Behold, I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19
Fourteen years is a long time to do something don’t you think? That’s the number of summers the Wohlfert kids have taken livestock to the Clinton County 4-H fair and it’s been one of the best things we’ve ever been a part of. I can’t even begin to write about all the ways 4-H has positively impacted their lives and Dave and I are so grateful for all the 4-H lessons, people and experiences that have helped mold and shape our kids over the past fourteen years. I’m having one of those weepy mornings as I type this post because at the close of the fair tonight it will be time to end this chapter; our fourteen year run will be finished and I’m not gonna lie, I’m having a hard time with that. For those readers who have parented kids through high school you know that senior year is full of “lasts” and last night’s livestock auction was the final high school last for Shannon.
It would take no effort at all on my part to let this ending wash over me like a heavy blanket and dwell on the fact that the Three Little Wohlfert’s have seemingly grown up in a blink right before my very eyes. I might be tempted to get out their baby albums and allow myself to be absolutely swallowed by past memories of chubby cheeks and first steps and cry about how empty my house is going to feel but that’s crazy because that would make this all about me…not them. God blessed Dave and I with three cool kids and it’s been our job to do our best to raise them in a way that would please Him. The greatest goal of any parent is to send great humans out into the world that can make it better. That’s a tall order for sure and the society we live in doesn’t help us much. I think that’s why I’m so grateful for all of our 4-H years because they did help; a lot! The kids were surrounded by great adults who were excellent examples of character, leadership and faithfulness. Each summer dozens of grown-ups who volunteered to be leaders, judges, show organizers and fair board members demonstrated and challenged the kids to be hard working, fair, honest, humble and grateful. I realized this isn’t nearly as much about an ending as it is a beginning.
I remember as a kid, watching the game show Let’s Make A Deal, where contestants had to pick a door. I always liked looking at the contestants faces as they waited anxiously to see what secret prize waited behind their door. Instead of worrying about my empty house, or time that has passed too quickly I’m at the point where I can enjoy my children as they see what unfolds before them. Just like the game show, sometimes they will pick the wrong door and be disappointed but hopefully because of the opportunities and experiences they have had growing up, they will lean on God’s wisdom and he will help them make the choices that will reveal beautiful surprises and blessings. I realize that endings are necessary; tricky sometimes, but necessary because without them, there would be no beginnings. Both require faith, trust and effort and if you do it right, both will leave you stronger, better and a little closer to the one who orchestrated the greatest beginning of all times! When you really think about it, the final ending will lead to the ultimate beginning we’re all aiming for!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to reflect on things in your life that you should begin and things that you should end in order to make room for a new beginning that will lead you closer to the Father.
Blessings on your day!
She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
How many readers think this verse from Proverbs is talking about them? This past week I crossed paths with a few folks who seemed to be consumed with fear and worry about the future. I can tell you that they were not laughing at the days to come and I struggled to help them move from worry to peaceful faith. As I thought and prayed about these conversations I found this verse and it made me smile.
Have you ever stopped to think about what makes one person worry and another one not worry at all? Some of us look to the future and smile; others look the same direction and feel a pang of worry, dread and maybe even fear. Some might say worrying is just a part of your hard-wiring but I suppose we all carry a little bit of worry with us most days. I read once that there is a big difference between worry and concern. Being concerned about something inspires us to organize, call on resources and to handle things as best we can and leave the rest to God. Worry is more like doing everything possible and still fretting about God being able to do the rest according to your plan.
When the boys were little they had some plastic toy swords and the movie Peter Pan. They would have sword fights anywhere; the barn, kitchen, and yard you name it they would imagine a scene and play like crazy. Surprisingly, there were no casualties until the night they snuck the swords under the covers. The fight that night was a small disaster leaving two little boys with some red marks, a black eye and a giant scrape to the belly. When the dust settled and we were trying to sort it all out, the problem boiled down to the darkness. In the light, they could see and anticipate what was coming but in the darkness of their bedroom they couldn’t anticipate and react to what they couldn’t see coming. They lost their guide and their protection.
