When Life Feels Like Constructing a Puzzle

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST It happens every Christmas vacation. The anticipation, the buildup, the excitement. My boys can hardly stand it. They are so excited to sleep in, have time off, and do what they want to do.  Then reality sets in. They don’t sleep in but awake at 6:30 am and are bored to tears by 8:30. Then the pestering starts. “Mom, I’m bored. What should I do?” Now, I can’t translate in any language well, but I can read pre-teen and teen boy well. They don’t really want me to tell them what to do. They know the options. They want me to tell them they can have screen time and watch television or play video games. Ugh. Raising kids in a virtual world is a daunting task. So, this year, on a whim in the aisle at Barnes and Noble, I asked my son to pick out a puzzle. It was beautiful, a picture of an idyllic Mediterranean setting. So, hoping to provide some screenless family time, we broke open the bag and started putting together the puzzle’s boarder. We have completed a few larger puzzles a before this, usually with my mother’s expert help, but I’m sorry to say that two months later, our scene is missing more than a few pieces. We are getting there, and we will finish it, but our “holiday puzzle” has sadly outlasted the holidays. A Puzzling Life Life is a bit like an unfinished puzzle. Sure, we have the promise of “everything we need for life and godliness,” but that doesn’t mean each day doesn’t require trial and error, just like constructing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. For example, sometimes a piece simply doesn’t fit where I think it should. In our recent puzzle adventure, we complained that pieces didn’t fit in spaces where it seemed they ought to fit. This is true in our spiritual lives as well. I often have specific plans and expectations for the way God should do things. More specifically, I think I know who I ought to minister to and what that ministry should look like. Often, however, God brings me a person I wasn’t expecting with a ministry opportunity I didn’t plan for at all...

When Life Feels Like Constructing a Puzzle2022-05-03T21:39:29+00:00

John 16: A Perfect Peace

BETHANY BELUE|GUEST It is 6:00 p.m. on a Friday night. The kitchen is a mess with dirty dishes scattered on the counter and crumbs blanketing the floor from a toddler who thinks throwing his food is funny. My hair is tied in a messy ponytail, and spit-up stains dot my shirt. My 19-month-old is running wild awaiting bath time while my two-month-old cries, ready for her last little nap before the end of the day. As I look around at this scene, with toys scattered everywhere and the sounds of young children filling the home, I can’t help but laugh. Although I’m living in my very own circus and a far cry from how I used to spend a Friday night, I laugh at how different my life is now and how peaceful my heart is in this moment of chaos. For all of us, the last few years have felt heavy, unnerving, and probably at times like living in a dramatic movie. Between a pandemic which has completely changed so much about our world, political divisions, racial unrest, and continual brokenness that fills our lives, we can all say we have faced tribulation. While all of these things have impacted my life personally, the biggest focus in my world has been the birth of two children in less than two years after years of struggling with infertility. These babies were prayed for, longed for, and still very much a surprise to us. In a short period of time, while the world around us changed dramatically, everything in our personal lives changed as we welcomed these two little lives into our family. As I navigate this new season that feels like I’m barely keeping my head above water, I surprisingly told a friend recently, “I think I may be more at peace now in this season than I've ever felt before.”

John 16: A Perfect Peace2022-05-04T23:34:24+00:00

Resilient Hope

BECKY KIERN | CONTRIBUTOR Think of your favorite book, film, or TV series: if there were no conflicts or obstacles to overcome, what would remain of the story? Would we know the name Harry Potter if there were no curse to battle; Jane Bennett if there was no pride (or is prejudice her vice, I can never remember) to overcome; Frodo without an evil ring to destroy, or Cinderella without a cruel step-family from which to escape? Conflict may be the driving force for story development, but the best stories are not simply fables of conflict avoidance. What pulls on our heart strings is the resilience and growth these beloved characters undergo in response to the adversities they face. Will Luke Skywalker give into his father and the power of the Dark Side? Will Elsa choose to stay isolated in her ice castle or will she choose to love and be loved by her sister? Conflict may provide the impetus for a story, but the resilience of a character is what teaches us to have courage, value friendship, or to love another.

