Category Archives: Stories

Race Wars in the U.S. {Children’s Sermon for Sunday}

On Sunday, I’m teaching the children’s sermon at my church. Anthony and I are both youth leaders, working on building a sustainable youth program. On Sundays, we take turns with several other church members teaching a short lesson to the wonderful kids in our church. This Sunday, our topic will be social justice, but more to the point – segregation and reintegration. I want the kids to be thinking about how Jesus would like us to react to this issue today. As I’m doing my research for this sermon topic, I came across an article* that caused me to catch my breath. In 2001, the fight to end segregation in schools was still happening in the south, brothers and sisters! The article states that “A study by Harvard’s Civil Rights Project finds that schools were more segregated in 2000 than in 1970 when busing for desegregation began.”

For us to be fighting this issue nearly 50 years later is an embarrassment to this great nation. How can we call America “God’s Country” if we are not doing His work?

Last night on the HMong for Life radio show** it was revealed that the Del Norte California school district has had money for a HMong teacher since 2009, but has not yet taken any steps toward hiring one. How is 5 years not enough time to locate and hire a qualified candidate? 10% of our local population is HMong, brothers and sisters. That is significant!

We are far past being able to stay silent about these issues. We must stand with our HMong brothers and sisters and fight for social justice.

I haven’t even begun to reintroduce the facts and sad (true) stories of the lives of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. I’ll get to that later. For now, I’d just like us to consider this one point. Most asian immigrants can never “return home” and for many, the U.S.A is their home, as they were born here. This is their land just as much as it is yours and mine. Laotian blood was spilled for our freedom, brothers and sisters. If you’re not aware of the secret wars during Vietnam, please take some time and acquaint yourselves with it now. I’ll place some links below.

As I consider the deep impact of race wars in the United States, I’m reminded of a certain story from the Bible about the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:25-37 Living Bible (TLB)

25 One day an expert on Moses’ laws came to test Jesus’ orthodoxy by asking him this question: “Teacher, what does a man need to do to live forever in heaven?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does Moses’ law say about it?”

27 “It says,” he replied, “that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. Do this and you shall live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his lack of love for some kinds of people, so he asked, “Which neighbors?”

30 Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jew going on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, and beat him up and left him lying half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a Jewish priest came along; and when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Jewish Temple-assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but then went on.

33 “But a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw him, he felt deep pity.34 Kneeling beside him the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his donkey and walked along beside him till they came to an inn, where he nursed him through the night.  35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two twenty-dollar bills and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I’ll pay the difference the next time I am here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the bandits’ victim?”

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him some pity.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

It is not the oppressed, brothers and sisters, that are causing this great nation harm. It is the silent – those who see injustice but turn a blind eye to it. It is the oppressor – those who hate because of nationality and skin color. It is the bystander who watches, but can’t be bothered to help.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

 

* BROWN V. BOARD: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S.:  http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-25-spring-2004/feature/brown-v-board-timeline-school-integration-us

**HMong for Life radio broadcast is easily tuned into every Thursday evening from 5-7 pm Pacific Standard Time by visiting http://kfugradio.org 

The Secret Wars

  • Legacies of War: Secret War in Laos: http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/secret-war-laos/
  • Laos is Still Under Attack from the Secret War: http://www.vice.com/read/laos-is-still-under-attack-from-its-secret-war
  • A Desperate Life for Survivors of the Secret War in Laos: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/world/asia/16iht-laos.1.8763976.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  • Hmong Story 40 Laos and the Secret War (interactive map):  http://www.hmongstory40.org/laos-the-secret-war/

 

September 14, 2007 – Our Firstborn’s Birthdate

Tomorrow marks the 7th birthday of our sweet Theresa (Tess). I’ll never forget going into full labor at SeaTac International airport, waiting for Anthony’s plane from Hawaii to land. (He was in the U.S. Navy at the time and was able to fly home from deployment a week early for the birth of our firstborn.) As soon as it landed, I was texting him “HURRY! Run! I’m in labor!” It was agonizing waiting for him to get across the airport, wait for his luggage and then load it into my mom’s mini van. Even more agonizing was the drive from SeaTac to Everett, WA so I could deliver Theresa. I wasn’t sure we’d make it.

