It’s Not Too Late

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I put on a cartoon for Liam about Lazarus on Easter Sunday before church. Of course, I would have preferred for him to watch one about Jesus rising from the dead, but we didn’t have access to an episode like that (or so I thought), so a show about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead would have to do.

My intention was to distract Liam enough to catch up on my Bible reading that morning, but I got slightly caught up in the show and instead found myself journaling about something the “narrator” stated to the main characters of the animation. He simply told them, as they traveled back into Bible times, that they were about to meet two women that learned that God’s timing is always perfect.

The scene and statement were so simple. Just a moment on screen to transition the characters to Bible times and nothing too impactful. Except it was. To me. It penetrated my soul that day.

Most of my life has been one lesson after another of learning to trust in God’s timing, and this year has been an especially intense season of learning that. God seems to be driven to rid me of the notion that I’ve done all the “important” things too late in life, and I’m slowly grasping onto that truth, but it’s a lesson in progress with which I still must come to grips and accept.

As I sat at the kitchen table that morning, touched by the simple scene on screen, I sat down and journaled that what we often think of as “too late” is often times the perfect backdrop for God to display His glory in ways that surpass our imaginations, ways we never would have seen had God done things according to our own timing.

This was certainly true for Mary and Martha, the two women introduced in the cartoon that day. They sent for Jesus while Lazarus was still alive so that He would come and heal their brother. But He didn’t come.  Not right away, at least. Then the unthinkable happened. Lazarus died, and he was placed in a tomb and mourned for several days. But even so, Jesus was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t until Lazarus’ corpse had been decaying in a tomb for four days that Jesus finally showed up, much too late according to Mary and Martha’s estimation.

You can hear the disappointment dripping off their words as they see Jesus for the first time since their brother’s passing.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died…”1 both sisters respond to Him separately upon seeing Him again, their hopelessness palpable.

They knew full well that Jesus could have kept this tragedy from happening, and yet He didn’t. Nonetheless, Jesus stated earlier that this sickness would not end in death, and ultimately it did not, because Jesus raised Lazarus to life moments later, and many Jews present because of Lazarus’ death believed in Jesus as a result.

Mary and Martha would soon realize that Jesus was not too late. He had been intentional in His timing so as to not only bring Lazarus back to life but to also bring to life many Jews who had been spiritually dead. And through it all, Mary and Martha better understood who Jesus was. They saw Him mourn with them. They saw His compassion. And they saw just how powerful He was to be able to command death. They learned so many things about Jesus that they never would have known had His timing not been what it was. And although they suffered deeply for a few days before they could see what Jesus was up to, I can’t help but think that they must have ultimately been grateful for what His timing was in retrospect.

Their “too late” certainly paved the way for Jesus to display His glory in ways they could have never imagined. This moment was perhaps the highlight of their life, all made possible because of the timing of this miracle, the timing that must have seemed so off to these women just a few days prior.

This story has been meaningful to me for quite some time now, but I grow to appreciate it all the more when I consider my own struggles with timing. And I continue to learn from it as times goes by.

Recently I have been considering Martha’s response more in light of listening to this passage anew at my younger sister’s church when I got a chance to visit her several weekends ago.

After Martha’s initial response to Jesus, He told her that her brother would rise again.2 But instead of taking His words at face value, “Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24 ESV).

She could not understand what Jesus intended to do. Nonetheless, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV).

When asked if Martha believed this, she confessed that she did, but it becomes clear a few verses later that she still did not understand when she expressed concern over the stench that would fill the air after Jesus commanded the stone sealing Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away.

But the stone was rolled away regardless, and Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb! He was brought back to life that day, and Martha finally understood. Her faith reached new heights.

I find Martha to be so relatable among believers. God may promise us something that He intends to fulfill this side of heaven, but instead of believing Him for it and waiting on His timing, we instead choose to believe that it must be a promise to be fulfilled on the last day due to our own fear or simple lack of faith. And while certain promises very well be that way, perhaps there are certain promises that God would want us to hold onto for today, for this earthly life.

