Teaching Our Daughters to Fight…

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Every single day I look her in the eyes. They are deep blue and filled with the wonder of what’s to come. I see something familiar inside them. She’s called to be bold and brave, stand on a platform and tell others they have worth. She’s only seven, but I already know her gifts, and I know deep down she does, too. As her mother, I worry she’ll lose the sparkle in her eyes emanating from her heart of joy. I’m worried she won’t know to guard that joy. Every heart runs the risk of allowing thieves inside.

The world in which we live is a crowded place. Everyone has something to say, do, and become. We reach for bigger, better, and more until we’re so caught up in our own dreams we don’t bother to look for one second into the deep blue of someone else’s.

When the person next to her becomes jealous of the qualities she was born to possess, the abilities she has to lead and do, I don’t want her repositioning herself to follow  just because that person is uncomfortable with her capability to lead. I want her to stand tall and strong for what she believes, shutting up the voices trying to steal joy. No one can steal our gifts. But our joy, well, it’s up for the taking when we forget why we own those gifts and what the Giver intends when entrusting us with them.

The question becomes, how do we teach our daughters to fight and still be kind? How do we say, “Be the leader you are!” and still expect humility? How do we keep them safe from joy robbers, some of which have no idea the damage they’re capable of doing in one’s life? How???

When my oldest son was a tiny infant, a woman at church said, “That baby is going to keep you on your knees.” It scared me so much that I never forgot her statement. I worried it was prophetic and maybe my son would have struggles. It didn’t mean what I thought it did. Those words only meant that a mother’s love draws her to pray for her children. A mother’s love is a powerful force, pulling her on already bruised knees in quiet desperation. We pray hope-filled pleas for healthy, peaceful, joy-filled lives full of love, while giving glory to the Savior.

All three of my children have gifts to offer. I know this because every last one of us are born with them. the Creator forgets no one. However, I tend to worry more about the protection of joy surrounding my daughter’s God-given qualities. I know she has a ministry, and even at age seven I see it simmering as Jesus prepares her heart for the future. Joy propels tiny bubbles waiting to overflow in kingdom work.

As a woman, I’ve had my gifts stepped on many times in life. In the middle of those experiences I usually forgot to defend joy. In fact, I still struggle to let it flow. Here’s the thing: permission is pivotal. Giving yourself permission to not only use your gifts, but to let joy propel them in the midst of the storm, is essential.

I believe we need to educate our daughters. We have a responsibility to communicate that no one can steal their gifts.  It’s only the absence of joy that hinders the flow of them. We have to give them permission to fight for joy so that one day they will give themselves permission. It’s not about flesh and blood, it’s about darkness and learning how to properly defend ourselves from it. We have to constantly remind them that It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it only matters what God says.

I’m in awe of childhood resilience. As adulthood occurs we’re usually not very pliable. Picking ourselves up isn’t as easy as it used to be. I liken it to my out of shape body after exercise. At the age of forty-three it’s much more difficult to recover than it was at twenty-three. It aches. Children roll with the punches. Adults… not so much. We tend to get stuck on the ground because sometimes getting back up hurts worse. But, when we educate our daughters and let them know it’s the getting back up that makes us better, and it’s okay to fight to do it, we can glorify God.

I’m a firm believer that when we commit our cause to Christ, He holds us up. He’s like the boxing coach in the corner of the ring giving instruction while taping up wounds. We love to think of Jesus as a sweet lamb rather than a roaring Lion, but I believe the Lion of the tribe of Judah wants us to stand our ground because He didn’t give those gifts for us to lose the fight. They are weapons in spiritual warfare! He intends us to live victoriously wrapped in His purpose! And, in case you don’t know, you have a mighty purpose!

It’s important we teach our children, and learn ourselves, that the gifts God gave us are ours for the keeping. Let’s learn to protect our joy. And, let us look to God to keep us humble in the process.

Who are we really fighting?

Remember the source of all enmity and stay the course with the name of Jesus on your hearts!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12

Love,

Jennifer

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Uniquely Loved

Uniquely

I was Christmas shopping Saturday night when I came in direct contact with a rack of flannel shirts. It took less than two seconds to dissolve in a hot mess of streaming tears right in the middle of JCPenney’s.

