2017 in Retrospect

It’s that time of year, again! I was thinking and talking to my husband, just yesterday, about all that has happened this past year. We have been so blessed. My husband and I went on a babymoon, we purchased a car (with cash), we became aunts/uncles again (×2), WE had a baby (my Cookie girl!), I left my job be a stay-at-home mom, AND we became debt free.

Wow! There’s just so much to be thankful for, and yet, we know that there’s more to come in 2018. We have multiple friends who are expecting babies, my sister is expecting again, and we’re hoping to begin house-hunting in the next few months. 

Now, that’s not to say that 2017 didn’t knock us back a few steps here and there. A broken down car; sleepless nights with a new baby; one of my sisters lost her home in a fire; my brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia; family in Puerto Rico were affected by the two hurricanes that passed through; and my husband’s grandmother passed away. But God continues to provide and prove His faithfulness over and over again. 

So as I sit here, with a napping baby on my lap, I’m jotting down some goals for 2018. They’re different from what I’ve desired previously, mostly because I’m in a new season of life. Yet, the same, in that I desire God to be at the center of all that I do. (You don’t realize how difficult that can be once you have a little one vying for all your attention.) If I were to write everything down here for you, it would take forever to explain, but I’ll go ahead and share a bulleted list of four areas I’d like to focus on for 2018.

  • Relationships…with God, spouse, baby, and friends.
  • Finances…budgeting, saving, and home buying.
  • Ministry…my family, homeless, worship, hospitality, and this blog.
  • Health…eating/cooking healthier, exercising, and taking time for self.

    As I look at this list, I know I’m going to have to be intentional, organized, and very diligent with my time. However, I also know that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

    So, what are some goals you’re hoping to accomplish in 2018?


    A Quiet Place

    Yesterday, I woke up feeling ill. I ended up calling out sick for work and didn’t get out of bed until 10:30.

    This seems to happen every so often–I later noted to Wilfredo, my husband–that I think that my body often knows what I need sooner than my mind or heart…but I needed some quiet time. I needed time alone to clean the house, relax, and reflect on what God’s been doing in my life through prayer (I love praying aloud during my quiet time).

    In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been covering 1 & 2 Samuel, and we’ve been discussing 2 Samuel 5 which takes place after Saul & his sons have been killed in battle, and David has become king. After running from Saul for so long, here, David comes face-to-face with a new enemy–the Philistines–the same army that just wiped out Saul’s family. It’s so interesting to me that the first thing David does when he’s threatened, is return to the place where he’d spent so much of his time seeking the Lord, crying out to Him in anguish, questioning, and praising Him, when Saul was hunting him down: his quiet place, his stronghold in the mountains. (Even more interesting are the words David often uses to describe the Lord: Rock, Fortress, Refuge, and Stronghold…Kind of sounds like a mountain to me. 😉 Just something else to think about; perhaps a discussion for another time.)IMG_3489 (2)

    David’s a prime example of what God desires from us at all times. He desires that we go to our secret, quiet place, wherever that may be, and seek Him first; but not only in moments like these, when the enemy is knocking at our door, but in the mundane of everyday life! To just talk to Him about our day, to reveal our fears and worries, to ask Him to walk with us through the changes and growth processes in our marriages/relationships, as parents, in our careers and school, and to take us further and beyond what we could ever expect to do on our own, especially in areas of ministry and sharing the gospel–which we’re ALL called to do as believers. So don’t delay…find your quiet place.

