Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I just want to know who told my kid that the Easter Bunny is the new Santa Claus?! Caedmon came to me yesterday with a list of items that he would like the Easter Bunny to bring him. Asked if we could mail it to him.

Dude! Wrong holiday. (Actually, I do realize that Christmas is also the "wrong holiday" for that. It it, however, more expected.)

Easter just got highjacked, too!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Waiting Room

What do you do when you find yourself in the waiting room of life?

All of us have been there. Many are there right now. Some circumstance in our life that is beyond our control. Some prayer that we've prayed a thousand times. We've done everything we know how to do; we're trying to honor God. And now we wait. We wait on God to come through, to move as only He can.

Only God can...

  • heal you from your cancer
  • give you the baby for which your heart longs
  • provide the spouse you've prayed for for years
  • put a heart of forgiveness and tenderness in your husband
  • bring your prodigal child to repentance
I wonder what you are waiting on. What prayer are you desperately awaiting an answer for? 

Yesterday at South Bay Church we sang a song called, "Waiting Here for You". Over and over the song says, "Alleluia" which simply means "Praise the Lord." 

I don't know about you, but the last thing I feel like doing in any waiting room is praising the Lord. Down-on-my-face-praying? Yes. But praising? Maybe when the doctor comes in with good news.

However, that is exactly what we need and that is what the Bible instructs us to do: Praise Him from the waiting room. Before the prayer has been answered. Before victory is ours. We praise HIM because, no matter what, HE is God and HE is worthy to be praised.

And as we begin to praise Him, He meets us there.

So instead of pacing back and forth, instead of hopeless tears, instead of venting frustrated anger, how about give praise a chance? Find something (anything!) to thank Him for and give Him the praise that He is due.

  • Sunshine warming my skin
  • Riding through a canopy of trees
  • First glimpse of the ocean

Don't waste your waiting room.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Take a Load Off

I think most people want their lives to feel more exciting. More significant.

We are all fairly certain (due to social media and good ol' fashioned gossip) that everyone else's lives are cooler than ours. They just got their hair done and yours hasn't been cut in 6 months. They just checked in on Yelp at yet another restaurant and you're staring at week-old leftovers in your fridge. They just flew to LA for some very important meeting and your still in your PJ's cleaning Cheerios off the floor from breakfast. 


Sometimes our lives can feel so painfully ordinary. 

Even in the Bible, we tend to be drawn toward the stories of heroes. Moses parting the Red Sea. David slaying the giant. Esther rescuing the Jewish nation. The miracles of the apostles. 

It's not just Twitter that can make us feel like our lives are pretty lame. Sometimes the Bible makes us feel like we're missing out, too. 

But how 'bout this little nugget of goodness...

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live. 1Thessalonians 4:11-12

Ahhh, pressure valve released. You mean God approves of a quiet life? Yes, absolutely! He even commands it. 

Living well and influencing others doesn't mean your life has to be an action movie. 

So whenever you're feeling discouraged about the monotony of your day-in / day-out kind of life, remember that God sees you! He's proud of you for getting the laundry done and bathing your kids and scrubbing Sharpie marker out of your carpet. He's proud of you for your commitment to go to work everyday and do your job with excellence. He can use our lives (even our quiet lives!) to influence those all around us!

Live in a way that causes others to respect your life!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Body

This morning I was reading in 1 Corinthians where Paul compares the Church [aka the Body of Christ] to the human body. Chapter 12 verse 26 says:

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it. 

I get that. I understand how stubbing your toe can make your whole body reel with pain, and I know how it feels to hurt with those around us who are hurting.

On Saturday, I had the privilege to spend a few hours at the hospital with my friend, Jenn. I was honestly surprised to see how sick she was. I had seen her earlier in the week and she was walking around and wearing make up. Besides the limping, you would never have known anything was wrong. But then she started chemo.

She laid quietly in her bed with her eyes closed most of the time I was there. The expression on her face every time she readjusted let me know just how uncomfortable she felt. And the nausea...

Jenn had thrown up probably three times in the two hours that I had been there. I felt so helpless looking on, wanting to somehow ease her pain but knowing there wasn't a whole lot I could do. Cold rag? Ice chips? Massage?

But the moment that made me fight the tears from my eyes was when, for the fourth time, she started throwing up and just couldn't stop. It wouldn't pass. She started to cry. I started to cry. But then I thought, No! That's not what she needs from me right now. She needs me to be her strength. So I swallowed the lump in my throat and whispered softly, "You can do this. You are going to get through this."

Back to my Bible reading this morning...

Earlier in chapter 12, Paul writes, "Our bodies have many parts and God has put each part just where he wants it."