Dominic loved flannel shirts, and every Christmas I bought him one to add to his collection. I was thrilled a few years ago when they came back in style because there was, all of a sudden, a plethora of trendy plaid from which to decide.

Oh, friend, sometimes I wish God picked me to write about humorous, lighthearted bits of life. The kind that make you laugh out loud with impressive anecdotes. I long to have you feel joy while visiting this online space. Instead, He keeps calling me back to encouraging through the muck and mire of the everyday, hard, and tiring valleys we find ourselves trudging through.

To be honest with you, and I always am, I need to say that as much as I’m choosing to focus on the hope of my savior, death sucks. I’m sorry, there’s just no nice way to say it.

I hate death and grief, and I hate crying in the middle of Penney’s. I don’t want to be fragile, and I don’t want an empty place setting at our dinner table, but this is my life and the only one I have to live, so I’m choosing hope.

Hope is a choice, believing in Jesus is a choice, joy is a choice, and peace is a choice. So much in life comes down to choice. I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose how I live among them.

The last few days have been tough.

To feel loss over someone who has gone to their eternal home is to miss unique love. Every person born loves in his or her own way. Unique love is incomparable and cannot be duplicated.

Dominic loved me uniquely and he was a stepparent, meaning he chose to love me even though I wasn’t his biological daughter. We should all be so blessed. And guess what? When it comes down to it, we are.

When we choose to believe and accept Christ as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God. From the begin inning we were chosen, and all of our days He pursues us and runs hard after our souls. He is always rooting for us to choose life in Him.

I’m thankful for a reason to cry because God placing Dominic in our lives was just one of the many ways He’s shown me love. And, in a strange and crazy kind of way, God taking him home reminded me of how loved I really am. Uniquely loved.

God is mysterious and as long as we are wearing the skin we were born in, we aren’t ever going to figure Him out. He’s God and we’re not. And so I’m choosing hope in the midst of today’s sorrow.

I will continue to walk down mall aisles with flannel shirts on display. Maybe I’ll cry; maybe I’ll smile. I guess it will depend on the day. However, I’m sure of this: regardless of whichever emotion I’m overcome with, I will always know love is the driving force.

God made me to feel things and that’s okay. It makes me who I am.

And God made you – uniquely to love and be loved. No matter where you are, you are not alone.

Choose joy.

Choose peace.

Choose hope.

Choose Him and you’ll choose life.

Hope is coming!

Love,

Jennifer

 

Wounds that Spill Love

Gracie sky IMG_5986I’ve been pondering all things holy: His death, resurrection, and reason for saving us. This time of year I can’t help but think about those torturous days two thousand years ago – how they changed the eternity of each one of us breathing. And I can’t stop reeling over the fact that the power of His first breath, which was taken in a dark tomb three days after the nails were driven, will lead me to my eternal home.

In those holy days He gave us power over the chains that continually try to bind us. He introduced grace and freedom in a way the world had never known before.

The cross is the crux of everything.

It must be the center of our belief system. We need to believe what He did in order to have any type of glimpse in to what He can do- In to what He will do.

And at the same time we can’t keep Him there – on that tree bloody, beaten, and bruised. The beauty in the story is His awakening from death that wanted so desperately to trap Him but couldn’t. His renewed breath became our new hope. And love continues spilling from His old wounds.

Love covers a multitude of sins and the covering of love opens our eyes. It seems crazy, doesn’t it? How something that covers us allows us to see. The ways of God won’t always make sense to the mind. We have to work it out in the heart.

And places of the heart can be scary. They are often dark and closed off. We work our whole lives to build walls inside that no man can penetrate.

But God…

My deepest hurts have led me to the deepest love. He continually tears down every wall I’ve ever tried to build.

The deepest love I have ever known has come from a God who gave everything for me – Who gave everything for you – Who gave everything for us all.

His death on the cross allowed the beauty of His breath, which gives us hope, life, and love.

May you find your home in His breath. May you always remember the cross as the center, but never take your focus off the hope in His breath of life that saved us all.

You are loved, and He thought of you the day He died. He thought of you again on the day He awoke from that death. And He thinks of you now as His wounds spill love all over your life.

