The Best of 2020

I have kept a cookie tin on top of my refrigerator for a good chunk of the year. It has come down a number of times throughout these last eight months, but only long enough for me to jot down a note or two to toss into the tin among the growing pile of past notes.

Collecting these scribblings has been a spin-off of a tradition that I have held for years. In the past, I have written the best of each year in the form of a list—one that often includes experiences, events, celebrations, visits with family, any trips taken, and even more minor details such as new songs I’ve heard that I’ve liked. The list includes anything and everything that made the year special to me.

 I used to compile this list at the end of December each year, but more recently, I have started making it over Thanksgiving weekend, adding the events and experiences of December as the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve have passed by. I’ve discovered that this weekend in particular is the perfect time to make the list for me, as it makes me more deeply aware of how generous God has been throughout the year, thus causing my heart to overflow with gratitude.

By mid-March, I recognized that the upcoming months would provide a difficult journey ahead, so I rummaged around the cupboard for the cookie tin and set off to starting my list in real-time, backdating the events and best moments of January and February to include in the container.

As the months have passed by, the tin has become a mound of colorful rectangles of paper—each one a testimony of God’s goodness and generosity in my life.

This Thanksgiving weekend, I plan to make myself a cup of decaf coffee or tea one evening after I get my son to bed, then I’ll take down the cookie tin and read each note, reminiscing over all the “bests” of this year. And once again, my heart will overflow with gratitude as I consider God’s kindness to me and His ever-present goodness, even in the midst of a year full of turmoil.

As we quickly approach the end of 2020, I want to encourage you to make a list of your own “bests” from this year as well. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just grab a piece of paper and start by listing whatever favorite moments come to mind. Next, take some time to think about each month and consider the best experiences from each one. Consult your calendar, day planner, journal, or even your social media account to jog your memory if you need to. Or ask family members what they remember or liked best about this year. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. What matters is remembering the special moments of this year and recognizing that not all was lost, nor was all of it bad. God’s presence has been with us as we have experienced the challenges and difficulties of this year, and He has still been kind and generous to us in the midst of it all.

For some of us, this has been the hardest year the world has seen in our lifetime. But if we take the time to sit down and list all the blessings God has bestowed upon us in this year, we may just see how beautiful it has also been. We may very well state what David stated in the Psalms:

“You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.”

Psalm 65:11

Building Towers

October proved to be a busy month. On top of family responsibilities, I tried to keep up with this blog and continue my attempts to help my younger brother write a book (you can read a brief idea about that here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2020/01/21/remembering/). I also worked on creating an award-worthy recipe for a Christmas cookie contest I entered online and wrote an essay in hopes of having it published in a magazine for moms.

In the midst of the busyness, my toddler son started to ask me to play with him more, and I have complied. With COVID-19 restrictions and no siblings of his own, I feel sorry for him. I’m the only playmate he has most times, so I’m trying to actively engage in the moments when he asks me to play.

Liam is especially fond of building trains with his Duplo Legos, and although I can enjoy this activity to a certain degree, we always face some contention when we play with them together. Liam wants to build tall towers for each train car, and when I suggest to him that we create a better foundation first, he gets upset with me.

“No! No! No!” he exclaims as he snatches the Legos out of my hands and then rebuilds according to his liking. Inevitably, the teetering train cars come tumbling down at some point, and Liam is left feeling upset. It’s the frustrating pattern we follow each time we play, no matter how much I try to reason with him in order to avoid the train’s demise.

After a few days of following this routine, I could sense God teaching me a greater lesson through it, and I began to feel convicted by my own hypocrisy. While I was urging Liam to build a better foundation, I had been ignoring my own. My quiet times had become shorter and were getting pushed later into the day, even to the extent that I skipped a few a couple of times. In my own attempts to build something impressive out of my life, I had neglected my own foundation, and the fruits of my labor were now threatening to come crashing down like my son’s Lego trains. It brought the following Bible verse to mind:

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain.”

Psalms 127:1

Looking back on the month of October, I can see that I spent a good chunk of it laboring in vain. I didn’t tend to my foundation by spending time with God in the first hours of the morning, nor did I seek out His wisdom or guidance in how or what to “build” each day. Instead, I began the projects of October with my own agenda in mind.