There are so many people doing so many different things to serve the Garcia family right now. Bringing meals, childcare, setting up a website for donations, visiting with Jenn, heartfelt cards, financial contributions, coordinating all the moving parts, etc.

A part of our body is suffering and it is our honor to get to lighten their load any way that we can.

No matter where you are reading this right now, whether you are connected to the Garcia family or not, you are connected to someone. There are people around you who need someone who genuinely loves them, who cares about what is going on in their lives, who is willing to slow down, and even be inconvenienced, in order to be a friend.

We each have a role to play. We've been divinely designed for a purpose and, regardless of it's visibility, it is significant. We are a Body, and every part matters.

Who can you go out of your way to show love to this week?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Please pray for Jen

It's game time for the Garcia family. And, although none of us can fight this battle for them, they do not (& WILL NOT) have to fight it alone.

One month ago, Jen had a doctor's appointment that changed the course of her life. She was told that the pain that she'd been experiencing in her leg was due to a rare form of cancer called sarcoma.

This past month has been filled with doctor appointments, scans, ultrasounds, blood work, and test after test after test. It has been full of shock and tears and fears and pain and sleepless nights. This month has also been full of prayers, faith, friendship, and an army of supporters lining up in formation.

Today the final test results came back to confirm that Jen has Stage 3 Synovial Sarcoma. She will be admitted to the hospital tomorrow where she will begin her first round of chemo. For 6 days the chemo will slowly drip into her body...killing the bad and giving life to the good.

The story that keeps coming to my mind as I pray for her is found in Mark 1:40-42:

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 
“I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Our God is able to heal. He is filled with compassion when He looks at us in our weakness. Please join me in asking Jesus to heal this beautiful, young mom. Her daughters names are Mikaylee (5th grade), Kelanie (3rd grade), and Kaleya (Pre-K)

Leave me a comment on my blog or on Facebook with your name and where you live to let me know that you are joining the army of prayer warriors. It will be a great encouragement to Jen & the Garcia family. For more updates, follow Jen's blog by clicking here

If you would like to bless the Garcia family in a more tangible way, please 
mail encouraging notes, gift cards, or checks (made out to Mike Garcia) to: 

South Bay Church
attn: Jennifer Garcia
1172 Murphy Avenue Suite 130
San Jose, CA 95131

Monday, February 11, 2013

The List

Last April Caedmon was in a bit of a funk. Like everyone else on planet earth, he goes through seasons where he's, well, just not as enjoyable to be around. This was one of those times.

The "funk" had been going on for about 2 weeks and I was absolutely certain that he would snap out of it as soon as my parents arrived for their visit. He did...for about the first 3 hours of their week long visit.

On about day 4 of their visit my mom (who adores Caedmon almost as much as I do!) and I were having a conversation trying to figure out what was going on in that little mind and heart of his. We started trying to identify the strength behind every negative quality that was manifesting itself. Every strength that is pushed too far appears like a weakness. But the reality is there's a strength in there somewhere. A diamond in the rough.

  • Instead of manipulative, we deemed Caedmon a good negotiator.
  • Instead of demanding, we recognized that Caedmon is bold and has courage to make the ask.
  • Instead of picky, we decided that Caedmon is precise.

I wrote down our List in the back of my journal. It started off as a "Remember-You-Do-Love-Your-Child" List, but it soon turned in to a place for me to scribble down qualities that I see in him. Things worth praising and celebrating.

It wasn't long before it dawned on me, "Hey, I need a List for Sammy too!" I guess it hadn't occurred to me at first because perhaps in that season, when I thought of Sammy, I wasn't as desperate for the daily reminder that every child does, in fact, come with strengths. But I started my list for Sammy as well.

I cannot even tell you how many times I have referred back to those two Lists this year. I use them to pray for the boys. I use these Lists to praise specific qualities in them. I marvel at how different the two Lists are. When I notice something new in one of the boys, I make a mental note to jot that down on The List. Today, The Lists are about a page long for each of them...bursting with positive attributes, strengths, and God given gifts.

As we have been leading up to Valentine's Day I felt like I should write love notes to my boys to share with them some SPECIFIC things I love about them. I found some fun little mailboxes in the dollar bin at Target and wrote their names on the side. After they go to sleep, I sneak over to put a little love note in their mailbox and raise the flag. It is highlight of their day to read their "mail". You should see the way their eyes light up as I read them their love letter each day. They stand a little taller. They purposefully try to show me that characteristic all day long. It's been such a gift!

"Dear Sammy, I love how wonderful you are with younger children..."
"Dear Caedmon, One thing I love about you is how brave you are..."
" are a fantastic helper..."
"...nothing fills my bucket more than cuddling with you..."

