Knowing God When I’m at a Fork in the Road

Yesterday, I finished the First steps with Jesus Bible plan on YouVersion and I immediately wanted to start a new Bible reading plan. I looked through the most recently added plans and found one called: Hey God, Can We Talk? I’m at a Fork in the Road. I clicked on it and apparently loved its description, although I can’t remember it right now. So I decided to start the plan.

The plan walks us through Jacob’s story. For the first day, we were asked to read the verses in Genesis 28 where Jacob leaves for Bethel after Esau plans to kill him. I had no idea about this. I mean, I thought the idea that Jacob would receive Isaac’s blessing rather than Esau had been mutually agreed upon. That’s how my father explained it once when we ate lentils for dinner: that Esau voluntarily swapped his firstborn’s right for a bowl of lentils. He then personalized the story to my younger sister and me. I probably thought to myself that my sister could keep her yucky lentils and eat mine as well.

Anyway, apparently not. Rebekah had urged Jacob to escape the family home and go to her brother. This, the plan author compares to us leaving home to go off to college. Except, she says, Jacob didn’t have his family to support him should catastrophe strike. This hit home to me.

When I lived independently in Nijmegen in 2007, I didn’t have my parents’ support either. That is, when I wasn’t coping, they made it very clear that I wasn’t to rely on them. I had my community support staff, of course, but they too had their conditions for supporting me.

At one point while resting in Bethel, Jacob has a very important dream. In it, the Lord speaks to him and promises him the land on which he lay. Okay, fine by me. I don’t need land. but I do need comfort.

The plan then goes on to highlight verse 16: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'” (Genesis 28:16 NIV)

This, then, was comforting but also slightly scary to Jacob. This is so relatable! In 2007, I had no idea there was even a God, let alone that He cares about my life. Now I do know, but it’s sometimes scary too. Maybe because I am not used, with the exception of my husband (and I doubt that all the time), to being loved unconditionally.

Of course, Jacob’s story takes place long before Christ. However, the God of the Old Testament, unlike what some atheists told me when I first learned about religion, isn’t a horrible dictator. He is still the same and He was with Jacob. I love this. Do you, too?

Linking up with Grace and Truth.

Enthusiasm for Jesus #Write28Days

Welcome to day 2 in #Write28Days. Today I’m not feeling well and struggling with my faith a lot. I try to remember Jesus is there for me no matter what, and even if I don’t feel better now, I might in the future. I don’t know what plan God has for me.

Today, for this reason, I want to write about the parable of the sower. The prompt word for today in #Write28Days is “enthusiasm”. This is the perfect word for me right now.

For those not familiar with the parable, in Mark 4, Jesus teaches that God is like a sower. He sows the Word. Some of his seeds fall on the road, while others fall on rocky ground, still others fall inbetween thorny bushes, and yet some fall into rich soil, where they sprout and multiply and carry fruit. These places the seeds fall on, are a metaphor for people hearing the Word of God. Those who don’t hear or are evil, resemble the road. Those who at once rejoice in the Word, resemble the rocks. After all, the seeds spring up quickly, but they lack a root and wither easily. The people who are like rocks, are enthusiastic to hear the Word, but can’t withstand the negative aspects of it, such as persecution.

I must admit, when I first truly converted to Christianity, I was like the rocks. I was elated to hear my husband had recently become a believer again after years of being an atheist. I felt ready to dive into faith once again, after years of being a sort-of believer. Then though, I wasn’t feeling so well and learned about the negative aspects of faith. I began to struggle.

I also have had times when I was like the thorny place. Jesus says that these are the people who are eager to receive the Word but don’t want to or can’t give up on the pleasures of life. As an example, I have often laughed at blasphemous jokes. Even letting go of this low and simple pleasure is a struggle. Don’t even get me started on the more insidious temptations of life.

