Author: ramblingswithgrace

On Easter

In the Bible, there is a story of a woman who loved Jesus well.

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that [Jesus] was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner…”

Turning toward the woman, [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 

Luke 7:37-39, 44-47 (NASB)

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot recently. This is partly because we’re in the midst of Passion Week, when the global Church remembers the days leading up to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. It’s a season that brings the end of the somber sacrifice of Lent and ushers in the triumphant victory of Easter.

In New York City, Easter is perfectly timed with the shift to spring. After an interminable winter, a crispness creeps into the air. Forgotten trees begin to bloom. People emerge from their cocoons. Something new is coming.

But Easter looks very different this year. Our city is devastated by a sickness that is threatening every corner of the earth. And instead of breathing deep the renewal that the Son brings, we close our doors to protect our lungs and our lives.

I know I am privileged, even now. I am, like so many others, working from the comfort of my little home. The counter where we break bread is my office. It is strange, but it is a blessing.

And because this is our new business as usual, there is a stirring to do just as much, just as well. The tension curves my spine as I brace myself for meeting after meeting. And even though this is supposed to be a safe refuge, I am feeling the heaviness of productivity chase me down.

The truth is, yes, I am home. But too many people I love are not. My mother, still recovering from a body that betrayed her, is caring for COVID-19 positive patients. She doesn’t sleep well. None of us do.

But the worst part of these restless nights is when morning comes. Because it feels like my whole heart has crawled its way out of my chest and through the door as my husband kisses me goodbye.

It was so clear to me, even when we had just first started dating, that I was funnier than him. He is so good at so many things, so much better than me in so many ways, but he has a hard time crafting a good joke. One day, as we were sitting in comfortable silence on the phone, his voice came across the line, hushed and solemn.

“Babe? Can I ask you something?”

I hum for him to go ahead.

“How much wood… would a woodchuck chuck… if a woodchuck… could chuck… wood?”

I tilt my head back and let out a full-throated laugh because he is so silly but also because I do not know that this is just the first time of many that he will ask me this riddle. For the next days, weeks, he asks me about woodchucks. How much? Just tell me, I want to know. It was funny the first time. It is testing my patience by week six.

So the next time he asks me, I am exasperated and blurt, “97! Ok?! 97, the woodchuck chucks 97 woods. Don’t ask me again.”

And now it’s his turn to yelp a surprised laugh because I have given him an answer to his unanswerable question.

And somehow, 97 becomes our answer for everything.

How many peanut butter cups do you want? 97.

How many stars do you think there are in the sky? 97.

How much do you love me? 97.

Because for us, 97 isn’t a number anymore. It’s a placeholder for infinity.

We got married on September 7, 2019. 9/7/19. 97. I will love this man for the rest of my days.

In the first spring since our wedding, my husband goes to work, as he has done every other day of our married life. But with the onset of COVID-19, going to work is suddenly life-threatening because he works in a New York City hospital, an emerging epicenter of this pandemic.

We spend the first couple weeks reassuring ourselves that we are young and we are healthy. We are at low-risk for complications. And really, how long can this last? It is only temporary.

But the patients begin to look different. Younger. Healthier. So much like us. And then the shortages start springing up everywhere. Coworkers stop being familiar faces. The trucks park themselves around the back of the hospital. He watches the bodies line up and his gentle heart, the heart that knew me in my darkness, breaks.

He calls me on his way home after a 16-hour shift. I don’t know, babe. I don’t know how we’ll make it through this.

I begin to cry when I hear his voice crack. We have only been married 7 months. I didn’t think “til death do us part” would come knocking at our door so soon.

He goes straight to the bathroom when he comes home, stuffing his clothes into a plastic bag and tying it up tight. They will go straight in the wash: hot water, extra detergent, longest cycle. We’re not playing around.

While the water sprays down on his body, I start plating up dinner. We are eating at irregular intervals. I graze for most of the day, saving my big meal for when he is home and I can ask him too many times if he really does like it. I wonder briefly if I am being a bad feminist but I remind myself that feminism is equity and equity is love and love is food.

He makes quick work of the love on his plate and we shift to the couch. We don’t watch anything too serious nowadays. Nothing scary. Life is giving us enough to chew on. So we go back to familiar stories and easy laughs and before we finish an episode, he is asleep. I pause so he doesn’t accuse me of watching without him.

My eyes drink him in. His eyelashes are so long and grow straight out, never curling upwards. Without barbershops open, his hair has taken a mind of its own, drying funny and flopping over. He is breathing deep, the softest snore, and I have never been more grateful because at least I know he is breathing.

I see his hands last. I noticed the patches last night, his skin cracking and raw from washing his hands so much. I told him then to put some lotion on. I reminded him this morning. He still hasn’t done it.

So as he sleeps on our couch, our first big purchase for this home, I go to the bathroom to get our lotion. I sit on the edge of the cushion and gather his palm, dead weight that it is, into my lap. Slowly, I soothe on the lotion and he stirs, muttering to me with his eyes closed.

Thank you, babe. I love you.