The Bible says:
The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21

May our words breathe life into our homes today!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lessons in Processing Grief - Part 2

On Monday, I shared a few lessons learned as I've walked this journey of grief. Today is the continuation of those lessons. The reason I'm writing this is so that if/when ever grief comes knocking on my door again, I can run to these lessons learned and have a tangible reminder of those things that bring healing. The reality is, however, that grieving just takes time and you can't rush it. IT IS OKAY TO GRIEVE. For me, these things just help me to grieve in a healthy way. 

5- Keep a gratitude log on your phone.
OK, here comes a real authentic moment... For about 6 weeks after the miscarriage I was in a pit. I could not think run a whole cycle on the washing machine (including soap) but forget to add clothes. It was bad. In the midst of that deep soul ache, I never lost sight of the fact that we are blessed. So blessed. Among the most blessed people in the whole world. But the thing I did lose sight of was where all the blessings came from. 

My mind was playing tricks on me and I began to wonder if maybe this is just the way life happens. When I would hear people thanking God for answered prayers or blessings they’d received, I would find myself wondering, “Did God really intervene there or are we just saying that because we’d like to think that’s the way He works?”

How can I thank God for answering my prayer for a good parking space when my friend is praying about cancer? How can I say God blessed me with a new iPhone when there are believers around the world without their daily bread? 

I couldn’t sort through it theologically. Even now, it’s hard to understand.

But here are two things I do know: 
1- God is totally in control of every detail of the Universe, from parking spaces to cancer. And while we don’t understand a lot of His ways, we can trust that He is aware of our specific situation and giving us exactly what He sees fit in every given moment.

2- Gratitude changes our perspective on life. Even from the darkness I knew I was blessed. I think it would have served me well to get really specific about those blessings and to discipline myself to physically write them down. When I learn to see beauty in hair bows holding back curls and new toothbrushes and a kettle whistling for tea on a cold morning, I am training my mind to focus on that which is good. It doesn’t make the bad go away, but it shrinks in it’s significance to make room for the blooming beauty.

Gratitude, even when we’re not 100% sure where the credit is due, can radically shape our perspective.

6- Receive and respond to people's attempts to love you.
When we experience pain, all of life is viewed through the lens of that pain. It’s extremely difficult to get outside of our circumstances to see life from a more balanced point of view. The reality is, all of us have a threshold of pain that, once crossed, blinds us from anything but our pain. It’s true of physical pain as well as emotional.  

When our eyesight (perspective on life) is bad we need to get other people to guide us. The Bible says, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when you eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness.” Mt 6:22-23 When I was living in darkness, I needed others to shine light onto my life. 

For many of us, it's hard to receive the love and help that people try to give us. We either feel so deep in a hole that we don't want to talk to people or we'd like to pretend we're strong enough to get through this without help. But the truth is, God created us to need each other. Sometimes we get to bear someone else's burden and sometimes when need them to bear ours. 

I needed my family and my friends...for them to remind me of God’s promises, to give me an outside perspective of my circumstances, to pray for me and share Scripture with me and hold my arms up. In order for them to keep reaching out to me, I needed to keep reaching out to them. To let them know that I needed them, to reciprocate when they text me, to receive their love and advice when it was offered. If I never reciprocated or if I resisted every kind act, they were likely to think I didn't need/want their efforts. But I knew I did. 

Let people love you.

7- Do not equate your current circumstances with God’s love (or lack of love) for you.
I could not fathom ever doing something to hurt one of my children to the depths at which I felt that God had just hurt me. If I had the power to prevent that kind of pain from ever touching my sons, I would do it. Because of this (human and very limited) perspective, I lost sight of God’s personal love for me. I knew that He loved mankind because “God so loved the world that He” sent Jesus. But I thought maybe He wasn’t quite as concerned about my personal circumstances. I knew in my heart that that was a lie that Satan was trying to feed me, but I just could not get my mind wrapped around how God could love me and still do this to me.

Then I listened to this message by Andy Stanley (fill your mind with truth, right?). In it, Andy looks at the story of John the Baptist being in prison (and eventually being beheaded) while Jesus is healing other people and performing all kinds of miracles. John was his cousin! Jesus said that there was no one greater than John. Jesus clearly loved him. So why didn’t he rescue John from his pain? 

Jesus said to John, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.” The way Andy Stanley described that verse was that there are going to be things that Jesus allows (even causes!) in our lives that make absolutely no sense to us. And when they happen we will be tempted to turn away because of the pain, but God blesses us when we don’t...when we receive the trial and trust Him in the unknown. His decision to let John die in prison had NOTHING to do with His ability to rescue him OR His love for the one who longed to be rescued. 

