Spiritual Growth

Through Smudged Windows

My two-year-old daughter presses her open lips to the pane of glass then pulls back to yell, “Open! Open!” She matches her five little fingers up to the five little fingers on the other side. The faces of both toddler girls are confused as to why they can’t hold hands, share toys, or even go to the playground together. I look up at the woman’s face that’s staring at me from the other side of the glass. We, too, wonder why we can’t do the things that we want—that we should do, under other circumstances. I want to snuggle her newborn baby and hug her as she shares the woes of postpartum life. She wants to touch my growing belly and talk with me about plans for a baby shower. We want to sit next to each other on a park bench watching our daughters play together and dream of our baby boys doing the same one day.

Instead, a window keeps our two families apart, whose hearts long to be together. We shout encouragements through the double-paned glass and talk about what we will do one day when we can be within six feet of each other again. We talk about the parks we want to visit and plan the parties we want to throw. Our souls feel that there is something not right about this separateness, and we crave for the day that we are joined together again.

Until then, we have toddler tea parties and double dates via Zoom. I drop off coffee; she sends sweet notes. We celebrate Mother’s Day brunch three miles apart, but in our hearts, we know that we are together.

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Spiritual Growth

Daily Faithfulness

Around this time of year, my social media feed is filled with graduation photos, award ceremonies, and other posts from proud parents. I have to admit that I was not a terribly humble kid in primary and secondary school, and awards day was one of my favorite days out of the year. Schools create awards for everything. You didn’t miss a day of class—award. You ran one time around a track—award. You read a book or two—award. I remember standing there beaming (not sure if it was my pride, my braces, or my sparkly rainbow sweater) as the principal announced certificate after certificate for that year. Today, I’m sure that those piles of certificates are keeping the dust and spiders company in my parents’ basement. Yet on that day, those awards meant so much to me, because it recognized all the little things I had done throughout the year.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it was easy for me to be tempted to want a similar ceremony. A certificate for approximately five hundred loads of dishes done, two hundred loads of laundry folded, and one thousand meals prepared. A certificate for not grumbling when I picked rice up again off the floor. A certificate for the fastest I rushed a toddler to the toilet when she told me she needed to go “poo poo.” I guess someone decided to save a tree, though, for a pile of cardstock awards is nowhere to be found.

Sometimes when changing a diaper for the tenth time that day, I can ask the question of what’s the point of all those daily mundane tasks. I can believe that God has gifted me with certain talents and a desire to do “great things,” but I feel behind as I look at other women (on Instagram, in my church, etc.) who are admired for doing faithful tasks that I can’t do right now in my season of life. I see other women a few years ahead and wonder if I’m already behind in doing something spiritually amazing, something worthy of more Instagram followers. Then I look at the work in my hands today and wonder if it even matters.

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Spiritual Growth

God’s Character Changes Motherhood

Each mother has felt that moment in her day (or maybe even multiple moments) when she comes to the end of her rope. My rope frequently ends around 5:30pm, when I’m glancing at my watch wondering when my husband will be off work, trying to keep our dinner from burning on the stove, and placating a toddler whose life is over because she can’t have more cheese. In moments like those, I know that I do not have enough patience for my toddler, love for my husband, and endurance in managing our home to make it another hour. In a world that constantly tells me, “I am enough,” those moments prove to me that sentiment is a lie. Before motherhood I might have been able to deny my weaknesses, but being a mom puts my limitations on display every day.

Yet for those who follow Christ, this realization of our insufficiency is by no means a discouragement. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We know that God has created us as humans with good limits in order for us to rely on his limitlessness. When we come to the end of our rope, God’s is unending. While mothers are often jokingly seen as superheroes without limits, we must remember the good limits in our motherhood that point us to who God is. The character of God has changed how I see my motherhood.

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Spiritual Growth

Bringing God Downstairs

When we first moved into our new home two years ago, one of my favorite rooms was the office upstairs. As the only room on the second floor with a door that closed off the stairwell, it seemed like a perfect place to get away when I had to work from home.

The office fits my husband’s and my desks along with overfull bookcases, but the corner dearest to me holds a comfy chair and a side table filled with notebooks, Sharpie pens, and my worn Bible. As I set up this sacred section of my home, I knew that this was where I would have my quiet time. It helped me feel settled into our new house to know that I would meet with God in this perfectly arranged nook.

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Resources, Spiritual Growth

Our Easter Hope

When I first realized that we would be under “shelter-in-place” orders during Easter, I’ll admit that I was disappointed. I’ve missed worshipping alongside my church family in person, and to not be with them on such a day of celebration was discouraging. I began to remember all the other unmet expectations of this Easter season—no neighborhood egg hunts, no big family dinners, and the loss of so many other traditions I had hoped to enjoy with my daughter this year.  

After I let myself grieve again the losses from this global pandemic, I reminded myself that our celebration of Resurrection Sunday is not centered around egg hunts, new dresses, or even a physical church gathering. Christ is risen in April 2020 amidst a global coronavirus pandemic just as he was risen last year, and as he was risen over 2,000 years ago. I began to think about how to make this particular day of quarantine, Resurrection Sunday, a true celebration despite it looking quite different than past Easters.