And the tension I am carrying is undone, as I cradle these hands that held mine at an altar and promised me forever. My lips settle on them and for the second time that evening, the tears spill.

This is what it means to love someone well.

The story of the woman who was a sinner comes back to me, the Scripture coming alive like never before. Because the beauty of that story is this: a woman found someone who was endlessly worthy of her devotion and even in the mourning, even with the tears, she loved Him.

COVID-19 is overtaking the city I love. It keeps me from hugging my parents and my brothers. It empties my church building. It holds me in my home, anxious and worried and so uncertain. But even in my tears, Jesus, the Risen King, is worthy of my love. And even though I am a sinner, He accepts my offering.

And isn’t that the true miracle of Easter? That Jesus, in all His perfection, would choose to die for a world that did not deserve Him.

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:7-8

Jesus first loved me.

And as it was designed to be, marriage teaches me about the nature of God. Because as much as I love my husband, the greatest blessing I have ever known is that he first chose me.

So yes, Easter will be very different this year. The glory of the Resurrection seems a little quieter. We’re still waiting on healing.

But I’m finding a safe place at Jesus’ feet, as I pray for my love and my family and my world. He honors my tears and accepts my offerings and reminds me that if He can defeat the grave, He will defeat every sickness. He is Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end.

He is Risen.

Two Thousand Eighteen

They say that what you’re doing at midnight as the new year begins is what you will do for the rest of the year.

Two thousand eighteen found me, the solitary occupant of the pew I was sitting in, with my bare toes curled upon the cold wood floors of the church that raised me.

I don’t know what that says about how my year will go.

New Year’s Eve service is a longstanding tradition in my home church. We call it “watch night service,” a nod to how the church continues to wait for the return of her bridegroom. In years past, I’ve held on to my little white candle, flanked by my parents as I watched the secondhand creep to twelve. Other years I’ve linked arms with my dearest friends, women of faith who have created some of my happiest memories with me. But this year, I sat alone.

Which seemed strangely fitting because I’ve spent most of last year feeling awfully alone.

A majority of that stems from my depression, which I have battled against in 2017 more than any other time of my life. I’ve walked through the darkest depths of my mental health, almost scaring myself with how far I’ve tumbled down this rabbit hole. And depression, great and terrible beast that it is, keeps me in the land of darkness, alone and feeling like I am separated from the great love of the Father.

What is it about darkness? It scares us as children, transforming shadows into monsters that hide in our closets and take residence under our beds. When we grow into adults, the darkness reminds us of our vulnerability. Racing hearts betray our bravado. Fear lives in the darkness.

And the early moments of 2018 greeted me with darkness once again, as the lights of the church were flipped off, one by one.

But when I looked to the altar, fire burned.

The motto of our church is “Lighted to Lighten.” It speaks of the incredible experience of grace, and the truths that spill from the beginning of John’s Gospel and the beginning of the world.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

John 1: 1-5, 9 (NASB)

In the beginning, God spoke light into the darkness and it’s been shining ever since. Through Christ, we receive the Light of the World and as believers, we take on the great commission that commands us to go into all corners of the earth, bringing light into the darkness.

So on New Year’s Eve, I sat in the darkness of my home church, a church that lay my foundations but has also broken my heart.  And when midnight came, the year of our Lord 2018, six candles centered around the cross gave us light.

Our reverend took one flame from the altar and lit his neighbor’s candle. Who lit another’s. Who lit another’s. Until the entire congregation was ignited.

Let there be. Lighted to Lighten.

There is something about the sacredness of the Creation story that repeats in the first breath of a new year. Out of darkness comes a new beginning. And the hope that He will look at His creation and say, “It is good.”

I have spent so much of this last year feeling like I am not good. That my shortcomings far outnumber my successes. That I will remain in the valley of the shadow of death. That even in a place of worship, I am alone.

Yet the fire burns on.

This is my reminder. That even in my darkness, there is Light at the cross. And although depression ravages my heart, it cannot extinguish the flame. The darkness cannot comprehend it.

So I walk in the darkness, with my bare feet treading this hallowed ground. Holy even in the trials. And while depression and doubt fill my thoughts, the promise of God tells me that the Light will conquer the darkness. Victory is already won.

This little light of mine.

Happy New Year.

On Depression

Every time I post something on this blog, I think, This is it. This is the farthest you can go. You’re showing too much of your heart in this one.  You can’t do this again on the next post. Stop right here.

But the problem with censoring myself is it makes it hard to find something else worth writing about. I putter around for a few months trying to find a neater version of myself to share. I never seem to come up with anything.

So here I am, friends, showing you the rawest parts of my heart because honestly, I don’t have the words for anything else.

I’ve had a rough few months. Or perhaps, more accurately, a rough year. Maybe a rough couple years.

And I’ve been sad. So sad. Even when I am happy, there is an undercurrent of sadness and there are moments when I fear it will swallow me whole. There are moments when I wish it would.

Mental health is a strange thing, isn’t it? We seem to be talking about it more in our world as we consider gun violence and terrorism and free will and sickness but I don’t know if we’ve ever really gotten to the root of it. What I do know is that I’ve struggled with mine for a very long time.