As Jesus stated to Martha, He is the resurrection and the life. Perhaps the hopes and dreams that we’ve buried in our own graves and have been mourning for some time are meant to be resurrected by Jesus today. Because, although our circumstances may tell us that it is too late, it is certainly not too late for God. Perhaps this present timing is the very thing He is using as the perfect backdrop to display His glory in ways that surpass our imaginations, ways we never would have seen had God done things according to our own timing. May He help us to believe Him for whatever He would put on our hearts to believe Him for today, and may our faith reach new heights as a result.

1 John 11:21 and John 11:32b  ESV
2 John 11:23 ESV

Going Deeper

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My family and I recently went out of town. JJ’s nephew graduated from high school several weeks ago, so we flew to a beautiful area in the northeast to celebrate with him and to visit with family in their neck of the woods.

The week away was a much-needed break. It was good to get away from the constant reminders of the tragedy that took place here in May, which had engulfed me in deep sorrow ever since that day. My family and I also welcomed the chance to escape the scorching, Texas heat! I packed a sweatshirt for our trip and actually wore it a few times!

While away, we reveled in the cooler weather as we enjoyed good conversations, nature, some sight-seeing, and my sister-in-law’s delicious home-cooked meals. The week was simply glorious!

With an extra day on our trip due to a flight cancelation, my family and I took advantage of taking a quick dip in the neighborhood pool our last day, where we were surrounded by mountains on one side and stately pine trees extending high into clear blue skies speckled by fluffy, white clouds. It was the perfect way to bring our trip to a close.

While there, I intently watched two mothers as they tried to reason with their young children to go deeper into the pool with them. It was the same problem I had been having with my own son as of late. They were at an age where they were somewhat afraid of the water, wanting to either cling to the ledge of the pool for dear life or sit staunchly on the swimming pool steps, refusing to further enter in. Seeing these children act this way as a spectator was somewhat comical. It’s as if they forgot who they were with—that they had their mothers by their sides who would not leave them. Or perhaps they hadn’t forgotten but didn’t fully comprehend who these women were. Maybe they failed to understand that their mothers would do anything to save them, even sacrificing their own lives.

Fortunately, one of the young children finally mustered up enough courage to acquiesce to his mother’s pleas, and soon he was splashing about, laughing with glee as he glided around on a pool noodle that his mom was securely holding onto. He was finally enjoying the fun that she had intended for him all along.

As I watched this happy moment, I wondered how often we, as believers, acted like those children in our own relationship with God. When God wanted to take us deeper into some aspect of our lives, did we instead insist on staying on the sidelines, staunchly sitting on our own swimming pool steps rather than following God’s leading into something more profound and purposeful? When presented with a situation that threatened to inundate us, did we forget who was by our side and that He would never leave us? Or did we fail to comprehend who God was and that He would do anything to save us? Because, in fact, Jesus already did. He sacrificed His very own life.

In all honesty, it’s hard for me to write these words, because I know how much I struggle to go deeper myself. My natural inclination is to want to give in to worry and fear, opting to “play it safe” on the sidelines rather than fully immersing myself in something more meaningful. But maybe that is the precise reason why I needed to write this—because I need to forever remember those kids at the pool and the insights gained that day. And I need to challenge myself in this respect and pray to God that I will be different—that I won’t miss out on the opportunities and invitations God gives me to go deeper with Him in any way.

Something I keep thinking about as I continue to mull over that moment at the pool is how much those children (and my own) could benefit from going deeper into the water with their moms. They might eventually learn how to swim if they entered a little further, where they had room to splash their arms about and kick their feet as their mothers upheld them and taught them some basic moves. These simple lessons, in turn, could eventually lead to more advanced lessons which would equip these little ones with the ability to swim over time.

