No Matter the Cost

We were acting as if he had already been offered the position. A few days prior, JJ had applied to a job online that would have ultimately moved our small family to Puerto Rico. Although certain aspects about such a move made me nervous (I haven’t forgotten about you, hurricane Maria!), we were mostly excited about the possibility. We loved the idea of living an active lifestyle off the beach where our son could learn Spanish through immersion and we could experience a new culture together.

We began to dream about what life might be like on the island as we made tentative plans for a move. Transitioning our family to Puerto Rico would be fairly smooth, we reckoned, given our backgrounds. But then JJ did more research, and he quickly discovered that moving our belongings would not be as easy as we thought.

My excitement quickly waned as JJ and I came to the conclusion that we would have to sell all our possessions to pursue a life in Puerto Rico, and as I told JJ how I felt, he agreed that a move there was perhaps not such a good idea after all. He quietly withdrew his application that evening.

The next morning during my quiet time, with Puerto Rico still fresh on my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about the rich young ruler that approached Jesus in Luke 18. The brief exchange between them is as follows:

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Luke 18:18-22 ESV

The story ends on a bitter note for the ruler, who became sad because of his wealth. Jesus then states how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, and those who hear Him are left to wonder who can be saved.

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Luke 18:27

There is yet hope for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God, just as there is for everyone else!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

That day, as I thought about my own struggle with material possessions, I wasn’t worried about my salvation because of what Ephesians 2 says. What did concern me, however, was thinking that Jesus might be asking JJ and me to sell all we had and follow Him, but instead we were walking away like the rich young ruler because we were allowing our belongings to hold us back.

As I concluded my quiet time that morning, I asked God to help us follow Him wherever He may lead, no matter the cost. I didn’t want us to live a lesser life than what God had in store because of a bunch of material possessions. I truly longed to live a life with my family where we could look back with no regrets.

A few hours later and several hundred miles away, my family and I found ourselves on a hike in the middle of the woods. JJ took the week off, so we extended the anniversary celebration by taking a short road trip out of town.

Since there were dozens of sticks scattered along the path, and since Liam is a typical toddler boy, he started picking up as many broken branches as he could, all the while mentioning a campfire a half a dozen times, something he had learned about through one of his favorite cartoons.

Liam’s actions would have normally been really cute had I not felt annoyed by his refusing our help over and over again. The path was treacherous for his little legs, but he didn’t want to let go of any of the sticks to take one of our hands, so he struggled along, having to crawl at one point as he tightly held onto the bundles he had collected.

As annoyed as I felt by Liam’s stubbornness, God used that moment to further impress upon my heart what He had already been showing me earlier that day—that I should never allow material possessions (or anything else) to hold me back from following God wherever He may lead. Furthermore, I need to let go of anything that is keeping me from allowing God to guide me, otherwise I can be sure of struggling through this life much like my son did that afternoon.

Ironically, JJ and I are no longer considering Puerto Rico at this time. JJ resubmitted his application after we determined that our belongings would not hold us back, but after more prayer, research on JJ’s part, and much discussion and deliberate consideration, it didn’t seem like a wise pursuit. Nonetheless, I’m praying God will show us differently if that is where we are supposed to be.

Although the few days that we considered such a move put me on an emotional roller coaster, and although we’re left where we started, I’m still thankful that the idea crossed our path. The whole ordeal made me aware that I had subconsciously begun to believe that I was too old and settled in life to be called to something drastically different than what my family and I have experienced thus far. That’s not true though, of course. We do not know about tomorrow or what plans God might have for us. The few days of considering Puerto Rico left me with a greater desire to be flexible and open to whatever God may have in store, and that’s exactly how we need to live as believers. Living any other way may cause us to miss out on some of the greatest adventures that God is inviting us on. So, let’s not allow anything to hold us back. Let’s hear His voice and follow Him, no matter the cost.

What Are You Wearing?

I recently purchased a book for my son that my mother used to read to my younger brother and me when we were young. It’s called The Emperor’s New Clothes, and it’s a story about an emperor who is persuaded by two “tailors” into having clothes made for him out of a special, one-of-a-kind material that they are able to weave. The problem is, this unique cloth doesn’t actually exist. The two men are really con artists that have schemed up a plan to swindle the emperor out of his money and ensure that the townsfolk let them get away with it. They have convinced the entire town that this woven cloth is distinct because only those who are wise and fit for their jobs can see it.

The story progresses to the point where the emperor parades around in his new “clothes” for everyone within his kingdom to admire. At first, the town is shocked that they can’t see the emperor’s apparel. Nonetheless, since no one wants to be thought of as a fool unfit for his job, the whole town pretends to see the new garments, loudly voicing admiration for the ruler’s outfit as he passes by.

Finally, the emperor parades past a little boy, who loudly blurts out what everyone else has been afraid to admit all along—that the emperor is not wearing any clothes at all! He has been parading around in his underwear this whole time! As the now-emboldened crowd begins to voice agreement with the young boy, who can neither be considered a fool nor unfit for a job at such a young age, the emperor flees to his palace, bright red from embarrassment.

