More

More. It’s something we teach kids from very early on. When I first taught Chrysantha how to sign the word more, she would do it over and over again. I made her sign more before I gave her another piece of food. She quickly caught on how to get more of what she wants. She started signing more when she was playing on the swings and wanted to be pushed again. Wanting more of something is ingrained in us from an early age. We want more food, more toys, more money, more choices, more, more, more. It’s become a right and an expectation to be able to have more.

But, what about Jesus? Do we want more of Him? Do we pursue Him with the same passion and desire that we pursue material things?

I admit that I often fall short in my pursuit of Jesus. I say I want more of Him, but my actions tell a different story. I get caught up in my day to day life and in all of my things. I forget about Jesus and fit Him in when it’s convenient. But, what would it look like to have a life that is in pursuit of Jesus, that says I want more of Him?

The Gospels are full of stories of people pursuing Jesus. People knew there was something special about Him. They had heard the stories of His teachings and the miracles He performed. So people gathered where Jesus was. They went to Him to find out more. In Mark 6, we read about the story of another crowd coming to hear Jesus. But, let’s look at what happens before that.

Mark 6:7 “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits” verses 12-13 continue to say “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”

Jesus sends out his disciples. He gives them authority to do His work. Then they come back and tell him about what they did. Mark 6:30-32 “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Like the disciples, I need more time spent Connecting with Jesus.

I need to go to a place free of distractions and demands. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the things that need to be done. Taking care of our families, our work, our ministries, our homes. Those are all important things, and good things. But, we need to get away and connect with Jesus.

How can you spend more time connecting with Jesus? What does that look like in your life?

Let’s continue looking at the story in Mark. Mark 6:33-44 “33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things 35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” 39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”

The people were so excited to being able to spend time with Jesus. They followed Him where He went so they could hear Him speak. They kind of got in the way of the plans Jesus had with his disciples. But how does Jesus respond? With compassion. Verse 34 says “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

I don’t know about you, but my first response when my plans are ruined is not to have compassion. I need More of Jesus’ Compassion.

Jesus took the time to teach the people that came to Him. He even made sure they had food to eat. The disciples weren’t quite on the same page as Jesus. They thought the people should stop listening to Jesus and go get some food to eat. But Jesus provided for the people so they could stay. Just like the disciples, I struggle with having compassion on others. Why should I have to go out of my way to care for someone else? I need to be more like Jesus in this area.

How can you have more of Jesus’ Compassion? Think of a specific situation now or in the past that needs (or needed) you to have more compassion.

Alright, let’s look at one more passage in Mark. Our story picks up after Jesus sent his disciples in a boat to Bethsaida. Mark 6:53-56 “When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the market places. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”

The people recognized Jesus’ power. They were sick and hurting. They did whatever they could to get His healing. They knew that even just touching Him would heal them.

I need more of Jesus’ Healing. I want to be like these people that knew the power of Jesus. I forget that Jesus is Healer. I forget that I don’t have to live the way I’m living anymore. When I’m sick, when my body aches, when I’m emotionally and spiritually burnt out, I can call on Jesus for His healing. And just like His disciples, He has given us His authority to heal others.

Do you need Jesus’ Healing today? Have you ever experienced His Healing?

I think we all need more of Jesus in our lives. We need to spend more time connecting with Him, we need to have more of His compassion, and we need more of His healing. We need to be like the people in this passage in Mark that pursued Jesus, that did everything they could to hear Him, to be near Him. When we seek Jesus, He meets us. He is always there. I need to be more intentional about the time I spend with Jesus. I need to really go deeper with him, to build that relationship. When I am spending time with Jesus, then my life reflects it. I have more compassion, I am aware of His work around me, and I can help others to be healed in His name. I am tired of living a life that is not all it can or should be. I’m tired of pursuing earthly things. I want to be like Asaph when he says in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

So, do you want more of Jesus?

To Chrysantha on Your First Birthday

Dear Chrysantha,

I can’t believe that it’s been a whole year already. It seems like just yesterday you were being placed on my chest for the very first time. I was so in awe and so in love. I couldn’t believe that you were finally here and that you were mine. The day of your birth was one of the happiest days of my life. From that moment on, my life was no longer my own. The first 6 weeks was spent getting to know each other. You slept a lot, and woke up a lot to eat. I spent most of my days sitting on the couch holding you as you slept or feeding you. You were so tiny. You decided that you wanted to sleep on your tummy, so we put you in the pack n play in our room. You loved sleeping there! You still woke up lots at night, which was exhausting for Momma. But, through that, you taught me how to be thankful for the moments I had to spend with you. Oftentimes I would sit in the rocking chair in your room and feed you. I treasured those quiet moments when I got to be still and connect with God.

