Search

Somewhere Between Donuts and Blueberries

Enjoying and Sharing the Goodness of God

BibleReadingTogether2017


A new year with new beginnings! A fresh start. As LM Mongomery said in Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” The anticipation of a new day in the new year has such promise and hope and I am always thankful for a new one.

As optimistic as I am, I am also fully aware that it will not be perfect. We are humans in a fallen world and there is surely failure, hurt and disappointment ahead. And that is why we need an anchor for our hope. Because the cares of the world will fight for our attention and time and head space, before we even get there I want us to be full of the truth and peace that God offers. So when life comes, we are ready and able to stand firm!

Thanks for joining me in this #Biblereadingtogether2017 I believe God will meet and speak to us through his word. I believe that he loves us so much that he will teach us, comfort us, correct us and transform us as we diligently seek him in the reading and studying of the Bible. I don’t know if you are new to this daily Bible reading or an old veteran, but I do know that no matter where we are that God is faithful to give us fresh eyes and soft hearts as he reveals himself to us.

As I’ve been praying about it this week I am sure that I want this to be about helping people enjoy and appreciate God’s word. I want to invite women into the discipline of Bible reading. I want God to meet us in his word and teach us his truth, righteousness and goodness. 

This year’s plan is similar to most my plans where we’ll go back and forth from the Old Testament to the New Testament. There’s no real rhyme or reason except that I chose books that I haven’t read since getting my new journaling Bible. I have it planned so that we’ll read one chapter a day. In the picture you’ll see the start and end date for each book.

My hope is to keep a pretty steady update on it with bible lettering via the blog’s IG account and to do a corresponding weekly devo on the blog. I would love to hear your thoughts on what we’re reading and learning; what God is speaking to you so feel free to interact via these mediums. 

I am so excited about this and will be praying for each of you as we continue through. Thanks for joining. May God bless you with His presence and may His Holy Spirit fill us and teach us this year!
Many blessings, 

Deborah Joy

Long Distance Love

Have you ever known something because you were told and taught it, but then you experience it and just like that the head knowledge becomes experiential and you realize your hardly knew what you thought you knew all along?

I grew up hearing a lot of things about God and the Bible and I believed them to be true. And sometimes, because I haven’t experienced it or find my self struggling with a concept or command I catch myself questioning if I really understand what’s being said.  

A couple of months when I was writing about growing like blueberries and understanding pruning in a new and comforting way John 15 made me consider “abiding” and reflect on how I am currently doing. 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11 (ESV)

The call to abide in God’s love caused me to evaluate my life in light of that command. 

What is abiding? How do we do it? What does it look like? How can I do it better? And how do you abide with someone you can’t even see?

I was instantly reminded of Gunnar and when we were dating. 

We met at Fresno State in spring 2005. I was finishing my last semester of undergrad and had already applied for grad school at San Diego State. He was in his third year of school and knew he had two more since he had two years of eligibility left for golf. We met at Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he was the president of the club and I was just going so my friend would stop asking. But once there I really enjoyed the study and was really impressed by the handsome leader. I started to hang out with the group more and was seeing Gunn all over campus. 

A month later we had dinner just the two of us since everyone else bailed one night then went to a local church Bible study. On the way home I thanked him for a lovely evening, asked him not to make a habit of buying my dinner and dropped a bunch of hints about moving and not needing a guy. Bless his persistent heart for not heeding any of it. 

We started dating in March knowing July meant long distance for two years. It was so much harder than I imagined! Saying good bye, moving to a new city while he got to continue life in Fresno. 

That first year in San Diego was hard. I volunteered to quit often. I was home sick and not even sure for which home. My parents’? Fresno? With Gunnar?

It was lonely. I worked 40-60 hrs a week, I was going to school and traveling with various teams as the athletic trainer. 
I had found a church that I could attend fairly regularly when I wasn’t traveling, but I wasn’t exactly making friends. 

I felt like Jesus and Gunn were my only friends and neither of them could give me the hug I so desperately wanted. 