The Church, from what I have seen, does a poor job addressing mental health. We dismiss people’s pain as a direct result of their sin. We claim that there is no need for professional help or medication if only we pray hard enough.

I don’t discount the power of prayer. Far from it. One of my favorite gospel stories is the one of Jesus healing the demon-possessed boy who was deaf and mute. He commands the spirit out of the boy and when His disciples see him healed, they ask Jesus why they were not able to do the same. Jesus responds, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29, NASB).

I’ve held on to that verse through many dark times. It has reassured me that with prayer, healing is possible.

But, Jesus? I’ve been praying a long time now. And I’m still sad.

Depression makes me doubt everything about myself. Admittedly, I am in a difficult season of life, regardless the state of my mental health, but depression takes this string of upsets and tells me, You have not succeeded at anything you have tried to achieve. Your best days will never come. 

It infects all of the relationships in my life by placing in me a crippling fear that I am not good enough and thus, entirely replaceable.These people who I call mine deserve better and surely, they could find better in another woman. It is an awful thing to feel as though you are a disappointment of a daughter and a failure as a friend.

But the worst part of depression is the way it attacks the foundations of my faith. It calls into question the very nature of God so I no longer know what is true.

When you lose track of the Truth, there is only room for lies.

He isn’t listening. He isn’t here. If He loved you, He wouldn’t let you feel such pain. 

There is no purpose in this suffering.

This is not for your good.

He is not good.

Depression, you dark and terrible beast. How long will you have your grip on me? Why must you possess me like a demon?

They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him…”

Mark 9: 20-22 (NASB)

Like the demon-possessed boy, depression leaves me incapable of hearing or speaking Truth. It pulls me into its flames where it consumes and destroys.

Will you continue to rage inside of me until there is nothing left but ashes and dust?

Ashes and dust.

Oh, Great God. Can it be?

When I was getting my minor in Jewish studies, my professor taught us of the Old Testament commandments to keep the fire on the temple altar continually burning. The flames would burn low throughout the night and a priest would rekindle the fire every morning, sifting through the ashes to reignite it.

Rabbi Viñas had an uncanny ability to know when the stories of old could be reminders for today.

The priests didn’t have to light a new flame every morning. If they dug deep enough in the ashes, they would find an ember. A glowing remnant of what once was.

From these ashes, you can build a fire still.

Somewhere in the ashes of my ravaged heart lies a lone ember. A stubborn trace of something called faith.

But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Mark 9: 22-24 (NASB)

Depression fills me with doubt that God is who He says He is. But even in the throes my darkest times, I wonder if there is a small voice that cries out, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

When I long to be around people and have conversations, but have no energy to seek them.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I lay in bed late at night, unable to fall asleep as the clock strikes 2, 3, 4, because my mind is racing and my fears are stacking.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I mourn a soul lost by his own hands and know what he must have felt in those final moments.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

When I weep over a desperate prayer, asking God to come find me in my brokenness because I cannot reach Him on my own.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

There is hope in this paradox. A hope that being weak of faith does not mean I am forever lost. A hope that admitting my weakness allows Jesus to come and save.

It is a misconception in the Church that those who struggle in their faith never genuinely believed in the first place. I am too aware of my own sin to make claims of how “good” of a Christian I am but my instincts tell me that is not how faith works. I think God has long since accepted that His children teeter between moments of conviction and seasons of despair.

David, master musician, wrote psalms of thanksgiving to celebrate the faithfulness of God. He invited nations (Psalm 67:4) and generations (Psalm 145: 4) to join with him in worshiping the Creator.

But he also knew what it felt like to cry for so long you can’t see straight anymore (Psalm 69: 3). He knew fear and horror (Psalm 55:5) and weariness (Psalm 6:6). He asked God how long He would forget him (Psalm 13:1).

David shows us that it is possible to write both songs of praise and songs of lament. It is possible to believe God is able yet doubt if He will.

Depression threatens to rob me of my faith but somewhere in my soul I still say, I believe. Help my unbelief.

I might battle depression for the rest of my life. I wish I wouldn’t and I pray for healing but I know that this may be my version of a thorn in the flesh. And if He could do it for Paul, maybe God will use mental illness to teach me about grace sufficient.

Depression, although it continues to hold me tight, will not ruin me. There is a light in the ashes.

I believe.

Dear America

Dear America,

Up until the early hours of Wednesday morning, I thought I was going to address this letter to Madam President.

Oh, from what lofty heights we fall.

I don’t know what to say, my friends. And yet, I don’t know how to stay silent. The words spill from the overflow of my heart.

Fear. That is the word I hear being repeated over and over today, as we transition to a new presidency. People have come into work crying. Some are questioning whether the things that define them have now made it unsafe to live in this country.

And it seems that a good chunk of the Christian community is a little too quick to brush off such sentiment with hurried reassurances that as long as God sits on His throne, we have nothing to fear.

This is true. He is still King and He is still Lord of my broken heart.

But, America.

Jesus wept.

Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

John 11: 30-35 (NASB)

As a witness to the unspeakable grief of friends and family, Jesus wept. Jesus wept despite knowing, more certainly than anyone else ever has, that this story, that no story, ends in death. So perhaps grief and fear are not one and the same but ultimately, the tears of Christ remind me that we are entitled to sadness.

Remember that, America. It’s okay to be sad. We can take a moment to mourn the future we had planned and process the reality of the present.

And because He is our perfect example, we can turn to Jesus to show us what to do in the midst of our tears.

So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.”

John 11: 41 (NASB)

I wonder if I’ve been staring at this glass ceiling for so long that I have neglected to look heavenward. Maybe we all have. But if we look to the Lord in prayer, we can say with full confidence that He hears us.

America. Land that I love. God hears us.

And since He hears us, we can go forth and do. Because after Jesus prays, He calls Lazarus from the dead.

Death is not the end of our story.

I do not pretend to have the wisdom to know what will heal the divisive wounds left on this nation but I remember what Scripture tells us: There is no fear in love.

Some of us wonder what exactly people are so scared of today. And of course, much of it centers on policies and promises and potential reforms. But as I watched the numbers pour in last night, the thing I was most afraid of was an environment of hatred. A pervasive and debilitating allowance for intolerance.

But love is a choice, America. And no matter who is in office, we can choose to love.

They say love is blind but I don’t know if that’s true. I think love sees full well the faults and flaws of its beloved. But it chooses to love anyway.

Which is why I think we’re called to love our neighbors, America, even if we don’t agree with them. Our neighbors of color who are afraid of having years of progress erased. Our Muslim neighbors who maybe thought twice before donning a hijab today. Our LGBT neighbors who don’t know if there is enough grace left in this country for them. Our neighbors across party lines. Our neighbors who hate us and what we stand for.

Oh yes, America, even them. It is perhaps the hardest choice we will have to make but if Jesus chose love on the cross for us while we were yet sinners, I think we need to do the same.

And maybe this is too much to include in an open letter to the United States but to the daughters I hope to one day mother. My precious girls. In this life you will see unthinkable evil and experience grave injustice. Fight against it. Stand in the gap with the unwavering conviction that you are dearly loved and uniquely capable. And while I pray that I will be someone you can look to in uncertain times, I know the better bet is Jesus. Fix your gaze on the one who sits at the right hand of your Father in Heaven.

Because there are no ceilings in the kingdom of heaven, my dears.

There are people who want to leave you, America. I will not. I pledge my allegiance to this flag.

But it is God in whom I trust.

God bless you, America.

Love always,



I am twenty-four. My legs are dipped into the pool and the stones against my back are still warm from the heat of the day. The cool night’s breeze is blowing through the palm trees overhead and no, that’s not a cliché, it’s not an exaggeration, because it is really happening. We live on an island. 

The stars are easier to see here than they are in New York. She tells me that you can see them better still where she calls home. I cup a hand along my temple, blocking out the bright lights from the building next door, and look up into the darkness. The longer I look, the more I see. They really do twinkle.

Space messes me up sometimes, she says. She lays in bed thinking about the universe and the stars and where does it end? She reminds me that it is constantly moving outwards. Expanding. Infinite.

As we all talk it out together, I am struck with the realization that the best understanding I have of infinity is God. The infinite nature of the universe represents the very essence of the Creator.

And it makes me think of the stillness before the creation when the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. In the beginning, the Word, who will become flesh, is used to speak the cosmos into existence.

Let there be.

So there is.

At His Word, the light cuts through the darkness. At His Word, the sun is given dominion over the day and the moon governs the nights and the stars are hung. At His Word, there is evening and there is morning.

At His Word.

But there is something special about the sixth day, isn’t there?

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  -Genesis 2:7 (NASB)

Adam, crown of creation, is fashioned. Molded from dust of the ground. Breathed to life. As if Daddy God thought, Not just words this time. This one is different.

So it is with me. Woven together in my mother’s womb, the psalmist says, fearfully and wonderfully made.

But I neglect it too often. The reverence of my creation.

I am so quick to make myself seem less than I am. I pass it off as my kind of humor, all the self-deprecation. But when I dig deep enough, I hit a well of insecurity and shame and doubt.

I am so afraid that perhaps my very DNA is riddled with mistake after mistake and I will never live up to the expectations.

But the Word. The Word who is present at the time of the creation reminds me how the sixth day ends.

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.   -Genesis 1:31 (NASB)

In my haste to pick apart my flaws, I fail to see His goodness.

This heart of mine, stubborn and broken as it may be, is formed by the very hands of the Creator. He creates me intentionally. With purpose. And when He walks through the walls I put up, His light consumes the dark places in me.

Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There. The Lord is here. Living in me.

The Father only knows to create that which is good. The Father creates me. And not because of my own doing, but because He is my Father, I am good.

I am so very, very good.

I find myself at the water’s edge again, on the last days of my twenty-fifth year. The sun sets and the dusk appears. They’re not quite as bright as they were on my little island but the stars begin to peek through.

