Joy Comes in the Mourning

Joy Comes in the Mourning

This is a topic that I have visited in brief in previous posts. However, I was, again, burdened by the truths held in God’s word about God’s grace in times of suffering. The Bible talks about joy in suffering in James 1. These words held so much pain for me, when I was in the early stages of grief and postpartum psychosis. People did not know what to say to me or how to engage. Most stood at a distance, others attempted to comfort with words and scripture, but sometimes that hurt as well. I began to notice a pattern in the responses I was getting from individuals regarding suffering for the Christian. People wanted me to pray for healing, for deliverance from my current circumstances. I was told by so many individuals that they were praying for healing me. The longer I was sick, the longer my brother was in the grave, the longer I watched the impact my suffering had on friends and family, the more God revealed some of the misconceptions we have about suffering. That perhaps scripture could be directed more deeply, leading to greater revelation about my present sufferings and future glory. 

James 1: 2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters. whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

I love the word consider in this verse. It is so quick to overlook as unimportant to the deeper meaning and substance to this passage. In a season of suffering, it became profound to me. 

Consider (v) – to think careful;; about something, typically before making a decision, to think about and be drawn toward a course of action.

The word consider give us a breath. It gives us time. When tragedy comes at us in what can feel like wave after wave of suffering, it is so wonderful to know the importance of considering. This word gives us the space we need to take in what is happening, to weigh it against our previous experiences with God, and to have time to align our hearts with that of God. In the considering, we are given the time and space to question, ask, cry out, lament because we are not expected to step immediately into the joy. We need to have the freedom as flesh and bone humans to feel all the pain and all of the hardship of our present suffering. The bible tells us not to rush, to consider, to lean into the prospect of joy. So we can pray for those that are in current circumstances of suffering to give space to the word consider. We can take a breath and take in the present circumstances. What grace!

Then, it continues to ask us to take joy. But I want to skip over these words for a moment and turn to what comes after. The following statement gives context to the former. Take joy BECAUSE it produces perseverance. Stop and reflect on that for a moment. It does not say take in joy in your present suffering because you accept the pain and celebrate it. The joy comes from perseverance. We can find the joy, not in the present circumstance but in the outcome. God knows that pain and sorrow of worldly grief. He knows that our hearts are attached to certain people and circumstances in this world. We do not have to pretend like the pain isn’t real. We don’t have to lean into a blind trust of just being happy. We can rejoice in a future where this tragic circumstance will lead to a deepening of our faith and renewing ability to push forward in the future. It is a joy in the redemptive power of our God to take the broken, ugly circumstances of a fallen world and use them for kingdom glory.

Joy (n) – a feeling of great pleasure, happiness

The dictionary definition of joy falls into a category that sets us up for confusion and frustration in times of trial. I prefer to look at the synonyms as well as the Greek and Hebrew for the word joy. 

synonyms – jubilation, exultation, exhilaration 

These are words that make more sense to me. I can still rejoice, even when I am hurting. I can still exalt God, even when my world wounds are terminal. I can still experience jubilation, outside of a fractured heart. The word study on the deeper translation of the word joy is chairo, to rejoice or be glad. The derivative is a cognate of cairo “leaning towards” and saris “to delight in or be conscious of God’s grace” Here is where I see the truth behind these words in James. The author wasn’t implying that we should see the present sufferings of this world, look past them, and pretend like we aren’t affected. He wasn’t suggesting that we watch our precious child be buried and stand there saying we feel happy. Joy is found in the looking not at our present circumstances, but to a future hope. I can lean into my love for my savior because I am aware of God’s grace to me, even during the pain. My future is secure, my hope is eternal, and my present suffering will not be wasted. From that place, a heart can feel the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of grief.

So, how long are we allowed to feel sad, how quickly should a Christian let go of this pain and move onto to the happiness and pleasure of their future? James tells us, “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Let it finish. Pray for your family and friends to allow the pain and suffering to go on as long as is necessary to complete the grow and maturity it was designed for. As those watching someone suffer, I have heard this from family and friends, it becomes wearying to watch someone suffering for extended periods of time. The church is often good at showing up with meals, and prayer, and visiting in the first few weeks and months of someone’s trials. When, however, the end isn’t in sight, we tend to move on. We are not sure what to do with longsuffering. We become impatient. However, God doesn’t promise quick and fast solutions to receive this growth and maturity. He says, “Let it finish.” We have to be patient with God and with those walking through the valley. We need not rush them the restored happiness, getting back to work or church, or life as it was before. Honestly, their life may never go back to how it was before. They may be so changed by their experience that their life has to start over a new and be transformed. It would make sense that this would take time, and we should draw near to these people for the whole journey. If we don’t, we may short circuit God’s complete plan. We may short circuit the outcome and hinder the whole of gift. 

