Tuesday, April 06, 2010

We just finished celebrating Pesach and Chag Hamatzot (Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread). During this past week, we attempted to abstain from eating anything with yeast as well as removing it from our homes completely. Trying to pursue Torah is not always as simple or straightforward as it might seem. After the first couple of days of not eating leaven and having matzah (unleavened bread) as part of our daily diet, I was feeling pretty good. It was a short-lived arrogance on my part. My husband ate out one day while at work and realized only later that he had something that had leaven, I did the same thing without even noticing one night. But the error that really got me was as I prepared dinner one night.

This is probably our 7th year of celebrating this season, but each year we learn more and I become convicted of more. Yes, I do tend to find more "things" to do during this season - I tend to feel like I could always do "better." But I do my best to not get caught up in what I "could have" done and understand more of what I "should" be learning. I have gotten much better at cleaning the house, but I am more concerned of keeping a clean heart. I try to prepare my weekly menu in my mind, so that I'm not worried about accidentally including leaven in anything. One night, in my arrogance of having an "easy" passover, I was cooking some meat. I was throwing in some seasoning when I arbitrarily looked at the back of the package. All of a sudden I find myself reading the ingredients nervously saying to myself: "don't have leaven, don't have leaven, don't have leaven..." Sure enough, there it was: yeast. I had just made this delicious meat and just threw in a bunch of yeast!

I am not one to want to waste food, but I literally dropped my head in disgust with a loud "UGH!" My 3-year-old daughter came in from the other room and asked what happened (since she overheard my outburst). I told her mommy made a mistake. She just said "Oh," and turned around to go back to what she was doing. I stopped myself in my tracks and made a decision. I finished cooking and after the food cooled, I put it in a container in our deep freeze outside to be reheated and eaten after passover. I thought a lot about how that little package of seasoning was back in the corner of my cupboard, but not meant to be hidden. I honestly did not know it had yeast in it, otherwise it would have been taken outside for the week like all the rest of the yeast in our house.

You can imagine that my easy-going mindset for this passover was out the window and now I knew it was time to get to work. I became overwhelmed by an understanding of 2 concepts that came to my heart and mind. First of all, if sin means "missing the mark" - as in archery terms - the mark is very difficult to make, but missing it doesn't make you a bad archer, it only means you're not perfect yet. If I try to shoot a basketball and don't make the basket, I don't beat myself up, yet when I sin, I feel like it's the end of my integrity as I know it. If I am to truly understand grace, I must accept it in the midst of trying to make the bull's eye. I know that I am not alone in the world of believers who are just too hard on themselves and get in their own way of joy.

But the second concept was maybe even more powerful to me. I started to think about Messiah and how He lived an entire life sin-free. If, even in my preparation to have a leaven free home and life for a WEEK, I have difficulty, the idea of living a sinless life is even more incredible. Yet, He did it. It makes His sacrifice that much more priceless. What an accomplishment! I know, I know, He is G-D. And I am not so bold to compare myself to His perfection, but it does pose a greater respect for His love for Torah and His grace to those of us who fall short.

Romans 5:20-21
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Whew, blogging....it is a rarity anymore; a precious gem in the middle of my beautiful, chaotic mess of a life. I love the moment to sit and think and soak and spew. A very dear friend of mine has a most exceptional blog - in my humble opinion, one of the best writing styles I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Yes, Joanna, that would be you! :o) Joanna has come to visit for a bit, and reading her blog has inspired me once again to take a moment (one of the few personal moments granted me) to open up and look inside exposing some self-awareness.

Since my last post, we have had another baby, Levi. He is now 7 months old. Huh - interesting, another 7 months between posts which was again unintentional, but probably not a coincidence again either.

I have to preface what I am going to write with something very important - Hava, my 3 year old daughter is a beautiful creation inside and out. She is a controlled container of unending energy, love and creativity. She is conquering various languages (Portuguese, English, Hebrew and Spanish - probably in that order), expressing her thoughts and feelings through music, movement and art, and intensifying her understanding of and care for the well-being of others. She is my "florzinha" (little flower) and I am a better person and woman having known her and being given the BLESSING of raising her. However, this post is not about her. I only feel the need to give her the rightful first-born place in my thought processes regarding my children.

Although I do NOT believe any selfish hopes, dreams or desires should be projected onto unsuspecting newborns as they are human beings and not meant to be the answers to any questions or resolutions to any problems, still I have to say that in Levi's entrance to this world, besides his very existence he brought a much needed gift with him to our family: peace.

