Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Blog

Hi All!

It's been nearly a year since I've posted anything.
Shame on me.
Life has been busy with a toddler.
So I've decided to start a new blog that I hope to be more focused with a better domain name!
I will now be blogging at:

Hope to see you all there! :)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Joy in Suffering

About a month ago, I found myself praying something shocking. I prayed for suffering. I didn't directly come out and ask God to allow me to get into a car accident or anything like that. I had noticed that I was learning so much about Him and His character, but life's circumstances didn't really provide much opportunity to practice certain things I was learning. Of course I was still (and am still) battling the sins that so naturally reside in my heart, but I realized that my circumstances were comfortable. While I'm thankful for times when the waters are calm, I found myself praying that He would make me more like Jesus through whatever means necessary and whatever means would most glorify Him. I wanted to live out and exercise my faith. Be careful what you pray for.

Now, my trial isn't even close to what many saints have gone through or are currently going through. But it still shook me. I was sinned against. OK. That didn't sound too earth-shattering, I know. Let's just say that the sin against me was deep, unprovoked, and way out of left field. I was really hurt and profoundly shaken. By God's grace, my first instinct was to retreat to prayer. I wish I could write that I did that well. Even my first attempt at prayer was sinful. For the first minute or two, I was basically throwing myself a pity party and I invited the Sovereign as my sole guest.

He was so kind, though. I had been reading Hebrews 11 that week. The "hall of faith." Paragraph after paragraph of giants of the faith. The common thread all these shared was their obedience. They were all obedient to God's instruction albeit imperfectly. In their obedience, which was a result and act of faith, they were blessed. So, in this quiet moment of feeling helpless, I asked God, "What would you have me do?" When someone sins against you, there's really only one thing to do that will result in peace in your soul: you must forgive.

Forgiveness can seem impossible sometimes. But when it is when it's difficult to do that it is often wonderful to do. There were a few really great things that came out of this trial that I'm glad I got to practice or relearn.

Firstly, this trial provided a good reminder of the ugliness of sin. I felt betrayed, hurt and torn apart. It felt pretty miserable. And yet, this sin against me, as powerful as it was, was just a whisper of the grotesqueness of our sin against God. The sin in my trial was one sinner harming another sinner by one singular action. Our sin is against a Holy, perfectly beautiful, majestic God. And before salvation, it's an entire life lived in rebellion and defiance against Him. If that comparatively minuscule sin was as offensive to me as it was, how much so is our sin against God? This trial provided a good reminder of the gravity of sin -- of MY sin. And knowing how repulsive your sin is, makes the joy of your salvation all that more profound.

Secondly, I realized how focused I was on myself, or my indignation, or my pain. Focusing on the the reality of my offense made it hard to forgive. As long as my efforts and energy are poured into defending my righteous indignation, forgiveness can't be possible. For the Christian, there can no longer be any drive to hold on tightly to our "rights." I have no "right" to withhold forgiveness. My identity is found in Christ. This identity is one based on forgiveness. Because the entirety of my worth and value is dependent on the forgiving power of the cross, my life is no longer about me. It's about living in such a way that is a reflection of Christ's work on earth and on the cross.To focus on the offense (whether intentionally or just through a failure to fight against it) is a practical denial of what Christ has done and therefore a practical denial of your claim to Him in your identity.

After forgiving this person, I found that even though the relationship was on the mend, I still struggled with feelings of bitterness. Though I wasn't angry with the offense against myself, I found thoughts like, "How could this person do this?" enter my mind. Beware of bitterness. It's sneaky. Thoughts like this are usually present for one reason. It's a sign that resentment that is being harbored and that's an indication that there's a lack of understanding of what forgiveness means. When the offender seeks forgiveness from you after they have sought forgiveness from The Lord, it's helpful to understand that they are already forgiven by God. Thoughts of bitterness and resentment essentially ignore that truth. How arrogant of us to know that the Lord will actively choose to no longer remember that person's wrong doing and yet, through bitterness and resentment, we keep replaying the offense in our own mind! If the Lord has chosen to not remember, we must as well.

