With God, Nothing is Wasted

It seems that we, as citizens of the United States, decided that a worldwide pandemic was the opportunity we needed to finally make good on our New Year’s resolutions—the ones that we had failed to accomplish all the other years.

Perhaps the extra time we perceived we would have upon beginning a quarantine caused us to think this way. Or perhaps we had seen far too many movies where the Americans rose above impossible situations in heroic fashion, thus saving the day. Whatever the case may have been, people started to make goals of what they would accomplish during their time in lock-down. Some people wanted to learn a new language. Others wanted to master their kitchen skills. Others had fitness and health goals.

As I considered people’s goals in light of this globally trying time, I knew that I could only do one thing—I quickly jumped on the bandwagon, scrambling to form some goals of my own.

I couldn’t figure out which ones to set right away. I imagined, however, that I would walk out my front door come the end of the quarantine in the best shape of my life. My neighbors would naturally be impressed by how toned I had become, and my friends would be equally amazed later on when I casually mentioned all I had accomplished during the quarantine.

I called my younger sister around this time so that she could help me determine what goals to set (by now, I should have realized that fostering true humility needed to be first on my list), and as we talked for a while, she pointed something out to me.

“You realize that your life hasn’t changed that much as a result of a quarantine, don’t you?” she asked matter-of-factly.

I could feel the excitement within me begin to deflate as I seriously considered her question. I honestly hadn’t thought about that and didn’t want to. I wanted to believe that I could achieve great things in the next weeks to come. Several weeks later, however, I was thankful for her observation since the only thing I had gained from my time in quarantine was a few pounds. Keeping my sister’s words in mind helped me to feel better about my lack of achievement. It gave me a more realistic outlook on life.

As we end this month, some of us may be lamenting all that we lacked to achieve this year. 2020 may seem like a big waste due to our unmet goals and derailed plans and dreams. And although most of us are probably relieved to put the last twelve months behind us, our regret over how we responded to the events and situations of this year may be tainting the joy and excitement that could fully be ours as we enter into a new one.

This was my experience the end of 2019. After a hard year as a family, I was looking forward to a great 2020 (cue the laughter). My excitement was hampered, however, by knowing how poorly I had responded to the difficulties of the year. Nonetheless, a Bible verse led me to believe that the year had not been a waste. I started to recognize, in fact, that with God, nothing is wasted, and this year has been no exception to that.

Although we may have wasted time or failed to make the most of each moment, God is able to redeem the time. Perhaps He has been working in our lives this year in ways that we have yet to discover. Consider the following possibilities:

  1. He has been making a treasure out of you.

By December of 2019, I came to the realization that God had been making a treasure out of me when I heard the following verse over the radio:

And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you.”

Deuteronomy 26:18a

Hearing this verse changed my perspective about the year. It made me realize that, instead of wallowing in regret over my sinful responses, I needed to see the sin that had surfaced in my life like dross that surfaces in gold. God wanted to make me more like His Son, and if He was to do so, then He needed to draw the impurities out of me by allowing me to see them.

If you’ve come to the end of this year more aware of your own sin, then perhaps you need a change of perspective as well. Maybe you need to thank God that the dross in your life is surfacing instead of giving into regret. After all, becoming aware of impurities is part of the purification process. So, let’s trust that God is making a treasure out of us as He causes the true treasure of His Son to shine through us.

2. He has been planting seeds in you.

When I was fifteen, I begrudgingly started taking Spanish classes to fulfill the mandatory two years of a foreign language at my high school, and God started to plant seeds in my young heart as a result. He gave me an ability to learn the language with ease, and as I continued to learn, He gave me a heart for Mexico and a growing confidence that He would send me there as a missionary someday. Three years later, I got the chance to go on my first mission trip to Mexico, and a few years after that, I moved there to work as a missionary for the very first time.

