_______ is Proof that God Exists

There’s nothing I like more than hearing a new song on the radio that makes me turn up the volume. Recently, a song by Adele did just that. I’ve been listening to the song non-stop and even got my frugal self to buy the whole album because it’s just that good. So good that people watching her YouTube videos have left comments like these:

“My arms are covered in goosebumps.”

“Tears. Literally tears are falling down my face.”

(My favorite) “Adele has me missing a boyfriend who doesn’t even exist.”

These comments are proof that people can’t get enough of a 20 something year old singing songs with the longing and life experiences of a 50 year old. 😉

But the best comment I’ve read about her is this:

“Adele is proof that God exists.”


I think it’s safe to assume (theological arguments aside) that this person recognized something so extraordinary about this artist and her music that he knows there must be Someone extraordinary who gave her this gift.

I feel this way too when I see the vibrant colors of a sunset, the intricate design of a snowflake, and the unique personalities of my munchkins.beach-164288_1280

When I pause to consider how these extraordinary things came to be, I literally shake my head in wonder. I also felt this way recently when I came across an article on Yahoo about a doctor’s battle with cancer.

The story of Dr. Paul Kalanithi could be considered a tragedy; he was a 37 year old successful neurosurgeon at Stanford when he passed away from stage 4 lung cancer (with no history of smoking), leaving a wife and a baby daughter behind. But what struck me about his story was not his professional success or his longing to help people, but his attitude toward life. Such as these quotes from his memoir:

“Shouldn’t terminal illness, then, be the perfect gift to that young man who had wanted to understand death?”

“Life isn’t about avoiding suffering, it’s also about creating meaning.”

You see, this doctor had made it his aim in life to make life meaningful for his patients, his family and himself. And for him to find meaning in his cancer diagnosis as well was – in one simple word – extraordinary.

I couldn’t read the article or listen to his wife’s interview without tearing up. I shared this story with hubby, but could hardly get the words out. The one question on my mind was, “Where do you find people like this?” I was blown away by the fact that someone facing so much pain and hopelessness could be in such a state of acceptance. I’m sure as a doctor (and a Christian), he had already dealt with a lot of life and death issues and struggled with tough questions. But, somehow, out of the struggling came an almost effortless sense of peace and trust.

To a bystander, his attitude doesn’t make sense. But that’s the beautiful part of it. It’s like seeing the impossible and the incomprehensible and knowing that they are true. Like knowing our universe is so incredibly huge, but that it is just a speck compared to the whole expanse of the sky. Or trying to understand the amazingly complicated and intricate ways in which the human body works to keep us alive. And celebrating the fact that goodness can overcome evil.

There really is so much “extraordinary” in and around us that points to Someone extraordinary. I love how God leaves His fingerprints everywhere – in the powerful notes of a song to the profound words of a cancer patient. I’m so thankful for these reminders that beauty, hope and love exist because God exists. We just have to open up our eyes, hearts and minds to recognize it.

Here’s that song by Adele, “When We Were Young”.

How would you fill in the blank: “_________ is proof that God exists.”?

Christmas: Bringing Dignity and Joy to People

This past Saturday I had the great privilege of witnessing some makeovers of the heart and mind. After debating whether I was willing to wake up early (I am so not a morning person! :P), I signed up to help with our church’s first ever Christmas pop-up shop. In a nutshell, the church set up a store at a local middle school with toys marked down by 80-90% so that parents who weren’t able to afford to buy their kids presents could do so.

In previous years, our church had asked these families for their wish lists, then bought and delivered the gifts to them. But in doing so, we had inadvertently taken away the parents’ dignity and joy in being able to provide for their children. So this year, as in the words of our fearless leader Christine S., we took something good and made it better.

And boy, was it better! Take a look for yourself. 🙂

Here's one half of the store!

Here’s one part of the store!

At one end of the large room were tables full of legos, princess-y stuff, superhero stuff, clothes, arts and crafts, and the latest fad, kendamas. At the other end was the cashier, followed by several tables with rolls and rolls of wrapping paper and ribbons. Once the parents had purchased their toys, they were able to wrap them up and take them home. Oh, and I forgot to mention they were able to shop in peace because their kids were in another room being fed and entertained. 😉

The best part of the event was seeing the looks on the faces of the parents after they were done shopping. One mom’s beaming smile said it all. She walked out with her arms full of wrapped presents and her head held high. I can still see her in my mind, and the image touches me so much. It was one bit of confirmation that the shop had offered these parents dignity and joy.

