#SheSharesTruth: Jonah 3&4

For background information on why I am writing this post click here and read the first part.

This week we are digging into the second half of the Book of Jonah, read chapter 3 and 4 here.

Chapter three is the repentance and redemption story of the Ninevites. Jonah warns them of the wrath of God that is coming and their response is wildly unexpected and truly amazing; “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” (Jonah 3:5) Just like that. They don’t hesitate, they don’t make excuses, they believe in God and they turn away from their evil ways. Just like that. Hallelujah!

The repentance of a whole city is great, but we don’t see Jonah rejoicing, quite the opposite actually, he is angry. Although we may not exactly get angry with God for saving ‘the wicked’, I think we do a whole lot of judging who could or couldn’t, should or shouldn’t be saved. We look at our neighbor or coworker or family member and think, “Surely not him or her”. We (like Jonah) run in the opposite direction when God asks us to share the Gospel with someone we don’t think deserves it. Jonah didn’t just run because Nineveh was a terrifying place, no he ran because he didn’t want God to save them. “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2)

Guess what? None of us deserve grace. You don’t either. Did you know that’s what grace means? Undeserved favor. We don’t get to decide that someone is too sinful or too far away from God. We just get to share God’s word and leave the rest up to Him.

Jonah is a man of extremes, he goes from being exceedingly displeased and angry when God spares Nineveh to being exceedingly glad when God provides a plant for shade (which he also takes away from him again). And when God asks the (rhetorical) question “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” (Jonah 4:9) Jonah’s answer? “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Emotional much? Angry enough to die? Really, Jonah, really? Sounds a little dramatic.

And still, I think I can be put in the category of ‘short fused’, it doesn’t take a lot to make me frustrated but it does take me a while to calm back down. I get frustrated when things don’t go the way I expect. I get frustrated with my circumstances, with God, with myself, with my husband or my daughter. I can get pretty pouty, because obviously it will never get better. Ever. *insert sarcasm*

It’s so easy to read about Jonah and see how obvious the answer to God’s question is. But somehow not so much in our own life. So when I was reading this sentence today: “Do you do well to be angry?” God showed up, and he called me out. Because of course the answer is a loud resounding NO, not in the least. Jonah wants to be angry, he feels like he has every right to. And I realized, that that’s exactly how I feel. I want to be angry, I keep a tight grip on ‘my right’ to be angry with whatever situation I am in. But the truth is I have no right to be angry. The only right I have is to be thankful. thankful that I have been saved, not because I deserved to be saved but because I serve a merciful God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

#SheSharesTruth: Jonah 1&2

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We all know the story of Jonah: God asks Jonah to preach repentance to a city of ungodly people, Jonah is terrified so he takes off in the opposite direction, and God punishes him by letting him spend 3 days inside a whale to teach him a lesson on disobeying God, right? Now hold on, let’s read the first two chapters of Jonah and see if that’s actually what happens.

I know it’s a little bit of a read, two whole chapters, but if we want to understand what’s going on, we really need to get into the text. You can read it by clicking here.

These first two chapters aren’t so much a story of God punishing Jonah for being disobedient as it is a story of God using all kinds of different people and different situations to fulfill His will. Do you think it was a coincidence that there was a ship departing in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh? Do you think it was chance that when the mariners cast lots to find out who was to blame for the storm, they fell on Jonah? Was it just pure luck that instead of drowning in the sea Jonah was swallowed up by a fish and survived for three days and three nights and then the fish “vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”?

Not coincidence, not chance, not pure luck – but providence. God’s sovereign hand moving on people, speaking to the sea and even to a fish, to work out His will. God isn’t surprised or taken off guard when Jonah runs away, I am pretty sure it was part of the plan. Maybe so Jonah would trust God to take care of Him, maybe so we could learn from his example (or rather not learn from his example)? I don’t know, but we are talking about God here, there certainly is a big picture purpose for every little thing in Jonah’s story. 