There is temptation to resist the experience of suffering but enduring allows us to practice a surrender to the Lord’s will, patience in his longevity of the trial, and trust instead of worry about the future.

Finally, we can take hope that our present suffering will be overturned into a future glory.

Romans 8: 18-31

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Our present trials are not the creator of faith. They are the refining fire of what has been there all along. The beauty of our heavenly father is that he allows these trials to expose the weaknesses in our faith so that they can be dealt with. He responds in patience when we are wrestling and promises that these present sufferings are for future glory. Our hope is the in the future, our joy is in the future. Pray and ask God to take the time to expose weaknesses, to redeem these weakness by creating a deep perseverance and growth in faith, trust and allow him to take as long as needed to complete the refining, and surrender to his work for your good and his future glory. Be real with him and vulnerable knowing that God sees you, he knows you, he is not afraid of your doubts, and he can make all things new. Lean into him during times of suffering, and rejoice in the midst of suffering because of the gift of God’s grace.

#BLESSED

#BLESSED

Just Google the phrase and millions of hits will appear. Anything from people getting into college, playing another season in the NFL, getting to binge watch their favorite TV shows, etc. It was so hard for me to read the tagline #BLESSED, when  I was walking through my season of grief, mental health issues, suicidality, and job loss. I was scrambling to grab onto something. People kept praying for me to be healed, for a cure for what ailed me. All of the while, it never sat right in my heart. I knew that there was a discord between what I was experiencing and what those around me told me was God’s plan for my life. I was told over and over that God wasn’t making these things happen to me, that his will was that I be delivered from them. It caused me to start searching God’s word. I was trying to make sense of what I was experiencing and compare that to what the world told me my life should look like. I knew in my heart that God was with me in my illness, that he was in control. I didn’t need to ask where God was in my suffering because his word and my experience would lead me to it.

Blessed is an adjective or a noun described in the dictionary as….

blessed – adj. made holy, consecrated

n. those that live with God in heaven

If I simply to stop there. The #BLESSED tagline would be disproven. What modern culture was telling me was blessed was indeed falling very short. It was cheapening the idea of God’s blessing. Next, I looked to the Bible. I was drawn to the Beatitudes.

Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12

He (Jesus) said

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This for sure didn’t align with what the world was telling me but it was closer to what I was experiencing. I was being told from the lips of Jesus that my season of suffering was a season of blessing. However, it still didn’t feel like that was what was happening to me. 

So, how could my ideal of blessing be so off base with what scripture was telling me? I found out that the Greek word that is translated into meaning blessed is makarioi. It means to be fully satisfied. At that moment, it was like the scales were lifted from my eyes. Blessing is anything that draws me into deeper satisfaction with my Savior. Gifting is, instead, what we are seeking. #BLESSED is a representation of a people that are in love with the gifts instead of the Giver. The Beatitudes, as well as hundreds of other scriptures that reference blessing, make sense in light of the Greek translation for blessing. It eliminates the question of “Where is God in my suffering?” I have never experienced the close drawing in of myself to God like I did in my darkest days. I never felt his presence more strongly than when I was at the end of what I knew I could handle on my own. The pain and torment brought me to a place of brokenness where I could see clearly that I could do nothing in my own strength. It was God all along. He was responsible for my waking and my lying down, for my coming and my going. He woke me up everyday and held me together. He gave me the strength to take one more breath, to survive one more day. He wasn’t punishing me. He was saving me. He was stripping away to strongholds in my heart and my mind and turning them into a surrendered life. He was leading me to place of being fully satisfied in him, because I had nothing else. That is why what the world considers the outcasts, God considers the true blessed. They are the ones that truly see. They are the ones that are drawn near to him and transformed. When we stop living our lives for the gifts, instead of the Giver, we can reach a new closeness in our relationship to him. That is where true hope is found. God has not abandoned any one of us. He is near, waiting for us to cling to him instead of what he can give us. If all of your #BLESSINGS were taken away, would you be able to hold your hands to the sky and say, “I am blessed.” Would the cry of your heart be for worldly blessing to return or for spiritual blessing to abound? He is with you in your pain. He sees your struggled. He has called you blessed.

