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Low Battery

I love my phone.

It gives me the chance to access audio books while I do housework. I also track several health things, including my nursing schedule for my baby.

A quick click gives me the weather, the time, the date, and the loops I love to be in (aka group chats).

My handheld device connects me with friends and family in instant, unimaginable ways. It makes me feel like a photographer as I capture moments and share them in real time, unless I want to finesse with filters first.

I write down quotes in the digital notes and screenshot tidbits of info for later. I even do all my grocery shopping from an app and the couch.

Lately my phone’s been busy arranging slideshows of highlights from one, two, and three years ago. So sweet and sentimental to have flashbacks without even asking.

A brief text can coordinate hospitality. A tap and I’m sailing my way through the book of Numbers as I tidy up the living room.

Thanks to my phone, I can video call my brother. Store my recipes. Search Bible commentaries. Cash checks. Soak up curated music. Even talk to people occasionally.

I check emails in moments waiting for my dentist appointment … an appointment I wouldn’t have remembered without my calendar app. Or would have found without my map app. Goodness, I’d still be lost somewhere without maps or the ability to call home for directions (thanks, Dad!).

I do not want to know how many hours I’ve spent listening on my phone to people talk about health and current events or home decor advice. It’s all aesthetic and addicting.

NO WONDER I feel uncomfortable when the battery goes in the red zone.

I mean, I’m waiting for a birth announcement from a friend, surgery updates from a dear sister in Christ, and a chance to hear the next chapter in the novel I’m listening to. My phone makes all of this easy and convenient.

Tonight my phone battery stooped dangerously low. I charged it on the counter while I made dinner…or so I thought. Instead of regaining power, it was dying. Marco Polo and Pinterest were fading out of reach thanks to a finicky charger.

My phone who faithfully serves me needed me to serve it.

I jostled the charger and managed to get a few more percentages. We ate supper. My husband left for Bible study.

With just one hand available thanks to my son, I wanted to read articles and view stories.

Then my charger truly broke. Part of it was still in my phone. Now I was minutes away from losing all my — my data, and this bothered me. I formed a plan to order a charger online…or should I make my day busier tomorrow and go somewhere to get one? Shoot an SOS text to my husband to pick one up? All the panic in the name of restoring communication.

But it was a problem for tomorrow.

So I rocked my baby to sleep without anything shiny in hand.

In the solitude of the dim nursery, I prayed aloud for our family. I prayed for my priorities.

And I thought about the verses I had read this morning:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

All the wonderful, good ways I use my phone and all the wasteful, useless times I spend on there are all loss and rubbish in comparison to the paramount glory of knowing — just simply knowing — Christ Jesus my LORD.

I can do without the purposes of my digital assistant when I examine them in the light of the Savior’s face.

He is all I need. Lord, spare me from idolizing anything — convenience of online groceries, glamour of Instagram house tours, power of knowing things instantly — above You.

Tonight I’m thankful for a battery that plunged the black hole to remind me of Who matters and Who deserves my first-fruit time and attention.

I love my Savior.

Stories of March

Since I procrastinate like the best when it comes to documenting (both privately and publicly) my life milestones, it’s high time for a personal update. Maybe I delay because certain events feel too sacred to lock onto a page . . . like when you snap a picture but you know your smudgy smart phone can’t capture the justice the landscape deserves.

But, lately, I’ve noticed how much I relish reading a blog post, prayer letter or post with pieces of the author’s heart tangled up in it. When it’s their story, it draws me in as I relate, imagine, rejoice, and empathize.

We love stories.

So I don’t want to withhold my stories from this very special month of March.

March 1st marked three years from when my husband first messaged me and a long-distance romance was birthed. Neither of us knew where a simple message would lead, but with so much in common, our conversation exploded and one thing led to another. After four months of writing and skyping, we met in person, and the rest is history.

March 16th signified our engagement just two years ago. I’ll never forget the roller coaster day that ended with a ring and cheesecake. God is good.

One year ago March makes me think of empty offices, Frozen 2, Greek food, virtual meetings, remote church, and Psalm 34. It reminds me of long springtime strolls, rehearsing the sovereignty and goodness of God.

And now this March is the month where we’re experiencing many sweet firsts with our firstborn son. His name is Judah Charles, and he turned one month today. God answered so many prayers relating to our pregnancy and birth, and we’re smitten with the precious little man! The journey of being a stay-at-home mom has truly been a gift.

It’s stunning how much we love him. While falling in love with a spouse leading up to marriage is gradual (with some uncertainty), love for a child is unconditional and instant. It mirrors how our Heavenly Father loves us even when we are helpless and unreasonable.

