My story, God’s story

A lot happened this weekend.

Went away with my hubby Thursday night to celebrate our 5th anniversary, Dodger game Friday night (which they won!) with fireworks commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, my niece’s 1st birthday party on Saturday, then I got baptized on Sunday.

Like I said, big weekend. Very fun and very full. Has made for a very sleepy Monday, which I am totally fine with.

Many people from my church came up to me after service saying how encouraged they were by my testimony. I always feel awkward when people thank me, but especially then because I didn’t really do anything. God did it all, I just showed up.

Here’s what I shared:

My Story – God’s Story

I was baptized once before, when I was 11, but I was not a believer at the time. It took a long time for me to admit that the testimony I thought I had wasn’t true. I believed my own lie.

The truth was, I was a really good Pharisee. I grew up in a Christian home, was taught about God, heard the gospel, and mentally assented to the truth about God. I told others about God, I behaved well, I sought to be “the good girl”, and prided myself in all these things. There was one problem, and that was me. I didn’t believe I needed Jesus. I didn’t believe I was that bad. I didn’t believe I was a sinner. 

It wasn’t until high school that this deadly belief in my own goodness, grew into something more serious: pride. I loved myself more than anyone. I wanted others to love me too. I sought favor from my peers, and affection from boys. I despised my church, my parents, and especially my siblings who knew the real me and all my flaws. I attacked or cut off anyone who confronted me, who tried to show me my sin, or who stood in my way of what I wanted.

By God’s grace, I was accepted to and received scholarships that enabled me to attend The Master’s College. In the first three months of being at college, I ignored all the warnings of my parents, and got in too deep with a boyfriend. I almost got myself kicked out of the school. I was then confronted with my sin, and I couldn’t escape it, or reason it away. I was confronted with the reality that God’s standard for my life is not Goodness, but Holiness. I can fake Goodness, but I cannot do Holiness. It broke me. 

I remember collapsing on the emergency stairwell of my dorm, where no one could find me, and just crying. Crying over my sin. I remember that being the very first time I prayed to God. I prayed, fully expecting to hear nothing, “God I can’t. I’m awful. I’m gross. I’m not holy.” In my heart an answer came, “And I love you anyway”.

That was the part about God that I didn’t understand for 18 years. That He is holy, and I am not. And He chose to love me anyways. This is where my faith in the Lord began, in repentance. Repenting of my pride, my selfishness, my self-righteousness, my godless goodness, all that mattered to me, because now none of it mattered to me without Christ. I was, and still am by God’s grace, like Paul in Philippians 3:7-9 

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the flesh, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-” 

God tested my faith at that time too. I came back to school after the Christmas break with no friends, and in a new department because I had switched majors. I spent the next year in complete dependence on God. I had lost it all for His sake, and He slowly revealed to me that blessed truth that He is worth it. 

God faithfully showed me his love. By His grace the trust with my parents that I had broken was restored, and by restoring, and continually growing the relationship with my siblings, blessing me with deep friendships with my family members. Almost exactly a year after I repented and my faith became true and real, God brought Mike into my life. 

I became a born again Christian almost 10 years ago. I am now married to a man who strives to show me Christ daily. I have three kids, entrusted to me and my husband to teach the things of God and be faithful parents. I want them to know that there is a God, that He is holy, that they are sinners, and that they desperately need Jesus. That is why I want to get baptized: to be an example, and to obey my loving Father.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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A godly friend, like Paul

The women’s bible study at my church is going through Philippians right now, using Melissa Kruger’s book In All Things. It’s been such a blessing to have this reminder to rejoice in the Lord Jesus no matter what.

Why? Because he is greater, he is worthy, he is worth it, he is with us, he is the reason and the end of all things, he is good.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.

– “The Love of God is Greater Far” by Fredrick M. Lehman (1917)

I read though the entire book of Philippians just to refresh myself of the whole context of the book, even as we study it verse by verse. As I read, I was receiving texts from two girls. I pray for both these girls on a regular basis, and with their texts in my mind this verse of Philippians really popped out at me:

“Therefore. my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” 
Philippians 4:1

Do you have friends you think of like this? Do you have friends who think of you in this way? Through out this little letter, Paul’s language shows that he really loved and cared for these people. 

It’s so interesting to note what Paul’s love for these people calls him to do, because it is so different from what the world says a true friend does. Paul encourages this church to stand firm in what they have believed about Jesus (that he is the only way of salvation), love one another, and rejoices even in their suffering.

Do we do this for our friends? Do we spur them on? Or do we pander them when they grumble? Do we actually talk with our friends about Jesus, about good theology, even in a casual way? Or do we “save” those conversations for the formal church setting?

Are we investing in the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we allowing others to invest in us?