I couldn’t help but think about the Tower of Babel as described in Genesis 11 when I considered all of this. The people set out to build a tower that would reach to the heavens in hopes of making a name for themselves. They wanted to seek their own glory and thought this tower would do the trick. God thwarted their plans, however, and the tower was left unfinished. He would not share His glory with another.

Much like the people from the Tower of Babel, I find myself seeking my own glory all too often, attempting to build tall towers of my own. It’s a struggle that I have to fight against daily, especially when it comes to writing. God has been gracious to me, however, in that He allows me to experience writer’s block quite a bit. I’m beginning to see it as a gift from Him because it’s the exact thing I have needed to recognize when my motives have become self-centered, and it’s precisely what makes me repent and ask God to help me write for His glory.

Nonetheless, I believe that I could avoid this pattern more if I were to earnestly begin my day in God’s Word and surrender my desires, thoughts, plans, and dreams to Him each morning. After all, any of my labor towards any of these things is only in vain if God is not in it, and He has not placed me or any of us on this earth to fulfill our own purposes.

God created us to glorify Him, and He has prepared good works in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), so we need to seek His face each day so that He can build up His kingdom through our lives. Because, unless He builds the house, all other labor is in vain. It is nothing more than teetering Lego train cars without a foundation set in Him.

In God We Trust

The presidential election has left me feeling anxious like nothing else this year, and since we all know what this year has entailed in general, that’s saying a lot. I get nervous thinking about what our country might look like after the next four years. I honestly start to panic if I think about it too much. It’s a topic that I have had to continually bring to God in prayer.

Throughout these last few months, the LORD has given me a few verses and thoughts to help redirect my trust back to Him. They are as follows:

  1. Psalm 20:7

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

When King David wrote this Psalm, horses and chariots were used as weapons of war, so he was essentially stating that, while other nations might trust in their weapons, military power, or might, he and the Israelites would place their trust in God. It was God’s favor that would bring them the victory in battle and be their source of protection.1

Nations still place their trust in their weapons, military power, and might today. Nowadays, some are most likely placing their trust in a cure or in a better economic or social situation for the future as well. And in this nation in particular, there are undoubtedly many people who are placing their trust in their preferred presidential candidate and what it will mean for the country if that person wins the election. We are all looking for our own source of comfort and protection in some way. As believers, however, our trust is not in any of these things. We trust in the name of the LORD our God. Even when life seems dismal, He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). No other leader can keep a promise like that. No other person is worthy of our trust like He is.

2. Proverbs 21:1

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

This verse has served to remind me that God is still in control regardless of what happens to our nation or the world. It has also made me think of moments throughout Scripture in which God has proven this verse to be true.

He turned King Nebuchadnezzar’s heart when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not harmed by the fiery furnace and a fourth man stood amongst them.2 He turned his heart again when He took away his ability to reason and made him like a wild beast in the field.3  

He turned King Darius’ heart, which caused him to make a decree that all people must fear the God of Daniel after God saved Daniel from the lions’ den.4

He turned the heart of King Ahasuerus after Queen Esther revealed her true origins to him.5

And He has even turned the hearts of rulers who refuse to ever acknowledge that He is God. He did so through Pharaoh in hardening his heart and thus manifesting His signs in a powerful way.6

Through these examples, God has proven that He is able to turn the hearts and accomplish His purposes through pagan rulers and even ones that never acknowledge His lordship. He doesn’t need the perfect presidential candidate or world leader to accomplish His purposes. He is a perfect, powerful God that is more than capable of fulfilling them however He pleases. No one and nothing will thwart His plans.

3. Philippians 3:20

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The last thing God has been reminding me of originally came from a song called Rey de Justicia. The bridge to this song popped up as a memory on social media over a week ago, and through it, I have been reminded of what Philippians 3:20 says.