The thing is, you can’t learn to swim if you are fiercely clinging to the ledge or stubbornly sitting on the side. You have to go deeper. Your trust in the one who is upholding you must be greater than your fears. And only there will your fears fade away as you revel in the beauty of the moment. Only there can you learn new things that will open the door to many new adventures to come.

Similarly, you can’t learn how to have deeper faith, character, and trust in God, nor any other skill with which God would equip you, if you only wade in the water when God is calling you to go deeper.  

The truth is, He wants to take each of us to places where our feet will no longer touch the bottom, where we cannot sit on the side. But we know that we can trust the One who is leading us because He will uphold us.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

He will help us and teach us what He wants us to know. And we can revel in the beauty of the moment, despite our fears, because we know that God is forever with us.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

Isaiah 43:2a

He is with us and will equip us for greater things—many new adventures to come.

Becoming Real

“‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.'”1
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***

Have you ever read the story of The Velveteen Rabbit? It’s the classic children’s story about a stuffed, toy bunny that dreams of becoming real. The story has its ups and downs as the bunny believes he is real at one point but then realizes he is not. In the end, however, the little rabbit is finally granted his wish.

After reading this tale recently, I came to realize that the ending wasn’t quite what I remembered it to be. I knew that the stuffed bunny willingly suffered alongside his owner while the little boy was sick in bed with scarlet fever. I also remembered that the bunny and some other toys were to be burned after the boy recovered from his illness so that they would not spread germs to anyone.  And it was in the yard, while he waited this impending doom, that he met the magic nursery fairy who ultimately brought him to life.

What I didn’t recall was that the fairy made the rabbit’s wish come true because she took care of old, worn down, or broken toys that were loved.

I somehow failed to see the connection between the boy’s love and the rabbit’s realness when I first read this story. Instead, I implicitly understood something that I still believe to hold true—that the bunny was brought to life because of the way he suffered alongside the child. The truth is, the sacrifice this stuffed animal made for the boy ultimately brought him to the end of his toy life, which, in a roundabout way, opened the door for him to become real.

As a side note, this secular story reminds me of the following spiritual truths:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (ESV)

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39 (ESV)

I love how God can use even the simplest of things to point us back to Him.

I read this children’s tale to Liam nearly every night throughout the first few weeks of March. There was something about this story that felt so cathartic to me in light of my own suffering—something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on but had me coming back every night, seeking to understand. The story resonated with me deeply, and I felt like God was somehow using this simple children’s tale and my ability to relate to this imaginary bunny to bring healing to my heart, because I saw how God was using my own suffering to make me real too.

My own pain was causing me to be more authentic with God and others rather than simply putting on a front. It was making me wrestle with hard questions and seek out God for true answers, and I know suffering has done this and more for others too.

Suffering truly has a way of scrubbing off the superficial surfaces of our lives to reveal what is most raw and real about ourselves, and although we may not always like what is exposed beyond the surface, God’s best work is done there, within the very depths of our souls. It is there where He is able to fortify our character and create a greater sense of compassion within us. It is there where He teaches us humility and gives us a greater capability of relating to others. And it is there where new seedlings of purpose are planted that can bloom into beautiful redemptive stories over time, because our pain, when surrendered to God, is always redeemed.

I don’t like to suffer, but I am learning to love the results it produces in me and to trust the process, and I’m thankful that God is preparing me to comfort others who suffer just as He has comforted me in my own suffering. It is something I am finding to be of extreme value of late.

There will never be a shortage of suffering in the world, but there will never be a limit as to how God can use our pain when submitted to Him. It becomes the fertile soil where spiritual growth takes place. And although I may not see this in the actual moment of hardship and pain, I truly believe that suffering can become the gateway God uses to make real what our best dreams could never have imagined, even as He is in the process of making us more real through it all—more like His Son Jesus.