I really didn’t know that I could love someone so much. I spent almost all of my time with you. I never wanted to leave you, and you certainly didn’t want me to leave you either. But, sometimes I had to. In those moments you got to bond with Baba. You showed him how to take care of you and make you happy. You gave him an opportunity to love you and take care of you.  Thank you for cuddling with me, giving me kisses, and wanting to be close to me. I love being needed by you. It’s tiring and exhausting sometimes, but I enjoy being able to take care of you.

My favorite thing this year has been watching you grow. You have been a strong baby from the very beginning. You rolled over from your tummy to your back at 16 days old. Even though you were so little for so long, you were so strong and mighty. I loved seeing you reach each milestone and having the opportunity to help you along the way. You were scared and uncertain of these new things that you were able to do, but I encouraged you. When you rolled over, I celebrated. When you sat up for the first time and balanced yourself for a few seconds before falling over, I clapped at what a good job you did. When you pulled yourself up to standing on the couch, I cheered for you. When you got scared and couldn’t get back down again, I let you know that I was right there, and showed you how to sit down. We spent a lot of time working on falling. I had so much fun holding your hands and letting you go, so you could get used to catching yourself. Pretty soon you weren’t scared anymore. You learned how to be brave. New situations don’t scare you as much anymore. You figure out a way to change your situation to make everything okay again.

Oh my sweet girl, you fill my heart with so much joy. My heart overflows with love for you. Your smile makes me melt. Your laugh is a treasure. You are so focused and so serious a lot of the time. You quietly observe the world around you, especially when you are in new situations. You take time to be comfortable with other people and in new places. You are cautious, which is a good trait to have. This makes your smiles and your laughter so much more precious to me. I love finding ways to make you happy. I love your cheesy grin with your cute teeth showing. I call it your lizard face 🙂

I am so thankful that God chose me to be your Momma. I’m honored that I get to watch you grow into the person He is creating you to be. I love our bedtime prayer times together, where we get to pray for others and thank God for what He has done for us. I love reading you Bible stories and teaching you about Jesus.

It’s not always easy being a Mom. I have to put you before me a lot of the time. We’ve also had a lot of challenges this year with getting you to gain weight at a normal rate, helping you to sleep well, and helping you to be comfortable with other people besides me and sometimes Baba. And as you become more independent and learn to assert yourself, I have to help you make the right choices so that you can be safe. You don’t like when you can’t have what you want. But, it’s my job to teach you to be safe.

Even on the hardest days, I still love you and I will always love you. I’m certainly not perfect. I will make many mistakes. You’ve already gotten pretty good at forgiving me.

Baby girl, my little love bug, Momma loves you so much. I’m so excited to see what this next year holds for you. You are so smart and continue to amaze me at the way you see the world. I can’t wait to explore more with you and to learn with you.

Happy 1st birthday Baobeiah!

Love always and forever,

Momma

Eternity

I finally get it. This life, this world, it’s not the end. It’s not what I should be living for. I have nothing to fear and nothing to lose. When I die, and I will die someday, it won’t be the end. I have eternity to look forward to. Someday I will meet my Savior face to face. The things of this world will pass away. I will have forever to be with God. And those who go before me and go after me, I will get to see them again if they have placed their hope and trust in Jesus. I don’t have to make the most of this life as if this is all I have. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t value the time I have. Of course I should enjoy the life I have been given. I should love others, point them to Jesus, and follow God’s leading in my life. There’s so much more to life than what I’ve been living. I don’t have to live in fear or worry. So, what if today is my last day? I have Peace that God will take care of my family. What if Yusheng passes before me, I have the knowledge that I will see him again. Of course I will miss those who go before me, of course my heart will ache. But I have hope, joy, and peace. It’s not the END! I will get to see them again. I feel like I can live life more fully now. I can boldly follow God wherever He calls me.

Karlee

(This isn’t going to be polished…just reflecting and thinking out loud.)

It’s been a week since I got the news. I still don’t believe it at times. It makes no sense. How could someone so seemingly healthy and full of life just be gone in a matter of moments? But yet, I know that I don’t need to or get to understand. I know that she is in heaven. She put her faith and trust in God. She followed Jesus. Karlee became a Jesus follower 7 or so years ago. She pursued Him with everything. She was on the fast track. She was serious about getting to know God. Her life was radically changed. Because of how she lived, the way she changed, what God did in and through her, others saw Jesus in her. Because of the life she lived others can have life. God chose her. He called her His own. And He is using her death to ignite conversations, to change lives, to bring others into a relationship with Him. And that is exactly what Karlee would want. Because of how she chose to live, others get to have eternal life. Because God sacrificed His son Jesus, and Jesus conquered death and rose again, everyone who believes in Him will be saved. That is our hope. Death is not the end. Death has no power over us. We get to pass from this earthly life into heaven. A place of no more pain, sorrow, tears or suffering. A place where we get to see Jesus face to face.

