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

Easy Independence Day Dessert

When I was young, my mom used to make a dessert every Fourth of July. Or better put, she bought the ingredients and let us make our own according to our liking. It was a very simple but delicious treat consisting of a few scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with blueberry and cherry pie filling, which we then topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

As big ice cream fans on a hot, summer day, we really enjoyed this cold treat each year. It became one of our beloved traditions.

Several years ago, I decided to introduce this dessert to JJ one Fourth of July. He also likes ice cream, and summers here are hotter than anything either of us experienced growing up, so I was pretty sure he would enjoy it as much as I do. Since then, we have made it a regular part of our own Independence Day celebration, and our son loves it as much as we do.

This year, I decided I wanted to make a spin-off of this dessert—something a little more elegant with more measurable portions, so I present to you these fruit-flavored ice cream pie bites. This dessert combines a buttery, crisp graham cracker crust with all the flavors reminiscent of my childhood—creamy ice cream; sweet, slightly tart fruit topping; and a frothy dollop of whipped cream.

My husband and I are not big fans of cherry filling, so we almost always opt to use strawberry fruit filling instead, but cherry or raspberry filling work just as well. Alternatively, if you are not concerned about using traditional colors for this dessert, you could use apple, peach, or any other fruit filling you desire.

Although this dessert is easy to make, it does require some time, so feel free to skip the graham cracker crust and make it the way my mother did if you would rather enjoy a dessert without any time restraints. Your guests will love it just as much! Otherwise, pull out your apron and let’s get to making this delicious, elegant ice cream dessert! And to my American friends, Happy 4th of July in advance!

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:36 ESV

EASY INDEPENDENCE DAY DESSERT (FRUIT FLAVORED ICE CREAM PIE BITES)

Ingredients:

  • Parchment paper or sturdy muffin liners (I used aluminum liners)
  • 3 c vanilla ice cream, divided
  • 1 sleeve graham crackers
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ c granulated sugar
  • ½ c salted butter, melted
  • 21 oz can blueberry pie filling or topping, divided
  • 21 oz can strawberry pie filling or topping OR other red fruit filling of choice (I used strawberry rhubarb filling)
  • Whipped cream of choice (I used Reddi Whip)

Instructions:

Line a muffin tin with 12 sturdy muffin liners or parchment paper, then scoop ¼ c of vanilla ice cream into each muffin cup, using a spoon to smooth the ice cream into each cup. Set in the freezer to chill for two hours.

Meanwhile, make the graham cracker crust. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or by hand until finely ground. Mix the crumbs in a bowl with the cinnamon and salt, then pour the butter of the mixture and mix well.

After the ice cream has chilled, take out of the freezer and put 2 tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture over each ice cream cup, making sure to firmly pack the graham cracker mixture over the ice cream so that the surface is covered. Place back into the freezer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Before taking the ice cream cups out of the freezer, open the cans of fruit filling and remove the top to the whipped topping, then remove the muffin tin from the freezer, gently extracting each ice cream cup from the tin (if needed, wedge a butter knife on the side of the muffin tin to help remove each ice cream cup).

Invert each cup onto individual serving plates or bowls so that the graham cracker crust is on the bottom, then add one to two tablespoons of each fruit filling on top of the ice cream, or according to preference. Top off with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy! Makes 12 individual ice cream cups.

Going Deeper

Photo by Oliver Sju00f6stru00f6m on Pexels.com

My family and I recently went out of town. JJ’s nephew graduated from high school several weeks ago, so we flew to a beautiful area in the northeast to celebrate with him and to visit with family in their neck of the woods.

The week away was a much-needed break. It was good to get away from the constant reminders of the tragedy that took place here in May, which had engulfed me in deep sorrow ever since that day. My family and I also welcomed the chance to escape the scorching, Texas heat! I packed a sweatshirt for our trip and actually wore it a few times!

While away, we reveled in the cooler weather as we enjoyed good conversations, nature, some sight-seeing, and my sister-in-law’s delicious home-cooked meals. The week was simply glorious!

With an extra day on our trip due to a flight cancelation, my family and I took advantage of taking a quick dip in the neighborhood pool our last day, where we were surrounded by mountains on one side and stately pine trees extending high into clear blue skies speckled by fluffy, white clouds. It was the perfect way to bring our trip to a close.

