Rethinking Lent: Giving of Myself

20180219_151915I began fasting for Lent a few years ago and have always given up something in order to remember how Jesus gave his life for me.

I planned to give up sweets this year as in recent years. But as I pondered my decision, I asked myself whether I am fasting for me or for God? I have never asked this question, so it took some soul searching to get an honest answer.

The truth of it is, I have always given up something outside instead of within myself. Fasting from things like TV, social media, food, and technology has helped me kick some unhealthy and unwanted habits. However, it has become self-serving because I tend to focus on me rather than on God. I’m merely giving up something outside of myself and not giving of myself for God.

With this decision, I’m learning that giving of myself takes fasting to a whole new level and demands more from me than I can give on my own. It requires a leaning on Jesus for strength. The focus has shifted from me to the God I want to remember during Lent. I’m fasting from the self-focused, me-first way of thinking that orders my day.

There are many things I can give up for Lent, but this year I’m giving of myself to God instead of giving up something. And I’m doing it by giving of myself to my family, the priority God has assigned me for such a time as now. I’m giving of myself to:

  • Be present in the day-to-day moments and fully focused on how I can serve rather than be served.
  • Speak kind and gentle words consistently, even when I’d rather not.
  • Put others first (specifically the ones under my roof) by letting go of the desire to be in control of the trivial details in my day.
  • Yield to my husband’s leadership (this is no easy task for my strong-willed personality!) and build him up daily with words of affirmation.

Rethinking Lent means giving of myself to God instead of giving up something. Throughout Lent and beyond, I pray God will form new habits in me which will stick permanently going forward. I want the habit of being like my Savior and master, Jesus Christ, who gave of himself for me and for all of humanity. I’m giving of myself to remember his sacrifice. I’m giving of myself to honor him and thank him. I’m giving of myself because I love him and because he is worthy of all I can give him.

Most importantly, I’m giving of myself with the hope that the change in me will be contagious. I want my expressions of God’s love and kindness to spread and infect the world around me so many lives will be changed for the better.

How about you? Will you rethink Lent and give of yourself for God? I hope you will! Let’s give it a go and see what God does for, in, and through us! We can change lives for the better with God’s love and kindness. But change has to begin within us. The time is imminent. We have been given life for such a time as now. May God’s love and kindness flow through us to others for the changing of many lives as he changes us from the inside out :).

Posted in Change, Christian Living, Family, Growth & Maturity | Leave a comment

Just One Small Step

IMGP3060Last week I made one small step. It was an act of obedience to God. Since then, it feels like I’ve experienced a lifetime of freedom. I wish I’d done it much sooner. Here’s the back story.

I had been running low on fumes for a long while, trying to be every woman. I believed I could be a good wife and mom, a great teacher to my boys and an established writer. Surely, I can do it all. This is the message I receive at every turn. Women are strong. We can multitask. We can do anything and everything we set our minds to.

 

Well, you know what? This woman can’t do it all. I don’t have it in me to be every woman. Yes, I can be a wife, a mom, a homeschool teacher, and a writer. But I can’t do it all adequately. I can’t give my best or my all to each role. It’s not womanly or humanly possible. I’ve tried my hardest for a very long time. How foolish of me to think I can pull it off!

After working twenty plus months to develop my writing while homeschooling my sons and making feeble efforts to work on my marriage, I came to the end of my weary self. I was just plain tired. Tired of exhausting efforts towards many things without making real progress at anything. My inadvertent path to be every woman led to failure. I couldn’t even succeed at being one of those women :(.

The upside of failure is, you come to know yourself better. God uses your flops to grow you up. And when you have Him in your life, coming to the end of yourself is a good thing because you know he’ll be there, waiting to catch you. For God is merciful. He’ll steer you in the right direction. You need only take one small step and he’ll show you what to do.

So I took one small step. I knew it was time to make some trade-offs. I didn’t want to be every woman any longer. I couldn’t. My mind and body was done. It was at this critical juncture that I asked God to help me eliminate the non-essentials. I was ready to grow up.

