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All work and no play.

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I literally just hit submit on my English homework assignment – deadline was four minutes from when I’m writing this…8:59pm. This Monday holiday off was marked by an entire day spent crawling through, what felt like quicksand of reading, webinars, PowerPoints, quizzes and outlines. No one’s fault but my own. My original plan? Get it all done by Friday night so I could focus on fun activities all weekend, maybe even get some relaxation. Reality? I had a mental set back Friday night when I logged into my online account for school and discovered I got a zero out of 50 points on an assignment from last week.  It turns out that it was a simple formatting error, but I had to redo the entire assignment which ended up taking me five hours to do because all I kept thinking about was that zero. Has this ever happened to you? You get thrown by a perceived failure and aren’t able to move past it, even if no one knows about it? When I saw the workload of the assignments I still needed to turn in after the five hour detour I thought there’s no way I can catch up. I was ready to quit and get zeros on everything else. I wouldn’t quit school, but I was willing to take zeros this week.

Thankfully that is not how this blog ends. There were a series of things today that kept the wind in my sails to go just a little bit farther with each assignment: a phone call from a friend who said to keep going because if I can do it then she knows she can do it too, a perfectly timed In-N-Out run by my husband so I could stress-eat and read at the same time, a phone call from friends to just check in right around the final home stretch and then my husband confiscating my phone with just an hour left to turn in my work so I wouldn’t be distracted by texts and social media. As soon as I hit submit, I felt like I had climbed a mountain. God orchestrated all the help I needed along the way, but I had to do the work.

Instead of going into this week with a bunch of zeros, I have a huge sense of accomplishment and gratitude. I don’t know what my grades are, but I know they’re higher than zeros.

It takes a village. It really does.

 

 

 

 

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Happy birthday!

I celebrate my born again birthday every year on July 30th. Six years ago I said the sinner’s prayer and received JESUS Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. On this day 7/30 I read the One Year Bible readings and was brought to Psalm 23…so that is my heart’s cry for whatever God has planned for this sixth year of my walk with Him.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.



May we have no other desire but to accept and give His love, no matter what. His love wins. Every time. 

In His Love, 

Sonia

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i’m not who i thought i was.

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things i do know about myself:

  • i love God.
  • i’m a wife.
  • i’m a mom.
  • i’m a daughter.
  • i’m a sister.
  • i love to sing.

i know…a lot of “i’s” in that opener. That’s what this post is about. A big dose of the reality of who i thought i was. It is 3:35am on Friday morning. i really did try to go to sleep this whole night. i tossed and turned, opened windows, tried different pillows, but nothing could shut my brain off. i journal pretty much every morning so i’m considering this my earliest journal entry to date. So here it goes. i blew it tonight, but the blow it didn’t just start tonight – it’s been brewing. There have been signs of this event on the horizon for the last few months. the gory details of the unraveling entail all these little things – not really a huge thing, but tiny little things that all led up to this sleepless night. i wasn’t doing anything “crazy,” but the things i have or haven’t been doing are much more subtle and therefore much more dangerous and deceiving. All those little things pointed to one thing. i am selfish. very selfish. i’m not beating myself up here. Most people could say the same thing – yes, we all have selfish tendencies, but these things that were going on in my heart and mind were more than just the slight bent towards selfish living. It was clearly evident that somewhere along the line, i’d lost my way. Oh, and tonight, this was on full display in a conversation between me and the Lord on the drive home from a Bible study, of all things. i did most of the talking at first. i was angry that He’d let me get this far. i blamed Him for where i found myself standing. i reasoned with Him why this couldn’t be so. “i mean, really, i’m Sonia, the girl everyone thinks is so kind”. “How can You show me something totally different than what i think to be true about me”? And the best question of all…”Why God?” i’m uncomfortable even writing that down because nothing catastrophic has happened to me. The only thing that’s happened is that reality has hit me where it hurts, right smack dab in the middle of a sky high pile of pride. There was so much to celebrate tonight. That’s the bummer of it all. There was so much good happening, but it didn’t go well for me, and that was the problem. Yikes, yuck! So now what? What happens after you come face to face with the ugly truth about yourself ? That’s the question i’ve been grappling with. What to do now? I texted a few friends for prayer – i even second guessed doing that because i thought, “How selfish of me!”. i mean, i really can’t trust myself here. This is new territory – one that i can’t run from. i guess i could run, but then what? A junk drawer can only hide so much junk and a closet can hold only so many skeletons. And who wants a home full of junk and skeletons, anyways? i’ve asked God for something pretty regularly since i became a Christian and that was courage. i knew i needed it then and boy, do i know i need it now. It takes courage to let the veil fall from your face and look at the truth of who you are. It’s easy and cowardly to blame others. Yes, people wrong us and yes, we wrong people, that’s why God says to forgive, but that still doesn’t give us a free pass to keep going along our merry way perceiving ourselves as a victim – just tossed around by our circumstances.