1 Williams, Margery (1922). The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real. A Celebration of Women Writers. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html

Hope for Uvalde

The back side of the anchor off of Main Street

Hello again. If you read my last blogpost, you’ll remember that I decided to take a break from blogging for a while. At the time, I had no idea how long it might last, but I knew I wanted to seek healing after a series of hardships followed by loss.

Although I have more healing and reflecting to do, I recently began to feel a strong desire to blog again, and I started praying that God would show me when and what my next blogpost should be.

Ironically, the topic leading me to blog today is not the one I would have chosen to write about. I wouldn’t have chosen it because I would have written a different ending for the events that took place on Tuesday when an armed eighteen-year-old entered Robb Elementary and claimed the lives of nineteen students and two teachers, additionally injuring many others that day.

I know that I also stated at one point that I don’t necessarily want to be writing about every tragedy that wrenches at my heart, because I don’t think multiple opinions are always beneficial. Sometimes more words merely turn into background noise, and that noise does not help those who mourn. Our words are often better formed as prayers to God for those who suffer.

This event is a little different for me however, because it hit close to home. Literally. About two and half miles from my front door.

Because we live in town and have a next-door neighbor that is very connected to the community, we were aware of very general details in the moment as events unfolded. We also became more aware of the seriousness of it all as we continually heard sirens around lunch time and then watched one ambulance head to the scene from outside our back window, then another, and then another and another and another in a row. But we had no idea of the complete devastation until we turned on the news later that afternoon and learned of how utterly destructive and heinous this crime had been.

That evening, as JJ and I tried to process all that had happened that day, we stepped out onto our patio with our young son, and I felt comforted in sensing God’s own sadness painted over the sky—a canvas of stormy clouds streaked in shades of gray. He grieved with us. He grieved over how such precious lives were taken that day through a horrific, demonic crime. And He mourned with each hurting individual in our small-town Uvalde.

It rained several hours later, and the flashing lightning and distant rumbling of thunder kept me up for some of the night. The following morning, I woke up wondering how a small community like this could survive such a tragedy.

That evening, however, as I attended a prayer event at the Uvalde County Fairplex with what seemed to be everyone in town, the speakers shared a Christ-centered message and prayed for hope and healing within our community, and God confirmed the answer to my question that I knew in my heart all along. We would survive this through the help of God.

Lately, as JJ and I hear of more tragedies happening around us and throughout the world, we are reminded of the simple fact that Satan knows his time on earth is short. His time is short, and he seeks to kill, steal, and destroy anything while he can. But God knows this too, and His purposes shall prevail.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 ESV

Would you pray with me that this community would find abundant life in Jesus in the weeks and months to come? Let’s also pray that we, as a community, would be able to see God more clearly and to recognize that He is victorious.

There is an anchor that stands in the middle of town—a large, cement structure that feels so out of place in this land-locked town. But when we first moved here not long ago, I instantly fell in love with it and found comfort by it because of our own loss as a family earlier this year. That anchor reminded me of what we know to be true as believers—that we have hope because of Jesus.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 6:19-20

As this community mourns, I pray that the anchor in town will ultimately become a symbol of hope to many others also through new, renewed, or strengthened faith in Jesus, and I’m asking God to make me and the many other believers who live here to be a light and a source of comfort to our community. Please join me in praying for that too.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

James 5:16b NIV

The message on a coffee truck outside of the Civic Center today.

The Birds of the Air

I took this picture the next time we went on a walk as a family after the big snowstorm here in Texas last year. Many people were without power for quite a few days, my sisters included. Here in El Paso, we were fortunate to keep our power. It sure did snow, however! A few days later, as the snow began to melt and the sun came out again, we went on a walk around the field by our house, and I was surprised to see this nest, completely covered from top to bottom in foliage except for a small opening on the side. It hadn’t been there a day or two before the storm hit, but here it was after the storm, a warm, little refuge to a bird and her eggs, I imagine. That image continues to serve as a reminder to me of God’s care for the littlest of creatures and His even greater care for us.