His love for us was proven on the cross, and nothing can separate us from or change that.

If you are walking through grief or painful circumstances right now, I pray you will tell yourself over and over again that you are loved by Jesus. Even when you don't feel it or don't know how it could possibly be true, His love is real. He sees you. He is intimately acquainted with the road of suffering. May you run to Him instead of away from Him in your pain. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lessons in Processing Grief- Part 1

These next two posts are probably more for me than for you.

I need to have a place to record all these thoughts I've been pondering in my heart. Read along if you like. Pass it along if you have a friend in the same boat. 

In the midst of the pain that I’ve struggled through the last couple of months, I’ve often felt disappointed with myself. Disappointed with the way that I have responded to the grief and loss. There’s no doubt in my mind that I was doing the very best that I could. And I am also fully confident that God’s grace is enough to cover me (be strong in me) in the midst of weakness. I don’t have some mental picture of God being disappointed in me. Just me being disappointed in me.

I know that's kinda a funny thought... "I should be better at this whole grief thing than I am!" But at the same time, I've talked to other people who have felt the same way.

So I’ve thought things over (and over and over again) and I tried to decide what is it exactly that I wish I had done differently. Life is sure to bring grief to my doorstep again at some unwanted moment. What can I learn from this experience to better equip me for the next?

I want to share with you (and record for myself!) seven lessons learned on this journey. I’ll share four today and three tomorrow.

1- Accept that grieving is different than a lack of faith.
I think I had that confused. Not that I thought it was sinful to grieve or be sad. But the intensity of the emotions and the questions that raged made me feel as though my entire foundation had just crumbled. I didn’t realize that what I was thinking and feeling were a natural part of the grief process, not the shattering of my faith. 

Sadness does not equal weakness. And brokenness does not equal hopelessness. 

2- Keep filling your mind with truth.
When something happens that shakes our world, we are desperate to make sense of it. Out minds start to run at Mach speed in a thousand different directions grasping for something (anything!) that is still solid enough to hang on to. Pastor Andy Stanley said, “I am most teachable when I am most vulnerable.”

When the rug got ripped out from under me, I knew how important it was to keep filling my mind with truth instead of letting Satan just have a hey-day in my head. So every day I would read the Bible and books and listen to podcasts and worship music...each pointing me to Jesus. I gotta tell ya, though, it was painful. To be honest, there were many days that reading the Bible brought more pain than comfort...left me with more questions than answers. My “quiet time” each day felt like open heart surgery without anesthesia. 

But that is how healing takes place. Without continually exposing my wound to the Healer, He couldn’t clean it, apply ointment, and bandage it properly. Trying to conceal a wound could, at best, lead to a nasty calloused scar with improper healing or, at worst, lead to infection that could destroy my life.

Prioritize time to read, listen, and reflect on truth.

3- Say truth out loud, even when it feels fake.
I think one of my core values in life is being authentic. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I share the real me with you, not the me with lipstick and wrinkle-free khakis. I think being authentic is INCREDIBLY important. But in the midst of my lowest lows, it didn’t serve me well. 

I wanted to be honest with myself, my husband, my friends, and sometimes even on this blog about how I was doing. There’s value in that. To deny reality is no help to anyone. But I felt that I couldn’t say things that I knew to be true about God because suddenly I didn’t feel like I knew them to be true anymore. I couldn’t claim the promises because, in my crisis of belief, I didn’t feel the promises.

However, there is a lot of power in saying (aloud) the promises of God, regardless of how you feel. I wish that I had mustered up the strength to say to people: 

“I know that God will work this together for my good.” (Even though I can’t see it at all.)
“I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God. His love never changes.” (Even though this seems more cruel than loving.)
“I know that God is near to the brokenhearted and He is holding me in the midst of my pain.” (Even though all I feel is emptiness.)

It felt fake to me, which is why I held back. But even when it feels fake, it’s not fake. It’s the most real thing in this broken world.

4- Write down God’s past faithfulness to you.
God has been faithful all of my life (all of your life too!). Why would I doubt that He will be faithful now? When I am reminded of how He’s provided for us, miracles that He’s performed on our behalf, the specific stories of how He’s divinely guided our lives, it gives me courage. I want to work with Andy to make a list of these stories so that if I ever wonder again, I can run to my list and breathe easier. 
  • the time we didn’t have enough money to pay our utility bill and an unexpected check from an old friend showed up in them mail.
  • miraculous provision to pay off Andy’s student loan in less than a year
  • the story behind getting the domain for South Bay Church’s website
  • and on, and on, and on...
He was faithful then; He will be faithful now. 

Check back tomorrow for Part 2