Welcome to our family, Judah! We can’t wait to see the story He writes for you.

What are your stories of March?

The Blues of January

“Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and go on,” sighed Meg the morning after the party, for now the holidays were over, the week of merrymaking did not fit her for going on easily with the task she never liked.

“I wish it was Christmas or New Year’s all the time. Wouldn’t it be fun?” answered Jo, yawning dismally.

Little Women, Louisia May Alcott

Here’s to the foggy Mondays after break. In the case of Little Women, Amy searches for her homework, and Meg bemoans her shabby dress but, next, points out the little munchkins she takes care of won’t notice what she wears anyways. Jo must go back to the fearsome Aunt March. Beth has a headache.

Sound familiar?

Longing for luxury, the four sisters wish life could always be parties, bouquets, resting, and reading.

I don’t blame them. I would add coffee and writing, then we’re set.

I remember last January. I carried the plight of my busy schedule, daydreaming about all I would do if only I just had more time at home. It was easy to compare myself with others who had better success with, what I chalked up to be, more flexibility. If I had the same schedule, then surely my creativity could fully unleash. My house would be clean. Scores of books would be ingested, parties could be planned down to details, such as the colors of the straws.

Then, what do you know? I kind of got my wish! For the first time ever, in an event completely unforeseen, I had the chance to set up a home office, with ample time in the spring evenings to do whatsoever I pleased.

It was much like the March sisters’ experiment in chapter eleven. Faced with another vacation, the girls resolved to give into their thirst for a complete break from work of any kind.

Sounds delightful. Wouldn’t not working be the antidote to their January blues described above, plagued by headaches and homework?

As the story goes, Jo read so much she grew fidgety and quarreled with her best friend. Amy found “when her sisters left her to amuse and care for herself, she soon found accomplished and important little self a great burden.” Meg’s sewing projects go awry, and Beth’s bird dies.

They admit their experiment was a failed one, and Marmee replied with her advice, “Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.”

What strikes me about the two scenes (the morning after Christmas vacation and the first few days of complete vacation) is that neither one makes anyone happy. I know the whiplash of this, too. Take my work-from-home experiment for example. While I’m tempted to complain when I have to rush out the door on a Monday morning, I’m just as likely to waste an opportunity for productivity on a free day, longing for the structure I recently loathed.

Contentment is not sourced in our moment’s activity or schedule, is it?

Let’s aim to be like Paul when he penned:

Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11-12

I’m about to shift lifestyles in a big way, leaving the office for stay-at-home mom life. I hope I can soak in all the good and the discipline of my current office life, but also know that all the answers to my wishlist won’t be found in more time at home. I desire to be like Paul, to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself in. Whether it’s headaches like Beth’s, or shabby dresses like Meg’s, in abundance of a sunny afternoon, or suffering from lack of sleep, packed work sessions or too much leisure time, I hope I will do all things through Him who strengthens me.

PC: Kevin Fitzgerald, Bogus Basin, Boise, Idaho

One Weary Accord

A certain carol lyric sang in my heart one day as I drove to work underneath a magical pink sunrise. Still several weeks before Thanksgiving, I wasn’t trying to meditate on Christmas, but I felt I had stumbled on something deeply meaningful for the coming season. Something to be shared.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

It turns out I wasn’t unique to claim this theme.

I bumped into these words in a number of Christmas missionary letters I’ve edited this year. The same phrase is fastened on my boss’s cubicle wall. Perhaps you’ve seen them too, in a friend’s Instagram post or felt new meaning when hearing this song on the radio.

There’s a reason we’re lingering on the theme of rejoicing a little extra this year.

With every Christmas card we write, every strand of lights we string, every gift we buy — hope is stirring for those who know Christ. We crave hope and light as we wrap up this historic year, and we’re thrilled to focus on the source.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, then He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Just this past weekend we visited KC and were reminded of both error and worth. We rejoiced in my husband’s graduation with his Master of Divinity. We smiled to learn friends were dating each other. We sat shocked over breakfast menus to hear of a fellow seminary grad friend who had gone back home but split paths with God. We listened to loads of (welcome!) advice about diaper brands and sleep schedules for our new baby. But also heard of health struggles of other infants. My husband shared the gospel with someone on the plane next to us on the way home. Due to all the ups and downs of our trip, we fell into bed exhausted but grateful because of all the hope we have in Christ’s appearance in the flesh.

Passages buried in the Old Testament remind us we–in our weariness–have ever so much to rejoice in. And I’m happy to sing what might be cliché in Christmas 2020. Like Israel on that holy night, we can celebrate Immanuel!