    “The Lord is my rock and my fortress [on the mountain] and my rescuer;
    My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
    My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge,
    My Savior—You save me from violence.
     “I call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    And I am saved from my enemies.
    “For the waves of death encompassed me;
    The torrents of destruction overwhelmed and terrified me.
    “The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
    The snares of death confronted me.
    “In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    I cried out to my God,
    And from His temple [in the heavens] He heard my voice;
    My cry for help came into His ears.
    “Then the earth shook and quaked,
    The foundations of the heavens trembled
    And were shaken, because He was angry.
    “Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
    And devouring fire from His mouth;
    Coals were kindled by it.
    “He bowed the heavens also, and came down
    With thick darkness under His feet.
    “He rode on a cherub and flew;
    He appeared upon the wings of the wind.
    “He made darkness canopies around Him,
    A mass of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
    “Out of the brightness before Him
    Coals of fire were set aflame.
    “The Lord thundered from heaven,
    And the Most High uttered His voice.
    “He sent out arrows and scattered them;
    Lightning, and confused them. 
    “The channels of the sea appeared,
    The foundations of the world were uncovered
    At the rebuke of the Lord,
    At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
    “He sent from above, He took me;
    He drew me out of great waters.
    “He rescued me from my strong enemy,
    From those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
    “They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
    But the Lord was my support.
    “He also brought me out to an open place;
    He rescued me because He delighted in me.
    “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    According to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me.
    “For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    And have not acted wickedly against my God.
    “For all His judgments (legal decisions) were before me,
    And from His statutes I did not turn aside.
    “I was also blameless before Him,
    And kept myself from wrongdoing.
    “Therefore the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    According to my cleanness in His sight.
    “With the loving and loyal You show Yourself loving and loyal,
    With the blameless You show Yourself blameless.
    “With the pure You show Yourself pure,
    With the perverted You show Yourself astute.
    “And You save the afflicted people;
    But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase (humiliate). 
    “For You, O Lord, are my lamp;
    The Lord illumines and dispels my darkness. 
    “For by You I can run upon a troop;
    By my God I can leap over a wall.
    “As for God, His way is blameless and perfect;
    The word of the Lord is tested.
    He is a shield to all those who take refuge and trust in Him.
    “For who is God, besides the Lord?
    And who is a rock, besides our God?
    “God is my strong fortress;
    He sets the blameless in His way.
    “He makes my feet like the doe’s feet [firm and swift];
    He sets me [secure and confident] on my high places.
    “He trains my hands for war,
    So that my arms can bend (pull back) a bow of bronze.
    “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
    And Your help and gentleness make me great.
    “You enlarge my steps under me,
    And my feet have not slipped.
    “I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
    And I did not turn back until they were consumed (eliminated).
    “I consumed them and shattered them, so that they did not rise;
    They fell under my feet.
    “For You have surrounded me with strength for the battle;
    You have subdued under me those who stood against me.
    “You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me [in retreat],
    And I destroyed those who hated me.
    “They looked, but there was no savior for them
    Even to the Lord [they looked], but He did not answer them.
    “Then I beat them as [small as] the dust of the earth;
    I crushed and stamped them as the mire (dirt, mud) of the streets.
    “You also have rescued me from strife with my [own] people;
    You have kept me as the head of the nations.
    People whom I have not known served me.
    “Foreigners pretend obedience to me;
    As soon as they hear [me], they obey me.
    “Foreigners lose heart;
    They come trembling out of their strongholds.
    “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
    And exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation. 
    “It is God who executes vengeance for me,
    And brings down [and disciplines] the peoples under me,
    Who also brings me out from my enemies.
    You even lift me above those who rise up against me;
    You rescue me from the violent man.
    “For this I will give thanks and praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing praises to Your name.
    “He is a tower of salvation and great deliverance to His king,
    And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
    To David and his offspring forever.”

    2 Samuel 22:2-51, AMP

    Birthday Confessions

    Carrot Cake B-day Cake

    Mmm…Carrot Cake, my fave!

    I don’t know about you, but it seems that about twice a year—around my birthday and the new year—I find myself taking inventory of where I am in life and where I would like to be. With my birthday just a day away, I’ve been thinking a lot about career decisions, where I want to be in five years, what my goals are, and what it’s going to take to get there. For those who’ve been following my blog so far, you know that I’m currently on the Dave Ramsey plan and have been trying to pay my student loan off as quickly as possible. I’ve actually started looking into getting a second job to work in the evenings and on the weekends, in addition to my full-time job, just so I can have some extra money to get my loan paid off quicker.

    However, these last few days, I’ve been reminded that I shouldn’t become so preoccupied with paying off this student loan that my relationships with God or other people suffer. As much as I want a second job, I also want to continue serving in my church, whether on the worship team; working with the children’s, homeless, or young adult ministries; or teaching a Wednesday night Bible study (like I planned to do in the fall); I want to serve. Not to mention the fact that I currently have the freedom to meet a friend after work to study the Word on Monday evenings, attend a ladies Bible study at my friend Cori’s house on Friday nights, and spend some quality time with my boyfriend on the weekends. 😉

    Now, will I continue to look for other ways to increase my income? Absolutely! But I still want to be able to serve, minister, and foster the relationships that God has placed in my life, as well. This just means that I have to trust that God will open a door and make this a reality. Trust and patience have always been difficult for control freak me. I want to devise my own plans and create my own way, but God says it’s His job to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

    Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going or planning, or even if you’re like me–working on your debt snowball–don’t forget that all this is for His glory and we’re to honor Him in all that we do. Nothing is more important than Him and the calling He’s placed on each of our lives to point the world towards Him. Don’t let any other goals, people, or objects distract you from Him.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT)

    Multiply: Week 7

    Part III: How to Study the Biblemultiply_square_black1[1]

    1: Why Study the Bible?

