Tag Archives: hope

Hope: Don’t Give Up {2022 Focus}

23 Mar

My word for 2022 is HOPE. The subtitle for that word is Don’t Give Up. The Scripture God gave me for the word HOPE is Lamentations 3:21-23 —

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

An alternate translation of verse 22 is:

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”

It is God’s mercy to me that I am not consumed by this season of life (parenting four young kids and homeschooling). It is because of His compassion to me that I haven’t given up and curled into the fetal position indefinitely. There are so many moments, even whole days when I am tempted to. Because it all feels like too much. From my viewpoint, I am falling short in every area — parenting, homeschooling, homemaking, personal goals.

When one is trying so hard to do something right and well, but still meeting with failure, it would be understandable to just give up, right?

But God’s steadfast love prevents me from giving up. He sustains me by giving new mercies every morning, mainly in the form of HOPE.

The way I’m viewing HOPE is this: Hope doesn’t give up. Hope doesn’t look at the challenges before it and grow discouraged. Hope isn’t cynical or pessimistic. Instead, Hope continues to believe that things can change. Hope keeps showing up, pressing forward, living faithfully into God’s calling for that day. Hope accepts what God allows, even if it is not what was wanted.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to “call to mind” God’s mercies for HOPE so far this year.

When I want to work out in the morning, and be productive after the kids go to bed, but sleep deprivation from baby Neola makes extra sleep the greater priority, I have to remind myself of hope.

When I feel incapable and daunted by the thought of and need for potty training Corbin and sleep training Neola, I remind myself of hope.

When the girls are showing troublesome attitudes and Corbin is throwing yet another tantrum, and I am tempted to feel like I’ve failed them as a mother because of what I’ve allowed them to do, or acted like myself, I remind myself of hope.

My natural human reaction to these discouraging and overwhelming situations is self-pity. Like Oswald Chambers writes,

“Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God’s purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity.”

(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

But HOPE reminds me that I don’t have to give up, or collapse in the face of these challenges. God gives new mercies. I can trust Him to keep providing, day by day, what I need. I can trust Him even if I don’t meet my goals, if I lose my temper again, if my house is a mess, if I can’t figure out how to get Neola to sleep better. My purposes may remain unfulfilled, but HIS purposes will be accomplished.

God’s provision of new mercies every day won’t mean that I wake up in the morning or enter different situations feeling competent or on top of things. I hardly ever feel that way, and I actually think that is intentional on God’s part. Jesus fed 5,000-plus people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. He didn’t produce a banquet table laden with food. He just stretched the existing food farther. He takes the little that we have, and He makes it enough, as we need it.

As I’ve been digging into Lamentations 2:21-25, I read in a John Piper sermon transcript (from almost exactly 28 years ago),

“Our task today is not to have the strength needed for tomorrow’s burdens. Our task today is to live by the mercies given for today, and to believe that there will be new mercies for tomorrow. Today’s mercies do not include strength for tomorrow; they include faith that tomorrow’s unseen mercies will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

(John Piper, “Today’s Mercies for Today’s Troubles,” March 13, 1994)

I love that. Like the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness, God gives just enough for each day. I must live in moment by moment dependence on Him. And because His provision of mercy for this day, this moment is always sufficient (and abundantly so!) for my need, I can always have HOPE.

Here’s to a hope-filled year.

The Importance of Eternity

12 Nov


If you’ve read my blog for a while, you probably know that I spend a lot of time focusing on accepting the circumstances God allows – true joy comes from surrendering to His plan. It’s waaay easier said than done because to be honest, I often don’t like the circumstances He allows. They’re hard. They hurt. Sometimes they just plain suck. But the truth remains: If I want joy, I must humbly submit myself and my life to God.

I still wholeheartedly believe in this and the book I’m working on is about how I got to that place. But I’ve noticed a potentially bad result of that mindset: forgetting eternity.

Finding joy by accepting what God allows isn’t just about making this life more bearable. The Bible is full of verses about the importance and benefits of trials, suffering, and persecution in a believer’s life. But the reason WHY those are so valuable is eternity.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” God is our hope and joy in this life only because He’s our hope and joy in the next. There is no gospel without eternity. We cannot let go of this life and truly trust God with everything unless we are staking our hearts on another life, a better one – one spent face to face with Him. Paul also wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23b)

It’s good to give thanks for God’s daily, tangible blessings and provision — doing so helps me connect the larger reality of the gospel to my everyday life. But it’s best to give thanks for salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Only that will never change and never be taken away.