A quote on a friend’s Facebook page affirms this:

“When you are referring to serving a community, the words To vs. With, coupled with action, make a huge difference in the impact. ‘To’ creates a lack of the ability for ownership, although intentions may be accepted and received by the community initially. ‘With’ joins forces with community, and impact happens in both the interaction and reaction.” (Kristen B.)

Sure, it might be easier and more convenient to engage the parents from a distance – go out and buy the toys, wrap them and drop them off at their homes – instead of taking the time and effort to set up a store and offering childcare on a Saturday, but coming alongside people and interacting with them is where the magic happens.

The word “with” is what Christmas is all about. God coming to earth and taking the form of a human, a baby no less, in order to engage with mankind. No other belief system has a deity who humbled and inconvenienced himself – out of Love – to make himself more accessible to people. To bring dignity and joy to us through His life, death and resurrection. But Jesus did. That’s why His name is Emmanuel – God with us. And what a beautiful name it is.

On this Christmas Eve, I pray you may experience the wonder of Christmas and remember that, truly, God is with us.

Enjoy this beautiful song, “God with Us”, by All Sons & Daughters and have a Merry Christmas! 🙂

How have you experienced God’s presence in your life?

Conversations with a 6 Year Old About Good Friday

The other day C handed me a picture she had spent several minutes drawing and coloring. My eyes grew wide when I glanced at the lined notebook paper. I had been expecting her usual trademark chicken pictures, but this time she had drawn something completely different. On the paper were three brown crosses with a man hanging on the middle one.

“Oh! It’s Jesus,” I remarked in surprise. “What a wonderful picture.”

She nodded and then commented, “I didn’t know how to draw His mouth.”

At first I didn’t know what C meant; she’s known how to draw faces since preschool. Then it dawned on me that she didn’t know whether to draw a line curving up or down.

Because considering the circumstances, death on a cross was one of the most painful, excruciating, and shameful ways to die. Yet, Jesus willingly accepted all of the physical, emotional and spiritual torture that went with it for one reason: His love for us.

I’m not sure whether or not a 6 year old understands the theology behind Jesus’ emotional state on the cross, but C’s picture does shed some light on how complex, deep and heart-wrenching Jesus’ sacrifice for us must have been.

It is just as Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Shame versus joy. Or rather, shame mixed with joy. That was how Jesus viewed the cross.

And this was how I replied to C’s comment, “It is kind of complicated. It was painful for Jesus to die on the cross, but He was happy to do it because He loves us.”

Even though the day Jesus died was the darkest, most depressing Friday in all history, it paved the way to the most glorious, awesome Sunday three days later. That’s why today is called GOOD Friday.


C’s pictures: Good Friday on the left; Easter on the right!

So happy Good Friday to you all! May you have a wonderful Easter Sunday, too.

Now enjoy this contemporary take on one of my favorite hymns, “The Wonderful Cross”, sung here by Chris Tomlin.

How do you view Jesus’ death on the cross?



Thoughts About the New Nicolas Cage Movie and Other Matters of Faith

A few days ago, I dragged hubby to watch the (new) Left Behind movie. Well, dragged might be too dramatic a word to use here; he more or less humored me by going. When we discovered that the next showing of Gone Girl would be too late for us to catch, I enticed him with the idea of seeing Nicolas Cage on the big screen, and he agreed. (To be truthful, a psychological thriller about a marriage gone wrong probably wouldn’t be the best choice for a date night anyway, haha.) Thankfully, Nicolas Cage came through and made the movie more than decent. Okay, he basically carried the whole film with his gut-wrenchingly believable acting. (For more proof of Mr. Cage’s acting chops, check out Face Off.) If there’s any reason you should watch Left Behind, it’s him.


Other than that, if you really want the wonder and awe of an Oscar-worthy movie about eschatology (a fancy term for “end times”), you should just stick to the original script found in the book of Revelation. As a writer, I am more and more impressed by authors who write amazing stories, especially in the genres that I can’t, namely sci-fi and fantasy. Although the writer of Revelation is John, the creator of the events that unfold in those twenty-two chapters is God. And boy, is He an amazing author. As a kid in Sunday school and later on as a grad student in seminary, I used to think all the stuff described in the last book of the Bible was strange and out of this world. Now, as a writer, I am starting to see how amazingly creative the story really is. And how amazingly creative God really is.

Yes, it takes a lot of faith to believe in all the end time stuff that Revelation talks about, not to mention the rest of the Bible. Even for someone who began going to church at the age of seven, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the ideas that God exists, that mankind is sinful and that Jesus, God’s own son, came to earth to die for us.