Do You really care about me?

My mind knew the answer to that question, but I needed God to reassure my heart of it.

It didn’t have to be that way. I didn’t have to be having these doubts. But as we planned for a garage sale, prepared to put the house on the market, and searched for an apartment to live in come March, I allowed fear and anxiety to get the best of me, and I found myself striving to do everything in my own strength instead of leaning into God and trusting Him with my burdens, as I knew He longed for me to do.

Nonetheless, even in the midst of my sinful attitudes and lack of trust, God was still gracious to me, providing the answer that I needed to hear once again.

As I used the restroom where my son takes speech lessons, I was struck by God’s tender care of me as I stared at the painting on the wall. I’ve seen this painting dozens of times before, but now I saw it in a new light, filled with symbolism and significance, because through it, God’s answer to my question was staring back at me.

The picture was a simple painting on wooden slats that depicted three birds in a barren, wintry tree, and I was immediately reminded of Jesus’ words regarding birds in Matthew, as follows:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? “

Matthew 6:26

Furthermore,

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

As I headed to my car to wait for my son’s session to end that day, I searched for a song that I had heard on Christian radio many times before, then I listened to it over and over again as I silently cried in the parking lot and asked God to help me trust Him.

I won’t say that life was all the sudden perfect. I still faced a bit of anxiety a few days later, and I had to ask God to help me be calm and to trust that everything would be completed according to His will. Nonetheless, it makes a big difference to deliver those feelings over to God and to recognize how He is walking with us in all our challenges, ready to lead us and to show us His goodness as we trust Him with each step.

Lately, my family and I have been seeing so much of His goodness in the midst of what mainly feels like chaos as of late, and I’m reminded of the lyrics to the song that I listened to in the parking lot over a week ago, the one that continues to run through my head when I awake each morning and throughout the rest of the day:

You hold me in Your hands
With a kindness that never ends
I'm carried in Your love no matter what the future brings

-Sparrows by Cory Asbury

We’ve seen His kindness through a successful garage sale, His provision of an apartment in a town with very scarce options (when I called the apartment complex, the first move-in availability was the exact date we were planning to move), and through what is appearing to be a successful sale of our house (we put the house on the market last Friday and received a generous offer that following Monday). And as I look at the future and all the tentative events and plans of this year, I see God’s generosity written all over it and know that I am blessed beyond measure.

Although there still seems like so much to do, and although this fast pace of life does not promise to slow down anytime soon, I am learning to see more and more how much we truly are carried in His love, no matter what the future brings. I only need to walk with Him and let Him determine the pace. And when fear and anxiety threaten to get the best of me, I only need to trust that He is working everything out behind the scenes, just as He has been revealing to me as the details with this move have become clearer.

If He can care about little birds and lilies in fields, then He surely cares about us humans—the very ones made in His image and whose Son died for our sins so that we could live with Him eternally if we believe. We don’t have to fend for ourselves. We don’t have to live this life trying to figure it out on our own. Let’s trust Him with this new year, no matter what it may bring. He knows how to shower us with His goodness, regardless of our circumstances, so let’s place our hand in His and walk with Him through this journey, receiving whatever good gift and whatever valuable lesson He may bring to us along the way.

Ants and Other Problems

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Shortly after the neighborhood caterpillar infestation, we had a problem with ants in our house. It was stressful and bothersome, but I felt capable of handling the situation since I had a much worse ant infestation years back when I was single.

I pulled out all the old tricks, and soon the ants were gone and I had patched up the hole from which they had entered with some plaster. But then that afternoon, we had a new cluster of ants paving a trail into the inner confines of our living room, and then we had a new one the following morning just a few feet away from the second one I had cleared up the previous afternoon. I ended up spraying the areas where the ants had entered with bug spray, mopping the house thoroughly again with a solution that would deter the ants, vacuuming the living room rug (the ants were starting to climb it), and then patching up all the areas (and possible areas) where the ants had entered our home.