But to CHOOSE not to remember is easier said than done. Lastly, I found that even though I no longer wanted to have bitterness, it kept creeping in my thoughts. I was reminded of a couple of things. Firstly, our nature is so wicked! I was reminded of what Paul said in the 7th chapter of his epistle to the Romans when he said that that which he wanted to do he didn't do, and that which he didn't want to do, he found himself doing. That is every believer's struggle. I was also reminded of the need to take every thought captive. Thoughts can be so destructive. They seems innocent. We often view thoughts not as something we control, but as things that just wash over us. This is how we get into trouble. Taking thoughts captive is hard. But if we want to improve our relationship with God and stop sin dead in its tracks, it's so necessary. Then I was reminded of how to do this is a complete act of dependence on grace. There were so many times I wanted to be bitter, but I had to just trust that thinking about something else was better for me than what my sinful flesh wanted to think about. It's far better to meditate on a truth or promise found in the Word of God than to allow your mind to wallow in ugly bitterness, even if bitterness seems to promise cleansing. Instead of thinking, "What kind of person would do this?" I would think, "Thank you, Lord for this trial to give me the opportunity to see your faithfulness in this way."

Let me say this, I wouldn't recommend you pray for suffering. Life will bring it on its own. But do be prepared for it. During times of rest and peace, arm yourself with scripture so you have a well-stocked armory when the battle for your mind and affections wages. It's the only way to rise from the ashes of the trial singing, "It is well with my soul!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Beauty of God's Novel: A Book Review of N.D. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

On special occasions, most women wear lipstick. Speaking from a purely objective and rational perspective, this makes no sense. Painted lips serve no practical purpose. And yet, when our anniversary rolls around year after year, we pull out our most inviting shade. We do it in the name of beauty. We do it for an audience of one. And we do it to compel our husbands to delight in us. N.D. Wilson argues that all of creation exists for the same reason painted lips do: to compel its audience to delight. However, we are not the audience for which creation exists. We are part of the creation. We, along with super novas, spiders, snowflakes and volcanoes, exist for God. In his book, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, N.D. Wilson explores the implications of a truth we readily accept, but probably rarely meditate on: that all of creation (including us) is the spoken word of God. He examines this doctrine in light of God's creative power and purpose. We are His novel. We are his tapestry. We are His characters whose purpose is to act out His grand narrative. We exist for an audience of One. It is all for the pleasure of the singular Triune God.

Each chapter and section of the book has an overarching theme that either examines the implications of his thesis or gives insight into how he arrived at his thesis. The themes include the problem of evil,assumptions about beauty, heaven and hell,the human need to explain our existence, the theory of natural selection in evolution, the authority of God, the incarnation of Christ, and the gospel. For many of these, he employs a helpful and comical technique. He boils down the seminal work of some philosophical giant and tests the strength of the philosopher's conclusion. This summation is usually followed by a graciously witty dismissal that cleverly highlights the theory's shortcomings or even its practical absurdities. In my opinion, this tactic of his allows his levity to shine. In listing several philosophers, Wilson mentions Hume: “David Hume, the Scot (knowingly) declared God and knowledge impossible without any apparent sense of irony.” With his treatment of themes like the incarnation and the gospel, the reader is left with a fresh perspective arrived at through the lens of Wilson's thesis and new beauty in old truths is exposed.

Appropriate to his premise, the style of this book is very poetic. Some might find his style off-putting. The entire work is an artistic endeavor and that is made clear from the very beginning. Sometimes, sentences feel choppy and thoughts don't always have the fluidity we've come to expect from Christian books. But considering the purpose of the book is to get its readers to appreciate the whole of creation as God's artistry, the style is fitting. If his thesis interests you in the slightest, don't let the unconventional style deter you from immersing yourself in the book. If the idea of poetic Christian prose excites you, that is essentially what this book offers.

Wilson's greatest strength besides the originality of his topic and approach is his command of language. Wilson has an ability to demand wonder and amazement from his reader as he explores the profound implications of his thesis. His use of imagery, analogy and wit to get an idea across is unparalleled. It should be noted that at times, Wilson's word choice can be crude and even a little shocking. (This is probably why it isn't available in the church bookstore). Approach the book with caution as it does contain strong – potentially offensive – language and consider yourself warned. If you feel that flow, subject matter, tone, and poetic license can lend leniency, be forgiving. Please don't misunderstand me. His choice to employ strong language is certainly not gratuitous. Nor does he chose to do so often. But it does occur.

