Strange title for a blog entry created in the midst of days and days and days of rain (or so it seems.) Mind you, I'm NOT complaining! The weather fits right in with what Jesus is leading me to share. So here goes:
For over a year now, I've been working my way through Jesus Today, a devotional in the series of devotionals written by Sarah Young. Before I began this, our precious Sarah Marie (Ken's wife) had given me and both my girls copies of Jesus Calling by the same author. We received this gift the day before Easter, 2013. We were a family in crisis at that time. So we began to read. Every single day was unspeakably amazing how the devotion and verses for that day were precisely relevant to what was happening to me that day! It became even more amazing when we all compared notes and shared how the devotional had to have been written just for each one of us. I knew there was only ONE WAY this could be occurring: JESUS obviously had a hand in Sarah Young's writing.
For those of you not familiar with these devotionals, in each one the author shares how the devotional was inspired. It is usually my habit to wait until I've finished a book of any kind before I read any of the author notes. So once I had finished a year of Jesus Calling, I was amazed to realize how beautifully Jesus had used her trials and suffering to produce such a spiritually powerful book. I couldn't believe a year had passed and I was without my daily devotional guide. Off to the store I went to check out her other works. I came home with Jesus Today. From the very first devotional reading, I had this underlying feeling that this devotional wasn't for me. As the days progressed, the feeling persisted: this devotional seemed to be written for someone who was suffering devastating illness, and I wasn't that person in the spring of 2014. Everyone was fine in my little world, or so I thought. After a couple of weeks, I gave in and read the author notes in hopes of determining whether I was to continue with this book or move on to something else. Maybe Jesus was nudging me out of what had become a habit and was moving me on to something else.
Much to my amazement, the inspirations for these devotions came from a mysterious, long and maddening physical illness Sarah Young had experienced, and was still struggling with! So I was right! It WAS for suffering through sickness, but I wasn't sick! However, I had long before realized that Jesus can use anything to teach me, mold me, make me who He wants me to be, so I prayed about it, didn't find another direction, and chose to keep reading.
December 2014: Devastating news about our precious little grandson still in utero: multiple heart defects. We were stunned. It was very difficult during this time, but this little one's mommy, daddy, grandmommy and papaw clung to Jesus for hope and spiritual sustenance.
Spring, 2015: I had completed another devotional. Time to find a new one. As days progressed, I prayed for Jesus's guidance in finding another devotional. I realize one mustn't have a devotional in order to study the Word or hear from Jesus; however, I had been in this for two years! It had been an amazing journey! I wanted more and more and more. Strangely, I felt led to start the whole "sickness" devotional over again. And then it happened: a diagnosis of breast cancer. A really bad form of breast cancer: triple negative, very aggressive; etc. Then it all made perfect sense to me. Had Jesus been preparing me for this journey? I believe so. There had been so many people in my life with cancer: an aunt with breast cancer (she won!), a precious friend at school who didn't survive; another precious friend at school who was years younger than me and had two small children to raise alone without the help of their father (she won her battle and gave amazing testimonies all through the journey!); another precious friend at school whose cancer battle didn't begin with breast cancer, but spread to that and more, so much more (she struggles even as I type at a local hospital with her family gathered round - and her praises and testimonies and determination to glorify God even in and through cancer!!!!! astounded me and have continued to astound me for over three years now!!!!! A sweet friend at school with colon cancer (she won the battle!!); another precious friend at school with a mysterious sudden-onset and quick-killing form of cancer (she died within weeks of diagnosis and left a college-aged son and fourteen-year-old daughter to press on without her). Another aunt and an uncle who both lost the battle. I could go on and on and on. So when I sat on the examination table at Dr. Valle's office, and he told me about my breast cancer, my responses were, "Okay." and "I understand." and "Yes." No tears; no sobs; no shock apparent (to me or him); Just okay. In my mind at the time I was thinking, "Okay, it's my turn. God will get us through this." Anyway, I wasn't about to get all tore up about me: I had a new little grandchild who desperately clung to life waiting for Jesus to heal his heart! Dr. Valle looked at me and sort of got right in front of my face and said, "Do you understand what I am telling you?" When I responded in the positive, he said, "Tell me what I am telling you." So I repeated it all back to him in total calm. His response was, "You are a strong woman!" I didn't argue at that point with his busy schedule to keep and all, but I so am NOT a strong woman. I have a strong Friend in Jesus. There's nothing strong about me at all. Besides, I had already realized by that point that Dr. Valle is a Christian. He had said enough to show me that. But back to the devotional.
At some point after my battle with cancer began, a sweet friend recommended another book to me, A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Another life-changing, life-challenging book! Her book is all about seeing the gifts God showers upon us every single day. I had already adopted that mindset years previous, but she has a way of putting it on paper that is truly thought-provoking, uplifting, and challenging all at the same read. I don't want to write too much about that now because I intend to share more about it soon, but a very challenging focus has come to me out of her writing: Even what we consider to be the bad things in life are truly gifts from God. God may not cause or create the chaotic situations in our lives, but He allows in His sovereignty and then blesses us with so many blessings through those situations. Ann Voskamp goes into great detail about that with real-life examples to prove her point. If we look, if we are willing to look, we will see God in every single particle of our existence, even the horrible. Now for today's devotional:
"I have done great things for you, so let Me fill you with Joy. Take ample time to ponder all I have done for you. Rejoice in My goodness and My greatness as you remember My marvelous deeds. Rest in My intimate Presence; relax in My everlasting arms. I long to fill you with Joy, but you must collaborate with Me in this process.
Do not be like a spoiled child on Christmas Day -- hastily tearing open all the presents and then saying, "Is that all?" Every single day is a precious gift from Me! Search for Me within the boundaries of this day, and you will surely find Me. I am present not only in pleasant things, but also in unwanted circumstances. My Joy is sufficient for all situations, and I adjust it according to your need. When things are going your way, My gladness intensifies your delight. When you encounter hard things, I give you a deep, bold Joy that clings to Me for help. Receiving My Joy requires not only time but also courage." p. 254 Jesus Today by Sarah Young.
But even better, from God's word: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." 1 Peter 1:6-8
With all this in my mind and heart today, as Kenny and I took our doggies out for precious rain-free moment outside, Kenny pointed to some evergreens we had planted along a hill. He commented, "Isn't it amazing the way the amount of sun each tree gets determines how tall it grows? They're like stair steps!" Can you see them?
The first thought I had and the first words out of my mouth were, "The same could be said for time spent with Jesus. That tall tree spends lots of time soaking in the Son, but that little one on the end thinks he's just too busy." Not criticizing anyone, just speaking out loud the truth that the Spirit has been pouring into me, the Sonshine I've been soaking in lately. I wish I soaked more. I must soak more. One can never get enough of that precious Sonshine.
Joy even in despair. Joy is a gift from God! He gives it even and because of the hard times in life. Do you look for it? You gotta be looking for it. I hope we will all focus more on soaking in the Sonshine at Jesus's feet through the Word, through devotionals, through prayer, through song, through looking for God's not so obvious but oh so precious joy blessings. It is life changing! Oh, and let me tell you, they become obvious once you start looking.
Thanks for staying with me to the end. I'm not known for my brevity. Please know that Jesus through His Spirit told me to share this today, and now He is letting me know I've written enough. Hope you get the message. He loves you so, so, so much and wants to give you joys on top of joys.