For a week or so, it seemed like all problems were solved. We soon realized they weren’t, however. We found ants in our hallway at that time. And then a few weeks later, my husband pointed out a new group of ants in our living room, not far from the original problem area.

As I took care of the most recent case of ants, I felt disheartened by the consistency of this problem. Just as we thought we had resolved the issue for good, it came back to taunt us, it seemed. Would we ever fully be rid of these little intruders?

Clearing out this latest cluster of ants made me think about how much their constant invasions symbolized life issues in general. The truth is, we will all experience an ant intrusion sooner or later. We may not encounter a literal ant problem (although that is very probable too), but at some point, we will face issues that resurface over and over again.

The ongoing conflict with a coworker. Problems at home between a family member. Health issues. Financial problems. The bad habit that hasn’t quite been broken or the sin issue over which complete victory still needs to be claimed.

Facing problems in this life is an unavoidable part of our existence. Fortunately, Jesus gives us hope in the midst of this somber truth.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

When our problems seem overbearing and everlasting, that is the hope we must cling to. As endless as our hardships may seem, we will not take them with us past this life. They are only a temporary part of our existence through which we can seek to please the Lord, just like all other aspects in life.

As I was clearing out the latest ant trail, I realized one way I could seek to please God through my hardships was in persevering through them as I did the problem with the ants. The truth is, I haven’t wanted to keep cleaning out these ant clusters. I have grown discouraged and weary by this reoccurring issue. But I know that I must continue to do so. If I simply give up and ignore the problem, it will grow bigger overtime, and our whole house will be covered in ants.

When problems resurface and I tire of responding to them over and over again, perhaps I need to remind myself of just how big my issues could become if I never dealt with them again. Thinking of hardships like an infestation of ants definitely motivates me to persevere and work through whatever issues I can. I may not be making the headway I want to in a certain area of life, but keeping an area from becoming worse as we ever so slowly try to inch toward something better is valuable, so let’s keep persevering through our trials.

Something else that I have been thinking about as of late is how God does not call us to deal with our problems on our own. As believers, God’s Spirit dwells in us, and He is able work in and through us to bring victory over certain areas of our lives. He can help us to be loving and kind and to show goodness and gentleness to the coworker or family member with whom problems are mounting. He can give us joy and peace in the face of financial or health crises. He can fill us with self-control when we are tempted to fall back into bad habits and faithfulness to walk in righteousness instead of turning back to sinful ways. And He can give us patience in the midst of our hardships as we wait for them to fade away, whether in this life or the next.

Many months ago, a friend told me about a quote she posted on her bathroom mirror that really sums up God’s ability to work in and through us. It reads as follows:

I can’t. You [God] can.

‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’  Phil. 4:13

Teach me the MYSTERY of CHRIST in me.”

Andy Stanley

We really can’t, and the trials we face in this life are an ever-present reminder of that fact. But God can through us. These struggles give us the opportunity to depend on Him like nothing else as we become more deeply aware of our own frailty, and dependence on God is key to walking closely with Him. So, let’s humble ourselves before Him and recognize our own inability as we face each hardship, great and small. Let’s press on through the power of His strength, not giving up to our problems, not giving in to self-pity or bitterness, but continuing to give each trial over to God and trusting that He will see us through.

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.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

To Such Belongs the Kingdom

We had an infestation of caterpillars in our neighborhood a little over a month ago, and although I was somewhat disgusted by it, I also found joy in watching my toddler son enjoy them so much.

“Pet, pet, pet. I pet a cata-pil-wer,” he would tell me after bending down to stroke each one with his index finger. He was oblivious to their attacks and attempts to get away, despite my best efforts to make him understand. In his mind, he was showing them some much needed affection, and he contentedly smiled to himself as he continued to bestow kindness upon them.

