Our baby boy decided to make his debut on Saturday morning, at 37 weeks and 3 days of gestation. For purposes of this blog, I will most likely call him CJ or Jim or something like that (I would refer to him by his middle name like I do Liam, but his middle name is James, which I think will only cause confusion in the long run since it’s the pseudonym last name I go by here).
I really hope to continue blogging, but I know that it will probably be unlikely that I write or read anything in the blogging realm for a good while. Hopefully we will establish a new routine and normal pace of life in the weeks to come as a family, which will allow me to get back on here.
Thank you so much for those of you who were praying for me throughout my pregnancy and who were praying for little CJ. My family and I would sure appreciate continued prayer as well as we adjust to life as it is now. Please pray especially for Liam. He really loves his brother, but I can see that the adjustment is hard on him.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
I woke up late several Sunday evenings ago to the sound of Liam crying, and as I groggily traipsed from my bedroom to his, I was met by the scene of my husband meticulously searching every nook and cranny of the living room with a flashlight.
He promptly informed me that he believed we had a mouse in the house, which, of course, was not the type of news I wanted to hear at that hour (or at any hour, for that matter).
After getting Liam settled back to sleep for the night, I headed to the living room again so that JJ and I could form a plan to rid ourselves of our potential mouse dilemma.
The next morning, I had to go to San Antonio for a doctor’s appointment, and since I had just gotten back from a weekend trip to Fort Worth, where I had helped to throw my little sister a bridal shower, I felt completely exhausted. Nonetheless, I mustered up enough energy to head to the store and buy some mouse traps, and as JJ and I continued to try to catch the critter, conviction started to set in. How was it that I could act with such immediacy and intentionality over the possibility of a mouse in my house and yet tackle my own sinful attitudes and tendencies with less fervor and urgency?
As I pondered the question, I recognized that we have an enemy and our own flesh that battle against us, wanting us to give in to sin. Nonetheless, I was also forced to admit that I most likely generally fail to see how fatal the consequences of sin can be. Just like mice can bring sickness and disease into a home, sin is much the same, poisoning relationships, our sense of joy, and our own mental well-being, among other things.
Several months ago, as God was making me more aware of certain sinful tendencies in my life, I couldn’t help but think of something the Lord told Cain in Genesis:
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:7 HCSB
In all reality, we all have sin crouching at our door, waiting to destroy us if we would let it in. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to do so when we first entertain temptation. She knocks at our door, and we might think it’s no big deal to invite her in for a spell and listen to her ideas. After all, we can ask her to leave whenever we please. But she is more powerful than she seems and only grows stronger the longer we allow her to stay. Before we know it, we are opening our front door to sin at her suggestion. We are welcoming in the very things that seek to destroy our lives.
Throughout this whole ordeal of trying to catch mice and restore a sense of peace in our own home, I’ve considered how much it would help me to have a strategy when dealing with would-be intruders in my own spiritual life. Just like we have had to set up mouse traps in some strategic areas of our apartment, I’ve come to realize that I should set up “traps” in my own mind in order to take every thought captive. Prayer is certainly a part of this—asking God to help me to think upon whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8). And memorizing and meditating on strategic Scriptures to help me confront the “creatures” trying to enter my mind would definitely help me too.
Another thing I’ve considered as of late is how important it as believers to rid ourselves of anything that causes us to steer toward sin. The next couple of days after JJ’s possible sighting of a mouse, I began to place chip bags in plastic storage containers and stored all our fruit—even the bananas—in the fridge instead of on the counter. We didn’t want even a trace of anything attractive to mice lying around, and we shouldn’t want to have a trace of anything tempting us to think or act in sinful ways lying around either.
So far, JJ and I have caught three mice, and I made the manager aware of the problem a week ago so that she could take whatever measures were necessary for the situation at hand, which resulted in her prompt call to pest control to schedule service to our apartment. They already came several days ago, in fact. And isn’t there a spiritual lesson for us to learn in all of that as well? Sometimes we have to recognize that the struggles we face are just too big for us to deal with alone. Obviously, we must always rely on the Holy Spirit to help us live the victorious, Christian life. But having a trusted friend that can keep us accountable when we struggle can do a great deal of good too. After all, the Bible instructs us to
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
As nasty as this mouse issue has been, I’ve been thankful for the spiritual lessons this whole ordeal has afforded me. Ultimately, God cares so much more than we ever could about what we allow to enter our lives and minds. I’m glad that He is able to use even situations like this to draw our hearts back to Him.