See that bright one?, he murmurs. Look to the left of it, about two inches. We planted Hubble to orbit our planet and let it focus on a piece of our night sky just two inches wide. After a few weeks, an image came back to its lens that calculated more than three thousand galaxies. Each galaxy containing hundreds of billions of stars. All in two inches.

I let the vastness settle over me and humility comes right on its heels.

And they’re so far away, he continues, that the light takes a while to get back to us. It takes thirty-three minutes for light to travel the distance between Earth and Jupiter…

When we look up, we’re looking back in time.

Alpha and Omega.

He is the beginning and end. Past and present. Future.

“Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again.” -Menachem Mendel Schneerson

I Get It From My Mama

I come from a long line of strong women.

And for the longest time, I thought that was because of my dad.

I grew up halfway across the world from all four of my grandparents but my dad’s mom came to live with us twice when I was little. She’s the center of some of my favorite childhood memories. I used to sneak into her room as she was napping and beg her to wake up and come sit outside on the stoop with me. I can’t remember her ever saying no. And even though my time with her on this earth was much too short, she has visited me in dreams to remind me that the ones we love never truly leave us.

She raised eight babies of her own and somehow kept them all healthy and happy. And she always had food for anyone who came to her door hungry. She had an impressive resilience and independence, in a time and place where women were never described as such.

So as I got older and forged my own way in the world, I prided myself in thinking that I was strong because I was her grandbaby.

And then my mom got sick.

I don’t think I would have ever said my mom and I were close. All our lives, my brother was clearly her favorite, which sounds unfair but it’s true and I’m okay with it. And it’s not like my mom and I fought all the time. Most of the time we got along just fine. But I never thought of her as my best friend. We just didn’t have that kind of relationship.

But there is something about cancer that makes you rethink everything.

The day we found out about her diagnosis, I climbed into her bed and wept. She held me as I choked out great big tears and heaved until I couldn’t talk without gasping for air, that little girl cry. She told me it would be alright; she’d make it through. I couldn’t sleep that night so I got back into her bed while it was still dark out and she stroked my hair until the sun came up.

It doesn’t matter that you’re nearly twenty-one years old. It doesn’t matter that her body is betraying her. A mama is always gonna act like a mama.

In the months that followed, my mother faced her diagnosis with an unrelenting determination. Never one to draw attention to herself, she reached out to just a few close friends and family to pray for her as she readied her mind for the daunting road ahead. Surgery. Weekly chemotherapy. Daily radiation.

I sat behind her in the salon as they chopped her mid-length hair into a pixie cut. I nodded my approval as she tried on wigs. I swept the locks off the kitchen floor when my dad finally shaved her head bald.

My mom is a really good looking lady. Honestly. She’s tall and has great skin and the most impeccable sense of style that I’ve ever seen. And everyone knows it. Even if she’s just putting on a pair of scrubs for work, my mom will be sure that her clothes are neatly ironed with a perfect crease down her pants.

Which is great for her but it’s caused me much grief over the years. Because as the attractive woman she is, she takes a lot of pride in making sure her kids look nice. And being her daughter, that leaves a lot of pressure on me. She didn’t let me pick out my own clothes until almost middle school so most of my elementary school pictures show my friends wearing mismatched socks and multicolored t-shirts of their own choosing while I’m donned in my Sunday best.

She lets me pick out what I want to wear now but she’s always got an opinion to share before I leave the house. My mom’s not one of many words but when she talks to me, she’s brutally honest. Even when the truth hurts.

So for most of my life, I felt this unshakable need to look as pretty as my mom. And while I’ve slowly grown in confidence and self-esteem over the years, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that every time I buy new clothes, my first question to myself is, “Would Mom like me in this?”

I was still chasing those lofty and misguided notions of beauty when she was diagnosed. But one night, we were having some prayer time together in the living room. My mom began to pray out loud and as the words tumbled from her mouth, I opened my eyes to look at her. (Don’t judge. We’ve all done it.)

She was in a threadbare nightgown, misshapen and baggy, but the only thing she could wear without irritating her surgery scars. Not only was all her hair gone, but her eyebrows were starting to thin out too. She had lost the glow in her skin.

But as she sat on the floor, humbled and vulnerable before the God of her foremothers, I could only think one thing.

Oh, Ma. You are so very beautiful.

My maternal grandmother passed away before my mom got sick. Unfortunately, I didn’t know her very well. But when I picture her, I see her standing at the doorway of my mother’s childhood home, waiting to welcome me with a tremble in her hands as she pulls me close and breathes me in.

My grandmother suffered a stroke about a year before she passed. It left her confused and disoriented and it stole some of her most precious memories. She didn’t always recognize her children.

And yet.

And yet, when the clock struck five each evening, she would lift herself from her chair to make her husband a cup of tea, as she had done every day of their marriage.

And my mama, as the cancer and the chemo flooded her body, did the very same thing.

I like to think I’ve learned a lot about of love in my quarter century of life. But it was in their sickness that my mother and grandmother taught me the truth about marriage. Maybe love, the kind of love that lasts, isn’t about grand gestures and bold proclamations. Maybe it’s in the little things. The everyday things.