I praise God for the new technology of texting that had recently started!
As the new school year started we started a routine of texting in the morning. Texting through out the day and maybe a phone call if we both had a few minutes at lunch. Maybe some more texting in the afternoon and then the first one ready for bed would call the other to check in, talk about day, what we read in the Bible that day, the plans for the next day. We would have a chance to talk through issues or miscommunications that happened that day and then we ended the night with prayer, where I would usually fall asleep and Gunn would call back just to say Amen.

In the first year of this we got to learn so much about each other. We talked about anything and everything. It was a time to learn each other- preferences, habits, communication and conflict style. 

The first year was tough, but as it ended it was clear that God had grown us in amazing ways; in our faith and in our relationship and communication. We asked each other a bunch a questions and wanted to hear the other’s opinion and feedback on just about everything. Did I mention I got a card in the mail every Tuesday from Gunnar? A note telling me how wonderful he thought I was, and how much he couldn’t wait to see me. It was the best!!!!

The next year was significantly easier. We got engaged that summer and the count down to not only see each other regularly but get married and BE TOGETHER began. 

Long distance was still hard but we got to learn more about ourselves and each other. We learned to anticipate each other’s needs and preferences. We got to be each other’s biggest fans and learn to say I’m sorry more often. We looked forward to every visit and every letter and every call and text. The anticipation was huge and exciting. 

That two year time was a tangible picture of what it looks like to abide. To draw near and learn, to know and love. 

I love that Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a perfect life that led many people to be interested in him. He died, rose and then went to heaven and there began the longest long distance relationship in the history of man kind. 

What does it look like for God’s people to abide? To pursue closeness, to communicate often, to learn God’s character and preferences. To ask His opinion and live for His best. To lay down your preference for the one you love. Knowing that His best is ultimately the best for me. 

Just like Gunn and I had June 23, 2007 to look forward to we have the wedding feast of Jesus and his bride, The Church, to look to with anticipation. No more long distance, no more misunderstandings or miscommunication, but real intimacy and closeness. 

As we wait we must be engaged in constant communication. Little conversations here and there, lengthy dialogue with God about things that matter. Getting to know his character, his preferences, his habits and communication style. Right now we have the opportunity to know and be known by him. He has written us letters! There is love, wisdom, truth and strength to be drawn as we meet Him in His word. 

And better than any earthly relationship we have his Holy Spirit in us. Meeting us where we are, speaking to us and empowering us to live a life of love. He tells us that it is by keeping his commands that we remain in his love and that is where our joy is made complete. 

So where am I? How am I doing at abiding? These are sometimes hard questions to ask when you know you are not thrilled about the answer. 

I am making daily time to communicate with Jesus, but it is often rushed and distracted. I am reading his word daily, but I’m not always putting forth the effort to understand it and apply it. 

Praise God that he is a God who changes hearts which then changes action. In him is forgiveness and restoration, always. I love that He offers us himself in every way. And the only thing we have to do is humble ourselves to say we want and need more. To repent of the distance we create and to re-engage in intimate communication. 

So as we live to make these truths realities in our lives may we continue to seek Jesus, to know him better as we wait for him to come and may we abide in his love, knowing that in it our joy will be complete. 

Growing like Blueberries

There are a lot of benefits of marrying into a farming family. First, it’s the fruits of their labor. I have eaten some of the best fruit in the world, blueberries especially. I have learned about different varieties and seasons and harvest schedules. I’ve learned about soil acidity and the importance of water and the necessity of pruning and training the plant.

I love learning these things because I am part of this family so I want to know and care like the rest.

As a Southern California kid removed from the world of agriculture (AG) I didn’t grow up with much thought as to where my food came from and I certainly didn’t appreciate the love and care that goes into it.

I am thankful that we got to learn by immersion when we moved to the Central Valley and Gunnar started working for his family.  My favorite part was the blueberry plants he got for our back yard- three little “snow chaser” plants. They lived in pots for a bit at first and then in the fall he planted them. That spring I was so excited to see the little flowers. Gunn explained that those sweet blooms would be where they would set fruit. You could imagine my shock and disappointment when he took them off! What the!?!?! How can I eat blueberries if you just killed their opportunity to even grow? 

