Grief & Joy Can Coexist

While I suffered the darkest years of chronic pain, I learned a lot about grief, about loss. It was hard to live inside a day experiencing so much physical pain. I hung up my dreams and resigned myself to a short life. I let my broken body rule my emotions. I grieved in the wrong way — without God. I forsook joy though I had every reason to know it. I became bitter and let physical pain wipe out gratitude.

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We have all been there in one way or another. We have lamented without God, and in the long process of heartache, we forget the joy we have in Him. Somewhere along the way, I learned that grief and joy can coexist. I can feel both.

It’s NOT Too Late to Have a Good Day

JoyDo you ever feel discouraged because you spent the entire day in a way you wish you hadn’t? I’ve had more days like that than I care to admit! I come into the day with good intentions only to find myself wallowing in disaster near the end.

I get caught up in this, that, and the other and begin to live my day focused on me and all that’s difficult in my life. And why shouldn’t I? Am I not having a bad day anyway? Can’t a human have just one day that they get upset at every little thing? What about that person who really hurt me? Can’t I stay mad about that? Oh good grief! See how easy it is to get lost in this kind of thinking? It feels good to think this way even though this thought pattern sucks out joy and thankfulness. And let me just tell you that one day of ingratitude and self-pity turns into many, many more!

I’m going to let you in on a secret this morning. Ready? Here it is …

It’s NOT too late to have a good day! Even if it’s 11:55 pm, you can still turn in the right direction. When you ask forgiveness of God and pray for His strength, He never replies with “No! It’s too late. You should have asked 2 hours ago.” He never, ever does that. He grants forgiveness to the contrite heart. He gives strength to the weary. He gives joy to the one having an awful day. It’s not too late.

Last week, we talked about the foundation of joy, which is a relationship with God. I hope you have grasped that and have begun to live it out. But I also know that even as we strive to love God and live a joyful life, we all still have hard days where circumstances seem to pit against us and life  seems so difficult. Having a joyful life doesn’t mean we will never experience hard times. It simply means that when these things come along … we choose to handle them the right way.

So I urge you to:

  1. Wake up and give your day to God.
  2. Cry out to God if you need to. Life is hard! We need His comfort.
  3. Forsake bitterness, no matter how appealing it seems.
  4. Rest in Him. Throw your burdens on Him. He wants them.
  5. Ask God to help you see the good once again.

But, if you get to 11:55 pm and every hour before was full of bad attitudes, hard times, resentment, anger, or ingratitude … remember that it is not too late to turn back to God and finish the day in a good way. God loves you and He desires to restore you. Let Him.

A thankful life full of joy doesn’t mean you smile 24/7 and throw confetti everywhere you go, but it does mean that you seek God with the daily, and often hourly, challenges that you face. It means that you give to God what is hard. It means that you don’t wallow in self-pity. It means that you continuously turn back to God every time you go astray. As you seek God for strength, as you ask Him for joy, as you rely on Him for healing, and give over your days … you’ll find rest and inexplicable joy.

So … good morning!

It’s not too late to turn back to God and finish this day the right way! You can have a good day, even when everything else seems bad.

The Foundation for Joy

Joy and thankfulness are the two easiest things to cast aside when trudging knee deep in the drudgery of daily life. However, seeking joy is the overwhelming trend on Christian social media. This gratitude, living small moments, looking for lovely has come on us in a wave and we don’t always know what to do with it.

Foundation for Joy

So, we like the status, share the post, and go on our way. All too soon, the challenge to find the lovely gets tramped on and swallowed up in all the frustrations, relationship burdens, and inward feelings of failure. Thankfulness is hard and it’s not as hallmark as acknowledging a  moment of precious life. We are fallen humans, living in a sin-cursed world, clinging to God. We all know that gratitude and a heart of joy are no picnic … it’s a battlefield.

Today, I want you to consider something: You will not succeed in a life of thankfulness if you only find your gratitude in this earthly life. You cannot cultivate a true heart of joy only by finding the lovely things or enjoying the small moments. It’s not just about this precious life. Facebook posts and Pinterest quotes are catchy, and they can often persuade you of the shallow things. We make these earthly solutions our foundation, but when the moment of testing arrives a Pinterest quote can’t hold us strong!

To have a heart of joy, to fight for a life of thankfulness … you must have a relationship with God.

This is the foundation for joy. To have no relationship with God means you forfeit true joy. It means you will have trouble finding the precious moments in life. It means you will scramble to make small life moments into something great and worthwhile.

However, you can only know joy and live a thankful life when you know God. Having a relationship with God reminds you constantly of His love for you. It provides a way to fellowship with Him wherever you may be and in whatever situation you find yourself.

Daily life is difficult, but God gives you purpose, peace, and strength! He provides for you a sure and steady foundation. God is good and He never changes, so even when life is hard you can experience joy. God, Creator of Life, Savior, and Prince of Peace must first be your foundation. You must diligently pursue Him and know Him, and then these lovely moments, these small things, these bits of happiness in a chaotic life are easier to see and they begin to make sense.

Be wary of the feel-good quotes you see and the flimsy solutions we believe in for a thankful life. We are a people easily persuaded. If you only look for the lovely and the small life moments without knowing God then you will fill up empty every single time.

Seek God.

Know Him.

He is the Giver of Joy.

Still Learning,

Sierra Straightforward

Straightforward

As I started the process of writing for this ministry, Takiela asked me to come up with a name for my column. I didn’t know what to do. It stumped me for hours! My husband had some really good ideas. He claims he’s not a writer, but he’s quite poetic. Anyhow, we threw around good names, but they weren’t quite right. So, hours passed and I remained stuck in a rut!