Looking back at high school, I would have never guessed how significant my Spanish classes would be. God took something that seemed meaningless on day one to change the entire trajectory of my life, and I’m so very grateful.

This year may have seemed to you like day one of what Spanish class was to me. You may have begrudgingly lived through it because it became a required course for your life this year, and you’re hoping and praying that the world gets waived from a second required year. What you may have yet to realize, however, is the seeds God has been planting in your heart as a result of the lessons He’s taught you this year. Though you may not see the fruit of those seeds for months or even years to come, God has planted them, and their harvest will be bountiful. And in the beauty of the bounty, you will be able to look back at this year and recognize how significant it really was, and you will be grateful.

It takes faith to believe that something like that can come from the seed planted this year or to trust that a true treasure is being formed, but that’s the very life God calls us to live, so let’s truly have faith that, with God, nothing is wasted. We will someday fully see the work of His hands in this year.

An Unexpected Christmas

I put on a cartoon about the first Christmas for my son over a week ago, and I’ve been reflecting on how unexpected the details of Jesus’ birth were ever since.

For Mary, the angel Gabriel’s appearance and message to her was a complete surprise. She did not expect to be told that she’d be expecting as a young virgin woman, much less to the Savior of the world. She couldn’t have imagined that her much-older, barren cousin Elizabeth would be pregnant at the same time as her either, especially since Elizabeth was past the age of child-bearing. When Mary went to visit Elizabeth soon after Gabriel gave her the news, she could not have expected for Elizabeth to bless her and recognize her as the mother of her Savior, even before Mary had told Elizabeth all that had transpired. The exchange between them led to Mary exalting God as she perhaps understood more fully the special task that God had called her to.

Joseph couldn’t have imagined the situation in which he would find himself when he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant. Although he decided to divorce her quietly, he once again experienced the unexpected when an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to instead marry Mary. As a result of his obedience to God, he would have the enormous privilege of doing something beyond his wildest dreams. He would help Mary to raise the very Son of God.

Both Mary and Joseph could not have imagined the trip they would have to take to Bethlehem in Mary’s advanced stages of pregnancy in order to participate in a mandatory census. They neither could have imagined that there would be no room for them in the inn and that Jesus would be born under those circumstances, his first makeshift crib a lowly manger.

The shepherds watching their flock that evening could not have expected to experience such a momentous night. Not only did an angel announce the Savior’s birth, but they witnessed a whole host of angels praising the Lord. Little did they know that they’d be meeting the Messiah that evening, nor could they have realized that He would be the Great Shepherd and ultimate Sacrificial Lamb.

The wise men probably never expected to follow a star to Bethlehem to find a specific child and worship Him. No one else could have imagined the reverence and honor that they would show the child either, nor could anyone have imagined the precious gifts with which they would present Him.

The first Christmas happened in such an unexpected way, but it was through the unexpected events and details that God became flesh and dwelt among us. And because these different individuals were willing to surrender to God’s will through the unexpected events of their lives, they were given the privilege of being a part of a greater story that would surpass their lifetimes and be told and celebrated worldwide for the many years to come.

Perhaps this Christmas was not what you were expecting. Perhaps it was laced with confusion, disappointment, frustration, or heartache. If that was your experience this year, then I pray that God would use the unexpected events and details of your life to birth a deeper sense of His presence in you.

The One who came as a little baby and lived the human experience was not impervious to pain or grief.  The sin that effects this world and our lives so greatly today is the sin that led Him to suffer and die on a cross. He understands pain and suffering. He knows what it feels like to be abandoned and forsaken. And He understands what it means to mourn. After all, He wept too.

He who became fully human for our sakes understands each intimate detail of our lives today, and He is full of deep compassion for us. Perhaps the unexpected details of our lives are the very areas where He would cause something beautiful to be born. Perhaps it is through them in which He would allow us to see a greater display of His power and glory. Whatever you may be facing today, I pray that God would allow to you to sense Him at work in your life and that He would overflow your heart with joy, peace, and a deep sense of hope.

