Tuesday, May 26, 2015

End of the Year Pause

I see online how so many schools are finished, or almost finished, and then there's mine. Our system had so many snow days we have much to make up. We have 18 more days of school in fact - not getting out until June 19th!

But everyone, teachers and students alike, have had the taste of summer this past holiday weekend.... so you can only imagine the struggle to face 18 more days! PRAY FOR ME! Ha!

That said, I'm entering my end of the year crunch and thus need to slow down my posts a bit for this month of June. I will still try to post at least once a week - keeping up my Tuesdays... but it's not likely Friday will happen for the next few weeks, unless God gives some direct directions otherwise.

Thank you for your grace and for your continued prayers.
May we all finish strong as we move from Spring into Summer.

Much love!
Juli

Friday, May 22, 2015

No Regrets

Today is my niece’s graduation.

It’s certainly a day of mixed emotions.
Pride. Joy. Grief.

For you see Kylie and Peter were so very close. 



He should be here cheering her on just like she would be for him next year. But he’s not.
Well, he is. But he’s not.
His spirit is here.
Kylie’s got him plastered around her open house in tons of pictures.
He’s here. But he’s not.

When my nephew Matthew graduated, it was supposed to be Andrew there cheering him on. I couldn’t handle his absence. I didn’t have leave for work either which complicated this issue. So instead I sat at home and cried instead of demonstrating the pride and love I felt for my nephew.

I’m determined not to make that mistake again.
No regrets.
That’s the rule, the promise, my husband and I now try to live our life by.
We know there are no guarantees.

And I guess that’s the advice I’d offer most to my niece as she enters the world and all it has to offer.
Live each day to its fullest.
No regrets.
Make the most of today.

You can say it lots of ways.
You hear it often.
But who really lives it?

To live with no regrets means know your purpose, know what’s important, and you let NOTHING get in the way of that.  That is how we learned to live with Peter. It’s a gift we still try to embrace.
 
It’s what I know Peter is doing now. There’s no way he’s looking back with regret at these simple things he’s missed - things that feel so important to us in our limited life and limited perspective.
 
I know Peter is making the most of this very moment in the presence of God.
 
So that’s what I’ll do too.
Shout the joy.  Cheer with pride. And Embrace the grief.
 
 


With God, all things are possible.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Slow Growing

So right now my life feels all a whirl with potential changes, disrupted routines, and looming deadlines. Can you relate?

I wish I was handling it better than I am. Fear-based dreams, muscle twitches and a snappy voice all reflect my struggle with the unknowns and lack of control.

As I journaled this morning I saw growth in myself and yet recognize I’ve not yet reached the summit of this mountain before me.

Growth appeared in that I no longer count the presence of fear as a sin. Used to be that anytime there was a thought or feeling contrary to perfect faith, I felt I was sinning, would start self-bashing, and the downward spiral would begin. But I understand now that when thoughts emerge or feelings manifest, that in and of itself is not a sin. The sin comes when we respond to those things incorrectly.

So I’m not beating myself up as I face all of this. I’m running to God and responding with scripture, and making healthy choices to handle the stress, and mentally choosing to trust again, and again, and again each and every day.

But as I journaled this morning, I did recognize areas I still need to grow. As I wrote the following sentences…

Help me to walk in peace. I don’t want to be snappy. I need your supernatural peace…

I pictured, could feel, those moments when I’ve had God’s peace in spite of turmoil around me. And then realization struck and I continued to write.

I want you to magically change me/release me from this. (Fixed mindset) But I know you want me to grow out of this….(Growth mindset)

I realized this morning that I really wanted God to just swoop in and either answer the unknowns or instantly transform me so that none of these stressors had any effect on how I felt or how I acted. But God wanted me to learn…. To learn to respond rather than react; to learn to control my tongue in spite of my emotions; to learn to walk in trust in spite of the fear.

I continued to journal and simply asked – God how do I do that?
And the theme that emerged as I continued to write was Try and Try again.

Friends, we do fall down. It’s an inevitable part of learning to walk with God. Just like a baby starts with a few steps and many falls before it becomes many steps and a few falls, so must we learn and grow. It is a process. It takes time. It takes repeated opportunities to practice. And thus, having God sweep in with instant relief and immediate success prevents us from that growth… just like a parent would hurt their child by not allowing them the chance to try, to step, to fall, and try again.

You might not be working to free yourself of the fixed mindset like me. Maybe you enjoy long term challenges J But for those of us who would almost always prefer the easy fix, I’m recognizing the lie in that goal.

God loves me enough to grow me. Like any parent, he’ll make my learning opportunities safe ones. He’s always right there watching, guiding, removing sharp corners in my life, but letting me try, letting me learn, letting me grow.

