Trivial Arguments Among Christians

Joshua came to me crying for the fifth time the other day. Ethan had pulled his hair. Again. They were fighting over some toy and Ethan, being the toddler that he is, was determined to get his way the only way he knew how: going for Joshua’s beautiful curls.

IMG_5363
Just look at that hair!

As their mom, I am starting to get annoyed by all these small fights. I sometimes wish they would be able to get through a day without a trivial fight. My joy is that these fights do not define their relationship and that, in spite of these moments, they are best friends; if this were not the case, I know my heart would be broken to see the two boys I love more than anything in the world not get along.

We, as Christians, are unified under the blood of Christ and are all welcomed into the House of God as His children. I have witnessed many (and have been involved in several) arguments over trivial issues in my life as a Christian. Sometimes, I wonder if God is annoyed by our fighting or if we’ve gone right to breaking His heart whenever we prolong an argument about who is right in the faith.

I wanted to write an entire piece on this subject, but sometimes, all you need is a chapter from the Bible and no additional commentary is necessary. This is part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I think that he covered everything that that, if you’ve ever witnessed or have been a part of any such argument, there’s something in here for you to think about.

Romans 14

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Advertisements

Losing Someone I Didn’t Know I Loved

It’s been four months today since I lost my dad. Two more of these, and it’ll be a year.

I had a dream about him last night, the first one in a long time, the first one where I actually spoke to him.

He was tired, in a wheelchair, and we were in my church. I was telling him about how he was going to get better, about all the plans I had for the coming months. He could barely stay awake, but he told me he didn’t have the strength. I begged him to at least wait until my brother and sons came, so he could tell them, but he just shook his head. I looked at him, I embraced him, and with tears all over my face and tears on his, I gave him a kiss, and said “I love you so much.” I said it a few times. And then I told him it was OK to go, and he did. I walked into the sanctuary to meet my husband there, filled with grief and peace, recalling that I had felt the same way last time I said bye to him.

The dream opened up wounds that had been healing over the past few months. I woke this morning, crying. I got to hug my dad. I got to tell him I love him.

I never really got that in real life. I didn’t even know I love him.

Years of hurt turned to bitterness in our relationship. I couldn’t even give you details, because I really don’t remember any. The bitterness overcame my heart and my relationship with him. Even when I wanted to be loving to him, I found it nearly impossible. I simply didn’t know how to approach him.

He was diagnosed with cirrhosis in February of this year. I knew it was a natural consequence to an addiction he had (he took his last drink that month). But, still, I was hopeful that things would change, that we can work with what he had, that I can cook healthier meals for him, that he could grow stronger, and possibly have a liver transplant right around this time.

That’s why I never really worried about his worsening jaundice. I knew his condition. I just figured

img_0210

we would emphasize more whole foods and cut out all the stuff that his liver couldn’t process.

He went into the hospital on April 14. One week later, he was officially diagnosed with cancer. I knew he didn’t have long and was sad, especially for my boys, who loved their Abuelo, but I still had hope that we could have one last family barbecue, one last trip to the beach, that he could enjoy his final weeks and months in the presence of his family.

 

He took his final breath less than a week later, in the bed where I attempted to hug him the night before. I told him I loved him, I gave him a kiss, but his body was already unresponsive. I can only hope he knew how loved he was.

img_0200

The initial grief and peace I felt matched what I felt in the dream. Grief, because I had just said goodbye. Peace because he was in no more pain.

But the hardest thing I’ve had to learn in the following weeks was just how much I loved him. I never knew while he was here on this earth. I never showed him. 

And it sucks to realize how much you love your own father only after he dies.

Four months later, and life has a new normal. I still think about him. Sometimes, in the back of my mind, I think he’s in his room or in the garage. I still see him clearly in my mind. Most days are not hard. Most days are not like today, when my grief feels fresh. And yet, I don’t mind these days, because they validate my love for him, even if it is too late.

I write this for me. But I also write this for you — don’t wait until you lose someone to realize that you love them. Realize it now.