Perhaps, through surrendering to God’s will in the unexpected events of our lives, we will be given the privilege of being part of a greater story that will surpass our lifetimes—one that will have an eternal impact and that we can tell to our children and their children for the years to come.

Star of Wonder

A Hallmark card sent by a friend
Oh, star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light

-We Three Kings

These lyrics have been running through my head as of late, all thanks to a special “star” that I read about in an article recently. The “star” is actually the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn1, which can be seen today through December 26th during the evening.2 According to one article, the alignment of these two planets is very rare, having happened the last time over more than half a century ago.3 We truly have the chance to see a wonder this week worldwide. I’m praying that the skies will be clear enough here to catch a glimpse of this beautiful sight.

As I have thought about this phenomenon, I have been reminded of several passages throughout the Scriptures. The first one has been from a passage found in 1 Kings 19 in which the word of the LORD comes to Elijah in a cave and asks him what he is doing there. Elijah responds out of discouragement, explaining that he has fled the wicked Queen Jezebel, who has sworn to have him killed. According to his limited (and faulty) knowledge, all the other true prophets have been put to death, and he is the last one remaining.

After Elijah expresses these complaints to God, he is commanded to stand before the LORD on the mount, and the following events occur:

And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”

1 Kings 19:11b-12

When Elijah hears the low whisper, he wraps his face in his cloak and goes to stand at the entrance of the cave, implying that Elijah understood that the LORD was in the whisper. After the devastation of the wind, earthquake, and fire, Elijah was reminded that God was as near to him as a whisper. He had not abandoned Elijah, nor would He.

This year, the world has experienced the same tragic events that Elijah experienced in that moment before the LORD. There have been winds (both tornados and hurricanes), earthquakes, and fires in addition to a plague and the political and social unrest that has ensued, and it has been difficult to sense God’s presence in any of these things. But after a year filled with tragedy, we are left with the reminder that God is still near to us through something so reminiscent of the first Christmas long ago, and with it we remember that Jesus entered this sin-filled world to ultimately become the sacrifice for our sins. As believers, He is our Emmanuel—God with us. He has not abandoned us, nor will He.

The second passage that has come to mind as I think about this special “star” is the following:

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”

Isaiah 55:6

When I think about the special “Christmas star”4 of this year, I can’t help but think of the wise men that followed the star so many years ago that ultimately led them to Jesus. As a result of their willingness to follow, they were given the privilege of worshipping the King of Kings and offering precious gifts to the One who would ultimately offer us the greatest gift of all.

The “star” of 2020 is a vivid reminder that mankind can still seek Jesus today, just as the wise men did so long ago. God can still be found, and He not only longs for us to seek Him but gives us opportunities to do so. He has, in fact, placed each of us in the optimal setting to do just that.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for“‘In him we live and move and have our being’.”

Acts 17:28-28

The “Christmas star” of this month is yet another tangible expression of God’s active part in this world, and I pray that this rare, beautiful sight will inspire individuals to remember the first Christmas and to seek and find Jesus as a result*. I also pray that it will renew the hope of many and that it will provide comfort to those who mourn that God is near. He has not abandoned us this year.

If nothing else, the “Christmas star” is a good reminder to look up. So while the year draws to an end, let’s look up as we look forward to a new year.

*If you want to seek Jesus and don’t know where to start, the following website is a good place to begin: The Four Spiritual Laws-English-knowing God Personally (4laws.com).

  1. Rare “Christmas Star” of December 2020 Brings Hope (crosswalk.com)
  2. Christmas Star: How To See ‘Double Planet,’ First In 800 Years | The Daily Wire
  3. Rare “Christmas Star” of December 2020 Brings Hope (crosswalk.com)
  4. Ibid

Kintsugi 金継ぎ

Picture taken by my younger sister

My eyes were drawn to a picture hanging above my sister’s head as we video chatted several weeks ago.

