energy on the things that still do work.

So I’m letting go of other things to do one thing, be here with all of you. I’m learning to let go of some of the things that take away the energy I need to make that happen.

And I realize that in some ways I’m lucky, because my life forces me to be still, be slow, let go of the externals so I don’t lose sight of my purpose.

And it makes me wonder if all of you slow down in your lives … have you taken the time lately to really question and seek out what God’s purpose is for you? And what you may need to let go of in this season to make that happen?”

So, in this time of feeling weak, I am going to let go of what I think I need to be and focus on listening to what God needs from me. It is a time to be still, listen and seek out His purpose.

Thanks for your wise words, sis…and for being here for me!

Why?

Oh, the questions.

Not the questions that are easy to answer, but those that we don’t know the answers to…how frustrating they are.

Why did this one bee sting take my dad’s life? He was such a good man, why him?

Why did my sister Sara have to endure so much pain? She was so faithful, why didn’t God cure her?

I prayed for healing, why am I not healed? Why did He choose to not heal me?

These questions not only feel like a heavy rock, be they can be real stumbling blocks on our faith journey if we let them. Our walk of faith is definitely not an easy one.

In my faith journey, the hardships I have endured have helped my faith grow and deepen, but the choice was up to me. Instead of being a victim of circumstance, I chose to turn to God and His word. Each of us have that choice.

In life, we will experience trials of our faith. But during those times we must “count it all joy” (James 1:2). The basis for faith is the Word of God and the proof of our faith comes from living a life of being faithful.

It is during those times when the Why’s enter my mind and my faith feels shaken, that I think of words that my sister Sara wrote about…

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Sometimes the trials and burdens in life are too heavy to bear, and it is during those times we need to break the burden down into stepping stones and not allow those stepping stones to become stumbling blocks. The stepping stones will not only lighten our burden, but we will find a path to the peace and joy we are seeking.

The rock of burden I felt when losing my dad…Now when I look back I see the journey more clearly. I think dad was in heaven to meet my sister when she made her journey there. My dad’s death made many of those he touched re-look at their own lives because dad lived his life in a way that brought people closer to God through knowing him.

The rock of burden Sara felt when the disease kept her from the life she dreamed of having.  Sara always said that she saw her disease as a blessing, if she could make a difference in even one person’s life. When Sara broke that burden down she saw the journey of God using her as His disciple.

“This life is not about us, our needs, wants and desires. It’s about Him and what He can do through us.” ~Sara Gitz Frankl

We must be open to what God needs from us. When we trust Him to use us for His will, not only will the Why not matter, We will find joy in our journey.

I am choosing to look at this cancer journey the same way. If His plan is to use me as His disciple and help others find joy in their journey by seeking Him, then I will take the burdens I face, break it down into stepping stones and walk the path that He is asking me to take. I may stumble once in a while, but I will get back up and keep walking the path before me.

And I will do it with Joy.

 

 

 

 

Peace.

After losing dad suddenly from a bee sting in July of 2010, and then losing Sara in September of 2011 from a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, I prayed so hard to just feel peace.

My head knew that they were happy and in their awesome new home in heaven, but my heart hurt so badly and I wanted to feel peace. I felt selfish to say I wanted them back with me, because I knew they had found the perfect peace only heaven can provide.

I decided in January of 2012 to focus on the word peace for the upcoming year. Each time I would read my devotions or study scripture, I would seek peace. It was amazing how many times in scripture God tells us how to find peace.

Now as I walk this cancer journey, I am once again focused on God’s word for finding peace. Our head can know the truth, and yet our heart doesn’t always feel it. It is so hard to get our head and heard aligned.

Isaiah 26:3 tells us…”You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

As I was going through some of Sara’s journals after she passed away, I found this entry that she wrote.

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I’m not sure what happened that night that triggered what she wrote, but I believe that night she put her whole trust in God. She felt that perfect peace that only God can give us. Sara didn’t feel alone in her journey. Her head aligned with her heart.

