Lemons and Lemonade
"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." James 1:2-3
We had a women’s event at church this weekend called Lemonade, and the theme was “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I’ve heard this saying hundreds of times, but for some reason, as I was planning and prepping for the event, I kept mixing it up and saying, “make lemons out of lemonade.” I consider this a happy accident because it really got me thinking of how we view the lemons in our lives.
At the very beginning of the book of James, he says, “whenever you face trials of many kinds.” He doesn’t say if, or maybe you will, or when you possibly. He says whenever, in other words, trials are inevitable. They will come no matter what so how are you going to react when they come? If we keep reading, we know that we are supposed to persevere, consider these trials as joy, and stay faithful. Make lemons out of lemonade!
But, you know what? Life isn’t all bad. Sometimes, we already have lemonade and have developed a habit of looking past the sugar and water and only seeing the lemons. We focus on the sour things in our lives and disregard all the good that God is doing. Do you do that? Do you tend to focus on the lemons in your life? Maybe the circumstances in your life don’t need to change, maybe you do.
Here are three bad lemon habits that you might need to break so you can focus on the lemonade in your life.
Maybe twenty good things happened to you today, but you’re only focusing on the one bad thing that happened. It’s all you can think about so you end up forgetting about all the good things that have happened. Take some time to physically make a list of all the good things in your life or even that day. Seeing this list will be a reminder that the good outweighs the bad and it will help redirect your mind to the good.
Psalm 31:19 “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”
Maybe there’s a situation in your life that has fifty different outcomes and one of them is bad. Do you assume that one bad solution is going to be the result or do you realize there are so many other possibilities? Maybe you need to write down all the good outcomes or maybe you just need to replay all of them in your mind. Trust that God has everything under control and he doesn’t have the worst thing planned for you.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Are you having a bad day? Is it because it’s a legitimate bad day or did one bad thing happen that you’ve chosen to dwell on all day, therefore resulting in a self-driven bad day? Maybe one bad thing happened that you keep replaying in your mind and it’s blinding you to everything else. Spend time in God’s Word. Focus on the truth of Scripture and distract yourself from that one bad thing that you are allowing to ruin your day.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
If you see any of the above in yourself, I encourage you to stop turning your lemonade back into lemons and break these habits with the help of God! You’re never too old, too young, or too far off to get his help. Start developing a habit of looking for the good in your life!
Mourn With Those Who Mourn
I can't believe it's been a year. A year since we experienced one of our highest highs to almost immediately experiencing one of our lowest lows. We've learned a lot. We've grown a lot. But, let's be honest, it still hurts. You can quote all the Bible verses you want to us, but that doesn't magically rewrite history or erase memories from our minds. Rest assured, we still trust God whole-heartedly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and we still have faith that his ways are higher than our ways and he has a plan through all of this (Isaiah 55). The fact is, we still live in a sinful world where hard things happen, and yes, we have to persevere through them, but we have to remember that it's okay to mourn.
One thing that has stuck out to me this year is that others are quick to rejoice with you, but fumble around, or simply have radio silence, when it comes to mourning. And, that's understandable. When someone is going through heartbreak, you don't want to say the wrong thing so maybe you don't say anything, or maybe you want to somehow mend their heart with your words, so you end up saying something that results in putting your foot in your mouth.
In the book of Romans, Paul tells us, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn" (12:15). In this passage, he is giving instructions to the Lord's people on how to care for one another and love one another, and in that, we are called to both rejoice and mourn. Rejoicing is the easy part. It's easy to send a meal, gift, or communicate via text, phone, or card. It's more difficult to join in mourning or to know exactly what to do, but we should still try.
In our experience of mourning, we observed varied responses and reactions. Like I said, some were helpful, and some were not. Let's take a moment to look at them so we know what to do or not to do when we want to walk with someone else through their mourning.
The Similar Storytellers: Something similar happened to my cousin's friend's uncle. Does listening to this story help you feel better?
In this scenario, someone is trying to help and remind you that you are not alone because others have endured a similar situation. I think this is helpful in the long run, but giving these stories immediately isn't that helpful. The person mourning is trying to wrap their mind around what they are going through. They don't really need to be given other disconnected stories, especially when sometimes, they're only "kind of" similar.