Though Satan should buffet
Though trials should come
Let this blessed assurance control
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

2.5 Weeks Postpartum

25 Apr

It’s been 2.5 weeks since I gave birth to our little Biscuit. Here’s how things have been going…

Physical Recovery

The physical recovery process has been a lot easier than I expected. The thing I was most scared about was tearing during birth and having stitches and lots of blood to deal with for weeks afterward. Well, it really wasn’t that bad.   Even though I had stitches for a second degree tear and they were pretty uncomfortable for several days that first week (causing me to sit down very daintily and lean to one side), that was the worst of it. I used all of the supplies from the hospital for the first week and a half or so – a water bottle to rinse with, witch hazel pads, hydro-cortisone cream, benzicane spray. Now, the bleeding has stopped, my stitches have dissolved and I feel *almost* completely normal in that regard.

Another uncomfortable aspect of recovery was the after-pains of my uterus shrinking. It wasn’t that painful – it just felt like mild period cramps, which I found more annoying and uncomfortable. But then, after going through labor, my pain scale might be a little bit skewed.

What has surprised me most, though, has been how having absolutely no ab muscles has affected me. When I was still in the hospital, Travis and I tried to take a walk so I could get out of the room but I had this horrible pain/tightness in my chest right under my rib cage. It wasn’t hard to breathe – it just felt tight. I also had a hard time standing up for an extended period of time. That continued for the next couple of weeks – when we went to Target with my parents, I had to sit down in the garbage can aisle while we debated which one to get.  At first, I thought it was a lung issue but my mom suggested that it was muscular. Now that it’s gotten a lot better (and is pretty much gone), I have to agree with her. I’ll do a separate post about exercise and what a joke my abs are. 😉

Body Image / Weight

By the time I got home from the hospital, I was down 10 pounds. By the end of the first week, I was down 15. At 2 weeks postpartum, I was down 20. Now at 2.5 weeks postpartum, I’m down 22 pounds, putting me 13 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. (I weighed myself so often out of curiosity, not obsession.)


As my belly has shrunk, I’ve discovered a few more stretch marks on the lower right side. They’re barely noticeable so I’m not too disheartened. I’m in no hurry to bare my belly anyway, since I still have the linea negra – which also extended to the inside of my belly button. It looks pretty strange.

Since most of the weight I gained during pregnancy was in my belly and boobs, I can actually get my pre-pregnancy pants on. But I wouldn’t say they fit – I’m pretty sure the button would fly off if I tried to sit in them, so I’m still wearing all maternity pants. I’m wearing some pre-pregnancy tops, but some still look a little strange/small/short so I’m also still wearing a lot of the tanks and sweaters I wore during pregnancy. And with the limitations of needing to wear something easy to nurse in, it feels like my wardrobe has actually shrunk postpartum, instead of expanding like I thought it would. So getting dressed in real clothes is still rife with frustration this side of pregnancy. So is finding a nursing bra that fits me and is lined so that I don’t have to show everyone the shape of my nursing pads. Seriously, some of the nursing bra designs I’ve seen are completely asinine – like a horizontal seam right across the middle of the cup. In what universe is that a good idea?

On a related note, I was also looking forward to sleeping on my stomach, but my boobs are so full and tender that it’s not even a temptation now. But I have been sleeping on my back, and that has been nice.

In happier news, I can finally wear my wedding ring again and my cankles are finally gone, so my boots also fit (which has been nice considering all the snow we’ve been getting!).


The emotional adjustment to motherhood has been like a tame roller coaster – not a wild ride, but with some ups and downs. Breastfeeding has been the hardest part. While I do consider myself very blessed with how breastfeeding has gone so far, it’s still hard to be the only one who can feed Emma. On the days that I’m having a hard time, I feel like all my freedom is gone – I can’t hang out with friends, go to the store, exercise, or even take a nap because just about the time I decide to do one of those things, Emma wakes up because she’s hungry or wants to be held.

I’ve also felt overwhelmed by worries about making the wrong choices now – like, if we let her sleep in her swing every night, is it going to be a battle for months to get her to sleep in her crib? If we give her a pacifier because she wants to suck on something but isn’t hungry, will she still demand it when she’s 3? Then there’s the whole daunting list of things yet to do for developing their cognitive functions and motor skills, etc. I definitely feel under-equipped often.

