Category Archives: Jesus

The Hardest Year in a Long Time: Goodbye 2017

I’m sitting here at my dining room table writing this with my three year old sits next to me painting a picture and asking questions. Which makes it a little bit harder to write than when I started this blog in 2015 and he was a wee baby.

I haven’t really been on this platform, my personal blog much this year for many reasons.¬† And I’m in the mood to think through what the past year held for me, and journal it out, so you are fore-warned that this may be a longer post than I usually write, and a bit rambling. ūüôā

2017 was one of the hardest years I have had in a long time. I didn’t know I could feel so many emotions. Most of them sorrow and loss. After my second son Cedar was born in the fall of 2016, it seems like everything hit at once.

To put it into perspective, we had just come home from living in Honduras for 3 months, and we had just started a new business which is always alot of hard work.

A few hours after Cedar was born peacefully at home, we had to rush him to the emergency room because he was turning blue from lack of oxygen. He had tachypnea and had to have supplemental oxygen and stay in the NICU for a few days. I remember laying in bed completely alone after giving birth thinking this wasn’t how I had imagined it. Praise God Cedar was able to come home to us and nothing was seriously wrong.

A few months later Cedar got the virus RSV and had to be rushed to the hospital again. This time he was hospitalized for a week and it was much more serious. This was an introduction for me to hospital food and beds. God provided for us emotionally, financially, and even gave me additional blessings –¬† I was able to share the gospel with¬† tons of people who rotated in and out of my room. It was like my very own missions trip without leaving the country!

Cedar left the hospital after a week but the side effects of it all  is that he is susceptible to asthmatic attacks, especially when sick, so I have had to really keep an eye on him this year (which meant no church nursery, which meant hardly any church for me!)

Two months after Cedar was born, I got a call from my mom telling me that my Dad was sick. And that she thought it was ALS. If only I knew at the time that this conversation was a pivot, setting the course of my year on a completely different trajectory than I had imagined.

Little did I know when that silly ice bucket challenge was happening on facebook years ago, that my own father would come down with the disease that no one knew it was raising awareness for: ALS. Aka Lou Gehrigs disease.

The disease hit my dad hard but he wasn’t officially diagnosed until March. Little did I know when he was officially diagnosed with ALS that he would only live a few more months. I flew out to the east coast to see him a few times. ALS is a horrific disease and I am thankful that God took him quickly. I loved my dad very much but our relationship was complicated – and sorting through the shock of a loved one dying along with sorting through questions, anger, and other feelings, and figuring out how to keep on going in a new life dynamic is extremely hard.

I don’t know how people go through life without God. Especially during grief. The loss of someone you love is shocking. Even as I write this, 5 months after he has passed, I can barely believe he is not here on this earth anymore.

Besides navigating my dad’s illness and death, and Cedar’s health issues, this year was “strange” for me because we were working a new business and working hard to get that off the ground. We launched a kickstarter campaign. We hired people in Honduras. We moved our L.A. based workshop into our house and Lukas and I started sleeping in a fold down bed in our living room. We were in the midst of the adoption process and pursued adopting a teenager that we had met, and that fell through. A loved one faced another crisis. Oh, and two of my sisters got married right after my dad passed away. And a young lady crashed on our couch and ended up living with us for three months because she didn’t have anywhere to live, while we were already sleeping in our living room.¬†These are just snippets of my year… 2017.

It’s a funny thing to me now that my word of the year for 2017 was “LIGHT”. I remember journaling in January, thinking about how much I longed to be a light to others in this world. How I longed to shine for Jesus, to stand for truth. To write inspiring social media posts that pointed to God. To share the gospel with the lost.

While I was in GA for one of my sister’s weddings two weeks ago, I was talking to my sister in law about how I had no idea what the word “Light” meant for 2017. I certainly didn’t feel like a light. I had barely been on social media, I certainly hadn’t hit my own expectations of being a light.

When I got home, I was having my quiet time with the Lord one morning, and came across these verses,

“For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

My heart started burning within me. This was the answer, this was why my word for 2017 was light. It had NOTHING to do with me and my efforts. It had everything to do with GOD and how he would sustain me through the darkness of this year.

Oh how thankful I am!!! I could not get through such sorrow this year without my Savior. Jesus saw me through every step of the way. He held my hand as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and led me in safe passages.

When you have encountered the loss of a loved one with the aid of the Lord, your heart is able to come to a place that echoes what the Psalmist said,

I will fear no evil, for you are WITH me.

The reason I was able to survive this year was because I was never alone. Jesus was with me. And I know He will continue, throughout the rest of my life.

Thank you God for being with me through this difficult year. You know that even now my heart breaks with the weight of sorrow and loss. I thank you that I can trust you in all things and that your sustaining grace through this year was just further proof that you can handle all things in my life. Thank you that I can completely give you all the sorrow, and all the hard things, that I don’t have to carry this weight. Thank you for the freedom you give. Thank you for the love you pour out. Thank you for your Presence and deliverance from evil. I love you Jesus!

God I have so much hope for 2018. Will you please light my way, will you please continue to be the light in my darkness. Please open my eyes to see the world as you see it; my ears to hear your truth; my heart to care about what you care about, and my hands so that I will not covet, and that I may serve you completely. Thank you that you do all the heavy lifting in our sanctification as we turn to you with our whole hearts.

How was 2017 for you, my friend? Good? Hard? All of the above? I would LOVE to hear from you.

Is Your Thought Life Filled With Grace or Condemnation?