Levi was born with some physical "imperfections," he has since been healed of them, and though that is a testifying story of blessing in and of itself, it is not what defines him. G-D brought Levi to us, to ME, in a very trying time of life (as you can probably tell from my previous posts). Because of this, and probably needless to say, I was a bit nervous about being given the responsibility of parenting a second child. I was uneasy about the added expenses, the difference of personality from my daughter's, the difference of his newborn sleeping and eating schedule and the readjusting of family, work and school schedules. But everything came to the most wonderfully unexpected halt when a porcelain-skinned, blue-eyed, SMILING boy came to rest in my arms. Except for the fact that we knew we were having a boy with some kidney issues by c-section, everything else about his entrance was beautifully surprising, including the peace.

A friend of mine who knows us well and our daughter, when meeting Levi for the first time, looked up at me and said with the most serious, emphatic words: "I have held many babies who are easy and calm - but Levi is different. He IS peace." And pretty much everyone who has met him has said the same thing - they are taken by the twinkle in his gorgeous blue eyes, the fact that he is such a light color and especially his smile. He can play alone marvelously for extended amount of time, ONLY complains if he is hungry, tired, hurting or dirty, and he is able to bring any stressful day where time is flying by to a peaceful pause. He has an uncanny way of looking at me and in a split second making my mind rest, my lungs breathe and my heart smile.

Intellectually speaking, I knew that each child would be different. What I did not expect was to receive through them the very thing I needed most at that moment in time. Hava brought a joy we had never known. She drew (and still draws) people's attention to her physical beauty and charming personality (outside of the sporadic toddler meltdowns). But Levi, although beautiful (have I mentioned the eyes ;)), although intelligent (fully crawling at barely 6 months in comparison with Hava's almost 9 months), and although a calm, fun personality (seriously, the boy smiles 95% of the time), brought peace.

I can't even find the words to describe this peace. It is incredible. It is lovely. It might just be one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. So, here is an excerpt from a prayer I love:

"May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us and for all Israel; and say Amen. May He who maketh peace in the heavens, make peace for us and for all Israel; and say Amen."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I'm not quite sure what's going to come out of this post, but I just feel like I should write.

It's been a LOOOONG time since I've had a night like tonight - everyone is gone to bed, and I am here in the quiet of the late hour. Usually, I am straight to bed after getting the toddler down, but tonight I have a bit of energy I haven't had in a while.

Driving home from work today, I heard a pastor speaking on the radio. I usually don't enjoy ANY kind of "talk" radio as I LOVE music. But every once in a while, a solid message is worth listening to. I don't know who was speaking, but he was commenting on being "crushed." I just looked it up online and sure enough, it was Chuck Swindoll - the message is called "The Cup that He Drank" from the series "How Great Is Our G-D" in case you want the podcast online.

He quoted Dr. Alan Redpath: "When G-D wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and crushes him."

The entire message was a a homerun for me, but that phrase really made me stop to listen. As soon as I heard "impossible person" and "crushes," I knew that was for me.

The goal of my life has been to do "impossible tasks." I love the idea of doing something that either hasn't been done, or is more than what people would expect of me. My cravings for justice and obedience fall right into that. I have always instinctively thought that my obedience would allow for great accomplishments. I will not try to deny the fact that I sinfully crave human recognition for great accomplishments. But I also crave G-D's recognition for my obedience. And I assumed that they went hand-in-hand. If I was obedient, then G-D would be able to do great things through me because He would be so proud of me.

Uh, no.

My heart was convicted today that G-D does NOT do great things through us because of the amount of our service, dedication, obedience, faithfulness, etc. He does great things, because of Himself. I was never so ignorant to the fact that He chooses the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27) - in fact, that is one of my favorite verses. It has always meant to me that He is most glorified when He chooses the most disqualified for His purposes. But what spoke to me today was the fact that sometimes, in order for us to be the chosen "disqualified" - HE must humble us - in more specific terms, He must CRUSH us. We are impossible people - I am IMPOSSIBLE. So, it is more than suiting that I would need to be crushed.

Pastor Swindoll has been in service for over 40 years, yet he spoke today that his life has not gotten easier. It's not like he was crushed during the beginning and is now relishing in the blessings afterwards. He even stated that he has never been SO CRUSHED in ministry as he has been over the past few recent years. His words tugged on my heart that I am not to be seeking out the blessings of service or dedication - but just to be obedient for obedience's sake. And in that obedience, we are to EXPECT the crushing. It's more than just knowing times will be "tough." I mean, I can live with a tough situation here or there, as long as I know there's a rainbow on the other side of the storm. But, it's living a life totally indifferent to my own desires and enthroning G-D regardless of the consequences or prices to be paid.