As of now, we haven’t seen any more mice, and it has been over a week. We will continue to be vigilant, however, and I pray we will be more vigilant when it comes to our spiritual struggles too.
A friend gave me a pot of vibrant, red tulips as a belated birthday present when she came to visit me over a month ago. I enjoyed the beautiful blooms for as long as they lasted, but soon they started to fade, the leaves withering shortly thereafter.
Fortunately, I’ve gained enough experience with plants over the last year to not be dismayed by this process. I quickly looked online to learn about tulip care, then I let the leaves wilt completely before cutting them off, in accordance with my research. Soon I was taking the bulbs out of the dirt, gently shaking each one clean before storing them in a paper bag in a dark corner of my closet to allow them to rest and be replenished for a season.
This whole process reminded me of the hyacinth my mom gave me last year and the similar process it had to go through. Ideally, I would have planted it outdoors last fall, but since we still live in an apartment with no land of our own, it stayed covered until recently. As I withdrew it from its resting spot, I nervously wondered what might have become of it at this point.
Fortunately, despite all the gardening mistakes that I’m sure I have made with this plant, I was delighted to see bright green shoots protruding out of the dirt. Life was beginning to spring forth after an extended time of darkness, hiddenness, and rest.
Thinking about these two plants and the necessary process they must pass through to bloom for another season has caused me to think a lot about how necessary the different seasons of our lives are. In particular, I have given much thought to how vital our own seasons of winter must be. Perhaps our own lives can only flourish and blossom again after we weather our own personal winters.
We all inevitably need times of rest and quietness. Maybe those moments where we feel most hidden, or where we are forced to take an extended period of rest, or simply when the days seem the coldest and darkest are the moments in which God is preparing us for the coming spring, where life will be vibrant and we can fully thrive again. Because even when we feel hidden, God’s eyes still continue to be upon us. And when we are forced to be still and rest, He is still at work within us. And even when darkness seems to surround us, His Word is still a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:105). He doesn’t waste our winter seasons in any way.
These thoughts make me want to encounter my own future winters differently. I want to recognize that God is at work even then, and that the winter months will eventually give way to a beautiful spring as long as I let Him have His way in me during the long winter days. But I don’t want to always just look forward to the spring. I hope and pray that I can find the beauty in all the seasons as they ebb and flow throughout life, both physically and personally.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
My son turned five a few weeks ago, and I felt a mixture of emotions on his big day. That morning, I put Nicole Nordeman’s song “Slow Down” on repeat as I hung up decorations in our dining room area and cried my eyes out. I love the ways in which Liam is growing and maturing, but it’s all so bittersweet, as I know that he will leave behind some of his cute, childlike ways as he continues to grow.
The day proved to be busy between decorating the house, running a few errands, wrapping presents, preparing cupcakes for his class complete with chocolate mustaches (his favorite thing in the world) and then preparing cake and a spaghetti dinner later that evening. Nonetheless, I found myself reminiscing in the midst of the busyness over what life has been like with Liam as a part of it.
Every year has felt monumental in one way or another with this little boy in our lives, from the major adjustment for JJ and me of having a baby in our home, to dealing with an illness he was diagnosed with and its lasting effects for nearly the entire following year. Then there was the pandemic only three months later, followed by a slow return to “normal” life over the course of the following year. And just as life seemed to be normalizing again, we stepped into last year, which brought with it a major move across state and the beginning of school for Liam, among other major events that marked our lives.
Life has indeed been an adventure since Liam was born, and it has been interesting to see more of his personality emerge and to watch him develop in the midst of all the trials and challenges life has presented to us thus far.
Perhaps the most telling of trials as far as Liam’s personality is concerned was watching him start school in September. The experience cemented in my mind how hard transitions are for my little boy. With very few experiences in a structured setting due to all the health issues we navigated as a family, the adjustment proved to be difficult for him, as he not only needed to learn academically but on a social level as well.
I spent most of that semester in tears as I desperately prayed for God to work powerfully in Liam’s life and to help him to be the little boy that God wanted him to be. As much heartache as those following months brought me due to Liam’s struggles, I also saw God’s faithfulness and knew He heard my pleas. In the midst of that intense and challenging season, Liam started to ask questions about God and to show spiritual interest more than ever.