Now growing up means you have to forego your way of doing things. For me, this means removing things that were hindering my personal and spiritual growth because I am not mature enough to manage them in this season. Of course I dragged out the decision and resisted God’s nudging. But eventually, I listened to him and eliminated a couple things from my schedule (so far):

  • Connection to an on-line writing community
  • A Facebook writing page

I thought these two things were beneficial because they would contribute to my writing passion and purpose from God. But they have been a time killer, a joy breaker, and a peace robber for me because I still have plenty of growing up to do. I have allowed it to consume me and deplete my time. Since I’ve taken this one small step, I have been set free in too many ways to share in this writing.

Who knew taking one small step could lead to a lifetime of freedom? Literally. Freedom from the busyness of building and writing so I can focus on what truly matters; quality and quantity time with Jesus and my family. I have been neglecting both for way too long. And also freedom from past wounds that has prevented me from living true to the person God created in me. You see, I’ve been hiding my real design by making decisions from a place of insecurity because of those unattended wounds.

This growing up business is incredibly freeing! I’ve been enjoying relaxed time with my guys and making their bellies happy with real meals instead of rushing to throw anything together last minute. How I wish I had taken this one small step sooner! It’s so amazing, I must share the goods with you!

It’s simple, yet so profound. God wants to free you from busyness so he can show you why you’ve made and continue to make the choices you do in life. He wants you to understand the deeper reasons for your daily pursuits. God wants to set you free so you can live a life true to the person he created in you (we’ll dig deeper into these issues next time).

Your freedom begins with one small step of obedience. But be on guard. Obedience always feel awkward and at odds with what you know. It feels unsettling and risky. You feel out of control. You’re likely to believe you are a quitter, so you’ll resist obeying at first. But be persistent! Be courageous! Take that one small step!

Don’t think of your one small step as giving up on your goals or dreams. Because giving in to God is not giving up! You’re just being rerouted to a better way. God redirects you for your good. He is loving towards you. So don’t be afraid dear ones. Obey God in what he is showing you and you’ll discover a lifetime of freedom! I guarantee you’ll wish you had done it much sooner!

Posted in Christian Living, faith, Freedom, Growth & Maturity, Purpose, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What I learned in 2017

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  • My very best effort fails without God.
  • Your passion is a curse if it is pursued out of God’s timing.
  • Don’t pursue your dreams and forget God, the dream giver.
  • I should care more about what God says about me than what people think of me.
  • Always talk to God before pursuing anything.
  • My goal is life is not to get more people to like and follow me.
  • My highest aim should be to honor God in everything.
  • I may be physically present, but mentally and emotionally checked out.
  • I can be selfish and prideful.
  • I can do many things half-heartedly. But I can only do a few things well.
  • My biggest support comes from the most unexpected people.

 

  • Since there are no perfect people, there is no perfect church.
  • It is rare to find a genuine Christian.
  • “Christians” can be unkind.
  • There are hypocrites inside and outside the church.
  • Instead of judging and criticizing, pray hard.
  • Things are not always as they appear.

 

  • The cure for comparison is to stay away from things that tempt you to compare.
  • Many say they are a friend, but who can find one who is reliable? – Proverbs 20:6
  • Make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive often. – Colossians 3:13
  • Love does not insist on its own way. – 1 Corinthians 13
  • I should consider my husband’s input. His insight is valuable and helpful.
  • My husband’s deep love for God makes me love him all the more.
  • I need to cherish my husband.
  • Mid-life crisis is real! But you can get through it if you stay close to God.
  • Just because something feels good and right doesn’t mean it is right and good.
  • It’s okay to let go of those who are bad for your health.
  • I can’t help those who think they don’t need help.