There are two things a reader should be aware of as they read this book. Wilson's theology doesn't line up perfectly with what our husbands are being taught. The discrepancies don't affect the effectiveness of the book, but there are small moments that they do appear. This is particularly true eschatologically and in his chapter on hell. So, take that with a grain of salt. Secondly, and really just a personal annoyance, is Wilson's treatment of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. It would behoove the reader to know that The Great Divorce is a work of fiction. This is something Wilson neglects to mention and, to some, may result in Lewis seeming like a theological loon. But this grievance is very insignificant to the whole of the book. Some will buy Notes and wonder why I so highly praised it. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. But you'd still have to honestly admit that it's not like anything else you've ever read. All in all, I'd highly recommend this book, particularly to the young adult believer who is feeling beaten up by his/her Philosophy 101 class. If nothing else, it's a fun read. Wilson's competence as a story teller is a rare find and he does have great stories to tell in this book. Wilson has also authored a number of adventurous chapter books for children. Or adults who like children's literature. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Next Chapter

Sergio and I kind of exist by semester. As long as we've been together, it's been this way. We were college students when we met, dated, got engaged, and during the first two and a half years of our marriage. Then he started seminary. And though my days aren't measured by deadlines and finals anymore, I still feel the burden of them. Even though I don't have winter and summer breaks from studies, I still enjoy them as just that. I no longer have "first days back," but they still encroach bringing excitement, anticipation, and hopeful planning alongside them.

Well, we recently started a new semester. Last semester was our first as parents. In a way, this semester feels like a first as well. I guess it really isn't, but it feels that way sometimes. This time around, by the time school started, we felt settled. The newness of being parents has worn off (although it still hits me at random times). Calvin and I are in a groove in our day to day routine. We get each other. He knows how to let me do my housework and I know when I've asked too much of him and he needs some play time with his mother... or a nap. We eagerly await my husband's return at the end of the day. And we feel so thrilled (in a settling way) when he does arrive. We are comfortable.

Sergio and I evaluate each semester. We don't formally sit down and write out our hopes and plans, but we do talk about them at each school break. We communicate what we would like to see done better or differently than the previous semester and what we would like to see accomplished in the one to come.

I'm keeping myself busy this semester. I'm attending Every Woman's Grace, a women's group bible study that meets weekly. We go through a study of a book of the Bible by doing homework-styled questions pertaining to the book. I'm still a part of the Seminary Wives fellowship that also meets weekly. It is a group of women married to seminary students that break into smaller groups for the purpose of encouragement, edification, praying for and building one another up. I'm also exercising regularly and we have decided to bring in Sergio's parents' dog, Paxton. This isn't to mention some of the books I want to read! In addition to these, I have a couple side projects in mind that would use some of my gifts to serve the body in different ways.

As wonderful as all these things are, I think that this semester will be a good measuring stick for my threshold of time management. I don't want to neglect my duties and responsibilities in the home (as they are my first priority). But Sergio and I also want our family life to revolve around the church. We want to love what Christ loves and the church is his bride. We want to establish those relationships, grow in our understanding of Scripture, and serve our brothers and sisters. We want our son to see the love of Christ displayed in what we choose to do with our time. So this semester will really be instrumental in me finding that balance of time in the home and time outside of it.

I have women in my life whom I love, admire, and want to emulate who vary greatly in their involvement in activities outside the home. I've come to the conclusion that the amount of things someone can put on their plate and execute well is different from person to person. I don't know how many things I can do yet. That's what I'm trying to determine. And I realize that things will also change as life's circumstances do (finances, more children, etc.).

So far, about two weeks in, it's going well. I don't feel at all overwhelmed or stretched too thin. I'm feeling refreshed, encouraged and blessed. Above all though, I want the Lord to be glorified in my life. I so don't want to compromise my relationship with him or my calling to my husband, children and home to pursue other things. I think it'll be a good learning experience. If I have bags under my eyes come June, you'll know why and I'm sure another blog post about the lesson I learned will soon follow!

Monday, October 28, 2013

My New Job

I really don't know how long this post will be. It's 11 pm. I don't feel like sleeping, which I should do, or taking a shower, which I should also do. My husband is burning the midnight oil, diligently studying some foreign language. Probably Hebrew. My son has been asleep for the last three hours. I know I'm going to have to wake up in about 4 hours to change his diaper, so I should be getting to bed as soon as possible, but there's just something in me that won't allow it.