When I first got to OB triage, they almost sent me home! I wasn’t dilated enough. But then the monitors on my belly started beeping like crazy. Theresa was in distress, and the nurses and doctor shoved Anthony aside and rushed me into the OR for an emergency C-section. The doctor left for a moment to scrub up and prepare for the operation.

Originally the doctor had claimed he had 30 minutes to get her out, then the monitors beeped further as the nurses were scrubbing up and preparing for the surgery. The nurses scrambled about, cursing “Oh sh!t! The baby’s dying!” They frantically called the doctor back into the operating room and informed him he had less than 5 minutes to get in there or the baby would die. (The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, choking her to death.)

Witnessing all of this firsthand, I went into a full panic attack, as the anesthesiologist rushed to my side with the gas mask to put me to sleep. A few minutes later, I hazily heard the precious cry of my beautiful Theresa, then fell back into a deep slumber. I’m not sure how much longer it was until I awoke again and was able to hold our beautiful 6 lb 12 oz, 21 inch daughter. That first day, Anthony and I read 1 Corinthians 13 to our sweet girl and prayed over her tiny body, that God would always bless this beautiful life.

Seven years later and I’m still madly in love with this beautiful daughter of ours. I can’t wait to celebrate the anniversary of her birth tomorrow!

Happy Birthday Theresa
My beautiful girl, Miss Tess!

What is the Biggest Problem in the World Today?

So for this week’s scripture, (and yes, I’m aware I missed it last week! I’m sorry!) I want to discuss the question “What is the biggest problem in the world today?” I googled that question and came up with more answers than I could shake a stick at, but really, for me, the answer is quite simple. Please, sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

 

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

-Ephesians 4:30-32 (ESV)

You Are Not Trash {Video}

 

Hi there! I’m Mandy from Nest Full of Birds. I just wanted to take some time to introduce myself and tell you a bit about Nest Full of Birds and why I’m writing what I write. Now, you’ll see on the blog that I write about some pretty bold, pretty risky things. I’ve really been through a lot in my life, and I’ve been blessed that God’s seen me through all of it. I feel a lot like Mary Magdalene, having been saved from 7 demons. I owe everything to God. God is my One True Father. I don’t have an earthly Father that I can turn to and for that matter; I really don’t have a mother either. God is it for me.

I was born into an abusive home and right away my mother had to flee from my biological father. He spent a lot of time in prison for drugs and just wasn’t a good person. I’m amazed that my siblings and I survived. It was a horrible situation. Then my step-dad just used me for trash. My whole childhood was rough. I’m a survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse. Out of that stemmed a lot of issues with PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide. I’ve had 4 suicide attempts – two before I turned 18. I died once, when I was 16, and I remember being so angry when I woke up. I truly wanted to die. But God wasn’t done with me yet and it took a long while, but I’m so glad He saved me.

I’ve struggled with homosexual tendencies. I made the choice to marry my husband, and I’m glad I did! We have two great kids and there’s no looking back for me. I truly fought a hard battle and am happily married to my husband, Anthony. As a result of the battle with homosexuality, I really struggled in the past with porn and alcoholism. I’ve struggled with self-worth. I’ve had a lot of people tell me what a sinner, what an awful, despicable person I am. The only thing they’re right about is that I am indeed a sinner, but fortunately, I’m saved by Grace. I’ve struggled hard with adultery and won that battle. All the glory goes to God for that one.

You know, I thought once I was married that all my troubles with my abusers were over. I was in a safe place, I wasn’t being abused anymore, but I just had no idea how to function in that kind of an environment. I didn’t know yet what to do with a good husband, a happy home and a quiet life, so I gunked it all up. I almost lost my marriage and my kids, but I turned to the Lord and I sought Him with everything I had. I wrestled hard for that blessing; I wasn’t going to stop until I got it. I knew I was made for more. Why else would God save me from so much?