Gunn said the first year they’re planted you have to strip the blooms so that the plant won’t put energy into growing fruit, but growing it’s root system as well as it’s branches and leaves. It made sense, but I didn’t like it. There was some pruning and there was work done to make sure there were not stray branches growing laterally but strong canes going up.

The next year he thinned the blooms, but let me have some fruit and oh my goodness was it awesome. Fresh blueberries right on the plant in my backyard. It wasn’t even enough for a decent cobbler but it was good for an occasional snack or to sprinkle over a bowl of vanilla ice cream, (which you should totally try).

Year three there was finally a sweet pay day! All the waiting and watering, training and pruning literally came to fruition. Those pretty little blooms, tons of them, set fruit. Little green berries grew and changed color and we got lots of ripe delicious blueberries. For the month of their harvest window we ate blueberries whenever we wanted and it it was amazing. But the most beautiful part of it was that I saw that ran a pretty similar parallel to my life.

When we moved to Visalia, we were transplanted and it was traumatic in a way. All the friendships and relationships we left were severed to an extent. Thank the Lord for technology and face time and social media to stay virtually connected. But here we were starting life all over again. It felt a bit bare and scarce emotionally and relationally. We started meeting new people, and we worked hard at this new life. Gunn and I were new parents living in a new city and we were having to set a new foundation for our home. We went deeper into God and with each other, and I see now that we were needing to put our energy into these new roots!

That next year we got to enjoy more external blessing. We bought a home. We were growing closer to the friends we made in year one. We were getting more involved in our church and in our community. It was not the involvement and intimacy we had in So Cal, but it was getting there. There was some fruit so to speak, and we enjoyed it wholeheartedly!

By year three we were feeling at home and healthy. We had another son, we felt settled and secure in so many places of our lives – family, work, community. It felt like a harvest of sorts as we were enjoying the fruits of our labor. It was such a blessing and so very sweet. And then something crazy happened. It felt like all the sudden there was some more pruning!

What the what?!?!?

Gunn started school, my closest friend moved to Scotland, we had to pull back from so many of the friendships, commitments and other things we loved. We had to reevaluate our lives and it was a little uncomfortable.

I am so thankful for the word of God that gives truth and perspective. I love that he offers us his Spirit to be our helper and comforter. As we were (and continue still) adjusting in this season of reevaluation I was reminded of John 15:1-2 where Jesus says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

I understand he’s talking about grape vines not blueberries, but I love that sweet reminder that even good things will be pruned, not just for the sake of pruning but to bear more fruit.

John 15:4-5, goes on to say to, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Dictionary.com defines abide as a verb and gives the following definitions:
1.      to remain; continue; stay:
2.      to have one’s abode; dwell; reside:

Oh how I want this!!

The passage continues and verses 7-9 say, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

No matter where we find ourselves in the process be it transplant, root growing, cane pushing or fruit producing the only work we really have to do is abide in the love of God. He’s the one who will do work that needs to be done.

I thought it was fascinating that as I asked Gunn about what pruning looks like on a mature plant he once again described my life. The mature canes will bear fruit for years, but then must be cut out to make room for new canes to grow and produce. The “canes” of my twenties look different from the “canes” now in my thirties. The fruitful places grow and change as life goes on.

As much as I hate change I love the hope in that. As I continue to abide in Christ I am promised that as a disciple I will bear much fruit. Though the season change, when the harvest window comes there will be sweet and beautiful fruit.

Motivation in Motherhood


 I am so thankful for this life. It’s everything I never knew I always wanted. 
I wasn’t always sure I wanted to be married and have kids. But once I met Gunnar I was sure I wanted to be his wife and have his children. 

He is a good man. A great one even. He was the first guy I met that knew his Bible as well as my brother and tried to live it out. He not only loved Jesus, but lived his life to honor him. 

