Grace designed a beautiful image for her post, so I followed suit. You’re an inspiration to me, Grace!
As are all of you reading this. I hope you enjoy today’s post!
Recently the lovely Grace A. Johnson tagged me for the Reflections Tag. Thank you so much, Grace! You truly have a heart that strives to be like Christ, and you are such a supportive friend to have in one’s life.
Y’all, totally head over to Grace’s blog, read her post, and subscribe while you’re there! She is such a cool person, and you won’t regret making her acquaintance.
- Thank the person who tagged you.
- Share eight ways God has blessed you or things He has taught you this past year.
- Tag five or more bloggers!
#1: God blessed me with the Seventh-Day Adventist Christian denomination.
This is a really huge change that happened in my life this past year. On January 31, 2021, I made the conscious decision to identify as a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian. This is the greatest decision I have ever made, second only to my decision to give my life to Jesus in August 2019. I am overjoyed to truly have made the commitment, for myself, to be a member of the Adventist church.
Adventism changed my life, and I’ll give you guys the main reasons why:
- I began to honor the seventh-day Sabbath, and that has been an indescribable blessing in my life. God knew what he was all about when he commanded us to set apart a special day just for him, and it’s a way to honor him in all parts of my life.
- Adventism taught me that God is complete and utter love. He is. He is the most merciful and loving and compassionate being you could ever know. Through studying Adventist doctrine, I learned that God does not foreordain that anyone go to hell, and he does not torture anyone in fire forever and ever. I firmly believe that, and nothing can shake that belief. I will devote my life to preaching it.
I’ll repeat that, joyfully: Nothing can shake that belief – not even the knowledge that there will come a day when the law declares Adventism illegal. The Lord has blessed me, and I will not reject this blessing.
#2: God taught me to overcome my fear and write the first draft of The Apostle’s Sister.
I can never express how thankful I am to my Jesus for this.
A couple months after I decided to give my life to Jesus, I picked up Marjorie Holmes’ incredible Biblical fiction trilogy on the life of Christ. Each book amazed me, touched my heart, and made me thrill as I had never experienced with any book before. Holmes just brought each character to life in the most moving and powerful way. I found myself relating to Jesus Christ himself, and therefore loving him even more. I was just blown away. Jesus had always seemed so distant to me – even after my conversion I struggled to see him as capable of sympathizing with my human struggles (Hebrews 4:15). To be honest, before reading Holmes’ trilogy, I did not enjoy reading the Bible as I knew I should, and I felt so guilty for that. I remember thinking, “A Christian is supposed to hunger to read the Bible. Why don’t I?”
But then Holmes and her books Two from Galilee, Three from Galilee, and The Messiah entered my life. And my life was changed. I realized that Jesus did indeed come down to earth as flesh and blood, and so he does indeed understand the temptation of sin – because he experienced it. I realized that Bible figures were people with feelings just like ours – Jesus, his parents, his siblings, his friends, the twelve disciples – all were people just like us. I related to them, from St. John the Baptist to St. Peter to the Lord Jesus himself.
Because of Holmes’ books, I soon heard the Lord’s voice calling me. I knew what he would have me do. He was saying, “You know how you’ve always loved to write? Well, that was a gift from me, not something you’ve ever made for yourself. And now you will use that gift to honor me.”
But for quite a while, I stumbled in that calling. My heart was not wholly devoted. But Jesus kept working on my heart, gently leading me by the hand, calling my name, until I became overjoyed in the call. I knew I was called to write Biblical fiction. And God revealed to me which Bible character, which story, that I must write. Still I was terrified, and because of that, I didn’t start despite how badly I wanted to. But God wasn’t done with me. He encouraged me to take the first step, overcome my fear, and just write the first draft. And so on October 20, 2020, I did. On December 10, 2020, I typed the final words into that first draft.
That’s how I began my story about St. Paul and how Jesus drastically changed his life, leading him to love all sinners – not excluding his own sister. That’s what The Apostle’s Sister is all about – how God enters a broken life and purifies it so that we leave no one out, and cherish all.