Although I do not remember much of the story beyond this point as a child, the one I bought for my son ends on a happy note. The emperor is able to capture the thieves and recover his stolen money. He also thanks the boy for his honesty, recognizing how he has been spared from further scams and embarrassment as a result. In the end, this vain ruler has learned a valuable lesson from the boy, which is to always be honest, no matter what.

My younger brother and I loved this story as children and always gleefully giggled at the emperor’s embarrassment. His short-lived predicament never ceased to amuse our young minds. Although we were little when my mom read us this book, I always had a good understanding of how outlandish the story was, which was perhaps why I so readily laughed at the emperor instead of feeling sorry for him. I knew in real life that no one could fall for such an absurd scheme. Or so I thought.

Over thirty years later, as I find myself living in a very different day of age, I’m beginning to think that this children’s story was not so outlandish after all. As absurd as the scheme was in The Emperor’s New Clothes, we are seeing similar absurdities in our society today. And just like the townsfolk believed they would look foolish or unfit for their jobs if they told the truth, our society would have us believe that we are fools that are perhaps unfit for society itself if we dare to speak the truth rather than going along with worldly schemes.

The truth is, this world is in worse condition than the emperor ever was. Caught up in deception, it drapes itself in human wisdom and sophistication, deafening its ears to the truth that even a small child can see to opt for its own ideas of self-perception. As time goes by, these actions and attitudes have become even more prevalent as deception continues to weave itself into the fabric of our society and cause many to think erroneously. But let’s not allow the wool to be pulled over our own eyes, my friends. Worldly wisdom will never amount to real wisdom, for true wisdom comes from God alone.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

1 Corinthians 3:19a

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Proverbs 2:6

Though worldly wisdom may be admired and applauded in our time, everyone will ultimately see that it amounted to nothing in the end. It was just a deceptive scheme, and those who paraded around in it were only exposing themselves in shame. Woe to them!

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Isaiah 5:20-21

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Romans 1:18

Let us therefore dress differently than this world, forsaking earthly comfort and popularity.

Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Romans 13:12

God has given us the apparel needed to live victoriously in this day of age. He has provided us and commands us to put on His armor, which includes fastening His belt of truth and girding His breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:13-17), so let’s put on the full armor of God and prepare for the battle at hand.

As it is, we were never meant to take part in any worldly “fashion show” or to seek the approval of man (Gal. 1:10). So, let’s suit up and prepare for practical living in this present day. Moreover, let’s take what the emperor learned to heart, because honesty still is (and will always be) the best policy, and above all else, God’s truth will prevail.

Celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection with Children

In need of ideas to celebrate the true meaning of Easter with the children in your life? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. RESURRECTION ROCKS

This is a simple activity that children and adults can enjoy alike. For this activity, you will need the following supplies:

  • Smooth, medium-sized rocks
  • Different colored paints of choice
  • Paintbrushes (optional)
  • Small cups or bowls of water
  • Newspaper or a plastic tablecloth to keep the mess contained (optional)

Begin this activity by explaining to your children that we celebrate Easter to remember that Jesus rose from the dead, then read the following passage.

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

Mark 16:1-6 ESV

Next, explain that the rocks are a way of remembering that the stone was rolled away and that Jesus rose from the dead. Encourage older children to paint spiritual themes or spring time scenes to represent the new life that we find in Jesus. When the projects are finished, paint the words “He is risen!” on top of each rock, then find a place to display each masterpiece, whether that be near the front door, in the garden, or even at a local park where others can be reminded that Jesus rose again.

2. GOSPEL-FOCUSED EASTER BASKETS

If you give your kids an Easter basket each year, why not make it a gospel-focused experience this year?

This idea was posted on social media by a woman named Anita Cason in 2018. In her post, she stated that it was not her original idea but rather bits and pieces of several ideas that she found online. I love how she adapted these ideas to turn them into a weekend activity, and I’m thrilled to share that activity with you all!

For this activity, you will need the following supplies for each child:

  • A basket
  • Rocks (these will be collected at the beginning of the activity)
  • A red cloth (or a red napkin)
  • Small toys, treats, or whatever you typically put in your children’s Easter baskets

Step One: On Good Friday, go on a rock collecting adventure with your kids! Take the baskets outdoors and let them retrieve whatever rocks they find (if you plan to do the first activity listed, now would be a great time to look for those rocks).  As your children begin to collect different rocks, ask them what they can observe about the weight of their baskets. Point out that, like those rocks, sin is burdensome and weighs us down. It also separates us from God. Reflect on the gravity of sin on the walk home.

Step Two: Once home, grab the baskets and place them in a prominent place to be seen over the weekend. Next, take a red cloth and place it over the basket, pointing out that it represents the blood that Jesus shed when He died on the cross to save us from our sins. Leave the cloth over the baskets the remainder of the day and all of Saturday as a visible reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Step Three: Once your children go to bed on Saturday night, change out the rocks for toys, treats, or whatever else you generally place in their baskets for Easter, then place the red cloth back over them.