Gunn is smart and caring and good at just about everything he tries. He has many gifts and abilities but he doesn’t just settle for what’s easy and comes naturally he also works really hard too. He seriously strives for excellence in every task. He is a rare gem and I am so thankful he’s mine. 

I’m really proud to be his wife and I’m so thankful we get to be best friends. 

I’m also thankful that he sees the good in me and then cheers me on in those places. He’s a good encourager and is constantly supporting me. I think we’re a really good team. I think we compliment each other well and I know that our marriage is a gift. God has blessed us so abundantly and then also helped and equipped us to work hard at it and fight for unity and peace, because those things do not come easy. 

A couple weeks ago we got to team up to share our lives and our motivation in work. It was such a pleasure and an honor. I was proud to watch him teach the Bible and hear the wisdom that God spoke through him. And then I got up to share and I felt like Gunn was both my strongest supporter and beaming teammate. I loved that He stood by me because he knew I was nervous but stayed back just a bit as if to say, “I’m here if you need me, and I’ll just admire you as you shine.” Seriously, this man is a gift from the great Giver of good things. 

If you haven’t heard it yet, then please, have a listen and be encouraged! 

http://subspla.sh/606896a

Lessons From a 4 Year Old


If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 4.5 years of parenthood, it’s that parenting is not nearly as easy as I thought it was before I had kids. 

I know God says he wants humility in his people, and I tried to live a humble life, sometimes I even felt like I was nailing it (super humble right?)! But man, oh man, nothing in life has humbled me like becoming a mom. Everything I have ever prided myself in has crashed hard in one way or another in the last 4.5 years and I’m sure there’s more to come and that is almost scary. 

I’m learning that God is faithful to build humility in us and we can either submit of our own accord, or through circumstances that might very well humiliate us, or maybe a fun combination of the two. Not because he’s a jerk and wants doormats for children but because He, being God, knows what’s best and will graciously guide us in that.

God used my sweet Evan to highlight this lesson last month. We were all set for a family outing to Lowes to pick up some outdoor furniture for our new house. The boys are usually great shoppers but five minutes in and I thought we should probably reschedule this date. Instead of listening to that wise intuition, we continued on. Fifteen minutes later I was carrying a flailing, raging 4 yr old out of the store and to the car. My mind was whirling with all the things this child deserved, none of which were good. It was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to get us to the car, him strapped in and me standing outside the running car with tears streaming down both our faces.

He had humiliated me on our way out. I’ll save you the details but be sure every person we passed seemed to look down as to not stare. He’s had these melt downs before, but not in public like this. And as I stood outside the car trying to compose myself I realized that I had always prided myself in knowing my child well enough to prevent these melt downs in public. We don’t go shopping when he’s tired, we always carry snacks for him, we prepare him by talking about expectations and what is and is not acceptable behavior before going into the store. We pray for thankful hearts and good attitudes.

Not only had I not done any of these that morning, but I also chose the opinions of others over the good of my son, and I cried for the hurt and failure of that.

Gunn had told Evan he could get a new shovel for gardening, and so he held it as he whined and complained about going home. I tried to tune out the whining and continued shopping. A few minutes later I had enough, took the shovel, returned it to it’s spot and started our walk of shame to the car. I didn’t want the people around us to think I was catering to a whiney brat, I wanted to make a point that I do not reward bad behavior.

I knew it would set him off into fight or flight. I knew we would likely have a melt down, but instead of choosing an avenue of communication to peaceful resolution I waged war in all the wrong ways. 

On the way home we talked about why he was so angry and why he lost control. God blessed him with lots of words and he was able to explain that Avery kept touching him and his shovel and it made him angry and I wasn’t listening to him and that he got confused and got angry at me because Avery was annoying him.

Selfishness, displaced anger, shouting and crying and doing everything he could to create distance. That describes me to God in so many ways. And unlike God who hears us and meets us, I had instead ignored him and then provoked him. 

He had a lot to apologize for, certainly, but I did too. As parents we get to be the most tangible example of God’s Father heart to our kids. And God often uses our kids to show us the things in our own hearts that we don’t usually see. I got to apologize to Evan and walk him through his apology to me. I got to tell him that I forgive him and that even when he makes bad choices and uses words that hurt me that I still love him. It was not easy because my hurt feelings still wanted distance, but I instead chose to pursue closeness because I really do want to love like Jesus. It was good for both our hearts.

