April 25, 2006, was the biggest day of my life. It’s the day I fell in love with the Bible.
I sat on my bed with my NIV and a turquoise composition book, I opened up Matthew, and I read it for hours. I’ve looked back on my notes from that day, and they’re by no means insightful or even correct, but that was the day I discovered that I could truly know and enjoy God. The Bible is how God speaks to His people, and hearing from my Creator and Sustainer and Redeemer and Beloved began to fill me with more joy than literally anything else ever could.
I’m truly one of the most undisciplined, flighty, inconsistent people I know. But I love the Word and I am daily dependent on the Word because it’s so wonderful.
In these past ten years I’ve gone from being an awkward 8th grader to a [still awkward] wife and mom of three kids. It’s almost certainly been the biggest adjustment period I’ll ever experience in my life, and God is so gracious to have given me the Word as I limped out of adolescence, survived puberty, and as I figure out how to be an adult. Here are some defining moments from the past ten years that have been shaped by the Word.
-In middle school when I felt so unpretty, I was comforted deeply by a description of Jesus in Isaiah 53:2, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Obviously there are much richer things to glean from this passage, but at that moment I was comforted that Jesus didn’t have an outstanding appearance either. My beauty (or perceived lack thereof) wasn't the most important thing about me. And that is very good news to an 8th grader.
-On Valentine’s Day in ninth grade when I really wished I had a boyfriend, a friend reminded me that I am the bride of Christ. “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5) and “for your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name” (Isaiah 54:5), as well as other glorious passages such as Revelation 19, richly reminded me that I was, in fact, not single, but loved and pursued by the Creator of the universe. That filled me with joy on that Valentine’s Day and has been a rich truth to me even since I’ve been married.
-I remember sitting at my desk in eleventh grade reading Ephesians 1, and when I got to verse ten, I sat back, breathless and in awe, because I had just discovered the purpose of the whole universe. The world’s smartest philosophers and mathematicians have to yet to come up with any kind of answer to that one, and here I was, nearly failing chemistry, but I knew why everything exists and where it’s heading! The Lord lets His people in on His mysteries of the universe! I had never felt so alive.
-The desire to become wealthy completely lost its appeal to me when I was in high school and read Isaiah 55:2: (“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”) I discovered that only Jesus can truly delight my soul, and the pursuit of stuff is going to leave me unsatisfied. This was helpful to have hidden in my heart during the years Peter and I didn't have very much money! Our pockets were empty but our joy was full!
-In college I remember weeping because I felt like such a failure at life and was almost certain God didn’t love me or hear me anymore, but Romans 8 (especially verse 1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”) left no room for doubting that there was no condemnation left for me because Jesus took every drop of it on the cross. No guilt in life, no fear in death! Since then I have been able to fight back hard (usually with this exact scripture) when I started to despair at my failure.
-This is kind of silly, but I remember sitting in a field that was near a marsh and I felt quite afraid of the alligators that probably lived there. But as I read Job 38 and 39 and was captivated by God’s sovereignty over creation, I realized that the only way an alligator (or snake, or gunman or terrorist, for that matter) could touch me was if God decided for it to be so. If God wanted to use me as the means of His provision for the gator’s food, then He would do it.
Then a beautiful swarm of dragonflies buzzed around me in the most idyllic way, and I realized this was of the sovereign orchestration of the Lord as well. I now have a really good answer when my son asks me if bad guys or bears are ever going to attack us. And now I really like dragonflies.
-When I was pregnant with Piper, my midwife called me quite concerned about some ultrasound results, and when I Googled what those results typically mean, in no time at all I saw words like “fetal demise” and “stillbirth” and other serious potential health problems. But I instantly had peace because shortly before that phone call I had been thinking about Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
I was (and am!) convinced that God spared no expense for my good. He even gave His Son for me! So He wasn't going to start holding back on me now. Of course I prayed for a healthy baby (and, praise the Lord, I got one! The ultrasound was completely wrong!) but I was comforted to the core that even if she wasn’t healthy---even if my arms were empty at the end of the day---it wouldn’t be an oversight on God’s part, but it would be from the hand that gave His own Son for me and clearly loves me deeply.