“Are those teapots?” I asked her as I tried to make out the artwork more clearly.

“They’re actually vases,” she responded, placing her phone up to the picture as she continued to tell me about her homemade piece of art. She had set three segments of gold-colored paper in a row then had cut out the shape of vases from patterned blue and green paper. After making three paper vases, she cut each one into several pieces to somewhat resemble a puzzle. She then meticulously pasted the patterned pieces back together on top of the gold paper, leaving just enough room for thin, golden lines to be seen between the cracks. Below the vases hung the Japanese word 金繕い, carefully written by hand.

My sister believed that the English transliteration for the word was kintsugi*, and it was the term used for the ancient Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with gold, thus adding greater value and beauty to an object. Having been through several hardships of her own, my sister liked the symbolism of this Japanese practice. It was a vivid reminder that our brokenness can lend to something more beautiful once we have been mended.

We ended our conversation shortly after, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had told me. As the day came to an end a few hours later, I tucked my little one into bed for the night, then I grabbed my phone and got cozy under the warmth of my own covers to research about the art form on my own.

In one video, a restorer named Hiroki Kiyokawa shared about how broken pottery is pieced back together using lacquer, a sap taken from a native Japanese tree which essentially sucks the life out of the tree.1 After the pottery goes through the process of being glued back together and is given the proper time to dry, the crack lines are then coated with gold to accentuate each piece, not only highlighting the pottery’s history but also giving the object greater worth. Although this process may seem fairly simple, repairing objects requires a lot of time and patience. It can take up to three months to restore a single piece of pottery.2

Kiyokawa shared a similar sentiment to that of my sister’s—kintsugi is often seen as a comparison to life itself.3 Everyone experiences brokenness, but we don’t have to remain in that state. We can be restored.

The next few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about this Japanese art. It really struck a chord in me, and I wasn’t quite sure why. I was soon able to recognize, however, that I felt broken at the time. I couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason as to why I felt this way, but I could see how the last two years had taken a toll on me, first due to personal health issues within the family, then because of the global pandemic and varying degrees of loneliness that these two situations brought me.

I felt broken, but in the midst of that, God was offering me hope by giving me a metaphor for my own life through learning about kintsugi, and He kept reminding all the while that He was the potter.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

As I have continued to consider what I’ve learned about kintsugi in light of the gospel, I recognize all the more that beauty is not found in the breakage. After all, pottery is not displayed in its broken pieces, nor does it have any use in this form. No, what makes an object beautiful is its restoration, and highlighting the parts where it was once broken only emphasizes how magnificently it has been made whole.

The same is true for us as human beings. We are born broken due to our sinful nature, and there is nothing beautiful about that. We are inherently broken, and we also continue to experience further breakage in life as a result of living in a sin-filled world. But God has made a way toward restoration. Much like the Japanese tree that gives up its life when its sap is extracted, Jesus gave up His life for us, shedding His blood on a cross. Through Him, God has provided the opportunity for us to be made whole from the brokenness of our sin. Furthermore, He continues to offer us healing from any and all other wounds.

The One who created us is more than willing to pick up our broken pieces. He knows the greater story that our lives can tell when we surrender our brokenness to Him, and He can mend us if we are willing, giving what once was broken great value and beauty because of the work of His hands. The story of our scars, therefore, really becomes the story of His restoration and redemption.

Like the sap that is used to piece pottery back together again, the One whose birth we celebrate this month is more than able to hold every broken piece and every single aspect of our lives together. After all,

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

So, in our brokenness, let us draw close to Him and ask Him for His healing, trusting that all our broken pieces can ultimately become a display of His splendor in us, something far more magnificent than anything we could have dreamed.

*Since writing this blogpost, a friend from Japan read it and noted that the word my sister wrote on her picture is actually transliterated as kintsukuroi. Fortunately, both this term and kintsugi refer to the same art form.

