Sunday, December 29, 2013

A New Year Resolution for 2014




This year we celebrated Christmas with my dad's side of the family a little bit differently.  


My uncle and aunt invited all the family into their home. 
It was a night of carols sung together, music filled with the hope of Incarnation of Christ. 


Instead of a juicy turkey or ham roasting in the oven, there was a bubbling pot brimming with with penne pasta and another with oregano, garlic, and tomato saucesuch are the delicious smells of our family's own traditional Italian dinner. But, that wasn't it. Something else made it unique.



There was something special about this night. Sacred.

This year, Grandpa gave a sermon, and we partook of communion together. 


My Grandpa Ernie is not a pastor. He is an elder, but in the real sense of the word. Grandpa is a centenarian, one of the few remarkable people to live to be over 100.

At 102, he still has a smile and a kind word to say to all his dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I don't know how he keeps track of us all, but he does.

According to wikipedia.org, there are many factors that influence the longevity of a person's life, but like Grandpa Ernie, I am a believer that the Bible is true. Every. Single. Word. (Psalm 119:160).

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Psalms. Chapter 139 in particular says a lot about life. And that God knows all the details about each one of us.

Like how long we will live (Psalm 139:16).

Or when we get up and lay our heads down on our pillow at the end of the day (Psalm 139:3).

Everything.

Even all the stuff going on in our hearts (Psalm 139:23,24).

Grandpa Ernie once said that one of the reasons he has remained so healthy all these years is that he hasn't had a whole lot of stress in his life.


But, it's not as if he's lived a life of ease. 


Far from it.


In his autobiography, Flowers for Cina, written in memory of his wife of over 50 years, Grandpa shares that he has gone through many hard things.






So, how did Grandpa Ernie avoid stress?


Moreover, with so much hardship in this broken world, how can anyone avoid it?


We can't.


True, there are outside stressors, but it's what's going on inside...what is inside of our heart that is the worst of our problems. Our pride. Our envy. Our judgement. Our sin.






So thinking on the heart and how out of it overflows the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), I wanted to make a heartfelt resolution for 2014. More like a prayer. For I can't do anything without Christ (John 15:5).


Lord, please give me a heart like yours.


This will be a constant prayer. Especially during stressful times. It is in those times that I will see God work "all things" out for good (Romans 8:28,29). That is when the most change can happen.


A heart like Christ. Full of grace. Full of truth. Full of Him.


Only one resolution.


And, this is one is going to take more than a year. More like a lifetime.


But, if I'm patient, I will see His way in me.


In His time,



Chanda








Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Poem

My twelve-year-old daughter, who I call Bright Girl, is the first guest blogger to appear on Grace Grows Wings. She is a prolific poet and writes a new poem on a weekly basis.  You can find her on www.thepoemgirl.blogspot.com This is her most recent work, inspired by her favorite time of year:

Christmas


Snowflakes  falling down.
Beauty all around.
Christmas tree, with leaves of green.
Presents that I have not yet seen.
Excitement in the air.
Happiness everywhere.
Christmas is ,
My favorite time of year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Re:Connect


Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, Christmas was magical. But, as an older child, Christmas seemed like a big let down. There was so much hype about getting all the gifts. But, when the day finally came and the wrapping on the presents was ripped to shreds and the dried out evergreen was on the curb (or the artificial one back in the box), I just knew there was something lacking about it.

Later on, as a young teen, I came to know the true reason for the season:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9-14) 

But, even though I knew and believed Christ Jesus is real and came to save me, Christmastime brought about this unmet longing after all was said and done.

What did all of it really mean? The tree, the festivities, the giving and receiving of gifts?

Maybe it's the way we celebrate that has left me wanting?

Or is it something more?

Jean Flemming, author of The Homesick Heartsays something about Christmas disconnect:

"The notion that there is something more to Christmas always seems to tremble in the background."

There's gotta be a reason for the longing in the season.


What is it that I really want, and I'm not getting?

