Christmas Eve Cookies (Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies)

As is becoming tradition, I entered the Christmas cookie contest again this year. And as also seems to be tradition, I didn’t win once again! Lol!

I’m never too saddened by this, to be quite honest. Would I love the prize money? Of course! But I always feel torn by the fact that I would not be able to share my cookie creations here on this blog if I won, and I really like sharing these recipes with you all.

Today’s recipe is yet another Abuelita specialty (if you didn’t get a chance to try my Abuelita pumpkin loaf, you can check it out here https://anticipatingadventure.com/2022/10/30/abuelita-chocolate-pumpkin-bread/).

I actually created these cookies by the end of August. I got a little too excited about the upcoming Christmas cookie competition and wanted ample time to come up with a great recipe, and after making these, I was pretty convinced I had a contest-worthy cookie. I was even more confident about my selection when my mom came to visit and sampled them, as she couldn’t seem to get enough of them!

Around that time, I gave some to a friend who, upon biting into one, excitedly exclaimed how much they tasted like Christmas to her. All the nostalgia of childhood flooded her with that one cinnamon-and-spice filled bite.

Due to that specific moment, I decided to name these cookies Christmas Eve Cookies, because the more I eat them, the more I have to agree! These soft, chewy bites of chocolate with hints of cinnamon make this cookie the best cozy, Christmas Eve treat!

CHRISTMAS EVE COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 2 Abuelita hot chocolate tablets (2 whole disks)
  • 2 T half and half
  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c oat flour*
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c cinnamon baking chips

Instructions

Microwave the chocolate tablets and half and half together in 30 second increments until melted. Mix together and set aside. Beat together the brown sugar and butter, then beat in the eggs. Gradually mix in the hot chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, oat flour, baking soda, and salt, then combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until well incorporated. Stir in the chocolate and cinnamon chips, then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. After the dough has chilled, drop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet by the rounded tablespoon, then bake for 10 minutes. Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies.

Blessings in Disguise

I couldn’t help but smile at JJ as we walked out of our son’s bedroom one evening over a month ago. We had just prayed one of the most absurd prayers we probably had ever prayed per Liam’s request, yet we meant it with all our hearts.

What Liam had asked us to pray about had everything to do with school that evening. It is his first year to be in a classroom setting, and  he has been having a hard time following the rules and adjusting in general, so his teacher bought him a set of fake mustaches to reward to him for each day that he behaved, as she soon discovered how much he loves mustaches.

As a result, Liam asked us to pray that he could earn one the next day, and we did. I wholeheartedly asked God to make possible such an amusing request.

Not much later that evening, Liam called to me from his bedroom, so I went to check on him and found him fully awake and trying to hatch up a plan as to how he could obtain a fake mustache. All sorts of ideas went through his head as to how he could get one, so I reminded him of the one true and simple way of earning one, and he started to cry. In his young mind, he already believed that he was not capable of following the rules like he needed to in order to earn his prize.

Seeing him in such a hopeless state left me wanting to cry myself. How could someone so young feel this way?

It quickly became evident to me just how much the enemy was at work in this situation, so I explained to Liam that night that he had an enemy who was lying to him and that he must not listen to him.

“Who?” Liam interrupted me out of genuine curiosity.

“It’s Satan, and he’s a liar, and he wants you to be sad,” I explained in little-kid language as best as I could. I then reiterated to Liam to not listen to those lies that went through his head, and I explained that God loved him and wanted to help him, furthermore adding that he could do all things through Jesus who could strengthen him.

If felt a bit odd to tell Liam that last part since he has not yet put his faith in Jesus and is far from the apostle Paul’s mindset when he penned those words, but I truly believe that God can enable Liam to obey and earn that mustache, and I want him to recognize that he can ask God to help him in the moments when he feels like he is least capable of following the rules.