The Proverbs 31 woman who can laugh at days to come is one who doesn’t sit in the darkness of worry. Why? What makes her so immune to the worries and woes of the day? I think the answer to that question comes in the first part of the verse; strength and dignity. The really important part of the puzzle though is the realization that the strength and dignity come from God not from the world or within. When we think of strength, we typically think of muscles and physical power which requires work to attain. When we talk about strength from God the opposite is true. In order to be powered by the strength of God we have to do nothing but rest in him and know he will do all the heavy lifting! Gods strength sees all the obstacles and shifts in the path, he simply asks that we let him love us enough to maneuver us through them. If we can’t rely on God’s strength it’s kind of like having a sword fight in the dark; there is no way to anticipate and react to what we can’t see coming.
Laughing at the future doesn’t mean we see what’s coming; it means we are strong enough to face it because we know God will defend, protect and love us through whatever comes our way. He loves us too much to put us in a situation that is beyond what we need. Yes, sometimes we need struggle and difficulty but he knows how much and for what reason. We need to work on laughing at the days to come because when it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, it’s kind of funny that we should worry about something God has already orchestrated right down to the most teeny tiny detail.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that worry you. Ask God to bring you strength this week as you pray daily for him to transform your worry to peace.
Blessings on your day!
For they have all contribute from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. Mark 13:4
I have always loved this Gospel because it demonstrates true humility and complete trust in such a beautiful way. I also have to admit that it was a Gospel that also made me very angry and hurt during a difficult time for our family. I left the work world for 12 years to enjoy the blessing of staying home with our kids and when I returned to the work force it was to teach in a Catholic School. There have been times when jealousy pinched me a little as I watched others buy cottages, take exciting vacations and contribute easily to their children’s college education. Thankfully those moments were short lived because I knew that God had a plan for us and those things just weren’t a part of it. We were committed to providing a Catholic education to our children and supporting our Parish financially so there were many times we felt like the widow who had given all she had. Honestly, it’s a great feeling to know that God will meet all our needs because we’ve done all we could to meet his with our finances. We were at peace.
Then came the day when we bought a used car for our kids to drive and the police showed up to take it from us because the man we bought it from had stolen it from an elderly Alzheimer’s patient. He went to court and was ordered to pay us back but the likelihood of that was grim; he had no job, no stability, no family...he was a broken man. We were hurt and angry and out nearly ten thousand dollars. When I prayed for the strength to forgive, show mercy and move on I asked God for a verse and guess where I landed...this Gospel. “Really God”, I screamed, “We’ve given it all, we’ve scraped, and sacrificed and been content without fancy stuff and you point me to this verse as if we haven’t given enough!” It took several days of forcing myself to read and re-read this Gospel but one day I realized that we hadn’t. We hadn’t offered up every last coin of bitterness and resentment toward this man. We hadn’t offered every last coin of thanksgiving that we had been blessed with faith and love and witness that allowed us to provide a very different life for our children than this man’s parents had given him. We hadn’t offered up every last coin of independence. We hadn’t admitted that God is rich and completely trusted that he would continue to meet all of our needs. He really did want it all and when we joyfully presented it all to him, like the widow, we were rich. God’s mercy and peace are amazing. The more we let go of that last coin the more we saw God blessing us and caring for us. What started as a giant bummer turned into a giant lesson in trust and mercy!
A Seed To Plant: What are you hanging on to? What are the coins of great price that prevent you from offering your entire livelihood to God in love and trust?