 The bridge to the song translates as follows:

Establish Your kindgom
In our lives
Seat Your throne
On our hearts
-En Espíritu y En Verdad

I find a lot of comfort in these words and in knowing that the kingdom I belong to is not of this world. My citizenship is in a kingdom that will never falter or change. It’s doesn’t depend on any cure or on a better system or on how well the stock market is doing. It is a perfect kingdom with no uncertainties or flaws—one that cannot be captured, threatened, or destroyed. And it is one that will endure forever, ruled by a leader that is righteous, good, and just.

Throughout these last few days, I have recognized my need to place a greater value and hope in this kingdom, and my heart cries out the words of the song above.

The truth is, we will never have a perfect nation or leader on this earth. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Esther didn’t either. But as we place our hope in God and allow Him to reign over our lives, perhaps we will see Him turning the hearts of leaders through our example, just as He did through theirs. Perhaps His glory will be manifested in the midst of this world’s darkness because we choose to live as loyal citizens to a celestial city.

Whatever happens in the following months and years, let’s keep that in mind. Let’s recognize our need to truly let God live as our King. This world is temporal, and this nation and all our current concerns will one day pass away. But God’s kingdom will last forever, and our citizenship as believers is secure in it. So let’s find hope and comfort in that today and always, no matter what tomorrow may bring.

Post Script: If you haven’t read the stories of the rulers mentioned above, I encourage you to do so in the passages mentioned below.

  1. https://www.bibleref.com/Psalms/20/Psalm-20-7.html
  2. Daniel 3
  3. Daniel 4
  4. Daniel 6
  5. Esther 7
  6. Exodus 7-12

Te Va a Amar Jesús

I no longer sing lullabies to my son before I put him to bed, and although I’m happy to have one less thing to do in our nightly routine, I’m also a little sad to have stopped. I would still be singing them, in fact, if it weren’t for Liam. He started complaining about the songs sometime this summer, and they seemed to become more of a hindrance than a help in getting him to bed, so they’re tucked away in my mind for now to perhaps reintroduce them to him some other day.

Two of the three songs that I used to sing to him were lullabies I composed. The first one, Te Va a Amar Jesús, came about in early November of 2018 after I began telling my baby boy that Mommy loved him but that Jesus loved him more. After several weeks of telling him this, God gave me this song. It is perhaps the simplest song I have ever composed because the music and lyrics were so evidently God’s doing. He put them in my mind all at once, like a beautiful gift.

The following day, I composed an English version of this song and a couple of word variations, and I began singing it to Liam each night. It was a part of our daily routine for over nineteen months.

I have recorded and shared this song with others before, but I decided to record it again recently. I wanted to post it here as a keepsake but also to give more parents a chance to hear it and sing it to their children, if they so choose.

After recording this song again, I noticed that I was halfway out of the frame most of the time. I also recognize that I do not have a stellar voice. It cracked at one point, and I’m sure my enunciation could have been better. Nonetheless, I’m sticking to this version, because the real impact of this song will not be in how I looked or sounded while making this recording. It will be in parents singing it to their children and the truth of its words taking root into their young hearts. So if you have young children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, or know any other person that you think might enjoy this, please feel free to share it and/or sing it to them. I hope it is a blessing to both you and them. May it ground us more firmly in the truth, that Jesus truly does love us more.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16
Lyrics/Letra
Te va a amar Jesús (2x)
Aún más que tus padres (tíos, primos, tía, maestros, gato, etc.) te ama/aman
[Mas que tus ______________ (hermanos, hermanas, amigos, etc.) te aman]
Te va a amar Jesús
Te ama tanto Jesús (2x)
Que con su sangre te ha comprado
Te ama tanto Jesús
Jesus will love you more (2x)
He’ll love you even more than your parents (siblings, cousins, grandma, grandpa, etc.) do/does
[He’ll love you more than your brother and sister (grandma and grandpa, etc.) do]
Jesus will love you more
Jesus loves you so much (2x)
So much that He gave His own blood to redeem you
Yes, Jesus loves you so much

Slow Cooker Spiced Pumpkin Mocha Latte

I’m becoming increasingly thankful that I didn’t start a food blog like I had originally dreamed of doing. Between the testing, tasting, tweaking, and trying my recipe ideas over and over again (not to mention the time spent taking photos of the finished product), I’m pretty much amazed that anyone has a food blog!