On the way to school the next day, I reminded Liam of what we had talked about the night before, repeating to him that He could do all things through Jesus who was able to strengthen him and reminding him to ask God to help him when he felt least capable of behaving. And several evenings later, Liam and I had the same conversation that we had had only a few nights earlier as he began to doubt again that he could ever obtain his prize.

This season of life has been exhausting to me in so many ways, and I have felt broken over and over again as I am told of my son’s classroom struggles and feel helpless to fix them from afar. I have desperately prayed for him in this season of life, cried over his battles, and continually sought the prayers and encouragement of godly women whom I trust. It has been an extremely challenging season that I have just wished to have come to an end. But then I think of these moments where I am able to have conversations with my four-year-old about spiritual warfare—conversations that I never would have had with him at such a young age if it had not been for these current hardships. And I like to think that these little talks are the seeds that God is planting into my young son’s heart for a future harvest that will be bountiful. I also choose to believe that these moments are somehow changing the trajectory of my son’s life for the better—that God is preparing a deeply rooted faith in Him for the future because he is learning these vital elements of what it looks like to be engaged in spiritual warfare now.

Fortunately for us, we seem to slowly be entering into a better season now. I pray that is the case, at least. There are still concerns his teacher has, and he still has some work to do to be where he needs to be, but I don’t want to discard the blessings in disguise as we navigate through these current hardships or the struggles of any season. I want to have the spiritual eyes to see the greater things that God is doing in my son, through my family, in me, and all around us in general.

I have to keep believing what we know to be true as believers:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

For those of you who have been praying for my family and me throughout this time, thank you for your continual prayers and for being a part of the good that God is working together in our life. I appreciate you so much.

Abuelita Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

It’s no secret that fall is my favorite time of year. I don’t know if I could necessarily say this while growing up in Colorado, where the seasons were much more distinct. But here in Texas, where we have a little bit of cold weather and a whole lot of heat, I get excited about the fall and the promise of cooler weather on its way.

From what I’ve experienced of Texan life these past twelve years, it really doesn’t begin to cool down until this time of year, when the season is nearly halfway over. Still, I put up fall décor, burn seasonal candles, and bake, as if all these activities will help to usher in the crisp, autumn air.

I especially enjoy baking. My mom always baked this time of year when I was a child, so it brings back good memories. Fall just isn’t fall without the baked goods. This weekend, I thought to make a chocolate pumpkin loaf that my mom included in a recipe book that she gave me years ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite the right ingredients, and it was going to be a bit difficult to halve this recipe that would otherwise make three loaves, so I decided to improvise and came up with this delectable, sweet bread instead!

Although it may not completely feel like fall here yet with our afternoons as warm as they are, it certainly smelled like fall in our house Saturday morning as this bread baked! Pumpkin and chocolate wafted through the air with sweet hints of cinnamon. This bread is the perfect combination of the three with rich chocolate chips to add sweetness and additional texture to each delicious, moist bite.

The “secret” ingredient for this bread is not so secret since I included it in the name for this recipe—the Abuelita chocolate, which is a Mexican type of hot chocolate that can be found in the Latino section of your local Walmart if you live Stateside.

This decadent hot chocolate, along with the pumpkin and fall spices, truly adds the right blend to make it feel like fall, wherever you might live and whatever season you are in. So, whip yourself up some of this bread today and come enjoy this season with me!

As always, let me know if you give this recipe a try and what you think about it. And if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’m going to grab myself another slice…

ABUELITA CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN BREAD

Ingredients

  • 1 tablet Abuelita hot chocolate (the entire disk)
  • 1 T half and half
  • 15 oz can pumpkin
  • ½ c unsweetened apple sauce
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 c chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside. Heat the Abuelita chocolate disk and the half and half together in the microwave in 30-second increments until melted. Mix thoroughly and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine together the pumpkin, apple sauce, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then stir in the Abuelita chocolate mixture. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just enough to combine. Gently mix in the chocolate chips, then spread the mixture into the loaf pan. Bake for 60-80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in several center pieces comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove, slice, and enjoy! Makes 1 loaf, roughly 10-12 slices.