I think part of the reason things have been hard emotionally is that it’s been snowing so much here that I haven’t been able to (or wanted to, really) get out of the house a ton. But probably the bigger reason is that like usual, I’ve been gritting my teeth to get through this, instead of going to God or Travis for help. Yesterday, I had a great time in the Word and was reminded that God’s grace is sufficient for each day, no matter what the day holds, and that I can let these hard times drive me to God and deepen my communion with Him – because He has said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And with Travis, I just need to let go of my complex to do everything myself, and ask for his help.

I would like to do a separate post about how baby has affected our marriage so far, but I’ll just mention that even though there have been moments of tension when Emma is fussy and crying and we’re both at a loss and frustrated, having a baby has brought us closer together. We work as a team, and I love seeing how Travis loves Emma, and how he seeks to serve me in any way he can. Something I prayed about a lot before Emma came was that I wouldn’t constantly make Travis do things my way, but that I would respect him as a father and decision-maker. I’m happy to say that that hasn’t even been an issue! Perhaps it’s because I’m less confident in my own tactics than I thought I would be, or maybe it’s just because Travis is a wonderful father, but even when Travis does things differently than I would, I don’t feel the need to “correct” him. That’s evidence of God’s grace.

I’ve also noticed that my ability to hope in God’s goodness and faithfulness is directly correlated to how much sleep I get, or what time of day it is. When I’m up at 3 am to feed Emma, it’s a lot harder to trust things will get better than it is at 11 am, when I’ve had my coffee and it’s sunny outside. Because of that, this verse is especially relevant to me right now:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

And I think that about covers it for now!

Pay no attention to the cowpies behind the curtain.

1 Sep

I feel like I am finally at a point in life/maturity/Christian growth that I can focus on my marriage because I want to and not because “I probably should.” That never lasts as I’ve found. I mean, it’s not hard to find marriage advice. Marriage is hard and everyone has their own theory as to what works. Well, newsflash. It isn’t cut and dry. There is no black and white, cookie cutter “This is what you do for a good marriage.” There are principles, yes. But the nitty gritty details specific to your marriage take a bit longer to hash out.

That’s where Travis and I are.

While our first year of marriage was extremely rough, things have gotten progressively better over the last 3 years. I personally have made grand strides just since March of 2010, when Travis and I were going to be apart for 3 weeks and I was like, So? Travis said it was unacceptable. That incident made me realize that I was kind of a cold-hearted bitch when it came to my husband. Through much prayer and grace from God, I have made it to where I am now – still a work in progress but trying more and more each day to make sure my husband knows that I love and appreciate him.

As I’ve been reading the Bible and some marriage books, I have felt God leading me to focus on a few specific things. The first is my speech. I am horrible at not only guarding my mouth from saying stupid, hurtful things in the heat of the  moment but also at affirming Travis or wording things in a way that he would receive well.

But I have two amazing examples of grace from just last week! The first was during the week when Travis was out in Utah. He called to ask if it would be ok if he stayed out there another week because he still didn’t have anything to do back in Denver. My normal response would’ve been either, “Yeah, sure whatever.” or “Ugh, that means I have to keep watering the yard!” My response last week was, “Sure, that’s fine. I mean, I’ll definitely miss you but I understand that it’s important for your job that you’re billable.” What a difference, both in my words and in my heart!

The second example is from Saturday when I was talking to Travis on the phone about the Focus crapping out on the way to Steamboat. I wanted to complain and exaggerate the situation by saying, “Freaking A – this is why I just want to get rid of the Focus and get a different car. We should’ve at least taken the Check Engine light seriously instead of just waiting for it to go off by itself.” Somehow in that moment, I had the clarity and foresight to know that saying that would have made Travis feel horrible, like he had failed me. He has said numerous times that he would feel better knowing that I had a reliable car, a bigger car with 4-wheel drive, etc. So instead, I simply said, “I’m very frustrated right now.” I was still honest, but in a way that didn’t aggravate the situation by pinning the blame on Travis.

Both of those advancements were inspired by reading the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. If you’re married and haven’t read it, I recommend you do so. As you can see, it’s been an eye-opener for me!

The second thing I’ve felt God leading me to focus on is making Travis a priority. I have had a tendency to just let Travis fit in wherever in my life, instead of molding my life around him. While I’ve been mildly majorly obsessed with thinking about my life, what I want to accomplish, and what I’m doing to do, I have spent hardly any time thinking about how I can be a better wife, create a warming and inviting home, and support my husband’s ambitions. How can I help Travis succeed? had never been a conscious thought in my head. 