I wasn’t made to be trash. I wasn’t made to be treated like trash and I certainly wasn’t made to be rolling in it, either.   And that’s a lot of what I’m writing about on Nest Full of Birds, because at the time I was going through all of this, I couldn’t yet see the bigger picture. I figured there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but since I couldn’t see it, I was getting really discouraged. It’s my mission here at Nest Full of Birds to really bring that message to you.

You’re not stuck in the place you’re in now. You’re not trash.

God has healed me from a lot. It’s because of Him that I’m here right now, talking to all of you.   God says in Jeremiah 1:5 that “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

The King is enamored with your beauty and of you, He is well pleased.

You are not stuck in the place that you’re in right now. God will make a way out of whatever situation you’re in, whether it’s healing or deliverance. You can and should repent and be free from whatever is holding you back. God is ready to hear your prayers right now.

God has done this for me, and He can do this for you if you allow His power in your life. Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yes you can!

Allow God’s power to over take your lives, beloved Brothers and Sisters.

You are not trash.   So I’ll end here, summing up my story and the content of Nest Full of Birds with this scripture from Psalm 23, the Living Bible translation.

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.  You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.

God’s Redeeming Love for His Bride {Video}

In keeping with the theme of God’s redeeming love for His bride, we’re still looking at Hosea and studying the amazing story there. Recently, I stumbled across this video series from Irving Bible Church and it’s a powerful interpretation of the story of Hosea, as was the movie Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea that I watched a few nights ago. I invite you to watch both the movie and the YouTube video series all the way through, then leave a comment and tell us what you thought of it. (Disclaimer: We are not associated in any way with the Irving Bible Church, other than just being a fan of these videos.) 🙂

Psalm 73

3For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Lord, thank You for never leaving us in hard times and in good. Grant us the strength and wisdom to live into Your will all the days of our lives.

Sexual Assault Awareness

Be Bold {Unashamed}

Several years ago, I decided that I would not be someone who added to the stigma that survivors of sexual abuse and childhood rape should feel ashamed for what happened to them. I chose to begin speaking boldly about my experiences and to openly share some of them with anyone who asked. When we place what is dark and evil into the Light, suddenly we see two things – one, we are not alone and two, the darkness loses its’ power to consume us.

As a teenager, I was very fearful about what others would think about me and I often hid in my own little shell. Around that time, blogs and journals on the internet began popping up, as it was the mid-90’s and the internet was just getting into full swing. Some of those blogs and online journals I read empowered me to open up about what was going on in my life. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I wasn’t alone and that healing was possible. A life beyond being a victim is something I could achieve.

 

People sitting out their lives in the dark
    saw a huge light;
Sitting in that dark, dark country of death,
    they watched the sun come up.

Matthew 4:16 (the Message)

 

The more I speak out, the more people tell me that they too have been abused. Some have reported, some are unable to, as the statute of limitations is now past . I’ve even had a couple of people tell me about a child they know who is exhibiting some strange behaviors and ask if I thought the child might be caught in the claws of abuse*. Sadly, I’ve been right every time when I’ve said that “yes, it’s very likely.” Those children are now in safe homes, away from their abusers. Sexual abuse is so common. It breaks my heart! In the United States, one out of every four women and one out of every 6 men has been sexually abused in some way. In poorer countries, like India, the percentage is even higher, at 47-51% of the population being sexually abused. 60% of sexual assaults in the USA are never reported and 97% of rapists never see a day in jail. Satan is sure running rampant in the world, isn’t he?

We have to be bold and stand strong together. Each of us can find our voice and be bold, speaking unashamed about what happened to us because it is not our fault. We are not to blame. 

It is not the survivors who should be ashamed, but the abusers. 

You, reading this who is holding something deep inside yourself – you are beautiful. It’s not your fault and you’re going to be okay. Get up and tell someone about that “thing” that is hurting you right now. Report the abuse. You’re not doing the pervert any good keeping it to yourself.

You, reading this, who thinks you’re alone in your shame from what happened to you – you are beautiful, too! I’ve been there. I spent a lot of years feeling ashamed, eating my weight in chocolate and french fries and whatever else came my way. I decided to get fat so no one would touch me again. Then it hit me one day that I don’t have to do that. I can choose healing. You can, too. It’s not your fault. Nothing about the abuse or what happened to anyone around you is your fault. Walk away from anyone who tells you otherwise, even “family”.

