Pit Stops

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

I considered sharing this news in several ways but decided that being direct was the best route.

We’re moving.

In mid-December, JJ got an offer for a position that he had applied for over the summer, and he decided to accept it. We’ll be moving to a small town around seven hours east of here in early March.

Although I’m happy we’ll be living within a couple of hours of my family in San Antonio, I’m saddened to leave El Paso for all the momentous highs and lows we’ve experienced here.

El Paso is the city that JJ and I moved to as newlyweds. It’s the city where I went mountain biking with him for the first time, we had countless of barbecues over the grill outside our first apartment, I spent numerous hours with a friend swimming in our apartment pool, and where I got a job as an interpreter that provided me the most breathtaking view of the Franklin mountains each morning I drove to work.

It’s the city where JJ and I discovered that we were going to be parents and where we attended birthing classes and began to prepare for and anticipate life with a little baby. It’s also the city where our baby boy was finally born, where I became a stay-at-home mom, and where we discovered the hardships and joys of having a newborn and then a toddler who is now almost four.

JJ and I bought our first house here and turned it into a home, and we’ve seen a lot of firsts here ever since. First steps. First words. First holidays as a family.

It was here in El Paso that Liam was admitted to the hospital for a couple of nights and diagnosed with an illness that caused him to be on medication for nearly an entire year. Much of my social life was stripped away from me during that time as JJ and I sought to protect Liam’s immune system as best as we could. But it was also here where God blessed me with incredible friendships during that period of time. One friend came to visit weekly, and another group of dear friends came monthly for a Saturday afternoon potluck. I came to realize how life-giving friendships could be during that time, and I’ll forever be grateful to these friends (and others) for how they helped to bring me through a rough year.

It is here where, after Liam fully recovered his health in December 2019, we entered into the pandemic with the rest of the world a few short months later. Despite all the restrictions life threw us at that time, however, my friends and I still found ways to connect, doing Bible studies together or baking and doing crafts together online. And then there were the drop-offs of baked goods or presents to each other at our front doors in 2020. We connected even more deeply over our shared hardship, and God used these challenges to cause us to experience spiritual growth.

As I remember all the epic moments that my family and I have personally experienced here thus far and all the beautiful reconnections of 2021, I recognize how much God has both blessed JJ and me and stretched our faith as He has taught us to trust Him more deeply. Much like the actual wilderness that El Paso is, God has brought us through a wilderness experience in our spiritual journey here these last few years. We’ve been reminded more profoundly that He is enough and that He is faithful. As uncomfortable as our journey has been at different points of time here, He has continued to provide for us and to remind us that He has journeyed with us in every step of the way.

When I think about all of the incredible moments that my family and I have experienced here in El Paso, a popular saying comes to mind. All good things must come to an end. Fortunately, as believers, we know that this phrase is not really true. As much as this good thing of living in El Paso is coming to an end for my family and me, another popular phrase rings truer for those of us in Christ Jesus.

The best is yet to come.

The truth is, any place in which we make our dwelling in this life is only a pit stop on our spiritual journey here on earth. Our Forever Home awaits us, and we know that only what is good and true and pure will welcome us in that place.

As my family and I begin to pack and prepare for this next move, and as I deal with my own uncertainties and fears in the process, I am comforted to remember that this next place is only a pit stop on this road trip of life. Furthermore, it brings me greater comfort to know that God has placed this specific town on the map of my own spiritual journey. He knows exactly how He will provide for my family and me in this new town, and He knows what treasures we will unearth there and the friendships we will gain.

As bittersweet as it is to say farewell to El Paso and our friends here and everything this place has represented to us, I trust that God is leading our every step to this new place, and I trust that He is good. So, we will move forward by His help and through His strength, looking forward to all that He has in store.

The Inner Struggles of a Mom

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

My son gashed his chin at the park a few weeks ago. It’s not something I intended to write about, but it really left an impression on me. Considering all the blood and how deep the cut was, I think I responded fairly well. My son was a real trooper, too. He cried on the way to the hospital, as is to be expected from a three-year-old, but he quickly calmed down as I continued to reassure him that I was taking him to the emergency room so that he could get better. He even managed to take a nap in my arms as we sat in the waiting room.