Praise From the Pit

1 August 2016

“I am so grateful for the Jennifer Rothschild bible study. Her words, in “Missing Pieces,” have brought me so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring something BUT thriving in it.

That is the meaningful transition that I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not inspire of Hunter’s death, actually IN Hunter’s death and the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. The trip home allowed my mother to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over again how important I was to him. This was coupled with feeling like I was a burden and disrupting the order that had developed in my home between my parents, my sister-in-law, and her daughter. I didn’t see the misunderstanding on confusion surrounding my illness to change how family saw me. It did, though. I am grateful that I don’t just experience the good things anymore, but I experience the hard things. That I get to see both sides of people. They are getting to see both sides of me.”

Exposing people to my illness continued to be challenging. When you are mentally ill and grieving, your world seems to hit pause. Honestly, thinking back to those two years, if I hadn’t journaled, I wouldn’t remember any of this. My memories are garbled, faded, and misconstrued. I, honestly, barely remember my youngest first two years. I had snapshots, bits and pieces. It was all a blur of pain and emotion. However, at some point, I began to come up out of the darkness, the pit seemed less and less deep. I began to see the light of day. When I looked back at where I had been, the light began to pierce these places too. I began to see the good and the bad. The more I looked back, and as I got healthier, the more good I could see. I was not so alone. At the time, it seemed like the worst things that could be happening to me. There was no good, no light. When people tried shining light into my pain, I recoiled. I didn’t want to hear their Bible verses, or words on encouragement. They seemed so shallow, and like they were coming out of the mouths of people that couldn’t possibly understand. Those moments, those positive moments, did stick somewhere in the darkness. The truths were ignored at the time, but they made an impression. When I began to see light again, it was if a veil began to lift. I stopped seeing myself as a victim. I started to see the positive that could come from my illness. They ways that it could be used to glorify the Lord. I began to hope. And a little hope could change a life.

Cut Down

July 30, 2016

“I just finished week 2 of Jennifer Rothschild’s “Missing Pieces” bible study. I just love resting in the word. Trusting more and leaning on him to give me my daily manna. Not just this, but I need to be content with the manna for the day, not seeking the next thing. 

This is a major trend of mine. “The Next Thing,” not the humble heart of contentedness and trust in God. I do feel God slowing me down, so I can step into a place of healing and growth. God has not abandoned me. He knows my hurt and my weakness. This is no surprise.”

August, 1, 2016

“I am so grateful for the bible study I am doing. It has brought so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring it but thriving in it. 

That is the meaningful transition I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me that I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not in spite of Hunter’s death but actually praising him IN Hunter’s death and  the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. My trip home allowed my mom to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over how important I was to him….

There was a lot of pain that I documented during this time related to the terrible things my brother’s wife did and said to me after Hunter died and while I was sick. To respect her, I am not going to post the details, but my entry glazes over this and I want you to know what it is referencing…..

My family’s parenting of my sister in law and her daughter left me feeling like a big mean step sister. I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to feel like I was invading and ruining her perfect life. I didn’t expect my family to misunderstand my suffering, suicide attempts, and hospital stay with anything but compassion. But I am grateful to have gone through that and to see both sides of people. 

My northern family understands my loss of Hunter but don’t see how sick I was, when I attempted suicide. In the south, they saw my sickness but didn’t realize the amount of loss I experienced.”

Contendedness was so hard during my season of suffering. When life is falling apart, you long for something to be stable, to be good. When it feels like multiple areas are falling apart. It becomes too overwhelming. I strove to stabilize my faith, my husband’s job, my accumulation of more. It just wasn’t within my grasp. The harder I fought, the deeper the lows became. It would not be until I began to surrender my expectations and loosen my grip on how I thought my life should go that peace began to invade my life again. Time in the word and restoration of my faith was the crux of this. When I began to see the good in my suffering, that God was good in the seemingly bad times as well as the good, life began to fall back into place. I had to stop being thankful FOR things and start to be thankful IN things. 