These are tough questions! They require messiness, uncomfortable conversations, personal sacrifice, and more! That’s hard friend, but that is what Jesus did for us (and more!), and that is what we, as believers, are called to. 

Let us, in the confidence we have in our savior Jesus Christ, Rejoice! Standing firm, united in love, and growing ever more like Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

When the rain comes

These few months of “winter” here in southern California have proven to be a struggle for me and my kids. Between cold viruses and rainy days, we have been inside more than I would like.

Looking to Valentine’s day, I see more rain on the way, and I am super tempted to pout and complain.

Again? Really? Lord, do you know how hard it is to have three kids 3 and under in a two bedroom apartment? And now we can’t even go outside? I just know they are going to act out.

I’m tempted to not believe that God is good.
I’m tempted to not believe that God is sovereignly providing for me.
I’m tempted to not believe that God’s grace.
But! God is good. God is sovereignly providing. God is abundantly gracious!

Our Rainy/Valentine’s Day Plan:

1. “Mommy, let’s make a sheep.” My son has been asking this for a week, and I have been putting it off. He knows all the materials we need, I already checked, and we have all of them.

Sheep craft – materials:

  • Sheet of paper
  • Cotton balls
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Markers

2. I received an email from Education.com asking if I would be interested in sharing a Valentine’s day word tracer worksheet on my blog.

Here’s a note from those at Education.com :

Celebrate friendship all month long as you practice your writing skills with this Valentine word tracer. The fun can continue at Education.com with more learning activities.

Education.com has a ton of resources and ideas on Pinterest as well!

God provides! Usually in unexpected ways from unexpected sources.

When it rains or snows, even when we doubt, even when we disobey, God is still good, sovereign, gracious, and steadfastly faithful to love us.
God is the perfect Valentine.
Sounds a little cheesy, but it is in essence true!
God not only loves perfectly, God is love.

Be reminded of this sweet truth, friends, as I remind my own heart.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Anxiety, the gospel, and potty training

Today is Day One of potty training for me and my son. He’s 3 and 1/2. He’s plenty ready, but I’m a nervous wreck.

Why am I so anxious about potty training? I have 3 kids: a 3-and-1/2-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 2-month-old. All are (obviously) in diapers. You’d think I’d be ecstatic about getting one if them out of diapers!
But I’m not.
I’ve been dragging my feet.
I’m forcing myself to do this.

You wouldn’t guess it looking at me! (Unless you’re my mom, or my hubby, or my sister 😉) I grew up performing, so I know how to “fake it ’til you make it”! On the outside: I’m excited, motivated, encouraging, and confident. All for my son’s sake!

On the inside: I’m nervous that I’ll fail. I’m afraid my son will have a bad experience, and be upset with me. I’m sad my baby is growing up! I’m also excited my baby is growing up! (The inner turmoil of a mom, right?!)

He’s my only son (so far 😉). He’s my first born. He’s the spitting image of my husband. I’m in a constant struggle between wanting him to become a grown, godly man, just like his daddy, and wanting to hold him forever. 💜

I think he’s barely a year old in this, maybe not even a year yet! Oh, be still my heart!

Potty training is just bringing all my anxieties and fears to the surface, I think. They were there the whole time, but didn’t have a chance to really show themselves. The heat is bearing down now!

I see my heart’s tendency, to be anxious, so today I am clinging (with all my might) to God’s grace, because I need it!

These are the Truths I am holding fast to:

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:13

This should be the theme verse for all of babyhood and toddlerhood. So much of parenting at this stage is preparing ourselves for intense action! Midnight feedings, continual diaper changes, tantrums, potty training… the list goes on. These are all activities that require immediate action and continual readiness to jump right in! I love that this verse points to the future, to what is ultimate: Christ’s return, when all things will be made right. I need this reminder when I’m in the thick of things with my little ones. Especially today with our new adventure in potty training.

“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 3:22-23

This is my go-to verse in my current stage of life. What a comfort this verse is! The promises here are so rich!

  • God’s love is steadfast.
  • God mercy is renewed for us each dawn.
  • God’s mercy is never ending.
  • God is always faithful.

These promises also highlight the reality that we are broken people and are none of these things.

  • Our love is fickle and short lived.
  • Our patience wears thin, and we are harsh rather than merciful.
  • Our mercy ends, or fails to even show up.
  • Our short term memory, and frail frame make us a faithless people.

BUT GOD!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved-“
Ephesians 2:4-5

I am holding fast to the gospel!

Mommies need the gospel. We need it in our hearts and minds everyday. It’s incredibly practical! Because it puts every diaper change into perspective.