That being said, I am nonetheless happy to have an outlet where I can share original recipes, but without the pressure of having to.

This recipe was inspired by the chocolate chip pumpkin bread that my mom used to make every fall when I was a child. It was such a cozy season for our family growing up, and I suppose this was my way of reminiscing over it.

As I was working on this recipe, I was reminded of something a former coworker posted on social media a year ago about Abuelita hot chocolate being better that pumpkin spice latte. The conversation that ensued on his page was so funny! People are passionate about their beverage preferences!

I had to smile as I created this recipe since it combines the warmth of pumpkin spice with the richness of chocolate. It’s a win-win in my book, and I hope others will think so too!

Although I used normal cocoa powder in this recipe to make it accessible to more people, I would wholeheartedly recommend substituting the cocoa powder (and cinnamon) for a wedge or two of Abuelita hot chocolate if you can find it at your local grocery store. Just make sure that you adjust the amount of sweetened condensed milk you use (or substitute it with a low-calorie sweetener altogether, if desired). Also, feel free to use your milk of choice. However, if you use a non-dairy option, choose one that is creamy in texture, as it will help to keep the latte from tasting grainy.

Lastly, if you make this beverage, please let me know what you think!  I hope it makes this season a little sweeter for you!

Ingredients:

  • 4 c strong brewed coffee
  • 4 c milk of choice
  • ½ c pumpkin puree
  • 1 ½ T pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ c – 1 c sweetened condensed milk, as desired
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-6 whole cloves (optional)

Directions:

Place the coffee, milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cocoa powder, and sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker. Stir well. Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves and cook on high for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until flavors have blended together and the beverage is heated through. Stir again, then strain into mugs and serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

Stovetop Method (1-2 Servings):

  • 1 c strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 T pumpkin puree
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ T cocoa powder
  • 2-4 T sweetened condensed milk, as desired
  • 1 small cinnamon stick*
  • 1-2 whole cloves (optional)

Add the first 6 ingredients to a pot and mix well. Add the cinnamon stick and cloves, then simmer over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until heated through. Stir and strain into a mug. Enjoy!

*If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, I would suggest not using cinnamon at all. I found ground cinnamon to make the latte too grainy.

Fragrant

Now that fall is here, I am enjoying all the seasonal scents. I have made muffins and stovetop chai a few times, and although it still feels like summer beyond my front door, I have even burned candles a few times—ones with names like mulled cider and harvest spice.

Yesterday I burned my oakwood spice candle for the first time this season. It’s a cute, acorn-shaped candle that a friend gave me last fall, and after taking its lid off every morning this week to get a whiff of its sweet smell, I finally decided to light it and let its fragrance fill our home. It was absolutely delightful as it spread its cozy, autumn cheer from room to room.

Recently, I added another scent to the repertoire of fall fragrances that have graced our home these last few weeks—a twist off the traditional pumpkin spice latte that I am still trying to perfect. After making a fresh batch a few days ago, I sampled a few sips before realizing how quickly the morning was slipping away. With that being the case, I set the coffee aside and took my son on our routine morning walk. An hour or so later, we strolled through our front door and were warmly greeted by the rich smell of coffee permeating our home. It was a very pleasant surprise that makes me want to work on this recipe all the more.

Lately, I have been thinking about the role that heat plays in the scents that I’ve been enjoying so much this fall. Although the muffin batter, candles, and ground tea/coffee smell good on their own, their fragrance has only grown stronger and spread further when put to the flame, and their scent has lingered longer as a result.

As believers, we have a signature scent, and we should desire for its fragrance to grow, spread, and linger far beyond our own four walls. It is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 2.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

When I consider this passage and think about my most recent observations regarding scent and heat, I am left to think that perhaps we need to be put to the flame at times if we are to truly spread the fragrance of Christ.

A friend of mine has only caused me to believe this all the more. She has been standing in the fire since the beginning of this year, and she smells so much like Jesus as a result. Her name is Janet, and she is a dear lady that I know from a time that I taught ESL at a Spanish-speaking seminary. Having been the assistant to the ESL teacher the semester before I came, Janet was more than willing to help me get settled into life and work at the seminary when I arrived.

