The Battle for Peace

Ever since I can remember, I have always struggled with fear.  There have been seasons of my life where I felt as if fear was going to swallow me whole. But, within the last few years there has been a very real battle going on in my heart.  A battle for truth and an answer to the call to not only mother, but to simply just live, with faithful courage.  I have been warring with the fear that the darkness of this world will overtake me.  Seeing the events in the news, what goes on in my own city, and the people that I encounter – many days all I see is darkness. There is this sense that wickedness will engulf me; so I fight to lift my heart to the truths found only in the testimony of God’s faithful word.

And again Jesus spoke to them saying “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” John 8:12

and

Though I walk in the midst of trouble you preserve my life you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purposes for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands Psalm 23:4

and

The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid…Though an army encamp against me my heart shall not fear though war arise against me yet I will be confident.  Psalm 27:1,3

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

I encourage you to fightFight to remember that we serve a God whose greatness is not threatened by the sinfulness of man. To the degree that this world is ruled by darkness and wickedness (Eph 6:12) God’s light and holiness infinitely more abounds. His plan and purposes always come about and darkness cannot overtake it (Eph 1:3-14, Heb 13:20). God is calling us to be participants in his work for his kingdom but we must be strong and courageous in Him (Joshua 1:7-9, Eph 6:10-20).  God is always at work, He ultimately is doing all the work but He calls us to be ready for the battle.

Fight for your spiritual vitality

Fight for the hearts of your children

Fight for purity

Fight to continuously strengthen your marriage

Fight to know Him intimately and make Him known to people you encounter.

 

Don’t shrink back but be ready for the war. Our God is not only on our side but he has already won the battle.

Ten Years Ago Today: Reflections on the Death of My Brother

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Ten years ago today, my brother died. It was by far the worst day of my life. And the days that followed were the darkest.  This day ten years ago changed my life forever.  Not just the fact that I no longer had my brother in my life, but it challenged all that I believed about God and his love for me.

Before my brother died, I would say that my faith was strong. I trusted Christ as my Savior at the age of 12 and didn’t look back.  But man did my faith get rocked in a way I never expected. Death is rude. I say that because I feel like it abruptly disturbed my life in a way I wasn’t ready for.  One day I hear my brother’s voice talking on the phone in the room next to me. Then not even 24 hours later death comes and robs me of my closest friend.

This type of suffering as a believer I didn’t know existed.  I knew we could suffer for the sake of the gospel but things like this as a normal part the believer’s walk I was oblivious to. So after the funeral, the burial, and after everyone went home to continue on with their “normal” lives the battle for my faith began.  At first I was depressed, everything I saw was gray.  Then I got angry, extremely angry.  Angry that this God who said he loved me would take my brother from me.  And in my anger I stopped praying, I stopped reading my bible, I didn’t go to church and I just shook my fist at God screaming “why, I thought you loved me!!!!” My heart was so broken.  But because God loved me, he wouldn’t let me stay that way.  The question was would I let Him draw near to me?

Although I wanted to give up God wouldn’t let me, even in those low times I felt him calling me to him.  He wanted to be my comfort (Ps 147:3).  He wanted to teach me through my heartache, his deep love for me and his ability to carry me through this dark time.  So one day, after nights of unrest, I sought him.  I pleaded with Him.  I cried out that I didn’t understand why he would allow this to happen but I wanted to trust that what his word says is true.  I literally wanted to die because the pain was so great and I needed him to keep me. And you know what?  He did exactly that.  Although this was the darkest time of my life, I felt the Lord most closest to me.  He came in and covered me with his great and powerful wings.

So what could’ve caused me to turn my back on God, God used to strengthen my faith in Him.  I wouldn’t know His great ability to comfort if I wasn’t in great turmoil.  The scriptures are so much more real to me and I can say without wavering that He will never leave me or forsake me.  And you know, the journey continues because I am still grieving the lost of my brother. And as long as I am on this earth I will always grieve. Because of my loss everything is bitter sweet.  On April 17th each year I celebrate my birthday.  But 10 days later marks another year my brother is no longer here. I look at my son and daughter and think about me and my brother and how I miss our friendship. I’m sad because he’s not around to meet my children or my husband. I wonder what he would’ve been like in his 30s what would our friendship be like. I wonder if he would’ve married by now and had children. I think of my brother often. I miss him.