 

  • People use the term “I love you” very loosely.
  • I can do my part to live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18
  • Keep giving kindness to the least appreciative and the most undeserving.
  • Don’t do what everyone is doing. Even if they are Christians. Conform only to God.
  • I still have many issues to work through to be mentally whole.
  • I am a great sinner, but God’s mercy is greater.
  • I don’t know as much as I think I do.
  • I still have much to learn about God and his world.
  • I need help every day to be committed to doing life God’s way.
Posted in Daily Life, faith | 2 Comments

Faith in What We Don’t See

KODAK Digital Still CameraIt’s eleven o’clock Thursday night. I should be snuggled in bed. Instead, I’m trying to think up the right words and remember the perfect story to encourage you towards faith in Jesus.

The truth is, I’m writing this for me just as much as for you. At this hour, I need encouragement to keep believing in God. My faith feels a bit like a rubber band stretched to its breaking point. It isn’t because I doubt God’s ability nor his willingness to intervene in my present circumstance. I know He has the power to act on my behalf and I do trust in His good heart, for I’ve witnessed it in times past.

It’s having faith in this moment and how my current situation will work out that is tripping me up. What is God up to? Why isn’t he responding how I expect him to? He can give us what we need; why doesn’t he? I know He sees our pressing needs. Sigh :(.

Having faith in what I don’t see is where I’m at these days. I’m still hoping for restoration of family relationships. My heart has love ready for more little ones. Yet, here I wait to give a forever home to orphans while God gives me a different assignment. Everyday, I wait to hear news of how my family and friends have come to faith in Jesus.  And then there’s our Old Faithful van. She has issues. But we have to keep her.

I don’t see the answers I’m hoping for in any of these situations. But I trust God is working in each one.

I have faith in what I don’t see because my hope is in the God I know intimately. My faith does not rest on the hope of a desired outcome. For people and circumstances change. But God says in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change”. His promises, His character, His power, and His love in unchanging.

This kind of faith takes strenuous effort. It isn’t about believing when things are in our favor. Rather, it is taking God at His Word and trusting Him to the point of obedience. Even when we are challenged at every side and can’t see how things will turn out. It is easy to have faith in God when life is good. But we won’t discover what or who our faith is in until the twists and turns of life tests our hearts’ true devotion. Having faith in what we don’t see means we are fully committed to God regardless of our circumstances. We believe in Him for who He is, not what we can get from him.

Consider the important relationships in your life right now. Do you have the individuals in mind? Okay, here are some questions for you.

Are you committed to them only when they do everything to your liking? Do you stop loving them and quit the relationship when things are not going well? Relationships are hard. People change. They do hurtful things. But we don’t stop loving them. If we are fully committed to the relationships, we keep working things out. We keep praying. We keep hoping for better things to come. We do these things because we genuinely love them.

If we will do this for people, why wouldn’t we do it for God? Faith in God brings us into a one on one relationship with Him. We get to know Him intimately and understand his character. We know He can be trusted all the time. Even in turbulent times, we have faith in what we don’t see because we trust that God loves us deeply. We believe He has plans to bring us good and not harm because this is what he tells us in Jeremiah 29:11.

Having faith in what we don’t see makes the hard of life bearable. Because our faith rests in Jesus, the one who has overcome death to live again, we know there is hope in even the most impossible situation. If Jesus loves us enough to die for us, is there anything else he would not do for us? When we put our faith in Him, we have a living hope because he is a living God. In Him, we can be sure of what we hope for and certain of the things we don’t yet see as it is written in Hebrews 11:1.

So we keep believing. We have faith in what we don’t see. This kind of faith pleases God. As a result, He is working right now to do greater and grander things for us than we can ever imagine for ourselves. God will remove barriers, open doors, provide exceedingly, and perform miracles when we believe. In Him alone. 

 

Posted in Christian Living, faith, Suffering | Leave a comment

God! Where Are You?

IMG00357It is a Friday afternoon in late October, damp and chilly to the bones. I’m enjoying a brisk walk to the doctor’s office from work for my first ever prenatal visit. I am eager and anxious. How weird to think I’m going to be a mom! Will I know what to do? How will my life change? Am I going to get fat? How will my marriage change? Who will the baby look like?