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Spiritual Growth

Holding Plans with Open Hands

A box of pink polka dot paper products sits in my guestroom closet alongside a bag of Mickey Mouse ears. Matching Etsy printables remain unopened in an email inbox folder. A carefully curated note is bookmarked on my iPhone, ready to have items checked off. But with new restrictions coming out each day because of the coronavirus, it is unlikely that my dream “Oh Twodles” birthday party for my daughter will take place.

I know there are much more serious concerns around this global pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people are sick and many are dying. Healthcare professionals and systems are overwhelmed. Workers are losing their jobs. Yet even though the worst effects of COVID-19 have yet to enter our home, I’m still humbled by how our plans so easily fall apart. Weddings are reduced to the minimum guest restrictions. Long-awaited concerts are moved to an Instagram story. Birthday parties are postponed or even cancelled.

While I pray for the infected patients and healthcare professionals who are facing this pandemic head-on, I’ve also allowed myself to grieve plans. I can’t snuggle the newborn baby of a good friend. I can’t watch the vows of my cousin and his new wife. I won’t get to see my daughter dressed in her Minnie Mouse outfit running around the backyard with her friends. God knows that every person is experiencing differing levels of grief in this crisis, and he is using each of our situations to teach us something about ourselves and about himself.

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Spiritual Growth

The Pain of Anticipation

I think that God gives moms selective memory when it comes to pregnancy. We remember the sweet baby showers, the thudding heartbeat on the ultrasound, the feeling when the doctor first puts your baby in your arms. What you don’t remember is the absolute chaos your body was in for forty weeks. As I finally leave the first trimester of pregnancy, I hope to say goodbye to symptoms either I didn’t have in my first pregnancy or somehow I forgot.

One of the worse symptoms I’ve had so far is dizziness. My mom started to get concerned, so she brought over her blood pressure cuff and glucose meter so I could monitor what was going on. As soon as she pulled out the lancet (a small needle), I knew we had a problem.

I have an incredibly low pain tolerance. I’ll admit it; just a minor paper cut has my eyes watering. She hands over the small needle for me to prick myself, and I know I can’t do it. It took five minutes before I finally handed it to back to her for her to do it. An hour after every meal, I dreaded that little finger prick—that tiny, brief pain.

I came to realize that my anticipation of that little prick was worse than the pain itself. I agonized for minutes over what would last for less than a second. Then I realized, for me, that didn’t just apply to tiny pricks on my finger. My fear of suffering could be as agonizing as the suffering itself.

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Spiritual Growth

A Prayer for Lent

One of the hardest decisions in our wedding planning was choosing the songs for the ceremony. We didn’t want to use traditional instrumental music but instead wanted to include hymns and worship songs that were meaningful to us both. The problem was we couldn’t narrow it down (and still ended up choosing five songs!).

One song that my husband wanted so badly for us to use but I refused was “Depth of Mercy.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like the song; it just seemed so depressing for a day that was to celebrate God’s love through marriage. The song begins:

Depth of mercy, can there be mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear me the chief of sinners, spare?
Now incline me to repent, let me now my sins lament. 
Deeply my revolt deplore, weep, believe and sin no more.

Wrath, lament, deplore, weep…those aren’t typical words you hear at a wedding. I wanted songs about God’s love, beauty, and grace. A song about God’s wrath would be hard to hear when we’re all dressed up and acting our best. I wanted our guests to revel at God’s creation of marriage, not squirm at his righteous justice. Now I realize that the truth of those words could have reminded my husband and me at our wedding that we were two sinners being brought together by God’s deep love and mercy.

Lent begins in two days on Ash Wednesday, initiating forty days of fasting, prayer, and giving that leads up to Easter Sunday. It’s a time of preparation for Easter, similar to what Advent does at Christmas. But unlike Advent, Lent is a somber season, where we remind ourselves of our individual sinfulness apart from Christ, the depravity of mankind, and the injustice around the world.

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Spiritual Growth

Remembering the God of Hope

It’s almost three weeks into the new year, and probably most resolutions are already long forgotten. The buzz of a new year, and a new decade, has faded into the daily grind of work, school, meals, etc. It’s hard to remember the illustrious plans we had for the new year when our dishes and email inbox start filling up again. It’s not that those goals are any less true, we just forget them. One key I have found to successfully completing resolutions is simply to remember them.

Left on our own, our hearts and minds are quick to forget. Not only do we forget fleeting things like yearly resolutions, we forget who we are and what we have in Christ. That is why when Paul prays for the church at Ephesus, he prays, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 4:18-19a, NIV).

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Spiritual Growth

My Word for 2020: Gospel

As I began praying about where God would draw my focus for 2020, I looked back at what he had started teaching me already in 2019. It began with a book that truly transformed the way I see personal evangelism—Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. It continued as I studied the book of Acts with my D-Group and during my husband’s and my mission trip in the fall to Washington, D.C. It was confirmed this past Sunday as our pastor announced the focus for our church in the coming year. Through these things and more, God began revealing a gaping weakness in my Christian life, a lack of passion for speaking the Gospel in my everyday life.

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