There was forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation and it was sweet. As I continue to reflect on it I also see that lately I have made so many things work based for him, ie finish dinner then get a popsicle, clean your room then get a show, etc. And I think it’s built in both of us this frustration about having to earn, and failing to do so. It’s not like I make him earn everything, but it’s been too much and that shovel was supposed to be a gift from dad and I turned it into reward to be earned. It was just what the Judaizers in the New Testament tried to do with the Gentile Christians. Salvation is a gift but you also have to be circumcised and do these other things to really get it (Acts 15:1-11).

I am so thankful that, as Gunn often says, failure isn’t fatal and it isn’t final. God’s grace is always bigger than our failure and he’s not standing there ready to strike, but waiting to forgive and restore as soon as we humble ourselves and confess and repent

Parenthood is freaking hard, and I am sure God has so many more lessons for me. But I trust that like a good parent He gives me only so much at one time as to not completely overwhelm me. He will do what is necessary to build me up, to train and teach me in a way I can understand. I love that He gets down to my level and helps me all along the way. 

That afternoon, I asked Ev if he wanted to just hang out with me. I told him we needed to buy brother’s birthday gift. I asked him if he wanted a do over for shopping with a good attitude and a thankful heart. He said yes and we had an amazing afternoon, with donuts and Starbucks to top it off! Ah, sweet redemption!

So friends, be encouraged that our Good Father is doing good work in us and is using us to build his kingdom in the next generation!

Planning for Salvation

Blessed be the Lord who daily bears us up. God is our salvation.” Psalm 68:19

I love that this is true. For the small things and the big.

Since I’m a great planner, I can also be a great worrier. What if things don’t go how I had envisioned? What might go wrong that might throw off my plan? So I often make a plan B and even plan C. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s me.

I love that God loves me. He made me. He made me a good planner and he loves me even in spite of the times I take this good gift and make it something stupid.

I find it very kind of God to save us. He saves us from our sins and saves us from big things, and I especially love the way he saves us from ourselves.

I feel that every so often God teaches me a lesson and I can learn to do a good job of walking in it. It’s only possible to change my ways because he changed my heart and mind. And for a while the hard lesson might even be easy, and then over time, I drift back. And so, in his goodness he teaches me the lesson all over again. You would think I would just get it together and stop drifting back, but these cycles are true for many parts of my life: planning, parenting, marriage, friendships, food, time, discipline, service, rest – there’s no way to have it all in order all the time. And so our good and gracious God addresses them as often as he sees fit. 

So, about planning. I have our family calendar on my fridge, an exercise calendar in the office, a meal plan for the week, and a calendar I keep on my phone so it’s accessible when I’m out. Things are often color coded and it makes me so happy when I reconcile them all once a week to make sure I’ve got everything covered.

But with all those plans there’s a lot that can be messed up and interrupted and ruined.  And that can lead to a lot of disappointment and frustration and sometimes anger towards the one that ruined said plan.

I used to think that the more I had planned in one day the better I was doing as a human. Maximizing my time on this earth. Getting stuff done and blessing the world with my presence! And so I would cram as much as I could into the day. If each moment of the day was accounted for the better the day was. I didn’t realize I was a chronic over committer who was getting weary and tired and a little resentful towards the people that didn’t seem to appreciate my precious time!

Blessed be the Lord who daily bears us up.  Through different cycles of this lesson I’ve learned that God cares about me and my plans, but that his plans are better than mine. And I learned that if I am going to love and serve him well that means I need to give him access and authority over my life and all the things I hold dear. That means that I need to submit my plans to him. It’s totally fine and good to make plans but I need to surrender them to him. 