The Blame Gamers: What did you do wrong for this to happen? Shouldn't you have known better?
I think this one cuts the deepest. I think people, in their own obscure way, think they are helping when they ask you these questions, but it does not help in the slightest. "Let's add a little guilt and shame to your sadness and mourning..." Even Jesus, in John 9, tells his disciples that the man's blindness was not a result of anyone's sin. It was because we live in a fallen world. That still holds true today. Hard things happen, and it's not because of anything we did or didn't do. It's just life.
The All-Knowing: I guess you didn't have enough faith. God is trying to teach you something, and let me tell you what that is because I have a direct line to him, and you don't.
Oh, the self-proclaimed, all-knowing. Help us show them grace when one day, they are mourning! This response confuses me because I don't even know if they're attempting to join in mourning or they just want to boast about how close they are to God, how much time they spend in prayer, or how many Bible verses they know. All I know is, If faith was all that was needed to heal, then the healing would be more dependent on the level of our faith than in God's overall plan and sovereignty.
The Silent Ones: I'm going to give you space because I don't know what to say.
I completely understand this response, but I've learned that a simple text that says "praying for you" goes a long way. Sometimes, people just need a reminder that they're not alone while they're mourning. This has challenged me and convicted me to look at how I react when others are mourning. Just be brave and send or say something simple. Maybe just open the door of communication to let them know they can contact you if they need anything.
The My Schedule Mourners: I'm going to let you mourn on my time frame, and I'll honestly mourn with you, but when I say you're done, it's time for you to move on because I've used up my quota of grace and patience.
This is a hurtful and awkward situation. Everyone grieves on their own schedule, and grief comes in waves. You don't know what will trigger someone's grief, especially when it's still near the situation, and honestly, you don't have the right to tell someone when they should be done. Also, just because someone is trying to continue with their life doesn't mean everything instantly snapped back to normal.
The True Mourners: The ones who are wiling to cry with you and for you. Their heart hurts for you, and they do their best to try to understand what you are going through.
Finally, there are some who know that what they do won't heal the hurt, but they just want to do something to help. They admit that they don't fully know every emotion and heartache that you are experiencing, yet their heart hurts for you. They wish they could heal your pain, but they know they cannot, so they'll just be there to pray for you and cry with you.
Jesus gives us a perfect example of how to be a true mourner in John 11. I encourage you to read the account. His friend Lazarus has died. Jesus knows the outcome. He knows he will raise him from the dead. Yet, when he sees Mary, Martha, and the others weeping and mourning, his heart aches for them. So, before raising Lazarus from the dead, he stops, and weeps and mourns with them. Remember, he knew the end of the story. He knew that what he was about to do was going to help, but he chose to mourn with them and acknowledge their pain.
I pray that this is a challenge to us as we encounter others who are mourning. What we do will not help them or heal them, but we can be there and be even the smallest bit of an encouragement and hope. When we're tempted to say too much or not say anything at all, let's remember Jesus' example of how to mourn with those mourn.
Let the Children Worship!
I had the privilege of running the sound booth last week for our Vacation Bible School, and it was a blast! It was such a joy to watch the kids as they listened to the Bible story, played games outside, and worked on their crafts together. But, the best part? Listening to them worship! They sang at the top of their lungs, danced along, and wanted to be as close to the stage as possible. Such a beautiful thing to witness.
I've led worship in some capacity for the past twelve years, and it always fills my heart to hear the kids worship whether it be at kids' events or during the regular worship service. No shame. No fear. I love it!
I think the most beautiful thing about hearing the kids worship is when we let them sing worship songs without watering down the Gospel or discounting how much they really know. Sure, the songs they sang last week were upbeat, had crazy hand motions, and train whistles throughout, but the kids were singing about how "the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in them." The kids didn't just learn some fun songs, they learned some biblical truths.
A few years ago, I heard of someone who said, "Kids need to learn the Sunday School songs from the past!" (i.e. The Books of the Bible, Father Abraham, I'm in the Lord's Army). Wait, what? So, you're saying that kids need to learn memorization tools and songs that can barely be traced to Scripture over modern worship songs? (Yeah, yeah, I know I stepped on some toes with that answer, but seriously...)