"How do you like being a mom?" I feel like I've been asked that a lot lately. I usually say something like, "I love it!" or "It's fantastic." They feel like such generic responses, but I genuinely do love it, and it genuinely is fantastic! I don't know that any woman has ever answered that question any other way. Things have gotten much easier than in the early weeks. Cal is on a great schedule that works with our daily routines. Between my mom and mother-in-law, I have babysitting available 24/7. He's sleeping about 10-11 hours through the night (minus a routine diaper change in the middle and the occasional pacifier demand). And he's cuter than I had predicted him to be!

He has started to laugh a lot. He's happy to see me each morning when I come to his crib to greet him. He loves watching Veggie Tales (for about 20 minutes. He's still just a baby.) He has started to show the early stages of teething. He's still cute even when he drools! How is that possible?! He has started to respond to instruction. That's one of the coolest things of all!

As great as all of these things are, they are not exclusively what makes me love my new role as "Mommy." You know what I love most about being a mom? The influence. I get this person for about two decades to instruct, raise, shape and influence. No one else can do what I do for this little guy. I have been given the opportunity to share my life and give of myself to a tiny person who needs everything done for him. Sometimes, I get to receive a toothless grin as payment for services rendered. Later, I get to set a foundation on which he gets to grow -- a foundation that will be with him for the rest of his life! I get to love him. I get to be the first person he loves! That blows my mind away! Sergio and I get to be the first example of the love between man and wife to him. I get to be the first example of Christ's love to people. No one else can do those things for him like I can.

There can be nothing more fulfilling or rewarding than motherhood. I refuse to believe there is. With that said, I'm so thankful that I have the opportunity to do it full-time without the demands of another job. Given this job's importance, endless demands, and my unique giftedness to meet them, why would I want to be anywhere else but home? There's very little out there that requires more of a sacrifice. But there's also nothing out there that offers a reward that even pales in comparison to the glorious rewards of motherhood.

Monday, September 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I feel kind of silly to have "resolutions" as my topic when we are only about to embark on October. As if the holidays don't come too quickly on their own, here I am talking about a holiday tradition that is still months away.

Truth be told, I'm not one for new year's resolutions. I don't mean that I don't make them. I make them pretty much every year. What I mean is that they lose their novelty quickly. I suppose that's true for most people. But, throughout the year, they are resurrected and pursued for a season until circumstances fade them into the background again. I think that's normal, right?

My resolutions generally fall somewhere within three or four categories. They are generally spiritual, physical, and day-to-day. Specifically, they are usually, "read my Bible more," "workout more," "become better organized." Occasionally, I'll be driven to be more frugal.

Don't we live life like this? We begin on a new journey with energy and vigor. The demands of day-to-day life begin to creep and you've realized you haven't prioritized those resolutions enough, or intentionally carved out time for them, to sustain the momentum you began with.

Unfortunately, this is also true for our walk in the faith. It's not something to boast in, but I don't think it's something to beat yourself up about either. God knows His creation. He knows how easily we forget and how easily derailed we are by distractions. But He's patient. And loving. And available. And accessible. And faithful. And forgiving. And kind. And merciful. And gracious.

I just want to encourage anyone that might be reading and feeling like they are in a significant low point in their obedience and walk. Firstly, repent. God is gracious and eager to forgive. Secondly, don't feel like you have go into an emotional whirlwind stirring up your affections so you can "recommit" your life to Christ. Just start practicing obedience again with diligence, humility, and dependence on grace.

Jonathan Edwards had great resolutions. 70 of them. Here are some:

#25 Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

#42 Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion o the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January.

#60 Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.

#53 Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.

#3 Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

So, though it is nearly October, renew a diligent pursuit of the resolutions you made earlier this year so you can close 2013 on a high note and embrace 2014 with the joy the Lord provides!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Adventures in Motherhood and Some Words for Moms-to-be.

My darling boy is six weeks old. It is surreal to think that I have been a mother for over a month. These last few weeks have been filled with all kinds of emotions that I'd rather not admit to. I have felt overwhelmed, anxious, and weary. There have been times when I have been overcome by fear (usually irrational), or felt hopelessly helpless as desperate cries of despair fill my ears. There have been times that - because of unintentional words or circumstances - I have felt like a bad mother. And there have been times that I questioned whether or not my son even liked me.