My mind is racing as I wait impatiently for the midwife.

Half an hour passes. Then forty five minutes. Finally, my name is called and I follow the midwife to a room. Blood pressure is good. Weight is fine. Urine test done. She checks for the baby’s heartbeat on my belly. Nothing. She keeps listening a few more minutes. Still nothing. “Let’s try a sonogram”, she says. “It will give us a clearer picture.”

I watch the midwife’s face as she performs the sonogram. She is calm, but I can see her alarmed expression. I am uncomfortable. Something feels wrong. She continues the sonogram a little while longer before turning off the machine.

“I’m sorry. I can’t find a heartbeat. You don’t have a viable pregnancy.” said the midwife nonchalantly.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I have pregnancy symptoms so how can I not be pregnant?”

“Yes, I’m certain. Your body thinks you are still pregnant, but the baby has no heartbeat.”

And with those words she excused herself, leaving me in the examining room to swallow the news. I choke on tears (even now as I write). How can this be? Why is this happening? Am I dreaming? God? God? It can’t be true? God! Where are you?

The midwife finally returns and explains what will happen next. A procedure is scheduled to end the pregnancy. I can’t think clearly. Her lips are moving, but I can’t comprehend anything she says. I want to crawl into a corner and cry. Somehow, I manage to hold back screaming emotions because it seems ridiculous to break down right then and there.

A little later, I leave the doctor’s office and step out into the cold, uninviting rain. The scenes around me are blurred and foggy through ocean-filled eyes. I can’t contain my emotions any longer. Confusing and overpowering thoughts wage war in my mind until the rage within me screams, “God! Where are you? Why is this happening? The midwife must be wrong. Machines are not perfect. You can save my baby God! I know you can. Please. Please. Let this not be true!

I saw the midwife Friday afternoon. At 1:30 Monday morning, my husband rushes me to the ER where I would deliver my baby hours later. After receiving two pints of blood from the miscarriage and surgery, I stayed in the hospital for four days. My body didn’t heal properly, so I had another surgical procedure two months after the first. It would take over six months for me to recover physically. Emotionally, I am a wreck. I weep more and harder than ever. My faith in God is shattering to pieces with each passing day.

God! Where are you? Are you even real? Do you really care about me? If you are real, you could have kept my baby alive. Why didn’t you? Maybe, you are not as powerful as I believed, or you would have intervened and spare me the agony. I don’t understand. Why? Why did you not answer my pleas? Why?

You are not a good God! You are not real! You are powerless? I have believed in vain!

So begins my search for God and what it means to have faith. I wrestle with Him day and night. I thought I knew Him well. Turns out I am wrong. I can’t be comforted because I am angry with God. Strangely enough, I continue to pray and go to church. I wanted answers. I needed to understand why things happened as they did. In my pain and anger, I didn’t turn against God. In fact, I turned to Him more than ever before. I kept asking, “God! Where are you?”

I didn’t want to believe in God any longer, but I couldn’t stop seeking Him. Maybe it’s because He didn’t leave me alone. He kept sending Christians to show me His love. Every time I doubted, God would let me know He is present. A card, a call, or a visit from a friend comes at just the right time I needed hope. Hearing stories of others who have suffered or are suffering encouraged me to keep my faith. The evidence of God’s presence with me was undeniable. It sustained and carried me through my most unbearable pain.

I don’t remember when I stopped asking, “God! Where are you?” But eventually I did. Because each time I called Him, God showed up. He was with me through every hard moment in the following three years, before I conceived again.

Friends, you may be asking, “God! Where are you?” You may be disheartened by the suffering and seemingly unanswered prayers for yourself and/or the people you love. Maybe, you are questioning God’s goodness and power as I have. It’s okay. God expects us to have questions when we are hurting and suffering. He understands our unbelief and anger. He is not surprised by them. Actually, he invites us to come to him with our questions, doubts, and disappointments. For when we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him. This is God’s promise for you and me, found in the Bible from the book of Jeremiah 29:13.

