Grateful Sorrow

This week, we have the privilege to reflect on our lives and be grateful for those around us and for what we have. We, as a nation, actually get to stop and give thanks to the Lord for what He has given us. Now, you might think, “What have I to be thankful for? It’s been one of the hardest and most lonely years I’ve ever felt.” And trust me, you and I are not alone in this feeling. Not only has our world been going through a health crises, but many people have lost their jobs, their loved ones, their connections to other people and their stability. Some are even having to go through grief, depression, and sickness all alone for the safety of others. All this chaos can feel like the world is caving in without any hope.

But hope is not lost. What we might actually be facing is deep sorrow–a loss and sadness for what could have been; a world without sin or death and freedom to live in a right relationship with our God and Creator. Unfortunately, our world is under the rule of sin and death will soon come for us all. But, again, hope is not lost. This grievous sorrow can be turned into a heart of joy and gratefulness when we look at what God gave to us in order to save us from eternal death and to one day have us live with Him. There, He has kept every tear we have ever shed in a bottle and will wipe away the ones that come when we see His face. This gift He gave was His own son, Jesus.

Most, if not all, can understand the weight of sorrow. But none can understand the sorrow that Jesus felt that day on the cross. He is indeed called the Man of Sorrows. He is called this because He not only suffered rejection and pain from men at the cross, He endured rejection and the full wrath of God for the entire world on that lonely hill. And to our amazement, we know something else about Jesus’ outlook of that horrible cross. Hebrews says, “who for the JOY that was set before Him, endured the cross.”

Just think…He had grateful sorrow because He knew His sacrifice would pay our ransom and we would be redeemed.

Some say we are close to the end of the world or experiencing the wrath of God. And yes, one day the world will end. But truthfully, is this type of panic and thinking actually reflecting the rest of the truth? The truth is, we will sometimes never know why God allows these times, but He is still the creator of this universe and knows what He is doing. He is the one who loved us though we turned our backs on Him. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for those sins and mend the relationship we broke so that when we actually do die, we can spend eternity with Him if we, in faith, accept Jesus as our Savior. He is worth every praise we can give and more.

So, even if you are experiencing deep sorrow this Thanksgiving, remember, that we can actually be grateful that our end doesn’t have to be separated from our Creator–if we trust in the saving power of Jesus, the Man of Sorrows deep and grateful.

A Twisted Card Game and a Friendly Neighborhood Arachnid

So, it’s been a hot minute…
 

And I thought maybe we could all use a little bit of entertainment…what do you think?
A few weeks ago, I dreamed that I was in this beautiful mansion in the middle of the jungle.

With me, there were also about 20 children and teens gathered in the kitchen and open living area that had a ceiling to floor display of beautiful windows (kind of like the ones described in a Charles Dickens novel). On the outside of these windows, were green cutso vines threatening invasion. You could also see the evening sky opening up to a huge storm of lightning and rain…so much rain. 

However, back to the story…I was not the only adult. That’s right, Tobey Maguire was there too. I’m not sure why he was even there in my dream to be honest. He certainly didn’t help our little situation.

Once I had observed all these little details, I noticed something else, we all had these silver Egyptian-like half-moon necklaces on. They were smooth except at one corner. Right near the collarbone of the necklace was a button with the word: PRESS. Instantly, I felt like we were in danger. In fact, we were in a LOT of danger. 

On the kitchen island was a stack of cards…we were playing a game. The rules were that only a single card could be removed from the top of the stack by the person who had their turn next in the game. On the card was your next task that was iriddle form so you never knew exactly what you would face. But that wasn’t all. This game wasn’t a respecter of persons. A child could get an extremely dangerous task or an adult could get a simple task. It was never predictable.

Then, you were sent to a black room behind glass to complete your task while everyone else was forced to watch you succeed or fail. There were 3 ways that you could get out of that black room.

1. Succeed in your task to be sent back out with the others to continue the game.
2. Fail in your task and be sent to the jungle to try to survive, but it was unlikely.
3. Hit the PRESS button on your necklace to skip the task. This could only be done once.

Suddenly, good ol’ Tobey picks up a card and heads into the black room. As the rules said, we were all forced to sit and watch. 

A tree with a tropical bird suddenly appeared in the middle of the room and light shone only around the tree. Tobey was in awe of the bird and, distracted, went near the tree. At that moment, we suddenly saw his task inching toward him ready to pounce. It was a LION!

We all started screaming and motioning for him to PRESS the button on his necklace, but he wouldn’t listen! It was a task that couldn’t be complete. And then, Tobey OPENED THE DOOR!

Tobey ran out with the Lion chasing him and all of us screaming!!!!!! 

Then I woke up.