Both Travis and I have also been guilty of letting chores, obligations and hobbies rob us of intentional time with one another. On weekends, we’ve started asking one another, “What are you planning to do today?” instead of “What should we do today?” While Travis and I are independent people, and I’m glad that we have different hobbies and responsibilities within our family, I think it would do us good to be intentional about spending time together, just the 2 of us, doing something fun and out of the ordinary – like taking a walk, going on a picnic, doing something new, visiting a new restaurant, etc.

Another aspect of making Travis a priority and focusing on our marriage is making time for romance and sex. The biggest source of conflict in our marriage has been different styles of physical affection. That got a lot better after the first year but I think one unfortunate side effect of that has been we just aren’t physically affectionate anymore. God is slowly revealing to me that I have some unresolved issues with my sexual past. I hesitate or refuse to do certain things because I associate them with the promiscuous lifestyle I had before I became a Christian. Therefore, I haven’t felt complete freedom with Travis. Even just knowing this has brought about healing.

The more I learn about marriage and my husband, the more I’m convinced that the biggest thing that I’ve learned in marriage is that I can’t do anything right without God. Marriage has shown me what an incredibly mean, selfish, crabby, stubborn, pig-headed, messed up person I am apart from His work in my life and it is only by God’s grace that our marriage is what it is today. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have no idea how people make it through marriage without Christ. No idea whatsoever. I don’t think I would have. If I had not believed in something bigger than our marriage, if I had not believed that the Author of the universe had been in control of bringing Travis and I together, I think the first year of our marriage would have done us in.

But praise be to Christ, we weren’t done in. And He has brought me from wondering if I even still loved Travis to this place of being so incredibly, authentically thankful to have my wonderful, amazing husband in my life and growing to appreciate him more and more each day. It’s felt like a long journey (I know those who have been married 20+ years would say we’re still newlyweds!) but it’s been worth it.

If any of you readers are in a place where marriage is rough and you’re wondering who the heck this person is that you married, I just wanted to offer these words from John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church. They really encouraged when I first heard them when Travis and I were engaged and I have thought back to them often throughout our marriage. Even if you’re not struggling, they’re still true! The truth of them is even more evident to me today than it was then.

Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved. {source}

Such a good reminder to focus on all the good things. Even if the only good thing you can think of is that he brushes his teeth in the morning, or goes to work and earns a paycheck. Start appreciating the small things and God will grow your affections. My life and heart – and ultimately, my marriage – is living proof of this.

A very present help in trouble.

9 Jun

The past two months (since April 8, the day we got Charlie) have been a blur. As a person who does not handle busyness well but who has been ridiculously busy (in my book), I have been pleasantly surprised more than once that I have only had 1 or 2 meltdowns. That, my friends, is a new record.

I have not handled every situation well. I have yelled, cried, slapped, whined, slandered, complained, pitied, and doubted God. All of which Satan pounced on to make me feel like a horrible person who deserved nothing but a swift kick to the head.

Then I stumbled across Psalm 46 one morning (after having searched for the verse the previous morning and not been able to find it):

God is our refuge and strength, 

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though it waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

This was exactly what I had needed – and wanted – to hear. The storms of life aren’t evidence that God doesn’t love or care about me. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God has been teaching me in this season of life how to weather storms with Him instead of apart from Him. Clinging to the truth of His love for me, instead of believing lies like “God doesn’t care about what’s happening to me” and “He won’t help me with this; I have to do it myself.”

To make this hit home even a little more, I rewrote that passage of Psalm 46 in my own words:

  • God is my refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore I will not fear though all order breaks loose,

though everything I do immediately gets undone,

though I am overwhelmed and underequipped,

though my sanity is upheld by the tiniest thread.

  • God is my refuge and strength,

a very present help with dogs who are trouble.

Therefore I will not fear though I cannot tame them,

though they do not listen to my commands,

though they destroy my home and possessions,

though they try my patience to its breaking point.

  • God is my refuge and strength,

a very present help in trials.

Therefore I will not despair though I feel condemned by my sin,

though I feel insufficient and worthless,

though I am accused of not being enough,

though my flesh is weak and my heart fails me.

No matter what life or Satan or my own stupid fault throws at me, I have hope because “This I know, that God is for me.”

Another rewording of mine, from Psalms 46 and 70:

The river of grace is a constant stream.

It makes glad the dwelling of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God lives within her; she shall not give up.

God will help her when she needs it.