I’m glad that walking is no longer my main form of exercise. Liam is much too fascinated by nature to take things at a brisk pace. He wants to explore and enjoy creation, and he’s teaching me to slow down and look at life with the same wonder and fascination that has captured him.

Moments like these make me think about Jesus’ own interactions with children and His words to the disciples about them.

Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Luke 18:16-17

Liam has yet to place his faith in Jesus or to even understand the gospel, for that matter, but I find myself learning more about what it means to be childlike in my faith because of him. He is showing me how to recognize and enjoy the small pleasures of life that God gives us. The simplest of moments hold so much adventure and delight for him, and he doesn’t take any of it for granted.

Often times, I wake up feeling steeped in the sorrows of this world. There are countless tragedies taking place nowadays, and it is all too easy to hear about them and feel burdened by them. These things weigh me down and have me walking through life in a fog at times, not fully aware of the beauty that surrounds me and the way that God lavishly pours down His love upon me through the simple gifts of each day. But seeing Liam enjoy these thoughtful gestures so freely helps me to recognize that God’s goodness abounds. There is still so much to enjoy here on earth. God abundantly blesses us with good gifts each day, and Liam is making me a little more aware of them through our excursions and other ordinary life moments, for which I’m grateful.

Liam is also making me more aware of my need to be less concerned about my own comfort and convenience in life. If there is a great adventure to be had, Liam is ready to enter into it, despite the discomfort he might experience in the end.

Weeks ago, he walked home with me in wet pants and shoes due to jumping in some puddles near our home, and it reminded me of how excited I was to jump in puddles as a little girl. I’m not encouraging any of us to jump in puddles or play in the mud as adults per se, but watching him have so much fun made me wonder if I am truly willing to enter into all of the adventures that God has in store for me, regardless of how messy they might be.

My son is still very young, so I can only imagine the other lessons and insights that God will give me through him as he grows. And of course, he has much to learn from me and others also, but I’m so appreciative to God for the ways in which He is growing me spiritually through my son. He delights to teach us and help us grow in whatever position or role in which we find ourselves, and I find that to be a special blessing in this season of mothering a small child.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:1-4

May Love Be Our Response

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

I’ve been weeping a lot as of late—for tragic events that have happened recently and for the ones that happened twenty years ago during the 9/11 attacks. One story that has especially left me bawling this weekend has been a transcript circulating social media between Todd Beamer of flight 93 and Lisa Jefferson, a telephone supervisor with GTE (found here: https://texags.com/forums/16/topics/3225742).

I am unable to confirm the veracity of this transcript. Nonetheless, it beautifully captures the essence of the last moments of flight 93 and the courage that a group of people displayed by their determination to unravel the plans of the terrorists. The transcript ends with Todd Beamer’s famous last words of that call: “Let’s roll!”

The older I get, the more his actions and those of the other brave people among that flight move me. The truth is, as Americans, we are indebted to this small group of people in many ways.

Had they not risen up against these jihadists, it is most probable that many of our country’s leaders would have perished in the horrid events of that day. Our country would have been more vulnerable and less secure than it already was in the days that followed. This, in turn, would have left our country vulnerable to further attack in the days to come. Who knows what might have happened to our nation? Who knows if perhaps other terrorist attacks were deterred because of the failure of the hijackers’ mission for flight 93?

Todd Beamer and the other brave men and women that chose to stand up against the terrorists on flight 93 did not choose to be heroes that day. They merely chose to go about their everyday lives, which involved a flight on United 93 that morning.

Nonetheless, when they were faced with an unwanted yet unavoidable, grave situation, they decided to rise up. They chose courage. They decided to fight against evil. And they ultimately sacrificed their own lives for the good of their country, so that we might continue to enjoy the freedom that we have always known.

I am so thankful for their lives and their example.

Let’s not forget them. Let’s strive to be more like them.