All of them differ, one from another, yet none of them has he made in vain; for each in turn, as it comes, is good; can one ever see enough of their splendor? Sirach 42:24-25
We spent the weekend at a livestock show at MSU and I had three days to watch, listen and just soak it all in; smells, sights, sounds and all. There was close to a thousand animals there and I saw no two that were alike. Many were similar but none were exactly alike. If you’ve never been to a big livestock show or even a county fair to see kids and animals work together, let me tell you, it’s a pretty cool thing to see. The youngest cattle showmen walk through the barn and into the show ring with an animal more than twenty times their size with confidence and courage that is impressive. Every direction I looked I saw kids working; washing, feeding, leading and loving. Every young person that came had the same ambition; to leave that barn with a ribbon that proved their animal was the best. Unfortunately, very few left with that prize because it all came down to the opinion and the judgement of one person.
Shannon had two pigs at the show and as I sat in the stands watching, I quickly realized that each time a new class of pigs would enter the ring they were each different. Obviously you could tell they were all pigs and you could identify them by their breed but no two were exactly alike. It was the task of the judge to identify the things that made them different. It was his job to find the best qualities in his top picks; he was looking for the splendor as each new group came into the ring. The funny thing is, whether the kids loaded up their pigs to go home with a feeling of pride or a feeling of disappointment, they knew there would likely be another judge to look at their pig again on a different day who might see things differently. It isn’t always clear exactly what the judge is looking for and success all boils down to the opinion of one person who takes no other suggestions or perspectives into consideration when making that final judgement. More than 500 pigs were competing for one top spot so it’s fair to say more went home disappointed than delighted.
As we loaded the trailer to head home I realized how grateful I am that heaven is not like a livestock show and that God is not like a livestock judge! We can sometimes feel like we are judged and compared, in fact oftentimes we are the ones doing the judging and comparing ourselves. If you take a minute to re-read that verse from Sirach you can see that the differences between us are not in vain and that they are good. The verse goes so far as to say the differences between us are “splendor”. What a word…splendor! When was the last time you looked in the mirror and noticed your splendor! We are not going to appear before God in groups so he can choose only the best from the group to enjoy eternal life with him. He loves and welcomes us all not just those who look a certain way. Each of those young people who showed up at that show this weekend had invested time, energy, sweat and love in their animal with very little guarantee of a reward. Think about heaven in that way for a minute; are you investing the time, energy, work and love into your relationship with the Father? If you are, then there surely will be a magnificent reward; if not, it’s never too late to begin the work. We will be evaluated by a judge who looks at us with loving eyes, consistent standards and a keen sense of our splendor!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time each day this week reading this verse and praying about the thoughts it stirs in your heart. Ask God to help you see that he is the judge and ask him to help you see yourself through his eyes.
Blessings on your day!
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware. Hebrews 13:2
I have never seen a burning bush like Moses saw, or witnessed the parting of a sea like the Israelites but I know God works beautifully and profoundly in my life just the same. The middle lovelies and I spent a lot of time last year talking about Divine Revelation and we learned that one powerful way God reveals himself to us is through others. I was reminded of this very truth recently in a completely surprising and beautiful way. It all happened at the mall and it involved a saintly woman with a huge laugh a contagious spirit and a message nobody but God knew I needed.
Satan is such a weirdo! He’s evil, wicked and he knows just how to trip us up! It amazes me how often I fall for his lousy tricks. I’m gonna be completely honest and tell you that I was in a dark spot spiritually earlier this summer. I know our faith journey is one of twists and turns and ups and downs so I didn’t fuss or worry too much about it because I knew God was teaching and I would be changed at the end of the struggle but it was no fun! The root of the problem stems from the one thing satan can grab me by the throat and toss me down with…my struggle with my weight. I can try to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t matter or tell myself the inside matters most and to some extent that’s exactly true but the fact remains; food is my battlefield and I wasn’t viewing food as fuel but as entertainment, stress release and comfort…not a good idea. We all have battles and I just so happen to have one that is visible to the world and I was feeling very lousy about that. I was frustrated because it never goes away…I never fix it for good and I needed to. My health was beginning to suffer and I was so heavy hearted! I knew God was teaching in my darkness but I just couldn’t seem to get the lesson so my prayer became very specific. I asked him to send me someone to help me and I asked that he make it so powerful and so surprising I could not mistake it for his help and his love.