    I’m going to write this discussion on Francis Chan & Mark Beuving’s book Multiply a little differently than usual; there are going to be lots of bullets because there’s just so much to cover! I love to study God’s Word, but earlier in my walk this wasn’t the case, and neither is it the case amongst many other believers; and then, sometimes, even when we do take the time to study God’s Word, we may do so with wrong motives, which, we’ll discuss here.

    Francis Chan starts off this chapter by describing how the original disciples appeared to have the advantage of actually being in Jesus’s presence as He developed His ministry. But in reality we are not at a disadvantage “because God has recorded His words and the testimony of Jesus’s followers in a book–the Bible” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 91)

    For a Christian, nothing should seem more natural than reading the Bible. Peter, one of Jesus’s first disciples, compared it to a baby’s natural craving for milk: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 91)

    We should be craving God’s Word like a baby craves for milk. What an amazing idea! When was the last time you had a craving to read God’s Word?! I know when I go a day or two without opening His Word, I have a longing for it, a passion that sometimes keeps me up after midnight just to study it. Francis Chan, next points out how important it is that we understand what the Bible is. When we say that it’s the “Word of God” we ought to recognize that “we’re actually talking about something that the all-powerful, all-knowing, transcendent God decided to write to us” (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 92)!

    If we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be much more than a book that we are familiar with. It ought to shape every aspect of our existence. It should guide the decisions we make in life. If God is the designer and creator of this world, if He made us and placed us on this earth, and if He has taken the time to tell us who He is, who we are, and how this world operates, then what could be more important to us than the Bible? (Chan & Beuving, 2012, p. 92)

    Now that we’ve identified that we ought to be studying God’s Word, let’s discuss our motives. According to Francis Chan most Christians study the Bible for the wrong reasons.

    Wrong Motives for Studying God’s Word

    • Guilt: Many people feel that we have to study God’s Word simply because we’re told it’s what Christians are supposed to do. God doesn’t want us to be motivated out of guilt to study His Word. He wants us to have a love and desire for His Word and His presence. (pp.93-94)
    • Status: Too often Christians are motivated by status, or a desire to appear intelligent, wise, or more spiritual than others. In reality we should be motivated by a desire to know God, to be changed by His Word, and to love and serve the people around us. (pp. 94-95)
    • Teaching Material: This is when we begin to approach the Bible only as a source for teaching material. The truth is however, we must also search the Scriptures on a regular basis because of what they have to say to us, individually. (p. 95)

    Okay, now that we’ve covered some of the wrong motives for studying God’s Word, let’s take a step back and look at why God gave us the Bible in the first place.

    Why Did God Give Us the Bible?

    • To Teach Us about Himself: We should study in order to understand God better. We search diligently to know the truth about God and to rid ourselves of any misconceptions we hold about Him. (pp. 96-97)
    • To Teach Us about Ourselves and the World We Live In: The God who wrote the Bible is the God who designed this world. Since this is His world, it only makes sense to view the world from His perspective and live according to His principles. (p. 97)
    • To Enable Us to Live Godly Lives: This means that as we study the Bible, we should be looking to change. If you ever find yourself reading your Bible and not changing, then you can be sure that you’re approaching the Bible in the wrong way. It’s not about finding support for our lifestyle or way of thinking; it’s about approaching the mind of God and letting Him change and redefine who we are. (pp. 98-99)
    • To Facilitate a Relationship with God: Every relationship requires communication–the loving expression of each person’s thoughts, emotions, concerns, and dreams that strengthens the relationship and deepens intimacy. The Bible is God’s way of sharing His thoughts and desires with us. Every time we read the Bible we are strengthening our relationship with God. (pp. 99-100)
    • To Exalt Jesus: God’s Word should move us to exalt Jesus in our everyday lives. (p. 100)
    • To Prepare Us for Our God-Given Mission: We are here to be God’s servants, His ambassadors: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Rather than coming to the Bible with our own agenda and trying to find verses that support what we’d like to do, we need to allow the Bible to shape our hopes and dreams. Every time we read the Bible, we should understand our mission a little better. (pp. 100-102)

    And finally, Francis Chan leaves us with these final words regarding the study of God’s Word…

    Ultimately, when we read the Bible, we are approaching the mind of God. Every time you open the Bible, you ought to prepare yourself for an encounter with the Creator of the universe. ..[Therefore,] it should go without saying that we ought to approach God with humility…Reading your Bible with humility means that you’re assuming the role of a student…Approaching the Bible with humility means that we’re laying aside our agendas and looking for what God will teach us. Every time you find yourself struggling to accept something the Bible says, you’ve found an area of your life that needs to be brought into submission to Christ. (Chan & Beuving, 2012, pp. 102-103)

    This is not easy! For as long as I’ve known Christ as my personal savior and as much as I’ve studied God’s Word, I continue to come across things in His Word that speak to me and are cause for me to submit areas of my life to Him. As Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14)