If I can be honest, I’ve recently been going through a mid-faith crisis. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m reaching mid-life or I’ve just been allowing myself to ask some hard questions about what I believe in. I’m starting to see that the journey of faith that I am on, and I believe each person is on, goes through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

What does each stage look like? Maybe something like this:

Denial – Does God exist?

Anger – Why does a loving God allow (fill in the blank) to happen?

Bargaining – If I do (fill in the blank), can’t I make it to heaven?

Depression – Will God accept me even though I’ve (fill in the blank)?

Acceptance – I have answers for all those questions above and believe, without a doubt, in Jesus.

I’ve been a believer for almost thirty years, yet I think I’m just starting to go through some of these stages. I’m sure the process is different for every person; there is no one correct formula or method. I think the important thing is to go through the stages and to be honest about our questions and thoughts. It helps to do research, too, to find the answers to your questions. I’m thankful to be able to voice my wacky and cynical thoughts to hubby and have him listen without judgment as I process through them.

I’m still journeying through the stages, sometimes going from one to another and back again. But I am starting to get answers and clarity. Through all of my wavering though, I know God hasn’t been upset or surprised by my pondering. After all, He’s the one who gave me a brain to think with. And the bottom line is, I know He won’t leave me, or anyone else, hanging if we truly want answers.

Oh, if anyone is wondering, yes, the five stages of faith are the same as the five stages of grief. Funny how that works, huh? But it makes sense, too. To truly believe in God means letting go of your own ideals about who God is and knowing there is only one God – and you’re not Him.

Here’s a song from Left Behind, Jordin Sparks’ cover of DC Talk’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. (If you don’t catch the movie in theaters, Redbox it!)

Where are you currently at in your journey of faith?

Closed Doors, Open Windows

Whoever came up with the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window” likely meant well. I mean the phrase certainly touches on the ideas of hope and potential and conjures up positive vibes. You could add to the saying another chipper phrase, such as …

– “There’s something better out there!” or “It’s all going to work out!” –

and you’ll have placed whatever opportunity that had screamed “NO!” in your face into a nice box, wrapped it up with shiny paper, and tied a ribbon around it.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

If only overcoming disappointments was that easy. 😉

The reality is that when things don’t work out the way we had hoped they would, we get stuck. Sitting on the couch with a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream seems like the best option at the moment. We lose faith in God and in ourselves. We lack the desire and motivation to get up, shake off the dust (or potato chip crumbs), and try again.

I’m sure we’ve all had a door (or two or twenty) closed in our lives. I’ve had my share in the areas of relationships, school and work. At the time I just wanted to wallow in self-pity because I didn’t believe there was something better out there for me. But thankfully, I was wrong. I’ll say it again – I was wrong! Because life did go on after the DTR that left me with a fractured heart. Life did go on after I received a rejection letter from the graduate school I had applied to. Life did go on after I had my firstborn and realized I wouldn’t be able to return to work as soon as I had planned, leaving me with no choice but to toss the first 1,000 internship hours (out of 3,000) that I had acquired for my counseling license.

This last closed door was a tough one for me to accept. I had had my education and career path all planned out (finish grad school before age 30 and get my license by age 35) and things were going my way until mamahood pulled me back by my unwashed hair and plopped me down on my behind to nurse, diaper, carry and bounce my high need son 24/7. Switching gears from an overachieving and goal-oriented person to one who literally could not get out of the house at times drove me crazy. Giving up the timeline I had set and accepting my new full-time “job” took a lot of grumbling, time, more grumbling and letting go. (I think I’ve blogged about this whole process so many times!) Looking back, I had spent so much time sitting in front of that closed door and trying to get it open, twisting and yanking on the doorknob as hard as I could—without any progress. It wasn’t until two years ago that I was finally willing to take my hand off the knob and step back from the door.

What made me step away? Well, it was that window.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/freedigitalphotos.net

You know, the window from that saying up above. For me, God had through a series of events opened up the opportunity for me to write. When I turned my head from the closed door and glimpsed the great view from the window, I became energized again. There was hope and so much potential outside beckoning for me to come (and maybe a few palm trees, too). The closer I walked to the window, the more fulfilled I felt. I was also so grateful to have had that door close on me eight years ago. Because if it hadn’t, I might not ever have gone down the path I did and experienced all the heart-changing things I have been blessed to go through as a mom, and now as a writer.

So maybe the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window” is really all it’s cut out to be. It just takes time, trust and patience to move past a disappointment and regain hope. But once you do, you just might find yourself saying and believing those other phrases that “There’s something better out there!” and “It’s all going to work out!” 🙂

I picked OneRepublic’s song, “Stop and Stare” for this post. The lyrics reflect the uncomfortable process of moving from the closed door to the open window.

