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

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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

No Matter the Cost

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 18:18-22 ESV

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

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

Luke 18:27

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

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

Ephesians 2:8-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dream Big

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Luke 1:37 ESV

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

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

Psalm 37:4 ESV

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

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

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

Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

Happy Jesus Day

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

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

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

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

Psalm 118:24

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

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

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

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

We’re Asking the Wrong Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ephesian 2:8-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birthday Letters and Treasures in Jars of Clay

I got to celebrate my birthday with my husband and son over the weekend. The day was wonderful, starting with a decadent breakfast of chocolate gem donuts and an assortment of fruit and ending with dinner at the Olive Garden and a free dessert of Italian donuts which we ate at a nearby outdoor café later that evening.

Each moment of the day was special to me, but the one I had most anticipated was reading a letter I had written to myself a year earlier.

This is something I have been doing for over a decade now. I scrummage in my desk drawers and/or closet for the letter I wrote to myself a year prior, then I head to the local Starbucks for my free birthday drink and a quiet table where I can read the letter and reflect on what the last year meant to me.

When I write these letters, I include a word that I believe will have described the year. I also talk about the possibilities of the year and ponder what may have become of them at the time I am reading the letter.

Most times, I forget what I have written in the letters, so I am able to read the letter with fresh eyes and to feel encouraged by what I wrote. This year, however, I remembered one crucial element about the letter by June. It was the word for the year—treasure.

In the moment of remembering it, I honestly felt disappointed. I had really hoped to treasure my family more and to find treasure in everyday life at the beginning of the year. And yet here I was, not doing any of that. I was really just trying to survive. Life was hard, and although I still had my family and many blessings, I found it hard to find treasure in the midst of our current circumstances.

Months later, however, I heard a radio personality from KLOVE say something that got me to thinking that perhaps treasure was an appropriate word for the year after all.

The DJ quoted the following Bible verse:

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

Deuteronomy 26:18

As I started to think more about last year and all the hardships we faced as a family in light of this verse, it made me think that perhaps I hadn’t written the word “treasure” in vain because perhaps God had set out to make me a treasure this last year.

Many earthly treasures go through some sort of refining process in order to truly become a treasure. Gold and silver must be put to the fire in order to remove the dross, and diamonds and rubies have to face a great amount of heat and pressure in order to become a gem.

So perhaps this last year was meant to be a refining year for me—one that would place me in the fire and make me face great heat and pressure so that I could become a treasure to God, a “royal diadem” in His hand (Isaiah 62:3).

I look back over last year and have to confess that I don’t see much of a treasure in me. I just see the dross. But just as a true goldsmith sees unrefined gold and knows he is holding something of value, I believe that God is holding me and sees something of value in me—the treasure of His Son Jesus. And just as the goldsmith must rid the gold of its dross so that others can see its worth, God has been and is working in me to bring my “dross” to the surface and to rid me of it so that others can see this treasure of His Son in me.

As I think about this, all I can ask for is that I would never grow tired of the process of being refined when God places me in it. If we have this treasure in “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7), it’s worth going through the refining process to let Him be seen and to make Him known. I recognize that it doesn’t necessarily make the process of refining easier. But it makes it worth it. It makes it oh so worth it! Let’s continue to press on and to press in to Him!