Step Four: Let your children pull back the red cloth over their Easter baskets on Sunday morning to discover the treasures insides! Explain how, when we come to faith in Jesus, He cleanses us from all our sin and fills our heart with beautiful things. He indwells us with His Spirit and also gives us the fruit of the Spirit. We are truly made rich in Him!

If any of your children have not placed their faith in Jesus yet, I want to especially encourage you to ask if they have understood the gospel message and if they would like to make a decision for Christ. How beautiful it would be for God to use this simple activity to bring their little hearts to Him this year!

3. RESURRECTION ROLLS

My sister makes these dinner rolls with her children every year, and they are always a huge success. Her daughter is quite the baker, so she especially enjoys this activity, and the whole family enjoys the finished product! It’s a tangible reminder to all that the tomb was empty. Jesus rose from the dead!

For this activity, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 8 large marshmallows
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

To make these simple rolls, you can follow the instructions at the following website: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/84289/resurrection-rolls/.

The marshmallow placed in the middle of the roll melts as it bakes and seeps into the crescent roll, leaving a hollow, sweet treat. This recipe is so simple that even young children can help to make it. It will be sure to impress them when they find that the marshmallow is gone once baked. I can’t think of a better (or tastier) food option to represent the empty tomb.

So, there you have it! If you celebrate with your kids this year using any of these ideas, please let me know! I’d love to hear how they go for you and your children. And if you have any other ideas that you could add to this list, please share them in the comments as well! God has given us such a special task in entrusting these children in our care, so let’s plant seeds in their hearts during these formative years and pray that they will have a deeper understanding of the gospel and of God’s love as a result.

Lastly, may God bless you richly this Easter season, my friends. He is risen, and that is always worth celebrating!

God Will Not Be Silenced

Photo by Tomas Anunziata in Pexels

We stood on the walkway, peering over the cement railing at the thrashing waves below. It was the last night of our team retreat, a retreat that almost didn’t happen since, within a few short months, our team had drastically dwindled down to just us two. An official team retreat seemed a bit extravagant, after all, when we were also roommates and friends that already spent a lot of time together. Considering the hardships from that semester, however, and the fact that we would soon be parting ways, we decided to go. The time of relaxation, reflection, and prayer for the future proved to be just what we needed.

Now we stood on the cobblestone pathway that final evening, soaking up the ocean breeze one last time as we watched the waves rhythmically roll toward the shore, gaining momentum and force as they raced toward us.

There is something mesmerizing about the ocean at night, where vast, open sky meets deep, dark sea. The waves are especially awe-inspiring after dark, a symphony in crescendo that is interrupted by thunderous applause as the waves burst into a frothy, white foam before retreating into the immense depths of salty sea.

Amid this magnificent show, I finally understood what was meant by the words from a worship song that was popular years ago.

Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name
Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zschech

That night, the ocean roared. It glorified God in all its wildness, strength, and intensity because it was doing exactly what God had intended it to do. And in that moment, I caught a better glimpse of who God was. I could see a reflection of His splendor, power, and might through those waves, and I realized so much more how the One who had created the ocean in all its ferociousness was utterly worthy of all my reverence and praise.

As we reluctantly stepped away from that sacred moment, I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between the ocean and the row of bars and night clubs on the opposite side of the road.  A dozen or so of these locales lined the street, a cacophony of noise flooding out of their windows and doors as a chaos of colors erupted forth from their pulsing neon lights.

The irony of of such a scene was not lost on me, and I wondered how many people left the ocean regretting the little time they had really spent on the beach due to the allure of places like those. I imagined that such establishments would always exist, ready to detour and distract people from the sea. Nonetheless, their distractive nature could not detract from the ocean’s majesty.  The waves would continue to roar and to reflect God’s glory in their strength, force, and consistency. Establishments would come and go, but the ocean would always remain, and it would never stop glorifying God in its wild beauty.

It has been over a decade that I went on that trip, but remembering what the immense waves revealed to me about God that day brings a lot of comfort to my heart as of late. The truth is, we live in a world that would not only distract and detour us from seeking God but would also increasingly seek to silence His Word and His moral law with each passing day. But just as the waves would not keep silent amidst competing voices, God will not be silenced. He cannot be contained. He cannot be confined. He will not be controlled or manipulated. Even in countries where Christianity is illegal and the church faces persecution, He is revealing Himself to individuals through dreams and other divine encounters for those who have yet to believe. No government, group, or any other thing can keep Him from accomplishing His purposes.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV

No matter how bad things may be (or may become) for believers, and no matter how much society may try to silence our testimony, God will not be silenced, and His Word cannot be destroyed. It will remain forever, and the church will continue to grow. The gates of hell shall not prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, when all is said and done, those who persecuted the church and tirelessly sought to silence God’s voice will be the very ones to kneel before Jesus and confess that He is Lord, alongside the entire world.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:9-11 ESV

God will not be silenced, so let’s be still and revel in the power, might, and strength of our God. He is still in control. He is always and forever in control.

Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 ESV

Dream Big

First, it was the picture that my friend painted for me of a basket being lifted by dozens of colorful balloons that floated above the billowy clouds into the deep blue sky, similar to the cartoon movie Up. The words Dream Big were scrawled to the left of them.  Then it was the travel bag that came with the makeup samples I opened later that day—a small, blue tinted vinyl bag covered with the word dream printed all over it. Then it was a text message a few weeks later from the small group leader of the virtual Bible study I joined this year in which she essentially stated that it was never too late and to never give up. God was the God of our dreams, both big and small.

After hearing the same message in such a short amount of time, I started to think that maybe God was trying to tell me something, and as I considered the idea of dreaming, I realized that, as of late, I hadn’t been doing much of it at all.

I still had dreams of finishing my younger brother’s book and seeing it get published someday. I also had dreams about somehow turning this blog into a success later down the road. And then, of course, there were the hopes and dreams that I had for my family and my son in particular, which were often expressed through prayer. But almost all of my dreams seemed distant, like a desert oasis that one searches for but can never find.

The truth is, I had become resigned to the way life was now. I wasn’t necessarily just surviving the current circumstances of what seemed to be a never-ending storm. I had gotten past that stage, or so I liked to think, and was making the best of the situation at hand. My best, however, was far from thriving. I was simply making the most of each day and wishing for better days to come. The idea of dreaming big felt beyond my grasp, a challenge too overwhelming to accept. Where did I even begin when life felt just as uncertain and unstable as it did nearly a year ago?

Fortunately for us, God does not rely on the certainty or stability of our circumstances to do something magnificent in and through our lives. He often uses the hard circumstances as the perfect setting to spotlight His splendor.

He did this for the Israelites who had been enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years, using the Pharaoh’s hardened heart to manifest His power through ten plagues and through a final, climactic parting of the Red Sea. He did this for Gideon, turning him into a valiant warrior during a time of oppression who would ultimately win the victory over the massive Midianite army with a mere three hundred men. And He did this for Joseph, turning his years of slavery and imprisonment into the stepping stones that would make his adolescent dreams become a reality, all for God’s glory so that many would be saved.

Our hardest, most desperate, and impossible moments truly are no match for God. The angel Gabriel stated it best when he appeared to Mary.

For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Luke 1:37 ESV

Recently I’ve asked God to put the dreams He has for me within my heart. I was reminded of something from years ago that one of the speakers at a missionary conference personally told me one afternoon out of the blue. He spoke to me about a verse found in Psalm 37.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 ESV

He then explained how, when we were delighting in the LORD, God put the desires He had for us within our hearts, desires that He later fulfilled. It was such a beautiful explanation that I had never heard or considered before, but it made sense to me. I saw in my own life how, as I grew in my love for God, He gave me new dreams and desires that I knew were pleasing to Him.

If you are like me, and this season of your life has been filled with continual hardship, disappointment, uncertainty, or confusion—one in which dreaming feels like a distant possibility—then perhaps we both need to take Psalm 37:4 a little more to heart. Our circumstances don’t have to be ideal to delight ourselves in the LORD or for Him to place His desires for us within our hearts. We can delight in Him and dream anew, in the midst of any disappointment or uncertainty, because we know that He is good and that we have been made secure in His love. So, let’s stop focusing so much on the circumstances of today. Let’s remind ourselves that God may very well be placing us in the perfect setting to be found in the spotlight of His glorious display of splendor. And as we seek to delight in Him, let’s pray that He would truly place His desires alone in our hearts, because His dreams for us are the ones that are truly worth dreaming big.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

God’s Timing in Motherhood

Photo from Pixabay

I turned forty nearly a month ago, and although I have been wanting to share about it for awhile, I have been procrastinating a bit because the topic I feel most compelled to write about is one that makes me feel vulnerable and is least relevant to my readers. It has to do with how I have been feeling lately as a forty-year-old mother to a toddler son.

I mourned the fact that I would be an older mom (if one at all) when JJ and I were newly engaged. The feeling took me by surprise since it seemed so incongruous to the joy I felt as I prepared to marry the man I loved. The truth is, I was seriously starting to wonder if I’d ever get married before meeting JJ. My twenties and early thirties passed me by with a lot of solo moments and a whole lot of questions about my future and romance. So, when JJ entered my life and we got engaged shortly before my 35th birthday, it wasn’t something I took for granted. I saw God’s fingerprints all over our story, and I was deeply grateful for what He was writing of it.

Nonetheless, I found myself in tears the first few weeks of our engagement as I mourned the fact that I’d never be a young mom. Fortunately, I was able to recognize that I was allowing the enemy to rob me of my joy, so I asked God to help me fully enjoy the moment, and He did. My sadness diminished as I reveled in the fact that God had truly answered my prayers for a husband. Life was sweet.

Several months later, JJ and I got married, and since neither of us were ready for children right away, we waited a full year until we both were. Fortunately for us, God blessed us with a baby boy ten months later. I was 37 at the time.