Making Coffee

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Years ago, I read a story online about a girl that complained to her mom about all her problems. As the mom listened intently, she put three pots of water on the stove to boil, and then she put a carrot in one, an egg in another, and ground coffee in the third.

After twenty minutes or so, as the daughter was still venting to her mom, the mother presented her daughter with a plate of the cooked carrot and egg in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, asking her daughter to tell her what she could observe of each item.

The daughter immediately noticed how the once-hard carrot was now soft and that the egg that had once been liquid was now hard. But the coffee, in her opinion, had gone through the best transformation of all. She couldn’t help but smile as she breathed in its rich aroma while taking a sip.

The mom went on to explain that hardships in life are like the boiling water. We will never be able to escape them in this life. We can, however, determine what type of person we will become as a result of going through them. Will we allow our trials to weaken us like the carrot or harden us like the egg? Or will we be like the ground coffee, becoming transformed through the “boiling water” into something better?*

A few months ago, I asked my sister-in-law Kim about the process of making coffee in light of this story. The topic is pertinent to a book that I am ever so slowly writing regarding the spiritual lessons that she and our entire family learned when my younger brother Quinn (her husband) was hospitalized for nearly five months back in 2011. What I am really discovering, however, is that the topic is especially pertinent to my life in this moment. It is something I keep coming back to as I think of the trials my family and I are facing right now.

Something I admire about my younger brother and his wife is how calmly and graciously they have faced their own hardships over the years. They have never truly been able to step out of the boiling water from my point of view. Fortunately, they know how to make a good cup of coffee, both figuratively and literally. Kim is the co-owner of a local coffee shop where they currently reside, and she has been roasting coffee as part of her responsibilities there and even before the coffee shop came to exist.

As I asked Kim about the coffee-making process that summer afternoon, she explained to me that the process begins with farmers separating coffee beans from cherries, which is the name of the fruit found on a coffee tree. Once the beans are plucked out of the cherries, they are then washed and dried naturally or mechanically (depending on the farm), sometimes undergoing other additional processes as well (also depending on the farm).

Finally, the coffee is packed up and shipped out, and it is then ready to be roasted. Kim explained that the beans are placed in a roaster set between 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes total, and something that she and every roaster must listen for while roasting beans is the first crack, which sounds similar to a popcorn kernel popping. This literal crack is what leaves the line running down the middle of each coffee bean, and each bean must undergo this cracking in order to release its sweetness, heat, and gas. Without this vital step, the coffee beans will not reach their full flavor.

After the beans are roasted, they are then separated from their outer layer—called parchment—which is shed during the roasting process. And then the beans can finally be packaged and sent to the consumer, already ground or, if whole, where individuals must grind the beans themselves.

And then, of course, there is one last process that most coffee beans must endure. Most coffee grounds will be placed in a coffee maker or French press or some other coffee-making contraption where hot water will be poured over them. It is the final step that the newly ground up coffee beans must face in order to produce a good cup of coffee.

I said goodbye to Kim that day and hung up the phone with a better idea of how much the coffee bean must diminish in size in order to bring about a cup of coffee. I also had a much more ample idea of how great the heat process must be in order for coffee beans to be used. But most of all, understanding the process of coffee made me understand the value of each moment we are held to the flame. When we surrender ourselves to God in those moments, allowing Him to increase as we decrease (John 3:30), we face our own “boiling water” like the coffee grounds in the story, and God gives us something of substance to offer the world in return. He gives us more of Him.