What if love unconditional is found in a cup of tea?

I had always believed I was strong willed and opinionated because of my dad and his side of the family. Growing up, he was the one to encourage me to stay informed and debated with me about my stance while my mom nervously asked us to talk about something else. And as in all things, I’m sure my dad has influenced the woman I am today.

But I know enough now to realize that my mom, who I underestimated for most of my life, has shaped me in ways I may never fully grasp. I will always use my words to show how I feel, what I think. But there is equal strength in the quiet poise and grace my mother exudes.

Last month, my mom hit five years since she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. It’s been a crazy journey but she’s in remission and the future is looking bright and healthy. It’s a future I wasn’t sure I would ever get with my mom. But I am the grateful daughter of a fierce survivor and a Good Father.

Happy Mother’s Day, Ma. I love you.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” -Unknown

The Fear of Answered Prayers

So like I mentioned earlier, the past few months have been a season of growth in prayer. Which has been good for me. I’m learning that being faithful in the little things is a really big thing. It’s amazing how differently my day pans out when I keep an open line of constant communication with God.

But I’m not gonna lie. These past few months have also been difficult ones. Ones of doubt and questions and wondering if maybe I heard the wrong calling.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a med student. I spent about two years away from everyone I loved so I could sit in a classroom and study for 15+ hours a day (everyday, even weekends, even Sundays, even during nap time) while all my hair turned grey, my body got fatter, and my wallet got thinner. Y’all, it was hard. But I did it and I didn’t regret it because it was part of the process. I needed to learn these things so I could come home, take my boards, do rotations in a hospital for two years, take some more boards and then finally, finally be an MD.

You guys. Studying for boards is hard. I’ve been home for a while now but I haven’t started rotations yet because studying is taking so much longer than I anticipated. And it’s hard. Did I mention that? Med school is hard.

Med school is so hard that I did pretty awful on my last exam and had to ask for approval to take it again. And as in all things, waiting for an answer was the hardest part.

I think back on the years I’ve spent working towards this goal. It’s been such a long journey and I’ve faced more obstacles than I ever could have expected. Waiting to hear about my retake gave me some time to reflect on them. Well, maybe less reflecting and more agonizing. Because when you look back on your failures in isolation, it makes it hard to imagine a successful future. I started to question if God really did want me to be a doctor. Could I have gotten it all wrong?

So I prayed my fears. I asked God that if He truly called me into medicine, He needed to remind me of it. Make me sure. Give me a sign that this is Your will by letting this approval come through. I literally wrote down those words in a journaled prayer. And I told God that if this wasn’t what He wanted for me, He needed to open doors to show me what the next move was.

I received word last week that I was approved to take my exam again in a few months.

And I had no idea how to feel.

I waited to feel a sense of elation. Triumph. Validation. Something.

But all I was met with was a distinct sense of fear. I had essentially been told that I had another chance to study for the hardest exam I’ve ever had to take. Another few months of stretching my brain to its farthest limits, without any assurance that I’d see a different outcome.

I am so well acquainted with failure. What if failure is all I will know?

So I prayed again. I asked God why I was afraid. And as soon as I did, I remembered Peter.

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 
Matthew 14:22-31 (NASB)

I think Peter is such a crowd favorite when it comes to the disciples because he’s so flawed. Sure, now he’s the gatekeeper of Heaven, but back in the day, Peter was a little bit of a psycho. He was impulsive. He spoke without thinking and he had a tendency towards violence. Yet there is something rather endearing about a man who was passionate and eager but who got things wrong sometimes. It reminds me that God has long been in the business of using imperfect people.

But I have always had an issue with Peter in this story. Peter. Buddy. Listen. You have no right to complain about drowning in the sea because you asked for it. You literally asked for it. You asked Jesus to command you to walk on water with him. So He did, obviously. And only then does it occur to you to be afraid? Why would you ask for something, get what you asked for, and then be scared that Jesus did what you asked?

Oh. Oh.

Sometimes the weight of God’s revelation hits me so hard and so fast, it leaves me a little breathless.

Beloved, what if our deepest fear isn’t that God will say no to our prayers, but that He will invite us into miracles to say yes? What if we are scared for our turn to walk on water?

I wonder if I am too quick to throw out a bold prayer at times. I’m faced with uncertainty and almost without thinking, I ask God to intervene. But I don’t know if I always believe that He’s going follow through. If I’m honest, I think I was praying about my exam with a bit of an empty faith. Have I made God so small that part of me believed there was no way I would get a second chance?

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

When I quiet my heart, I can feel Jesus ask me this question. And the thing is, it’s about so much more than med school. There are moments when my faith is so frail that I doubt if God is able to see me safely to the other side.

But I believe that faith, like a mustard seed, can grow.

In this season, I’m learning that faith is believing in the sovereignty of God. Not only can He answer my prayer in the way He knows to be best but He can also use me in the process. And really, that’s been the story since the beginning of mankind. God calls us to be intricately entangled in the fulfillment of His will, even and especially when it seems humanly impossible. Which means that Jesus will invite me into scary situations sometimes. Places where I cannot stand in my own strength. But He is still Lord over all. When the waves seem too big and when the storm seems too wild, I can be sure that He knows what He’s doing. He will not let me sink. He’s holding on.