I was very grateful for her. Trying to find my place on campus that first semester was a particularly lonely experience, so I was thankful for the time that she and I spent together and for her listening ear, sympathy, and prayers. She smelled like Jesus to me even then.

Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with stage 3 liver cancer, and four months later, she was told that her body was no longer responding to chemotherapy.

I and a number of others have been praying that God will heal her, but I know it’s more for our sake than hers. I read her posts and see her pictures on social media, and she’s so full of peace and joy.

She’s ready.

Whether God chooses to heal her or take her home, she has accepted whatever may come. She is like a radiant bride awaiting her Groom, and although she would be content to continue serving Him here, she looks forward to the day when He will tenderly sweep her into His arms and carry her over the threshold of this life into the next one, where they will begin their happily ever after together. Or, perhaps better put, continue it. This time, without sorrow, pain, heartache, or grief. This is the hope that she has and the life that she eagerly awaits.

She has been afflicted and tested in so many ways this year, but all this has served to cause the fragrance of Christ within her to grow and spread. It has reached my door over 700 miles away, and there’s no doubt that it has made its way inside the homes of the seminary students in Latin America who have had the privilege of knowing her. Not only has it spread broadly, but it is also lingering in each of our homes. Whether God keeps her here a little longer or draws her to His side, the scent that she is exuding in the midst of this present valley will linger in our hearts and minds for years to come. She has already taught us so much about what it means to be a reflection of Christ in our greatest suffering and darkest moments in life, and I feel so privileged to call her a friend and to learn from her example through it all.

I continue to pray for her complete healing, but I also thank God for the valuable lessons I am learning through her during this season. Much like Mary poured perfume over Jesus’ feet1, she is pouring her life out to God as a fragrant offering to Him. And although it is meant as a gift for Him alone, so many of us have been blessed in the process.

As much as I have enjoyed all fragrances of this season, I am especially grateful that the aroma of Christ has made its way to my home through her. It’s a scent that will never grow old or stale, and through it, I am learning to hope more deeply and anticipate eternity even more. I can only pray that, when I am held to the flame, I will smell just as lovely and reflect Jesus just as well as she is.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

2 Corinthians 2:16-18

1John 12:1-8

Banana Butternut Butterscotch Muffins

It felt like fall several weeks ago. The air was cool and crisp, and it reminded me of a day nearly a year ago that inspired me to begin this blog in the first place—a day in which I felt God calling me on an adventure with Him (you can read more about that blogpost here: https://anticipatingadventure.com/2019/11/10/example-post/)

The weather has heated up since then and will probably stay warm until late October. It’s pretty typical here. Nonetheless, I’m thankful for this season, and I’m reminded that, no matter how crazy this year has been or how devastating the losses, God is still faithful. He still causes the sun and moon to rise, and He still causes the seasons to come and go.

He made the moon to mark the seasons, the sun knows its time for setting.”

Psalm 104:19

He also brings beauty with each season, and I always see a lot of beauty and meaning in this one. I’m glad to get to experience it once again. It has been refreshing to my soul.

The few days of crisp air that we were able to enjoy last month got me in the mood to do some baking and a little experimenting of my own, so after some basic research on muffin recipes, several muffin-making attempts, many tweaks, and a kind friend who was graciously willing to try each batch, banana butternut butterscotch muffins were born.

These muffins are moist and fluffy, with a hint of banana and a blend of spices that mix together to make this cozy, autumn treat. The butterscotch chips add a kick of extra flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. Added bonus: butternut squash is one of the main ingredients in these muffins, so you can rest assured that you are eating your veggies while you enjoy this baked good.

While I was making these muffins a few days ago, I couldn’t help but notice how much our home smelled like autumn. The spices are so fragrant and really warm up the whole house. These muffins would be perfect to bake on a chilly morning to enjoy with a cup of coffee for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Or really whenever your heart desires. They are quite delicious, and I hope you’ll think so too.

If you make this recipe, please leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear how they turn out for you. Also, feel free to substitute the butterscotch chips for chocolate or white chocolate chips if that is more your style. The white chocolate chips go well with this muffin, and if you are anything like my mom, I’m sure you’ll think the chocolate chips do too!