Seeing family was hard in the beginning. My sister in law and her daughter lived with my parents. Going home seemed strange. It didn’t feel like my house anymore. It felt like someone had stepped in and taken my spot. However, my parents were very good at sharing their love for me and being more intentional. My relationship with my sister in law became very harmful. She ended up becoming a horrible trigger. When  I would go home, it was as if she was competing for attention with my parents. I had never experienced this before. My brother and I didn’t compete. We wanted the best for each other in everything. At first the relationship was cordial, even friendly. As I became sick, the attacks began. She began to mock my illness and my suffering. She would say things like, “You didn’t really try to commit suicide, because if you wanted to die you would have cut yourself differently.” It was crippling. All I wanted to do was go home to a safe place, and it didn’t feel safe anymore. 

I, however, wanted her to change. To stop behaving in a way that would trigger me. I felt powerless against her attacks and blows. In the end, this was not what helped lead to my healing. It was typical to my personality, I wanted difficult things to stop or I wanted to run away. I didn’t have fight in me. It wasn’t until I began to work on myself and see her brokenness that the claws of this trigger would loosen their grip. I had to see who I was in Christ and step into my true identity. I had to stop allowing others brokenness to define me. I had to see my parents relationship with my and remember my brother’s relationship with me separate from my relationship with her. I want to encourage you, if you have someone in your life that tears you down and seems to cripple you. That is not your identity. You are not trapped or defined by that person. You can be free. You can stop running and find the strength within. Ask God to show you who you are in him. Recite these truths to yourself and hide them in your heart. Then, walk in this freedom.

Failure

June 12, 2018

Failure. It is a word that has been plaguing me. I feel that I am not alone in this. My heart wanted to reach out to you. To see if you can relate. To tell you that the Lord sees you. His face shines upon you. To encourage not only you, but myself, with his word. 

There are so many seasons of life that are hard. They are weighty. We can collapse under the burden, if we are not careful. It seems that life is pulling in all directions. Everywhere I turn, I see more that I could be doing, or that what I am doing better I could be doing better.. Life and people are so quick to remind me when I do not measure up. Right now, it is my family. I have lost my job, due to my mental health and transitioned to a stay at home mom. This has been so hard. I feel like I should have been able to handle it all. The death of my brother, a fourth baby, post partum psychosis, and work. It didn’t work out that way. The Lord took my job from me, because he knew better than I did. I miss it, however, I was good at it. I showed up to work on time, performed well, served my patients. They gave me positive feedback, others told me they were impressed with my profession, my bosses even encouraged me. I felt I had purpose.

When I got sick, it felt like everything was stripped away, and I was in chaos. I was loosing grip on all that I held dear. My standards for my success were torn back. I was left with myself, and Christ. Overtime, I have let what I deem as failures define me. It is overwhelming. I was even creating lies in my own mind about ways I had failed. They were not from the Lord, they were not from those around me. They were from the enemy in my mind. This sense of loss of self began to over take me.

It all came to a head this past week. I had gotten up early to get everything ready for my day. I prepared in advance, my list of things to accomplish. I rolled out of bed and got going. The plan was to get dinner in the crock-pot, get things packed for three of my kids to go to an water park, get the house straightened for friends coming for dinner, and get out the door to meet friends on time at the water park. As soon as I woke up, my daughter was complaining. She was going to theater camp and would be missing the day at the water park. She told me how horrible I was that I would be going without her. I felt defeated. I felt like I was trying to me her needs and my boys needs and no one was happy. Then, my sweet husband decided to go into work late. He wanted to spend one on one time with me. This hadn’t been in my plan. After shifting some things around, I could give him all of five minutes. He told me how hurt he was that I couldn’t just stop all that I was doing and be with him. This is a legitimate request, but I just couldn’t do it. I was trying to meet my friends at the water park on time and get Caroline to camp. I broke down. Everyone in my immediate circle was unhappy with me. I, honestly, was most unhappy with myself. I was exerting all of this energy for people that weren’t satisfied. My husband saw my hurt, and corrected my feelings. He said he didn’t see me as a failure, but it was too late. The enemy planted that lie, that lie I already believed and it was growing at a rapid rate. I was a failure. I believed it, I embraced it.