So I’m back to studying, y’all. And I’ll admit, it’s still scary. I have no assurances that things will turn out differently this time. But I’m trusting that the God who answers my prayers will be faithful to accomplish the work He started in me.

And out on the water, in the midst of the sea, my faith will grow.

On Valentine’s Day

It is the evening of Valentine’s Day and I am in my parents’ house where my presence is always welcome and the food is always free. I’m wearing my comfiest pajamas, have no makeup on and my hair is knotted in a mess at the top of my head. It’s only 8 pm but I’m nestled under warm sheets with a movie loading on my laptop and I have no intention of getting up until tomorrow morning. I am gloriously, wonderfully alone.

Most people think there is something wrong with that.

What is our aversion to singleness, you guys? Why is the only good version of Valentine’s day the one where you’re out on a date? And why, WHY, do I want that version so bad?

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you looking for a post teeming with self-confidence and assurances that I am perfectly happy not having someone to call my Valentine? Better keep looking, y’all.

The truth is I don’t know if I could say I’m perfectly happy being single. In fact, sometimes being single really sucks. It sucks when I pass a couple arm in arm and I realize I have nowhere to put my hand except my pocket. It sucks when I want to go out but my best friends have significant others or, even worse, spouses to go home to. (You know who you are.) It sucks when I outwardly roll my eyes at the over commercialized shamble Valentine’s Day has become but secretly think it might not be so bad to have someone send me flowers and chocolate and a sappy card to boot.

And these sucky parts of being single on Valentine’s Day? They started many, many moons ago. Back when we used to exchange valentines in elementary school and I realized some kids had bigger piles of cards than I did. Or middle school when we upgraded to candy grams and cheap carnations and I’d sit hoping that someone would drop a package on my desk. Just one, please, please, please. But they didn’t.

I think at the core of it, being single on Valentine’s Day brings up fears that perhaps I am not wanted. Perhaps I’m not good enough. Perhaps I am inherently less than because I’m not part of a pair.

This deep-rooted fear of mine has provided the soil for some of Satan’s biggest lies. And like most lies, they start out sounding kind of charming. A little idealistic. Like something you read out of a fairytale.

“You complete me.”

Umm, you guys? What? You “complete” me? What does that even mean? That I’m walking around like a fraction of myself, hoping that someone will show up with the missing piece?

I don’t buy it, you guys. It doesn’t make sense because it contradicts what we read in the Word, which is the living truth and an account of the One who is trustworthy. The Word tells us that in marriage, “two become one flesh.” Two become one. Not one half and another half become one. Two, completely separate yet completely whole individuals, become one.

The truth is, even in my singleness, I am complete. Not because I have it all together, but because Christ crucified lives in me. The fullness of my identity is hidden in Him and by understanding more of who He is, I find more of who I am. And who I am is already loved. Loved to death.

So to all my single friends: you are not lacking because you are not in a relationship. You are not any less of yourself. I know it can be lonely but I will be here for you like you are here for me and we’re going to be fine.

And to all my friends who are not single: forgive me for my moments of jealousy. Please be patient with me. Know that I am truly happy for you and I’m grateful for the lessons you and your loved one teach me.

To all of us: Happy Valentine’s Day. May we always know that perfect Love has already chosen us. May we always know that He is enough.

A Rabbi Walked Into a Classroom…

One of the most profound seasons of growth I have experienced as a Christian was when I was being taught by a Rabbi.

I was a couple years into undergrad when I found myself with a few gaps in my schedule and extra time to add some electives. I was indecisive and classes were filling up fast so I kind of chose one at random. The first day of the semester, I sat down at my seat and watched as a middle-aged Cuban man wearing a yamaka walked into the classroom and wrote “Rabbi Viñas” on the chalkboard. I had no idea what I was in for.

Thus started one of the most interesting semesters I’ve ever had. The sheer irony of it, you know? A devoted Christian taking notes on the spiritual teachings of an equally devoted Jew. And it only took Rabbi Viñas about three minutes to figure out I was Christian because I pulled out my Bible to follow along when he started lecturing from Genesis.


To his credit, Rabbi Viñas had no complaints about my Bible.

He also had no complaints about my faith. Or my questions about his.

You see, friends, there is a strange phenomenon that happens in the early days of undergrad. You go in feeling pretty cocky, having freshly conquered high school and sometimes having graduated among the top of your class. And then you have your first university lecture by a professor who is the leading expert in his field and you start to wonder whether you’re as smart as you think you are. You have your first university exam and your fears are confirmed.

So somewhere along that first semester of college, you swallow down some pride and start wearing some humility. But I got lost in the process, you guys, and instead of humility, I got acquainted with passivity. And complacency. And a not-so-healthy dose of self-doubt. I stopped thinking for myself and began to blindly accept whatever my professors taught.