While there, I intently watched two mothers as they tried to reason with their young children to go deeper into the pool with them. It was the same problem I had been having with my own son as of late. They were at an age where they were somewhat afraid of the water, wanting to either cling to the ledge of the pool for dear life or sit staunchly on the swimming pool steps, refusing to further enter in. Seeing these children act this way as a spectator was somewhat comical. It’s as if they forgot who they were with—that they had their mothers by their sides who would not leave them. Or perhaps they hadn’t forgotten but didn’t fully comprehend who these women were. Maybe they failed to understand that their mothers would do anything to save them, even sacrificing their own lives.

Fortunately, one of the young children finally mustered up enough courage to acquiesce to his mother’s pleas, and soon he was splashing about, laughing with glee as he glided around on a pool noodle that his mom was securely holding onto. He was finally enjoying the fun that she had intended for him all along.

As I watched this happy moment, I wondered how often we, as believers, acted like those children in our own relationship with God. When God wanted to take us deeper into some aspect of our lives, did we instead insist on staying on the sidelines, staunchly sitting on our own swimming pool steps rather than following God’s leading into something more profound and purposeful? When presented with a situation that threatened to inundate us, did we forget who was by our side and that He would never leave us? Or did we fail to comprehend who God was and that He would do anything to save us? Because, in fact, Jesus already did. He sacrificed His very own life.

In all honesty, it’s hard for me to write these words, because I know how much I struggle to go deeper myself. My natural inclination is to want to give in to worry and fear, opting to “play it safe” on the sidelines rather than fully immersing myself in something more meaningful. But maybe that is the precise reason why I needed to write this—because I need to forever remember those kids at the pool and the insights gained that day. And I need to challenge myself in this respect and pray to God that I will be different—that I won’t miss out on the opportunities and invitations God gives me to go deeper with Him in any way.

Something I keep thinking about as I continue to mull over that moment at the pool is how much those children (and my own) could benefit from going deeper into the water with their moms. They might eventually learn how to swim if they entered a little further, where they had room to splash their arms about and kick their feet as their mothers upheld them and taught them some basic moves. These simple lessons, in turn, could eventually lead to more advanced lessons which would equip these little ones with the ability to swim over time.

The thing is, you can’t learn to swim if you are fiercely clinging to the ledge or stubbornly sitting on the side. You have to go deeper. Your trust in the one who is upholding you must be greater than your fears. And only there will your fears fade away as you revel in the beauty of the moment. Only there can you learn new things that will open the door to many new adventures to come.

Similarly, you can’t learn how to have deeper faith, character, and trust in God, nor any other skill with which God would equip you, if you only wade in the water when God is calling you to go deeper.  

The truth is, He wants to take each of us to places where our feet will no longer touch the bottom, where we cannot sit on the side. But we know that we can trust the One who is leading us because He will uphold us.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

He will help us and teach us what He wants us to know. And we can revel in the beauty of the moment, despite our fears, because we know that God is forever with us.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

Isaiah 43:2a

He is with us and will equip us for greater things—many new adventures to come.

Becoming Real

“‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.'”1
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

***

Have you ever read the story of The Velveteen Rabbit? It’s the classic children’s story about a stuffed, toy bunny that dreams of becoming real. The story has its ups and downs as the bunny believes he is real at one point but then realizes he is not. In the end, however, the little rabbit is finally granted his wish.

After reading this tale recently, I came to realize that the ending wasn’t quite what I remembered it to be. I knew that the stuffed bunny willingly suffered alongside his owner while the little boy was sick in bed with scarlet fever. I also remembered that the bunny and some other toys were to be burned after the boy recovered from his illness so that they would not spread germs to anyone.  And it was in the yard, while he waited this impending doom, that he met the magic nursery fairy who ultimately brought him to life.

What I didn’t recall was that the fairy made the rabbit’s wish come true because she took care of old, worn down, or broken toys that were loved.

I somehow failed to see the connection between the boy’s love and the rabbit’s realness when I first read this story. Instead, I implicitly understood something that I still believe to hold true—that the bunny was brought to life because of the way he suffered alongside the child. The truth is, the sacrifice this stuffed animal made for the boy ultimately brought him to the end of his toy life, which, in a roundabout way, opened the door for him to become real.

As a side note, this secular story reminds me of the following spiritual truths:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (ESV)

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39 (ESV)

I love how God can use even the simplest of things to point us back to Him.

I read this children’s tale to Liam nearly every night throughout the first few weeks of March. There was something about this story that felt so cathartic to me in light of my own suffering—something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on but had me coming back every night, seeking to understand. The story resonated with me deeply, and I felt like God was somehow using this simple children’s tale and my ability to relate to this imaginary bunny to bring healing to my heart, because I saw how God was using my own suffering to make me real too.