Here’s the recipe, without further ado:

Banana Butternut Butterscotch Muffins

Ingredients:

  • ½ c apple sauce, unsweetened
  • ½ c cubed butternut squash, roasted
  • ½ c banana (about 1 banana)
  • ½ c light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 ½ c flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ½ t cloves
  • ½ t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ c butterscotch chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend the apple sauce, butternut squash, banana, brown sugar, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a blender until smooth.

In a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. After mixing, add the butterscotch chips and mix again. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and stir until blended. Do not over stir. Place in muffin liners and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins. 

Poison

Photo by Sergio Souza from Pexels

I read an ominous article several days ago. Or, better put, I read it halfway through—it was too disturbing to finish.

The article was about a group of young ladies from the early 1900s that worked in a factory in New Jersey. Their job was to paint the face of watches using radium-based paint. This radioactive substance caused the watches to glow in the dark, which was especially useful during this time period of the World War I for military personnel.1

Nearly twenty years earlier, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium and came to understand its hazardous condition through their research. Nonetheless, the general public believed that the dangers were found in large quantities of the substance and that small amounts were harmless. Furthermore, the factory management reassured the workers that smaller quantities were safe when they began their work in the factory. Thus, these women confidently worked with the material day after day.2

Perhaps what is most bothersome about the story is to know that these young ladies would lick their paintbrushes after each use in order to maintain a fine point for the intricate work they were doing. In essence, they were ingesting small doses of poison.3

After time, the girls themselves started to glow due to their prolonged exposure to the substance. Nonetheless, what should have served as a warning instead made them embrace their work all the more. They were happy to be the subject of fascination within their community and were proud of their well-paying job.4

Only five years after the factory opened, radium claimed its first victim—a young lady of twenty-four years old who was subjected to a horribly painful and gruesome death. After reading her story and noticing that the article mentioned many other young women that began to follow suit5, I couldn’t bring myself to read any more. It was just too horrific.

The most sobering idea, however, was the one that entered my mind as soon as I put the article down—that the way people viewed radium in the early 1900s is often times how we view sin today.

As believers, we understand the poisonous consequences of certain sins while all the while justifying “lesser” sins without recognizing that we are really drinking from the same poison. We downplay certain attitudes and behaviors when we actually ought to remind ourselves of this one, simple truth—that sin leads to death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

Fortunately, those of us who are in Christ Jesus have received the gift of eternal life, as the above verse states. Jesus received the wages for our sin through death on a cross. Nonetheless, that does not mean that we won’t ever experience the consequences of our sins here on earth. When we continue to participate in sin, we are ultimately leading our relationships, health, opportunities, reputation, etc. toward death. After all, poison is still poison, whether you ingest it in a teaspoon or a cup.

I was ingesting my own poison by the spoonful several years ago. It was in the form of a TV show that I unintentionally became hooked on when I was flipping through channels one day. Since I love learning about different cultures, and the characters on the show traveled overseas, I was immediately intrigued.

I knew early on that this show was not edifying nor pleasing to the LORD, but I tried to ignore it. I was already addicted. I couldn’t ignore the truth for long, however, so I tried to justify my behavior instead. Surely this show was not affecting me! Surely the cultural insights I was gaining from it were valuable! Even as I started to think about the characters more and more and how I would handle their problems if I were them, I had no premonition over the internal damage being done.

Fortunately for me, God made it very clear to me one night how affected my mind was becoming by the series, and I was able to break free from it because of that. All it took was for me to realize how costly it would be to continue viewing the program. I had to recognize that I was walking down a path that led to death.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I think of the women that worked at the factory painting watches, I can’t help but wonder if all who died could have been spared that fate had they left their jobs sooner. Would it have already been too late had they resigned once their bodies started glowing? Would their health issues have been lessened had they quit a few weeks, months, or even years into the job? These questions might never be answered, but something I am fairly certain of is that these women would not have worked in that factory at all had they known that this job would ultimately lead them to their deaths.

In light of the untimely death of these women, we must ask ourselves if we, too, are unknowingly ingesting poison. Who are we working for? And what will the wages for our work be?