“God here’s what I have planned and what I want to accomplish today. Is this cool with you? Give me the wisdom and energy I need to carry them out, and give me the grace and joy to be flexible. Let me see interruptions not as a bother but as an opportunity to worship you and trust that you have something else. Help me see if I’m planning stuff to feel valued and successful or because you actually want me to do it” 

I once heard that every interaction with a person is an opportunity to worship God.

 That means that every time my kids are making me late because they cant (won’t) find their shoes, I can choose patience, prayer and kind, gentle words over harsh words and loud grunting.

It means that when the baby sitter cancels or I catch the 8th red light in a row I can trust that God sees and knows this and I can acknowledge that He is still good and His plans are better than mine. I don’t need to cry and whine about lights or judge someone’s bad planning.

This means when I have to cancel on someone it’s not the end of the world; I am not a failure; my worth as a human has not diminished. It just means that I recongnize my inability to do it all and there’s humility to embrace and grace to receive.

When I submit my heart and life and calendar to God it changes my perspective so much. It helps me live with much more grace for the people around me, mostly my kids and husband, but even the jerk who cut me off on the road.  It helps me bless more often than curse .

And right now, as I’m re leaning this lesson, it’s helping me remember to seek God on the front end more often. Before I make the plan, send the text, place the call – to ask God, “Can I please plan this play date/invite them for dinner/go on that trip?”

He is willing and able to daily bear our burdens, so I need to be conscious of daily giving them to him. And in His goodness he will save me.

Who are you really?

Who are you? How do you define yourself?

What’s the most important thing about you? What are you about?

What or where is your identity? Is it given, earned or are you born with it? Does it or can it change depending on the circumstance? 

I find myself contemplating these questions often. I’ve never thought about identity in my life as much as I have in the last few years. It’s a constant talking point in the news and it is often the most obvious way to group people. 

This morning I was praying for our country. I thanked God that no matter what happens this November, He is my ultimate leader and authority. I want my primary identity to be Child of God. I asked Him to continue to teach me what it looks like to make my Christlikeness shine bigger and brighter than my gender, my titles, my nationality or race. I want all that defines me to be filtered through Jesus. 

It made me think that when I get to heaven, I get to be with Jesus and alongside people of every tribe and nation. The only thing that will matter will be our unity in Christ, not one other identifier will be noticed. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am super thankful for all the things that make me, well, me. Thankful that I get to be a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, an American, a person of Mexican heritage, a Christian, a runner, an eater and a sleeper. There are so many qualities from these identities that I love and cherish, but more than anything I want my Jesus-ness to be the one that shines brightest. I want everything I am and everything I hold dear to be filtered by Jesus. 

Maybe it was the sermon at church on Sunday about how diverse the early Church was or maybe the USA women’s gymnastics team or a combination of the two, but I am loving the diversity I’m seeing. I love that though they look different and come from different places they unite for one purpose and one goal. They decide which one piece of them will define them in this moment. 

I feel that sometimes we, the body of Christ, hold tight to some identity or other and forget that it is our Christlikeness that must be most pronounced. 

Even this afternoon as I was picking up a shattered lamp (thank you child who thought they needed more light during quiet time — insert eye roll and exasperated sigh) I realized that my “mom” identity was taking over. Make sure he’s safe, make sure everyone’s out of the room, clean, lecture, discipline, resume quiet time. And that is right and good, unless I forget to overlay my Christlikeness, which I totally did. 

Instead of having some compassion and gentleness, I was short and made it apparent by my tone and grunts that I was upset with him. I made sure with my words to tell him it wasn’t the broken lamp that upset me, but the disobedience in trying to turn on the lamp again when he’s been repeatedly asked and told not to. But who hears words when they pale in comparison to the contradictory tone. 

I am always trying to teach him that people are more important than things, i.e. Brother is more important than the toy they want to fight over. But today I’m afraid I let my momness trump my Jesusness and in the process likely coveyed that I cared more about that lamp than him. (When I went to apologize but he was asleep. Praise the Lord, grace for all of us! I repented to God and got to apologize for my tone when he woke up.)

Jesus was always teaching that people, and more specifically the condition of one’s heart, are more important than things, traditions, systems, race or nationality. 