Though she is poor and needy,

God will hasten to her rescue.

He only is her help and her deliverer;

He will not delay!

[Note: I have also done a little housekeeping on  my blog – I updated my About Me page, added information about My Racing Career, and finally redid my Blogroll so that it reflects the blog I actually read! If you think I’d enjoy your blog and don’t see it listed on the bottom right, give me a shout out!]

Changing “I can’t” to “I can”

19 Nov

The title to this blog post might sound like some self-help mumbo jumbo but let me assure you it’s not. I rejoice that this is a real spiritual truth. The statement might be the same in either case but the basis behind the idea is completely different. With self-help, you chant this mantra to yourself, trying to change the way you approach life without any solid reason to expect life to be any different. Nothing guarantees things will change once you start to “look on the bright side of things.” (Optimism only gets you so far.)

But with God, this is a profound life-changing realization.

Let me explain:

This past Wednesday, I had my job interview at our church (I’m applying to work in the office). I learned that they are going to announce the open positions at the church meeting this Sunday to see if anyone else is interested and are hoping to make a decision in time for the new person to start at the beginning of the year. Which means I am going to have to keep working my current job for potentially the next month and a half.

My first reaction upon learning this was no different than my reaction when I first heard that YCS was willing to keep me on until the end of December: “I can’t handle another 2 months of this job! I need out NOW!”

In the past few weeks, I have noticed that I think this kind of thing a lot. When presented with a task that I’d rather not do, whether it be cleaning the house or making dinner, I think, “I just can’t do that right now. I don’t have the energy for it. I’m so tired.” When confronted with my own sin, and feeling like a failure yet again, I think, “I can’t be a good Christian. I can’t be loving and selfless. I’m never going to be the kind of person I want to be.”

This defeatist mentality is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I feel like a failure, the more I fail – because I don’t believe that I have the power to change. I am just a victim of myself. And if God doesn’t magically change me, I’m doomed to being this way the rest of my life.

But that was not the way the Apostle Paul approached things. He had the same frustration with his flesh – “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Paul was frustrated at his inability to do what he wanted to do, but he recognized that there was a separation between his true self and his flesh. His true self delighted in the law of God but his flesh was waging war against his spirit and making him captive to the law of sin.

I have been trapped there. The sins and failures of my flesh have been making me a captive, robbing me of my understanding of God and the gospel. I have fallen prey to the lie that it is not just my flesh committing those sins – it’s me. I am the bad person, the failure, the hopeless sinner. There is nothing good in me, period. These lies pull me down into a dark pit, the light of God’s glory and love growing continually dimmer and smaller. “Who will rescue me, liberate me, free me from this body of death?”

The glorious answer is, Christ! Christ rescues me, liberates me, frees me from myself. From my sins, my failures, and my mistakes. Moreover, He not only forgives me and wipes my slate clean, He also gives me a new spirit and a new heart, enabling me to conquer my sin and live a victorious life. Now, in Christ, I can say that I am not a constant failure. I don’t have to question my every motive and intention – because I am redeemed, I have good desires. I love God. I delight in the law of God. I am a godly woman. I am a loving person. I am selfless and sacrificing. I, the chosen and beloved, am being conformed to the image of Christ.

I learned recently that because these things are all God’s will for me, I can pray for them with authority – meaning, I can ask in prayer and believe that I have received them (James 1:5). God will not withhold His love, His patience, His wisdom from me. “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

It has helped me immensely to see the power available to me through the Spirit because of Christ’s resurrection. His death provided salvation – His resurrection now provides the power for sanctification. Instead of being riddled with thoughts about how “I can’t” be the person I want to be, I now live in the power that I CAN change, I CAN be the person God has called me to be, I CAN live for His glory and make Him proud. I have the same power living in me that raised Christ from the dead!!

While I still believe that God doesn’t want us to feel good about ourselves apart from Christ (because we would be deceiving ourselves into thinking we don’t need a Savior), I do believe that as redeemed children of God, we are called to feel positive, hopeful and encouraged about who we are in Christ. After all, it doesn’t seem right that we should constantly loathe and despise the temple of the Holy Spirit. If God loves us as He sees us in Christ, we should love ourselves in Christ.

Christ Himself uses victory as motivation for perseverance: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Just like Christ’s triumph over evil should give us hope despite evil in the world, our new natures in Christ should give us hope despite our sinful flesh. Because we are guaranteed progress in the Christian life if we so desire it, because we have the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit aiding our efforts, we should be all the more motivated to strive after godliness and holiness.