Entrusting in Uncertainty

“He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood”

Come Thou Fount by Robert Robinson

This hymn is one of my favorite hymns and was recently rearranged by a friend for our wedding. This particular phrase beautifully describes that Jesus rescued us from our greatest danger by placing His own blood between us and our deserved end.

But is the Gospel something that really can be applied to an unknown in our world right now? The answer is, yes. 

Sometimes in the midst of uncertainty, we need to look at the past to remind ourselves and reflect on what God has done and see that there was purpose in it. Do you remember the uncertainty and doubt you felt during a certain trial in your life or the questions you asked God? After the trial passed, were you thankful or confused, sad or encouraged, joyful or angry? Psalms is full of emotions like these and you may be feeling one or multiple. In Psalm 63, we see David in the wilderness reminding himself of God’s love through praise of what God has done and who He is.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:1-8, ESV

But God doesn’t just keep us from our most dangerous end, He cares for us and provides for us. Matthew 6 talks of God clothing the grass of the field and asks us, “will He not clothe you also?” He will provide and He is faithful. You may not believe it or even feel that God is near, but our feelings don’t mean that He isn’t. In this time of uncertainty, entrust God with your burdens for your work, finances, family, and well-being. While you have the extra time, pray, listen and learn. He will give you rest.  

 

An Island of Unbreakable Hearts

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
-C.S. Lewis

Have you been deeply wounded? So wounded that you refuse to be that vulnerable again? Are just done with putting your heart and life on the line? Let me tell you, that you are not alone. I have felt the very same.

As a Christian, I am one to compare physical trials to spiritual warfare, because honestly, we truly are in constant warfare. So, I look to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and possible isolation as an opportunity to reflect on our desperate spiritual need for community. Community is hard, messy and sacrificial. In some cases, our hearts can be literally broken because of being used by others and deep hurt. And when this happens, and it most likely will, our sinful hearts have the potential to harden without the truth of God’s Word. Once hardened, we rarely want people around us and we give up loving them because we receive nothing in return. 

However, there was someone who became vulnerable for me and you, who was rejected by all those He was closest to (including His own Father), died with a broken heart, suffered a miserable death on the cross…all for you…all for me. Jesus forgave us of our sin by loving us until He was killed for it. So, should we only love those who love us in return? Jesus certainly turned the tables on this concept by demonstrating His love for the world through His sacrifice on the cross. Through Jesus’ death, He gave us hope. Hope which draws us to ask Him forgiveness for ALL our sin. If He has done this for us, can we not humble ourselves to get off our island and forgive those who have hurt us?

What lies are keeping you from loving your neighbor or family member? What lies are keeping you from being vulnerable enough to get help for the hurt that you have? What lies are keeping you from forgiving like Christ forgave? 

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4: 25-32, ESV

God did not intend for us to be alone, but we are facing times where we may have to take drastic measures in order to keep each other healthy and safe. During this time of being physically distant from one another, don’t spiritually distance yourself from others or put yourself on a spiritual island with an unbreakable heart. There is a solution to our heart’s need and it’s solution is Jesus, Himself.

Property Taxes, Puppies and Company

Well, if you thought it wouldn’t get weirder, it has. Now my dreams come with major responsibility. Ugh…

So, this dream is rather short, but none the less entertaining. The other night I woke up to the sounds, and possibly smells, of salmon. Nope we haven’t cooked salmon yet in our home, but my brain pulled the memory of salmon smell into my dream. I don’t know…its weird.

In my dream, my husband was talking to his mom who was over at our house on our (non-existent) back porch grilling salmon. I walked into the middle of their conversation and pulled up a pink slip that I apparently was holding and said, “Hon, did you know we have a $4,000 property tax to pay?” His mom responded with, “That’s what you get when you become an adult.” Needless to say, I’ve been an adult for some time, but this property tax was ridiculous. Without a solution, I turned around to see that we had invited two of our friends over for dinner. They just sat there on the couch eating our only bag of Barbecue Potato Chips. They responded to our property tax dilemma with some sort of wise statement hindered by mouths full of potato chips. I couldn’t understand a single word.

Then a small curly haired black puppy came out of no where. I still can’t remember his name, but he had destroyed something that I had to clean up. Probably toilet paper.

Share a dream you’ve had recently below in the comments!

Broadway on Ice and Bedazzled Talons

I’ve tried my best to figure out what in the world goes on inside my head when these dreams occur, but I’ve given up. I just have wild dreams. And this dream…was no different. I didn’t quite realize until I woke up that my dream must have taken place during some kind of music competition. There were at least three different scenes taking place. One was a choral practice, the other a piano recital with an evil twist and a finale Broadway Musical number on ice. Yes, I think that the Broadway on ice should definitely be taken seriously! The idea is just brilliant.