It just didn’t sit right with me. But I didn’t know what to say.¬†

My friend had just shared with me her struggle with cancer, and how she was dealing with it. She tried to laugh as she said,¬†“I guess God knew I just needed more sanctification, so he gave me this trial.”

“I still have alot of growth in sanctification to do!”¬†Another friend recently said to me, as¬†I¬†was following up with a prayer request for her to be patient as she visited a family member.

Now these words aren’t necessarily wrong. As Christians, those who have put their faith in Jesus’ work on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, we all have ALOT of sanctification (growing in holiness) to do in this life.

The Bible clearly calls us to pursue repentance and holiness when we sin. (Hebrews 12:14)

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But what didn’t sit well with me was that these were conclusions to the situations we were talking about.

You see, if through our trials and pain, our conclusion is that we need to do better, try harder, be stronger; we are living in condemnation. No matter how subtle that thought might be.

I know because I have struggled with this very thing too.

But the beautiful truth of the gospel is that the cross takes us past condemnation to what Jesus has already accomplished for us!

I was reading the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney this morning, and in chapter 12, C.J. asks,

“Do you relate to God as if you were on a kind of permanent probation, suspecting that at any moment He may haul you back into the jail cell of His disfavor?

Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity. 

It‚Äôs just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned.‚Ä̬†

Did you read that?! Those who trust in Christ can NEVER be condemned!!!!

How amazing is that! We deserve full condemnation because of our sin against God, yet Jesus takes that guilt completely away at the cross.

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Not only are our sins taken away, but Jesus’ perfection is credited¬†to us!!

That is reality.

And that should be the conclusion to our thoughts in every trial and persecution.

Don’t let your conclusions be condemning, self pity, or despair.

Through focusing on what the cross means in our lives, our conclusion to every trial can now be thanksgiving.

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So what does that practically look like?

Let’s say my son disobeyed and in a moment of anger I lash out at him. Afterwards I struggle with guilty feelings that won’t go away.¬†“I failed again. I really need to be more patient with my son”.¬†See how the conclusion¬†is a focus on my failure? And what I need to do differently?

Reminding myself¬†of the gospel, ¬†this changes to, “I failed again. I really need to be more patient with my son. Lord forgive me for my anger. ¬†Thank you Jesus¬†that because of your¬†perfect life, this sin is not counted against me.” See how the conclusion¬†changes to a focus on God’s grace toward me when I sin? And gratitude?

What about for my friends in the above examples? Can you think how to practically change the conclusions to their situations?

Let’s flesh this out together practically:

How about “I guess God knew I just needed more sanctification, so he gave me this trial.” ¬†(concluding with a focus on my own sin leading to despair) ¬†to

“This trial is very difficult and I know God is using it to grow me. Though I fail in faith at times I’m so glad He does not count that against me.” (concluding with a focus on Jesus no longer counting that sin against me)

Or

“I still have alot of growth in sanctification to do!” (concluding with a focus on my own sin and how¬†I need to do better)¬†to¬†“I still have alot of growth in sanctification to do! I am so thankful Jesus lived perfectly on my behalf!”¬†(concluding with a focus on thanksgiving for Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father that is credited to us)

You are not alone dear friend. If you have been struggling with feelings of despair and self condemnation, I am SO excited to see how your joy increases as you remind yourself of the gospel in every trial, and start applying it in your thought life.

If you don’t know Jesus, and this beautiful¬†grace and freedom I am talking about, please check out my story and email me! There is nothing more important dear friend.
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Top Book You Should Read Right Now: A Praying Life by Paul Miller

Do you want to grow in prayer?

Do you want to have more intimacy with God?

Do you want to have more confidence in how to pray?

Then you would be blessed by this book. I have read a few books on prayer and this is by far one of my favorites.
A_Praying_Life_Paul_Miller_Review_Suzy_VanDyke-001I started to write¬†a basic overview of the book for the blog, but then I realized that when people recommend a book to me, I only want to know one thing. How has this book practically changed that person’s life?

So right now I’m simply going to share with you why I recommend this book to you, because it has truly changed my life.

Three things I walked away from this book learning how to do:

1. I learned to pray continually

I learned to practically have a conversation with God throughout the day. This has grown my joy tremendously! It has also helped me see my own inadequacy and how much I depend on God for His grace moment by moment.

2. I learned to bring the real me to God

Have you ever¬†sat down to pray, but a few seconds in you feel guilty because you don’t feel like you’re praying “right”? Or have you started praying only to have your mind wander to something else, which then shows you how worldly you really are, so then you feel guilty again and don’t know if you should spend the rest of the time asking God’s forgiveness or keep on praying – only to get distracted again?¬†I learned how to view this when it comes up in my prayer life, how to get around it, and how to keep praying,¬†with joy and humble dependence.

3. I learned a greater awareness of God’s amazing work all around me

Oh friends, if I could convince you to read this book for even one reason it would be this! When you get to know the heart of God, you start seeing His amazing hand at work in all of your life. This has made me grow in my adoration of God and desire to please Him in all areas of my life because He is so amazing!! God tenderly cares for His children and is working His sovereign plan in our lives for our good. Did you get that part? For our good. How unbelievable that the God of the universe cares about little old me, and little old you.
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So…. I just started reading A Praying Life again, and if you want a book buddy, and to read it with me, simply comment below!! I would LOVE to have you read it with me, and I know you will be encouraged.

You can pick up your copy here.

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