I love that in my devotional this morning I read Acts 10. It was the first time the message of repentance and forgiveness through Jesus was shared with anyone non Jewish and they received it. 

Acts 10:34-35 says, “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.’ ”

My fellow Christian Americans, we have so many rights and freedoms and are super blessed to be here, but let us not forget where our more important citizenship lies IN HEAVEN!!

We’re just sojourners! We can appreciate and respect our differences, but let’s focus more on what unifies us. It reminds me of what Paul told the Galatians.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28

Let us be thankful for the things that make us precious and unique for they are gifts that God has given us to reach people in our spheres of influence. But let all the good qualities that we have be overwhelmed by the spirit of God- in our hearts, in our homes, in our work and in every part of our world. 

Taste and See

IMG_1362

I love to eat. Be it sweet or savory, I am no critic. I am a lover of all food. I do have a special place in my heart for bread and I’ll gladly admit, donuts are my love language.

And because I can easily go from one extreme to another I happily eat healthy food too. I like fruits and vegetables, quinoa and kale. As long as it’s yummy I’m thankful to eat! It helps that I married into a farming family so I’ve learned to appreciate good produce, blueberries especially.

The problem comes when my lack of self control over rides my diligent discipline. It’s crazy to think how I can go from one extreme to the next with barely a blink.

I’ve found that in a lot of ways food is a metaphor for my life. It feels like I’m always trying to find the balance, but appreciate the goodness on both ends of the spectrum. And more than I love delicious food, I love Jesus. He is the constant when things are uncertain. He is the giver of all good things. Whether I’m enjoying the carefree pleasure of a donut or the responsible goodness of some blueberries I am most content when I am full of Jesus.

Wanting to do the right and healthy thing, I can only do it for so long before the pendulum swings to the other side. I’m sometimes boggled by the way I can be hot then cold, fast or slow, yes or no. A recent personality test said it’s because my underpinning quality of “turbulent” overwhelms the rest of me. What does that even mean!?!

It means that left to my own devices I’m out of control, and have difficulty making decisions and assertively going with them. And that’s especially hard for someone who likes control and everyone’s approval. It means that I need help. And this is where God comes in. He is the steady rock when I’m waffling (Mmmmmmm, waffles). He is the wisdom I need when I’m unsure and the discernment I need in every decision.

He is the middle of the road when I feel like I’m zigzagging back and forth into the guardrails. No matter where I find myself in any part of the continuum, i.e. Self pity vs pride, loneliness vs overwhelmed with people, super happy vs really sad; God is my anchor. He is my purpose and my joy. And I want to share that.

Just like any good meal is better shared with friends I want to share his goodness.

I love Psalm 34:8 that says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

My heart for this blog is to whet your appetite by giving a taste of the best I’ve tasted and a glimpse of the best I’ve seen.

I’ll be sharing my life lessons – the good, the bad, the hard and lighthearted. There will be sweet victories and humbling failure, but in it all there is Jesus and I hope and pray that as we take refuge in him we will be very blessed.

So here’s to living and learning, loving and eating. May we cling to Jesus, enjoying a donut, or blueberries, or something in between.

Occasions to Remember

re·deem

rəˈdēm/

verb

1. compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something).

2. gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment.

My children are as opposite as they look. One has brown hair and brown eyes with olive skin, the other is blonde, blue eyed with white skin. One is a night owl who has yet to have a cheery morning in his 4.5 years of life, the other usually wakes up smiling and sometimes even singing. We are constantly trying to get one to finish a meal and the other is literally whining for more at the same time (we often wait for the older to take his necessary bites and hand the rest over to brother who has been shouting for more for the last 5 minutes).

I wish I could say I have no idea where they get their personalities, but it’s all too obvious that the older, dramatic one is a lot like me and the other like their father, bless all their hearts. 

This week was Avery’s second birthday and as I do at every birthday I reflect on our life and family. I remember the details of their births and I thank God for his goodness and faithfulness. 
I love looking back, it so much easier to see the good and put the bad in perspective. The retrospect gives me lenses to view the future and it always brings hope because in looking back it’s easier to see the things God was doing all along the way. His past faithfulness makes it easier to believe that for the future. 