So go ahead and ask the tough questions. But come to God, not yourself or others for answers. For only through understanding Him and knowing Him more intimately, will you find the peace and hope to move beyond pain and suffering when they come.

Posted in faith, Suffering | 5 Comments

If She Only Knew….

5795FC8A-7CDB-448B-BA2D-E37A66F7AC9CThis is the little me. She is timid and speaks little, for she doesn’t have anything smart to say. Her heart is honest and she believes it is a grave flaw, because it makes her naiïve. She feels gullible, even stupid because of her trusting heart. So she grows up thinking she doesn’t have much to contribute. There are many words inside her, but she is afraid to give them a voice fearing ridicule and rejection. Thus, she keeps them tucked away inside her soul and penned secretly between the pages of her diaries. They are her most trusted confidants.

If she only knew her Creator made her unique, she wouldn’t feel so awkward and inadequate in her own skin. She would stop striving to be someone she isn’t meant to be. She wouldn’t compare herself to everyone because she’d understand God made her just the way he desired.

If she only knew God made her in His image, she would love rather than loathe the way she looks. She would know He does not create anything ugly, but specializes in making all things beautiful. She would believe that beauty is not defined by the size of her body, or the color of her skin, or the shape of her eyes and nose, or even by the clothes she wears. She’d understand her God-given beauty begins deep within and radiates to her outer appearance. Instead of hiding her undesirable features, she would embrace her uniqueness and carry herself confidently.

If she only knew God made her for his special purpose, she wouldn’t be so confused about what to do with her life. She wouldn’t feel worthless for over three decades, because she isn’t doing the work that awakens passion in every fiber of her being. She would go after the dreams God put in her heart rather than pursue a vocation only for its income potential. She wouldn’t compare her abilities with others and believe she is not good at a single thing.

If she only knew God created her on purpose and declares that she is wonderfully made, she would spend more time enjoying life rather than being miserable because she wants someone else’s life. She would want to live more than to die.

If she only knew there is a God who loves her passionately and sent His Son to die for her, she would realize her life does matter. She’d know He loves her for who she is and not for what she can do. She would stop trying to “be good” and do good to earn his love. She would thrive under His love and choose to live right and do good to show him her gratitude. She’d stop following traditions and practicing senseless rituals. She would follow Jesus and obey Him because this is what He desires from her.

If she only knew Jesus can rescue her from a life of sin and destructive ways, she would give him access to her life sooner. She would not waste effort and time on empty and meaningless pursuits. She would trade her simple ways for God’s wisdom and arrive at success in following his lead.

Now she knows. She knows the truth about herself and her God. She knows He gave her immeasurable worth. She knows the purpose for her life and she has peace in her heart. She no longer lives with regret and isn’t drowning in the murky waters of self-pity. She readily tells about her foolishness and allows God to use her failures for the good of all. Now she lives to encourage people towards a life of faith in Jesus, so they don’t have to live a life of “If Only…..”

Posted in Growth & Maturity, Purpose | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Storm

IMG_20170910_132728230I came upon these herbs pots as we were preparing for hurricane Irma. “They need some lovin’,” says Caleb. Getting ready for the impending storm helped me to see how badly the plants have been neglected.

While pruning the herbs I smiled, thinking about our gardening days in Pennsylvania. Each summer, Scott and I spent hours planting, watering, weeding, and pruning the garden to yield a bountiful harvest in the fall. Those were happy times of building our home, growing our family, and dreaming of the future. We tended to each other like we did the garden and labored together to build our family.

Then, our building and dreaming came to a halt. We were moving south and the stress of moving and adjusting to a new place tested the strength of our relationship and our commitment to each other. It took a storm striking at our marriage for us to realize we had been neglecting each other. We had stopped dreaming and building together because we were busy leading separate lives.

As the storm in our marriage heighten and God gets a hold of my wayward heart, I am faced with a dilemma. I confessed to God, do I need to tell my husband about my emotional affair? I can move on without telling him. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!