So now my prayer has shifted to 
teach me.
Help me to see.
Help me to think.
Enable me to pause when that snappy response is ready to burst from my lips.
Help me to think of your right perspective when that fearful thought comes.
Help me to remember the truth of scriptures when doubt whispers in my ear.
Help me to not get discouraged and continue to persevere – however long the journey lasts.


Father, make it so.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Encouragement to Press On

Do you need something to get you going as this week ends?
Take a look at the beginning of Psalm 103…

1 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6 The Lord gives righteousness
    and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7 He revealed his character to Moses
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.

Do you see all of the things God does, IS DOING, on your behalf this day? As it says in verse 2, “May I never forget the good things he does for me.”

He forgives
Heals
Redeems
Crowns me
Fills my life
Renews
Gives righteousness and justice
Reveals

He is compassionate
Merciful
Slow to get angry
Filled with unfailing love

He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve….

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west!


No matter what you face today, draw strength from the truth in these words.
God loves you.
God is for you!
He works on your behalf even when you don’t see it.

And may we respond as David writes – at the beginning and again in the last verse…


Let all that I am praise the LORD.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 Years!!

Wow! 5 years!

Can you believe it?

This blog has been running for 5 years.

I started On Dry Ground on Mother's Day in 2010. Peter was still alive, though in his last year unbeknownst to us. I had decided to share our story, to process my struggle to trust in spite of life's circumstances. I hoped somehow I could help someone else. Stepping Stones and Light for the Journey started it all.

Now here it is 5 years later. All of the writing has been condensed to one site. Peter is home with Andrew and we continue to reach out, hoping to help those who hurt find the only answer they need - Jesus.

I would love to hear from you... a comment below, a post on my Facebook page, or even an email. I'd love to hear if God has used my offerings of writing. Any comments and thoughts would be appreciated.

To God be the Glory,
Juli

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Key


So far in this series, we have discussed the need yet difficulty of recognizing God as Sovereign in the midst of hard moments in life. Understanding that the God who created beauty and order out of nothing when He shaped the universe gives us confidence that He’ll bring that same beauty and order out of our own chaos.

I for one, however, still needed time and reassurance to trust that truth. Other truths in Job helped me get there. Like Job, I found comfort that this all powerful, all sovereign Creator, would meet me in my pain. God doesn’t stay aloof, but He comes near. God comes to us in spite of our inability to come to Him. We have a Sovereign Comforter.

And this all takes place because God works on a different plane than us. He is an eternal being and has eternal plans for us. When we see this bigger picture of what life’s about, how life was designed to be, we gain the perspective we need to handle the pain and trials. Jesus came down to Earth and took our place to pay our debt for sin. He restored us to God and now sits on the Father’s right hand mediating for us. God is our Mediator and Savior. More than this life exists. Justice will prevail and all will be made right. The life to come will be tear free and that will last forever. We have eternal hope when we connect our lives with Jesus.

I needed all of those truths. But personally, it still wasn’t enough. I still struggled to doubt, struggled to trust. Not for God to make good out of my trials, but for where else He might lead. For now I understood that my prior expectations were wrong. Suffering and trial were to be expected in this life – not the exception. I had based my life on a concept that Job shared as Ravi Zacharias states in his book Cries of the Heart.

Job had repeatedly said that as far as he knew he had lived an honorable life. But he had assumed all along that if one walked the straight and narrow and lived a life of purity, prosperity and freedom from pain would naturally follow. This was a false conclusion…

As hard as it is to accept, suffering is not always because of one’s personal sin, but suffering will always have to be dealt with personally. Our Lord Himself bore the pain of that which was not His own doing, but the Captain of our salvation was made perfect, that is, complete, through suffering. Life must never be viewed from the isolated instances of one’s personal struggle. There is a big picture and a complete picture into which our personal struggle fits. That picture is in the mind of God… (pg. 86)

God took me down a journey I didn’t want or like or ask for. How could I trust Him with the rest of my life? What else would He require? This was the key question to my heart and faith.

And as God always does, He patiently taught me one more truth, the one that set me free.

God is a good God. I had to learn that His definition of good didn’t always align with mine, but it was still true. God is good. After losing Andrew and struggling through Peter’s decline, I didn’t trust God’s intention toward me. I don’t really like pain and suffering and grief and loss. But as time went on, God helped me learn to place those things within that bigger picture in His mind.

He took me to places like John 9 where Jesus explained that some things happen so God’s glory could be revealed. The brokenness of this life is allowed by a Sovereign God because it enabled Him to still give us free will and yet learn of His goodness. For our Sovereign Comforter is our Redeemer and Restorer. God allows the pain in this broken stretch of time because, as He comes in and redeems the pain and suffering, He is revealed. People see Him. People learn of Him. People choose Him. And that is what life is all about!