God didn’t take away Sara’s journey with the disease, because He needed her to walk the journey for a purpose He had planned for her and the world. Sara knew that if she wholly trusted in Him, she would not be walking the journey alone. He would hold her up and take the burden she felt. It was in Him that she found perfect peace.

That is how I and each of you who may be walking a journey of pain, confusion, loss, etc. will also find the perfect peace that only God can give us. We need to step aside and put it in God’s hands. We must realize that our greatest purpose here is to live the life that God intended for us…not what our intentions are for our life.

The hurt and loss we feel may not go away completely, but I can tell you that I have found that peace that I was seeking. I wholly trust in Him.

Peace my friends!

 

Believe

Faith is believing without seeing…it’s also believing without feeling.

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“Even when it doesn’t feel good. Even when it hurts and is lonely and feels unfair and requires me to grieve a life I was never  promised.

They say that faith is believing without seeing. I think it’s also believing without feeling. It’s believing in those moments when our hearts ache and our tears betray us by spilling over when we know better but feel the pain anyway.

It’s not about always being in the happy place, as much as I try to live there. It’s about believing even when the happy place isn’t ours to have. It’s about those times when we can’t see or feel the promise, but we believe in the promise anyway.

Faith isn’t a feeling. It’s believing despite our feelings.”                ~Sara Gitz Frankl

My sister… wise beyond her years… and faithful.

God gave us the gift of free will and that free will includes the ability to choose.

We have all experienced hurts in our life and no matter what kind of hurt we encounter, we have a choice. We can choose bitterness and resentment… or we can choose faith and hope. We can choose to believe.

Believe that God has a purpose for our pain.

James 1:2-4 says, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

My sister Sara didn’t choose bitterness and resentment. She chose faith and hope…she chose to believe. Sara made a difference in this world. She showed others through her God inspired words and how she lived her life, that when we have faith and hope, when we choose to believe in the God who promises us His love, who promises us that He is willing and able to sustain us during the worst of times, that through Him all things are possible.

One of the last things that Sara said to me before she went home to be with her heavenly Father, was that she wanted people to continue believing, learning and trusting in God, as she has tried to be His disciple. But, she also wanted people to know that it’s not about her…its about Him!

I choose to believe that God has a purpose for my life, even through my life trials pain. I choose to be faithful to Him and believe in His promise.

I choose to continue Sara’s legacy and discipleship showing this world that by continuing to believe and trust in God, all things are possible. This is what God calls us to be and do…to be His disciple and believe in His promise. This is where we will find Joy!

And…I do!

 

 

 

Faith, Hope and Love

The greatest of these is Love.

The forever gifts of the spirit.

This verse has been running through my head a lot since my last Chemo treatment, because I have felt so much love from so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ…each of you! The true love that I felt has helped grow my faith and hope…that’s why the greatest is love!

I have faith that God is currently working through me and each of you to fulfill His will. His perfect plan. Faith is about trusting God today. That’s why God tells us in Matthew 6:33-34…”But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.”

When I worry, I am not showing God that I trust Him. That I have faith in Him.  He has told us and made a promise to us in His word, now it’s up to me to trust that.

Hebrews 6:19 tells us that “Hope is an anchor for my soul.” My hope is trusting Him with the unknown of tomorrow and the future. That gives me peace and joy.

I Faith in Him today and Hope in Him for the future…so worrying is truly worthless!

That’s His promise…and He LOVES us.

Brave

Brave: Endure or face pain without showing fear.

Yesterday was the fourth of the first set of a series of two types of chemo treatments that I had to go through…and I didn’t feel brave. I was afraid.

Tears flowed as they began the IV to inject me once again with a chemo drug that would make the next 10 days almost unbearable at times. And then I remembered, it’s because I am anticipating the next 10 days instead of surrendering them to the one who can carry me through them.

I remembered a quote from my sister, Sara…No moment from my God is a rock of burden, it’s a just rock waiting to be broken apart into stepping stones.