In the book of Psalms, David asked God to do the following:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

Psalm 139:23-24

Let’s be encouraged to ask God the same and to rid ourselves of any grievous way within us. Let’s stop justifying or excusing any sin in our lives that might seem minor to us and instead ask God to truly help us recognize the dangers thereof. We don’t have to work in the factory of sin any longer. So today, let’s choose life.

1https://bobshideout.com/view/radium-girls-secrets-revealed/&PAGE=2&page=14

2-5 Ibid

Rock Collections

Liam and I sometimes play a game on our morning walks, unbeknownst to him. We generally play it when he takes rocks from his “rock collection” with us. When this happens, I try to leave as many rocks as I can alongside the pathway where Liam got them in the first place. Liam, on the contrary, tries to take even more rocks home with us. The winner is determined by how many rocks return with us in the end.

This game probably sounds simple, but I have discovered over time that it requires skill and an element of sneakiness if I am to have any success. In order to dispose of the rocks, I must do so without getting caught. Liam makes a big fuss about it otherwise (Apparently, he is already a sore loser! Haha!). He, on the other hand, gets to collects all the rocks he wants right under my nose! I honestly don’t have much choice in the matter unless I want to deal with an upset toddler. Thus, we play the game, and I try my best to be stealthy as we play.

So far, I have won a few games, but Liam has won quite a few too. I’m not too concerned by my losses, however. I know that I will have the final victory when all is said and done. It might take months or even years before this happens, but I will win in the end and claim the title of champion once and for all. It is only a matter of time.

Recently on one of our walks, I was thinking about how easy it is to still have collections as adults, and although they may seem more sophisticated than a pile of rocks, they can be equally as burdensome.

Anxiety. Worry. Fear. Insecurity. Guilt. Shame.

These are just a few that come to mind, but a person’s collection is certainly not limited to them. There are a number of things we can collect over time, and we don’t even need a walk around the park to find them. Life in general is enough to make these collections possible. Fortunately, God offers a solution to these burdens. It all comes down to casting our cares on Him.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

And similarly, in the New Testament:

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (Italics mine)

1 Peter 5:6-8

I don’t remember talking to my parents much about my problems growing up. I’m sure I did from time to time, but I was the middle of five children, and with all the busyness of living within a big family, there wasn’t a lot of time for one-on-one moments with them.

I had a great best friend, however. We met when we were eight years old, and as we got to know each other better over the following months and years, she learned to recognize when something was wrong with me.

Although my natural tendency was to want to hide my problems or push them aside, she wouldn’t let me. She was very insistent that I tell her what was upsetting me each time an issue arose. It took a lot of patience and persistence on her part, but eventually I would tell her what was bothering me.

Over the years, it got easier to tell her what was on my mind. She had proven to me time and again that I could trust her with my problems. She was willing to listen, and she was kind and understanding toward me whenever I told her what was wrong.

When I think of casting my burdens on the LORD, I am reminded of how well my friend listened to me and cared for me in those times. What really amazes me, however, is to recognize that the kindness, compassion, and care she showed me is just a tiny fraction of the kindness, care, and compassion that God has for you and me.

He longs for us to bring our concerns to Him. He already knows them in the first place. He’s completely aware of all the items we are carrying around in our adult version of a rock collection, and when we bring each piece to Him, He can help us to deal with each issue and ultimately be set free.

Although the world, our enemy, and our own sinful flesh would cause us to try to collect more burdens over time, let’s remember that we have a very real Ally that is willing and ready for us to cast our burdens on Him. We don’t have to add to our collections anymore. We can, in fact, dispose of them, and we don’t even have to be sneaky about it! No matter how long it may take to deal with our issues, and no matter how often they may arise, we can take heart in the fact that, in Christ, we will have the final victory when all is said and done. In the end, we will truly see that we have won because we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). But while we wait for that day when we will never know any burden again, let’s continue to cast the ones we have on God. Let’s get rid of some rocks today.

Follow Up Questions:

Do you have a friend like the one I described? If so, what makes it easy to share your problems with that person? How are those traits a glimpse of who God is and how He cares for us? Let’s pray that God would help us to recognize all the more how willing He is to listen to us and that we would be quicker to bring our problems to Him.