Believing this became my choice and the foundation of my faith. For I didn’t always see it. I didn’t always see the glory when I was in the midst of the pain. I didn’t always feel the goodness. But I had to believe with my spirit not with my sight.

God is a good God. In Exodus 34 He reveals Himself to Moses. Moses asks to see God’s glory and He tells Moses He will make all of his goodness pass before him. God’s goodness IS what makes Him glorious.

As He walks by He calls out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.” This is who God is – gracious, compassionate, merciful, patient, faithful, loving, forgiving, just. This is our Sovereign God.

A learned a saying as this truth took hold and it is the best piece of advice I can give to anyone. When you can’t see God’s hand, that’s when you must trust His heart.

RZ continues in his discussion of Job that what he needed more than anything else was

To find his confidence in the character of God. That was the bottom line.

            This was the adjustment Job needed. Constantly focusing on his own character and purity, he had lost sight of the character of God Himself. Those who have walked this path hold on to that truth with all the strength they have. God is not only all-powerful. He is perfect in goodness. We must trust Him even when the times are grim. (pg. 87)

I apologize for the length of this post. But it’s just too critical to not give it the space and time it needs to be developed. Whatever trial you walk right now, the key to survival, the key to triumph, is not its end. It is recognizing the truth about the One who walks with you.

Invite God into your struggle. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and through you. I pray you will understand that this Sovereign God is one you can trust, even in the midst of your pain. He will not let this trial be wasted but will redeem it for a far greater glory than you can ever imagine. And along the way, I pray your eyes will be open to His faithful working on your behalf- That you’ll experience His comfort and closeness, That you’ll find your eternal destiny in Him and see Him use your life to reveal Himself to others, That you will witness His goodness on your behalf and come to trust His perfect, good intentions for you.

We serve a complex Sovereign God that we cannot control. But because of His goodness, we can trust Him. And His desire to enter our mess, to bring life out of darkness, as our Mediator, Savior, and Redeemer keeps us encouraged, trusting and filled with Hope and Joy along the way.

Live strong my friend. Be encouraged. And May God be revealed in all of His wondrous glory.

 

 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It All Depends On How You Look At It...

So far we have walked through Job’s story and experienced God as a sovereign Creator and Designer, able to bring beauty and pattern to the chaos of our pain just like He brought order and beauty out of nothing when He created the universe. We also witnessed God as Revealer and Comforter, that this all powerful creator God would walk with us right in the midst of our pain. He does not abandon us in this broken world but comes into our brokenness and meets us there.

Today, we move on to what I feel is one of the most critical understandings for suffering to make sense. Ravi Zacharias explains in his book Cries of the Heart,

Job had earlier asked, “If a man dies, will he live again?” He was now able to answer his own question with firm assurance:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
And that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
Yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
With my own eyes- I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

            All suffering has to be dealt with personally but also with a real understanding that there is life beyond the grave… Death was not going to break Job’s communion with God.

Suffering can only be understood and tolerated when approached with an eternal perspective. This was the most critical shift that took place within me.

Before Andrew passed, I must admit heaven was this far off concept that didn’t really apply to me for some 50 or so years yet. At least that’s what I thought. But then half my heart left to reside there when Andrew went home. It took a lot but I finally started to get it.

This life is just a blink of an eye compared to the life to come. When Andrew passed, I thought God had slighted me… all of the things I would miss: birthdays, graduations, vacations, his wedding, grandchildren… all of these special moments I thought were my right to have. But God showed me just how much those things paled compared to being face to face with Him. I grew up thinking life was about being comfortable, making a life and a name for yourself, experiencing all life had to offer. God showed me that none of that mattered if my eternity was not secure. The most important thing in this life is getting prepared for the real life, the one to come.

Several stories share the steps I walked to understand this truth.





The important thing is that we come to understand there’s more than this life. Preparing for our next one, the real one, the one that lasts eternal, that gives this life purpose. That puts this life into perspective.

Jesus came so we don’t have to stay in the suffering and brokenness of this life. He came to enter into the pain and trauma our sin created and offer hope, restoration, and redemption. In Jesus, we find the mediator we need between us and our Holy God. We find the Savior who rescues us in our pain, the one who guarantees that this suffering is temporary and will one day end. We find the one with the power that even death itself cannot stop or control.

When I took on God’s perspective and saw life as it really is, the temporary struggles and losses of this life became just that: temporary in the bigger picture of eternity. God was still in control. I could draw comfort from my boys’ joy. No matter what this life held, this was not the end. It was only a blip in the beginning. Finally, I understood what life was really about!