You reading this, thinking I’m completely nuts for speaking out – I forgive you for all the mean things you’ve ever said to me or people like me. I know you’re hurting inside and you need help, too. You’re beautiful and I wish you could embrace that.

To those that assist sexual abuse victims in their recovery and provide a safe haven for children, thank you! What you do is hard work and you’re under-appreciated by a majority of the population. Please don’t stop what you’re doing. The kids need you. I still need you. People like me who speak out about their abuse still need you. We need to know that people still care and are willing to fix what the idiots have broken. You are doing God’s work and that is always a tough task when you’re fighting evil.

Share this post, please. Share your experiences. Share your feelings, get them out. If you’re being abused or know someone who is, please, please, please tell someone! You can report suspected child abuse as well and ask for welfare checks on your neighbors if you have reason to suspect someone is in danger. It’s not just kids that are being abused. It’s teens, adults, elderly and yes, even animals. Report, report, report. Be bold! Be unashamed!

Be safe, Sisters and Brothers. If one person doesn’t listen to you or believe you, keep talking to people until you find someone who does! 

The following is a list of people you can talk to and  places you can call or visit online for help.

If you need help knowing what or how to report, check this link out: Victims of Crime.org – Reporting on Child Sexual Abuse

or this one: Crisis Connection Inc.

  • Start with your local police station or county Sheriff’s station. Call 9-1-1 or walk in and make a report. If you do not do this, there is “no crime” in the eyes of the law. You have to report abuse to the authorities for it to be prosecuted. 
  • A counselor or therapist, if you’re already involved in therapy and repressed memories begin to come out
  • School guidance counselor, teacher, coach or any adult who works in the school that you trust
  • Your boss. If you’re being sexually abused at work, tell them.
  • Your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles – any adult in your family, or a close family friend
  • Clergy at your house of prayer or worship
  • Your friends’ parents
  • Your doctor (chances are, they’re going to discover it anyway)
  • Your chain of command – the military is changing rapidly so that sexual abuse victims are getting the help and the justice they need!
  • A neighbor

*I am NOT a professional, merely someone who has “been there” so please do not replace my advice and blog for real, professional help. I’m willing to help YOU build a bridge, but I’m not able to BE the bridge to healing.

Gone too young {Suicide}

beniceA few weeks ago, my very young cousin, Andrew* took his own life. While Andrew was only 23, in some ways, he was much older. Andrews mother was at war with cancer for most of his life. She aggressively fought many battles against cancer, and a few years ago, she lost the war. This loss hit Andrew very hard. I too know the pain of losing someone close to you (though it was not my mother) and I can empathize with Andrew. The death of a loved one can bring you to dire straits and it is very, very hard to move on without them.

Andrew’s suicide brought out more emotions in me than I was prepared to deal with. The news of his suicide hit me square in the heart. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut and I was struggling to stand upright. My heart has been heavy for weeks. You see, I had my own bout with suicide attempts as a teenager and as a young wife. Each time I woke up, I was very angry that I was still alive. How dare someone force me to live a life I never wanted?

I understand now.

Suicide is a selfish, self-centered permanent end to a temporary problem. It leaves behind hundreds of mourning loved ones who have no answers, but carry the heavy load of blame and guilt.

“What if I had just said…”

“He called me once for help and I should’ve…”

“I thought something was off, but I ….”

And more. There is so much more that each of the survivors carry. Guilt they may never speak of, for fear that it may be true. But, it isn’t true. This is a choice that Andrew made for himself, and that is something that we all need to remember. Andrew knew that this is what he wanted, even if he didn’t understand the consequences when he pulled the trigger on that gun.