As requested, God delivered in a mighty way. I had a meeting at a restaurant in the mall with a wonderful guy who was inviting me to become a part of a fabulous ministry. I was excited about the opportunity and felt the Holy Spirit calling on me to use my gifts in a really cool way. After the meeting I wandered into the mall to buy a gift and satan began to work his discouragement in my heart. As I walked through the mall my knees began to hurt and I was short of breath; that’s when all the negative messages started running through my head. I slipped into a store to look around and out popped the most delightful shirt-selling saint I’ve ever met. I recognized her from a previous visit to her store but it was her laugh that drew me in and her Italian eyes and straightforward conversation kept me there for almost an hour. I told her what I was looking for and as she led me through the store I mentioned how lovely she looked. She turned and looked at me and said “Thanks, I’ve lost 109 pounds.” She gave me that look like, oh man, did I just say that. I nearly burst into tears as we spent precious minutes talking about her journey. In her strong Italian style, she laid it all out for me and told me what I needed to do and made no bones about telling me I was perfectly capable of calling on God to help carry this cross. Loving others is what we are called to do and we are part of “others”. We laughed, we cried and we shared our struggle. She told me the two apps I needed on my phone to put it all together and she gave me her phone number for help. As she handed me my receipt, she drew a cross on the back and said, “Do you know what this is? It’s his love for you and he loves you enough to help you be who he created you to be and in that there will be the happiness he planned too. This is hard work but it's worth it!” She said exactly what I needed to hear. Without even knowing what was on my heart she brought up every issue that was sitting so heavy and she did it with humor and love. I was astounded…she had no idea but yet she knew everything. Just as I asked him, profound and surprising and to top it off, not one single person came into the store the whole time we were talking. She also mentioned that a Fitbit had been a key component of her success and just because God is so amazing, I had gotten an email that same day from a friend who had an extra one she wanted to sell. He thinks of everything...and sometimes just because he can, he shows-off a little!
Would I have rather had a burning bush or parted sea? Absolutely not! I’ll take the laugh, hug and tough love of a perfectly placed sales saint any day! He revealed himself perfectly through that beautiful woman and my heart was changed! As I thanked him again and again for that gift I asked him to send others along the way when I get too tired to carry this cross on my own. I am absolutely confident that he will do just that! Divine revelation…it’s amazing; be on the lookout for it!
A Seed To Plant: Take time this week to notice the people around you…they may be waiting for God to reveal something through you or they may be waiting to reveal something to you.
Blessings on your day!
…take heart daughter, your faith has made you well…Matthew 9:22
If anybody knows me well, they know that the sum total of my athletic ability can be neatly stacked on a pencil eraser! However, there are two “athletic” things I can do; shuffleboard and bean bag toss. Impressive right! Fear is a funny thing and if we aren’t careful it can slip in and steal away our confidence and our courage. I had a chance to play bean bags not long ago and I thought, sure I can do that but the more I thought about it, the more I began to doubt myself and fear making a fool of myself in front of dozens of people so, I declined. I didn’t have the courage to go do something fun that I was kind of good at. I was thinking about that and ran across a great Gospel with a couple of brave courageous disciples.
Courage is a funny thing. The official had it, the hemorrhaging woman had it and they knew what to do with it! Many of us have courage but we’re afraid to use it. Stepping out in an act of complete courage like the official or the woman is risky business. Even blanketed in grief the little girl’s father believed Jesus could bring life to his daughter. He didn’t worry that others would overhear his request and think he was nuts. The hemorrhaging woman knew society deemed her unclean but her faith outweighed her fear and she reached in for healing. Their trust and faith trumped everything, including public ridicule and judgment.
I often pray for courage but I suppose I should also be praying for the strength and trust to use it. Courageous faith might mean change, ridicule or complete and total surrender. The characters in today’s Gospel show us what blessed things can happen if we act with courageous faith. Their trust and surrender yielded amazing results. I need to be inspired by this Gospel to worry less about control and judgment and focus on the abundant blessings that come from living with courageous faith. As I ponder the deeper meaning of this Gospel I have to think bigger than a bean bag game and ask myself, what are the areas of my life that require more courageous faith? What is keeping me from turning those things over with complete courage, surrender and faith to the Father who created me and wants only what’s best for me?