Early on in the school year, he asked me out of the blue if God was his friend, and when I told him yes, that God wanted to be, he then stated that he would like to invite Him to his birthday party.
On another occasion, Liam asked me if God was hiding. We had talked about how God was everywhere but how we could not see Him with our physical eyes, so I guess he assumed that must mean God was hiding.
I grappled with the question for a moment until I was reminded of a verse from Jeremiah.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
This, in turn, led me to tell Liam that it was indeed as if God were hiding, but He wanted Liam to find him.
Liam has also expressed more interest in praying throughout the course of last semester, chiming in and thanking God for our food when JJ prays for our dinner each night, and even recently, Liam thought to immediately ask God to heal his knee when he scraped it over a week ago—something that I had not even thought to do.
I don’t mean to paint this picture of the perfect poster child that is spiritually seeking God, because that is definitely not the case. Liam generally complains when I insist that he watch a Christian cartoon before a secular one, and sometimes he tries to shush me when I’m praying for him on the nights that, according to him, he’s too tired to listen to my prayers. Yet other times, I catch glimpses of an intense spiritual battle being waged for his soul, and all I can do is pray and ask others to pray that God would be victorious in Liam’s life and that Liam’s heart would be gripped by God alone. Nonetheless, I am encouraged when I seem to see seeds taking root into his soul.
The month Liam was born, Billy Graham died, and I remember succinctly thinking that the world needed another Billy Graham. As a result, I began to pray that God would give Liam a gift and heart for evangelism and that He would use him mightily to reach the lost. It is my most constant prayer for Liam alongside asking God to bring Liam to faith in Jesus, and I truly believe that God planted these desires I have for him in my heart all along. Nonetheless, there is still a spiritual battle to be won.
Would you join me in praying that God would be victorious in my son’s life? I believe God would use our prayers for him and for the children in our lives in general to water the seeds that are being sown into their hearts. Let’s be faithful to be a part of the good work God is doing in them as we eagerly wait in anticipation to see what grows.
“I have a surprise for you!” Liam exclaimed in a sing-song sort of voice on the way home from school a few days ago. He then proceeded to rummage through his backpack from the back seat, insisting I take his surprise from him once he found it, despite the fact that I was driving us home.
Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of practice twisting my arm behind the driver seat to give and take things from him over the years, so this was no different. I even managed to get a good look at his creation as we came to a stop at a light—a picture of a person he had drawn during art class that day.
“You drew this for me?” I asked him in pleasant surprise.
“Yes,” he answered sweetly. It’s not the first time that he has given me little gifts like this, but for some reason, my heart felt especially touched by this piece of art. Perhaps it was knowing that he had been thinking about me throughout the day. Or maybe it was because Liam had poured his little heart into this picture that resembled a monster to me out of love for me, confidently knowing I would gladly accept it from him.
No matter the exact reason, Liam left me with a lot to think about that afternoon in light of this surprise.
Something I love about the stage of life that I find Liam in is that he is not self-conscious of his developing abilities. He doesn’t compare his work to the more advanced artwork that I have been working on for nearly a year (more on that in a later post), nor does he compare his abilities to the other children he knows, becoming insecure by those who are more advanced in their artistic abilities than he is. He is pretty unaware of this idea of comparison as of now (unless it comes to who has the bigger dessert! Lol!), and I’m grateful for that. What compels him to draw is his love for the activity and his desire to shower love on friends and acquaintances alike through sharing his little masterpieces with them.
I wish I were more like Liam in that respect. I wish the world were more like him in that respect. I have a feeling that we would see a lot more acts of kindness and many more displays of beauty in this world if we could shed our own fears and insecurities when it comes to our own abilities. And imagine how much more God’s glory would fill this earth if we, as believers, would offer our talents, abilities, and gifts up to God wholeheartedly for His good pleasure as He used them to bless others!
As Liam and I continued our short drive home that afternoon, the passage from Luke 21 about the widow’s offering came to mind.
Jesuslooked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4 ESV
Although this story speaks of generous financial giving, it’s a story that God used in my life years ago to convict me of other areas in my life where I was failing to be generous toward God. He specifically used it to convict me of my desire to keep certain talents hidden due to insecurities and my own self-perception that I didn’t measure up to others when it came to those specific abilities. The truth is, I felt like I had so little to offer when it came to certain aptitudes that I felt God was nudging me to use. So many others could give substantially more than I could in those areas.