Let me say it again, not just for you, reader, but mostly for my own heart:

The Good News that we are sinners saved from punishment and death through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, paying an eternal debt to an eternal God that we cannot pay, and saved to life “together with Christ” as Ephesians puts it, now in this earthly life by the ministry of the Spirit, and forever for eternity in heaven through Jesus with God the Father, makes the mundane tasks of each day not just worth it, but I am also able to glorify God in them because his Spirit enables me to serve others and God rather than my sinful self.

Read that again. and again. and again.

Remind yourself (and myself) everyday of this reality, believer. This is your reality. This is your life. This is why you can say “no” to being anxious, and “yes” to trusting in God in all things.

But before you or I begin to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or wash our face and put on the make-up of self-righteousness, let’s take a look at Scripture verses that tell us how we say “no” to anxiety, and “yes” to trusting God.

1. God is, powerfully, at work in us

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6

2. God has given us instructions

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

3. God has given us a family. Don’t go it alone.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-26

Reading to his 2-month-old baby sister. He loves his sisters sooooo much!

Let me conclude with this:
I am anxious about potty training. It is a challenge!
Parenting is hard! Having three kids as young and as close in age as I do, IS HARD!
But! God is in control. God is good. God is faithful. And, God is with me.

Deep breath.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.”
Psalm 28:7

Soli Deo Gloria

Persuasion – When it hit a little too close to home

I picked up (or rather downloaded it to my Kindle) Jane Austen’s book Persuasion because, although I have read it before, I couldn’t remember anything about it. I tell you anything about the book or even who the characters were or anything! I either didn’t finish it before, or I really didn’t like it. So, I decided to read it again.

Well, I just finished it, and now I know why I didn’t remember it from before. Before getting married, I identified a lot with the main character, Anne. I identified with her personality, and her heartbreak. This made this book painful to read, and it’s happy ending unfulfilling and unbelievable.

During this second reading of the book, I did the hard work I didn’t want to do the last time I read it. That is, examine my heart. Why did this book bother me so much? Why was it so painful to read? Why was I letting this pain bother me so many years later? Certainly I am “over it”! (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t really over it in my heart.)

Find this book on Amazon

A quick summary of the book (so we are all on the same page):

Anne is the middle daughter of a baron. Her father and elder sister are obsessed with rank and status. Her younger sister is married, but her husband has no rank, only money.
Anne had been “attached” (that’s Austen-ese for “courting”) a man eight years prior to the book’s opening. He had no rank or money, but was just a low ranking officer in the Navy. Due to her youth, and his uncertain ability to provide well for her, she was persuaded by a dear friend to essentially break up with him. The friend believed that Anne was not worthy of him, and that being so young, a better offer would be coming her way soon (i.e. someone with equal or better rank and fortune to her father).
Anne never gets over the break up. She truly loved the man, and he loved her. She never gets a better offer.
When the book opens, she is living normal life when low and behold! HE walks back into her life. Drama, and emotional turmoil ensues for the entire length of the book, ending in a happy ending of Anne and HE getting together, engaged, and wed.

The first time:

In my original reading of the book, the emotion turmoil Anne experienced and the way she internalized all her thoughts, feelings, and pain, resonated with me deeply. I had done this. My own heartbreak was very different, there was never any attachment in my situation, my HE never felt the same way towards me that I felt towards him. Like Anne, however, I let it sit in my heart, fester, and ruin all other “possible happiness” – as Austen would put it – for several years. Our situations were different, but reading Anne’s feelings brought my own feelings to the surface again.

The second time:

This second time reading it (I just finished it yesterday), instead of remembering the plot, but I remembered how I felt before. This time, I could see through the fog of those deeply rooted, nasty, painful feelings.

I was bitter.

I had let heartbreak – a real, painful, unfair situation – dig into my heart and rule me. I let my feeling of bitterness towards this person for not loving me, rob me of the joy of loving others, harden me so as to keep me from being compassionate toward others, and keep me so focused on me that I would forfeit my college education – which my parents were paying for – to feel loved.

Reflecting now:

After reading, and enjoying, Persuasion, I see my younger self, and I am so sad. I am sad I let my feelings rule me. I am sad I wasn’t trusting God with my situation. I am sad I hurt so many people because I was focusing on myself.
But, I am also amazed. I am amazed my husband kept dating me even when I revealed my hurting, bitter heart! I am amazed that he married me! I am amazed that I am not that girl anymore. I am amazed that I didn’t do anything to deserve the love that helped me change. I am amazed by God’s grace that changed my bitterness into forgiveness, love, and joy. What He has promised to do He will do!

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

I hope you are encouraged too!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Trusting a Big God with Daily Details

“It’s just been a stressful week. I need some me-time.”
“It makes me a little anxious when I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
“It’s finals week. I’m so stressed out!”
“I’m always worried about my kids, especially when they are sick. It’s a mom thing.”
“I’ve always been a worrier, my mom was too.”
“My in-laws are coming for the holidays. I’m nervous about what my mother-in-law will say about my food.”