What windows have been opened in your life that have been the result of closed doors?

P.S. I can also say without a doubt that I’m glad that those doors mentioned above closed on me in the relationship and school areas as well. The windows that opened after (meeting and marrying hubby and the grad school I did get accepted into) were way beyond what I could have hoped for. 🙂

TGIE! (Thank God It’s Easter!)

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/freedigitalphotos.net

Happy Easter weekend everyone!

Just wanted to drop a quick post here as spring break has started for the kiddos and I’ll be signing off from “blogdom” for a week.

I’m so thankful (which is a mild word to use) for the significance that yesterday and tomorrow mark – the death and resurrection of Jesus! I still remember the evening I prayed the prayer of faith to become a follower of Jesus; I was 12, old enough to understand the Good News, but young enough to still not fully grasp all of it. As I prayed with my pastor’s wife, a sweet, soft spoken woman, I knew I was stepping into a big decision. Little did I know how interesting and amazing this ride would be… and continues to be. Thanks be to God for His grace and love!

Have a joy filled Easter! 🙂

Faith in the Outcome

I learned a lot during my time in college. I learned how quickly mold grows in a refrigerator; the power of a youthful metabolism to digest a whole dinner at 6PM and require another meal at midnight; the blessing of friendships made and kept 15+ years after graduation; and that I drool when I sleep (as my friends so kindly informed me). I may also have gleaned a theory or two about Psychology along the way, since that was my major. Yet, after four years of higher learning, I must admit there is one important lesson I learned in college that was not from a lecture hall and a professor, but from my own apartment and friends.

During my last two years of college, I was fortunate to live with three dear girlfriends in our own apartment. We had so much fun doing things together – late night talking, studying, eating, cooking, praying, singing, partying and growing. We even had one session of haircutting, thanks to our adventurous roomie R who decided out of the blue one evening to cut her hair. When I say out of the blue, I mean we didn’t even have proper haircutting tools around, but we made do with what we had. 

That evening, R sat down on a dining room chair and another friend took the scissors and a comb in his hands. Now, this was not just a trim she wanted. R wanted a major change, one that would transform the locks that fell to the middle of her back into a bob. 

Suffice it to say, we were shocked at her decision. “Are you sure you want it that short?” we collectively asked.

“Yes, cut it!” R answered.

Image courtesy of kibsri/freedigitalphotos.net

So our friend began to cut R’s hair. And cut. And cut. Throughout the ordeal, I remember I felt very anxious and worried that the outcome would be… to be honest, disastrous. I just couldn’t envision a good outcome based on what I was witnessing. 

Snip, snip, snip! 

Long, thick, black hair fell to the laminate floor… clump after clump. By the end of the haircut, it looked like a little black animal had formed at our feet. R’s remaining hair, having been sprayed with water, stuck plastered to her head, limp and lifeless. And it was short – cut to the chin short!

I’m sure I had worry lines all across my forehead by then, but R had a bright smile on her face. That smile told me she still confidently believed in her decision to chop off her hair. She ran off to get cleaned up and style her new do. We heard the hair dryer whir for a few minutes and then the door to the bathroom opened.

When R came out, I let out a big sigh and a cheer. Her new hairstyle looked GREAT. She had blown it out so there was volume and movement to her hair. The bob framed her face well and showed off her dimples. Bottom line, the new haircut looked super cute! 

Now, what was the lesson I learned in all this, you ask?

It’s this: When we take the risk to make a change, it’s our faith in the outcome that helps us persevere through the uncertainty and discomfort of the process. 

For me, this has has looked like…

Believing that subjecting myself to the “torture” of yoga will make me stronger and more flexible enables me to push through each agonizing pose and welcome each bead of sweat. 

Knowing that humility and cooperation are keys to a healthy and happy marriage gave me the motivation I needed to apologize to hubby for my bad attitude the other day.

Hoping that my kids will learn to value love above perfection reminds me to bite my tongue and respond graciously whenever one of them spills something on accident.

What I’ve learned is that makings changes in your life takes guts. But those small or big changes in your life – the “makeovers” of your health or home or hair or heart – are a lot easier to make when you have faith that the outcome will be worth the process. 

Here’s Sara Groves’ song, “It’s Going to be Alright”.

What changes have you made in your life where you knew the outcome would be worth the process?

P.S. You may wonder, what if R’s haircut really hadn’t turned out so well? Well, for one, I wouldn’t be using it as an analogy in this post! 🙂 But thankfully it did, so no worries there!