Am I sad still? Of course. I miss my friend.

I feel

like I took our friendship for granted. She played such a huge role in my life. She helped me to be a better wife, mother, friend, and follower of Jesus.

Her life and death will have a lasting impact on me.

I am going to choose to live better. To enjoy the people in my life, to love them better. I want to pursue God more, to deepen my relationship with Him, to be transformed.

I am not going to stay the same. I want to live a life worth living.

Thank you Karlee for being such a loving friend and example. I love you and miss you. I look forward to seeing you again in heaven!

(baby) Steps of Faith

Today Chrysantha learned how to walk along the couch. She was motivated by a ball that she really wanted. She saw her goal and she went after it. But, it wasn’t easy. She would hesitantly move her hand just a little. Then she would pick up her foot and move it just a little to the side, testing things out. She needed lots of encouragement. She was doing something new and it was scary. She had to keep looking at her goal and take those small steps towards it. She even went back to the safety and familiarity of the wooden cube (which is lower and easier to hold onto) for a moment. But, she kept going.

Watching Chrysantha reminded me of my journey with God. So often He calls me to step out in faith. If I am willing to focus on Him and take even just small steps towards Him I am rewarded. It is so tempting to stay with what is familiar. It is tempting to give up. Chrysantha wanted to give up. She got so frustrated. But, she kept moving forward. She made it to her goal. It was hard, it was tiring, but she did it. She persevered.

I need to be more like her and like Paul. In Philippians 3:7-14 NIV Paul says:

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I want to press on. I want to keep going forward. I want to keep learning and growing. I want what God has for me. It may take a lot of baby steps to get there, but I choose to follow Christ.

Where is my worth?

A couple weeks ago my small group discussed Luke 14. Jesus tells the Pharisees a parable about guests at a wedding banquet. Jesus says in Luke 14:11 (NIV) “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” This led to a discussion about being humble and about our self worth. I realized that it is easier to be humble when we are rooted in our identity in Christ. We are aware that what others say or think about us doesn’t matter. How others treat us doesn’t matter either. We, as Christians, are children of God. Our worth is found in Jesus and the fact that He died on a cross to save us. We matter to Him. How society views us is not important.

It wasn’t until today that I realized how this applies to my life specifically. I’ve been dealing with an issue with someone for a couple of years. It’s pretty simple really, I paid for something, but have yet to receive what I paid for. There have been many conversations about it and plans to resolve the issue. But, it’s taking a while. Every time I think about it, I get angry. Months go by and then I remember again. The anger can be consuming. This morning, I was reflecting on why it makes me so angry. A light bulb went off. It’s because I’ve tied it to my self worth. This issue has made me feel unimportant, forgotten about, not cared for or valued. When I untangle my sense of worth from the issue, I am no longer angry about it. When I remember who I am in Christ, I realize that I am valued, loved, cared for, and remembered. God sees me and knows me. I don’t need others to feel good about myself.

I know that I do the same thing in lots of areas in my life. I hold onto offenses and let them dictate who I am. When another driver cuts me off, I get annoyed and it chips away at my identity. When the barista gets my drink wrong for the umpteenth time, I get frustrated and wonder why nobody cares to listen to me. When someone forgets to call me back, I feel unloved. I’ve tied who I am into how others treat me.

Today, I am recognizing how my thought process needs to change. I know I will forget, but as I focus on God more and listen to Him, I can choose His voice over the voice of others.

Gaining Confidence

It’s been a few months since I last blogged. I have been very busy with an increasingly active baby. She eats more, stays awake longer, and wants to play more.

I was reflecting on this whole parenting gig earlier and I realized some things. I am way more confident now. In the early days I was so lost. I knew a lot of information, but I didn’t know how that would translate into real life with MY baby. I also didn’t really know my baby yet. We had to get to know each other and figure each other out. We’re still doing that, but we understand each other a lot better now. In the early days I was so unwilling to let her cry for any reason. I always had to solve the problem and try to fix it. I still try to minimize her crying if I can, but it doesn’t stress me out anymore. For instance, I know that if she cries in the car, there is nothing wrong per se, she just wants to be back in my arms again. When she is trying a new skill she usually ends up crying a little and getting frustrated. I’ve learned to encourage her and let her cry a little before rescuing her.

I still have so much to learn. Sleep has been our biggest struggle. Baby girl seems to go in 6 week cycles. She likes things a certain way for 6 weeks and then she doesn’t like it anymore. We’ve gone from her sleeping in her rock n play, to sleeping in her crib or the pack n play, to only sleeping ON me, to sleeping next to me and in her crib or pack n play, and back to only sleeping on or next to me.

Our relationship is constantly changing and growing. Of course when I start to figure things out, she likes to change them again. But, that’s okay. I’m thankful that I have the flexibility to follow her lead. Being a Momma is hard, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.