It all started in the choral practice room with chairs on the stage, water bottles everywhere and empty red velvet seats in the audience that would soon be filled (I’ll assume we were practicing for the musical number on ice). We were all just getting in to take our seats while the director tried his best to quiet everyone so we could finally get started. I looked around at the crowd to see many familiar faces. I usually know that I’m dreaming and at that moment it occurred to me that I may be dreaming about choir practice because of a recent concert I attended. This practice would soon end because of a piano competition happening that very next hour.

The piano competition was going well. The audience was quiet as they listened to the pianist perform her beautiful piece. Unbeknownst to the audience, the brother of the pianist competing, was at the back with the door wide open and the blinds raised up that had been covering the window of the doors.

This was against the rules of the competition! According to the judges, if anyone was seen at the door or if the blinds were touched at any moment, the competitor would be accused of cheating and would be excused from the room.

What kind of rule is that?

The judges were completely enthralled with the music and were completely blinded to the activities going on. The host of the night (my former elementary school teacher) was not so blind. He immediately came to me and questioned the actions of the young girl and asked if I knew the man behind the door (who is now my husband). I apologized for what had happened and assured him that the pianist was innocent. I quickly got hold of the brother to speak with him and found out that he had wanted her to be found cheating. He was just plain evil (in my dream of course…lol)!

Then a quick scene change to a lighted ice rink. Something was about to start as the orchestrated music began. I then felt I was being moved and looked down to find  that I was wearing ice skates and was surrounded by a crowd of others waiting to go out onto the stage. I was in the show…whatever it was. I also was dressed as a beautiful white swan with long white wings with gold flecks all over. This wasn’t so terrible. The others with me were also dressed beautifully as different animals.  All of a sudden, the characters on the ice began to sing and dance. It was pretty much a Broadway musical on ice with orchestrated music,  intricate costumes and a grand feeling. Then to my surprise…

I started going up into the air…along with the others dressed in animal costumes. We were being pulled into the air by some sort of line that brought us to the center and kept bring us around the main stage of characters. We were strung up like a chandelier, but all on different levels going up and down like a carousel. It was a sight to behold and I know my words could never describe the amazing feeling or view I was seeing in my imagination.

Slowly, we all begin coming down from the air as the song was reaching its last few measures and the show was about to end. As we came down, one of the men had slipped on the ice and slid right into backstage. I was worried and skated back there as soon as the cable let go of my costume. When I went back to the stage, I could see that the man was bleeding and he hurriedly skated out and warned me to be careful of the purple bedazzled talons. Yes, I think I’m going crazy.

So, I carefully skated inside this room that was filled with props from floor to ceiling and off to the side was an empty bird cage. Just as soon as I realized this, a white tropical bird came flying towards my face. I quickly dodged it, but immediately felt pain in my leg as his purple bedazzled talons…and then I woke up.

Tell me of your latest crazy dream!

Seize the Hope

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For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself: 14 I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply you.[a] 15 And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. 17 Because God wanted to show his unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 6:13-20, CSB

SEIZE THE HOPE

Last spring, I was finishing up a degree with two classes which included a study in the book of Acts.  I was studying for academics purposes at the time, but decided that I would love to do a personal/devotional study as well. Once my husband and I finished our study, that’s exactly what I was able to do using the She Reads Truth study. I love that their studies are wholly scripture-based and reflective. (If you have never done one of their studies, you should check them out here!)

As I was reading in Acts 4, I was moved by the telling of the place where the church was assembling was physically shaking from the power of prayer. After this, the Spirit filled their hearts and they went on preaching the Gospel without fear. When the Spirit gave the congregation boldness to preach the gospel, I was encouraged and reminded that the Spirit gives us power to speak the truth boldly.

Aren’t you thankful that we don’t have to muster up that courage alone?

What is even more amazing is that the church in the book of Acts was already clinging to the promise that they could boldly approach the throne of grace. They had displayed this and their faith was made stronger by the Spirit who then enabled them to preach the hope of the Gospel. The hope through Jesus Christ.

In Acts 5, we see the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. For those who may not know, both died instantly because of a lie they told in order keep back land for themselves that they had promised to God and also to look spiritual among the church. Of course the church was fearful after an event like this! I can’t imagine witnessing that moment. What a sad and sobering story that reminds us that God is just and that we cannot live falsely without punishment.

But look up at the verse you read at the beginning! Hebrews reminds us that God has done something wonderful…He has promised a way. He swore against Himself that He would provide forgiveness and restoration to Himself…and He did just that through the blood of Jesus Christ who has paid the price for us! And guess what, unlike Ananias and Sapphira, God cannot lie! This gospel hope is what we should SEIZE and praise Him for!