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Beautiful Lord

11 Feb

We just got out of chapel (the ministry I work at has chapel every Wednesday) and this song that I had never heard before really sums up what I’ve been feeling and learning lately:

Beautiful Lord

When the storm is raging all around me
You are the peace that calms my troubled sea
When the cares of this world darken my day
You are the light that shines and shows me the way

Oh the beauty of your majesty,
On the cross You showed Your love to me

Beautiful Lord–awesome and mighty
I’m captured by this love I see
Beautiful Lord–tender and holy
Your mercy brings me to my knees
It’s Your mercy that has made me free
Beautiful Lord

When my sin is all that I can see
Your grace remains the shelter that I seek
And when my weakness is all I can give
Your gentle Spirit gives me strength again

And I am lifted by Your love to save
It’s Your mercy that has made me free
And I am lifted by Your love to sing
It’s Your mercy that has made me free

God’s love is so real

7 Feb

Have I told you that I love Saturday mornings? I love being able to spend as much time reading the Bible, listening to worship songs, and praying as I want, without having to worry about being late to work.

Today was even better than usual. This past week has been rough. If you read my blog regularly, you know that my job has been a frustrating situation. You also probably know that I have been wondering what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.

What you may not know is that I have also been struggling in my marriage.

Travis and I are very different people in more ways than one. This is not news. While we were dating, I would’ve said that I loved the fact that we were so different because it made life interesting.

Well, it certainly does add drama.

Travis is a very playful, fun-loving guy. He likes to make jokes, quote movies, sing silly songs, and slap my butt. He creates his own words. He plays with his way-too-long-right-now hair by combing it over to the side (so he looks like a computer nerd).

I can be playful too. But since getting married, I have not been. Instead, all the things listed above have driven me up the wall. Every time he sings a song, I ask him to stop. When he slaps my butt, I get angry. When he quotes movie lines, I roll my eyes. When he pulls his hair down in a peak over his forehead, I muss it up because I can’t stand looking at it.

My seemingly unending annoyance at Travis has been a source of inner turmoil. I don’t like that I feel that way about my husband. What happened to me loving his sense of humor and playful ways? What happened to make me turn into this stern, cold-hearted, serious biatch?

Things have admittedly gotten better over the year and 8 months that we’ve been married. I am little by little learning to love all of Travis. But for the past few weeks, I have been drowning in my failures. Feeling miserable. Wondering how our marriage ended up like this. Confused about how to change the situation. Feeling doubtful about being able to do so even if I did know how. Lacking hope that anything would ever get better. Wanting to give up.

Last night, a series of events happened that brought all of this to a head. I asked Travis to make part of dinner so I could shower after working out. As I walked by the kitchen, he tossed the bag of frozen vegetables to me (because he thinks that sort of thing is fun). I was annoyed (big surprise) and confused about why he would think such a thing is fun so I threw it back a little harder than I should have. That small situation was a big reminder of how different Travis and I are. I got into the shower silently shouting at God, “Why are we so different?!?!? How can I live like this?!?!?”

Then we went to see Australia starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. As we were walking out of the theater, I mentioned to Travis that the movie was way too long for me (2.5 hours). “Well that’s pretty much how long every movie is these days,” he replied. “No, they’re more like 1.5 to 2 hours long,” I said. “Oh ok, 2 hours as compared to 2 and a half. Sorry,” he retorted.

Angry and annoyed at Travis, I stopped talking, except for a few short sentences repeating my sentiment that the movie was way too long. We were almost home before Travis emerged from zoning out (which he does often) and realized that I hadn’t been talking. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

How to answer that? There were so many thoughts racing through my head. I was overwhelmed by our differences and losing hope that we would ever be able to reconcile them. Were we doomed to this distance between us for the rest of our lives?

I asked Travis if he ever felt overwhelmed by how different we are. “Not really,” he said. “But I’m guessing that you do?”

I couldn’t answer with words. I just started crying. I couldn’t fix our marriage and yet it wasn’t at all what I wanted it to be like. What was I supposed to do about it?

I laid down on the couch when we got home and Travis kneeled beside me. I completely lost it. My body was racked with grief and Travis just simply pulled me to his chest. It was the absolute best feeling in the world, to be so utterly broken and sinful, yet so utterly loved at the same time. Crying made me feel better (as it always does), yet I went to bed still feeling helpless and hopeless, begging to God to do something to remedy the situation.