Is there this elusive gift that I have not yet been able to receive?

Looking at advent has shed a light on my problem. I can now see that many parts of the Christmas celebration is symbolic. Christmas is a reminder that we are still in the in-between.

Christ has come, but He will come again.

This must be where the longing resides.

Through Christ, God has given us the gift of salvation, but that is only part of the gift.

He dwelt among us and after becoming a sacrifice for our sins, He went back to heaven to be with the Father (2 Corinthians 5:21, Matthew 28: 18, 19, Luke 24:45-52).

I yearn for the return of the King. Christ. The Risen One.

He is the desire of my heart and my portion forever (Isaiah 26:8, Psalm 73:26).

Christmas doesn't have to be a let down for me. For I know that because Christ was born, God in the flesh,  Emmanuel...I can celebrate and wait. This can be an exciting time because I have connected what the birth of Christ means for us now and in eternity...

Salvation and restoration.

God, the Son, came to earth, as a little baby born in a manger, grew up to die on the cross, was raised back to life on the third day, was taken up to heaven, and will come again in glory.

The next part of the gift has not unfolded. Yet. Christ is yet to come, and He will restore all things that were lost after the great fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. He will truly make all things new (Revelation 21:1-6).

It all connects.

And, when we see this, we can't help celebrating the full meaning of Christmas!

Until He comes again,

Chanda


Friday, December 6, 2013

Because of Love: Montage of a Short Life



"Why keep a baby that you know is going to die?"

My children's former pediatrician posed this question. She didn't wait for my answer. She looked down at the clipboard and flipped through the documents which held my children's medical history.

This was after the pediatrician informed with me that her sister had chosen to abort her child with Potter's Syndrome--the same abnormality that my infant son, Luke, died from in 2003.


"I'm sure your sister is still sad," I told her. I would be. I still was.


She paused, looked up at me, furrowed her brow and wrote something down on her clipboard.


"Some of your children are not fully up-to-date on their immunizations," she said, changing the subject.


When I left the doctor's office, my head was spinning. Luke lived. I held him for eight hours and then he fell asleep peacefully in my arms before he stopped breathing all together. Those were precious moments that I would never take back. Not for anything.


Why keep a baby that you know is going to die?

Because...










































Because we loved him.


Missing you, sweet little Luke. Happy 10th heavenly birthday.



Until we meet again,


Mommy

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Grace: How I Discovered My Writer's Voice


Now that NaNoWriMo is over, or at least my own version of it, did I write that great American novel?

Not yet.

But, I did write. And, I've learned a valuable lesson from the experience that will impact the quality of my writing from here on out.

For starters, it was bothering me that my writing was missing something. Something that would make it, well, readable.

It's kind of like when I learned to play violin. For the longest time, I couldn't read music and play at the same time. I just couldn't do it. I found a way around my problem by writing out the letter of each note on the sheet music. It worked, but it slowed me down and interrupted the flow of my music.

I remember clearly now, the first day that I could to play a piece before writing out the notes. I was in seventh grade, and thought I would give it one more try.

I opened my violin case, took out my rosin, and rubbed it all over the hair of my bow. The sweet smell of amber tickled my nose. Standing up straight, I held my violin under my chin and focused on the sheet music. No letters this time. Only notes.


Page de Camara on violin playing Canon in D

To my delight, as the bow slid across the bridge, I could decipher the notes on the sheet. I could play and read music simultaneously. It's as if something inside of me finally clicked.

It was the same way with writing. I kept reading others' works, good books, hoping that some of that awesome talent would rub off on me. When I went to write, the story made sense, but it didn't flow. It's like I couldn't tell a story and make it come alive for the reader at the same time.

But, despite my sense of failure, I didn't give up. I kept writing hoping that one day I'd get it.

Well, toward the end of NaNoWriMo, something clicked. It wasn't when I was writing. It was while reading a children's book (sometimes they're the best). The book was called, Stay!, Keeper's Storya novel about a dog, from the dog's point of view.