But God won’t have it. I don’t have one ounce of peace about moving on in my marriage as if nothing had happened. I hate that God is right. I know I have to tell my husband every bit of the story. Especially since we just renewed our vows on Valentine’s Day. But how? I’m ashamed to talk about it. What do I say? Where do I begin? What will he think of me? Will he forgive me?

These thoughts are driving me nuts! I can’t sleep well. I don’t have an appetite. I have to muster up the courage to tell Scott what has happened. So, I get on my knees every day and ask God for wisdom. “I need you to prepare my husband’s heart, Lord. Help him to listen, understand, and forgive.”

I put off “the talk” for several weeks. Finally, the time is ripe. I am more determined to get it over with so I can be free. While I feel brave, I better speak now or forever lose my courage.

It is Saturday night, our at home date night. Boys are tucked in and quiet, presumably asleep. Now is my chance. I’m anxious and nervous. I’ve known this man for over twenty years, why in the world am I scared to tell him another dirty secret? He didn’t run when I told him about my jezebel days in college? Why should I be afraid now?

Awkwardly, I spit out the words. “There’s this guy who is interested in me and I had feelings for him. I seriously thought about leaving you, but God literally removed him from my sight. I’ve confessed to God and now I’m confessing to you and asking for your forgiveness.”

“I wanted to leave because I’m not happy in our marriage. I resent you for always putting your work before me and our family. You’re concerned about keeping your job, but not so much about losing your wife and family. If God hadn’t intervene, I don’t know what would happen to us. My mind had already checked out of our marriage and my heart was following, had Jesus not reeled it back. I don’t know if I still love you or want to love you. But God told me to love you with His love. So this is what I am trying my best to do.”

Scott listens patiently. Then he apologizes for neglecting me and our family. He doesn’t judge or question my actions. He acknowledges his failure to be present for me and the boys in the ways we need. He asks for my forgiveness and promises to do a better job as a husband and father. Huh? Is this man for real?

I don’t know what to think or say. Instead of being upset, he owns his issues and wants to work on it in order to fulfill his responsibilities to his family. I am utterly relieved. We had a good cry together and prayed for God’s help in rebuilding our marriage.

How grateful I am to have chosen the path less traveled back into my marriage, even though it was rough. I stopped at the crossroads of divorce and marriage and asked for the godly way and here are a few things God showed me.

  • I can leave my husband and go find happiness elsewhere, especially when things are grim. But other gardens have weeds too. I just can’t see it from where I’m standing.
  • If I can’t be true to my husband, how can I trust myself to be true to someone else?
  • Love puts others first. Following my desires into another man’s arms puts me first. Because I love God, I choose to put my husband and my boys first. Their lives would shatter if I quit being a wife and mom. My life would not if I stayed.
  • Leaving my husband won’t resolve my personal issues which contributed to the storm in our marriage. If I don’t deal with those issues and move into a new relationship, my issues will come with me.
  • God says the things I can see is temporary, it does not last. The excitement of being with someone new may be thrilling, but the newness will eventually wear off. If it’s not from God, it will not last anyway.

God helped me make the right decision to stay with my husband and keep my family together. I’d like to tell you everything has been smooth, but it isn’t true. We’ve had many bumps on the healing road. I’m continually working on loving my husband without conditions attached and he is doing better at putting me and our family before his work. We are dreaming and building together again. Slowly but surely, God is healing and moving us towards a good place.

Perhaps there’s a storm in your marriage right now. Maybe you’ve been unfaithful to your spouse, contemplating an affair, or considering divorce. I hope my story encourages you to turn your heart to God and your spouse. It’s never too late. Your family is worth keeping. Together your family can do more and better works for God, for one another, and for others. This is His purpose for your marriage and your family.

Jesus, the calmer of storms, will help you through your storm and bring it to a calm, if you’ll let him.

Posted in Emotional Affair, Marriage, storms | Leave a comment