I really pray that God’s grace will transform me from the rocky, thorny place I may now still be into rich, fruitful soil. I trust that this will happen. After all, during my years of sort-of belief, I wasn’t even aware of my perpetual use of blasphemous interjections. Now, on the rare occasion that a blasphemous word slips out, I am instantly aware and correct myself. I am so glad that God has at least opened my awareness to this.

What If I Disappoint God? #Write28Days

Welcome to my first post in the #Write28Days blogging challenge. This challenge is an offshoot from the original #Write31Days challenge that used to be done every October until 2018. I only found out about #Write28Days a few weeks ago. Thankfully, you’re not required to pick a topic. The goal is just to write everyday during February. And this is my first post. I don’t have a landing page, as I used to forget to update those. However, if you click on the #Write28Days tag, you should be taken to my other posts.

I originally intended to write my challenge posts on faith, then realized I, being a new Christian, may not be able to devote 28 posts to this topic. But for today, something definitely came to mind: the feeling that I’ll disappoint God.

I was converted to Christianity in early December of 2020. Before that, I’d sort of believed in God, but never understood the essence of the Christian faith. I felt incredibly alone, thinking I was a very wicked person on the inside. The thing is, I thought I was the only one.

Then my husband showed me the book You Are Beloved by Bobby Schuller. I started reading and thought that, oh yes, God loves people, but not me. I still felt I was somehow more sinful than other human beings. And at the same time, I wanted to combat this feeling by believing I am good enough without Jesus. Well, I’m not. And that’s okay, because neither is anyone else.

The question, then, becomes not what if I disappoint God? I already do. Yet I’m not alone. Everyone has their imperfections, after all. The Bible calls them sin. Yet through Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven.

Yesterday, through a Bible reading plan on the YouVersion Bible app, I read Mark 10 and 11. In Mark 10, Jesus tells a rich man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor and then to follow him. He may or may not have literally meant for the rich man to sell everything, but he did mean we need to let go of something in order to follow Jesus and gain eternal life. After all, the Ten Commandments tell us not to have idols. That doesn’t just mean other gods, but other things we pursue in life besides God. The author of the plan, in fact, had to let go of his pride. And in a way, so do I.

God, thank you for showing me your presence in life. Thank you for loving me despite my imperfections. Help me overcome my self-righteous sense of pride. Help me realize that, like every human being, I am powerless over my sin. Help me draw closer to You through your only begottn Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (January 23, 2021)

Happy Saturday all! I’m so thrilled you’re joining me for another edition of #WeekendCoffeeShare. I haven’t had that much coffee yet, as my afternoon coffee was too strong for my liking, so I took only a few sips. I’m hoping my evening coffee is better.

If we were having coffee, I would proudly announce that, despite my less than ideal step count for the week, I’m still ahead of my sister. Last Tuesday was a real low, as it rained all day and I didn’t feel very well, so didn’t go on the elliptical. As a result, I got in only about 2000 steps.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the AFO (ankle foot orthosis) guy was here on Monday. He took a look at my drop foot and at my shoes. He’ll return soon with some AFOs to try.

I am certainly hoping the AFO will help. Yesterday, after I walked for about half an hour, my foot began to horribly drag and this caused me some discomfort. I can’t exactly say it hurt, but it did feel really off. I was angry with my body afterwards. My staff tried to put things into perspective by saying I shouldn’t ignore the fact that I have a physical disability. Thing is, I’m not 100% sure I do.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the weather has been okay for the rest of the week. We had some rain, a lot of clouds, but at times a little sunshine too. It hasn’t been cold, with temps rising to about 10°C on Wednesday I think. Today is a bit more wintery though.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m having a quiet week-end at the care facility. My husband was feeling a little poorly earlier in the week, so just to be on the safe side we decided not to meet.

I was originally planning on having pizza this evening, but decided against it eventually. I wanted to get it because one of the new pizzas at Domino’s is called Extreme Spicy Roulette and I wanted to try it before it went out of sale again. However, then I found out that the roulette bit is real, in that one slice is even spicier than the rest. I am not one for surprises, so no pizza for me today.