I find such comfort in the thought that we can seize the hope of the gospel and sobered that I haven’t always invited others to do the same. Who do you know that needs this hope? Do they know that God loves them and has made a way for them to have a relationship with Himself? What will you share with those who are lost and hurting today? Don’t wait. Seize the opportunity. Ask God to have the Spirit give you boldness.

Seize the gospel hope of Christ! 

 

Our Wedding

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For the last month and a half, Matt and I have been thinking through our wedding day on December 9, 2019. We have been trying to savor every sweet moment and relive what was one of the most joyous and sobering days that we have experienced together so far. We had been praying about what we wanted our wedding to reflect, what it should stand for, and share that focus with our family and friends.

We desperately wished that we could have invited everyone that we loved and that we could have shared this day with those who couldn’t make it and those who have passed on from this earth as well. We did not do a live recording of our wedding to post on social media. So, for those who couldn’t be there, we wanted to share with you a little taste of what our ceremony was like.

Our wedding wasn’t an untraditional wedding or a traditional one even. For us, it meant that we truly wanted to give glory and honor to God and to take the focus off of the wedding as much as we could!  Although we did desire to have a beautiful wedding and for our guests to enjoy the day, our true joy came from the conversations we have been able to have about Christ since then.

With our families and friends by our side, we hoped the truth of the Gospel would be proclaimed throughout that day. We played “Just As I Am” as the mothers and grandmothers were escorted down the aisle with the desire to remind everyone that we can come to the Lord just as we are because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Then, Matt’s sisters read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Ephesians 4:32, and Romans 8:35-39 followed by the song “Faith to Be Strong” to remind us that we rely on His Word and Truth to give us strength. Then, Matt and I had our mentors give the challenge and marry us. The Gospel was so clear in their presentations as we soberly stood there realizing the weight of our decision in the presence of God to commit to each other until death parts us. Finally, after we shared the vows that Matt wrote, Matt and I shared in communion and prayer while hearing “Come Thou Fount” arranged by a sweet friend for our wedding. This song is one of our favorites as it reminds us to always “Tune our hearts” to sing the praises of God through the trials and joyful moments in our lives. To finish we sang, “In Christ Alone” with the congregation. This was one of our favorite moments of the day.

We could not be more grateful for what God provided or be able to thank all the people that He allowed to be a part of our wedding day. Whether it was through recommendations, Biblical counsel, music, food, gifts, time, or prayers, we were blessed beyond what we deserved. It has been over a month since Matt and I married and we still are looking back in awe of what God allowed us to do. Our heart’s overall description as we reflect on our wedding day is…

 

GRATITUDE.

 

Life in 4,320 Minutes

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I am not a potter, but this past year, I was able to experience what it was like to literally put my sweat and blood into a tiny little clay bowl when my fiancé and I went to a class together. I messed up at least 2 times and had to throw the used clay back in the bucket. This bucket didn’t hold clay to be tossed out, but to be used again for another time. The reason I had to put the clay back into the bucket was that I am an amateur. I am not a potter.

In the Christian life, we are clay and God is our potter and He is not an amateur.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64: 8

In the past 72 hours, God has been doing some deep work in my heart. 4,320 minutes of heart-wrenching pain and joy. In those hours, I’ve gone to marriage counseling with my best friend and have been shown some of my deepest struggles and in turn had to ask forgiveness from the one I love the most here on earth and pray that God would change me to be more like Jesus. I’ve sat in a beautiful room listening to two friends joyfully give of their talents while giving testimony to the goodness of God through their pain and sorrow. I’ve received the message that two close friends have become new parents to a beautiful baby girl. I’ve talked with a mom whose child is going through physical difficulties. I’ve been to a work luncheon where I heard testimonies of women who have been set free from the bondage of life on the streets where I live. Today, I received the message that a sweet friend and mentor has gone home to be with her Savior.

This life is momentary and can change in a moment’s notice…in 4,320 minutes.

Yet, none of this is about me or even the people mentioned. It is about who it is that has His mighty hand in the making of this very small window of life, death, joy and pain. It is about God and we can praise Him in the midst of the pain in life because He has made a way for it all to end.

Do you realize that it was good that God forbade Adam and Eve from going back into the Garden of Eden once they fell? You see, once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, sin entered the world. If God had allowed them to eat from the Tree of Life they would still be here…stuck in their everlasting pit of sin.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’ therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Genesis 3:22-24

Despite the initial thoughts that come into our mind when we think of banishment, God was kind and merciful to send them out so that one day…they could die.

Not only did God provide a way out of eternity in our filthiness and broken relationship with Him, but He provided a way for us to have eternal life with Him free from sin and sadness with a new body and a restored relationship with Him.

Life can change in a minute, but that change can be an everlasting one.

“ For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18