The first few months after Liam was born, I didn’t have time to think about my age. As I slowly started to venture out a bit more, however, I began to meet other moms with young children and was quickly reminded of just how old I was. And while the younger moms expressed their sadness over approaching their thirties, I was thinking forward to my son’s high school graduation and wondering just how many people would mistake me for his grandmother.

Life as an older mom has proven to be emotionally hard throughout the short time that I have been one, and although part of that hardship is based on my physical appearance in the midst of moms that are young and wrinkle free, a bigger part of it has to do with knowing that I will not always be able to keep up with my son as many younger moms will. My age is already playing a physical part in my parenting more than I would like it to, and turning forty has only intensified the reality of the impact my age has on my parenting. Nonetheless, I know these thoughts and feelings don’t have to have the final say in this topic. When I think of my age, I also think of Biblical characters that became mothers at much greater ages, and I’m reminded of how miraculous, beautiful, and noteworthy their stories were as a result.

I think of Sarah, who had to wait until she was ninety before having a son. But it was precisely after all those years of barrenness and in the biologically impossible stage of bearing children that God delighted to miraculously cause her to conceive and give birth to a son. And I think of Elizabeth, who was barren until she, too, became advanced in age. But God performed a similar miracle for her and also blessed her with a baby son.

Moreover, I think of the stories of Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah, who also struggled with infertility and no doubt begged God through tears for Him to give them a child as they hoped and waited for what may have seemed like an eternity. And although they did not have to wait until their childbearing years had passed to conceive a child, their stories were still very much orchestrated by God and glorifying to Him as a result of His answer to their prayers.

There is something even more magnificent about these stories than the initial miracle of each birth, however. God blessed these women with children that would make a historical and spiritual impact on the world, and through the recording of their stories in the Scriptures, men and women are still being impacted by them today. The prolonged time of waiting, which was likely a source of shame to these women at one point, became the very thing that highlighted God’s miraculous work in their lives and the meaningful story He was writing for them and their offspring.

When I think of the story of these women and their children, I am encouraged to see my story in a new light. Although my long wait was not due to infertility, it was a wait nonetheless that included tearful prayers that God would allow me to be a mother someday. And although no one would label my pregnancy as anything miraculous, I still saw God’s hand on it, blessing me in that stage of life.

I never would have chosen to become a first-time mother at an older age, just like Sarah, Elizabeth, Hannah, Rebekah, and Rachel wouldn’t have waited so long to become mothers themselves. But God chose the timing of motherhood for me, just like He did for them. He chose for me to be a middle-aged toddler mom, so I want to trust that He will accomplish His purposes in motherhood at this stage of my life for me and through me for the benefit of my husband and son.

We often may not understand God’s timing in our lives, but we can rest assured of this—His timing is perfect, and He can use each orchestrated moment to showcase His glorious work in our lives, so let these be the truths that stay with us as the years pass by. May the areas of our lives that have somehow caused us shame become the very things that God uses to highlight His mighty work in us and to write for us a much greater story—one that will have an impact for eternity.

Remembering Still

I originally posted this essay on January 21st, 2020, with my son at the forefront of my mind (Simply titled “Remembering” as the original). Yesterday morning, I reread it thinking of my younger brother. Yesterday marked the ten-year anniversary of his hospitalization–one that would last for nearly six months. Reading this post again, I can see how God was in the timing of the original post last January. He was preparing me (and hopefully others through it) for the difficulties to come.

My younger brother and I started writing a book last year about how God strengthened our faith as a family during his hospitalization. We gained so much treasure throughout that trial; God taught us valuable lessons and strengthened our faith. Someday, this pandemic will end, and I hope to sit down and look at all the treasure I have gained as a result. I hope I can see the valuable lessons God taught me and the way He strengthened my faith, much like my family and I have seen from my brother’s situation. But for now, I am content to be reminded of all that we have gained as a family from ten years ago, and I’m hopeful that there are still more treasures from it to come.

Herbs that my younger brother and sister-in-law recently sent me for my 40th birthday.

A year ago yesterday, my son was admitted to the hospital for a two-night stay.

The weeks and even months leading up to this anniversary, I would get a little teary-eyed thinking of it. I would remember him in his bouncy chair watching TV before he got admitted to the hospital, moaning and too weak to move. When he finally mustered up enough strength to get out of the chair and try to play, it would only be to slump to the floor and cry because he didn’t feel well, resulting in me rushing to his side and scooping him into my arms.

I was relieved when he was finally admitted to the hospital. He wasn’t getting any better at home, and I knew things were only going to get worse as long as he stayed there. And yet watching him deal with this sickness at the hospital was even more heartbreaking than what we had experienced at home so far. He hated having all the medical staff poke and prod him, and many times he would cry inconsolably.

The one comfort we both found during our hospital stay came in the evenings when I would nurse him to sleep and throughout the night in the flimsy cot the nurses had brought for me. It brought him relief, as it did me, and we both needed that. We needed the reassurance of being near each other.

As I have thought about these events throughout these past months, I really thought I’d be teary eyed when this date arrived. But I wasn’t.