Many feel that the New Year ball will drop (or in my Idaho’s case, a potato?!) and hope will land with it. That’s a familiar lie we’ve all faced before. “Things will get better if we can just get through this week, clock out for the weekend, go on vacation, free up my schedule, get over this head cold . . .” We wait and pine for the next thing, perhaps with a thrill of false hope.

The fact is our futures could be as terrifying as Charles Dicken’s ghost of Christmas yet to come. I’m an extremely optimistic person, but I have to admit no guarantees exist for 2021. But even if they did, our spirits can not be lifted simply by a change in circumstances or the passing of a crumby year.

What we need is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. A ruler who reigns in understanding of our weakness. A song of rejoicing in the midst of any oppression.

Behold the One who meets this need:  

“The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.”

Apart from Him we won’t find worth — He is the One our souls greatly anticipate. Our earthly voices may be weary indeed. But they are grateful. Let us join the chorus with one accord and fall on our knees to worship our KING of kings, who will return in a second advent (coming). His power and glory evermore!

Merry Christmas and thank you so much for following my blog this year!

*Song “O Holy Night” Adolphe Adam, Placide Cappeau

Grace Isn’t Going Anywhere

“We’re singing Amazing Grace … again?”

I used to feel we over-sang the lyrics of this hymn and passed over playing it on the piano, the tune too old fashioned for my taste.

Eventually it became a favorite as I grew to understand the heart of the words:

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved

I had no idea my childhood fears would make grace more than just a song title.

One night at Pizza Hut we fellowshiped with another family from church. On a slick chair, chewing a breadstick, I overheard the mom say, “…back when Jay was in a four-wheeler accident, and then later he needed surgery…”

Surgery? For someone the age of eleven like me?! Horrifying!

I began to feel sick and asked if I could go sit in the van. Thus ensued an army of what ifs. What if I would have to face surgery? What if I experienced intense pain? What if someone I knew got cancer?

Food didn’t seem swallow-able for the next week, and I spent a miserable few days in irrational fear of trials that could strike at any untoward moment.

My parents gently quoted Scripture to me about how “worry doesn’t add a cubit to your stature” and reminded me God is in control. These conversations would help, but I would just sink back into anxious thoughts.

Ironically, I even began to grow concerned I would have health problems because I worried so much. The battle raged in my mind to wrestle tomorrow’s problems today. The potential problems.

I cried to my mom one day in her room. “I don’t understand why this is happening. I’m a Christian. I’m asking God to take this away.”

She asked if I truly believed He could take away my fears. This stunned me. She also said:

“God gives the grace we need when we need it (and not before).”

Could I believe He is who He says He is, that He is able to answer the very prayer I was praying?

Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom shared a similar problem in her book, The Hiding Place. Along with her mother and sister, Corrie visited a poor family with a basket of bread. The family had lost a baby the night before. Corrie’s first real brush with death threw her into confusion and fear. Later that night Corrie’s father shared encouragement with her:

At last we heard Father’s footsteps winding up the stairs…But that night as he stepped through the door I burst into tears. “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!”

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffed a few times, considering this. “Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.”

The Hiding Place

This moment my mom shared about real grace for real scenarios (not our imagined ones) was when it clicked for me. Back beside my bunkbed, I knelt down and prayed again, “Lord, please take this fear away. I know that You can. I have faith that You will give me grace when I need it.”

When I truly believed I prayed to the God who is able, when I realized He is the One to fear, I didn’t worry about these irrational scenarios of my future.

Was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved

Nearly all of what I worried about in those days after Pizza Hut never occurred. But things that I didn’t think to worry about DID occur.

But grace my fears relieved, and my Father gives me strength like a train ticket at just the right times. Don’t run out in front of Him.

Yes, I’ll always fight fear. But I remember His grace is sufficient, and it’s not going anywhere since a wretch like me never deserved His favor in the first place. I recall my bunkbed prayer and the peace which comes from deeply knowing and believing He is bigger than the future trials. And worrying now won’t change anything.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie ten Boom

His grace – the unmerited favor of God toward man – cannot be snatched from what lies ahead.

On a recent Sunday my dad preached in the first chapter of I Timothy. Verse 14 reads:

“And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant,

with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”

Grace super-abounds like the broken sprinklers swamping the flowerbeds this time of year. Grace upon grace overflows like a river in flood stage.

After the sermon we sang the words below, and I noted the unique adjective for grace (indelible), later searching for its definition.

Making marks that can’t be removed.

How grateful I am for that time at Pizza Hut — and many other places of doubt — because God’s been tuning my heart to sing His grace, yes even using an old fashioned, now-beloved hymn by John Newton.

No wonder how sweet the sound of God’s amazing, abounding, permanent grace.

–Augustus Toplady, Bob Kauflin