Resilient Hope2022-05-04T00:24:18+00:00

John 16: From Sorrow To Joy

PEY CHU|GUEST I am a huge fan of modern medicine. My first three children were born in North Carolina with the marvelously numbing help of an epidural. Sure, I felt uncomfortable but I did not feel the excruciating agony of childbirth. This was not the case for baby number four. He was born in East Asia where the epidural was not often administered and so, it did not take. I did not know that birthing a baby was actually supposed to be so painful. At one point, I was so convinced that I was dying in childbirth that I tearfully looked into my husband’s eyes and apologized for dying and leaving him a widower to care for three, possibly four, children. From Sorrow to Joy In his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus compares his impending earthly departure with a woman’s sorrow in labor. This metaphor would not have been a new one to those listening to Jesus. It was used in Old Testament biblical literature to allude to “the birth pains of the Messiah refer[ing] to a period of terrible trouble that must precede the consummation.”Jesus uses this imagery to show his disciples that they were at that point. The misery of Christ’s death would be countered with the bliss of Christ’s resurrection. In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus has been preparing his disciples for what was about to come. As he looked ahead to his own death, Jesus tells them in John 16 that soon they would not see him. Their sorrow at his departure would be like the pains of childbirth. But their sorrow would not be the end; their sorrow would turn to joy. The intense agony of labor (and their sorrow) would be followed by inexpressible joy just as a woman “no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). Jesus follows with, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:23).

John 16: From Sorrow To Joy2022-05-04T00:26:24+00:00

The Presence of Joy, Even in the Midst of Tears

KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR I lost my dad to cancer when I was twenty-three years old. We were close, and my dad was, in many ways, an anchor in my life, so I struggled immensely in the months following his death. One of the cards we received during this time had Nehemiah 8:10 printed on it: “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” I remember staring at the words longing to understand what it meant to have joy in the midst of my pain. A few years later I sat in my sister’s living room while she battled the side effects of treatment for breast cancer. The world felt weighty. I pushed back tears as I looked through her music, hoping to find something uplifting, joyful. I saw a song entitled, “Joy,” so I played the music anticipating a fun and light tune. What filled the room were the words of the familiar childhood song: I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart… But the singer sounded…sad. It was almost as if she was crying as she sang the heartfelt words. I dropped to my knees and prayed. Is this what it means to have joy in you, Lord? Can I cry while remaining joyful?

The Presence of Joy, Even in the Midst of Tears2022-05-04T00:30:38+00:00

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love for Us

BARBARANNE KELLY | CONTRIBUTOR “He loves me. . . he loves me not. He loves me. . . he loves me not” Did you ever play this childhood game? Plucking the petals from a daisy to determine the feelings of a childish sweetheart, the outcome dependent upon whether the flower had an even or odd number of petals. Silly, right? What does the number of petals on any given flower have to do with the intentions of the heart? And yet, is this the narrative that plays in your mind when suffering comes? Do you pluck from the circumstances sent by our heavenly Father to determine whether he loves you? Some circumstances feel loving, others don’t. When he makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters (Ps. 23:2), do you sing, “he loves me!”? When he calls you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4), does your heart whisper, “he loves me not”? Suffering forces us to face what we truly believe. Do we believe that God loves us and that he is working all things—even hard things—for our good? When trials come—and they will: disaster, disease, depression, death—which narrative will be our default? When faced with pain, what is the first thought, and then the next, and the next, that enters our minds?