Love,

Jennifer

 

It Takes Courage to Believe

fall road_nWhen Paul and I were living the nightmare of infertility and pregnancy loss , I memorized Joshua 1:9. It’s one of my absolute favorite verses.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

-Joshua 1:9

After putting those years behind us and reaping joy from our tears, I quickly realized that I wasn’t finished fighting battles. New issues continually arise and we will be forced to suit up for combat all over again. We live a cycle of joy and pain. It’s a wheel that never stops spinning, and courage is a must.

I’m big on memorizing scripture and then quoting it in the face of adversity. What I’ve learned overtime is that when I’m having a panic-filled, anxiety-ridden moment, I’m not always able to think straight enough to retrieve the Word from the files in my memory. However, there are a few that I’ve quoted so often, that they remain burned on my brain. Joshua 1:9 is one of those scriptures. It applies to all different kinds of circumstances. No matter what it is that might be trying to rob my peace, I say it over and over again. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not as if I speak the words and everything that has caused me angst disappears. However, I choose to believe that God is working in my situation, I choose to believe His Word paves a path for me, and I choose to believe it will lead me to a place of shelter from the storm. So much of life is about choice and perspective.

I’m praying for courage, because I have some opportunities that require bravery that can only come from God. And I don’t know what cycle of life you are in right now, but I have some encouragement for you: If you’re in a season of pain, I want you to know that joy can coincide. And when you throw courage into the mix, then look out! Nothing can hold you back! Our greatest strength rises from our deepest pain. So, friend, choose courage. Fight your war with the Word of God. Choose to believe there is joy somewhere inside. There is hope.

I need some courage, and I bet you need it too, so let’s pray for each other.

Be blessed and have a wonderful weekend!

Love,

Jennifer

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Some Joy for Your Weekend

Joy will come_nHi Friend. I don’t know where you are in the world, but if you’re anywhere close to where I am, I hope you’re staying warm. It’s a wintery weekend, and you’re on my mind. My prayer is that you will be encouraged as you read the following scripture…

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5-6

Every time I read those words I want to breathe them in deep. They are hope and truth. I’ve sown my share of tears, and God has never disappointed me with the joy that always seems to follow.

Whenever new trials come my way I remember the beauty in that passage. Notice in verse six that it uses the word doubtless. There is absolutely no doubt that we will come again with rejoicing. We will. It’s a promise. Whatever challenges we’ve been through, are going through now, or will go through tomorrow will never be enough to stop the joy that will spring forth as a result of our tears. I believe God honors every tear we pour out to Him. Not one is wasted.

Without a doubt, the harvest of joy belongs to you, friend. You can count on it, because you can count on God. I’ve seen His faithfulness, and though I don’t always understand why we have to suffer those tears, I do know that His love triumphs over all. His love wins. His promises are enough. He is enough. Don’t worry, days of rejoicing are on their way.

Joy is coming.

Love,

Jennifer

my eBook, Mercy Waits, is FREE to new subscribers.

My television interview for my book, Nothing to Hold but Hope, airs Tuesday, February 24th. I will share more about that on Monday.

Three Ways to Push the Slow Motion Button and Find Joy…

JoyI’ve been working on looking at life through a slow motion lens. The kind that lets you hold onto the precious moments of time for just a smidgen longer. My very favorite movie is While You Were Sleeping. There is a scene that shows the family members opening up their Christmas gifts. Each person is so grateful and loving toward each other. Sandra Bullock is shown gazing at the family and savoring each second with them.

I can’t help but think that even though our lives move in real time, that we can, if we want, savor joy-filled moments just as if we had a slow motion button to push. And, in light of recent loss, I’ve decided to do this more often.

I know there is a way to breathe these moments deeply and dance through them in joy.

But how?

Here are three ways that that I think we can hit the “slow motion button” in our lives.

  1. We need to be aware.

Most of us justify enough cardiovascular exercise simply because we live life rushing to complete tasks. So much so, that we often neglect the moments that will impact us the most. We are just too busy to see the beauty. We have to make a choice to be aware of what is happening around us. This is so we can find joy in the moments worthy of holding onto for just a bit longer.

  1. We must purpose to find joy.

I hate to say it, but joy isn’t natural for all of us. It doesn’t automatically bubble up and cause us to look at situations optimistically. Joy is a gift that must be claimed. If you want it, you need to take it. Own it! That means, no matter where you are or what your circumstances may be, you must look for the joy inside of them. In other words, don’t stop looking until you find it! And once you do, grab tightly!