Humanity may never willingly go through trials. I know I don’t. Even with all that I know about how God can use these hardships in my life for my good and His glory, I find myself wishing these present problems away.  But when I think of the process that the coffee bean goes through and how much people enjoy the finished product, I want to believe that God is producing something greater in me too, and I choose to believe that this story in the making is something that others will also enjoy—a testimony that will minister to many.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

*https://alltimeshortstories.com/motivational-egg-carrot-coffee-beans/

The Lord Will Fight for You

The sun streamed onto my patio several mornings ago, casting a golden glow over my potted plants, and in that moment, I felt peace. The scene brought a passage from Lamentations to mind.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

I need reminders like this in this season, and I need them often. Life has been so difficult as of late. The storms never seem to really stop. Perhaps I’m offered short respites, but then the gray clouds roll in again, promising to do great harm.

Lately I find myself empty. I have nothing to offer and no solutions for any of my struggles. All I have are tears. I just feel needy. And spent. And exhausted.

But then I’m reminded of the words that a couple of dear friends of mine and I read in our online Bible study earlier this week, and I begin to recognize how much they are intended for me. I see how coming to the end of myself and my own perceived ability to fix things is the perfect place to be for God to do a miracle for me. And I am reminded of the words I myself pointed out to my friends in the text we reviewed that day, that “impossibility is God’s starting point.”1

So, I plead to God that He would work miraculously in this season of my life and that of my family for His glory. And I ask that He would keep showing me how His mercies are new each day. But more than anything, in this tired and weary state, I ask that He would make the words that Moses spoke over the Israelites true for me today:

14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:14 NIV

And the thought that He would begins to revive hope within me.

1 Shirer, Priscilla (2020). Zarephath. Elijah, 104.

Remember Uvalde

I took Liam to the library a few days ago and saw the images above enclosed in a glass case on my way out. They are the 21 victims that lost their lives in the school shooting on May 24th in addition to the husband of slain teacher Irma Garcia, who died of a heart attack two days later.

The new school year is approaching, and a deep ache settles over my heart as I think about it. The abundance of school supplies that line the shelves at our local grocery store is just a cruel reminder to some parents that they have one less child to send to school this year. For others, it’s an emotionally-charged time as both children and parents face very real fears.

Would you remember our community in these coming weeks? And as you do, would you pray for us?

I don’t doubt that God is writing a redemptive story for our town that has yet to completely unfold, and although I’m not entirely sure how that will look, I do believe this—that the prayers you pray for this town are a beautiful and meaningful part of it. So, thank you for investing in this community in such a vital way. I and others value it so much.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

James 5:16b

Hungry

Liam and I went to the park a few weeks ago, but since there were girls playing at the playground, and since Liam is at a stage where he vehemently dislikes girls and doesn’t try to hide his feelings about it, I opted to walk him past the playground and take him to the nearby river instead. I figured we would avoid hurting anyone’s feelings this way.

I’ve enjoyed this river ever since we moved here in March. It’s not the most beautiful river I’ve ever seen, and it’s definitely not the cleanest either, but there’s something about this place where I find solace. I can sense God’s presence more clearly here, calling me to simply rest and be.

Often times, Liam and I feed the animals found here, which includes ducks, turtles, nutrias, and even the grackles, sparrows, and squirrels that venture up close enough for a bite to eat. They always respond in a certain way, approaching us just closely enough along the river bank to snatch a piece of food. And I respond to this scene in a certain way too, fully taking in this moment that somehow feels so cathartic to me each and every time.

Often times, I wonder why I am moved by this moment so much.  I have recently come to realize, however, that it must be in part because of the minor reflection it is of what life must have been like in Eden. It is but a mere shell of the former glory that Adam and Eve must have experienced when they literally walked with God and in harmony with all of creation. But more personally, I feel convicted through the obvious hunger of these small creatures, and I sense God revealing to me His own tender desire for me to hunger for Him like that too.

There have been times in my life where my relationship with God has been vibrant. Each day has felt like an adventure as I have walked with Him and allowed Him to guide me throughout the day. I have hungered for His Word throughout those times, coming to it several times daily to be fed and finding treasure within it as I have read—passages and verses that have been so timely and have made me realize all the more how truly alive His Word is. But I am sadly not in one of those times. Much of my Bible reading as of late has consisted of me trying to catch up on the daily reading plan that I committed to doing at the beginning of this year, and in my eagerness to get back on track, I haven’t been fully taking in what I have been reading. I have merely been going through the motions more often than not.