So God has me thinking and praying and seeking and knocking and asking this night (morning).  i need to say sorry to my husband for getting angry at him for not making me feel better tonight (i can’t expect him to do that which only God can).  i need to say sorry to others. i need to turn from this road. i need to accept truth and accept love the way God chooses to reveal that to me. i need to let His Hand mold and shape and cut off.
i need to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10). i need to trust words like:
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 7:24-8:1
That’s it for this journal entry. It’s not what i know about myself that matters – it’s what He says i am and what He says He is doing and what He promises He will do about all of it. It is all about God after all. And since i’m His, i can put my hand in His and keep walking.  It is now 4:22am so to some Good Night and to others Good Morning and to all,
God loves us so much that He will give us truth to set us FREE. 
 
 
 
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The “How”

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Forgive me for what very well may be the most scatter-brained post ever! I just needed to get that disclaimer out there before I proceed. If this writing reflects anything that’s been going on in my head, then that disclaimer was extremely necessary. Okay, here it goes:
I’m a Christian woman.  I am saved by God’s grace.  I am a new creation.  God says.  This is true.  I know that. My mind, however, is trying to figure out the “how”. How is this going to work? How is God going to change this lump of mess that I am? How will He quiet my mind and spirit? How will I break free from my insecurities? 
The “why” is easier for me to accept. He loves me. He loves us. That’s the beautiful “Why”. But the “How”? That’s a big, humongous question mark for me – one that has me doubting and comparing and coming up short on answers. I mean, if you really knew me, you’d shake your head too. I cling to verses like:
1 Corinthians 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. 
For the last few weeks I’ve been reading the book of Romans. It was in chapter 7 verse 18 that I read Paul’s words and saw the word “how” like a huge magnifying glass was right on it: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” I thought, “You too, Paul?!” From verses 19-24 he paints a vivid picture of the battlefield for Christ followers. I’m thankful for those verses right now. I need to see that this is “normal”. I need to see that striving for perfection so you think I’m good, I think I’m good, God thinks I’m good – is a waste. It’s nothing. That kind of thinking is motivated by me, not God’s Spirit.
I don’t know if I’ll ever truly understand the “how” – maybe I’m not supposed to. This is what I think the “how” looks like now, though, as I still look to discover Him in this process:
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus says a prayer for Himself for what He is about to face. In the gospel of Luke (chapter 22, verses 42-44) He kneels down and prays in agony. His pain is real. The grief is evident. The emotion raw. Verse 43 is, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”
Jesus, God in flesh, needed strengthening and in His humble humanity, He allowed it.
He didn’t take anything by force. He submitted to His Father’s plan. He surrendered in that moment in the garden. In verse 45 of that same chapter it says, “When He rose up from prayer…” The battle of His mind was center stage here, but I think I see some of the “how” here:
Look heavenward for strength…surrender in the garden moments…rise up after praying, don’t just stay on my knees…get up and do it by faith…be okay with it not “looking” right…and finally humbly admitting the truth of who I am and who God is in me.
God is in control of the “HOW”. I am not. I am only able to be willing and to seize opportunities of change, and THAT is not even me, it is God Spirit who lives and moves and breathes in me.
For those of you, like me, who struggle with the ugly truth of who you used to be, please know this, in God’s Hands, you are beautiful. The process of becoming a free flying butterfly comes, it will come. With pain, with struggle, with gardens that only God sees, it will come and this is what God says,
“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
ALL MY HEART….the good, the bad, the ugly. He wants all of it. That’s some of the “How”.
That’s all I’ve got to write today. Thanks for reading this.
Still seeking Him,
Sonia
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Introduce Yourself