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice…you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.” – Jonah 2:2,6-7 ESV (with my edits)

While still inside the belly of the fish (maybe a whale, we don’t know) Jonah is giving thanks to God for his grace towards him. For saving his life, not from the fish but by the fish. How often do you give thanks when you are in the thick of it? I know that I am not very good at seeing how God is showing grace and providing for me in the midst of trials. I have a tendency of complaining and pining about how hard it is, and yearning for “the other side”, without even considering that maybe where I am at right now is right where I need to be, that maybe God is providing for me by letting me go through trials not just once He gets me safe on the other side, or “on dry land” so to speak.

“But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5 ESV

There is learning and growing happening in the trials and in the hardships if only we are willing to learn, willing to be stretched so that we can grow. Maybe it’s supposed to be messy, so that it can be made beautiful.

What is God calling you to that you are tempted to run away from? Where is He challenging you and giving you a chance to trust in Him, and you are refusing to? Pray, talk to your Creator, ask Him to give you courage, strength and boldness, to do what He is asking you to do for Him.

Oh, and Jonah does end up going to Nineveh, but that’s another post at another time.

Day 27: Spring Cleaning

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I think it is about time I get back in the swing of things with my 365 Days project. I  did some simple math to try and see where we are at: I started the project on January 4th 2014 and I am currently on day 27, so if I continue at my current rate I will be done some time around mid August… 2016!

We have been so busy doing nothing in our house. Magnolia got sick with a stomach bug, then Michael was sick, and then I was and then Magnolia got sick again, but then she got better right until she got sick again. So between checking her temperature, seeing the doctor and giving medicine, somehow all of January and February disappeared. I didn’t even have time to realize that spring was on it’s way until it was here full force, with little flowers blooming, birds chirping in the trees and the sun shining in through the big (dirty) windows in the living room.

Our house is a work in progress, but little by little it is turning into more of a home and not just a house. We ripped out the carpet in two rooms and I finally hung my picture frames in the living room (though withour pictures as I still need to get the pictures printed). We have lived here just over 6 months now, it feels like forever and no time at all, all at once. And I think that’s when you know you are on the right track, and in the right place.

Last week it was sunny almost every day, so I (ahem my Dad) prepared the patch of the lawn that will be our vegetable garden, and now it’s just sitting there waiting for me to sow the seeds I got from my mom. But this week, it’s been raining everyday and although I like the outdoors and this season, I don’t think I would enjoy gardening in the rain. Maybe next week will be sunny. I have also been experimenting with some water colors for a couple of days (check out the photo up top.) So I guess it’s not completely true that we have been doing nothing, it just hasn’t felt like much and maybe it isn’t, but it’s a place to start.

All this to say, IT’S SPRING! And I think it is time for some spring cleaning. In my house, in my yard and most of all in my heart. Michael mentioned the other day that I have been (how did he put it?) “a lot happier lately”. I would have probably phrased it more like “not so cranky and emotional and up tight all the time”, but thankfully Michael is a vey gracious husband. I think what I have been and am still learning is that I need to let go; let go of my unhealthy desire to control every aspect of life, let go of feeling entitled to whatever thing I think I need and don’t have whether that be sleep, money or something else. I need to let go of my feelings instead of clinging to them as if they were the truth, when I know that the only true Truth is found in my Bible and not in my own heart.

So I am going to open the windows wide and let the fresh air of spring fill my house and my lungs. It’s a new season and I am ready to embrace it. And that right there, folks, that brings me joy.

#SheSharesTruth: Psalm 38

As an introduction to this post, I have to share with you a little bit more about SheReadsTruth and what it’s all about. I think that for me this might be the easiest way to explain it: A group of women make the Bible reading plans that a bunch of women, including myself, then read and as we dig into God’s word we are challenged, encouraged and convicted – God is speaking into our lives. (For a more lengthy explanation read this post)

Then we join in the conversation in the comments, to share what we are learning, to ask for prayer, to give words of encouragement etc. In this current reading plan for Lent leading up to Easter, the writers have challenged us, the readers, to study a psalm and write about our reflections and share it on our blog, Instagram, Facebook etc. Last week over 200 women shared their reflections, and this week I am joining them.