To make up for it though, kind of, this morning a staff took me for a walk in a nearby forest and McDonald’s afterwards. I must say the chicken nuggets were great!

If we were having coffee, I would share that my soaping supplies arrived yesterday. I haven’t used them yet though.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would share about IMMERSION Bible Studies, a series of Bible study books I discovered on Bookshare today. I immediately downloaded the one on Genesis, as I really need to apply the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, more. I mean, I’m still reading Genesis as if it’s a collection of legends, not something that makes sense to my life. This book certainly helps me.

What’s been going on in your life?

I Can Rest in Jesus

A few weeks ago, like I’ve mentioned before, my husband pointed out that I cannot and should not do life alone. I at once cannot and do not need to rely on myself alone to solve the puzzle that is life here on Earth. I have God to help me.

That same day, John 15:5 was the verse of the day on the Bible app I use. It has been on my mind ever since and could easily be one of my favorite verses so far. Oh yes, I know the Bible wasn’t originally written in chapters or verses and the wider context is important too. I will get to that.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV)

This is good news! My husband was initially worried that I would be disappointed by the rest of this chapter, because, well, it is good news only to those who will listen. This verse, to me, however, captures both the positive and the negative message that the wider context of the chapter reveals: Jesus is the vine, while we are the branches. If we abide in him, we will prosper; if we don’t, we will perish.

Today, as I was thinking of what to write for my blog, I opened Bobby Schuller’s book You Are Beloved and saw him discuss this exact chapter. Schuller says that, in Greek, the word that is translated as “abide” in English, is “meno”. There is no literal translation for this word in either Dutch or English (the Dutch Bible translation I use says “remain in”). Meno, according to Schuller, means something like coming home to a warm place after having been in the cold for a long while. We can come home to Jesus.

I loved the imagery Schuller evoked. As regular readers of this blog might know, I have never felt that I was truly “home” anywhere. No, not even in my current care facility. I didn’t feel very safe with my parents and, after I moved out, have been in so many places that were all temporary. Now that I can stay here, still, I struggle to believe it. Regardless though, in Jesus, I can rest and be home.

Schuller also makes it very clear that we can only truly love one another if we know God’s love for us. Through Jesus, we are loved in all our sinfulness. If we realize that God loves us, imperfections and all, we are able to extend this love to other people.

In my experience, this isn’t even a fully conscious choice. God’s grace extends to us, and due to that we are able to extend our grace and love to others. I am reminded, as I often am lately, of my music teacher’s telling me and my fellow students about a show on Dutch TV at the time called “God changes people”. Because the first several syllables of this phrase are the same as those in a Dutch swear word involving God, I was tempted to start cussing with God and then change my wording mid-sentence to “God changes people!” I still use God’s name in vain at times, but each time now, I am reminded of this. I credit God’s work in me for that.

I am linking up with Faith on Fire and Grace and Truth.

Fear Turned to Hope for the Second Coming of Christ

I have been making a daily habit of Bible reading for the past ten days and hope to continue this habit for a long time still. Sometimes, I squeeze in five minutes of reading just before bed, while on other days, I spend far more time reading the Word.

A few days ago, the daily story (something like a short sermon) on YouVersion was on Christ’s second coming.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42-44 NIV)

The speaker said that this Bible passage had always instilled fear in her as a child, because she didn’t want to be caught with her hand in the cookie jar when Jesus would return. I understand now even as an adult. Indeed, some strict pastors in the past used to go to cinemas and tell believers that they ought not watch worldly movies, for what if Christ returned now?

Then again, God knows us better than we know ourselves. We do not need to hide anything from Him. In fact, this is not possible. He also knows our hearts. This does mean we need to make sure we train our minds to think more helpful thoughts.

The speaker then went on to say that this passage currently inspires hope in her. I relate this to what my husband told me a few days ago: that the people of the Old Testament found their hope in the coming of Jesus. Jesus was their light even before he’d come to the Earth.

Indeed, we as believers can trust that everything will be okay in the end. Christ may not have come back yet, but he will.