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week read Matthew 9:18-26 and add these words to your conversation; Father of grace, please create in me a spirit of courageous faith. Take away my doubt and my desire to control the things in my life and replace them with the courage and conviction of the official and the hemorrhaging woman. Lord, lead me to your blessings as I live out a life of courageous faith.
Blessings on your day!
...and on the seventh day he rested... Genesis 2:3
It's not really the seventh day but I'm going to do some resting this week. "Kansas" comes to Michigan today so for the week, I'm going to unplug and play, rest, laugh and spoil some wonderful friends!
I'll be back with more joyful words next Monday.
Blessings on your week!
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians3:23-24
Three is my favorite number. Lots of great things come in three’s. The Holy Trinity, the Wise Men, the Holy Family, Wohlfert kids and lots of others. Another cool three happened recently and it caught me a little by surprise. I realized that I have been writing this blog twice a week for three years! That’s more than 300 posts…from the girl who got a B- in English! I can’t believe that much time has passed so quickly!
I never imagined or aspired to be a writer of any kind but I have this deal with the Father. Our arrangement states that if he really wants me to do something, he needs to point it out to me very clearly three times in pretty quick fashion. About three and a half years ago I was speaking at a conference and after the presentation a lady stopped me and asked if I had a blog. I smiled not really knowing what a blog even was and said “No, not me!” As I made my way through the Convention Center lobby I was met by a second lady who asked for a business card and inquired about a web address in case I had a blog she could check out. Yikes…that was two; believe me I wanted to take my chubby little legs and high-tail it to the Suburban lickety split before I got snagged by number three. I made it to the parking lot and put my stuff in the back seat. As I closed the door, I saw a woman waving and walking quickly toward me. I started to walk toward her and it felt a little like someone had poured cement into my shoes. I was so afraid she would mention the blog word again, bringing the total to three and that would mean I’d have to honor my end of the deal. There we stood right in the middle of the parking lot and she gave me a giant hug and said she just wanted to tell me that she could use a little dose of Faith and Humor each week so she wondered if I had a …no…don’t say it lady…a blog? I could think of nothing else to say except, “I’m workin on it!” I prayed and argued about it and despite my technology and writing deficits, the request came in three’s two more times SO three years ago the Joyful Words blog was born.
I promised I’d keep writing as long as HE sent the words and as long as people kept reading. Both have happened. I have absolutely NO DOUBT that this is all his doing because there are so many, many Monday and Thursday mornings I sit down at the crack of dawn with no idea what to write about and after some prayer to the Holy Spirit for HIS words the typing just begins. I’m humbled and honored to share His words with you. I’m privileged that you share your thoughts and reactions to the ideas the posts stir in your mind and your heart. I’m blessed beyond measure that so many of you have shared stories of your discipleship journey with me. Someone asked me recently how long I was going to keep this up and my response was, “I have NO idea…He was pretty bossy about starting it so I’m sure He’ll be just as clear about stopping!” Until then, I’ll keep writing if you keep reading!
I am walking proof of the truth in the quote, God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called! I’m glad I listened. I’m glad I agreed even though I was overwhelmed. I’m glad I gave him a yes even though it’s often painfully humbling. I’m grateful that you are such kind readers overlooking typos, improper punctuation and less than text book perfect grammar and format. Mostly, I’m glad he asked me to serve him this way instead of mission work in a far away, mosquito ridden, wild animal infested, jungleish kind of place! I’m happy to serve him right from my laptop on the dining room table. Happy Birthday Joyful Words!
A Seed To Plant: How is God asking you to serve Him? Give it some prayerful thought and then give him permission to show you how…he’s full of surprises!
Blessings on your day!
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