These past few days, I have gotten to see my son laugh and run and play, and all I have been able to think about is how far we have come in a year and how faithful God has been.

Thinking about this anniversary these last few days has made me think about other hardships my family and I have faced throughout the years, most of them taking place around this time of year.

One of the most significant hardships happened nearly a decade ago when my younger brother got sick with a rare illness that left him in the hospital for months. And yet God was so gracious to us during that time. While my brother spent days on end in a hospital room, God provided good nurses and doctors that worked tirelessly to find a cure for him. And even as he was fighting for his life, God put it on the hearts of many people to also fight for my brother’s life through countless hours in prayer.

It is nothing short of a miracle that my younger brother is alive today. All of us who witnessed his time in the hospital and saw all he experienced know this to be true.

Something that amazes me when I think of this incident is how my younger brother never became bitter over what happened to him. If anything, he has grown closer to God as a result, and I admire the man he has become. He is a genuine example of what it means to live the Spirit-filled life, and I know that this has been God’s doing.

There was another time a couple of years prior to this when my sister-in-law caught pneumonia and had to spend a few days in the ICU right after moving to Chile. And God was also gracious to us throughout that time.

I am reminded of how He was teaching me to give thanks to Him in everything shortly before this incident occurred. When my heart would have naturally wanted to worry over the situation, God was showing me how He was at work as I determined to thank Him instead, and soon I was able to see and feel at peace with how much He was in control of these circumstances. The timing of this incident had not been a mistake.

A few days later, I received news that she had been discharged from the hospital and was doing well! She and her family were happily reunited to begin their new life together in South America!

On yet another occasion, my older brother and his children were part of the big earthquake in Chile that had followed shortly after the one in Haiti.

This incident was a lesson for me in actively guarding my mind as my family and I waited to hear from my older brother. So many horrible possibilities bombarded my mind as silence ensued for the next two days. I had to shove the images aside and simply pray and trust that God was in control and loved my brother and his family more than I ever could. Fortunately for us, the phone lines were working a few days later, and my mom received word that he and the children were fine. God had been so gracious to them and to us in sparing their lives and providing for their needs during the days to follow.

And lastly, there was the time when I was diagnosed with severe anemia in late February one year. The only reason the Physician’s Assistant did not order a blood transfusion on the spot was because my health insurance wouldn’t cover the expenses. He sent me home with a prescription for a high dose of iron, however, and warned me he’d be admitting me for the transfusion next week during our follow up appointment if he didn’t see an improvement in my iron levels.

Fortunately my iron levels went up slightly by the following week, so I was able to bypass a blood transfusion and instead continued taking the high-dose iron pills. I also began a series of tests to see what had caused my anemia in the first place. It was an emotional time in my life as, at one point, I was being tested to see if I had cancer. Fortunately, the test came back negative. All of the tests did.

It was never determined what was wrong with me to cause such severe anemia. But I ultimately saw God’s graciousness to me in the lack of answers, because it meant there was only one true answer to believe—that God had healed me from whatever had caused my sickness.

All this to say, we have definitely had our share of hardships as a family. Nonetheless, God’s faithfulness and graciousness have been so evident to us throughout each one.

As I have been recently thumbing through my journals and reliving these past hardships, I have been thinking about how good and necessary it is to remember what all God has brought us through.

It’s not a new idea. After all, the Israelites in the Old Testament were commanded time and time again to remember God’s wondrous works and how He had delivered them on countless occasions.

Part of the benefit of recalling these times is because it strengthens our faith in God. After all, if He brought us through those difficulties, He can surely bring us through the ones we are currently facing and the ones we will face in the future.

As I write about my experience with past hardships, I recognize that I have been blessed because none of these specific incidents ended in death. I nonetheless recognize that it won’t always be this way. If the LORD tarries and nature runs its natural course, then I will see old age lay many of my loved ones to rest on this side of eternity. That, however, is why it is all the more important to remember past hardships and how faithful God has been to us through them. If we remember and stand firm in how God has been good to us and will continue to be, perhaps we will see how deep His goodness runs even in the most difficult moments.

In my own life, each hardship I have faced has become a stepping stone to deeper faith in God and in His goodness and faithfulness. I pray that will never change.

During this most recent trial with my son and the months that ensued, I was often reminded of something that Peter told Jesus after many of His disciples turned back from following Him. Jesus asked the twelve if they also wanted to turn back. In that moment, however, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Ultimately, I know that no one and nothing else can offer me the words of eternal life other than Jesus. And I have seen first-hand how Jesus has done just that when Satan has meant to kill, steal, and destroy. I pray that I will always see how He is bringing life into whatever circumstance I encounter. God’s goodness, love, graciousness, and faithfulness will never cease to surround us. May He open our eyes to see this more and more each day. And may we never forget what He has brought us through, so that even (and especially) in our most trying days, we too can stand firm in who He is and in His words of life.

This Is Not A Game

Photo by Lady Escabia from Pexels

This is not a game.