Yet I go to the river and God invites me to turn my heart to Him again. I sense how much He yearns for me to truly seek Him. To truly know His heart. To delve deeper into His Word and my relationship with Him. To experience the same vibrancy and sense of adventure that I once had.

Recently, as I was reading through Isaiah, my eyes rested on a verse that came to be such a vital part of the transformative work that God was doing in my life over ten years ago.

At the time, I was struggling to understand my value and trying to find it in undeserving places. And the more I tried to gain a sense of worth in those areas, the more I realized how much work it was to maintain a certain sense of significance in those aspects. I was always going to have to strive to find my worth in those things. In many ways, I was doing exactly what the Israelites had done that God spoke of through the prophet Jeremiah.

For my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2:13 ESV

The things in which I was trying to place my value were exactly the same. Cisterns that could never hold water but that I kept trying to refill anyway. But God used the following verse to reveal to me how frivolous my striving was:

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Isaiah 55:2 ESV

He was helping me to see how Jesus was the Bread of Life during that time and to recognize how I would never be satisfied unless I came to Him with my needs. With my hunger.

Today, as I think of these things, I have to wonder what I have been going to in my own hunger as of late. If we get to a point in our relationship with God where we are not hungering after His Word, then can’t we assume that we are trying to fill our spiritual hunger elsewhere?

I haven’t given this question a whole lot of thought as of yet. I honestly am just processing these things in the moment as I write. But I want to think about all of this more. I want God to reveal to me the broken cisterns to which I have been running and to show me what I have been spending my “money” on that is not bread. But even more so, I just want Him to give me a renewed desire for Him—the Living Water and the Bread of Life. And I know that He will, because He has been calling me to that all along, using His creation in such simple ways to speak clearly to me in that regard.

In my most intimate moments with Jesus, I have been able to declare, much like the Psalmist, that His love is better than life. I’m so thankful for His faithfulness to me and how He continues to draw me back to moments like that. May I—may we—never take His working in our lives for granted. May we truly draw closer to Him each day and pray for a renewed desire for Him and His Word when our hearts start to turn cold. And may we truly be able to declare with our lives that God’s steadfast love is better than life itself, now and for all of our days.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

Psalm 63:3 ESV

Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie

Sweet, tart, tangy, creamy, and refreshing in every sip!

Last year, I wanted to create a strawberry lemonade after posting my spiced lemonade (found here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2021/05/16/spiced-lemonade/) and frozen watermelon lemonade recipe (found here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2021/07/12/frozen-watermelon-lemonade/). Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to it, but I have had it on my mind ever since, so I was determined to create a strawberry lemonade recipe before this summer slipped by.

I’ve known for a while that I wanted to use freeze-dried strawberries in my recipe to really draw out the sweet, strawberry flavor, but this summer I also opted to try my hand at a creamier version of strawberry lemonade. I knew that a creamier drink would help to balance out the acidity of the lemons as well as the tangy and tart flavors of the strawberries and lemon juice, which sounded like the best option.

After several attempts, I’m very pleased with the final outcome. This smoothie is tangy, tart, sweet, creamy, and utterly refreshing all at once. Packed with vitamin C and a healthy dose of protein, this lemonade would make for a great breakfast on the go or an afternoon snack. Or, enjoy it as a post-dinner dessert with friends and without the guilt! This smoothie tastes so decadent that no one would ever guess how nutritious it is!

 Although the summer is quickly racing by (can you believe it is August already?!), there is still ample opportunity to enjoy this easy, healthy, and delicious smoothie, so make yourself one today and see just how good and refreshing it is! You won’t regret it!