And ultimately, that is the carrying our own "cross." Bearing pain and suffering relentlessly for His glory and not out of expectation of recognition for obedience. Maybe these past months have been a type of crushing. And at so many points, I thought I had failed the test or would not live to see the outcome. But here I am - surviving. I'm not holding the prize at the end of the race - I'm just noticing that as scraped up as I might be, by grace - G-D's SWEET, UNIMAGINABLE GRACE, I'm still in it.

Oh, how I want to write about grace. Maybe next time.

When I was 9 years old, I made my first trip to Brazil. It was truly an amazing experience, especially for me at such a young age. We were in the Amazon region - and it was HOT. One night, after a LOOOOONG service, we were waiting on our bus to come pick us up. We were thoroughly exhausted, hungry and VERY thirsty. All the stores around were closed because of the late hour, but we smelled something so enticing. A bread store right beside the church was not open, but baking for the next morning. So, someone went in, bought a BUNCH of hot bread and the only drinks they had - Orange Crush. I had NEVER, and possible HAVE NEVER TO THIS DAY, had such a refreshing snack. Funny thing is, I don't think I have every purchased an orange crush since then, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

I hope this "crushing" is the same - I hope I don't have to go through it much more, but I'll hold onto these moments as precious, sweet, refreshing snacks in the middle of the famine. Maybe this "crush" will last me long enough to and teach me enough to make it to the next phase of this life where, hopefully, G-D will see fit to do an impossible task for HIS glory.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Coming Out Of Hiding

I was just looking back at the last time I posted on my blog - it was 7 months ago today.  And I don't believe in coincidence.  CAUTION:  This one is a doozy.

I really don't have words to describe what the past 7 months (and longer as you can tell by my previous posts) have been like.  A year ago today, we were ministering in Brazil with the intention of continuing full-time ministry when we returned in September.  Our plans seem to have run themselves right into the ground with a thundering crash.  The Brazil trip was wonderful and a blessing in so many ways, but when we returned our lives took a vastly different direction.  With the economic crisis, our financial support for ministry stopped almost completely and both I and my husband were basically jobless.  The congregation into which we had invested so much of our time and hearts fell to pieces all around us.  In fact, as I listen online to a congregational service now - it is more than appropriate that they are singing the very last song our worship team sang as a team - the same song that infiltrated our Brazil trip - How Great Is Our G-D.

Those first few months were tough, a test of faith and I can confidently say now - I failed.

I tried to hold on to all the Godly and faith-filled scripture, words and actions that had accompanied and supported me to this point in my life.  But this time, they did not take away pain, they did not bring peace, they did not pull me through.  My whole life, I clung to those sayings, those words of encouragement, those actions of faith and so it made no sense to me why they weren't working this time.

Here is the truth that VERY few people know - never in my life had I faced this dilemma to this degree - my relationship with the LORD withered and became next to non-existent.  Even through rebellion, depression, sickness and suicide, I had NEVER relinquished my faith and relationship with G-D.  Now, my prayers became shortened sentences of confusion and anger and they became fewer and further between until I felt absolutely no need to "seek Him" anymore.  (In fact, many people know that I was a a very dedicated person to prayer especially interceding for others - but I had to stop telling people I would pray for them, because I couldn't speak with Him anymore.)  In my understanding, He had done something I never experienced before and NEVER expected to experience.  He had not heard my cries when I was in anguish.  He had not provided for our needs.  He had not honored our dedication to Him.  In fact, at that time, the absolute lowest point of our lives, people began to attack us (not knowing they were adding to the pain) and with their comments and opinions chipped away at the last remaining pieces of my faith in G-D and His people.  Let me clarify, I am not blaming the death of my relationship with G-D on people, but in the end, they seemed to be the straw that broke this camel's back.

Who would have guessed that only a few months after my most intense efforts to serve Him, I would not even want to hear about Him anymore?

And December came - I found out I was pregnant.  Pregnant, jobless, ministry-less, church-less - I mean, that is just a BAD joke to play on someone who has nothing else to fall on.  Although I was excited about having another baby and a sibling for my daughter, this just seemed like the worst timing in the world.  But one sliver of faith found its way back - I cannot believe that life could come about in any other way than through a supreme Creator.  So, at least I accepted that He did this.  But this made things even more confusing - why me, why now - it could only complicate our situation more.

A nice-sized temporary job came to me right near the end of the month.  It would pay for some of our backed-up bills.  At least we would get a little breath above water.  And then, some blood.....