That may sound harsh to you, but remember, I’ve been on the side that Andrew has been on. I understand the basics of the journey to the point where suicide seems to be the only option, and I remember precisely the amount of selfishness and anger necessary to shut out the rest of the world and develop a “damn the world” attitude. I remember pulling my own trigger of sorts, and I remember feeling relief when I fell asleep, thinking it was all over. I understand how Andrew got to that point, and I even understand to a point, why he felt it was the only way. This isn’t a popular viewpoint amongst my family right now, but it’s still a valid one, especially for my own healing. I was very, very lucky. I’m still here. I failed. I wish Andrew had failed, too. I wish he had never known the kind of pain that drives someone to thoughts of suicide in the first place. I wish he and I had known each other better. Maybe I could’ve spoken Life to him? (There I go…survivor’s guilt.)

I feel a responsibility, as someone who has failed at multiple suicide attempts, to speak the truth – to speak life to anyone who has been on either side of “the ledge” and to offer some wisdom and strength. You can’t make someone listen to you. If they have it in their heads that this is what they’re going to do, nothing you say or do will pull them down. They have to pull themselves down. You can wait patiently for them on the sidelines, remind them of their responsibilities and blessings here on earth, and you can speak Love to them, but you cannot decide for them whether or not they will in fact “jump”. You also have to decide whether or not you’re going to take that chance, knowing that they may jump no matter what you say. They have to decide whether or not to listen. You don’t decide that for them, no matter how loudly you scream, or how much you love them.

For those who are on that ledge, fight. Get angry. Yell at the walls, yell at the wind. Punch a pillow and yell at that. Tell the universe how much it sucks and how much you hurt. Act a little (or a lot) crazy and do what I did. Go in the bathroom, shut and lock the door, and yell at the walls about how much you hurt, how unfair life is, and how nothing works out for you. Tell the walls to go fuck themselves. Say it again, and picture the person you’re really mad at. Start yelling at the image of that person. Yell until you can’t yell anymore. And then just start crying. You’re going to need to cry, a lot. And that’s OK! Remember, you’re alone in that bathroom, the door is closed, and you need this. You have to get this anger out, or it will consume you. You cannot get on that ledge. You cannot take that bottle of pills in your cabinet. You cannot pick up that gun. In fact, flush those pills down the toilet. NOW. It doesn’t matter if they’re not yours. Get rid of them. NOW. Throw them out a window, in the trash, in the hall. Get them out of your sight. If it’s a gun, get rid of it, right now. A knife/razor/whatever you’re using to hurt yourself – get rid of it NOW. And keep yelling. If you have to go in that bathroom every day and yell, do it. Don’t come out until you’re weak from crying and yelling. If you have roommates or children, I’ve found that whisper yelling works just as well, though you’ll need a large glass of water afterwards.

It’s not silly. It’s life. And whatever is hurting you, it has to come out. You may not know the words to use, but I’ve found that by simply yelling every word, every insult imaginable, I’ve found my voice and I’ve discovered over time the words to use. I’ve also discovered that I’m not really alone in that bathroom after all. Jesus has been there with me all along, with His arms around me, loving me in the middle of my “hate sessions”. He’s listened, and He’s healed me. He’s offered me His strength, and His comfort. And when others have thought I was nuts, Jesus knew the truth all along and He brought me through that. I was never alone in the bathroom, and I pray you know that Truth, too. You are never alone.

wedding
Had I completed suicide at 16, I never would’ve had this wedding
militarylife
Had I completed suicide at 23, I never would’ve survived military life and lived to tell about it. It was hard, but I found strength in surviving it.
SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA
Had I completed suicide at any age, my daughters would not exist. They impact the world (not just mine!) in many positive ways, spreading sunshine and happiness wherever they go.

Everyone needs a safe place to unload their pain. For some, it’s therapy. Honestly, I had so much therapy before I was even ready for it, that I learned too early on how to manipulate it and use therapy to my advantage to gain sympathy for issues I never had, so that I could cover up the serious stuff I was really going through. I used therapy to mask my true pain. This is a truth both sides need to know about. Therapy isn’t for everyone, even Christian therapy. I manipulated that too, even as an adult. It took about a year and a half of those bathroom “hate sessions” for me to even figure out what was going on in my own life. Once I faced the truth and stared it down, I was able to move on. But I had to make that choice for myself. I chose to do it for several reasons, some of which are noble and some of which aren’t. But the point is, I made the choice and I’m now looking forward to a life of more choices, rather than having ended my own life and my ability to choose for myself what I will and will not accept.