STRAWBERRY LEMONADE SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

  • 2 c frozen sliced strawberries
  • 1 c strawberry yogurt
  • 1 c milk of choice
  • 1/3 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 T honey or more, to taste
  • 1 package (0.6 oz bag) sweetened freeze-dried strawberries

Instructions

Add the strawberries, yogurt, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and honey to a blender and blend thoroughly, then add the freeze-dried strawberries and blend again for a few seconds. Pour into glasses and enjoy! Serves 2-4 cups.

TIP: Freeze any leftovers into popsicles for a tasty, frozen treat! My 4-year-old wholeheartedly approves of this method!

Three Ingredient Marshmallow Bar

My family and I finally got a chance to try out a bakery that JJ and I had been eyeing for quite some time. It’s a quaint, German-looking pastry shop located in a charming, German-looking town a half hour outside of San Antonio.

JJ and I had been wanting to check it out for quite a while, ever since our first trip to San Antonio after our move to Uvalde in March. Unfortunately, it was always closed by the time we passed by it on our way home. Last week was the exception, however, and we didn’t hesitate to go!

Somehow, my family and I managed to show some self-restraint in this impressively large pastry shop and only bought a handful of baked goods while there (the fact that the bakery was closing in ten minutes probably helped us in that respect). The ones we purchased did not disappoint, however, and I am already looking forward to the next time we can go back and try some more!

One of the treats that we enjoyed from the bakery was a simple bar consisting of melted chocolate, marshmallows, and sunflower seeds. Something that caught my attention about this dessert was the fact that the marshmallows were not melted like most desserts with marshmallows are. Rather, they were added to melted chocolate and mixed together with the sunflowers seeds, making for a very simple yet delicious dessert!

Since I could see how easy this bar must be to make, I decided to give it a try several days later, and JJ and I have been enjoying this marshmallow bar just as much as the one that we bought at the bakery. Liam seems to like it too, although he did complain about the sunflower seeds after entirely eating his own bar. He also suggested he should eat another dessert after finishing it since he hadn’t enjoyed the sunflower seeds. Nice try, kid! Perhaps I could have believed him more had his face not been covered in chocolate! That said, it may not be a favorite for children, but I’ll leave that up to you and your kiddos to decide! Worst case scenario, you’ll have a lot more for yourself to enjoy, and once you take a bite of these, you’ll be so glad if that’s the case! 😉

THREE INGREDIENT MARSHMALLOW BAR

Ingredients

  • 1-10 oz. package dark chocolate chips
  • 1-7 oz. package roasted sunflower seeds*
  • 1-16 oz. package miniature marshmallows

Instructions

Heat the chocolate chips in a large pot over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the sunflower seeds, then add the marshmallows and stir again until the marshmallows are mixed in with the sunflower seeds and thoroughly coated by the chocolate. Spread the marshmallow mixture into a 9 by 13 baking dish lined by parchment paper or aluminum foil, then place in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to harden (roughly two hours or less). Makes 12 large bars. Store leftovers in the refrigerator or at room temperature in an airtight container.

NOTES

*I used salted sunflower seeds for my marshmallow bar, and it gave the bars a nice sweet and salty flavor. You can use unsalted sunflower seeds for this recipe as well, however. I believe that the sunflower seeds at the bakery were unsalted, and their bar was equally as good.

It’s Not Too Late

Photo from Pexels.com

I put on a cartoon for Liam about Lazarus on Easter Sunday before church. Of course, I would have preferred for him to watch one about Jesus rising from the dead, but we didn’t have access to an episode like that (or so I thought), so a show about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead would have to do.

My intention was to distract Liam enough to catch up on my Bible reading that morning, but I got slightly caught up in the show and instead found myself journaling about something the “narrator” stated to the main characters of the animation. He simply told them, as they traveled back into Bible times, that they were about to meet two women that learned that God’s timing is always perfect.

The scene and statement were so simple. Just a moment on screen to transition the characters to Bible times and nothing too impactful. Except it was. To me. It penetrated my soul that day.