Faith Like A Child

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).

It was early October of 2001. I had just stepped out of the shower and was towel drying my hair when I decided to do something wild. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t thinking about going anywhere in my birthday suit!) When I say wild, I mean I decided I was going to pray specifically for something. You see, I was about to go on a business trip the next day and it would be my first trip anywhere alone. Not only that, I would be taking an evening flight and landing in a foreign land (yes, Arizona is a very different place from California, haha) and then need to take a taxi to my hotel. My imagination was already working overtime with what could go wrong with a woman traveling by herself at night. The events of 9/11 were also fresh in my mind and added to my worries. But this was one trip I could not miss, so I did the only thing I could do – I prayed.

I told God how worried I was to be flying, how I just wanted to get to Arizona in one piece and also make it to my hotel without any problems. I asked God for a safe flight. And while I was at it, I asked God to bring me a female taxi driver.

Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery/freedigitalphotos.net

A female taxi driver? Did they even exist? I didn’t know, but I guess I would soon find out.

Now, just to preface, I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I’ve even gone to seminary and taken theology classes (not willingly of course, it was required for my degree). And I believe God hears our prayers and answers them. But I still have a hard time understanding how it all works. Perhaps that is why I struggle at times to talk to God and tell him what I need (or to be more precise, what I want). I would rather work things out on my own than wait for him to help. But in this case, there was little I could do to calm my fears about traveling. That is why I decided to pray.

The next day, I did make it to Arizona safely. Upon arriving at the airport, I found the area for the taxi pick-ups and proceeded to wait in line. I hoped as I waited, I waited as I hoped. My eyes scanned the taxis as they pulled up one by one for the passengers before me. I saw they were all driven by male drivers. Disappointment rose in me, but I continued to hope. Finally, when I got to the front of the line, my taxi arrived. I looked up and there in the driver’s seat was a middle aged woman with shoulder length blond hair.


I watched wide-eyed as she got out of the car and came around to load my luggage into the trunk. I got into the taxi and sat back in relief. She was a very friendly person and we chatted during the whole car ride. When I got to the hotel, I couldn’t wait to call hubby and tell him how God had answered my prayer in a very specific way.

“A female taxi driver?” he exclaimed. “I’ve never seen one before.” (This is coming from someone who takes business trips often.)

Yup, by God’s grace, I met the only female taxi driver in the world. Okay, maybe not the world, just in the U.S. 🙂

I learned a little more that day about faith. Faith that female taxi drivers do exist. Faith that prayer really does work. And most of all, faith that there is a big and loving God who cares about little ‘ole me.

Here’s one of my old favorite songs, “Faith Like a Child” by Jars of Clay.

What role has faith played in your life?

Less Square and More Hip

Jesus is so not square!

This was a revelation of mine recently. You would think that someone who’s been going to church for close to three decades and attended seminary (for a counseling degree, not theology, mind you!) would have a better understanding of who Jesus is. Unfortunately, all those Sunday school stories went in through one ear, straight through my very square mind, and out the other without making much sense to me. I suppose I’m just so accustomed to viewing things through my perspective that it’s hard to think of things in an un-square way.  😛

When it comes to God, the creator of the universe, I have no problems understanding Him. I think we’re kinda on the same page. I mean, I’m pretty sure He is a perfectionist because if He had put the earth even a mile closer or farther away from the sun, it would be uninhabitable. And God is the one who came up with the ten commandments, which means He likes rules, and square people always follow the rules. 🙂

Jesus, on the other hand, is so out of the box! He healed a blind man by putting mud, mixed with His own spit, on his eyes. To be honest, that sounds just a teeny bit messy. He also hung out with people who were shunned by society, and not in a ke-chi kind of way either (translation = be polite even though you don’t mean it), but with genuine acceptance and concern.

So like I said, I just recently realized how different Jesus and I are … and this realization makes me appreciate Him even more than before. I’m so thankful He isn’t square like me and that He’s willing to get his hands dirty, literally and figuratively, cause people (myself included!) are messy. Knowing people and loving them for exactly who they are, even when they don’t love you back, is hard work. And that’s what Jesus did when He came to this earth, died on the cross for us and rose again.

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer/freedigitalphotos.net

I used to like Christmas a lot more than Easter, but they’re equally special to me now. I see that they both represent hope, the hope that there is so much more to this life and the way things are. They also give me hope in my quest to becoming less square and more hip, just like Jesus.

Here’s a happy and hope-filled song about Jesus by Jamie Grace called “Hold Me”.

How do you see Jesus?

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