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Liam woke up before 6 a.m. for a good chunk of the summer, and it was rough! The first week was especially brutal. I felt groggy most days and had to go to bed early out of sheer exhaustion.

With new nap problems on top of this, I didn’t have any time to myself. I didn’t write at all that first week, and I couldn’t find the opportunity to relax and unwind at the end of the day either.

A few weeks into our new “routine”, as I was battling my strong-willed boy to get his socks and shoes on so that we could go outside before it got too hot out, I found myself telling him how I didn’t need him to have a bad attitude. As it was, he woke me up too early again, and I was still irritated about it, so he better behave!

Not even a minute later, a familiar phrase came to mind.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

It comes from the following passage in Scripture:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I immediately felt convicted. But to be quite honest, I felt slightly annoyed too. The truth is, I didn’t want to be convicted. I had already sacrificed so much for my son. Did I have to sacrifice my sleep and have a good attitude about it too?

I called my mom to talk about these issues, and as I expressed my frustration to her, she lent me a sympathetic ear and promised to pray. She also stated something she has told me before—that she believes God would use motherhood to refine me.

I’ll admit it’s not something I’ve wanted to hear. Being refined through parenting is painful! Fortunately, a friend and I have been reading through a book about motherhood for several months now, and one of the chapters in particular has helped me to see the process of refinement in a different light. It has caused me to recognize that I was seeing refinement through motherhood as a punishment when I needed to see it as a promise of better things to come.

In all reality, we must be refined if we are to be ready for greater ministry opportunities, responsibilities, or positions of influence in the future.

Just as a baby has to grow into childhood and then adulthood to enjoy certain activities and opportunities, we also must grow to enjoy and experience all that God has in store for us, and a lot of that growth will take place through refinement. Because of that, we need to see this process as a blessing and gift as we look forward to what God may have in store for us as a result.

I can’t say that I became an expert on graciously accepting the way God was refining me this summer, but I did learn a few things about how to keep no record of wrongs in the process. They are as follows:

Confess your feelings of resentment as they arise.

It was so helpful for me to do this. As I confessed my sinful attitude to God and asked Him to change me, He did. I wasn’t all the sudden the gracious, godly woman I wanted to be, but I was on the right track, so I kept confessing and asking God to work in me.

Set boundaries.

Keeping no record of wrongs doesn’t mean we accept any sort of beahvior or action from others. All relationships need boundaries in order to be healthy and thrive. Even relationships with toddlers.

After that first week of waking up between 5:30 a.m. to 5:45 a.m., I bought Liam an alarm clock that my friend (the one I’m reading the book with) recommended. It looks like a traffic light and is set to red during the child’s bedtime. It then turns green at the time that the child can get out of bed the next morning.

Although this alarm clock hasn’t kept Liam from waking me up, he’s making progress. Now he takes me back to his room for us to both lie down until the light turns green. It’s a huge improvement in my mind, and I also have to admit that I kind of love watching Liam get so excited over the light turning green each morning. It never gets old!

Learn to see the process of refinement as a blessing and gift.

I have a ways to go before humbly accepting the trials and hardships of life and truly seeing the process of refinement as a blessing and gift, but I want to get there. It’s something I need to pray for—that God will shift my perspective to see the goodness of such a “gift” as He prepares me for better things to come.

The best thing to come, of course, is becoming more like Jesus in the process. May He really help me (and us) to believe and long for that! Nothing else can compare to such a promise.

Liam is no longer waking up before 6 a.m., and I haven’t been struggling with resentment as much as a result. I’m sure it will someday rear its ugly head again, however, and I want to be ready to deal with it when it does. I’ll continue to pray that God shifts my perspective regarding refinement and that He’ll help me to love my family and others a little more like He does.

Ultimately, resentment and other wrong attitudes do me no good. So may God help me to choose forgiveness and kindness instead as I continue to learn what it means to keep no record of wrongs. And in the midst of these hard life lessons, may I choose to really believe that refinement is a blessing and gift that always comes with a promise—that the best is yet to come!