-Early last year I went through a very dark season of struggling with depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts. I had some terrifying panic attacks, and in those moments it wasn’t enough to “count my blessings” and think of how great it is that I’m healthy and have a beautiful family and good financial situation. The only thing able to bring me out of those attacks (and eventually out of that dark season as a whole) was the rock-solid truth that God is sovereign, and He is good, and He loves me. I kept reminding myself of Isaiah 26:3, which says “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you,” and now I know from experience that peace in the storm is possible. The Word has literally saved my life.
There have been all kinds of little moments, too, like when my kids ask me a question and a scripture comes to mind from something I read seven years ago.
Or when I'm talking to someone who is going through something really hard and a verse from, like, Deuteronomy, that I happened to read that morning speaks perfectly to the situation.
Or when I’m feeling down or doubtful but scriptures I’ve read in the past that I can’t even recall have deeply built in me a trust in God that still remains. The Word is living and active!
Some of my struggles over the past ten years have never come back, but for many of them it’s not like scripture was a one-time fix and I’ve been liberated from fear or dissatisfaction or gloom forever. I’m still so weak and forgetful and I still struggle so much. It’s a bummer to think about how much I’ll struggle in the future too. But the Word is so strong and I can trust the Lord to sustain me no matter what comes.
I can’t encourage you enough to read and treasure the Bible. Not just devotional books, not just theological podcasts, not just the sermon your pastor preaches on Sunday. I implore you to---for the sake of your own soul---choose a book of the Bible and study it, asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the scriptures so you can gaze upon the beauty of the Lord through the words through which He has chosen to reveal Himself.
We will never find anything that trumps the Bible. So let’s read and memorize the Bible. In high school I remember realizing that I never, ever have to experience boredom again because there’s always scripture to read and memorize. And though of course I am a huge time-waster and I wish I would’ve spent my days then and now much more wisely than I do, I am grateful for every single time God gave me the grace to open my Bible.
God wrote a book and we get to know His thoughts! They are precious! Treasure them today!
Please read these related articles that I wrote:
The Real Reason We Don't Read Our Bibles
One Thing I'd Remember if I Lost My Mind
Christians: Let's Study the Bible for Ourselves!
My boy turns four this week!
This year has been truly shocking; the Lord has truly blown me away by my son. This is by grace, not great parenting (my parenting skills are quite lacking, ha!), and I really don't expect to "produce" other children with such an intensely sweet heart and deeply ponderous mind. That said, here are some things I love about my very special son:
I love how he can tell when I need encouragement. If I'm having a weary day, he gives me a hug and says "You're doing a great job Mommy." He compliments meals and frequently tells me I'm beautiful and pretty. Definitely helps the ol' self-esteem!
I love how he wants to know everything about...everything. He looks at a globe, points to a country, and says "What wars happened here?" One of his favorite phrases is "We should learn about that in homeschool!" or, in humble admission, "I not knew that." He is absolutely ravenous for knowledge, and I really feel like I can't keep up.
I love how he loves Piper. One of my favorite things in the whole world is watching them interact; in the mornings they say good morning to each other and hug tightly...he just so obviously loves her deeply. I've overheard him pleading with her to know Jesus.
I love how he is helpful. Sometimes it takes a lot of prodding for him to do his chores, but when he gets going, he really does an astounding job. He takes delight in his work and he's even told me that I'm going to cry happy tears when I see how clean his room is. I can rely on him to make banana cookies, unload the dishwasher and dryer, clean his room, clean the car, mop the floor, put clothes on hangers, etc. I think we're getting to the point where he's more of an asset than a liability; he actually makes my job easier.
I love how he responds to discipline. Many times he thanks Peter and I for disciplining him. Once he told me, "You and daddy are like my shepherds. You keep me from danger and sin." Even right after it happens he often says something like, "I know you needed to do that."