Most of my life has been one lesson after another of learning to trust in God’s timing, and this year has been an especially intense season of learning that. God seems to be driven to rid me of the notion that I’ve done all the “important” things too late in life, and I’m slowly grasping onto that truth, but it’s a lesson in progress with which I still must come to grips and accept.

As I sat at the kitchen table that morning, touched by the simple scene on screen, I sat down and journaled that what we often think of as “too late” is often times the perfect backdrop for God to display His glory in ways that surpass our imaginations, ways we never would have seen had God done things according to our own timing.

This was certainly true for Mary and Martha, the two women introduced in the cartoon that day. They sent for Jesus while Lazarus was still alive so that He would come and heal their brother. But He didn’t come.  Not right away, at least. Then the unthinkable happened. Lazarus died, and he was placed in a tomb and mourned for several days. But even so, Jesus was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t until Lazarus’ corpse had been decaying in a tomb for four days that Jesus finally showed up, much too late according to Mary and Martha’s estimation.

You can hear the disappointment dripping off their words as they see Jesus for the first time since their brother’s passing.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died…”1 both sisters respond to Him separately upon seeing Him again, their hopelessness palpable.

They knew full well that Jesus could have kept this tragedy from happening, and yet He didn’t. Nonetheless, Jesus stated earlier that this sickness would not end in death, and ultimately it did not, because Jesus raised Lazarus to life moments later, and many Jews present because of Lazarus’ death believed in Jesus as a result.

Mary and Martha would soon realize that Jesus was not too late. He had been intentional in His timing so as to not only bring Lazarus back to life but to also bring to life many Jews who had been spiritually dead. And through it all, Mary and Martha better understood who Jesus was. They saw Him mourn with them. They saw His compassion. And they saw just how powerful He was to be able to command death. They learned so many things about Jesus that they never would have known had His timing not been what it was. And although they suffered deeply for a few days before they could see what Jesus was up to, I can’t help but think that they must have ultimately been grateful for what His timing was in retrospect.

Their “too late” certainly paved the way for Jesus to display His glory in ways they could have never imagined. This moment was perhaps the highlight of their life, all made possible because of the timing of this miracle, the timing that must have seemed so off to these women just a few days prior.

This story has been meaningful to me for quite some time now, but I grow to appreciate it all the more when I consider my own struggles with timing. And I continue to learn from it as times goes by.

Recently I have been considering Martha’s response more in light of listening to this passage anew at my younger sister’s church when I got a chance to visit her several weekends ago.

After Martha’s initial response to Jesus, He told her that her brother would rise again.2 But instead of taking His words at face value, “Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV).

She could not understand what Jesus intended to do. Nonetheless, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV).

When asked if Martha believed this, she confessed that she did, but it becomes clear a few verses later that she still did not understand when she expressed concern over the stench that would fill the air after Jesus commanded the stone sealing Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away.

But the stone was rolled away regardless, and Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb! He was brought back to life that day, and Martha finally understood. Her faith reached new heights.

I find Martha to be so relatable among believers. God may promise us something that He intends to fulfill this side of heaven, but instead of believing Him for it and waiting on His timing, we instead choose to believe that it must be a promise to be fulfilled on the last day due to our own fear or simple lack of faith. And while certain promises very well be that way, perhaps there are certain promises that God would want us to hold onto for today, for this earthly life.

As Jesus stated to Martha, He is the resurrection and the life. Perhaps the hopes and dreams that we’ve buried in our own graves and have been mourning for some time are meant to be resurrected by Jesus today. Because, although our circumstances may tell us that it is too late, it is certainly not too late for God. Perhaps this present timing is the very thing He is using as the perfect backdrop to display His glory in ways that surpass our imaginations, ways we never would have seen had God done things according to our own timing. May He help us to believe Him for whatever He would put on our hearts to believe Him for today, and may our faith reach new heights as a result.

1 John 11:21 and John 11:32b  ESV
2 John 11:23 ESV