I got in the car and put on a podcast to fill my heart with some truth. The Lord spoke to me in that moment. He revealed that I was embracing the title of failure. I wore it on myself like a large “F” that everyone could see. However, that is not how he saw me. He saw me with an “R,” redeemed.  As I contemplated that I needed to write a  post about women feeling like failures, he drew me to John 8.

“but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

This woman was dragged in front of Jesus condemned by the world. She was wearing the failure on her chest like a badge. She saw the people waiting in the wings to tell her what a failure she was. That she was undeserving of love, that she hadn’t earned it. But then Jesus, saw her brokenness and pain and responded with grace. He saw the brokenness of the accusers. They were all wearing the letter “F.” None was perfect. However, despite their imperfection, the weren’t condemned. They were justified by their faith. That is how the Savior sees us. That is how he sees me. The world wants to label me as a failure, for me to live under that burden, but Christ wants me to be free. He wants me to walk upright as a child of the True King. He came to set me free from condemnation, not to embrace it. 

If you are wearing the badge of failure, let me remind you today that Christ sees you as free. You are justified and redeemed. Your best is enough because Christ fills in the gaps. We do not have to walk this path alone. Our worth is not determined by our actions but by the redemption of our hearts. Walk upright today. Stand uncondemned. Let those around you that want to cast stones fall away until you are standing before the King of the Universe, fully known and fully loved. You are not a failure, you are worthy.

You are Enough – Giveaway

2 Samuel 22: 17-20 “He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me.”

To the woman late for work because she overslept;

to the woman whose husband left for another woman;

to the woman who feels unloveable;

to the woman who gained weight and is a shadow of her former self;

to the woman passed up for another promotion given to a man;

to the woman whose partner yells and verbally degrades her;

to the woman exhausted by the weight of the world;

to the woman with cancer ravaging her body;

to the woman in the margin unseen and unknown

You have value. You are brave. You are strong. The days are long but they will get better. There is a light in the darkness.

To the mom weary from wiping noses and changing diapers;

to the mom wandering through piles of toys and no strength to clean them up one more time;

to the mom whose kids yell and are disrespectful;

to the mom with fear of making a new mistake each passing day;

to the mom who feels unseen in her yoga pants;

to the mom who sacrificed her dreams for those of her family;

to the mom who feels that her efforts are worthless;

You are treasured. You are worthy. You are valuable. You are strong.

 

To the mom who is waiting for a + sign on her pregnancy test;

to the mom yearning to hold her biological child;

to the mom yearning to hold her adoptive child;

to the mom yet not a mom and yet longing to be with every piece of her;

to the mom holding the body of her still born baby;

to the mom burying her beloved child;

You are held. You have purpose today. You are a survivor. Persevere.

 

To woman who’s depressed, anxious, fearful;

to the woman who is afraid to go outside;

to the woman trapped in her own mind;

to the one making plans for suicide thinking everyone will be better of without you;

to the woman who wants today to be the last day she picks up a bottle or syringe;

to the woman who has is working the streets or the stage;

to the woman who had lost everything and feels all hope is lost;

Christ sees you. He hears your prayers.

 

To the woman who questions the faith she once had;

to the woman who questions the God she has always known;

to the woman whose life experience tells her there is no God;

to the woman whose father was so brutal the concept of a loving Father God seems like a fallacy;

to the woman who can’t walk into the church after all the pain experienced inside its walls;

to the woman hurt by woman she trusted;

to the woman rejected time and time again;

to the woman longing to fit in and be accepted

He knows you and longs to be known by you. You are resilient. You matter. Your life has purpose. You are lovable. You are valuable. You are worthy of respect. You have strength inside of you, that you never could have imagined. The Lord’s love is not waiting behind a right decision, his deliverance is not dependent of right choices, his presence is not being withheld. It is here. It is in today. You are worthy of this love because of Christ’s sacrifice. Step into the light and love of Christ today. He is not waiting on you, he is here. He is ready to take your burden. Let him hold and restore your soul. Let him give you the Living Water you long for.

Share this with a woman who needs to hear that she has value today. Send it to one who needs encouragement. Make the phone call to the family member or friend you may have marginalized. Make sure these women see you as the hands and feet of Jesus in their suffering. You just may change a life.

 

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Happy Friday!

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