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I got a text on New Year’s Day. It read, “God bless you abundantly this next chapter of life..get out of your journals!!! I love you!!!” I can’t stop thinking about the part, “get out of your journals”. I’ve been a faithful journaler since January 2009. I haven’t skipped more than a day or two throughout every year since then. I love my journals. I call them my prayer journals, and they are full of prayers, big ones and small ones and everything in between. There’s also things like this in there: “I’m scared” or “I am so hurt” or “I blew it again” or “I will never get it right!” Then there’s my favorites, “God, You are so faithful” or “Jesus, thank You for saving me.” or “God, I look to You for this.” Whatever day, hour, mood or season, my heart is poured out on those pages. My daughter has said what is cool about the journals is you can read them either way, starting at the beginning and going forward or starting today and going backwards. Such is the story of all our lives. On Facebook, I’ve seen lots of posts about this “next chapter” for the new year, and I do believe that 2015 can be the most dynamic ever, and it will take courage. So here’s my first courageous leap of 2015, stepping out of my journals a bit and dipping my foot in the water of possibility. I give myself permission to be willing to be more intimate than ever with Him, to be more honest with myself and others – even if I come out being the bad guy – and to be courageous enough to change in whatever way(s) I am supposed to. This first blog post is part of a blogging course I enrolled in, and we were asked to answer the following, so here goes:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal? Because I already keep a personal journal, and I love to write. Public blogging seems just the right balance for me, not too public – my reader stats are nowhere near those of the blogger giants out there – and yet not so private that my thoughts remain buried. 
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about? God; my past, present and future; things I see highlighted in my life and/or the lives of others. 
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog? just about anyone – whoever (or is it whomever) I am supposed to connect with. 
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished? that words wouldn’t just be words, but that they would have life and meaning and be pointing heavenward. 

Special shout out to my husband, Mario G., for praying for me this evening 🙂 I got  with the computer and almost had a meltdown because I thought this draft didn’t save before the computer crashed. He remained calm as the computer was restarting, grabbed my hands, said a prayer and then returned to his reading. I looked at the computer screen, logged into WordPress, held my breath and there were the words I’d hoped to see, “Saved Draft”.

That’s all I got tonight, folks. That’s gotta mean something, right? “Saved Draft”?!

Have a blessed, dynamic, courageous New Year!

Love, Sonia Gonzales

 

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Change

changeYes. Change. As we come to the close of 2014 this seems like a fitting topic for what may be the last John4four blog post of the year. I apologize for not keeping up with my goal of writing once a week. Things, well, changed. I went back to work full-time in September while juggling a tough Fall semester of school, but more than that, it felt like the topics that kept coming up were more private things I had to walk through with God rather than write them all out here. All of those things brought me to this day, this topic of CHANGE. I’ve changed since I started writing this blog. I go back and read the first post and think, “Wow, Sonia, EDIT! There’s just too many words.” As I write this blog it is 11:14pm on December 20th here in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, where my dad is from. I am here with him to support him and his family in the difficult task of saying goodbye to my Abuela Julia. She passed away this past Sunday. I’ve seen family members that I haven’t seen in 30 years. This trip has been quite the teacher in the topic of change. I read this in the devotional Streams in the Desert today: “God seeks ‘eagle people,’ for no one ever comes into the full realization of the best things of God in his spiritual life without learning how to walk alone with Him….May we allow God to isolate us…God knows how to change our circumstances in order to isolate us.” I am experiencing this in real-time during this trip. I don’t speak Spanish well at all, something that has challenged me for years, so it is hard for me to communicate with the people around me which is isolating. I am not totally isolated in that respect though. One of my cousins understands English very well so she speaks in Spanish, and I respond in English, and we understand each other pretty well like that. But there have been many social gatherings where there’s much chatter going on that I simply am not a part of, and I’m left to my thoughts sometimes. Then there’s the most obvious aspect of isolation, being away from my husband, Mario, my close friends and family. I’ve come to realize on this trip how much I’ve relied on him and others for my comfort. That’s totally normal, but taken to the extreme, it can be a crutch. It can keep me dependent on others more than my Savior. I see that more clearly now than ever as I’ve had limited contact with anyone other than Mario- cell reception for me is spotty at best here. There’s also a big church event tomorrow that I’m missing which has made me homesick and lonely in many ways, but this, I know, is a good thing. God moves us where we need to be, exactly when we need to be there, so here I am and there you are 🙂  So, we have to change. We must change. Things have to change, but there’s more to change than just change. I am a recovering “change-aholic” which, I feel, is the wrong kind of change, the one where you just change things to get out of something, to feel better, to manipulate something, to run from something…whatever the reason, it was never done in God’s timing or in His will. It was always done to escape reality. Not anymore.