But then God reminded me of this widow. It didn’t matter if all I could give was much less than others as long as it was my all. After all, He knew how much talent I had and to what extent my abilities would develop and grow, because He had given me those abilities and caused them to grow in the first place. All He was asking is that I not hide the gifts that He had given me. All He wanted was for me to focus on pleasing Him with my talents and abilities, because pleasing Him was all that mattered in the end anyway, and in offering my gifts, abilities, and talents back to Him in worship, I knew He could ultimately use them to bless others also.
I can’t say I don’t struggle with this topic anymore. It continues to be an issue that I must continue to surrender to the Lord. But when I think of Liam and all the people that he’s made smile through his rough sketches of faces generally sporting mustaches and beards, I can’t help but think what God might do when I wholeheartedly offer my abilities back to Him. After all, if He could feed 5,000 from one boy’s two fish and fives loaves of bread (John 6), then what might He do through us if we give our all to Him?
My birthday is quickly drawing near, and with it comes the recognition that the first-year anniversary of my loss is approaching too.
Last year, as I was losing my unborn baby, I was doubly upset to be experiencing this loss on my birthday, of all days. What should have been a day of celebration was marred by death and sorrow.
This year, I’m not so bothered that the two share a date. Oddly, it makes me feel closer to my child, and the day has also become a symbol of what our lifetimes inevitably entail—joy and sorrow that intermingle with ceaseless cycles of life and death.
Lately I have been thinking of how unknown my baby was to others (and even to me), but he* is fully known by God, and now he knows God. And although he is largely unnamed to most people here on earth, God already had a named reserved for him that can never be renounced or taken away. Furthermore, although he was never able to claim a physical address here in this world, he has a permanent home beyond this earthly existence that can never be destroyed.
Thinking about these things brings fresh tears to my eyes and washes over me like a soothing balm that brings further healing to my soul. My baby is not forgotten. His life mattered. It still does.
So, on my birthday, I’ll do something special to remember him, if nothing else to make a silent statement to myself that his life mattered. It left an imprint on my heart that will last my lifetime, and I hope that the ways in which I am changing as a result of his brief life help me to influence others for the better, leaving a ripple effect of impact for eternity on his behalf.
*I lost my baby before discovering its gender, so it may have been a girl. I’ll only know once I reach heaven myself.
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Liam and I worked on a number of puzzles in the spring. He has been given several over the years that are age appropriate for him (3-5 years old), so I have especially enjoyed working on these simple puzzles with him. He has enjoyed them too, although I cannot say that they have necessarily been easy for him.
In April, as we tried to put each puzzle together, I would often find him trying to pound two pieces together, using his tiny fist as a hammer. In his little mind, he had found two puzzle pieces that were meant to be together, so he would force them together, no matter the effort. Then, when I would point out to him that the pieces were not intended to fit together and tried to take them apart, he would become upset with me and try to keep the puzzle pieces out of my grasp. He had worked hard to put them together, so that is how they would stay!
I became discreet in taking the puzzle pieces apart over time, and eventually we would create the image that the puzzle was intended to be. It just took lots of time and patience.
Today, Liam doesn’t struggle as much with his puzzles. He seems to understand the color schemes more and how the pieces work together. He is also starting to grasp the idea of a bigger picture, and he has done these puzzles enough to know what that bigger picture should be. It doesn’t mean he has mastered piecing puzzles together entirely. They are still a bit of a challenge to him. Nonetheless, he is able to hold onto each puzzle piece a little more loosely as he seeks out the perfect fit for each piece.
Although we don’t work on puzzles too much anymore due to time constraints, the image of Liam pounding puzzle pieces together has come to my mind over the last few months, because I realize with a sense of conviction that I am not much different than Liam was last spring when it comes to doing puzzles.
I think I have been doing puzzles in my mind for most of my life. I hold different pieces in my hands at different times—puzzle pieces representing my desires, dreams, goals, expectations, etc. The problem is, the puzzle pieces strewn out in front of me, most commonly known as reality, don’t always fit together with the ones I grasp onto ever so tightly in my hands. And because of that, I am left with the desire to try to pound all of them together anyway in a desperate attempt to create what I believe to be the perfect picture of puzzle pieces for my life. But just like Liam has had to learn that there is a specific color scheme and pattern which each puzzle piece is meant to be part of, I sense God asking me to trust that all of my puzzle pieces are meant to be part of a specific color scheme and pattern as well. A God-ordained one. And just like Liam has learned that each properly placed puzzle piece will eventually form a perfect picture, I sense God inviting me to trust that He is intricately and intentionally piecing my puzzle pieces together to form a picture that is far more perfect than I could ever make it out to be—a picture that is even greater than my own story and that will far outlast my lifetime, all for His glory.