We may never be called to give up our lives selflessly for others in the way that they did that day, but we can live selflessly for others every day. We can sacrifice in simple ways for the good of others. We can love like Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Let’s ask God to help us do so. Let’s ask Him to unify our country through His love expressed through us as believers. And let’s pray most of all for those within our country that are most easy to see as our enemies, that God would be at work in their lives and ours.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12 ESV

And finally,

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”

1 Corinthians 6:13-14 ESV

Persevering

The potted plant in my backyard that I blogged about several posts back is really beginning to bloom, leaving me equally delighted and surprised each morning with all the new blossoms bursting forth.

Weeks ago, this plant reminded me to look at my own life and to uproot and cast aside any aspect that had become like a weed. It reminded me not to be tending to areas in my life that would ultimately negatively affect others and me.

Today, this plant is teaching me a very distinct lesson. It is reminding me to persevere.

We may have areas in our lives that look like weeds to us at first. They may seem ugly and hard and like a waste of time. It may be tempting to simply give up and cast aside these issues in life to begin anew. But let’s not forget what these plants have the potential to become. Let’s not throw away flowers because they at first look like weeds.

Although we may not see results for weeks, months, or even years, let’s not give up on doing what is best for these aspects in our lives. Let’s continue to hope and to water these “plants” through our prayers and tender care, ultimately trusting that God will bring about a glorious harvest for His glory.

What are some areas of your life in which you need to persevere? In what aspects do you need to trust that God will bring about a harvest as you faithfully tend to the “garden” that He has given you?

It’s not easy to persevere, but its end result is worth it, so let’s press on in faith and believe that something beautiful will blossom from our efforts.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 8:9 ESV

Planting Seeds

I planted some lantanas in my front yard earlier this spring. Their small red and yellow blossoms were the perfect pop of color for an otherwise monochromatic yard. The first few weeks after planting them, I couldn’t stop gazing at the tiny blossoms. I’d sneak away into the guest room to catch a glimpse of them in the morning and let my eyes linger on them whenever I left the house. Seeing their tiny splash of color made me happy. It’s funny how simple things can bring so much pleasure.

Planting those flowers a few months ago made me realize what a good time of year it was to plant in general—and not just in a literal sense. Last year, the world was thrust into a deep, dark winter as the coronavirus swept over the globe and changed life drastically for society as a whole. Many of the plans and dreams that we had sown as seeds a few months earlier never got a chance to blossom or even sprout. They stayed buried beneath the surface as the pandemic blanketed the world in heavy snow. With mandated quarantines and other restrictions, many of us all but hibernated, wishing away the long months that felt like winter to our hearts with no end in sight.

 There has been a shift in weather as of late, however. The seasons are changing, and the deep winter is bidding its farewell. The snow has been melting, giving way to spring, and our garden’s soil is thawing so that it can birth new hopes and dreams.

What will you plant this season? Will you be able to revive the seeds sown last year? Or will you need to start afresh, with a new vision for your “garden”?

As we transition from winter to spring, whenever that might be for each of us personally, let’s take time to ponder these questions, prayerfully seeking God’s guidance in our “planting.” The garden that we imagined for our lives might look different than what we may have expected over a year ago. Some hopes and dreams may be too frostbitten to revive. But even so, God can make a beautiful garden out of the life that He is giving us in this present moment. He undoubtedly has already sown lessons, values, and a deeper hope within us as a result of the winter that we have weathered. We have only to tend to these seedlings and to watch God bring growth as a result. And we have only to cooperate with Him in further planting, watering, and weeding as we watch our gardens begin to blossom. So, let’s think about planting again as we enter this new season. Let’s give God the soil of our lives so that He can sow seeds within us that will bring forth a harvest for His praise, and let’s put in the work to tend to each new planting of the LORD daily, trusting that, as we faithfully toil, God will bring forth a bountiful harvest in due time.

“Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.”

Psalm 126:5-6