He did just that this morning. I’ve been studying Romans in my quiet times and I have been in Romans 5 this past week. The verses about suffering, endurance, character and hope really spoke to me, because I feel like I have been suffering for a long time, at my own hand.

Today I was focused on hope. What is hope? Hope is trusting God, banking on God, resting in God. David writes in Psalm 62, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” God is the source of our hope. And our hope is based on His love for us, demonstrated physically in Christ’s death on the cross and demonstrated spiritually every day in the provision of the Holy Spirit.

It is through suffering and trials that God forges our hope in Him.

And hoping in God is not a foolish thing. God and our relationship to and with Him is the ultimate reality of this universe. Whenever I find myself doubting the relevance of the gospel, I have to come back to this fact. The gospel is more real than anything else in this world. The gospel IS Reality.

God reminded me through Romans 5 that I still have hope, because I still have God.

As I prayed about that truth and confessed that I had sinfully given up hope, I realized that I had been trying to “fix” my life on my own. In my marriage, at work, with my life purpose. I was trying to make everything be the way I wanted it to be, the way I thought it should be. And when it continued to go the way I didn’t want it to go, I lost hope. Because while I had prayed for God’s help, I hadn’t actually sought it.

I see now that instead of making my life, marriage, and job be what I want it to be, I should be asking myself what God wants it to be. My marriage and its struggles aren’t arbitrary. God chose my husband and He is choosing our trials for a reason–my eternal good. Instead of accepting the way my marriage is and the way my job is, I have been bucking them, saying that they weren’t what I wanted. I wanted something different. I was bitter and resentful–toward Travis and Phil, I thought. Really, I was bitter and resentful toward God. He is the one determining my life and circumstances. He is the one who has placed me where I am at this time, with these specific problems and challenges. He has handpicked these trials for me to go through, so that He can forge my hope in Him.

Fully offering my life up to the Lord means accepting every little thing from His hand, even the annoying things. It means asking myself daily, moment by moment, “What does God want for me and from me?” instead of asking “What do I want for me?” It means dying to myself, my desires, my expectations, my feelings, and in turn, living for God’s.

I cried hard again this morning, humbled and awed by God’s faithfulness and love. That He would take me through the darkness so that He could bring me out into the light. Just as Travis held me last night while I was crying, God holds me close whenever my heart is broken. He hurts when I hurt. But He knew that to make me better, He had to allow me to be hurt first. 

My heart echoes David’s when he said, “This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Psalm 18:30-31)

Hope amidst Hopelessness

24 Oct

I talked to Travis on Wednesday night about what I wrote in my last post. He said that he felt that way at times too, though not to that extent. I think a natural part of our human nature craves to be part of something bigger than ourselves. I know that I had that desire even before I became a Christian–in fact, it was the biggest thing that attracted me to becoming a Christian: something to live for.

So what has happened since then? Christ is still my only hope of salvation. I still daily surrender (or at least try to!) my life and will to the Father’s. But I lack one very important thing: courage.

As I was praying about this Wednesday morning, it dawned on me that even though I know what I want to be doing and what kind of life I want to be living, it is still a giant leap from where I am now to that place. And to be honest, that giant leap scares the $#!* out of me.

Tangent: It’s kind of ironic that the thing in the Christian life that I’m the worst at (in the sense that I don’t do it at all) is evangelism. I can’t remember the last time I shared my faith, it’s that bad. The reason why it’s ironic is because I was deeply involved in Campus Outreach in college–a campus ministry that focused on reaching the lost world for Christ–and now I work at Dare 2 Share Ministries–if you didn’t catch it in the name, we’re all teaching and mobilizing teens to share their faith with the teens they know.

My lack of courage is what is currently holding me back. Before, I didn’t even realize that I was moving through life on a conveyor belt. There was an expected progression to things; I accepted it without question. I realize now that I haven’t really strived for anything. I’ve worked hard (to graduate with honors and get a good job) but that’s just because I’m anal-retentive.

But now that I’m out of college and married, I have realized that I have something they call “options.” I can choose what to do with my life. It’s very weird and hard to get used to. As I’ve been mulling this over in my mind, I have come up with some ideas of what I could do to move myself toward the life I want to be living:

1. Start intentionally writing–whether it be the full story of how I became a Christian, or just freelancing to build a portfolio.

2. Take a class–or two. I really want to take a class on Photoshop (for my current job) and a class on writing non-fiction (for my dream job).