For those of you who know Evan’s story you remember the trauma and drama of the emergency c-section, the 15 day NICU stay and the next seven months of tests and medication. It was the beginning of the hardest year of my life with lots of tears and unknowns, a big move, job changes, and with all of those stressors a loneliness and depression that rocked me. It was also a year of growing – in faith, in love, in joy and hope. It was the best lessons I never want to go through again. It was sanctification that I will forever be thankful for and do not look forward to repeating any time soon. It was also seeds of doubt, fear and insecurity that I allowed to be planted and grow and that I didn’t even realize were there until I was pregnant with Avery two years later. 

I’m not good at being pregnant. I’m not one to suffer quietly, so try as I might (or not try) the complaints of discomfort, nausea, and fatigue quickly escaped my lips. These complaints were an obvious cry for help. And praise God for the people who not only put up with me but also loved and helped me along the way. 

But where I needed the most help was in the fear. I was so afraid. Afraid that there would be complications, that there would be another NICU stay, that this one would be worse than before, that it wouldn’t end in life but in death. And if there was life that it would be just as hard or harder. Sleep deprivation, depression, desperation. And this time with a two year old in tow. 

And because hormones and pregnancy were not enough stress on the body and mind I also started this ugly game of 101 ways Gunnar might die before this baby was born. It was hard to sleep and hard to function with all these make believe problems I had to solve. Being crazy is exhausting! 

But oh, how sweet is the love of God and his people. Through much prayer and conversations with Gunn and friends, I got to put words to the fears, and for the first time really address them. Only then was I able to confess and repent for not believing in God’s goodness. For believing that he was able, but not willing to take care of me. For the first time in months I actually started living in the reality that God is bigger than even my worst fears. I didn’t have to be held captive to fear but could instead proclaim truth in the face of it. It felt like this giant wound of faith in my heart had been excised and healing came. 

It was the beginning of so much healing. Healing in places I didn’t even know were hurt. The rest of the pregnancy was still physically uncomfortable, but I felt mentally and spiritually strong again. I was able to fight for truth and stand firm and able to ask for help and prayer whenever the lies flooded in again. 

Avery was due September 1 so we scheduled our c-section for August 29. But my water broke at 12 am on August 12th so we got to have our baby in our arms by 4:45am. 

It was weird to be awake for it. It was even weirder when we got to our room and they left him in there with us. He was so calm and he slept soundly. There were no wires or monitors and it all felt so surreal. A healthy baby boy who ate and slept right away. And then they sent us home with him a day later and we were like freaked out, first-time parents because we didn’t know what to do with a brand new baby at home! 

Our God is the God of redemption. He regains possession of everything the world claims as its own. What sin destroys God rebuilds- be it hearts, lives or circumstances. 

In so many ways Avery’s arrival and even first year of life were practically opposite to Evan’s. It feels that every hurt and fear planted by my first experience God has redeemed in the second. 

I love that it reminds me of the comparison made in 1 Corinthians 15.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”

God made man in his image, but sin ruined it. So God sent Jesus to live a perfect life, to die and take the punishment we deserved, to redeem man to himself. He fixed it and made something beautiful out of the mess we made. 

He saved us, he’s sanctifying us and praise God we are redeemed!

I will forever be grateful for these boys. Evan, my sanctification baby and Avery, my redemption baby. God is so, so good to me! He is so good to us!

And so we celebrated. We gave him gifts and a donut cake aside his eggs and blueberries. We thanked God and we prayed over him. Our hope and dreams for these boys are that they know that no matter what life has or what the world throws at them, that God is good and that He loves them. We pray that they know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made and that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins so that we can live and learn and give our lives for the glory of God. 

I want to teach them to look at the hard things in life and search for the good in them, for there we see Jesus. What stories do you look back on to remember the goodness of God in your life? In the remembering and retelling, we get the chance to proclaim the faithfulness of God that we are so prone to forget. 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