To all mothers-to-be, those first few weeks are hard. Very hard. So many emotions cloud your judgment and it's not surprising that even some of the godliest of women struggle against post-partum depression. If you're reading this and are pregnant, be aware of the trials ahead. If you are a brand new mom experiencing this, I can relate and trust me, it does get better.

I've come to appreciate certain truths that have sustained me through this trying time. Firstly, knowing that my task of raising this adorable little boy is given by God specifically and purposefully to me has been encouraging. It has been easy for my mind to lend itself to thoughts that perhaps other women are better equipped to be mothers than me or even thoughts that I'm a subpar mother. But, considering my commitment to be faithful and obedient to God's instructions, I know that there is no other mother better suited for Calvin than me. Yes, I'm not as experienced as some women may be, and I often doubt my abilities, but I need to trust that God knew what He was doing when he gave me Calvin and when he gave Calvin me. He needs me. He doesn't need me plus grandmothers (although they are super helpful and truly blessings from the Lord). He doesn't need me plus other women. He doesn't need me plus other family members. He needs me as a mother and Sergio as a father. And nothing else. And Sergio and I need grace (and tons of it).

Secondly, I have a new appreciation for a dependence on the sovereign will of God. Of course I want to be diligent in my obedience to God as I raise my son, but using my best judgment in whether or not to establish a strict feeding and sleeping schedule will not matter in the long run. (The long run meaning Calvin's adulthood). Decisions like that are completely within my discretion and knowing that God's will will be done, reassures my heart. I can't screw up God's will for us when I pursue wisdom and His glory. That's settling.

Lastly, it's helpful to remember that I - and no one else - will be accountable for Calvin. New moms get loads (LOADS) of well-meaning (and sometimes pushy) advice from every direction. When you're in an already emotional state questioning whether or not your son has some deep-seeded disdain for you, it's really easy to take that advice and put too much stock in it. It's easy to second-guess decisions you've already carefully thought out because you feel pressured to not ruin your child's psychological development by letting him cry himself to sleep once in a while -- even when you know he can. But when I remind myself that I (I! Not so-and-so) am going to have to give an account for what I decided to do for and with my child, it helps to trust my gut.

Besides marriage, this has been the greatest journey. Yes I have been tired. And yes, I have struggled with grumpiness and irritation. And yes, I have been jealous of those who were able to shower on any given day. But my son's face, the way he looks at me when he's fighting naps, the way he grabs my fingers while I'm feeding him, the way his head bobbles when Sergio burps him, the way his mouth stays open when he's falling asleep to a feeding, the way he cries sometimes (he says, "ah-la!"), it makes my days full of joy and purpose. Being a mom is the greatest feeling and occupation in the world. It really is. There is nothing I'd rather do.

I just want to close with this considering I know a lot of women who are pregnant with their first babies. Please let me encourage you in the following ways:

-- Seek the Lord and His wisdom throughout all you decide for your children.
-- Submit to the leadership of your husbands. (Just because you are suddenly endowed with a mother's instinct, does not justify contradicting the leadership God has placed over you. Besides, you'll find that they are generally more clueless than you and will usually defer to your judgment anyway).
-- Ask for the opinions of those your respect, and politely listen to the opinions of those who like to give it a bit too eagerly, but rely on your own filter of all those opinions.
-- Sing hymns to your baby. You'll find you're singing them to yourself too.
-- Consider long term goals when you make little decisions.
-- Do not neglect the relationship with your husband. The best thing you can do for your baby is to have a strong, vibrant, happy marriage.
-- Don't overlook or underestimate how well you know YOUR baby. The best advice may not be applicable for YOUR baby, and so don't feel bad when you've tried something that didn't pan out.
-- Don't focus on how unattractive you feel. That too shall pass. And besides, you're a mom now. There is a whole new beauty that comes with that.
-- Remember that your baby won't remember the times that his/her crying was your fault.
-- Pray more for wisdom and grace than for anything else (including sleep -- though you will definitely be praying for that too).

I'm sure there are tons more. But, I don't want to be one of those people that are "too eager" to give counsel. :)