Monday, December 9, 2013

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

Maybe you’ve seen pictures of Bethlehem, or heard songs
about Jesus being born. What does this mean?
Why is the birth of Jesus important?

The true meaning of Christmas is love. Jesus said that, "God loved the world so very, very much that he gave his only Son. Because he did that, everyone who believes in him will not lose
his life, but will live forever. God did not send his Son into
the world to judge the world. He sent him to save
the world.”
(John 3:16-17)

God loved His people, so he provided a way—the only Way—for us to spend forever with Him. Jesus said, “I am the way. I am the truth. I give life.
No one can come to my Father unless 
I take him there.” (John 14:6)

God gave His only Son to take the punishment for our sins. We can’t do enough good things to repay for the bad things that we’ve done. Jesus paid the price for us, and we are completely forgiven if we accept his gift of love. “We could not help ourselves. So at the right time, Christ died to save us bad people. Almost no one would die to save even a good man. But perhaps someone would die to save a very good man. God shows his love for us in this way: Christ died to save us while we were bad people.

The blood of Christ has now put us right with God. So even more, he will save us from God's strong anger. When we were enemies, the death of his Son brought us back to God. Now that we are made right with God, it is the life of Jesus that will save us.

Not only is that true, but it is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we can enjoy God. This is for all who have been brought back to God
by him.”
(Romans 5:6-11)

The true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this
incredible act of love. If we accept the gift of Jesus,
 we can know God and enjoy Him.

All Bible passages are taken from THE JESUS BOOK - The Bible in Worldwide English. Copyright SOON Educational Publications, Derby DE65 6BN, UK. Used by permission.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A True Father

Three years ago, my parents adopted a beautiful baby girl. With a radiant smile and the most precious eyes you've ever seen, she's my "baby girl."

I have these special moments with her, when she'll curl up in my lap or tuck her head into my shoulder. Filled to the brim with love for this little girl, I could just kiss her chubby little cheeks forever! Her giggles send my heart soaring.

One day, it hit me: this is how God feels about me. My Father is overjoyed when I come running to Him. I am His child.

Six months ago, my parents received two beautiful children from the foster care system. Full of laughter and enough energy to give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money, they've definitely filled our home...

But these children have been neglected, rejected. They came to us without any clue of what real parents look like. The first few months, my little brother would cling to any person who happened to walk by. He didn't distinguish between us and strangers because he'd never truly attached to anyone. 

Any man who walked into the room he called "daddy," and for months my would parents consistently remind him that "No, this is your daddy."

I think we are like children... the adopted children of our Father. 

We were made to relate to God in a way that is deep, innocent, and trusting. We are supposed to realize how precious our adoption is and snuggle up in our Father's arms... we're supposed to be like my 3-year-old sister.

But instead, we act like my brother. We can't distinguish our Father's face from any other. We run to anybody--sometimes it happens to be our Father, but it is just as often a stranger.

Sometimes we are like my foster sister. In the opposite way, we lash out towards our true Father. Because of the sins of our fathers before, we test the boundaries of love. Everyone else rejected us when we were bad. If everyone else abandoned us...

We have no reason to believe that our true, Heavenly Father will be any different. So we fight. 

We kick. We scream. We yell "I hate you!" We try to control our situation, try take care of ourselves..... but we're just kids. Just looking for love. 

When my sister has one of these meltdowns, my mom holds her tight in loving arms and reminds her over and over again, "I will be your forever mom. Even when you are bad, I will always love you."

Tonight and every night, God wants to hold you in His arms. He'll whisper to you, "I loved you so much that I sent my Son. So that you can have eternal life with Me... I see you through His sacrifice. I will always love you." often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.
From now on, you do know him and have seen him.
John 14:6-7

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Frog Eyes

(note: this is a blog I wrote in may of 2013. Why I never posted it, I'm not sure... But here it is!)

Growing up, I don't think I ever understood the saying that "a watched pot never boils." My brothers and I would gather around the stove and watch in anticipation for the boiling to begin.

In those times, we always wanted to be the first person to spot the "frog eyes" (those little tiny bubbles that form on the bottom of the pot, yet haven't risen yet).

Tonight, I realized that I'm starting to see a lot of frog-eyed men pop up around me. (Or maybe they hop up? Yeah, yeah? )

You see, about a year and a half ago, my heart broke. I looked at the people around me, and saw so few guys stepping up in their faith. While I saw many women growing in their pursuit of an awesome, living, radically life-changing relationship with the Father, the men were few and far between.