Ten years later, God has been the greatest comfort to me.  And He continues to walk me through the darkness.  And I am sure that more dark days are coming for me, but I know going in He who keeps me and I am not afraid (Ps 23).

Reflections
  • God uses trying times to allow us to walk closer with him, do you view your trials/losses as such?
  • I was confronted with what the scriptures say and what my brokenness was telling me. Remember our emotions are not indicators of truth but they must be filtered by God’s word.
  • Suffering in this world is not foreign in the life of the believer, don’t be surprised when heartache comes.
  • The lowest and darkest times of our lives is when God can walk closest with us, don’t push him away.

Food to Eat and Clean Underwear: Realistic Expectations

After having two babies in 12 months, while still working part-time and being married to a man who works full-time while going to school at night 4 days out of the week you’d think I’d know how to set realistic expectations for myself. Well I don’t. I am constantly slapped in the face with the fact that there are a lot of tasks I cannot accomplish in this season of life. And the funny thing is that just when I think I’ve adjusted my expectations to a reasonable level – smack! I’m hit with the reality that they were once again unrealistic. So I think I’ve broken them down to as simple as they can get: food to eat and clean underwear. If I can accomplish that I’ll feel like I’ve done something. But you know to be honest, some days I don’t even accomplish that. Here’s a thought, maybe instead of measuring accomplishments by my to-do list I need to learn to measure my accomplishments by living each day according to what Jesus says is important for that day. I can have home cooked meals, a spotless house, workout three times a week, read my Bible every morning but be unloving and unavailable to my family. There have been times I found myself responding out of irritation towards them because they’ve gotten in the way of me completing my to-do list. But I’m pretty sure when I stand before the Lord he will not say “well done my faithful servant, you folded clothes and cooked those meals just as I commanded”. Jesus is more concerned with how I treat and serve my family than with whether I completed my to-do list. And most times the best way for me to serve my family is to not look at my to-do list. Although I would love to make homemade bread and delicious organic low calorie meals everyday – it’s not happening! Maybe one day. But not today. I have to take it one day at a time and ask God for wisdom to see what is most important for me to accomplish for each day. Some days I will complete many things I have to do around the house but there are most days when I don’t because I have chosen to pour into my family. For example, I’ve taken the time to listen and pray with my husband if he’s had a rough day, or I sit and cuddle with my son on the couch as we watch Blue’s Clues, and even dance around the kitchen with the music turned all the way up so that my daughter can shake her little head to the beat. All of these choices I’ve made in order to serve my family with hopes that it will count towards eternity. My husband needs my attentive ear after a long difficult day and to hear my prayers for him, and my children need to sense my love, care, and concern for them even at this young age. I simply need to make myself available to them. Because our life is so crazy right now many tasks will not be attended to most of the time and I am slowing becoming ok with that. God did not promise that I would fully complete my to-do list from day to day but He does promise to give me the grace needed to do all that he wants me to do for each day (Heb 13:20:21).

Reflections

  • While we are responsible to manage our households well it does not just mean completing a list of household tasks. We have to be lead by the Holy Spirit in relation to the needs of our family for each day. Are you cultivating an attentive ear to the leading of the Holy Spirit or are you too busy crossing of items on your to-do list?
  • Ask the Lord for help and for discernment in serving your family for each day. This means you will have to seek him everyday.
  • “Christian childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge. The more children you have, the more you need to be pastorally minded. Look to each of their souls and their needs” Rachel Jankovic

Reflect. Rest. Rejoice.

This time of the year can get very hectic with all the planning, shopping, cooking and baking. The problem I have is I tend to overcrowd my mind and heart with the busyness of the temporal which results in many grouchy moments.  In all my busyness I forget to rest and reflect on Christmas, I mean, it is about Christ after all.  Just reflecting on who Christ is automatically causes my heart to rejoice.  The birth of Christ brought salvation to my dead soul.  The virgin birth brought freedom from sin and the curse of death. “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15)  Because of Christmas we have life and life abundantly.  The Christmas season marks a time to reflect on the miracle of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  Rest in in the work of Christ because through his life he has supplied our greatest need.  And rejoice in Christ because we have been set free and can walk deeply with a holy and righteous God.  Because of Christ our lives have meaning and death holds no power.  Let’s not forget that this season, let’s not forget about Christ.  Beyond buying presents, baking cookies or just fighting over the right to say Merry Christmas over Happy Holidays, make sure in your heart you are reflecting, resting, and rejoicing in Jesus Christ our greatest gift.