This graphic made by Sara says a lot to me about surrendering. I think there is a fear of surrendering because we are afraid that we won’t be brave enough to give up what we want and say yes to what God is asking of us.

The things we want and desire are things that typically fulfill the needs of our ego. Fulfilling the needs of our ego won’t fulfill us deep inside…it won’t fulfill the needs of our soul. When we only fulfill our needs…the needs of our ego, our self esteem or self importance…our joy and satisfaction will only be temporary and will only last for a moment in time. When we surrender our lives to the wants and desires of God, the joy and satisfaction will last a lifetime.

Surrendering is often times what we do as a last resort, a last effort because we are at a loss of what to do next. Surrendering needs to be the first thing we do. We must surrender to God and be willing to accept whatever He desires for us…even if it is not what we desire for ourselves.

Surrender and let go of the weight that you are feeling on your shoulders. The weight is no longer yours to bear. Pray that God will change your heart to what He wants…because no moment from our God is a rock of burden…it’s a rock waiting to be broken down into stepping stones.

Surrendering calls us to be brave, but God will always be walking ahead of us to guide us, beside us to befriend us, behind us to encourage us and over us to protect us.

Prayer may not change my circumstances, but it can help change me from the inside out. Here is my prayer for this day…

I am grateful for a God we loves me unconditionally, who can take any burden and make it light. I am grateful for a God who will never let me fall.

I am sorry for the times that I forget to trust and surrender to the one who knows all and carries my burdens so I can be brave. I acknowledge that He is in control and His will is what I want for my life. What He needs from me is to trust Him.

I ask the Holy Spirit to come to me and open my mind to His healing power. I ask God to be with me and help be to be brave and accepting of His healing power. I ask for an open mind to seek His word, a humble heart to let go of my human control and give me faithful feet to surrender and trust in Him.

As Sara always said…”This life is not about me and my hopes and desires. It is about Him and what He can do through me.”

Make it a great day, my friends.

Savoring Moments

The third chemo treatment was much harder than the previous ones and it has taken me longer to recover. This week has been good, and I am so grateful for the days in between treatments when I can feel well and savor my moments.

Savor my little everyday moments…

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I CHOOSE to savor my moments!

Typically in life we don’t choose to do things that are going to harm us, make us feel sick, cause us pain and anxiety,..and yet that is what it is like when you go through chemotherapy. On Monday I will walk through the doors of the cancer center knowing that when I’m done with the infusion, the next week or more I will be sick, in pain and have absolutely no energy.

It would be easy during the times when I am feeling well to dwell on what is to come, but I am choosing to savor my moments. It is in those moments that I am renewed with JOY!

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I have faith that God is always with me. He will be with me and hold me next week too.

That’s how I will persevere!

Let Go

“Be still and know that I am God.”

I had my third chemo treatment on Friday and as I was mentally preparing myself, knowing what the next 10 days or so would be like, what kept running through my head was to “Be still and know that I am God.”

I remembered my sister Sara writing about what that phrase meant to her…and she nailed what I was feeling too. Her words were this…

“I wondered what He really meant by that for me. Because the “know that I am God” part totally changes the “be still” part for me.

I think in my world He’s not telling me to slow down. I’m already at a standstill. I think He’s telling me to let go. To let go of trying to be something I can’t be. To let go of the idea that I can do anything about any of this.

I think He’s telling me it’s ok to be still in situations because I’m not Him.

He’s God and I’m not and so my job, while I hate the stillness and fight the stillness that is created because the pain in my body is anything but still, is simply to let it go.

To be still and let God be God and go with the flow.

Because he’s God and I’m not.”

After chemo treatments, I don’t have a choice but to be still…just as Sara was explaining. I am exhausted, in pain and simply can’t do much of anything. So during my frustration of being still when there are so many things I want to do and want to be a part of, I too need to let go. Let go of what I can’t do in those moments. To let go of trying to do all those things my body is not prepared to help me do.

So once again, my sister is teaching what God wants from me. To remember that He is God and I am not. I must simply during those times, let go and go with the flow.

What do you think He is saying to you?