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Start by reading Psalm 38.

I read the psalm in my ESV Bible. Then I read it in my Danish bible. Then I read it in the Message Bible, and then the ESV again. There is no way of getting around it, this Psalm is written by an utterly depressed David. And it is actually quite depressing. At first I had no idea what to write in this post, which is why I tried reading so many different translations, I was hoping that somehow with different wording, maybe it wouldn’t be as heavy. But it was, and all of a sudden I realized why. Because sin is heavy. And we are crushed under the weight of it if we carry it alone.

I started looking for help with deciphering this depressing Psalm and ended up finding a Spurgeon commentary called “The Treasury of David” that changed my perspective of the Psalm.

“For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.” Psalm 38:2

“It seems strange that the Lord should shoot at his own beloved ones, but in truth he shoots at their sins rather than them, and those who feel his sin killing shafts in this life, shall not be slain with his hot thunderbolts in the next world.” C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

Of course David feels depressed and weighed down, sin does just that.

But, we don’t have to carry the burden alone. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let’s fast forward to verse 15:

“But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

God will answer. God will answer. There is confidence here, David isn’t saying I’ll wait and see if God answers. He is absolutely confident that he will. That he is going to, so David will wait. He will sit through the suffering and wait for the Lord to answer because he knows beyond the shadow of all doubt that God is going to answer.

I pray that same confidence for myself. That I would know beyond the shadow of all doubt that God will answer my prayers. He will hear my cries for help. He will not forsake me, He will not leave me to fend for myself. He will come to me, as I wait for Him.

Dig in: She Reads Truth

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Note: Our family was, up until just a few weeks ago, part of a small church plant called Anker Kirke, but through much prayer and outside wisdom and counsel, we made the difficult decision to stop planting for now and integrate with a local church Københavner Kirken in Copenhagen. Read more about the reasons here. I wrote this for our website over a year ago while we were still living in Malmö, Sweden, and I had just found out about an online community for women who want to be in God’s word. I have since then followed several “She Reads Truth” plans on the site, and sometimes even completed a few.

We have all tried it, and probably failed.

We set big goals for ourselves and try to live up to them. And when we don’t, we excuse it with busy lives or unrealistic goals. In January 2012 I started the one-year-Bible reading plan via my YouVersion Bible app. At first, I was excited to read my Bible daily and didn’t miss a day. After a while though, I started to forget and miss days, so I had to use the “catch me up” function, which brings the last finished day to the current day. Today, over a year later, I am currently on day 57 of the 365 day plan. That’s right, that’s how many times I have missed my reading and used the “catch me up” function.

What that means is that the reading plan has been working more as a weekly plan than a daily plan — on average at least. I haven’t read the one-year-Bible reading plan once for the last couple of months, and I realized that reading multiple chapters per day seems like a grueling task — like something I had to get through instead of something I looked forward to. So I started to look for a new Bible reading plan, hoping to find something that would seem more doable, practical, and appealing to me. And in the YouVersion Bible app, I came across the “She Reads Truth” reading plans, which sounded really interesting.

The “She Reads Truth” plans aren’t long or overwhelming — only 10 or 15 minutes every day. Now, spending daily time in the Bible is something I look forward to. Every reading has a short devotional, some with questions that have I used to examine my life, with notebook in hand. Jesus is speaking to me through it. I’m relating to the text, I’m learning and growing, and most importantly I’m in my Bible and enjoying it. Now, I can proudly say that I have completed my first reading plan through the YouVersion App. Granted, it was only 11 days long and it was Paul’s letter to Philippi (Philippians). Not too long, not too complicated, But very rich in content and something I could manage.

So if you are like me, and reading the whole Bible in a year seems like a daunting task, maybe you need to take it slow. Do smaller portions, a little bit each dayFind a reading plan that works for you. Most important of all; stay in the Word. Stay close to Jesus. And keep growing in to the wonderful identity you have received in Christ, knowing that his power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus keeps pursuing you, even if all you ever bring is mess. He takes you by the hand and leads you by still waters (Psalm 23:2). Why? Because he loves you. He loves you so much that he died for you.

