Church & Ministry, Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

We Quickly Fly Away, But…

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I don’t normally talk to inanimate objects, but there’s this one time I got mad at a flower.

During this particular day, I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for a ride and happened to look down. That’s when it did it. Or at least, that’s when I noticed what it was doing. A tiny flower, no taller than 2 inches or so, had bloomed in the little patch of dirt. It was pretty and colorful and it was just standing there, being all flowery, and as far as I could tell, happily so.  I, on the other hand, completely drained and empty inside, exploded, yelling in my mind, “Why do you even exist??!”

Here’s the context: though only in my early 20’s, I was burning out in ministry and probably showing signs of depression. For me, life had been boiled down to what I accomplished in ministry and the purpose of life was being fruitful (ministry-wise). I was laboring for the sake of what I understood as eternal (visible conversions, explicit discipleship), seeing other parts of life as superfluous and worldly, and by the end of two years I was running on fumes.
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Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

Christmas For Every Longing Heart

One of the more difficult parts of the holidays to navigate is the expectation to make happy memories and for things to be cheery. It doesn’t really make sense that a date on the calendar or a few weeks declared the “holiday season” would magically make things wonderfully happy, but for whatever reason we expect or hope for it which deepens the disappointment when things are not merry and bright— when instead of peace, there is strife in our family and hurting relationships. When there are unfulfilled secret hopes in our hearts or we are in the midst of grieving loss. When we’re burnt out from serving and maybe just tired from normal life and don’t feel particularly Christmas-y.

Personally, this year has been one with great joys and deep sorrows, and in light of this I am meditating on two prayers we can pray this Christmas as we face things we struggle to reconcile with the joyful celebration of Christ’s birth:

Jesus, this is why you came.

Jesus, come again soon.

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Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

Being In The Waiting & Room For Sorrow

Christianity is often portrayed as unable to withstand the weight of reality, and I understand why some people would feel that way. As a younger person, I had a passion to share with others my conviction that the Bible and the Christian faith can more than take on our intellectual doubts. Having had my fair share of questions, I deeply desired for others to feel free to ask questions without thinking that Christians believe use of the mind is antithetical to faith. I still believe that the church should be a safe place to bring our questions about God, but these days, I am experiencing a deepening of another conviction about Christianity and how it relates to reality. Namely, that not only can the Scriptures withstand our intellectual questioning, but that the vision of God and life laid out in it withstands the full range of human experiences, especially suffering.

There are many wrong ways to think about suffering and trial. We may expect that as Christians, we won’t face difficulties because we are children of God, not realizing that Scripture says he disciplines those he loves and that we are meant to receive difficulty as his discipline for our holiness (Heb. 13). We may think of trials as punishment from him, not knowing that the Scriptures say there is no longer any wrath left for those of us who are in Christ (Rom. 8). We may see suffering as meaningless rather than purposefully given to us from a loving Father for our good (Ja. 1, Rom. 5). Or we may not realize that God may be purposing to comfort others even as we suffer and receive his comfort. (2 Cor. 1) We may miss the richness of God’s purposes accomplished through our difficulty in a myriad of ways, so I am grateful for the way that God has been forming my understanding of suffering through theologically sound preachers, teachers, and books.

Lately though, I am finding that as I’ve grown in the knowledge of these rich truths about God’s purpose in our suffering, I have often failed to grasp the full picture given in Scripture and thus erred in the application of some of these truths in my life. Slowly, I have begun to think that since I know these things, my experiences shouldn’t feel as hard and I tend to try to think of hardships clinically and analytically. There has slipped in the subtle wrong view that an understanding of the joyful and glorious final purpose of God in and through our sorrows means I ought not to so sorrowful, and there is a temptation to push through in my own strength.

God is showing me these days through the Scriptures that oftentimes he doesn’t expect or ask me to respond in the way I may feel I ought to. I am experiencing that as one who is struggling, I find good company in the stories and poetry of Scripture, and that there are deeper measures of comfort in it than I had previously thought.
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Motherhood & Family

And We Are Officially In Over Our Heads

As I write this, our feverish 2 year old is taking a nap, and our 4 year old is getting ready to shovel 10+ inches of snow with dad. Also, there is a little 18 month old buddy resisting sleep (I just came back from finding him in the crib sitting on a large framed map he’d gotten off the wall) and another 2.5 year old exploring in our family reading room downstairs.

A fly-by of these past few months in the Chang home would include finding out we were pregnant, almost pursuing an adoption, grieving through a miscarriage, Jeff’s ordination and transition to full-time work at GCCSI, and welcoming two new foster brothers into our fold. And with these two precious ones, we have entered into the life of four littles under 5, the foster care system, and the journey of caring for special needs.  Yes, we are officially in over our heads.
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Motherhood & Family

A Not “Lessons 5 Years Into Marriage” Reflection

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Yay! The one time a year where it’s legit to post up old wedding photos.

This month, Jeff and I celebrated our five year anniversary. I was thinking I ought to write something reflective, like “Lessons 5 Years Into Marriage” and would have if I had anything particularly insightful to say. But in light of some heavy topics that have been on my mind, I have had occasion again to feel deeply how grateful I am for my husband, and now as he puts the girls to bed, I am blogging about him.

It was twelve years ago this weekend that Jeff and I met. It wasn’t until years later that we’d date, but in the time between, he would have won me over with his kindness and humility. When he led worship or spoke publicly or interacted with me, the thing that would strike my heart most often would be the reality of God’s grace, the aspect of my Christian life that I had the most trouble believing and living in.  It wouldn’t be just words either; it happened enough for me to notice that I’d consistently experience God’s grace tangibly in my life through Jeff. He gained my respect without knowing it as I watched him walk through one of the toughest seasons in his life with godwardness and faithfulness. And as I saw him respond to my frequent unkindnesses, I knew that I felt safe around him.

The respect and affections in my heart grew over years without me consciously keeping track of them, but if there were an Aha! moment, for me if would be during a message I watched. The pastor said something about how we ought to date a man who was like someone you’d want your sons to grow up to be or your daughters to marry.

And so we dated, and God brought healing into my life as we did.

Jeff fought for me; letting me know I was beautiful to him, and still treating me with purity, having vowed never to put himself in a position to take anything from me. He spoke God’s forgiveness into areas of shame and guilt and God used him to shed gospel light on my duty-bound heart. He wasn’t (isn’t) perfect, no, but I got to see up close confession and asking for forgiveness and repentance and change. When I wondered aloud about our relationship and told a friend that I believed that at least “he loved me the best he knew how”, she asked “what more could you ask for?” And she was right. My respect for him only grew as long as we dated and were engaged and now, five years post-I-do, it continues to do so.
Continue reading “A Not “Lessons 5 Years Into Marriage” Reflection”