Reflections
What Child Is This
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him praise,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkey feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Sheet Music by Dix from Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1871)

Words to Live By…

” Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires and hopes and ambitions…and accept Thy will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever…Work out Thy whole will in my life, at any cost now and forever.” Betty Stam

Reflections

I encourage you to be daring enough to pray this prayer today.  Release all that you have into the Lord’s care, humble your heart and accept the purpose and plan he has for your life, no matter the cost.  

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Matthew 10:39

The Sweet Sacrifice of Motherhood

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Philippians 2:17

I had a rough 1st pregnancy with our son, nausea all day long and the only thing that would cure the nausea was eating, so I ate…and ate….and ate…so much so that I gained about 60+ pounds during my pregnancy.  So once I gave birth and I was physically able to get back into shape I was determined to do so.  And just when I starting to see some good results I found out that I was pregnant again with our daughter.   I was devastated.  And of course for selfish reasons. I was tired of being pregnant, I wanted my body back, I wanted to wear normal clothes.  All vain reasons.  I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my body for another little person.  But being a mother is all about sacrifice, giving of yourself for the betterment of your children. This is one of the first things my mother taught me as I began my journey into motherhood. And you know when it begins? Not once the baby gets here and you have sleepless nights and endless diaper changes, but it starts at conception. As soon as your body realizes you’re developing life within you, it tends to the needs of that child. For most, but not all, your energy is instantly zapped! You are nauseous and at times extra hungry for sometimes strange things, and you can’t physically do as much as you would like.

But in all this sacrifice I realize that motherhood is making me more like Jesus and I am grateful about that. Our Savior is the ultimate example of sacrifice (Matt 20:28). Self sacrifice for the benefit of another is not popular in our culture so it’s no wonder that motherhood is not popular because that’s exactly what being a mother is about.  Giving of yourself for the benefit of your child: giving of you body through pregnancy and breastfeeding, giving of your time to prepare meals and wash little bottoms, giving of your emotional and mental strength to diligently train and instruct in righteousness.  Let’s be real being a mother is hard, I can honestly say that being a mother is the hardest thing that I ever had to do in my entire life. Not to brag but I was a triple major in college and was the first in my University’s history to graduate with 3 degrees (2 Bachelors Degrees and 1 Masters Degree), I’ve traveled overseas to a number of countries for missions work and nothing compares to the challenges that I have experienced in raising my two children and I am only just beginning!  But just as I am quick to say that motherhood is hard, motherhood is also one of the greatest and best things that have happened to me.  It’s sacrifice but it is sweet sacrifice.  With all the challenges that come I’ve seen my deep need for Jesus.  I fall short every single day but in my failures Jesus is all the more beautiful to me.  I have seen Jesus meet me in my weaknesses like never before and have literally felt the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in my most exhausting days (2 Cor 12:9).  And as I look at my son and daughter my heart bubbles over as I get a glimpse into what God must feel as he sees me.

Believe it or not there is a sweet struggle in sacrifice if you allow the Savior to guide you through.  So yes, motherhood is all about sacrifice, but oh what a joyful sacrifice it can be and what plentiful fruit we can bear when we allow the one whose life is the epitome of sacrifice lead us through.

Reflections
“At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel. Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Motherhood provides you with an opportunity to lay down the things that you cannot keep on behalf of the people that you cannot lose. They are eternal souls, they are your children, they are your mission field.” Rachel Janovick  Motherhood as a Mission Field
  • Do you view your role as mother and pouring into the lives of your children as something that is invaluable?

“Mothers are always on call, expected to have all the answers and limitless energies. They’re supposed to do everything; it’s taken for granted. How can you be and do everything expected of you? What you need is a habitual sense of the presence of God. Think that Almighty God, who created the stars and keeps the seasons revolving in perfect rhythm, is there in your kitchen, in your bathroom, in the laundry room, in the grocery store. Mothers, be prepared for an arduous struggle. Your calling is impossible without prayer, the comfort and instruction of the Scriptures and fellowship in your church.” Elisabeth Elliot from  Always On Call

  • Prayer, scripture study, and fellowship – are you daily and intentionally pursuing God through these means?  (Phil 4:6-7, Ps 19:7-11, Titus 2:3-5, Col 3:12-17)