So I started praying fervently. At every Bible study or prayer meeting, I made sure we lifted up the men of our generation. Some friends even started coming to me with the same burden on their hearts.

Fast forward a year and a half, and last night I had a conversation with my little brother. I've had the privilege of seeing him grow into a man over this past year, and I am so proud of him! In the stillness of the night, we talked about all these young guys we know who are starting to step up. Like glowing embers, I can see telltale fires of growth burning under the surface.

Leaders. Game-changers. Frog eyes.

Monday, April 15, 2013


There is something to be said about quiet.
(and yes, this is truly coming from me.)

I've never been known to be the quiet type. In a 6th grade play, each speaking child was equipped with a microphone except for me. The strange thing is that nobody in the audience seemed to notice. Even still, I have had multitudes of friends and family members “inform” me that the volume of my communication tends to rise when I get excited. Oh, and I don't do well around sleeping babies.

However, I have been condemned to a few days of silence by a sinus infection gone awry. My mom told me last night that me being quiet was “creepy” and it seemed like I was “invaded” by someone else. She then turned up her music.

Silence is inconvenient. I was unable to converse with friends at church yesterday, I couldn't get involved in class discussions today, and I will be unable to speak for my presentation at an Undergraduate Research Symposium tomorrow.

But, there is something to be said about quiet.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)

I tend to keep my hands full of toil—my plate of life piled high. With all of my hustling about, I often forget to be still. To wait and listen to God speak.

These past few days, I've re-noticed a logical truth: a soft sound is easier heard when surrounded by silence rather than noise. When I'm in a noisy context, such as a room filled with people or blaring music, my feeble whispers are no greater than mouthing lips. But late at night, when the rest of the world has gone to sleep and even the cicadas are at rest, a dear friend can hear my every word.

1 Kings 19:11-13 – God was not in the great wind, earthquake, or fire... but in the low whisper. (This is the condensed summary—go read it for yourself!)

If my whisper of a voice can't be heard in the noise, maybe that's why it's often hard for us to hear God. We keep our hands full of toil and our lives full of noise, when God asks us to go away in the silence to be with Him. Jesus even set this example for us by rising before everyone else and going off alone to pray. He even instructs us to do the same:

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

So what do you think? Will you be quiet with me?

Because there is something to be said about quiet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter Time

I tiptoe across the floor of my room, trying to force the sound of my footsteps into the plush white carpet. Swinging the door open carefully, so as not to hit the side of the crib, I glance down and see tufts of blonde hair peeking out from under fleece Mickey Mouse blankets. Gentle snores grumble through a snotty nose. Closing the door behind me, I chuckle at the thought that not many college seniors share their room with a toddler... especially when the child is not their own. I step into the hall and overhear Dad's playful call in the girls' room: “Alright! Who's ready for Chapter Time!” Giggling, the two girls jump into their beds and Mom pulls the blankets up around their chubby cheeks as Dad settles back with a picture book. Heading downstairs to work on homework, I smile as the ever-familiar deep hum of his voice follows me down.

Growing up, “Chapter Time” was family time. I have to admit, this was a clever move on my parents' part. They had been struggling to make us stay in bed at night, and realized that we settled down much better if they read to us before we fell asleep. What started as a toddler anecdote became family tradition. Every night, without fail, my brothers and I would line up on my parents' bed and Dad would read us a single chapter. Series after series, book after book: Chronicles of Narnia, the Light of Eidon, the Hobbit. Tales of adventure and love, of heroes that would go to the ends of the earth (or another world) to ensure that truth and light prevails. This was always the favorite part of my day. Even Dad's business trips couldn't stop us! He would pack the current book in his suitcase, and we would huddle around the speakerphone at night and listen to his familiar—yet slightly more metallic—voice. I knew that voice by heart. I would snuggle up next to him, his “Girl Squirrel,” and lay my head on his chest. As he spoke, I could hear the words as much through the air as through his being, the beat of his heart keeping pace. When not snuggled up, my father and I even worked out an elaborate foot-massage system: we would sit with our feet aiming at each other and rub the other person's feet while he read. Now that seems an unusual memory. However, I have always loved foot rubs.