My own pain was causing me to be more authentic with God and others rather than simply putting on a front. It was making me wrestle with hard questions and seek out God for true answers, and I know suffering has done this and more for others too.

Suffering truly has a way of scrubbing off the superficial surfaces of our lives to reveal what is most raw and real about ourselves, and although we may not always like what is exposed beyond the surface, God’s best work is done there, within the very depths of our souls. It is there where He is able to fortify our character and create a greater sense of compassion within us. It is there where He teaches us humility and gives us a greater capability of relating to others. And it is there where new seedlings of purpose are planted that can bloom into beautiful redemptive stories over time, because our pain, when surrendered to God, is always redeemed.

I don’t like to suffer, but I am learning to love the results it produces in me and to trust the process, and I’m thankful that God is preparing me to comfort others who suffer just as He has comforted me in my own suffering. It is something I am finding to be of extreme value of late.

There will never be a shortage of suffering in the world, but there will never be a limit as to how God can use our pain when submitted to Him. It becomes the fertile soil where spiritual growth takes place. And although I may not see this in the actual moment of hardship and pain, I truly believe that suffering can become the gateway God uses to make real what our best dreams could never have imagined, even as He is in the process of making us more real through it all—more like His Son Jesus.

1 Williams, Margery (1922). The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real. A Celebration of Women Writers. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html

Hope for Uvalde

The back side of the anchor off of Main Street

Hello again. If you read my last blogpost, you’ll remember that I decided to take a break from blogging for a while. At the time, I had no idea how long it might last, but I knew I wanted to seek healing after a series of hardships followed by loss.

Although I have more healing and reflecting to do, I recently began to feel a strong desire to blog again, and I started praying that God would show me when and what my next blogpost should be.

Ironically, the topic leading me to blog today is not the one I would have chosen to write about. I wouldn’t have chosen it because I would have written a different ending for the events that took place on Tuesday when an armed eighteen-year-old entered Robb Elementary and claimed the lives of nineteen students and two teachers, additionally injuring many others that day.

I know that I also stated at one point that I don’t necessarily want to be writing about every tragedy that wrenches at my heart, because I don’t think multiple opinions are always beneficial. Sometimes more words merely turn into background noise, and that noise does not help those who mourn. Our words are often better formed as prayers to God for those who suffer.

This event is a little different for me however, because it hit close to home. Literally. About two and half miles from my front door.

Because we live in town and have a next-door neighbor that is very connected to the community, we were aware of very general details in the moment as events unfolded. We also became more aware of the seriousness of it all as we continually heard sirens around lunch time and then watched one ambulance head to the scene from outside our back window, then another, and then another and another and another in a row. But we had no idea of the complete devastation until we turned on the news later that afternoon and learned of how utterly destructive and heinous this crime had been.

That evening, as JJ and I tried to process all that had happened that day, we stepped out onto our patio with our young son, and I felt comforted in sensing God’s own sadness painted over the sky—a canvas of stormy clouds streaked in shades of gray. He grieved with us. He grieved over how such precious lives were taken that day through a horrific, demonic crime. And He mourned with each hurting individual in our small-town Uvalde.

It rained several hours later, and the flashing lightning and distant rumbling of thunder kept me up for some of the night. The following morning, I woke up wondering how a small community like this could survive such a tragedy.

That evening, however, as I attended a prayer event at the Uvalde County Fairplex with what seemed to be everyone in town, the speakers shared a Christ-centered message and prayed for hope and healing within our community, and God confirmed the answer to my question that I knew in my heart all along. We would survive this through the help of God.

Lately, as JJ and I hear of more tragedies happening around us and throughout the world, we are reminded of the simple fact that Satan knows his time on earth is short. His time is short, and he seeks to kill, steal, and destroy anything while he can. But God knows this too, and His purposes shall prevail.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 ESV

Would you pray with me that this community would find abundant life in Jesus in the weeks and months to come? Let’s also pray that we, as a community, would be able to see God more clearly and to recognize that He is victorious.

There is an anchor that stands in the middle of town—a large, cement structure that feels so out of place in this land-locked town. But when we first moved here not long ago, I instantly fell in love with it and found comfort by it because of our own loss as a family earlier this year. That anchor reminded me of what we know to be true as believers—that we have hope because of Jesus.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 6:19-20

As this community mourns, I pray that the anchor in town will ultimately become a symbol of hope to many others also through new, renewed, or strengthened faith in Jesus, and I’m asking God to make me and the many other believers who live here to be a light and a source of comfort to our community. Please join me in praying for that too.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

James 5:16b NIV

The message on a coffee truck outside of the Civic Center today.