Last year, when I hadn’t become a true believer yet, I predicted that everything would be okay in 2021. I based this on the fact that mentally ill people would qualify for long-term care by then, so I would be allowed to go into a care facility then. I already moved here in September of 2019, but I didn’t know at the time that I’d still have to fight a huge battle against my inner demons.

Of course, if Christ comes back in 2021, I fear he might find me in one of my bad moments, but I do hope he’ll make everything okay for me. And I hope so whenever he returns.

I’m linking up with Let’s Have Coffee.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (December 13, 2020)

Hi everyone on this chilly, foggy but thankfully not rainy Sunday. I just had my Sunday evening soft drink, but if you’d like a coffee, who am I to object? It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote a post for #WeekendCoffeeShare, but today, I’m joining in again.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the past week was so much better than I’d expected. The reason is last week Sunday I landed in a crisis and I fully expected to be unstable all week. Thankfully I was okay early in the week and the last bit of the week was even good.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I was pretty active this past week. I got in nearly 70K steps this week, even though I only reached my step goal of 10K four times.

If we were having coffee, I’d share how grateful I am that COVID-19 hasn’t struck at our care home as of yet. Like I said yesterday, a fellow client was tested for it, but thankfully he was negative.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about my recent spiritual growth. I can’t remember whether I said this in my previous coffee share posts, but I’m finally becoming a Christ follower. I have been reading the Bible everyday this week, although I’m having to take a break from writing this post to actually do it in YouVersion. I do still sometimes squeeze in Bible reading inbetween other activities. I really need to change this. Let’s hope this post is a way to keep me accountable.

I’ve also been praying and meditating on God’s word more. Especially wen we had the COVID scare at my home, I prayed for health for this client.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my week-end was okay despite my not having gone to my and my husband’s home in Lobith. The reason for not going was the fact that, by the time we got the news of the negative COVID test for my fellow client, my husband couldn’t make it here anymore. I did enjoy some relaxed time in my room.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share about all the great essential oil blends I’ve discovered lately. I’ve discovered that I don’t like geranium EO, but there are still quite a few blends I hadn’t tried yet that don’t contain that.

What have you been up to lately?

Gratitude List (December 12, 2020)

Hi all on this rainy Saturday. I am feeling so grateful for a lot of things right now. Let me share! I was going to be linking up with Ten Things of Thankful, but then I saw the linky isn’t up this week. This isn’t holding me back though.

1. I am grateful for the staff who supported me through my crisis on Sunday.

2. I am grateful for my physical health. This should always be something I’m grateful for, but I’m specifically listing it today.

3. I am grateful a fellow client who had cold symptoms tested negative for COVID. I was very worried already when I found out he was in isolation yesterday. The staff weren’t notified of his negative test results until mid-afternoon today.

4. I am so grateful the above means we aren’t in isolation at our care home as of yet. This means that my appointments with mental health for the coming weeks can go forward (unless I or a fellow client develops symptoms suggestive of COVID, of course).

5. I am grateful for my husband, as always. We have been talking more than we used to over the past week and that’s truly a blessing.

6. I am grateful to be able to read the Bible on my phone. I now have a six-day streak on YouVersion and am hoping to get to my first perfect week tomorrow.

7. I am grateful to have found and consistently listened to First United Methodist Church of Austin’s sermons.

8. I am grateful there still was a meal I liked in the freezer this evening. I am a rather picky eater and I didn’t like what I had for dinner this evening. Then I microwaved another meal we had in the freezer, but the rice got all weird from microwaving it straight from the freezer or something. I feel pretty bad for having thrown out two meals to finally accept a third one, but well, I can’t change it now. All I can do is try to train myself to be a less picky eater in the future.

9. I am grateful for paracetamol. My feet cramped a little (well, a lot) this evening, but thankfully the pain is pretty mild now that I took some paracetamol.

10. I am grateful for the sounds of nature CD I listened to in the sensory room this evening.

So what are you grateful for?