I will not accept negativity. I may come off as a hard ass to some, but I’ve fought a hard battle and wanted to die more times than anyone except Jesus knows about. I’ve won this war, and I’m going to continue winning every battle. I’m here to stay. I’m here to offer you some of that strength I had to beg, borrow and bleed for. Take it. And know that you are more than whatever battle you’re fighting today. You are so completely worth the effort your friends, family, teachers, loved ones put into you. You’re worth the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, too. You are so much more than you ever thought. I hope someday you punch the devil in the nose and steal that strength back from him, so you can see it, too.

*Andrew was not his real name, but for privacy of the family, I have changed his name.

28 Days Until Christmas: {Wisdom of} The Wise Men

Today, we celebrate the wisdom of the Wise Men (or Magi as some Bible translations refer to them). Yes, I know this is seemingly a bit out-of-order in light of the Christmas story, but please bear with me here. I do have a point to telling it out-of-order. 😉

This morning, I was inspired to talk about the Wise Men when Chelsea looked at a craft pack of crowns and asked if she could make those while Theresa worked on her school work. I had originally planned to do a Santa or snowman craft with them, but I was humbled  by this simple request to make a crown instead. A voice told me to go with it – to take a moment and pause, considering the weight of the season, and the true value it has for our family. In all the hustle and bustle of preserving the season, I had forgotten one very important thing – Jesus.

I could make excuses, but I won’t. It hit me that my private devotions are done away from the girls. I began to consider what  I actually share with them about Jesus apart from Sunday mornings and family prayers in the car, and at the meal table as we break bread, and I realized that  it just wasn’t enough. Not now, not when we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Master and Creator. So I began to think about the Wise Men, search out their story, and consider their Wisdom in traveling thousands of miles to visit a tiny baby born in Bethlehem…

 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem, and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of Jews? We saw His star in the east and came to worship Him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 

                   “’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least    among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the  shepherd of my people Israel.’” 

Then Herod called the Wise Men secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-12 NIV

There are many aspects of this story that I’d never considered before. The Wise Men came to see a baby. A tiny baby. They came to see the God-child, born of a virgin. What a miracle! This affirms the fact that Jesus was born to save the world! He did not come simply for the Jews, but for all of man kind. Man kind who were so desperately in need of even just the hope of salvation, that they were willing to travel to worship at the feet of a tiny baby, in order to carry that seed of hope back to others in their homeland.

Take a moment and consider the weight of that thought right there. There was a time before people understood that God wanted to save man from himself, so they had tried in vain to earn their own salvation. Can you imagine the desperation of the people in that time in history?

There was immense wisdom in visiting the Christ child. They had proof that God had come to them in physical form. They had a real, tangible vision of hope to carry home. To the sick and down trodden, they had hope to give. To those rotting in their own sins, they had hope to give. God had come! God had heard their prayers! And not just the Jews, but the prayers of the world

There was never a time in the Gospel when Jesus’ story was not powerful and beautiful. There was a never time in His life when He was not duly loved and hated by the world and by His own people. We see Herod plotting to kill him in verse 16, if we read on in the story. Herod and his followers were disturbed by the mere mention of the Christ child’s birth in verse 3. No, for them a  Messiah could not come, for at that time, the Jews were expecting a mighty warrior to be raised up and avenge the Jews. After all, Jesus was in the line of David – the great and mighty war hero! Blood would be shed over the injustice done to the Jews, right? Herod would not lose his life. No, he would take one. And there the plot to kill Jesus begins.

I want to take a moment and pause here. I want us to consider this point, because I feel it’s a very crucial one to remember. People were hostile towards a tiny baby merely because of what He represented. Jesus had not yet done any miracles. He had not preached in the temple yet, He had not called anyone to Him through His own physical mouth (other than perhaps His mother, father, close family members, as a child does when He wants food, comfort, play). He was already sentenced to die – from birth.

