My Journey to Joy

February 28, 2015

Evelyn Puerto on Acceptance

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“By accepting their trials as from God’s hand, in trusting Him fully, in surrendering to His will, their faith was strengthened, and they were given peace and joy and a profound sense of God’s love.”  Beyond the Rapids, Evelyn Puerto

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February 21, 2015

Focus

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“Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other.
As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who arms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy…
The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears…”
Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

January 9, 2014

Suffering

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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“How can I get upset about something that’s gonna’ make me like Jesus?”  -Dr. Ken Hutcherson

I was so moved by this amazing testimony!  You can hear the interview here:

Hutch on Suffering

 

December 23, 2013

Christmas

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“…[Y]ou only really believe in Christmas when you really live it.  When you light a dark world and the unexpected places with a brave flame of joy; when you warm the cold, hopeless place with the daring joy that God is with us, God is for us, God is in us; when you are a wick to light hope in the dark- then you believe in Christmas.  When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone.”  Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

November 20, 2013

The Gap: On the Courage to Choose by Thelma

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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This post is the sixth in a series called The Gap. Please click here to read from the beginning. I know I haven’t touched on this series for awhile, but this post has been a cautious work in progress.Something about grief we don’t often talk about: I choose when and how I step out of it.

I write a lot about grief here. I do what I can to validate and illustrate because when I was fifteen and my mom died there weren’t too many that wanted to talk honestly about grief. There was no one to tell me what I was feeling was okay or normal or temporary. That experience shaped me; that grief carved an empathy from my heart that carries forward motion: as long as it remains within my power to do so, I will speak honestly about it because you never know who needs to hear it. Maybe a fifteen year old, maybe a fifty year old.

My fifteen and sixteen year old self did the only thing that made sense: I got mad. Good and mad. I didn’t understand how a God who claimed to be good and faithful and merciful could snap a teenage girl’s life in half and rob her of her mother. All the platitudes that rained down on me during those first six months fueled my anger.

“She’s in a better place now.” – Great. I’m in hell.
“God needed her in heaven.” – Say what now?
“Her job on earth was done.” – No. No, it wasn’t. I.am.sixteen. Sixteen!

And so, for a year and a half, I went to bed each night asking God to let me die and when I woke in the morning (still alive, obviously) I pulled my cloak of anger tightly around me and carried my way through another pointless day. When, in the summer of 1996, my brother broke his neck in a brutal car accident, I sat under a large tree in the back forty of the family home and God and I had a long talk about the rage that fueled me. I left my cloak there that day, though I had more learning to do, but He helped me step out of grief and allow healing to begin.

In retrospect, my brother’s accident should have left me furious. It should have been the jerry can of evidence that made my anger explode to a new level of hot rage. Instead, it broke me. It broke me enough to allow God to open my eyes to see a new perspective: gratitude. Deep, soul-shaking gratitude that my brother was still alive.

I look back on those years with regret. Those years informed (though not perfectly) the grief of walking through infertility. I didn’t make all the right choices. I still pulled away, sunk into anger and fiddled with the fringes of bitterness but my heart never forgot the mind-numbing grip of a grief that made no sense.

What’s all this got to do with infertility? With choosing to live a childless life if God is calling you there?

We can talk about calling and miracles and healing as things ethereal and unquantifiable. We can bandy them about and wait for that moment we feel something special that tells us we’re where we need to be. But ultimately? The thing about grief that we rarely talk about it is that I must choose when and how I step free of it.

Grief is real. Brutal. Raw. It carves deep wells of memory into our very being and leaves us changed. Sometimes we allow it the power to move in. We put on anger or bitterness or denial or bargaining on like a cloak each morning and we allow it to envelope not just our hearts but our lives.

At some point, however, we must trust that God gives us the courage to choose.

A few months ago, my father sent me this beautiful quote from Mike Mason’s book Champagne for the Soul:

Do you have a favourite chair, a place you feel most at home and comfortable? So does joy.

Joy’s favourite chair is your sadness, your weakness, your grief. Wherever your wounds are most tender, joy finds a soft place to settle. A lighthearted person may rejoice, but no one has greater capacity for joy than one who is like our Saviour, ‘a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering’. Joy loves our brokenness best.

Finally I saw that if joy does not arise out of the midst of tragedy, it will not arise at all. Christian joy is rooted in darkness, chaos, meaninglessness, sorrow.

Joy loves our brokenness best. Chew on that for a bit and remember this: joy is a choice. Stepping out of grief is a choice. The courage to make that choice comes from a God whose very character is goodness, faithfulness and mercy; a God whose grace is soul-shaking and gratitude-shaping.