My pastor has made this statement on several occasions throughout his sermons. He says it in regards to our country’s cultural climate, which continues to grow colder towards Christ followers each day. I honestly hate hearing these words and would rather ignore them, but I believe that my pastor is right and that he would be doing us a disservice in not telling us.

Ironically, our country seems to treat politics differently than my pastor’s views. The commentators of our day (aka the media) choose which political party they will adhere to, then they defend that “team” regardless of any “fouls” or other indecencies exhibited, all the while debasing the other “team”. But this is not a game. None of us are merely sitting on the sidelines, cheering or booing at each team depending on what “plays” have been made. We won’t go home and forget what has happened on the “field”, because each action will ultimately affect our lives in one way or another. Each of us will ultimately win or lose long after each decision has been made.

This is not a game. It is something far graver and more concerning than what we may have been giving it credit for. It is not a game. No, it’s an all-out war. Nonetheless, it is not a war waged against the different political parties of our day, nor against people groups, movements, or nations.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12

Therefore, it is spiritual warfare that requires a spiritual form of attack and defense. Below are some actions that we can take to prepare for the battle at hand:

  1. Put on the armor of God.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:13-16

In practical terms, putting on the armor of God means that we filter everything we see, hear, and think through the lens of truth found in God’s Word and therefore reject any part of our culture that does not align with righteousness as described in His Word. We also pray for and take advantage of opportunities God gives us to present the gospel to people that He places in our paths, knowing that the end draws near and that God desires that no one should perish.  Moreover, we remain firm in our faith, reminding ourselves that this world is not our home. A celestial city awaits us whose King rules in absolute righteousness, justice, and truth. But until we enter through those pearly gates, we pray, preach, think, and act according to God’s Word. It is our weapon of attack against the spiritual realm of darkness that we battle. Through these means, we partake in spiritual combat and are given the opportunity to see God’s kingdom advance.

2. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” 

Matthew 10:16

These are the words that Jesus spoke to the twelve apostles when He sent them out into the world. Thousands of years later, they still apply to Christ followers today. We are still like sheep in the midst of wolves, and as the world grows more critical of believers, it is easy to see just how true that is.

As such, we must learn how to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, and a big part of this means learning to have discretion with what we say. This does not mean that we should not boldly declare the truth. It doesn’t mean that our words won’t necessarily be offensive to others either. After all, people took offense at Jesus from His own hometown (Matthew 13:57).What it does mean, however, is that we consider our motives for what we say and how we say it. Are we sharing certain thoughts as true ambassadors of Christ would? Do our words express concern for the lost? Do they represent individuals who authentically follow Christ? I’ll admit that these questions are ones that I need to ask myself. It is far too easy to want to respond in anger to the foolish actions or responses of others when I’m watching the news or reading articles or posts online. Nonetheless, if I want to become more like Jesus, then I need to consider the weight of my words and choose them wisely. May they become more and more a reflection of Jesus to others, both to believers and unbelievers alike.

3. Pray

After the Apostle Paul listed what the armor of God entails, he gave this most important admonishment:

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Ephesians 6:18

Prayer is our greatest means of spiritual defense and attack in the battle in which we are engaged. Through it, we ask God to act through us, in us, and on our behalf. Through it, we recognize our helpless state and God’s ability to work in miraculous ways, both in our own lives and all throughout the world.

  • Abraham prayed, and God healed king Abimelech and his wife and female servants.1
  • Moses prayed, and God caused the plagues of frogs, flies, hail, and locusts to cease.2
  • Samson prayed, and God allowed him to defeat his Philistine enemies one last time.3
  • Hannah prayed, and God granted her a son.4
  • Nehemiah prayed, and God enabled the wall to be rebuilt and the exiles to return home.5

There are far too many examples throughout Scripture to list them all here, but in each one, prayer is the invitation that God uses to miraculously work in the midst of people, and it is still the invitation He responds to today.

James 5:16 states that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  So, let’s keep praying according to God’s will, and let’s keep trusting that He is working in our midst and all throughout the earth, even beyond what our eyes can see.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

Proverbs 21:31

Sources

  1. Genesis 20
  2. Exodus 8-10
  3. Judges 16
  4. 1 Samuel 1
  5. Nehemiah 1, 7
  6. Pictures of Scripture taken from BibleGateway.com

Until the Whole World Hears

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:7-8

I have felt the need to share my testimony for several weeks now. As the apostle Peter pointed out in the words above, “the end of all things is near,” and that is truer today than ever before. With the end drawing near, Peter wrote to the scattered believers of his day to be alert and sober minded so that they could pray.

What do we pray for at times like these? There are certainly enough things to pray about, but I believe the most important prayer we could pray as believers is that God would draw individuals to Himself. Furthermore, we should ask God to use us in the process.

Although life has yet to go back to normal for many of us and we still face social restrictions as a result, we live in a day of age in which we have the incredible opportunity to have a voice online, whether that be through blogging, social media, email, or some other means.