On December 26th, we went to the ER where after hours of waiting and crying over the possibility that my body was rejecting the life inside, we were told that I had a "threatened miscarriage."  In the words of the doctor: "we don't know why or how this happened, and we don't know why or how it stopped."  I had heard a speaker a while back say that once he prayed to G-D over a dead baby's body and asked G-D: "Why allow death?  It does not glorify You at this moment?"  And the baby breathed again and came back to life.  So, I immediately told the doctor, although I didn't know what caused it either, I knew why it had stopped.  (We also found out that day in the ER, that I was not as far along as we had first thought, in fact, I had probably discovered the pregnancy almost immediately.)

I was put on complete bedrest until my doctor released me from it almost 2 months later.  I realize that there are much more terrible situations and diseases in the world that people deal with, but at that moment, I didn't feel there was much else left in us that He could take away.

Little by little, I received more work.  By the end of the spring of '09, I had quite a busy schedule (at least enough to pay bills) as well as a big belly.  We discovered we were having a boy and he is quite the busy body.  I was never so hungry and exhausted with Hava as I was/am with this boy.  He seems to be quite the fighter - and with all reason.

In the same way that I felt an intense need to protect not only her, but myself physically, spiritually and emotionally during my pregnancy with Hava, I felt it even more so with this boy.  He was fighting hard enough, I wasn't going to make it any harder for him.  So, in my struggle to keep my emotions stable, I kept a great distance from G-D personally - prayer was out of the question.  I did, however, decide that if He truly was Who He claims to be, that I would look at Him through non-expectant eyes and simply study scripture as a disconnected third party.  I watched Him through the Torah (the Pentateuch, or first five books of the bible).  I realized I was further from Him than I thought.  He was on some level that I couldn't grasp.  But through that time, His Son, Yeshua (Jesus) made the Torah something more real and attainable to my mind's eye.  It's like I could relate to and even love this Yeshua - I just couldn't do that with the Father.  I started to realize that if I could find that connection with His Son and understand why and how Yeshua served and loved the Father, maybe I could come back.

Wait, what????  "Come back?"  I didn't leave!  I was there, crying, seeking, serving, searching, laying out my entire being before Him and He didn't answer!  I didn't leave - He did!

And it came to me:
*IF G-D is Who He says He is, He cannot change.
*IF G-D is truly G-D, He remains enthroned and sovereign.
*IF G-D does not change or move and I am further from Him - I must have moved.

I don't know how it happened.  I don't know when I moved or why I moved, but IF He is Who He says He is, He didn't fail me, I failed Him.

I looked back over the past year and noticed, we got behind in bills, but we never went without all the services.  We ate much more simply, but we never went hungry.  We didn't go out for entertainment, but we enjoyed our family company as well as other friends who surrounded us.  Maybe He didn't provide as He had in the past, but He also didn't leave.  He was compassionate to us while I complained about lacking.

*I've got to take a moment to give praise where praise is due - my husband held all the loose ends together during this past year.  He has done everything in his power to provide for us, protect us and to see me through this spiritual abyss.  I am so much more in love with him now, after watching him be a silent superhero to our family.*

Even though I am pregnant, I have not cried as much in the past few months as I have today writing this.  The pain of being wrong is too painful.  I have always wanted justice - I'll be the first to speak up when something is unfair.   And this feels unfair, but IF G-D is Who He says He is, there must be justice even in defeat.  I have been defeated, and so I have remained in hiding.  I am too ashamed, but with nothing to point to as the cause.  All I know, is that there is life growing inside me, strong and big and he will show us his face next month.  He will come out of "hiding" and whether we're ready or not, we will love him, provide for him and protect him.  In order for me to be where I need to be next month, I need to come out of my hiding now.

I'm sorry to those I have distanced myself from - the saying has never been more true - "it is not you, it's me."
I'm sorry I have not been able to step up and speak or act as you are accustomed.  
I'm sorry if I have not lived up to expectations, but I know that this is part of healing and renewing and stepping into the next phase of life.

This chorus struck me this week as words from the depths of my soul
(from To Know You - Nicole Nordeman):
And I, I really want to know You 
I want to make each day 
A different way that I can show You how 
I really want to love You 
Be patient with my doubt 
I'm just tryin' to figure out Your will 
And I really want to know You still

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How does this go again?