I’ve written this series to shed light on the process of moving from the grief of infertility to the deep joy we have in living this life as a family of two. It’s not a guide book, it’s a story: our story. There may be similarities and shared sorrows to work through, but in the end, you must choose when and how you will step out of grief into life.

It’s not easy. Sometimes you need to make that choice many times in the space of a week, day or hour. It requires a personal honesty and a courage that, in the end, isn’t even your own. But God’s not in the business of leaving people buried in grief when their desire is to break free.

Grief may leave you broken, but joy must arise there. And grace? Well, grace cannot – will not – leave you there.

“For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty Savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

~ Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

September 4, 2013

Why the Worst Thing that Happens to You Could Wind Up Being the Best Thing

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Is it possible that the worst thing that happens to you this coming year could turn out to be the best thing that happens to you this year?

In 1939, J.R.R. Tolkien prepared an essay to be delivered as a lecture at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. It was titled “On Fairy-Stories,” and in the piece he explained and defended the use of fantasy as a literary form.

The entire work is worth reading, but one part in particular speaks to our current state of affairs—and in a most hopeful way.

According to Tolkien, we’re naturally drawn to stories, of course, but we’re especially drawn to drama and tales with a sudden, happy ending. In the reflection, though, Tolkien coined an interesting term:

eucatastrophe—the joyful (eu) catastrophe.

I find his insights fascinating and share in his own words the deeply theological motivation behind eucatastrophe:

I coined the word “eucatastrophe”: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back.

The Resurrection was the greatest “eucatastrophe” possible in the greatest Fairy Story—and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

In his inimitable way, Tolkien assures us that in the end, despite every appearance to the contrary, all is well. Why else would we call even the worst day in all of time and space, the day Jesus of Nazareth died, “Good Friday”? Because in the end, the God of the universe has promised to make all things new.

“Write this down,” John wrote in Revelation, “for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

Do you find this as reassuring as I do?

In a generation in which hype has become habit and there is no shortage of bad news, the message of the gospel is “good news” indeed. For those who believe and place their trust in the Lord, they need not grow anxious or cower in fear about this coming age. Yes, we must prepare and brace ourselves for any host of troubles that infiltrate a broken world—but preparation is not the same thing as worry.

Dr. D. Martin-Lloyd Jones, a former physician familiar with the ways in which anxiety can ravage a person’s health, offered a practical fix for this bad habit:

Why do you allow yourself to be worried thus about the future? … Worry about the future is so utterly futile and useless; it achieves nothing at all. We are very slow to see that; yet how true it is. Indeed we can go further and say that worry is never of any value at all. This is seen with particular clarity as you come to face the future. Apart from anything else, it is a pure waste of energy because however much you worry you cannot do anything about it. In any case its threatened catastrophes are imaginary; they are not certain, they may never happen at all …

We must not go forward and tack tomorrow’s quota on to today’s, otherwise it may be too much for us.

We have to take it day by day …

If you want to go through life without crippling yourself and burdening yourself and perhaps losing your health and the control of your nerves, these are the cardinal rules.

Do not carry yesterday or tomorrow with you; live for today and for the twelve hours you are in.

~Jim Daly

http://community.focusonthefamily.com/b/jim-daly/archive/2013/01/02/why-the-worst-thing-that-happens-to-you-could-wind-up-being-the-best-thing.aspx?refcd=136901

June 15, 2013

Randy Alcorn on Surrender

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The fulfilled life largely consists of unclenching our fists, releasing our plans & giving ourselves over to God’s purposes.  ~Randy Alcorn