Three hours later, after a lot of waiting and a bit of medical care, my son’s chin was finally stitched up, and we headed to the nearest drive thru to pick up a late lunch before heading home. Liam was soon back to his happy, rambunctious self as we ravenously scarfed down our food. It was as if he had already forgotten about the incident. Life was far from normal for me, however. Apart from the stress of trying to keep Liam’s stitches dry and clean that week and keeping him from picking at them or injuring himself any further, my mind was brewing with unwanted thoughts.

That day, I was freshly reminded that I cannot always protect my son. I wasn’t able to protect him at eleven months when he had to be admitted to the hospital for two nights for a disease my husband and I had never even heard about. I couldn’t protect him subsequently at his follow up appointment two weeks later, where the doctor determined that his health had been affected by the illness and he would have to be put on medication indefinitely. I couldn’t protect him eight months later when he slipped on a step at the zoo and had to get stitches for the first time, and I couldn’t protect him this last time when he tripped over his own feet just a few feet from my side.

As much as I try, I am unable to shield my son from much of the harm that comes from living in a fallen world, and this most recent incident was a vivid and painful reminder to me of just that. I am incapable of completely keeping him safe, and I always will be. But the thought that I wrestle with more as I think about all of this is knowing that God can keep him from harm, but He doesn’t always choose to do so. Liam will continue to experience sickness, pain, and sorrow in different seasons of his life, just like everyone else, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

My faith does not falter as I consider these things, however, nor do I doubt God’s character. I have learned long ago to view my circumstances through the lens of God’s goodness rather than the other way around, and He has helped me to see Him at work in the different hardships I have faced thus far. I simply write this to confess that I’m struggling to reconcile myself to the fact that my family’s story may not turn out the way I want it to. We may experience greater suffering, sorrow, and loss than we have ever known, and there’s no way for us to undo whatever hardships we may face.

The most meaningful truth that I keep coming back to, however, is knowing that God did not spare His own Son for me. He gave Him over to a painful and gruesome death on a cross so that I might choose Jesus and have an eternity awaiting me with Him. And if God loved me so much to give His Son for me, then I can trust that He will not abandon me in my darkest moments and worst sufferings. He intimately knows my heart and all its emotions, and whatever may come, He will strengthen, comfort, and sustain me. He will completely see me through this life on earth until He sees me Home, where pain and sorrow will be no more.

I’m also comforted in knowing that God did not spare His own Son for Liam to give him a chance to believe in Him and be saved if he so chooses (and I fervently pray that he does).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

God loves Liam more than JJ and I ever could, and it would do me good to really meditate upon that fact and to find freedom in God’s great love for him. I can’t keep my son from harm, and God may not always shield him from all harm either, but I know that God can minister to Liam in his pain, just as He has done for JJ and me over and over again. He can comfort him, give him peace, and outpour His love upon Him in ways unlike anyone else. And those moments, in turn, can become the stepping stones that God uses to build faith in Liam and a deeper understanding of who He is.

Ultimately, I know that I must choose not to dwell on the possible hardships that this life may bring. The Bible admonishes us to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), so I will seek to turn my thoughts to those things. But for every new stitch, sickness, or sorrow that may come our way, I want to keep remembering that God did not spare His own Son because of His immense love for us, and He is ready to outpour His love, kindness, compassion, and comfort upon my family and me. We just have to keep seeing our circumstances through the lens of His goodness. We just have to keep believing that He will carry us through this life until He carries us home.

Crowning the Year with Goodness

It has been a tradition of mine for many years now to write a list of the best of the year. It generally includes new or deepened friendships, experiences, and events, among other things. There is no limit as to what I might write, although it is limited to the best of that specific year.

I’m not exactly sure when I started this tradition or why, but I’m thankful for whatever got me to do it in the first place. Ever since starting these lists each year, I have recognized how good each year has been.

Last year I started my list a little earlier than usual. With the promise of a busy Christmas season ahead of me and so many wonderful things to include on my list from that year already, I decided to begin my list during Thanksgiving weekend, adding any additional “bests” from December as the month went by. As it was, my “best” list was just really a list of all the things I had been thankful for that year.

This year I did the same, writing the chunk of my list over Thanksgiving weekend.

It has been a hard year for me in many ways, but it has been sweet to remember the special moments that have helped to make this year a little easier.  I’m beginning to see those precious moments as little oases in my year of wilderness. God doesn’t always take us out of hard situations, but He’s faithful to give us what we need to sustain us along the way. Sometimes we just have to open our eyes to see that He has been doing that all along. Tonight I’m very thankful for my “oases” and for how He crowns each year, especially the hard ones, with His goodness.