Then, straightforward came to my attention. I wish that more adults would be straightforward. Let me tell you something, spending time with children can be refreshing and embarrassing. Why? Because, they are straightforward. They say what’s on their minds without the expended energy of beating around the bush. Kids don’t have a bush!

As you get older, you learn discernment. This is good! We should be discerning with what we say. But with age, we’ve also learned how to hide within ourselves and shut people out. We’ve learned to gloss over our problems and only show so much.

However, as a young woman, I want older women to be transparent with me. I want them to tell me what they have experienced, what they have learned. I want to hear their stories, so that I can grow from them. As people, we have all these experiences that we stack in a corner of our heart. We don’t tell or show anyone. Our hearts are closed tight, and we are closed off.

 

Sierra Straightforward

But this little column here? It’s going to be straightforward. This place will share, open up, and welcome you in. This tiny nook is going to be the corner of my heart that you get to sit inside. I’ll be discerning in the things I share, but I’ll also be straightforward and transparent. I hope you’ll do the same. Leave comments, tell me your story, and become a part of this FLOURISH community. I want to get to know you as you get to know me!

You don’t know many things about me yet, so I hope to take the next few weeks to show you some of the biggest mountaintops and deepest valleys of my life. Let me tell you, my story isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. No one has a sunshine, lollipop story! We just don’t. Each life holds hardness, goodness, heartbreak, joy, suffering, pain, hope, wonder, fulfilled dreams, and unfulfilled ones.

My life doesn’t resemble Pinterest-perfect images, and I’m glad for that. Life is much better than a perfect image. The tattered parts bring me closer to God, as the joy and fullness show me how much wonder God has given.

I hope that as I write and we share our lives together — we will come to realize the joy of imperfection, the wonder of life, whole and beaten.

Oh, how whole and beaten it is!

I have struggled with anxiety since the age of 12. It doesn’t burden me all the time. Rather, it comes in waves and knocks me off my feet. I fall flat for months at a time as I re-learn how to apply God’s truth to the battles in my mind.

At 15, I transitioned into chronic pain. It confused me. My thoughts grew dark. I took various pain medications. At times that the pain became so bad, I just wanted to die. The deepest part of the chronic pain valley stretched on for four years before I found a semblance of relief. I still struggle with pain today, but God has poured His strength on me. I have sought and found the comfort He provides. Even more, He has shown the mighty power of His healing.

So you see, my life is beaten and torn, but it is whole and joy-filled. That’s what I want to share here, the details of this beaten, whole, weary, full life. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of my young heart, but today, I wanted you to see some of what Sierra Straightforward will be about. I’ve said it before, but I can’t wait to share this life with you. And perhaps, you’ll want to share your life with me too.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

Meet Sierra Fedorko

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How do you compose the opening sentences that will introduce you to a community of people? How do you jump in and introduce yourself? First meetings can be awkward, so maybe it’s nice you’re behind a screen for this one!

All that to say, I’m Sierra. I’m glad you joined me, and I’m thrilled to be here! I won’t attempt to explain myself in one post. You might get bored and my fingers might cramp. But I can tell you that I’m thankful to start this journey alongside you.

Before we dive in too deep, I will share a few things about me. I’m young, though this last birthday had me feeling old. I mean, I’m in my 20’s now! YIKES. Also, I’ve never been a flower girl, but both my sisters and a lot of my friends have. I jokingly started the Never Been a Flower Girl club. Feel free to join if you fall under this category! Our club is small. Really small.

I started writing at about the age 10 or 11, and I took to all things poetry. I had a little desk in the trees where I wrote quite a bit of my young poetry. As I got older, I continued to write, but my writing and thoughts became darker as I endured heavy, hard chronic pain.

I eventually created a blog. My need to write only increased as I journaled, composed short stories, and worked on my first book. The journey of my life traverses through valleys and mountains, and my writing expressed all of that. Looking back, I see joy and anguish in my penned words.

As life moved forward, I continuously wrote on my blog. I recorded my journey, wrote from the darkness, wrote from the joy, and shared my life with people. Then in December 2014, Leading Young Women to Hope presented me with an opportunity. After reading my blog, talking with me, and explaining the ministry, LYWH offered me the position of columnist. This provided a place to write, a place to share my hope in Christ, and a place that would stretch me. Of course, I was excited.

The opportunity was right there, open for me, ready for me. Without obligation, they gave me time to consider it. Boy, did I consider it! The opportunity dangled close enough to touch, but I found myself in the middle of the busiest two semesters in my life (so far anyway)! To top all that, I got engaged soon after the offer came in.

A bit into the New Year, I made the decision that I couldn’t commit, not yet. I wouldn’t be able to give my best, not between teaching, taking classes, planning a wedding, enduring chronic pain, and going to numerous doctor’s appointments while waiting for approval for surgery. I couldn’t dedicate the time needed when embarking on a new project. Time is tricky. You never get more of it, forcing you to choose how you use your limited supply. So I did. I said no, and in doing so, I said yes to commitments I already had.

I took my busy classes, continued teaching JH students, planned a wedding, went on school trips, had doctor’s appointments, had surgery, got married, and honeymooned.

AND SURVIVED.

November 2015 rolled around and with it, perhaps the time to say yes to this writing opportunity. I had less commitments now and could devote my time even if it came months and months later. So here I am. I can now confidently write, invest, and share with this community, with you. I look forward to it! I want to share many things in my life with you.

I want to impart my experiences, my hope in Christ, His grace in my life. I want to cry the anguished tears together and walk hand-in-hand as we encourage each other to press on for Christ. I don’t want to hoard this journey but rather open up and let you in. I want God to receive glory as we walk together along this beaten path.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your life.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward