Fresh Fruit: Seeking Jesus for His Goodness

Fresh fruit is a staple in my household. My son especially loves it! But, one thing this Mama has a hard time with is how quickly fruit rots. I buy so many varieties that by the time we have tried a bit of all, we find rotting has begun with the remainder.

Take a carton of strawberries, for example. Once one has molded, the strawberries that surround it begin to mold as well. Interestingly enough, the opposite side of the strawberry that is touching the non-moldy ones still appears in good condition.

However, it is said that once the mold has begun they are no longer safe to eat and must be thrown out. Even if half of it still appears good, the whole is not considered good to eat.

I pondered the implication of this imagery with the condition of my heart. Imagine, if my heart touches the heart of the world that’s full of sin, I, too, reflect that sin nature.

As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”- Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV) [emphasis mine]

But, if my heart touches the heart of God, then I’m healthy, full of goodness, and safe.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.- John 15:5 (NLT) [emphasis mine]

On my own I am merely self-righteous or an appearance of good. But given time, one may see the true reflection of a heart that touches a world full of sin is no different.

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However, a heart that touches the heart of God produces the fruit of ‘goodness’ by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And what does this goodness look like? It’s definition says this: uprightness of heart and life.

Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.- Psalms 25:8 (NKJV)

Though, imagine it’s said that, I, too, must be thrown out if my heart has started to decay from touching a world of sin.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.- John 15:6 (NKJV)

It’s a stark realization. But living for Christ is a wholehearted commitment. It is daily dying to self and surrendering both heart and life to His righteousness.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.- 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

Thank God for His mercy and His grace to accept us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!- Romans 5:17 (NIV)

A life found in Christ is certainly like finding and consuming the freshest fruit. May we continually seek Him and touch hearts with His. For in Him is true goodness— uprightness of heart and life!


Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.- Matthew 7:17‭-‬20 (NIV)

 

Eyes Are Watching Me

I’ve been a spectator of my “mom peers” who are on their journey of working out and eating healthy. I follow as they share their personal stories; documenting their weaknesses and strengths, failures and successes. One particular statement that has caught my eye expresses, “Little eyes are watching”.

Essentially, these moms are saying that their children are watching their personal lifestyle choices. They want to be a good role model in terms of their well being. They place value on, and respect for, their bodies.

Indeed, little eyes are watching. I know this to be true as my toddler watches all that my husband and I do. Not only that, but he’s listening too. Though, this goes beyond just working out and eating healthy. It is involved in every area of our lives.

For instance, I have had “adult conversations” with others and thought my toddler was too young to understand. Then, some time later he would be repeating pieces of that said conversation to another. Or, I’ve disciplined my children and my dog with a raised voice and harsh words. Only to later witness my toddler replicating the things that I’ve said.

This has had my mind in an uproar. What else have I said or done that he might replicate? What type of role model am I being? Am I teaching him values and lessons on respect? I truly need to reconsider how my words and behaviors have effected my children.

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This concept that “little eyes are watching” is not a new one, though. In fact, the Creator of this universe was the first to Author it. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” 

There was a time in my life when I lived like no one was watching. And, I’m talking in terms far beyond working out and eating healthy. I went out to bars and drank until I couldn’t remember anything. I was promiscuous and had no standards in which I interacted with guys. I made many irresponsible, disrespectful, and harmful choices. I didn’t care what I said, much less did to my body.

Oh, but God was, and still is, always watching. I came to learn, “..there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”- Luke 12:2‭-‬3 NKJV. Those things I thought no one knew about me eventually became disclosed. People talk with other people. Aside from being ashamed and embarrassed, it was a wake up call to the destructive reality of my personal life choices.

By God’s strength, forgiveness, grace and mercy, I ultimately walked away from that way of life. Even now, I’m choosing to rid my life of other sinful acts. Colossians 3:5, 8-9 says, “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.” This isn’t just a recommendation. It is a commandment. It is not only a valuable lesson to respect myself but to respect the One who created me. It is choosing a life of obedience to His Word.

Most assuredly, I can currently apply these same commandments to my life. Especially by the way I speak and act in front of my children. My life is transparent. It is all documented; my weaknesses and strengths, failures and successes. Every area of my life is exposed- to my children, to others, even more so to God. May I always place value on, and respect for, all my lifestyle choices.


“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”- 1 John 1:8‭-‬10 NLT

Gifts through Loss and Life

Last July, my family and I experienced great adversity. Creating confusion, doubts and suffering we learned of a pregnancy that had failed. In fact, I had just taken a test at home when some weeks later we were faced with our loss. I could never undermine the heartache, regardless of how premature it happened.

All in all, my heart was troubled with fear. I wanted this child so desperately. I was terrified. I was hurting. And I felt alone- even though I was not the only one suffering.

Deprived of options, we were faced to choose between a medication or surgery to further help my body deliver our child. With some support of family and friends, I opted for the surgery. Honestly, I don’t feel my mind was able to make such a rational or significant decision either way.

The day before I was scheduled for the procedure, I experienced severe physical pain. My medical provider urged me to have an ultrasound straightaway. Per protocol, I was asked to empty my bladder before the ultrasound began. And, it was there in that bathroom where I delivered our baby. Without medication, without surgery.

I will never forget what I mentally experienced and physically witnessed there. Strangely enough, once I returned for the preparation of the ultrasound I was overwhelmingly at peace. I laid there, alone, with only the technician. However, I did not feel alone as I sensed the almost tangible presence of my heavenly Father.

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Reflecting upon those days of confusion, doubts and suffering, I recall willingly surrendering my personal desires to the Lord’s care. I placed the life and potential loss of this child in His hands. I cried out;

I do not understand why I’m experiencing this, and, yes, I think it’s unfair. I do not know what the future holds, but I trust in You, God. Although it is my heart’s desire to keep this child, I trust in what You can see that I do not. I leave this child in Your hands.

Then, exactly four months to the day of our loss, my husband and I learned we were pregnant again! I could never forget the day- as it was my husband’s birthday. We were overjoyed! But, every day, uncertainties crept in our minds. I learned that I could either dwell upon the uncertain, or I could delve into God’s promises that produce confidence.

So, as a person who tries to control everything, I was challenged to yield that control. I had some minor physical setbacks that I was unable to make better. It pushed me to trust in God all the more. And as a result, He made everything better for me. Facing the uncertain, I was encouraged all the more to uphold my faith in Him.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.- Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Yes, I hoped for a full-term pregnancy. My flesh was uncertain what would and could happen. However, my spirit man grew in confidence about who God is. That He is, indeed, faithful to His word.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.- Romans 8:28 NLT

This July, exactly one year to the day of our loss, I delivered our new, precious baby girl! It was truly a bittersweet moment. I can barely begin to describe the array of emotions I felt that day. I genuinely feel that not one person could write a more beautiful story of loss and life, than the story we’ve lived with God as the center of it all.

Within this past month, I’ve been blessed to acknowledge the gifts that have come through our loss. Through our confusion, doubts and suffering I’ve been able to help others cope through their heartaches. I’ve been personally strengthened in faith towards my heavenly Father. And I’ve been graced with the gift of new life.


“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”- Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Reputations

When I was middle school aged, I had a reputation for being the good girl. There were kids from my own class trying to bully me into cursing, partying, or being promiscuous. When I did not oblige to their prompts I was labeled, “Miss Goody Two Shoes”. Indeed, I was proud of having been taught good morals, the importance in valuing myself, and striving to be set apart from the crowd.

However, given more time, this label eventually wore me down. I began to care all too much about what others thought of me. I wanted to fit in the crowd, and my lifestyle took some drastic changes. Upon entering college, those very same behaviors that I stood against became my new persona. I hid my good morals, no longer valued myself, and became a part of the crowd.

In retrospect, I can see how I explored having both the good girl and bad girl reputation. From experience, I realize the hurt that comes from either label- because I allowed it. Even though they were completely different experiences, I felt a sense of embarrassment, shame, and pride from both sides.

Since I know what this hurt feels like, how could I possibly give a label regarding someone else’s reputation? Oh, yes, I have been guilty of this. If someone’s lifestyle hasn’t resembled mine, or doesn’t align with the way I view things then I have been quick to judge. Once I begin to utter words about any individual to another person, I have created a portrayal of their reputation.

I see, now, how there are two sides to someone’s reputation. The one side that we work so hard to portray for ourselves by our lifestyle. And, the other side portrayed by someone else’s words about our lifestyle.

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Jesus, knew this all too well. When he walked this earth, he spoke and lived out the gospel. Based upon his ministry, he had a good reputation:

 ..Jesus.. asked his disciples,“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”- Matthew 16:13&16

And by this same ministry, he had a bad reputation:

..he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law.– Matthew 16:21

But, he never allowed those labels to define who he was. They didn’t make or break his identity. He lived to fulfill prophecy, to please his Father, to share the gospel with the world, to be love toward all mankind- just to name a few. Therefore, it is to my benefit to never allow labels to make or break me; whether good or bad. I am to strive to live like Jesus. And, that work will truly portray who I really am- a beloved, grace-given child of the One, true God.

But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.- 1 John 2:5&6 

Yes, I want to have a good reputation. But, the labels others place on me are no longer of importance. I know who I am in Christ. And I strive to live by his morals, seek insight of how he values me, and answer to his calling that sets me apart.

Almighty Father, I ask forgiveness for those times when I have placed a label upon someone else. Help me to ‘stop passing judgment on another that I may not put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way’ of another (Romans 14:13). I also ask that You help me to forgive others who have hurt me with their labels. I pray Your blessings pour over those ‘who have cursed me’, and I pray for ‘those who have mistreated me’ that they truly be brought to Your salvation (Luke 6:28). I realize now, that I do not need the words of others, good or bad, to fulfill a sense of satisfaction in me. It is Your unfailing love that truly satisfies (Psalms 90:14). Lord, help me to ‘remain faithful to Your teachings’. For it is ‘by Your truth that I am set free’ (John 8:31&32). I praise You, Father, for Your promise and faithfulness ‘to teach, correct, and train me in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16). In Jesus’ holy name I pray, Amen. 


Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.”- Proverbs 3:3-4 (NLT)

Uncharted Territory

I’ve had to face some big decisions in life. Decisions that would bring about change. These changes have taken me to a place not yet explored- uncharted territory. When confronted with said “changes”, I’m left to ponder, “Am I making the right decision?”.

As a late teen, I was faced with the decision of college. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to go. But, I was flustered in having to decide where. Truth be told, my ultimate decision was made because I knew of nearly a dozen classmates who would also be attending this “choice” university. Maybe not my wisest analysis, which made me ponder, “Am I making the right decision?”.

Eventually, most of those classmates decided to transfer schools or dropped out from higher education altogether. There I remained. However, I resolved to make the most out of my choice. It turns out, the major I [later] determined I would pursue was accredited by this university. The program helped to prepare me and certify me for entry level into my profession. In the grand scheme, it all worked out in my favor anyway.

Upon graduating, I was faced with a new decision. Where would I begin my career? I initially had two interviews with two different agencies. My very first, professional interview left me in tears by the end. No, not happy tears- I was harassed by the director. Truth be told, my ultimate decision was made because I didn’t want to be employed by that very person. But, the second option would provide less annual pay, so I was left to ponder, “Am I making the right decision?”.

I remained employed for the next four to five years with the “second” agency. I was more secure in how they represented themselves as my employer. I grew to genuinely love what I was doing. I served a population of very young children, and I knew I was making an impact in their lives even if only by a short encounter with them. In the grand scheme, it all worked out in my favor anyway.

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I consider how my walk with God additionally brings about big decisions and changes. And, these changes have taken, and will continue to take me to uncharted territory. The benefit, though, of facing these decisions in my spiritual walk is knowing that I am not alone. I can consult God to bring about knowledge in which path I should take.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV). 

God has grandeur knowledge to paths unseen. But, I must admit that I have not always heard his voice with clarity. Sometimes I’ve looked for this huge sign with a [flashing neon lights] revelation. However, I must remain in tune with his character of love and grace. Meaning some big revelations I receive will come from God’s still small voice.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”- 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NIV)

Yes, there have been times when I listened to the clamor of the world over the gentle whispers of God. I’m left pondering, “Am I making the right decision?”. But, I do have confidence in these promises:

  1. God is with me wherever I go. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.- Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
  2. God has already journeyed my path from beginning to end. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you..”- Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
  3. God’s grace shows me favor even if I choose a wrong path. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.- Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

No matter where my decisions will take me, God will lovingly and graciously partner with me through these uncharted territories. And in the grand scheme, I know everything will all work out in my favor anyway.


“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”- Ephesians 1:11 (NIV)