Leave it to Lois Lowry to teach me the art of voice. I love her books, especially The Giver series. Yes, more of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic genre, but the authenticity of the characters in these books is what makes them so readable.

In a good book, with strong voice and a steady, rhythmic flow, you can immerse yourself in the writer's world, even a world where a dog thinks like a human.

It's true. I was inside Keeper's mind. I needed to learn how to do that. How to play with words in such a way that I can create a whole new world.

Since that moment, I've been writing in a way that enables the reader to get lost in the words, in the world of my story. It was truly a turning point for me.

Now, I just have to go back over all that I've written with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

In the song Amazing Grace, written by John Newton, the words

"I once was blind, but now I see"

have taken on a new meaning for me.


There is the grace of knowing that in my sinfulness, frailty, and flaws, God has written a new story for me, a story of redemption. His death for my life. My life for His glory.

Every grace is a gift from the good heart of my Father in heaven,
from the grace of understanding muscial notation to the grace of discovering my writer's voice and the little graces in between.

Thanksgiving can become not just a once-a-year event, but an everyday occasion, from sunrise to sunset in this crazy short time we have to experience God's grace and give back the gift of praise.

Gives me hope to think about the next grace and the next...


His By Grace,


Chanda



  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Big Fish, Little Fish




Isn't it a beautiful thing when a father goes fishing with his son?

It doesn't matter how little the fish is, the father is delighted with the catch.


Reminds me of another fish.



Ever see this fish symbol stuck to someone's bumper?

Whenever I see one, it makes me think of the story of Peter and his friends, working all night trying to catch some fish in their net to fill their bellies or sell for a small price, but by morning, they had caught nothing.

Then, Jesus called out from the shore.

"Try the other side of the boat."

That probably would have sounded insulting to the crew, but this was Jesus, the One who turned water into wine. So, they listened and obeyed.

And, when they pulled up the net, there were so many fish that it nearly burst (John 21:6).

This is just like telling others about Christ,

All our efforts would be fruitless without His direction.

Now, I wouldn't call myself a super-evangelist, More like an accidental evangelist. Somehow, sharing with people the stuff going on in my life, quite naturally, my faith will overflow into the conversation.

This happens most easily with my kids. There are so many opportunities just spending time with them for me and my husband to share Christ. Mostly through stories, the hardback kind or the kind with skin on.

Every time the kids go to bed, they say, "Tell us a story when you were little." And, we tell them about the times before we knew Christ and the ways we saw Him drawing us to Himself or afterwards when we messed up and experienced His grace anew.

Christmastime is the perfect time to tell children the real reason for the season.



Jesus, Christ, God's Son, Savior ( ΙΧΘΥΣ in the Greek 

acrostic early Christians used for fish)

Was born in a dusty stable on Christmas night.

He came to redeem His people, to save us from our sins.

It is by grace we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8,9).

It's such wonderful good news.



Whether a big fish or small, God's grace is for each one of us who put our trust in Christ.

His By Grace,

Chanda
.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Redemption Lullaby




She who fears the wind,
He who feared to give,
Brought forth a child
And named her Moon.

Shining brightly,
 Ever so brightly,
A reflection of grace
 In the heavens.
Breathing,
But almost not,
Brought to life
By light of day.

Eyes, an azure lake
Of paradise.
Hair strung
On a bow.
Playing the slow,
Mournful song,
As her paradise
 is lost.

Darkness falls as a veil,
As shame enshrouds to wait.
Words spoken softly,
To the inmost parts.

For the calling forth,
From death to Life.
A cross to bridge the gap,
Between a sinner and a saint.

Redemptive Life,
Ever After and a Day,
Because a Savior
Gave His Life
To Pay
For Mine.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Pure Bride: Praying for The Persecuted Church

Persecution.

It sounds like an archaic word, doesn't it?

It conjures up pictures of early Christians during the time of the Roman Empire, huddled in dark catacombs, shivering in the cold, and singing hymns in hushed voices while the bustling city of Rome goes about it daily business.