By nature, most of us take joyful moments for granted. We see them as ordinary rather than extraordinary. When was the last time you had a joy-filled moment you wished wouldn’t end? If you can’t remember, it’s possible you need to live working to create those moments.

  • Find a reason to host a party
  • Call a dear friend
  • Be generous with your time and money

 

Whatever it takes, create moments that will bring you joy. And when you are surprised by a spontaneous joy-filled moment, be aware of it, own it!

Look for the lovely and savor it!

  1. We need to continually ask the Lord to refill our joy.

if you are anything like me, and have experienced an extremely difficult year, then you know only God can fill the grief-hollowed gaps in the soul. It takes very little for joy to dissipate. Sometimes, we need to battle for our joy.

It’s easy to forget that true joy comes from Jesus. He died to save us from death and hell, and ultimately from ourselves. And with the gift of the cross comes the fruit of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control. (See Galatians 5:22-23)

The point I want to get across today is this: We have the ability to hone joy. To grab it, form it, and see it in everything. Joy isn’t hiding from us in the dark, because Jesus is light. True joy resides inside Him.

Seek joy today, friends, and don’t stop looking until you find it!!!

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

A Strange Announcement…

City building blog photoHi Friends. Today, I’m going to get my roots done. I know this seems like a strange announcement. And, who really cares about my hair? Except for my daughter who recently said, “Hey, mom, your hair is growing in black on top.”

Anyway, I’m telling you this because for the last three weeks, since our world turned upside down, I’ve not done much of what I normally do. I’m still taking care of the kids, my husband, and the house, but I do it through tears while my mind plays pictures of memories over and over. So, the other day, I decided that no matter what, it’s time to try recovering some normalcy. Tonight, I intend to paint the town. Actually, I think the saying is “paint the town red” but I don’t have that much energy, and hopefully, I can get done painting before I begin yawning right around 10:30pm… (I’m a wild one I tell ya!)

I told my husband that under no circumstances is he to let me cancel our plans at the last minute. (I know myself well.) We are going to look at some art and eat some fabulous food with wonderful friends. I’m going to try to smile for awhile. And all this commences with taking care of these roots!

So, here is to making plans to smile again. Here is to looking for joy when it’s not easily found, and here is to breathing in deep and saying to God, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones you have broken may rejoice” (See Psalm 51:8)

What are you doing this weekend?

Whatever it is, I hope it is joy-filled!

Love,

Jennifer

Why I Didn’t Go to Church Today…

Make me hear joy photoDear Friends,

I’ve been thinking about a scripture that has spoken to my soul in many different ways. It’s one I mentioned in my book and have referenced several times on this blog.

Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.

~Psalm 51:8

This morning I went for a long walk. I couldn’t find it in myself to walk through the doors of church, because I didn’t feel like handing out hugs and putting on a fake smile. People are wonderful, but I really needed one more Sunday of isolation, so I put on my sneakers and away I went.

With worship music blasting and a heavy heart I walked for miles as I prayed and sought Jesus. And then I allowed my heart to stay quiet so that I could hear if He chose to whisper softly to my spirit. Psalm 51:8 is the whisper I heard. He almost always reminds me of His word. He engraves it in my heart so that I might have the strength to keep going.

Sometimes, we must ask the Lord to make us hear joy and gladness because grief can easily deafen the sound. And as I was walking, something else came to mind…

When He begins to heal the broken bones of grief, He binds them with beautiful colors. Those colors are meant to tell our stories. It gives us the ability to share what He has done and what He promises to continue doing. Those colors cause us to feel everything we’ve ever gone through, and yet, they allow us to give Him glory and shout His praise with joy in our hearts. It’s supernatural. If it wasn’t, we would never have the ability to feel joy in the wake of sorrow. But we do.

We were meant for joy. And true joy comes from knowing what sorrow feels like and allowing God to use brilliant colors to create beauty inside the lines of our stories. He does it with His love and it almost always happens while we are in the midst of pain.

I know that my tears will turn to joy again, because I serve a God who promises that through His Son I can have it freely. I can own joy. And the same applies for you. You can have joy again. You can own it.

I’m choosing Joy today, Friends. And I’m praying you will make the same choice.

Love,

Jennifer

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I’m Taking it Back!