But he didn’t just die for you, he died in your place.

He took all your shortcomings, failures, and sin on himself, so that you could be with God — the King of the universe. Don’t you want to know him? He wants to know you, and he is calling you. So get out your Bible, or your smartphone app and dig in to God’s Word, the Bible. This is where he has revealed himself; and I promise, you will not be disappointed. I recommend starting with something like “She Reads Truth” on the YouVersion iPhone app or website app. They have reading plans for Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, and more, they take between 10-15 days to complete, and they all have daily devotions.

Dig in, start getting to know Him, or get to know Him better.

He’s waiting on you.

Day 23: Breaking the Radio Silence

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Disclaimer: I wrote this post a week ago but didn’t have time to finish and post it. Today I finally did.

I am usually not one for selfies. Especially not public selfies on a lazy, no-make-up-or-hair-done kind of day. But here you go. This is me on the other side of the furnace. I made it, by God’s grace, and I am stronger for it. Allow me to elaborate.

It has been a long, tough week. Magnolia started off last weekend with a fever. For about a week or so prior to this she hadn’t really been wanting to eat real food and I was lucky if I could get even just a few spoons in. Then the snot came, then the cough and then the vomiting. On Monday Michael got sick, a stomach bug that we figured might have been something he ate and that it would pass in a day or so. There was no improvement Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday.

Magnolia was impossible to put to bed because she would cough and cry and scream and cough whenever I put her down. So I slept with her in my arms on the couch, half sitting up for about 7 nights in a row.

I tried to get some laundry done, and dishes, just to keep some sense of normalcy but by Thursday I was so far behind that it wasn’t even possible to catch up, while also taking care of two sick family members. So I gave up. And I sat on the floor and I wept. Big, fat, salty tears streaming down my face. I had lost hope that it would ever get better. The Enemy had snuck in lies and convinced me that this was my life now and that there was no way I could handle it.

I spent time with my Mom on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, trying to get out of the house and not feel so weighed down by all the sickness and the overwhelming amount of laundry. And it worked for a little while, right until I got back home to the confinement of our house.

So what did this past week teach me?

I need to ask for help.

First and foremost I need to ask God for help. Help to be patient, loving, kind, gentle, and self-controlled in those up-for-the-third-time-before-2am-moments. And trust that The Lord will stay faithful to his promises and see me through it all.

And I need to ask other people for help before I am so exhausted that I am slightly past the edge of despair. I have so many wonderful people in my life that are more than willing to help if only I would set aside my pride and be humble enough to ask for it. I need to realize that it’s okay if I can’t do it all on my own. Maybe it is true what they say after all, it takes a whole village to raise a child.

Day 7: “I love you, Mama”

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I have a 7 month old daughter who wakes up a lot in the night, but at least she takes long naps in the day time. She has always been hard to tuck in at night. We have had to rock her to sleep for a while now, and she has been fighting off the sleep with every last fiber of her being. But at least she goes straight to sleep when you put her down for her naps.

Well, today was different. I got her all bundled up and packed up in her stroller. I rocked the stroller, offered the pacifier. Rocked the stroller, offered the pacifier. Like always. After a few tries she will take the pacifier, start blinking off, and go to sleep. Piece of cake. Except not today. She just cried and cried and cried. And it didn’t matter what I tried, she just cried and cried. And then I cried. And cried and cried and cried until I was sobbing.

I can’t stand it when she just cries and won’t be comforted, because I feel inadequate. So I just sat down on the couch and cried. I also texted Michael and he gave me a call, prayed for me, and encouraged me to take a walk with her.

I went back out with her, put her in the buggy and she (of course) lost it again. I got ready as fast as I could and started walking, still in the clothes I had slept in the night before and one of Michael’s button up shirts. It had also started raining a bit, so I borrowed Michael’s big coat (mine isn’t water proof). I was a sight for sore eyes.