 

An Overwhelming Christmas

It was 5:30 AM on a Friday in late November. Ethan had already been up for two hours. I was exhausted. He was screaming in the crib, and Daddy tried to takeover and hold him for a bit.

All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t. I decided to use that time to go on my phone to buy the main Christmas gift for the boys: tickets to a Christmas train.

I had it all planned out — we were going to take a mini-getaway a couple of hours from home, and go on this train that was the perfect blend of coziness, affordability, magic, location, and fun. The hotel was already booked, and I had meant to buy the tickets, but when I checked a few days before, I didn’t have my credit card with me, so I could not reserve the train tickets.

So, when I was met by the giant seven letters of heartbreak, SOLD OUT, I immediately started sobbing wailing. So now, my husband had two crying babies he had to try to console.

My reaction may seem a little extreme (it’s laughable now), but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated as it was, and probably PMSing. But the thing that got me is that it felt like I was the biggest failure as a mom at that point. I had planned the most perfect gift for my boys and due to my failure to act, I could not give them a part of me.

Side note: Roland was a gem through all of this. So kudos to him. 😉

Fast forward to today, almost a week after our mini-getaway, I can tell you that the train ride would have been awesome but we had a great time as it was. (Because I know you’re curious, we went to a car/train museum and then to a nice hotel with a great indoor pool for kids. Joshua had the time of his life, and Ethan was perfectly behaved.)


Then today, as I was reading the story of Christmas to Joshua, I wondered how Mary felt. Each day, we focus on different portions of the story because Joshua is 3 and we have attention span issues with longer stories and I feel like there are so many important details to focus on. Today, I thought of Mary placing her newborn baby in a feeding box for animals because she had no other option.

Did she feel like a failure?

Did she, the woman who was hand-picked to carry our Savior, feel like she wasn’t cut out for the job?

Was she overwhelmed that at such an inconvenient time and place, her body was going into labor?

Did she question how she was going to raise this child when she realized that he would be born in a stable that night?

Did she wonder if she should have had a plan? Shouldn’t she have known that the census would be around this time? Wasn’t there someone Joseph knew who they could stay with? Did any of these questions go through her mind?

As a mom, it’s so easy to feel like a failure. Especially around the holidays, when we try so hard to make everything special for our kids but realize by December 15 that it’s more stressful than not and then wonder if it’s best to not soak up in the holiday magic or push through it anyway, and what about the Christmas gifts?

But Mary… she was a young girl who had one of the most important jobs this world has ever known. She was the vessel that God used to bring Jesus Christ into the world. And even she did not have all the answers. Heck, she even forgot her kid and did not notice until the next day.

So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect moms? Why did I sob over one mom fail when my kids were perfectly happy, despite my one mistake (which was so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things). Why do we especially strive to make things so overwhelmingly magical during this season? (Emphasis on overwhelming.) Don’t you think our kids would be equally happy with a little bit less stuff, planned events, and stress?

When Mary looked at her perfect baby lying in the manger, I don’t think she was thinking about the fancy bassinet that she did not have. When she saw the shepherds coming and bowing down before him, I don’t think she thought twice about the kind of mother she would be.

I think she was perfectly content, knowing that her baby boy was in her arms, that her Savior was in the world. I think the more she just sat and stared at his tiny face and took it all in, the more overwhelmed with peace and joy she became.

I want to do that. I want to focus on the fact that Christ came down to this earth for the every wounded heart, every broken soul, every crushed spirit, every afflicted body,  and even every financial problem.

I want to be overwhelmed by his goodness this Christmas.

The Day I Didn’t Hold My Son

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Sometimes I feel like that saying rings true even with my own kids.

I love my boys more than I could ever express, but sometimes I just see hear a little bit too much of them. I need time alone to recharge, and sometimes it feels like that time should last a week.