God woke me up.

Recently I made a hasty decision and realized almost immediately, I had said yes to something way too quickly. I knew I was in trouble. All I wanted to do was to jump ship right then and there – to run, to get myself out of that situation as quickly as possible, but everything in my spirit and wise people around me were saying, “Wait on the LORD.” Amidst days that took their toll and more uncomfortable moments than I care to write about, I endured. Each day, sometimes faith-filled days, sometimes fretting every second kind of days, I endured. The Overseer of my soul saw to it that I was not crushed, and He saw to it that I was changed. And then deliverance came. Just when I thought I couldn’t go one more step, He opened a marvelous door and this time I waited for Him to reveal it and open it. I didn’t take matters in my hands. I didn’t run from my current situation to jump into another one. He led me. I followed Him. Believe me when I say, it was weird. It felt totally contrary to anything I’ve ever done…so I know it wasn’t me, my strength or my will which gave me a new confidence and a new kind of stability that only God could bring. Those circumstances = useful for change. Today’s circumstances = useful for change. But why change? That’s the real question. Why? The answers to the WHY could fill a thousand and one blog posts but here it is, found in the only book that matters: Romans 8:29 29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. There’s the answer: to be changed to be more like Jesus. That’s the glorious purpose of His allowing the seasons of solitude, storms and overwhelming odds. May we be a people who yield to the mighty Hand of the Potter as He shapes us into that which we were intended to be…wholly His. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May this new year be one of glorious, “mountain-moving” change in your life and mine! In His Grip, Sonia

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Is It Worth It?

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My conversations usually contain the phrase, “Yeah, five years ago when I started walking with the Lord.”

Five years ago I would have never imagined saying that sentence. EVER. It is an absolute unexplainable miracle that doesn’t quite make sense. It’s probably like that for many of us Jesus freaks. After a week of pressure and overwhelming piles of issues, I was faced with this question in my five year old walk, “Is this worth it?” The “this” being the life of a Christian. What does that really mean? As I was pondering this question the phrase “count the cost” came to my mind so I looked it up and it’s found in Luke 14:25-33. Verse 33 is, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

There’s the rub “…forsake all that he has”.