About 10 minutes into the walk, she was asleep. So I started crying again. Why? Well, I looked down on her in the stroller and the above picture is what I saw. Almost like her little hand was saying to me “I love you, Mama. I’m sorry I am giving you so much trouble.” That, and then what Shane&Shane were singing in my head phones:

“When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.”

What an appropriate reminder of where to look when I feel like I am drifting into hopelessness. Although this may not have been the author’s intent, these few lines spoke into my situation of sleeplessness. There is only one place I need to look when I am on the edge of despair. Upward to Him who made an end to all my sin.

It doesn’t matter if Magnolia sleeps through the night tomorrow or next month or when she is three. Jesus will see me through. He will see us through. Through the sleepless nights, through sobbing on the couch, through un-showered pajama days, he will be right next to me. Next to us.

He will be reminding me of how much he gave up for me, because he loved me. And somehow I will find the strength, not in myself, but in his sacrifice for me, to give up myself and love my daughter more fiercely than ever. Especially when He encourages me through these small glimpses of her love for me. Like little hands saying: “I love you, Mama.”

365 Days of Joy

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It’s a new year and with that comes new beginnings, resolutions and habits. I have dedicated the year of 2014  to action-taking, more doing and less talking about doing. I want to make more, produce more and love more. In order to do this, I have had to give myself a rather large figurative kick in the behind.

Two months ago, I started this blog with an ambition to start writing again. In the past two months since the initial post I have written exactly zero posts for the blog, which is quite sad. 2013 has been a year of giving up too easily and not giving grace; to myself, to my husband or to my daughter, and it has made me frustrated and bitter. I have had to learn the hard way that being a Mom doesn’t mean you can’t do what you used to do before having a baby, it just means it takes longer.

Take this as an example: I’m not sure why, but in our house somehow everything ends up in stacks and piles and then other things get stacked on top of it. Before you know it you have a stack that contains anything from bills, sermon notes, and first-aid-class-certificates to baby socks, DVDs, and picture frames all sitting on top of the basket of yarn and whatever-else-fit-in-the-basket over in the corner (hypothetically speaking of course). And the more time that goes by, the less I see it, and the easier it is to ignore. Especially because I know that if I start sorting, chances are that when I am about halfway through the sorting and the mess is at it’s peak, my daughter is going to wake up from her nap and need my attention. So I don’t even start.

The other day I pulled out one of these stacks and started sorting. Sure I was mildly interrupted by some food making and baby cheek kissing, but if I add up the time I actually spent sorting, I don’t think it took more than 15-20 mins. That’s it. I even got all of our binders of important papers sorted too. And it felt so good!

There is a strange satisfaction in setting goals and reaching them, that I think is healthy for the heart and the soul, because we are reflecting our Creator when we create. We are glorifying Him when we enjoy the life we have been given by Him. I want to be more thankful because thankful hearts are lighter hearts, lighter hearts are happier hearts and happy hearts enjoy life more.

And now we are finally getting to what made me write this blog post in the first place.

I recently came across a project that Hailey Bartholomew  did back in 2008 called 365grateful. She had been struggling with depression and as an effort to fight it, she took a photo of something she was grateful for every single day. Day by day she noticed all these beautiful things that otherwise would have just gone unnoticed.

“The discipline of having to look for the good things that happened every day changed her life in so many ways. Hailey found not only her marriage, spiritual life and health improved, but this project accidentally, wondrously spread and affected the lives of many others.”

If you follow either link above, you will find a short video where Hailey shares more about how the project affected her, and I would encourage you to watch it. It is quite inspiring. To sum up, it made her see her husband in a new light, she noticed things she hadn’t before, and she all in all became a happier person.

So I have decided to do something similar, except I am calling it something different (as the headline indicates) and I am not staying within the borders of photography. Some days I will be sharing stories, others a picture, or even a prayer. And hopefully my little project 365 Days of Joy will have a similar effect on my life as it did on Hailey’s. I am hoping to bring back the fairytale to my marriage, reclaim the butterflies, store memories so they won’t be forgotten, and document every step of my journey to becoming a happier, more whole person.

If you feel inspired, join me. If you just want to follow my journey, follow me.

365 Days of Joy begins today.