Today, I want to use my voice to share about the most important decision I have ever made, and I want to invite others who have made a similar decision to do the same and to challenge others to do likewise. Until the whole world hears.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14

So, without further ado, this is my story:

My background is a bit different from most people I know. My siblings and I grew up attending a Messianic Jewish congregation with our parents. We are not Jewish, but my dad had a big heart for Jewish people and a desire for them to believe in Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah), so we went to a culturally Jewish congregation that preached that Jesus was the Son of God and Savior of the world.

As a result of my upbringing, I believed at an early age that Jesus had died on a cross to save the world from its sin. John 3:16 is a verse I memorized quickly.

 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

Unfortunately, I didn’t truly understand what any of this meant and held onto the idea that I could earn a place in heaven by being good. My ideas completely changed one evening, however.

My mom and I were finishing up my Bible lesson for the day (I was homeschooled at the time), and she asked me the last question on the page.

“Are you saved?” she read.

I racked my brain to try to understand what that meant. Was I in some sort of danger?

My mom’s next comment was most alarming.

“If you are not saved, then you are going to hell.”

I was both terrified and confused by those words. What did she mean by this?

My mom explained to me that I was a sinner, reminding me of times when I had lied or fought with my siblings, and because of my sin, I was separated from God. Nonetheless, God loved me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the sacrifice for my sins. Jesus lived a perfect life, then He died on a cross and rose again so that I could spend an eternity with Him if I so chose. It wasn’t enough for me to just have this knowledge, however. I needed to place my faith in Jesus.

That night, I earnestly prayed alongside my mother, recognizing that Jesus had come to save me from my sins and asking Him to forgive me and to be my Savior and Lord.

It was by no means an eloquent prayer. I was only eight years old at the time and probably didn’t even know the meaning of such a word. But that didn’t matter. God was looking at the sincerity of my heart.

My life did not change that much outwardly after beginning a personal relationship with God. After all, I was a young child that had barely begun to live. Nonetheless, I felt God’s love for me like I never had before.  I also began to notice pride in my life and began to feel convicted by it. Over the decades, God continues to work on my pride and other areas in my life, and I can see how He is continuing to mold me to make me more like Him.

A little over a year ago, I could sense God inviting me into a deeper adventure with Him, and I started this blog as a means of recording that adventure. I have enjoyed writing about what He has been teaching me ever since then.

I invite you to look through my past blogposts to see what I have learned throughout this past year, but I want to invite you even more to consider the testimony I shared above. If you have never made a similar decision to place your faith in Jesus, would you consider doing so now?

We have all realized how fragile life is after a year like last one. Don’t let the moment pass you up.

*For a more detailed version of the gospel message, I recommend the following website:   http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp/default.htm

Tumbleweeds

I meant to take Liam on a walk with me a few days ago, but instead I found myself sweeping up the patio and then picking up twigs in our yard as he played nearby. A windstorm had blown a bunch of tumbleweeds into our neighborhood a few days before Christmas, and although I had broken down the ones in our yard and filled several garbage bags with them on Christmas Eve, there were still a lot of remaining pieces scattered between the rocks.

The activity seemed fitting for my current mindset and mood. I’m generally excited to usher in a new year and dream about the possibilities that the next twelve months might bring, but this year has been different for me. I’ve been muddling through my normal New Year activities with little enthusiasm this time. The year that the world anxiously awaited is one that has met me with sorrow as my heart continues to ache for friends who suffered incredible losses last year.

Picking up twigs that day was a vivid reminder that, although we’ve entered a new year with hope of better days to come, we must still deal with the physical and emotional debris created by the damage of last year’s storms. We must pick up the broken pieces of our lives if we are to begin the healing process and start to move forward. In light of the aftermath of last year’s storms, perhaps we need to set aside some of our expectations over what we thought this year should be.

Recently I’ve come to realize that a year doesn’t need a whole lot of pizzazz or big celebrations to make it a good one. This year does not need to make up for “lost” time to make it worthwhile either. If the brokenhearted are able to find comfort and move toward healing this year, then it will be a good one. And if those who suffered physical, financial, or personal loss last year are able to move toward recovery in this one, then it will be a good year. But most of all, if we are able to experience God’s perfect peace in the midst of another potentially turbulent year, then I believe that we will be able to say by December that, at least personally, it was a good one.

If anything, last year clearly showed us that we cannot control our circumstances, but I hope it also clearly reminded us that God is still in control, and He can still fill our days with hope, joy, and peace in the middle of any storm. We must remember these things as we journey through these next twelve months. We must choose to remember that Jesus came to give us abundant life, and that life is dependent solely on Him and not on what any given year may bring.

As I mourn the losses from last year (and events that have already taken place this year), I find comfort in knowing that spring will come to our hearts again someday. This long season of winter won’t last forever. We may not enter into it feeling as young or as carefree as we once were, and it may not come as soon as we want or even look like what we were expecting. Nonetheless, just as the birds will sing and the flowers will bloom again, our hearts will find spring anew and delight afresh in the simple pleasures of life and God’s faithfulness throughout every season.

In the meantime, I will continue to pick up the twigs between the rocks in our yards as I delight in the sweetness of hope.