I may see myself as unworthy, and I do. Y’all do not want to know what a mess that first draft really is! But I know God has incredible plans for this story – and future stories – that I can’t see yet. I just need to keep pressing on to acknowledge him (Hosea 6:3). If he hadn’t pushed me to conquer my fear, I never would have started, and The Apostle’s Sister would not exist. He will continue to push me to conquer fear and write to honor him with a sincere heart.
#3: God blessed me with this blog family.
I launched this blog and wrote my first post on December 7, 2020. Back then I seriously had no idea what a great blessing God meant to give me through this blog. It’s a joy I never imagined.
I love connecting with you all. Your kind words and your support on my blog, my writing and my life mean the world. I’ve made so many good friends, and friendship is absolutely a wonderful gift from the Lord! To my blog family – you are each special and loved by Christ. Don’t let anyone tell you he does not love you, because anyone who says that is lying. I’m overjoyed to have every one of you in my life, and I love you all.
#4: God blessed me with Kingdom Pen.
Grace included this in her post as well, and I’m right with her! Thank you for giving me such a sweet shoutout, Grace!
I joined Kingdom Pen on January 1, 2021. From the moment I joined, I met so many incredible people. Of course, we bond over writing for Christ, and that’s a great thing. But the greatest thing is that we bond over Christ.
The Lord blessed me with tons of new friends who are each special in their own way and who always encourage me and lift me up! I’m firmly of the belief that the family of Christ must gather around one another as brothers and sisters, and that it’s very important to reach out to one another in every possible way. Joining Kingdom Pen helped me to gather around and reach out to so many more brothers and sisters, and that is such a great blessing from the Lord. I thank my God every day when I remember all of you KeePers (Philippians 1:3), and I rejoice that you lift me up and I lift you up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
I want to give you all a personal thanks from the bottom of my heart. Thank you to Grace, Kadotake, Issabelle, Erin, Katherine, Gideon, Kathleen, Elizabeth, Libby, Ariel, Abigail, Linyang, Sara, Jenna, Lucy, Tabitha, Kayleigh, Lydia, Hallie, Lexi, Emily, Daisy, Addie, Ella, Keilah, Scoutillus Finch, Tessa, and Ribbonash! And I’m shaking with fear that I missed someone. I don’t think I did, but if so, please know that I love you and I’m so thankful for what you’ve done for me!
#5: God taught me what it really means to love.
In the past, I have not been a loving person. Before my conversion, I was angry at everyone and everything – angry at God most of all. The idea that love even existed was unknown to me. Then Christ came into my life and began to transform me, but even after my conversion I did not fully embrace his love.
Before my conversion, I was deeply entrenched in sin. I was a lover of the world, very much like a certain young man named Demas who abandoned the prisoner (St. Paul) who loved him, and in the process abandoning God. And why? Because he was a lover of the world (2 Timothy 4:10). Like Demas, I abandoned God and I loved the secular world.
But after my conversion, I took things and completely flipped them. I was desperate to prove I had changed, so I became extreme. I judged and condemned all those in love with the secular world. This is what I did: I judged and condemned those who were exactly like how I once was, and I expressed in no uncertain terms that God was against them and they were just asking for punishment. I was a hypocrite. The sad truth is that in doing this, I was no more loving than I had been before.
I shut my eyes to these beautiful words:
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
(Romans 5:8 is my favorite verse, by the way!)
You know the kind of “Christian” I used to be? Yeah, those “Christians” are why people don’t want to be Christians. Those “Christians” are why people hate God. Those “Christians” are why people don’t realize that Christ laid down his own life in a bloody, gory sacrifice called crucifixion because of his incredible love for all human beings. Those “Christians” are why we have people saying, “I want to go to hell, Christians! What makes you think I want to bow before a tyrant who’s ready to toss me into fire at any given second?”