Or of the roar of the Roman colosseum and of the saints marching in, hands and feet bound, led to where they would be given over to the wild beasts or set aflame for their faith.


Although it may not be a topic on the daily news, persecution of Christians still happens

 Today.

Even as you are reading this post.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity has reported that in the last decade, an average of 100,000 Christians have died each year for motives related to their faith.

That works out to be about 11 Christians each hour die for their faith in Christ.

Eleven Christians per hour?

Die for their faith?

Is this as surprising to you as it is to me?

Persecution still happens.

Today is the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church and we as believers in Jesus Christ have an opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are suffering and dying for their faith.

One family in Vietnam a family is suffering because two brothers, Pa and Ngai, shared their faith in a small village and were arrested and beaten.  One of the brothers did not survive.  You can read about their story on the Voice of the Martyrs website, here.

In Iran, Mojtaba Seyyed Alaedin Hossein, Mohammad-Reza Partoei, Vahid Hakkani and Homayoun Shokouhi, three members of a house church, were arrested in June and given sentences of three years and eight months in prison.  Their story is on the Open Doors website, here.

In Nepal, a believer was killed by the man he was praying for to be healed.  You can read about his story on the Gospel for Asia website here.

Some may think that we suffer because we don't have enough faith, but the truth is,

As followers of Jesus Christ, we suffer because of our faith.

And these Christians are suffering and dying because

They know that Christ is the Lord and He is our Savior,

and they will follow Him regardless of the cost.

Listen to what the apostle Paul said as he was suffering for his faith in Christ:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

These are but a few of the stories of faithful Christians who have shared in the sufferings of Christ.

Today we can remember them,

Pray for their families, and

Pray for others around the world who are undergoing the same kind of persecution.

Praying with you,

Chanda






"

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Holding onto God's Faithfulness: Surviving Pregnancy and Infant Loss


Fall 2003 and me pregnant with Luke


I've been thinking back in time for the #october2013blogchallenge to when I have been aware of the Lord's faithfulness to me.
 
October in Florida is when the chill autumn air carries with it the the sense of expectancy before the rush of the holidays.  And, when the wind picks up and the leaves fall down, I start to remember.  It's the same thing I think about every year and always in October. 

It is fitting that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (PILAM).

That's when the crushing news came for me. 

In October of 2003, I was 27 weeks pregnant, and I went to get an ultrasound to determine if my little one was a boy or a girl. What I wasn't expecting was to find was that something was terribly wrong with my child.


 

The doctor said that he had no kidneys. That he had something called Potter's Syndrome, which at that time, there was no treatment. No cure.
After going to more doctors and doing more tests, it was confirmed.  My baby, when he was born, would die.
I realized at that moment that this was all the time I had with him.

I learned to cherish every little movement, hiccup, stretch. I learned who he was by how he felt in my womb. He lived. He mattered.

Luke Joseph Griese was born on December 5, 2003, and he was so light, only 3 lbs. 12 oz., yet my love for him was beyond measure.





He went to be with Jesus eight hours later.

The biggest thing that little Luke taught me was that every life matters because we are all here for a reason. Some of us are here to love and some of us are here to be the recipients of love.
Then there is the love that God has for us. He sent His Son to die for us so that we could live forever with Him. There is no greater love than that.
And now, Luke lives and basks in the eternal love of God in heaven, and I await the day we will be reunited and can share that love again.


Because God is faithful to His promises, He will make all things new, make all the sad things come untrue (Revelation 21). 


So, I will hold onto that truth and look forward to that Day.  Not only to see my son again, but to see the Son, Christ, the Risen One, who carried me in my darkest hours and brought me to the light of day.

If you have lost a child in pregnancy or shortly after birth, my heart aches for you. 
I pray that you will know the faithfulness of God in Christ on your grief journey. 
Never will He leave you, never will He forsake you (Hebrew 13:5). 

For His Word says:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
 I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)


Holding onto Hope,

Chanda