3. Get a new job (shhh…don’t tell my boss) writing for a magazine or Christian company.

4. Read books about Marketing and Leadership to continue to grow in my current role at D2S.

5. Get my ESL (English as a Second Language) license and teach immigrants (with CAK?)

6. Find an organization that I can get involved with through volunteering. Thoughts have been: Big Sister, a pregnancy center, Samaritans Purse, a nursing home, etc.

7. Plan a mission trip with Travis (it might have to be in 2010…)

8. Volunteer more at my church by helping with planning/organizing events or translating resources into Spanish (though I would definitely have to brush up on my skills!!)

I feel like these are good ideas but I am aware that I have only so many hours in the day. I can’t do them all, nor do I want to. I need to figure out what my passions are and what I really want to invest in.

But the good news is, God is faithful!! (like He ever isn’t…) On Wednesday during chapel I had to laugh at God a little–only He would give me hope amidst hopelessness. Kind of like Abraham and Sarah–they hoped against hope. God is a God of hope when there is no hope. And I feel the sparks of excitement and anticipation of what I can make my life be like with God’s help. I am not relegated to being a mediocre bum!!

Faith and Justification

4 Oct

While reading the Bible today, I came across James 2:24. This is a sticky verse and no doubt, the verse that has caused some Christians to rip the book out of their Bible completely. It says:

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

But in Galatians 2:16, the Apostle Paul writes,

“…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

At first glance, those verses seem to be in opposition with each other, huh? But I believe that the book of James is in the Bible for a reason and when you take James 2:24 in context, you can see where James is coming from and what he is getting at.

The verse is very pragmatic. It doesn’t deal with the spirituality mumbo jumbo that floats around in the air and never comes to fruition in something tangible. What James is saying is that if you say you have faith, and yet that faith doesn’t affect you at all or cause/motivate you to do anything differently (things contrary to human nature, like thinking for others, being merciful, generous, kind, and honest), then your faith is pointless, useless, and essentially dead.

I think of Galatians 5:6–

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

So our actions don’t justify us but they aren’t unnecessary either. Faith + Works does not equal Salvation. However, Faith does equal Salvation + Works. A true faith will result in works, which is what I think James is getting at. He uses the example of Abraham and his son Isaac–Abraham had to do the WORK of almost sacrificing his son but the action was motivated by and done in FAITH. Abraham could have just said “C’mon God, You know everything. You can see my heart. You know if I have faith or not. Isn’t that enough?” But he didn’t say that. He obeyed God in faith. He tied his son up, put him on top of the altar and wood, and raised his hand to kill him. God stopped him just in time because Abraham had proved through his works that he had faith.

As I have been questioning the practical implications of faith for the past several months, these verses were very interesting to me. I see here that faith alone doesn’t change anything practically. I can’t just think good thoughts and hope (cross my fingers) that things turn out how I want them to. That isn’t faith. That’s just wishful thinking, which has no power whatsoever. But when my faith is working in me, it leads me to do something, to engage with the Truth and let it influence and change my behavior and outlook.

For example, if I am anxious about something and I read Romans 8:28, nothing happens unless I 1) choose to believe that the verse is true and 2) choose to bank my hope on that promise. When I let that verse change my outlook, it is faith at work. It is easy to say “Ah, everything will work out.” That’s pretty much just crossing my fingers and hoping that the cosmic forces of the universe will align all circumstances to my favor (and how likely is that?)

Banking on God’s promises is different than wishful thinking. Why?

1) Because God is real. God IS reality. Nothing and no one is more real than He is.

2) Because God loves His creation and His people. He pays attention to every little detail of my life.

Why do those 2 points change things?

1) That God is real means that there is an eternal being who is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. If God isn’t real, then there is nothing controlling this universe and frankly, that scares the $#&* out of me.

2) That God loves me (Romans 8:37-39) means that all of His promises are true–they all find their Yes in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). I wouldn’t want to bank everything on a God who didn’t love me or made me earn his love. But God tangibly demonstrated His love for me through Christ’s death on the cross. Romans 8:32 says:

“He who did not spare His own son, but offered him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Since God has already sacrificed the hardest and most precious thing for us, why would He withhold anything else?

So then, faith is taking those truths and LIVING THEM. When I truly understood in 2004 that God is real and that He loves me, my whole paradigm shifted. As a sinful human being, I (obviously) must remind myself of these truths every day and CHOOSE to let them change me. As I am transformed by the renewal of my mind through God’s Word and prayer, I become less and less conformed to this world and more and more conformed to my Savior.