My husband and I have been toying with the idea of me returning to work part time. While figuring out hours and making sure my boys are well cared for are my main hindrances, I think about all the positives that come along with me leaving the house for a few hours a week. Aside from the small amount of extra income, I think about the time that I would be away from my family. A small part of me grows sad thinking about it, because I’m so used to being with them day in and day out. Yet, I imagine that the distance apart would make the times together that much more special.

Almost anyone who is a stay at home parent, especially to more than one kid, knows that breaks are few and far between. When I had just Joshua, his naps were moments of freedoms for me, time to regain sanity and accomplish some chores, do some schoolwork or just have a cup of coffee in peace. With two, nap times are rarely at the same time (if Joshua takes a nap at all), no matter how much I plan out the day.

This moment was so rare that I had to take a picture of it.

It isn’t uncommon for me it have to fold laundry without one of the boys “helping” or make dinner while begging Joshua to get out of our teeny kitchen.

What was once a mindless chore for me to enjoy (yes, enjoy) in peace and quiet, often turns into a battle where I feel like I’m losing my mind if I don’t remember to practice patience.

Today was one of those days. I put the boys down for a nap at the same time. We had spent some time in the heat outside, jumped and danced around with Joshua, and counting how many hours they had been awake, I was sure they would both sleep indefinitely.

Joshua never slept. Ethan took a nap that was half as long as normal.

I was tired as it was from cleaning different parts of the house all day and even more frustrated by this lack of quiet time. I brought the boys downstairs while I finished folding laundry. Ethan has this thing where he doesn’t cry, he screams. And it’s the perfect pitch to shatter my ear drum. So I listened to that while I tried to finish my chores.

Eventually, we got to a peaceful enough point when dinner was almost finished where I made an alphabet tracer for Joshua with a $3 chalkboard from Target and chalk paint.

He’s writing in his own H. I think it’s his favorite letter. 

Wouldn’t it be great if every moment was like that? Would I value more time with them like that if I was away from them more?

The truth is, it’s easy to get annoyed when I’m trying to finish up dishes and Ethan is screaming bloody murder from the high chair, begging to be held. It’s almost easy to stay annoyed for the rest of the day at my tired baby, because I know that if he would have had a normal nap, he wouldn’t have been tired at this time.

But at the end of the day, I look back and wonder if I should have held him more, regardless of how I felt or what needed to be done.

See, back when he was in the hospital in January, during his first day in the PICU, I wasn’t able to hold him. I had asked the nurses, but from what I understood, they didn’t want compromise with all the wires and machines that they had hooked him up to. I felt so helpless, watching my sleeping, helpless, frail baby fight for his life. As his mother, my innate job was to give him life and I could not do a single thing about his condition at that time.

It sucked.

The next day, the nurse on shift encouraged me to hold my baby boy. I was as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. It was the sweetest feeling in the world.

This was such a wonderful moment for me. I held him for what felt like forever.

So, on a day like today, when I imagine how good it would be to get out of the house, away from my screaming boys, I find it important to remember that there was a day when I couldn’t hold my baby. I hold on to Ethan extra long at night, after he’s fallen asleep, and stroke his sweet face and hold to his little hand. I want to savor every part of him, in the moments when I can. Whether I’m at home all day or work full time outside of the house, I want to take advantage of the time I have with my boys because I do not want to imagine another day where I long to hold my baby but cannot.

Life is Precious II

As Christians, it’s easy to make a big production of being perfect before we come to the throne of God. It’s easy to feel like we need to be worth of God’s grace and blessings. It’s easy to put on the right clothes and a smile before going to church instead of addressing what’s really going on. 

But the throne of God is there for the imperfect, for the lost, for the hurting and broken. We don’t have to do anything to come before Him. 

The same God who loves us in our high moments loves us in our low moments. 

This is what kept me going today. This is the promise I held on to. This is what I repeated in my mind when I heard of the sudden death of a dear old friend. 

It still doesn’t feel real and I am in shock. I’m sure I will grieve more as the week draws on, but for now, in between waves of some tears, I am in a place of peace. These are the things I want to remember. 