Parents and grandparents, my challenge to you is let your kids worship! Turn on the Christian radio, teach them hymns, let them be in the Sanctuary worshipping with the rest of the family, and evaluate what kind of worship you are pushing them towards. Sure, they can learn the kiddie songs too, but are they learning songs that teach them about the heart of God and teach them truths about Him? They are not the generation of the future, they are the generation of now! Let the children worship!
Just Be There
"Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." Job 2:13 NIV
Have you ever had those moments in life where it seems like everything is going wrong? This thing breaks, and then this other thing breaks, and then the tenth thing breaks, and you're like, "I need a break!"
I think life in general can often seem like a nonstop paddling through different trials and situations. My husband and I experienced this a lot in our previous home. So many things kept breaking or going wrong, and always at the most in-opportune time; usually before or after a vacation. Our entire A/C unit broke over the 4th of July one year, which happened to be the hottest week of the summer. While we were visiting family over Christmas one year, some mice snuck in and got into our pantry and we had to throw away most of our food. And, when we arrived home from a wonderful vacation, we discovered that we had no running water. It turns out our well was completely dry.
I have so many more stories, but these just give you a little window into some of our trials that happened in a timespan of three years. Looking back, I can see how we survived and persevered through whatever came our way, but they were not enjoyable experiences at the time! I am so thankful for those who encouraged us, were patient with us no matter how sleep deprived we were, and who even opened up their home to us. They helped us so much!
But, you know what wasn't helpful? The people who told us to try and figure out what God was trying to teach us, and then rattled off a handful of Bible verses. I remember the exact moment reading my social media thinking, "We have NO running water...and, it's going to cost thousands of dollars to fix the problem. Don't give me Bible verses when what I need is a shower!"
The book of Job has so many lessons jam-packed into it. In Chapter 1, one thing after the other after the other is taken away from Job. He is so heartbroken and downtrodden, yet he does not sin (1:22). Several chapters in the book of Job give all of the lengthy advice that his friends try to give him, but as readers, we know that they are not making the situation any better.
But, what was the BEST help to Job? The moment his friends came to see him. They saw him from afar, were heartbroken and wept, and then just sat with him for SEVEN days and nights. They didn't try to give him advice. They didn't make him try to figure out what he did wrong. They just sat with him and let him mourn for awhile.
Do you know someone going through a difficult time right now? I encourage you to visit them, give them a call, or write them a note, but don't preach to them. If they want to talk, let them talk, but maybe the best thing you can do is just be there.
Checkout the My Job Prayer Journal on Amazon if you're interested in reading and journaling through the book of Job!
The Beauty of Snow
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Isaiah 1:18
Words cannot describe the beautiful perfection of the white snow gently falling against the black dresses and black suits as our family huddled together to say our final goodbyes. It looked like a scene from a movie. Quiet. Calm. Surreal.
Last year on this date, some of us gathered for a small private family funeral for my grandfather. It had been a long four years of suffering, worrying, caring, and countless doctor visits. We know that others would have loved to join us, but I think we all needed a chance to let our guard down and grieve together. My mom and her sisters had spent hours and hours selflessly doing whatever they could to help him and they honestly just needed a break.
While we were inside the funeral chapel worshipping, remembering, and crying together, a small blizzard had rolled in. When we opened the doors to head out to the gravesite, we were met with snowflakes falling as the white sky blended in with the white ground. The words of Amazing Grace gently cut through the quiet as God's presence sprinkled down on our family.
I am so grateful for the snow falling that day. It's beauty and peace will forever be in my heart, and every time it snows, I am reminded of God's presence and forgiveness. Just as the snow falls to cover the ground, Jesus' blood covers our sins so they can't be seen anymore.
My grandpa wasn't perfect, but who is? He didn't have the easiest life, but he persevered. He never gave up. I don't know if he always had Jesus by his side, but I know that at the end he did, and that's what matters. The amazing thing about Jesus is that you can come to him at anytime, and he forgives you and invites you to spend eternity with him. He washes you as white as snow.
Whatever you're going through right now whether it be anxiety, frustration, worry, or loss, know that God is with you. I pray that the beauty of the falling snow is a reminder of God's presence and that knowledge will bring you peace that passes all understanding.