As we enter this new year, I am very aware of all the new puzzle pieces I bring into it with me. I have new goals, new dreams, and things that I eagerly anticipate about this year and that I pray will come to pass. But I am also aware of my need to hold onto each puzzle piece loosely—to hold my hands open in worship to God with each piece surrendered to Him. Because in the long run, I can’t be certain of how each of my puzzle pieces will fit together or if I will even like where each one goes. But I can be certain of this—the end result will be worth it. The final picture will be splendid and glorious and more magnificent than I could ever fathom. And in the end, I’ll be glad that I surrendered each puzzle piece to God and that He chose me to be a part of this beautifully exquisite puzzle in the making.
I finally got around to writing my “Best of” list for this year. It’s the list that I generally write over Thanksgiving weekend to remember all the good things that took place throughout the year.
This year, I was a little late in writing it. Thanksgiving weekend was pretty busy, and then my son got sick. And in all truthfulness, I just didn’t feel like writing it. The first half of the year was rather depleting to me as we experienced three big M’s as a family—miscarriage, a move, and mass murder within our new community (we live in Uvalde). And this fall wasn’t much better as my son has navigated school for the first time with many challenges and hardships that have weighed heavily on my own heart.
I finally sat down to write my list shortly after Thanksgiving weekend with a sense of dread as I thought of the trials we had faced over these last twelve months. And I listed those hardships, despite the fact that they were not the best of anything, because they felt too important to leave them off of the events of this year. But as I looked through photos to help jog my memory over what I had lived through these last twelve months, I still saw how much beauty and goodness this year held and how extravagantly generous God had been to me and my family. Furthermore, I have seen God’s hand at work in the midst of the hardships. I believe that miscarrying my own baby earlier this year has given me a deeper sense of compassion for others who have lost their children—something I didn’t know I would need several months later as tragedy rocked our community in every crevice and corner. And it has also allowed me to connect with long lost friends who have been through similar storms.
And as far as the events of May 24th are concerned, I have seen how much the gospel has gone forth in this community as a result of that tragedy. Friends and acquaintances of mine were able to share the gospel internationally on news broadcasts as reporters interviewed them in the days to follow. Moreover, there have been a number of ministries that have poured out the love of Christ over this community ever since that day, not to mention the countless of prayers worldwide that God is answering on our behalf as a town. People are finding life in Christ here.
As for the move, although I still find certain aspects of it difficult (we’ve had to drive an hour and a half to see certain medical specialists throughout the last few months due to a lack of options here), I am truly grateful for the sense of community that my family and I have been able to form as a result of living here. We have found a church family that truly cares for us and deeply loves us, and I know we are very blessed to get to experience that.
The hardships have been great, and I don’t mean to minimize the pain of the losses in light of the good that has been birthed from them, especially for a community that is learning to live with a deep void in their lives. I will say this, however—I am so extremely grateful that the darkness is being defeated. I’m thankful that good wins in the end. And I’m so eternally grateful that something greater is awaiting those of us who have put our faith in Jesus. This life is not the end.
Among other things that I am grateful for this year, I am so thankful that JJ and I got to see our parents and all our siblings this summer, along with several other family members. With all of us living in different places, and one sibling living internationally, getting to have these reunions are rare and so special when they happen.
I’m grateful for all the opportunities that God has been giving JJ as of late to share the gospel. It is wonderful seeing his passion for God and hearing about all the opportunities God is opening up to him, and it motivates me to pray that God would give me opportunities to share too.
I’m grateful for the ways in which Liam is growing and for the spiritual questions that he is asking. It shows me that he is thinking about God and makes me believe that God is already answering my prayers for my son regarding faith.
And lastly (although I really could say much more), I’m grateful for how our family is growing, especially spiritually, and for how these different trials have been causing us to look more to God. He truly does crown each year with goodness. I’m glad I finally wrote the list for this year so that I could see just that.
You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance.”
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.
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
2 Abuelita hot chocolate tablets (2 whole disks)
2 T half and half
1 c butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
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
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.