I thanked God that my boys were with me, alive, well, healthy. Only hours later, I learned that a mother lost her beautiful 25 year old son. A family I knew lost one of their own. 

There was always a special spot in my heart for this old friend. We grew up in the same church but I think we only became friend as late teens, but he spent many Sunday afternoons at our (my parents’) house for family dinners. Over time, I stopped seeing him as much but I always tried to be encouraging to him, whether by text or in person when I did see him. I saw him a handful of times in the past year and was always excited to hear about his life and how he was doing. He was a young man with a wide smile and contagious laugh who was trying to find his place in this world. 

He had his ups and downs in life. I had seen him more in the “up” parts, but the downs became obvious around the time of my wedding. He made mistakes in his life, and one of those mistakes cost him his life. 

But my God is the God of highs and lows. His grace isn’t reserved for those who are always righteous. His grace reaches down to the depths of the earth, to the lowest points. 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rom.8.38-39.esv

I do not know what happened in his final hour. I believe that’s something that his loved ones can only guess about. But I do believe that he is free today. That he is living out his eternal life, away from this broken world and any battles he has faced. 

We who are left behind are in pain. We feel that someone was taken from us too soon. He was loved by many and is therefore missed by many. I cannot imagine the pain that his family is in in this season. I pray for rest for them and that, with rest will come peace and comfort. I pray that they will one day be filled with the hope that they will see their son/brother/father again in a place where there are no more tears. 

Rest well, friend. You’re home, you’re free. You’re in your Savior’s arms now. 💙

You're home now.
Alive • All Sons and Daughters

Nothing to Fear, Nothing to Overcome

Worry. 

It’s something every mother, at any stage, is familiar with in some way. It’s a type of worry that is so incessant that only grows with your children. 

When you first see the positive pregnancy test, it’s what you feel when you wonder if you’ll be a good enough mom. 

For some, it’s what you feel when you wonder how you can possibly raise and provide for an unplanned child. 

It’s the feeling you get when you wonder if this one will stick. 

It goes away temporarily, at the first sound of a heartbeat. 

But it comes back when you suddenly feel a different kind of pain. 

It happens when you realize that you haven’t felt a kick in only God knows how long. 

It happens when you wonder if your baby will be born with something that isn’t considered to be perfect. 

It’s what you feel when you realize how close your due date is approaching and you wonder if you’re ready. 

It’s the feeling you get when you go into labor — far too early or even past your due date. 

Some moms don’t feel this at all, but they feel it when they wonder if the adoption process will go through, if the child who did not grow inside her will love her and if she could love this child with all of her being. 

But worry doesn’t stop at birth or when the adoption process is completed. There suddenly becomes so much more to worry about. 

It’s suddenly what you feel when you wonder if you’re feeding baby the right thing. 

When you wonder if you’re putting him to sleep the right way. 

When you don’t know if you should let her cry it out or rock her until she’s asleep, yet again. 

When you see the news and there’s another shooting, another kidnapping, another lost wandering child, another incident where a toddler is harmed in any way. 

It’s the thing that keeps you up at night wondering how you can protect your child from this world. 

It’s the feeling you get when you let your child ride the bus for the first time or walk home with a friend. 

It’s there when you turn around in the grocery store and don’t see your child right there. 

It’s what you feel when your teenager is not answering the phone that you have him in case of emergencies. 

It’s the feeling you get when your child drives alone for the first time.

It happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and your child isn’t home or when you are suddenly woken up by your child calling you.

It’s what you feel when you watch the news about another college rape and wonder how your daughter is doing so far from home. 

It happens when you wonder if your son is making the right choice about his career choice. 

It’s there when you wonder if your child is really happy in the relationship she’s in.

It’s when you hear that your about to become a grandmother and the cycle starts all over again. 

As a mother, there are so many opportunities for worry. So many things have paralyzed me in fear, especially when you hear about unjust shootings. I don’t feel safe almost anywhere these days, but moreover, I don’t know how to kee my kids safe. 