Merriam-Webster’s definition is “to renounce or turn away from entirely.” So this begs the question, “Am I truly willing to renounce and turn away from those ideals, expectations, hopes, dreams, desires, etc to follow Jesus?” In this portion of Scripture Jesus lays out what it means to follow Him, and what it does not mean. He is setting realistic expectations for us, not trying to sell us something. He’s not promising fame, fortune, success in the way we know it. He is promising something far greater:  A life worth livingAnd by “worth” it doesn’t mean what we think it means, either. This part of Luke 14 is where the rubber meets the road. Since Jesus is laying out what it means to be His follower, He is asking them the question. He is asking me the question. He is asking you the question. Sometimes I tend to equate Christianity with how well things are going and how well I am liked, but that’s not what’s going on here. That’s not the real deal. Here’s the real deal…verse 26 of that same chapter, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Wow. The word cannot just leaps off the page. It is very clear. In comparison to Him, we must have no regard for anything else. This doesn’t mean having no relationships because He clearly calls us to love Him and each other. What it means is that I will not look to anything else for my value, my worth, my significance and my purpose. In talking with a friend this morning she mentioned my tendencies to look to other things to find my value and purpose. This is true. I’ve spent a long time “trying to be a Christian.” I think it’s time I just rest in being God’s child. It’s time to stop striving for what I think it should like. It’s time that I seek Him and listen to His very Spirit living inside me. This is that freedom He speaks of and the abundance He promises. I could write thousands of words about why it’s hard to be a Christian and why it’s not fair that good is punished and bad is celebrated in this world. I could write about why it’s hard for someone like me to follow God, but the truth is, it is hard for all of us – it was hard for Jesus. You want proof of this?? Look at this verse in Hebrews 5:8, “though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Jesus did suffer and not just on the cross. He gives us the choice and is honest with us about what awaits, “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” Romans 8:36. I know this sounds desperately depressing and who wants that kind of life – but really look at it for what it is. Do you want it comfortable, easy, fun and superficial or do you want the experience of a lifetime that will mean glory for God’s kingdom…a glory that when we get only glimpses of, drops us to our knees in adoration? It’s a choice; a daily one, a minute by minute one, a moment by moment one. So is it worth it, the cost? For me, dear reader, yes. Again and again, yes.

So, what follows that verse in Romans 8:36 about being killed all day long? Well, this is where we end today’s blog:

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

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Fight or Flight or…

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You know that line to get out of Costco, where they check your receipt against the items in your cart? Well, my husband and I were in that line today, after a very long day at work. We had driven separately since we were both coming from opposite directions. It was in this line that my husband got a call on his cell. He answered pleasantly and then all of a sudden I could tell the conversation got very serious. He sped right by the Costco door person with me following behind while apologizing to the door lady. I think I said something like, “I’m sorry. We have an emergency.” Only, I didn’t know what that emergency was. I only knew that we had to hurry. Turns out our dog, Luna, had gotten out somehow and was running around the neighborhood. This seems harmless enough, only she is a pitbull. Luna is very sweet and not aggressive at all, but people have their own opinions on these types of dogs – so we were both afraid that she would either be hit by a car or shot by an alarmed citizen. Before I go on, let me back up to three days ago when I was thinking about what this week’s blog topic should be. Based on several instances I’m too embarrassed to divulge here, I could tell that the Lord was dealing with my reactions. I react poorly on a pretty regular basis, unfortunately. I started to ask God why He was showing me this with back to back encounters. I learned something groundbreaking in my life. I learned that I didn’t have to do a thing! God showed me that the only time I have to react immediately is when there is imminent danger to myself and/or someone else…everything else, I can just wait on Him. I don’t have to jump in. I don’t have to take care of it. I get to wait! I was reminded of the verse in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”. There’s a space in there somewhere between whatever the “trigger” is and my emotional response. I always went into react mode without even a thought, and now I get to access that way out – “the way of escape” that God gives. For those of you who are “reactors” I know you can relate to the fact that these types of explosive responses are tied to something damaged deep down in us, but God doesn’t want that for us anymore. He wants to shine His light into that place and deliver us. He is calling us out of that place to allow us to relax and let Him lead us through it! Given this revelation, I am not saying anger isn’t good. There are plenty of positive reasons for anger, but the kind I am referring to is the kind that does this in Exodus 32:19 and Numbers 20:8-13. Those are the accounts of Moses’ anger issues and the damage he caused. This was the same Moses who also killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-12). See, he was a “reactor” too, and it got him into trouble every time. God allowed Moses’ story to teach us the sad results of that behavior. Moses didn’t get to enter the promised land (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). I don’t know about you but I want promised land living!  So, getting back to my story at the beginning of this blog, my husband raced home while I calmly put the groceries into my car and said a prayer. I didn’t know if our sweet dog would survive the ordeal or if my husband would get in a wreck driving so fast to get there, but I just knew that I didn’t have to react like I used to (i.e. going crazy, calling my husband, getting angry at him for whatever reason I could come up with because I was so scared). I waited. I waited on the Lord. I waited for the facts. I waited and trusted. The outcome of our afternoon ordeal was that Luna made it back into the yard and waited (gate wide open) for her family to get home. Now that was a picture too. She waited for us in the safety of her dwelling place. That was the reminder I needed to end this post on reactions: I need to wait in the safety of His dwelling place. Have a blessed week, friends, knowing that whatever is coming, God’s got us!