The gifts of the Wise Men make sense now, don’t they? Gold, incense, myrrh. They knew Jesus had to die. They knew blood would be shed, but it would not be the blood of a people group necessarily, but of Jesus Himself. And at birth, Jesus’ posse of followers were formed. He was building an army, of sorts, without even having called anyone to Him through His own physical mouth. His Father in Heaven began weaving solutions into problems Jesus didn’t even know He had yet. The world began rallying behind this tiny baby – the Christ child, before He had uttered one word of hope to them.

That is the power of the Gospel. Life. Not words. Life.

As we enter into this Christmas season, I pray that our lives are lived like those of the Wise Men – that we would see the value in the Christ child and what He represents, taking more than just a snippet of  time to seek Him out and worship Him. I pray also that we would remember to carry the message of Hope to all in our path, through more than words – through the lives we live.

 

Chelsea and Mama  Theresa and Daddy

military life

Grateful for: A Strong Marriage

May 6, 2006 4pm
May 6, 2006 4:00 PM at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church

There are so many wonderful people in my life and the one I am most grateful for is my husband, Anthony. He’s been such a pillar of support, love and encouragement for me through all of life’s challenges. When I am least expecting it, he opens his heart and does something so kind and wonderful it renders me speechless. (I know…a big feat for sure, huh?)

As we approach the holidays and life gets a little more hectic, I want to take time to make sure my husband really knows how much I love him. Right now, he’s still establishing himself at a new job and for the past several months he’s had the added hardship of not having any Sundays off to worship corporately with us. We just found out last night that he’ll be working swing shift on Christmas Eve, making it impossible for him to attend a Christmas Eve service – something our family truly values and treasures. My heart broke for him when I heard that. It will be another month or two before he can even have the possibility of a Sunday off from work. I can already see the effects that this change has had on him, and I have been praying mightily for him.

First day on the new job
First day on the new job!

Anthony is a wonderful man and we’ve made so many wonderful memories together. As I pray for his needs to be fulfilled and met, I also am reminded to thank God for both the easy and the hard times we’ve had. Recently I rediscovered our wedding announcement that we’d clipped from the local paper seven years ago when it was published.

wedding announcement

How fun! So many changes have occurred since then. We are the same people, yet so different now.

 I’m grateful for the heartbreak of military life. It was tough to see any value in it during the six years he was enlisted, but there was a lot of growth in me and in us as a couple! I am stronger, he is stronger, we understand each better and we have learned to set limits and place each other first, behind God.

We learned the value of our marriage by not

always being able to be close to one another.

He was deployed 6-9 months of every year for the entire 6 years he was enlisted. We were only married for three months when he shipped out to boot camp. The day he hopped on the plane to fly to boot camp in Chicago, IL was the day I miscarried our twins during my first of 16+ pregnancies (we have two children to hold, 14+ in heaven).

military life
Anthony and I on board the USS FORD (FFG 54) shortly after it returned home from a long deployment. Anthony served as an Engineman on this ship for the entire 6 year enlistment (6 years enlisted, 2 years inactive ready reserve), finally being honorably discharged as a Petty Officer second class in August 2012.

Military life felt like death, but any time at all with Anthony felt like LIFE! And it still does.

happy together!
Happy Together

I am so grateful for my husband who is my best friend, lover, biggest supporter and a wonderful father to our two beautiful daughters. And I am most grateful that through all the heartache, challenges and pain…our marriage has not only survived, but grown and thrived!

We are back!
How fun! Back in the church we were married in, this time with our two beautiful daughters in tow.

A BIG thank you to angels everywhere who prayed for us, watched our kids when I was falling apart during long deployments, and who held us in their thoughts, prayers, arms and homes. I know many times it wasn’t easy, but wow – has it made a HUGE difference in our lives!

THANK YOU! 

And so now I turn the focus back to you, dear readers – who in your life are you most thankful for? Who is the person who has stood by you through thick and thin? What can you do this holiday season to stay close to them and thank them for all they’ve done for you? How can we be praying for this wonderful person in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.

hugs and love from,

Mandy