I could choose to keep worrying. I could choose to lose sleep over all of this. But Jesus said something that has stayed in my head for so long:

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I realize that I, as a mother to the children that God has entrusted to me, have so much to worry about. I don’t want anything but the best for the babies who grew inside me, and it kills me that I cannot ensure that to them. I hate that there is so much evil in the world that I cannot protect them from. It pains me to know that my children will have to live through their own pains one day. 

But what will worrying do for me? What will worrying do for them?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/php.4.6-7.niv

Guys, I’ve felt that peace, the one that transcends ALL understanding. It’s the most unexplainable, amazing feeling I’ve ever had. Worrying, on the other hand, kind of makes me feel like garbage. 

I’m not promised that everything in life will turn out the way that I want it to or that I and my loved ones will remain safe from all harm. But I am promised that wonderful peace if I surrender my worries at the Cross. It’s an amazing trade off. 

“The truth is we have nothing to fear and nothing to overcome because He is all in all and we are more then conquerors through Him.” (Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God, 4 R.)

Trust

I’m not one of those moms who is too busy or tired to shower on a specific day. I don’t care how tired I am, or how much has to be done, I shower every day. (I do give credit to my husband here for his help in the evening so that I CAN shower!) It’s my favorite time to unwind at the end of the day. It’s my favorite place to think. 

One Friday night in the shower, my mind went to all of the medical bills that we have to pay and all the things we want to save for and student loan payments and credit card payments and wondering how to hold a job without sacrificing family time at night and without sending 2/3 of my paycheck to childcare. I was particularly stressed, and no matter how hot the water was, it did not soothe any of it. 

I got out of the shower and opened up My Utmost For His Highest (my favorite devotional book). The verse stood out right away — “come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Immediately, I prayed, I worshipped, I felt peace.

In an instant, I didn’t have the weight on my shoulders. But I still could not get the thoughts about money out of my head. I thought, “God, if we could just make $xx,000 then I wouldn’t worry.” 

That’s when I heard it. 

If you made $xx,000, you wouldn’t need to trust me.

Whenever I hear people talk about hearing God’s voice, I always wonder how they know it’s Him. I always wonder what it’s like. I always wonder how they can be sure. When I heard that, I knew it was Him. 

I’m not called to have everything together. I’m not supposed to do everything by myself. Life is definitely not perfect and there are dreams that I want to attain that I don’t know how I possibly could or would. I just have to trust, even if it means my plans will mess up. 

My year started out with this word too. On January 2, my son Ethan (who was 7 weeks old at the time) was rushed to the ER because he was sick and could not eat and was very dehydrated. It was the new year and I just wanted to spend time with my family as a whole, and my newborn baby had just been diagnosed with RSV. But the ER visit turned into a night at the hospital and then a middle-of-the-night ambulance ride to the PICU at another hospital when he was fighting for his life because he was working so hard to breathe. In all, we spent almost a week at the hospital, but it was on day 3 that I realized that I have to surrender my wants and focus on God and worship all that He is. I had to trust that this happened for a reason, that my helpless son was in the best place to get better, and that my God was in control. I had to trust that we were going to come out the other end and think “wow, I cannot believe that happened. And look how far we’ve come!”

Ethan’s very first smile on his last night in the hospital.
I knew at that moment that the timing was not a coincidence. I don’t know why my baby had to fight for his life, but I understood that 2016 started like that for a reason. I knew it would set the tone for my year. And I truly believe that the reason (or one of them) for me being there was to refocus on God and His plan for my life.

I have a plan for my life. I have a timeline for when things could/should happen, for everything to work out as ideally as possible in my human mind. But, as a friend reminded me the other day, and as I have seen in my own life, God laughs at our plans. He doesn’t laugh because they’re funny or silly, but because we’re so simple minded. We can only see so much and therefore cannot fathom all there is to go through in this life. 

There WILL be troubles, but even with what I picture to be an ideal circumstance, God has a plan for me that will blow my mind. 

His ways are higher than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. 

I choose to trust Him.