Psalm 91:9-10 “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling” 

 

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Looking Forward Backwards

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” –Soren Kierkegaard

This last week has brought much change. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it still remains to be seen – all of which I’m sure will be used to take me in the direction I’m supposed to be going. Last night on a drive home with a few friends we discussed why history is important. I think history is vital not only for a reminder, but a viewpoint that God gives to say, “See, that’s why.” In taking a historical look at my life things now make sense, but looking forward, NOTHING makes sense. I think it’s like that for everyone so why do we spend so much time trying to make sense of the “forward life”? So here’s a little snapshot of my history with regards to what looked like a catastrophic event in my young adult life. I got pregnant at 18. I didn’t have a relationship with God. I struggled with what to do with a baby since I was a terrible mess. Many people looked at my life at that time as just a waste because I was a teen mom. What they didn’t know, what I didn’t know, was that that would be the only time I was ever able to conceive. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I was living a sinful life, was an unwed mother, teen mom, college dropout and whatever else tainted my resume – but God knew the bigger picture. In 2006 I was diagnosed with “Unexplained Secondary Infertility” and came to the agonizing realization that I would never be able to give my husband his own biological child (we could not afford IVF). He is not my daughter’s biological father. He helped raise her since she was 10 years old, and she is definitely his daughter, and he is most definitely her dad so for that I am grateful. I thank God for the opportunity to have a baby when I did. That would be the only experience I would ever have to bear a child. God knew that. I didn’t, and no one else did either. I was reminded recently of these verses: Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…” and Revelation 1:17 “…Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last.” He knows everything. He sees it all. Jesus’ life did not make any sense in the forward viewpoint either. It didn’t make sense until after the resurrection. I think that’s the point here in everything. Nothing will make sense until those resurrections in our lives. With resurrection comes revelation – then we get to see. I think I spend a lot of time and give a lot of real estate in my mind in trying to figure it out. I try to make sense out of everything when I should be knowing that it just won’t make sense looking forward. My husband told me that in all synagogues the place where the rabbi teaches from points in the direction of Jerusalem so when Jesus was reading from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:17-21) He was facing the direction of Calvary. For believers, that’s our direction too, and it won’t make sense until we look back. So I have to ask myself, “Hi there, Miss Control Freak, are you going to spend countless hours in agonizing perplexity or are you going to trust and rest knowing that you’re safely in His grip?” That means I need to be okay with loose ends, sometimes no answers and the understanding that it may look tragic today but whatever He has planned, it’s good. So those are the two themes for this week: TRUST. DIRECTION. Trust His direction. Trust His perspective. Trust His plan, and be okay with looking forward BACKWARDS. I’d be interested in your thoughts on your backwards forwards too. Have a blessed week, friends! 🙂

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LOVE. With a period at the end.