Gratitude List (November 28, 2020) #TToT

Hello everyone. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have not been more grateful than I am now in a long while. Part of the reason is my recent depression, but part is also my increased attitude of gratitude. For this reason, I am trying to make posting about gratitude a weekly habit again. As always, I am linking up with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. Quiet dinners in my room. Last week and early in the week, I was very stressed out about needing to eat in the communal room with the other clients. This has been a stressor for me for a long while already. I was given the opportunity to eat in my room if I didn’t cope in the communal room, but was struggling to say I didn’t cope on time. For this reason, me and the staff decided I for now will always have dinner in my room. Yesterday, a staff noted that I eat much slower now.

2. Extra staff. I may’ve mentioned this before, but there is now an extra staff member to support me in the evenings. I am not yet sure how they will cover this financially, but we’ll see. Today, I thought there wouldn’t be an extra staffer, but thankfully there was.

3. Podcasts. I’ve mainly been listening to church services. I am so grateful for my podcast app that enables me to listen to church services from all over the world. Oh and of course also other podcasts, like the Parcast Network originals.

4. The YouVersion Bible app. I have only a three-day streak so far, because I missed one day of Bible reading on Wednesday. I am determined to make this streak much longer though. Right now, I’m on day six of a seven-day devotional on forgiveness.

5. Soaping supplies. My day activities staff ordered 3kg each of white and clear soap base as well as a few micas (powdered colorants). She already ordered them early last week, but they finally arrived last Thursday. In addition, my husband brought my Christmas tree soap mold. I am really looking forward to soaping again.

6. Cake decorating. In addition to the extra staff in the evenings, there’s an extra staff in the morning on week-ends. The one who had this shift today, asked me earlier in the week whether I’d like to decorate cupcakes with her today. We ended up using regular slices of cake, not cupcakes, because these are easier to decorate. I loved it.

7. Beautiful skies and sunsets. I regret not having taken a photo of the pink sky we had on Monday. I didn’t really see it, but did see some and loved the staff’s description. Also, on Sunday, I saw the sunset. This was really cool.

8. Eating lunch in the car. My husband came by this afternoon to take me out to lunch. Since all restaurants and such are closed due to COVID, we drove to a Subway drive-through. We each had a chicken teriyaki wrap. It was delicious!

9. Homemade wraps. Okay, they weren’t as good as the Subway chicken teriyaki one, but they were good too. We made wraps with chicken and lettuce on Monday and, because we had some wraps still left over, made some more with minced meat and beans on Thursday.

10. Good talks with my husband. He keeps me interested with his knowledge of theology in particular.

What have you been grateful for lately?

Grateful for Love

Today’s Five Minute Friday (FMF) prompt is “Grateful”. It truly speaks to me, even though I, being from the Netherlands, don’t celebrate Thanksgiving this week. In fact, all I do for it is look all over the Internet to see whether the Apple Watch I want is on sale for Black Friday (it isn’t).

That being said, I haven’t felt more grateful than I feel now in a long while. Here’s why…

I feel so immensely grateful for my husband. He loves me and cares enough about me to show me his love multiple times daily even though we don’t live together. He must miss me, but rather than turn around and find someone else to live with, he tells me he loves me too many times to count. In fact, when COVID hit here first, we weren’t allowed to see each other for three months and yet he still loved me.

Last week, I wrote about grieving the loss of my “normal”, functioning self. Today, I am so immensely grateful to be loved for who I am. Not just by my husband, but by God as well.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

I have been meditating a lot on this Bible passage and somehow come across it almost on a daily basis when reading about Christianity. It was the start of the Bible reading for the First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, LA sermon I referred to on Tuesday. More than commanding me to be Godlike, it speaks to me in that my old self doesn’t matter. I am loved by God just the way I am.

Okay, this took me longer to write than five minutes, but then again it usually does. Sorry about that. In fact, I took probably about five minutes to find, read and copy/paste the Bible passage. Well, at least I tried to keep it short.