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

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

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!

Happy Jesus Day

“Happy Jesus Day!” my son exclaimed to me a few mornings ago in his little toddler voice.

I reveled in the cuteness of those words rolling off his lips. It was a phrase I had never heard before, and it was especially precious to hear my son say it since it centered on Jesus.

After soaking in the sweetness of the moment, my next reaction was to want to “correct” him and tell him that Jesus’ day was in December or the spring when we celebrated His birth and resurrection. Instead, I remained silent, and I’m so glad I did. After all, shouldn’t we see every day as Jesus’ day?

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

When I think of the fact that the LORD has made each day and intentionally created me to live in this period of time, it makes me recognize that He has specific things in store for me each day.

He has ways in which He wants me to know Him more deeply; people to pray for, encourage, and love; insights for me to make and mull over; moments to spend with my husband and son. And He has those tender moments planned out too—ones like that morning a few days ago where He showed me that He is actively at work in the life of my young son.

In all reality, each new day is an opportunity to go on a treasure hunt that has specifically been mapped out for us by God. We need only to be willing to discover. So let us pray that we would have the eyes to see and to appreciate each jewel when we come across them. And let us truly meditate on the fact that this is the day that the Lord has made and ask God to help us rejoice and be glad in it, no matter what the day may bring.

Today, new treasures are waiting to be found. So let’s start this treasure hunt together. And as we do, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Jesus Day!

We’re Asking the Wrong Question

When I took this picture, I could see hints of a rainbow lining the opening of these clouds. It was a good reminder that God is often working in ways beyond what we can understand or see.

As I was driving home from the grocery store several weeks ago, I felt sad once again over how political Covid-19 had become. It’s disheartening to see that the political affiliation of each news source has caused such vastly distinctive views on the issue. I am also discouraged when I consider the possibility that different institutions could be taking advantage of this illness for their own personal agendas and gain. It honestly makes me anxious when I think about it too much.

As I pondered how political this pandemic had become, it dawned on me that politics has played a role in everyday life for centuries; Jesus’ crucifixion, in fact, was no exception to that.

The days leading up to Jesus’ death, the chief priests and Pharisees sought a means to crucify Him. Politically, they feared the Romans would take their place and nation from them if Jesus was to continue gaining followers through His miracles (John 11:48). As a result, they plotted His death.

Although the disciples had a far more favorable opinion of Jesus and His signs, they also had wrong political views about Him.

Peter rebuked Jesus in one instance after He prophesied to His disciples about His death and resurrection. Jesus, in turn, reprehended him for not having his mind set on things above. (Matthew 16:21-23). On another occasion, James and John came to Jesus alongside their mother, who asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit at His right and left hand in His kingdom, causing the other disciples to become angry (Matthew 20:20-23).

And on yet another occasion, one of Jesus’ followers explicitly stated what he and other believers had been hoping for in Jesus all along (but no longer believed was possible)—that He would redeem Israel (Luke 24:18-21).

Ironically, this particular individual told these things to Jesus Himself before he realized to whom he was speaking. He and other followers of Jesus had yet to realize that Jesus had indeed planned to redeem Israel all along, but not in the way they had expected. He accomplished redemption through His death and resurrection and made it available for all people of all times. It simply had to be received by grace through faith.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

-Ephesian 2:8-9

When I think of the religious division, schemes, and hidden agendas that saturated Jerusalem before Jesus was crucified, I am struck by the fact that God didn’t work out His plan for salvation in spite of the political climate of the day. No. Instead, He worked through it, and He can work through the political climate of our day to accomplish His purposes too.

God didn’t work out His plan for salvation in spite of the political climate of the day. No, instead He worked through it, and He can work through the political climate of our day to accomplish His purposes too.”

This is something I find myself needing to remember when I sense anxiety rising within me over Covid-19 or any other issue we have faced this year.

If you are like me, and you have felt uneasy over the divisiveness of each political party on how Covid-19 should be handled and viewed (and all other issues, for that matter), or if you, too, have felt worried as you try to figure out what men may be scheming in the midst of these times, then perhaps, my friend, we’re asking the wrong question.

Maybe it’s not a matter of trying to understand the hidden agendas of men in this pandemic or to somehow reconcile each contrastive view, but to better ask God what He is doing through this time and in each issue.

He may not just be working in spite of the chaos in which we find ourselves today. He could very well be working through it, and perhaps it’s the very thing that He is using to bring redemption to even more individuals than we could possibly know.

We can rest assured that, no matter what comes tomorrow or how chaotic life seems, no one will thwart God’s plans. He is not surprised by the events of this year, and He is still in the business of making all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Let’s keep believing that. Let’s find hope in knowing that God’s purposes will always prevail.

Living Water

I took a picture of this same scene in March, when the plants were lush and green. I knew they wouldn’t stay that way for long.  It’s really dry here, and the summer gets too hot for much to stay green without some tender care.

Just a few short months later, I snapped the scene pictured above. It goes to show that not even the most native of plants can withstand the heat and dryness here. Not in a lush, green sort of way, at least.

Heading into this summer, I knew not to underestimate this climate. I was determined to give even more water to the plants in my front yard than I had before, and to do so more often. So far, it has been paying off. I haven’t lost any plants this summer (unlike last summer, unfortunately).

As I have faithfully watered my plants throughout these last few months, the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps I am not drinking enough water myself.

There are so many benefits to drinking water. Too many to list. But there are a few that are especially pertinent to this moment in time. They are as follows:

  1. Drinking enough water in hot weather keeps one from getting dehydrated.
  2. Drinking enough fluids in general helps in the recovery of illness.

Considering that we are still experiencing the heat of summer during a pandemic, how much more important it is to drink enough water!

I speak of this in a literal sense, but I urge us even more so to consistently drink of the living water.

In John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman about this very topic. Weary from travel, He asks her for a drink of water from a well. In response, she questions why He would ask her for a drink since the Jews and Samaritans didn’t have anything to do with each other.

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:10

He responds to her similarly a few verses later as they continue to converse.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Although the Samaritan woman is never explicitly told what Jesus meant by this living water, its explanation is given a few chapters later.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 7:37-39

As believers, we have been given this living water because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. The question, then, is are we drinking from it daily? Are our lives regularly empowered by the Holy Spirit?

The weather may be cooling down within the next few months, and we may not have as great a need for water physically. However, the spiritual, political, emotional, and mental climate is not. The truth is, we are all going through a fire of sorts in this moment of history. We can all feel the heat. And the “news forecast” only promises hotter weather in the future. So what will we do to withstand it?

If we want to be like the tree described in Psalm 1, then perhaps we need to take a similar approach to the one taken with my plants this summer. We need to water our souls even more and a lot more often.

Let’s do so by asking God to truly fill us with His Spirit each day, and let’s abide in Christ and His Word even more than we ever have before. Perhaps, in doing so, we will be able to even refresh others in the heat, dryness, and barrenness of this season. Let’s be that spring of water that will draw others to the living water.

*For more information on how to live a Spirit-filled life, visit https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html