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I’ve been crying on and off all day. It hasn’t been a bad day at all, really. I’ve gotten all quizzes finished and my written assignments are turned in for this first week of the fall semester. The tears that have come on and off have been both happy and sad ones for one main reason. Love. Up until yesterday afternoon I didn’t have a clue what this third blog post was to be about. The topic started to come together over a three hour lunch with friends after church during which we discussed how we relate to one another and if we really grasp what God’s love for us means. It was a timely conversation because I’ve had a difficult time this past week with various painful things all coming from relationships. Have you ever had a week like that – where you ask yourself if it’s really worth it at all to deal with those you love? Of course the answer is a resounding “Yes, of course, it’s worth it!” But this week I was physically, mentally, spiritually (and probably hormonally) challenged so I asked the question quite often. So back to the tears…one of the reasons I was crying today was because I have felt quite unloved lately by certain people in my life. I felt deep pain over this. It was the kind of pain that lives in the present tense but also feels like it’s drawing on something historical in your life. It’s the kind of pain that haunts you – the kind you’ve tried to protect yourself from all along. I heard Beth Moore in one of her video studies say that “we can self-protect ourselves right out of our callings“. It stung when I heard that because I knew I was doing that very thing. I’ve been protecting myself for a long time. Even writing this freaks me out because it means you know something more about me and that scares me more than I care to admit. In my brain that means you can have some kind of power over me, and I’ve always fought to control that at all costs because I believed myself to be an ugly human being. What goes through my brain is: If you really knew me, the private Sonia, you wouldn’t want anything to do with her because she’s not as smart as you first thought or as fun-loving as she comes off or as clean and neat as she seems to be. And for some reason, your opinion has always mattered most to me. So in public I’ve always smiled bigger when my heart is breaking (or I want to punch you out because you hurt my feelings) and laughed louder when I want to run to make everyone think all is okay with me. I hide behind walls sometimes, even as a believer. The truth is this, I am an ugly person apart from God, but aren’t we all? We just have varying degrees of damage and perhaps different colored baggage, but baggage just the same. The two greatest commandments are about love and can be found In Mark 12 when Jesus was asked by a scribe which was the first commandment, Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-30). I was thinking hard about what God’s been trying to speak to me about love…both His and mine. Do I really have an understanding that God loves me – that He loves us? PERIOD, not a question mark. Since I’m being honest here, my answer is that I don’t always understand His love for me. I know the Bible says He does, and I have seen His love on display in so many ways in my life, even before I committed my life to Him, but somewhere in a broken place in my heart and mind I want to ask Him, “Do you love me because You have to or because You want to?” I don’t know why I’d want to ask Him that, but I do. I want to hear Him say, “I love you because I take great delight in you.” But even in asking the question, the answer is that He does say that. When discussing this with a friend she suggested I look in the back of the Bible for the word love and read all the verses on what God has to say about it. Jesus gave His life for me, for us, and that’s the display of His love in action. That’s how far He’s willing to go to show us He loves us. The only way for us to have a relationship with Him was for God’s only Son to come to this earth as a baby, live among us for 33 years, die on a cross and on the third day rise from the dead conquering death forever and offering us a way out of a life of sin. The only way for me to have a relationship with Him was for a ransom to be paid for my sins, and He did that. My only job was to receive it, and I did. I do. I just struggle with love in general, so I have to trust Him with my heart in order to know more about His love. I have to be willing to hurt. I know I’ve hurt people by accident or on purpose, and I need to forgive and to be forgiven, but most of all I need to love the way He says I should. In order to do these two commands, I need to know the truth of that kind of love. I need to know the truth. The truth is love is painful, but it’s worth it. We love by action, by sacrifice, by willing to be wrong, by willing to be vulnerable even if it kills you – which it probably will, if you’re like me. We get to see the heart of God through being honest with each other, laughing with each other, forgiving one another, rejoicing with each another, weeping with each another and reconciling with one another. God made us to love Him and to love each other. We are made in His image. I am His daughter, and He loves me. That’s what He says, and I need to take Him at His Word. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t change His mind. He isn’t cruel, He isn’t out to pull a fast one. He isn’t going to betray me. He isn’t going to deceive me. He is going to free me every day as I walk with Him. So, I am going to grab a hold of His hand as He walks me through the discovery of that truth until the day I walk into eternity with Him. I close with posing the question, “Do you know that God loves you?” If your answer isn’t a confident yes, look deep into His word, cry out to Him and let Him have your whole heart. You can trust Him with it. I’m scared too, but He tells us not to be afraid. Listen to what He says about His love in 1 Corinthians 13 (starting in verse 4-8a): Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. His love never fails. That’s a promise from Him to us. NEVER FAILS. So the way I see it, the more I understand His love, the more I love Him and love others. So let’s travel on the path of discovery of that kind of love….the real kind…the “never fails” kind. Last week I wrote that that post was the hardest to write. I lied – I have accumulated quite the pile of tissues next to this laptop because I am wrecked by writing this one. Until next week, my friends 🙂

P.S. As to the the ugly stuff inside of us, look at what Jesus says about a sinful woman, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.“(Luke 7:47) That’s what Jesus’ love can do – turn a sinful woman into a loving woman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn0RHh3BQT4