Around the age of thirteen or fourteen, I found myself “maturing”—Chapter Time was losing its luster. I came to the decision that I was far too old to still have my Dad to read to me, so the night came that I ignored my dad's call to join. Sitting proudly alone in my room, I heard my father and brothers together, the stories continuing as they always would. Proud and sulking... as much as I wanted to grow up, I didn't want to be left out.

Not long after, Chapter Time slowly slipped out of the family routine.

As a fruit from being read to, I became an avid reader. I was taught an appreciation for the written word at a young age. A very young age. Competitive and stubborn by nature, I insisted that my mother teach me to read at three years old, only because she had begun teaching my 6-year-old brother. (Just as an aside: we also graduated with our Associate's at the same time. I never grew out of the competitiveness.) Later on, as homeschooled daughter of a writer, my education was severely lacking in the areas of math and science, but was rich in novels. I read every copy of Nancy Drew in our local library, and even tried to start my own Babysitter's Club named “Baby Blues,” which for some reason never took off. While my friends were starting to get in trouble for kissing boys and watching R-rated movies, I got in trouble for sneaking flashlights and reading until the wee hours of the morning. I had the capacity to read my mom's 450-page World War II novel, From Dust and Ashes, in one sitting, and always hungered for more. I knew the cover of every book on each of the five bookshelves in our house, and realized that the old saying is beyond wrong, because you CAN judge a book by its cover. Or, at least I did. If the cover didn't catch my eye—if I didn't feel a glimmer of excitement from holding the weight of it in my hands—I would stuff it right back on the shelf and never give it a second glance.

Though my summer reading list was pages long, I realized that I had somehow avoided reading the “classics.” To Kill a Mockingbird still sits in a pile under my bed, never read more than two pages deep. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite movie, but I've never read a written word of Jane Austen. My Kindle library is growing long with the list of traditional books, but I have yet to read them. Free Kindle books made it easy to stock up on traditional titles. I considered feeling guilty about it for a while, until I recently heard a classmate mention that she had to read the Scarlet Letter seven times during her high school career. I felt so grateful for the variety and freedom I held in pursuing any book I so desired. Maybe this educational independence has stuck with me more than I know, as I have continued to avoid the expected career path and am majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. I could choose what I wanted to read, now I can choose what I want to study.

My whole family is undergoing an adjustment period right now. My parents recently acquired a 2-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl from the foster care system. Once you add them to my 18-year old brother, myself, and our already-adopted 2-year-old sister, the number of “kids” living at home now amounts to five. While ever-unorganized chaos reigns in my home, and I have discovered that doing homework has become a nearly-impossible task, I feel so blessed to know that the fountain of love pouring out of my parents is nowhere close to dry. More mouths to feed, more clothes to clean.

More hearts to love,
          more books to read.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I believe in you.

On our last day of class, my professor pulls out the Polar Express and begins to read to us. A class filled with upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, some might think this strange. However, this was a class focused on writing for children and adolescents, so none of us are surprised. A quaint story, she reads through to the end, pausing periodically to point out different aspects of the childrens-book format that we had learned. She reaches the end of the book, and the main character has received a bell from Santa's sleigh for Christmas only to discover that only those who believe in Santa can hear it ring:

"At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."

Her last words hang in the air as she puts the book down and pulls out a small plastic bag filled with bells. One by one, she goes to each student in the room and hands us a small bell. They are larger than cranberries--silver ones, gold ones, one bell for each one. As she hands us our bells, she says, "I want to give each of you a bell. Because I believe in you. Not just as writers, but as individuals. When you see that bell, remember that somebody believes in you."

The red-headed girl sitting across from me bursts into tears, and I know that mine is not the only damp eye. Our class is dismissed for the semester. We all have other places to go, other classes and finals to attend... yet we linger. And one by one, we give her a hug and walk out the door. Some of us bearing gifts for our favorite professor, some only carrying thankful hearts. As the room clears out, and I tuck my bell safe in my pocket and follow.

When I arrived home that evening, I pull a small silver chain out of my jewelry box and thread it through the top of the bell. Dangling around my neck, a simple necklace.

The following week, I go to take the GRE exam and am sure to wear my necklace. As the exam begins, I slowly let the air ease from my lungs and give my bell a tiny shake.

The gentle tinkling sound meets my ears, and I remember that somebody believes in me.