Well, it's baby time again.  I'm pregnant with number 2 due in August.  Our little girl will be 2 in January, so she should be pretty aware of what's going on when the baby comes.  Different from last time, this time we found out pretty early, so I wasn't really having any symptoms yet.  But they have started to show up.  My husband thinks it's psychological - I told him to go get pregnant and then let me know if it's psychological. :o)

It's only been a little over 2 years since the last time I was pregnant - I didn't think I would have forgotten so much about it.  I mean, I guess I vaguely remembered the idea of it, but the reality of being clumsy, forgetful, nauseated and tired have just now started to clearly make an appearance again.  I still have those crazy "what if my baby's not normal or what if there's a problem" jitters, but there is one idea that is a load off my mind this time - I AM going to be able to do this.  The first time I was pregnant, I guess because of the unknown, I spent so much time thinking about how in the world I was gonna do this and get it right.  Not that I have gotten everything right, in fact I have learned a lot, but at least I have experience on my side now and it's not such an unknown any more.  I understand that each baby is a completely different human being and each delivery is a different experience, but I am MUCH more at ease about this one - however JUST AS excited!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's The Simple Things

It's been potty-training time again.  We started a little over a month ago, but our daughter seemed to get bored of it.  We left it alone and came back to it this week.  I have to admit, I was very intimidated by it.  There is not too much that intimidates me in parenting (so far), but this potty training thing is scary.  I mean, this is for real....the kids have to learn to potty ON THEIR OWN.  Having to be on top of it every second is tiring.  I already have a headache today from running her to the potty every time she said something about #1 or 2.  :o)  But, to her credit, she has 10 stickers up today on her potty chart!

So, why am I bringing up my daughter's bodily functions?  For one, I am very excited that today was a very successful day.  She seems to really understand when the urge is coming, what she is supposed to say and do.  It's only day 2 of what I assume will at least take a week, but we achieved everything today.  So, here's to hoping we're done with diapers by the end of the week (at least during the day)!  Maybe I shouldn't have feared it so much after all.

The other reason I am writing is very personal.  I have been extremely stressed out lately.  In fact, I have noticed some old depression-esque habits creeping back.  We have just been in a tough stretch, as is everyone, mostly dealing with the economic crisis.  After watching my baby so excited about using the potty correctly and at the right time, something hit me.  She doesn't worry about the simple things - the things she needs.  They will come, and when they do, they are welcome.  Getting a sticker is just an extra blessing to her.  She's not using the potty because of the stickers, she's doing it because it's time.

And here I am, trying my best to stay humble, but grumbling every step of the way about unpaid bills, grocery needs and upcoming necessary expenses.  After talking to some of my friends lately and seeing what everyone is going through, I realized I need some perspective.  I need to realize that my needs WILL be met and that things really COULD be worse.  If the LORD is allowing me to go through this, why would He not prepare me and equip me to endure my simple hardships?

I used to always point the finger at people who worried about things that to me were not necessary - but why am I worried about the simple things - the daily needs of life?  Where is my faith?  Now I realize, if there is ANYTHING we definitely should NOT worry about, it's the simple things.  We know to whom we belong - and He is faithful.  He clothes us, feeds us and shelters us, even though we don't deserve it.  And regardless of how He decides to provide for us, He is worthy of our praise and our faith just for the sake of Who He is.  The LORD gives and the LORD takes away - BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Up Against A Wall

OK, so lately has been tough for us - for me.  And I am starting to realize we are not alone.  Friend after friend have been expressing their difficulties, their struggles, their trials and tribulations.  Today, I realized that sometimes the LORD allows our faith to be "cornered."  There are times that are just so difficult, no answer will suffice.  The only explanation is that G-D is growing our faith in a fantastically weird way.  It's almost like we are being shoved up against a wall...and the questions come like bullets out of a revolver: 
"NOW, do you REALLY believe?  Do you REALLY trust?  Where is your faith NOW?"

I won't attempt to decipher WHO is doing the asking.  But I can tell that these are important, life-changing questions.  When we confess and proclaim over and over again that we serve a Living G-D, that we trust Him with everything, that we belong to Him - there comes a point that we have to reaffirm those beliefs by hard, heart-wrenching decisions.  Sometimes, it seems so hard that we even consider (even if only for a fleeting millisecond) leaving it all behind and giving up everything we have stood for for so long.

We remember the rains, the storms, the tempests.  We remember the times where it seemed there was no way out, no way up, no possible positive solution.  And yet, in every example, something miraculous came of it.  It seems we forget about the "mini"miracles.  They are easy to remember when things are going smoothly, but seem like faded dreams when faced with the new hardship.

So, are you waiting for my proclamation of a glimpse of hope?  You're not going to find it- because in these kinds of times, you wouldn't believe it anyway.... I don't believe it.... 

But, we don't stop hoping for its existence.

If you find yourself in one of those end-of-the-line moments, remember it is not just you.  We are all there, on our own path and trying to find the right solution.  We are a team who fights solitary battles, but there is glory promised if we can just maintain our ground.