  1. https://youtu.be/r9LMKGte0UU
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid

My Mom’s Hands

The quilts and cross-stitch that my mom made for my family and me.

She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands.”

Proverbs 31:13

My mom will be turning seventy in a few days, and I have found myself thinking about her a lot as a result and all that she has accomplished throughout the years. When I think of my mom, I can’t help but think of her hands. They have been the driving force behind many of her achievements.

I think of the endless hours those hands played the piano when my siblings and I were young. She began taking lessons as a little girl and went on to earn a Master’s degree in music by her mid-twenties due to her giftedness and love for the instrument. Although she was primarily a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling us five children during our elementary school years, she also made a side income through her musical ability–both through piano lessons that she offered in our home and as the pianist at the congregation we attended.

Some of my most special memories involve my mom’s hands moving across the keyboard of the upright, black Yamaha that graced our living room when we were growing up. My younger brother and I used to dance and frolic around the living room when we were little while my mother practiced her songs. As I grew older, my sisters and I would gather around her to sing songs as she played the piano and sang along, often resulting in raucous laughter at our failed attempts to harmonize or because of the humorous lyrics of a song. Our home was filled with music, and each of us children have been blessed with differing degrees of musical ability thanks to her.

If my mom wasn’t playing the piano, then often times she could be found quilting or cross-stitching. She started quilting before I was born, and I can easily think of fourteen quilts that she has made throughout my lifetime. My siblings and I have owned a number of these quilts, and we have been very grateful for her willingness to bless us with such special gifts.

To this day, JJ and I use the latest quilt that she made me over five years ago when I was single. We use it during the warmer months since it’s a lighter blanket, turning it horizontally to cover the width of our bed. Liam also uses a baby blanket that my mom designed and created for him over two years ago. Additionally, one of her cross-stitches hangs on the wall by our front door. It’s an Irish blessing that she made five more times after completing the original once since my siblings and I wanted one so badly. I’m glad she was up to the task. Years ago, she told me that she prayed for me as she made my cross-stitch, as she did for my siblings when she made theirs. It makes the Irish blessing that much more special.

She continues to quilt and cross-stitch to this day, and my parents’ home is filled with the work of her hands in beautiful, vivid colors because of it. Each masterpiece is a testimony of her patience, perseverance, and skill. The pieces that each of us children have received from her are also a tangible expression of her love for us, which I’m so grateful to have since my mom and I live far apart.

Another big part of our life growing up was the baked goods my mom made with her hands. She baked challah every Friday for our evening dinner, then she often used the leftover bread to make French toast the following morning. She also made a variety of breads and muffins during the fall and winter, and we also enjoyed her occasional homemade cinnamon rolls and birthday cakes and Thanksgiving pumpkin cream pie. As we got older, my mom taught us how to bake as well, and most of us still enjoy that skill today.

Of course, my mom used her hands for more basic things also. They were used to clean, cook, and care for us children as we were growing up. They have also been used to turn the pages of the numerous books she has enjoyed overs the years, and even more importantly, to flip the pages of her Bible as she has read and memorized Scripture each morning. More symbolically, they have been used in constant prayer. She has been a beautiful example of righteous living to my siblings and me over the years.

Although the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 reminds me of my mom in general, I especially think of the verse mentioned above when I think of my mom because of her readiness to work with her hands in different ways.

I’m so thankful for the godliness, giftedness, and kindness that they have expressed throughout the years and the blessing they have been to me and others in the process. Although I do not possess the same talents as my mother, I pray that I can leave the same kind of legacy that she is leaving the five of us. I pray that my hands will be an expression of kindness and godliness to my family and others, and I pray that the gifts God has given me will leave a legacy for my son and future generations. I’m so thankful for the example that my mom has been to me all these years, and I pray that God will give her many more years so that I can keep learning from her.

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


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


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.


2-5 Ibid