Chances are you have heard or have said all these phrases, and others like them. They seem so natural, so normal, just something we feel – and say – without really realizing it. These situations and feelings are normal, they are a part of life, but I’m willing to bet that these feelings never stop at just a passing feeling.

That’s a problem.

God gave us our emotions. Fear and anxiety, therefore, are given to us by God and are meant to be used for good to glorify Him. This is the reason He gives us anything in life, for His glory.
So, where does the problem arise?
The problem is when the anxiety rules you.
God knows how prone we are to be ruled by things that are not Him, and that ultimately will not satisfy.
So, God has given us commands about anxiety in the positive and the negative.

The negative command: 

“Do not be anxious” – it’s a command, and it’s very simply stated in Matthew 6, Luke 12, and Philippians 4. Do not do it.

Here’s the cool part, God does not give the negative command without a positive one, that is, something to do instead of being anxious.

The positive command:

Matthew 6 and Luke 12 say: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33 – emphasis added); “Instead, seek his kingdom…” (Luke 12:31a)
Philippians 4 says: “… but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

These passages give us real, practical ways to fight those anxious feelings when they arise.
We are to seek God’s kingdom, seek God’s righteousness, and pray.

Seek God’s Kingdom

What is God’s Kingdom? The phrase is used many times by Jesus in the gospels. It’s used in reference to eternal life in heaven with God, or to belonging to God’s people, the only way to attain eternal life in heaven with God through Jesus. In a nutshell, seeking God’s Kingdom is seeking the gospel. Preach the gospel to yourself! Remind yourself of who Jesus Christ is, the life He lived, the death He died to purchase your salvation, and His resurrection that is your hope!

Seek God’s Righteousness

What is God’s Righteousness? This is the action we make, the heart change we pursue, the path we take in light of the gospel. This is Sanctification, the pursuit of godliness, Christ-likeness, holiness. We need to continually pursue it. We fail, we forget, we sin. God is faithful, gracious, and merciful to His children. I find so much comfort then in the word “seek”. It has the idea of continual renewal, not in the thing being sought, but the seeker. We often need to be refreshed, reminded, to get back on track. It reminds me of the words from the hymn Come Thou Fount: “Bind my wandering heart to Thee… Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”.

Pray

Countless pages, articles, posts, and books have been written on the importance of prayer. Here in the very Word of God, we have the direct command to pray rather than worry. Paul, through the gracious inspiration of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t stop at “pray” either. He says that those very things that we are anxious about we are to present before the throne of our Heavenly Father through prayer. The verse is very detailed about this prayer. It’s not just a prayer about the big things, no, it says “in everything“. Everything! Big, small, short-term, life-long, all of it! Pray to the Father about all your worries! With thanksgiving. What can a worried heart be thankful for? The fact that the God of the universe longs for you to trust to Him about your daily struggles, because He loves you! Prayer should not be intimidating. You have nothing to prove before God. He loved you, chose you, and sent His Son to die for you before you were even conceived! You did nothing to attain the position you have as His child, so your humble, mumbly prayer isn’t going to mess it up. Pray!

Need more convincing?
Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 & 7

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Verse 7 is a promise. It isn’t magic. It’s not saying, “Pray and God guarantees peace forever, no more anxiety for you!” No, not the case.
This is what the promise says, “Pray, trust me with this completely, and I will give you peace in this. This peace will guard you from anxiety, as you abide in Christ Jesus, through whom you come before my throne.” That’s a much richer promise than the magic-prayer version. This promise has a condition, we need to trust Him completely. When we worry, we are taking back some of that trust. We are telling God that we can’t trust Him fully, but need to keep some of this issue for ourselves. This is how anxiety rules us, because we try to be God, and we are not! We will fail every time.

Why can God promise us peace? Because He is sovereign and He is good.
God is perfectly in control of all things. Big and small. He’s got it. We can trust someone like that.
God is perfectly good, and as His children, He is working out all things in our lives for our good.

Why does God do all of this? The answer for this question is found in those last three words of Philippians 4:7, “in Christ Jesus”. Why did Christ come? To glorify God. It wasn’t about us! It’s always been about God’s glory. Thank goodness it’s not about us! If it was, these commands, and subsequent promise of peace would fall flat. Since everything is rooted in an eternal God, who is orchestrating all things to glorify Himself, these commands, and – more amazingly – this promise of peace is concrete.
It’s trustworthy, it’s guaranteed, it’s as good as done.

The next time you feel stressed out, worried, nervous, or anxious, think about this reality of promised peace, pursue obeying these commands, and actively put your trust our good God.
Feelings will come and go, but our God is steadfast and faithful.

Come Thou Fount - Blog and Pin.jpg

 

Soli Deo Gloria