June 12, 2013

Esther on Being Real

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Being Real

Remember that post I wrote last year called The Ugly Truth?  The one where I shared how hard it is to be infertile year after year after year?  This is a similarly truthful post — although hopefully not quite as ugly — about how hard it is to be “pregnant,” but not really, month after month after month.
The truth is this:  I feel like a fraud.  For months I’ve been putting on a happy face trying to be strong, but in doing so I feel like I’m not being honest.  Most people see the smile on my face and think that I’m bouncing off the walls, overflowing with joy and excitement that we’re finally expecting a baby, when in reality I haven’t enjoyed much about this journey since it started.
Let me be clear.  
I am excited…  but it is not overflowing.  I am filled with joy…  but only because joy is a choice.  And I am thankful to be expecting this amazing, undeserved gift.  I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that I’m happy.  Why?
Because surrogacy is HARD.
Try to imagine for just a moment what it would be like to  know you’re “pregnant” but not get to feel or see any evidence of that.  Not a kick, not a flip, not a hiccup.
Now try to  imagine that you’re not only unable to experience anything yourself, but you  have very, very limited access to the person who is carrying your baby  because she lives over 300 miles away (which might as well be the moon since gas prices are so high!).  You can’t even touch the belly where your child is growing or even have the chance to feel a kick from the outside.
Next try imagining what it would be like if, due to the difficulty of coordinating busy schedules, your primary method of  communication with the woman carrying your child was text messaging  (where one’s “tone” can be so easily misread and misinterpreted).  You  rarely hear her voice on the phone, and seeing her in person is even  rarer still, which only accentuates how disconnected, isolated and uninvolved you feel.
Now imagine living like that day after day… week after week… and month after excruciating month.
Trust me.  It’s brutal.
I am emotionally exhausted, so forgive me if I don’t have any energy left for excitement.  I often feel as though everyone around me is more excited  than I am.  Which of course is ridiculous since I’m the one who will  have a baby in my arms at the end, Lord willing.  
The problem is that I’m on a road that doesn’t feel like it has an end.  Time doesn’t go fast.  It doesn’t fly by.  It’s not going to be here “before I know it” because Every. Single. Day. up to this point has been agonizing and there’s no reason for me to think that the next 80-something days will be any different.
Every surrogacy story is going to be unique and different because every surrogacy story has unique and different people in it.  The one thing every story has in common is hormones and emotions, and throwing those into the mix can make things oh-so-complex — especially when dealing with a first-time mom and a first-time surrogate at the same time.
Needless to say, our story is turning out way different than how I imagined it would.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I shouldn’t have gone into this with any expectations at all, but how could I not?  It’s human nature to paint a picture in our head of how a situation is “supposed” to play out.

The beginning was full of hopeful excitement,  and I know the ending will be amazing…  but this stuff in the middle?  Messy.  Uncomfortable.  Torture.
In the end all that will matter is the baby in my arms.  All the crazy emotions…  the anxiety attacks…  the sobbing meltdowns in the shower… they will all be a distant memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever completely forget the hell I’ve lived through these past several months, but the bad stuff will fade with time as all bad stuff does.
In the meantime I’ll just keep moving forward, making it through each day as best as I can.  And remember that even though time feels like it’s dragging, now is not forever.  

I will see the goodness of the Lord.  

Joy is coming.    

March 2, 2013

Francis Chan on Joy

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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“Joy is something that we have to choose and then work for…It needs cultivation.

When life gets painful or doesn’t go as we hoped, it’s okay if a little of our joy seeps away.  The Bible teaches that true joy is formed in the midst of the difficult seasons of life…

…true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God.”

~Francis Chan

February 28, 2013

Eyes

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I’ve been looking through some old photographs, mostly from high school and college.  It’s amazing how different we look, only 10-12 years later!  I sent a picture to my husband, and we laughed together about “those skinny kids.”  We thought we had so much of life “figured out.”  We were the kids who obeyed the rules, followed good advice, and generally stayed on the “safe side” of life.  In picture after picture I see us laughing, our eyes sparkling.  Lots of silliness and fun.  We were blessed.

Then infertility came, and much of the light went out of our eyes.  We didn’t know life could hurt like this.  We felt betrayed by the empty promises we’d swallowed: “Follow your dreams…you can do anything you set your mind to…the sky’s the limit…if you can dream it you can be it…”  We felt tricked by the lie we’d believed, that following the rules kept you safe from hurt.  The misconception that “if I do what I should, God will give me what I want.”  (Sometimes it’s more important that God change “the desires of our heart” to match His heart!)

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Those were some hard years, as God sifted through our faulty theology, gently replacing it with His truth.  I didn’t want to let go of what I believed.  In my immaturity, I preferred the idea of a partnership with God, wherein I did X, He did Z.  But God is so much bigger than that.  He is sovereign, He is right, and He is good…even when my feelings don’t agree.  And He sees so much more than I ever could…

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face:

now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  I Corinthians 13:12

Our eyes look different now.  There is a warm glow of joy and peace and confidence.  In many pictures now our eyes aren’t looking at the camera, but instead are fixed on our precious, curly-haired boy.

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8*

The 18-year-old girl at college, the 21-year-old getting married, they didn’t know what this 31-year-old does: That joy isn’t limited by circumstance…that God walking with me is more important than where I’m walking…that pain is part of life, but God redeems that pain with beauty impossible to describe…that it’s worth it, all of it, to see a glimpse of what God is doing, and who He is.

…to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3

I now treasure our infertility as the tool God used to get our attention and steer us toward adoption.  The price was high, but the rewards of deeper intimacy with God were absolutely worthwhile.  And the joy we take in our son is tremendous.  What a gift infertility has been for us.  What a painful, wonderful gift.

 

*"Keep me as the apple of the eye - Preserve me; guard me; defend me, as one defends that which is to him most precious and valuable." Barnes Notes on the Bible
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