But put a Jesus-lover in a class about Judaism and rusted wheels start turning again. She starts to wonder if the words she hears really agree with the words written on her heart. The Sunday School lessons of her childhood return to her memory. New Testament covenants spill from her tongue.

She starts to question.

It’s been a few years since I graduated with a minor in Jewish Studies. I have a Torah with English translation running alongside the original Hebrew. Unfortunately, I can’t read any Hebrew. Or write it or speak it. Still, I have a deep appreciation for the history of the Jewish people. I embrace it as part of my own heritage because I am an adopted daughter of the King and a co-heir with Christ.

And in the most unexpected turn of events, I learned more than just Torah as a Jewish Studies student. I learned the Gospel.

You see, Christians sometimes get a bad rap for being less intellectual than non-Christians. And you guys, part of me believes there is truth to that. Perhaps we’ve put on this cloak of spiritual complacency and become content with letting the apologetics and the great theologians and the world-famous speakers study the Bible while we just sit back and listen.

I know I’m guilty of it. I spent a long time reading books and listening to sermons as I tried to figure out what I personally believed about Christianity. There’s nothing inherently wrong in doing so.

The problem arises when we start relying on everyone and everything else to tell us what our faith should be and start neglecting the Word of God. We’ve been given this invaluable resource that reveals to us the nature of God and what He desires for us. When we’re presented with different theologies and conflicting ideas, it is only this Bible that harbors the irrefutable truths of God. And the best way for me to know them is to read them for myself.

Let’s be honest, though. Studying the Bible is hard, y’all. It can come off as repetitive on one page and contradictory on another. Some of those Old Testament laws seem outdated and I wonder if they really describe the God I know today, the God who is supposed to be unchanging. Then there are times when I read a portion and know there’s something I need to learn here, something that is relevant to my circumstance, but the essence of it evades me. There are parts of the Bible that have surprised me. And there are parts of the Bible that have broken my heart.

Yet of this I am sure: The truths I proclaim having wrestled with God are so much sweeter than the ones I have been spoon fed.

So maybe we need to start examining the words we hear. Maybe we need to stop accepting them as truth just because they come from someone with a fancier title than us. Maybe we need to stop believing people just because they’re New York Times best sellers. Maybe we need to stop trusting speakers just because they lead super trendy, super hipster mega-churches.

I know, I know. Shots fired. But you know what? The Jesus I read of in the Bible called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and warned against wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Maybe part of being sure of what you believe is having the courage to call people out on their crap.

Jesus, the one they called Rabbi, used Judaism to teach me that.

Rabbi Viñas once gave us a reading on the Jewish traditions of sacrifice and told us to write a response paper for him. I was having a hard time with it so I sat with him after class and tried to talk it out. He listened to me for a few minutes and then asked, “What do you think of when you hear ‘sacrifice’?”

I paused for a moment and remembered a Gospel truth. “I think of a Lamb who was sacrificed for me. But more than that, I think of a veil torn in two. Jesus’ sacrifice means nothing separates me from God.”

Rabbi Viñas smiled and said, “Go. Write about this Jesus you know.”


Six years.

Six years ago today, a dear presence in my life left this world. Six years and I still get a lump in my throat when I date my page February 1st. Oh, friends. So many of us know what it means to feel a terrible, terrible loss.


Is that the right word?

I think sometimes I say things without really deciding if that is what I mean. Or what I believe.

For some reason, when someone dies, we say we “lost” them. And to me, that doesn’t make much sense because “lost” implies we don’t know where they have gone. But I believe in an eternity after this breath we call life. I don’t know for sure what it looks like but I know Jesus is there and He’s so psyched to spend forever with us.

I think about Heaven a lot these days. (No, I don’t have any plans to rush up there. But I mean, you never know. Best to be prepared, I’d say.) Some people think it’s going to be all of us wearing white robes and singing the Hallelujah chorus. All. The. Time.

I think not, friends.

I think Heaven will be about us loving on God and Him loving on us, which I also think acts as a definition of worship. I think it’ll be full of the very best parts of this life and more because Daddy God knows each of our hearts so intimately. He knows what makes us smile and laugh and I think He’ll want to enjoy it all with us.

So I imagine there will be puppies and kittens and bubble wrap in Heaven. Probably a never ending chocolate fountain for us sweets lovers to feast on without fear of tooth decay or diabetes. The smell of old books and clean laundry. Crunchy autumn leaves to step on.

And my dear one who is already there? I like to think he is singing with the angels and reminding them of the lyrics in case anyone forgets because he always seemed to know every line of every song.

I still have a lump in my throat. I still feel sad but I don’t think it’s because of “loss.” I’m just sad we can’t see each other right now. And the sadness doesn’t cancel out the hope I have that one day, we will be reunited and it will be beyond anything I could ever imagine.

In the meantime, I’ll hold on to the memories. Memories of going to the first Harry Potter movie and of celebrating birthdays. Of sharing meals and getting fried chicken from the Chinese place. Of growing up with a daughter of yours who is the sweetest friend.

I think of you every time I sing of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


Rest in peace.