I love how he loves washi tape. This will probably be one of our favorite memories, sitting side by side, crafting and talking. He just cuts strips out of varying lengths and designs and lays them out in a pattern that is certainly artistic and intentional but also hilariously reflective of what a three-year-old might produce. The best part is that doing this together really causes him to open up his heart to me. He just keeps talking on and on and on.
One time he told me, "Sometimes me think me should move to another country because me just love the world and there are so many people who don't know Jesus. But I not know what God wants me to do so I'm praying about it." (I assured him that God wants him to stay with our family, ha! But I told him that we can pray that God will lead us overseas if that's His plan.)
I love how he deeply cares about those who are suffering and lost. We read Voice of the Martyrs magazines together (I, of course, summarize the stories and spare him from troubling details) and he literally prays for ISIS every day---at meals, at bedtime, and any other time it comes to mind. He passionately begs the Lord that ISIS will lay their weapons down and know Jesus. And the Lord hears, so that's quite amazing to think about.
I love how he loves to find things. (Geocaching is a great activity for him!) A lot of times I'll ask him where a remote or tool or toy is and---even if it's an item he's not supposed to have anything to do with---chances are hefty that he can lead me right to it.
I love how he talks. He didn't even start talking until he was over 2 1/2 years old, and he still mispronounces about every other word, but that makes his speech even more precious. (We get kind of sad when he starts saying words correctly!) His vocabulary is fantastic and he will pretty much assimilate every word we say. He uses the same idioms we use, the same slang words, the same hand and facial gestures, the same inflections and tones...we must be very careful with how we speak!
I love how he responds to love. He can tell when someone cares about him, and if you take the effort to really ask him about himself and show that you care, it will mean a lot to him. Seth and Lauren Shealy are excellent at treating Stephen like an actual person, and after meeting Seth for the first time he told me that he wanted to make a homeschool lesson about dinosaurs for him. He spent three days working on it---lots of drawing and chopping up with scissors---and then he wanted to mail it to him.
I love how he has self-control sometimes. Usually he'll watch as much TV as I let him (and will respond poorly when I shut it off), but sometimes he will say "We'd better turn it off because I don't want to have bad behavior." (He knows that screen-time changes the way he acts.) There have been several instances in which I've tried to turn on a Disney movie and he said, "No, that's a funny movie and I want to learn something. Let's watch Wild Kratts." He'll also occasionally deny desserts or sweets because "That's not healthy for me." Peter and I just look at each other like "Whuttt?" ha!
I love how he knows when he looks good. When he puts on his skinny jeans he says "Don't I look handsome?" And when he dresses in all camouflage, he even puts on green underwear. Even though we're just now getting out of the phase where every article of clothing is inside out and backwards, Stephen still cares about how he looks and it's pretty adorable.
I love how he loves to talk on the phone. He'll take my phone and click on the icon of which family member he'd like to call, and sometimes he'll talk for quite awhile. For no discernible reason he will suddenly say, "Okay, me going to call Mimi now. Bye love you." Then after he calls my mom he will suddenly say, "Okay, me going to call Daddy now. Bye love you." He likes to make his rounds and check in with everybody. I have no clue what's going on until family members call me and say "Stephen called and said you guys are coming over today. Is that true?" Ha!
I love how he truly tries to understand everything we say. When I'm listening to music in the car, he asks me about the lyrics and what those words mean. When adults are having a conversation, he wants to know what we said. Everyone has told me that the "why" stage is annoying, but I have not felt that yet because knowledge is an incredible gift that I'm actually able to give to him (to some degree! I'm clueless about science, ha!) He wants to know and be known. I'm terrified of snuffing out that desire.
I love him with all my heart. He has strengthened my marriage and stirred up my love for Jesus. When I talk to Stephen I truly feel like I am training an important soldier.
Happy birthday, my boy!
(I opted not to do pictures this time for safety reasons.)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising four little people ages 1,3, and 5, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today