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love for Us2022-05-04T00:31:59+00:00

John 14: A Place for Us

What comes to mind when you think about “home”? For some of us, we might think of the place we grew up— maybe the comfort of our parent’s living room or a grandparent's house. Maybe you think of your home now. Some of us may think of a quiet place of refuge, while others may think of the pitter patter of little feet and the clatter of puppy dog paws. Maybe your home is more empty than you wish. Or maybe your home doesn’t feel like home at all. Whatever your thoughts are of “home,” it is bound to illicit some powerful emotions. Home is so significant that we can trace its origins all the way back to the beginning of creation. God created a “home” for us in the Garden of Eden before He even created Adam and Eve, so I think it stands to reason that home is important to God. It is the place He created for us so that we could dwell in His presence. As much as I wonder what the Garden of Eden was like, I’m often reminded, it is the very place where everything fell apart— the infamous place where Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished forever. Fast forward several thousand years later to John 14 and Jesus is preparing the disciples’ hearts for His departure. They have spent roughly three years together doing ministry. The disciples have given up everything to follow Jesus. They have left their families, their jobs, and their homes to be with Him. They have seen Him do miracle after miracle. They have listened for hours on end to Him proclaim that He is indeed the Messiah. And then He tells them he is leaving, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms.”

John 14: A Place for Us2022-05-04T00:36:23+00:00

On Suffering Well and the Mercy of God

MARISSA BONDURANT | GUEST She stood next to me one Sunday with tears streaming down her cheeks. Without looking at her, I gave her arm a squeeze. Both our faces were up; both of us were singing loudly. But I was singing of God’s faithfulness with a new baby strapped to my body, and she was singing of God’s faithfulness with the stinging news of another failed IVF treatment. In my heart I wondered, “How is my friend doing it? If I were in her shoes, there is no way I’d be able to sing to the Lord this morning.” Suffering Well Have you ever had a similar thought? Have you ever watched a fellow believer suffer well and wondered how she did it? It might help to define “suffering well.” To suffer well is to suffer like Jesus. To acknowledge the real pain and sorrow of the experience, while simultaneously holding on to the hope that the pain will not last forever. Before he went to the cross, Jesus was honest with his Father about his pain – asking God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26:39). Then his prayer moved directly into hope and trust, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). My friend who sang praises to the Lord in the middle of heartache was not ignoring her pain. She was pleading with God to make her a mom, but she also held onto God’s promise to make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Perhaps hardest of all, she trusted that God’s version of beauty would be better than any version she could imagine.

On Suffering Well and the Mercy of God2022-05-04T00:42:31+00:00

The Provisions of God in the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Days

KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR One of my favorite childhood books is, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The brilliant little story depicts the daily frustrations that create a terrible, horrible day for a child: gum in the hair, dropping a sweater in the sink, tripping over a skateboard, and all the no good, very bad things in between. My freshman year in college I had a knee injury that required me to travel home for surgery. The day I returned to campus, I hobbled around on crutches sporting a massive brace on my leg. I also returned to campus the day after an ice storm, so hobbling outside became more like sliding. On crutches. With a knee brace. Super fun. I also returned to campus to find that the elevator in my dorm building was broken. I then discovered that not only would I be required to limp down four flights of stairs to get out of my dorm, but I’d need to stumble down two additional flights to get to my music classes. Because those elevators were not working either. That day I returned to campus was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The Provisions of God in the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Days2022-05-04T00:43:42+00:00

A Time to Mourn

JESSICA ROAN | GUEST She really was extraordinary—funny, loving, and firm when she needed to be. If a perfect teacher exists, she would be at the top of the list, in our house anyway. Thankfully for us, our younger son was in her class, not once, but twice. When we found out he would have his kindergarten teacher again for 5th grade, we were elated. The unpredictability of 2020 was especially difficult for him. While we couldn’t be sure which activities, even school itself, would go on, we could be sure about one thing: Mrs. W. And she delivered—suddenly breaking into song, encouraging dance-offs, dressing up in wild costumes. If there was anything an 11-year-old would love, she did it. Now that life has resumed some normalcy, we have tried to embrace change. My boys started new schools this year. While they were excited to move on to new adventures, the subtle dread of leaving this enjoyable relationship behind haunted us all. My son periodically says, “I miss Mrs. W.” After six great years under her tutelage, we all miss her. We mourn this transition in our lives. Mourning comes in all shapes and sizes. Not only has our family mourned transitions, we’ve mourned broken relationships, and the passing of dear family members. Life is filled with losses and each one brings us great grief.

A Time to Mourn2022-05-04T00:44:54+00:00
Go to Top