Galatians 5I’m the Vacation Bible School director for my church. I’ve spent hours and hours formulating schedules and coordinating volunteers. VBS started tonight. This means that other than answering questions and supporting the staff, I get to walk around the halls and see the joy on children’s faces.

There is a small part of me which envies their joy…

My work is practically over, and I now have the privilege of watching everyone else minister. It’s a beautiful thing. For the teachers and leaders, the week is spent engraining biblical principles into the minds and hearts of the children. They are taught that no matter how others feel about them, or even how they feel about themselves, Jesus loves them. Always. To the end of the age!

I’m almost ashamed to admit how much I need those words, too…

As I was on my way home this evening I began to dwell on some issues that are bothering me about myself. One of them is my weight. I’ve put on a fair amount this year, and I’m unhappy with the way I look.

I work really hard to keep silent about it in front of my children, especially my daughter. I tell myself that I’m loved by my husband and by God. I work and work to convince myself that it shouldn’t matter. But it does. It bothers me.

I’ve had some other health issues which have prevented me from working out and there are days when I feel defeated. And then I remember something extremely important to the condition of my soul: It does not matter how I feel. Feelings have the ability to be wishy-washy, hyped up, over the top emotional torment that can lead to intense pain.

So I began to war against those feelings and  another thought came to mind…

God created me. He knew from the very beginning that my metabolism would not remain the same as when I was 16, and He also knew an extra 20 pounds would not hinder my ability to be who He called me to be.

I’m the one hindering myself…

It’s silly, isn’t it? All of this beating myself up over 20 pounds. It is ridiculous.

Here are the facts: I have kingdom work to do. You have kingdom work to do. We have kingdom work to do!

The Lord has called us and sometimes we (and I mean me!) allow silly issues to get in the way of finding joy within the work He has called us to. Thoughts that cause us to belittle ourselves are nothing more than interruptions, which will eventually stand in our way if we don’t take them captive. We won’t be able to find joy within beautiful moments of children’s laughter at VBS, or in anything else He called us to if our attention is on ourselves.

Distractions can be detrimental if they hinder the joy we find inside kingdom work.

I’m going to make a point of remembering that joy flows from the inside out. I believe it comes from being willing and obedient to do what Christ has called me to do. I’m not going to allow shallow insignificant issues steal that joy.

Christ died to give me His joy and I refuse to waste it… (Tweet that.)

Take back your joy, friends! You were created by the living God with a very specific purpose. Do not allow negative feelings and emotions get in the way of your kingdom work.

Love,

Jennifer

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With Joy You Will Draw Water…

 "Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Hello Friends! I am writing to you from North Carolina where my husband has a business trip. The only downfall to this get-a-way is that I brought Pittsburgh weather with me. Is it too much to ask for some sunshine with my sweet tea?

Today, as I was looking out my hotel room window at the sleet falling from the sky, I opened my Bible to Isaiah. I’ve been slowly taking my time through the book.

When I came across Isaiah 12 the melody to an old song played through my mind. Right away I began wondering how much scripture I know just based on songs I sing at church. I’m a firm believer in memorizing scripture.

Scripture is living. It slowly pieces back together broken sections of our lives. The power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live within the passages.

Isaiah 12 is a hymn of praise…

And in that day you will say:

“O Lord, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’” Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: “Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.
Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”

-Isaiah 12

Even though, in the midst of corporate worship,  I’ve vocalized a portion of the words in chapter 12 more times than I can count, verse 3 not only caught my eye today, but also my heart…

Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

-Isaiah 12:3

Sometimes we take salvation for granted. Would you agree? We become so caught up in our everyday life struggles that we forget the enormous price which was paid for our sin. We forget we can experience a joy like no other from the One who is like no other.

Within our salvation resides an abundant gift from an abundant God. He alone is the Giver of joy. He quenches a thirst which cannot be fulfilled through any other means. For those who believe in the great and mighty name of Jesus, His Son, He spoke life into our souls and wrote our names in the book of life.

With a joyful heart we can serve a God of love, life, and joy. We can praise Him for excellent things. (Isaiah 12:5) No matter what your circumstances may be, you have a God you can turn to. You have a God who can restore your joy. You have a God who sent His Son so that you can have salvation.

You have a reason to sing!

Take courage and be blessed!

Love,

Jennifer