This makes me sad. It makes me so sad. I am so emotional right now just writing out these paragraphs. I just feel such deep grief in my heart that this is what Christians have taught the world about Christ. When I realized my hypocrisy and the terrible hatred I was encouraging, I was heartbroken. I can’t describe the horrible guilt and heartbreak. And although the guilt and shame has been washed away in the name of Christ, the heartbreak will always remain. I am being honest when I say it’s like a stab in the heart.
Oh, God is the most indescribably loving and merciful being! He is so tender and kind and good. He died for each and every one – died that shameful, excruciating death. He went through the mocking, the spitting, the shaming, the flogging, the abuse, the taunts, the crucifixion, the three dead days, all because his love is so great. Did he die for just a few? No!
I want to say – and I will repeat this truth as long as I live – that it doesn’t matter who you are, what your life experience is, or what you’ve done. You are loved by God – no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, political views….
And I know that what I just said may very well offend many people. If you’re offended, my heart breaks for you. If you don’t believe that everyone is loved by God, my heart breaks for you. God is love, and so he can never be unloving toward anyone. If you believe he can, my heart breaks for you.
God pursues everyone and desires for everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Please know that God loves you.
#6: God blessed me with my two favorite books – Les Misérables and To Kill a Mockingbird.
I believe that if a book does not lead me to honor God and draw closer to him, it’s not a book I should be reading. So I’m very careful about what I read, and honestly, I find myself being doubtful sometimes of whether there really is such a thing as godly fiction. I have admired many authors and had high hopes for many books, only to be deeply disappointed when I realized they and their work did not honor God as I thought. As a result, I’ve often gotten discouraged and wondered if there really is any biblical, Christian fiction out there.
I read TKAM first – in around late September 2020 or early October 2020, I believe. Sometimes my memory isn’t so good, y’all. 😂
Moving on from JC’s silly memory… thank you all for being so patient with this even sillier gal! 😂
Then I picked up Les Mis in late February 2021.
TKAM changed my life and my relationship with Christ in so many ways, including:
- It presented me with an honest and compassionate portrayal of the horror of sin.
- It told a beautiful love story between God and all his people (Harper Lee even called her book a “simple love story”).
- It taught me that I must do more to fight racism and speak out for what is right, no matter what the cost.
- It taught me that we must love even the most horrible people, because God loves them.
TKAM taught me all this and so much more. You can read my full review of it here.
Les Mis changed my life and my relationship with Christ in ways that no other book has, including:
- It gave me a beautiful hope and confidence that I truly have salvation in Christ and my past sins are washed away.
- It encouraged me to be brave for Christ until the end, and truly run my race well.
- It taught me that I must not do anything to be recognized by people, but must live in perfect humility, for God sees what is done in secret and will give the reward.
- It taught me that everything I do, no matter how small, will impact someone’s life either for better or for worse.
Les Mis taught me these truths and more. You can read my full review of it here.
I thank God for using these books to draw me close to him, and I pray that my writing will change others’ lives in the same way these authors’ writing changed mine.
#7: God taught me to trust.
I’m going to be real: the COVID pandemic has really tested my faith in God. Many times I have doubted him, accused him, even questioned his love. When it seemed like trial after trial was coming with no end, I wondered where he was.
But during all the times I let myself become bitter, God remained faithful. He doesn’t give up, amen and amen. He just loves us too much for that.
Through writing my story from the perspectives of St. Paul’s sister and nephew, I learned so much about trusting in the Lord. God used my writing to gently teach me to trust him, no matter what. I feel so comforted – I feel his Holy Spirit beside me – as I write. With each moment I spend with my characters, I learn to trust.
Temira loves Paul – loves him with all the sweetness and devotion of a little sister. And he went through such horrible stuff, and it’s so emotional to write about. In a heartrending scene, she tells him that he doesn’t understand how painful it is for her to love him. Imagine watching your sibling face evil persecution each day of his life – persecution that literally means he is being “killed every day” (Romans 8:36). How would you react? It’s unimaginable, isn’t it? Yet Temira trusts God. She might have many moments of despair and tears – just as I do, and so I relate – but she trusts. She isn’t giving up on Paul, and she isn’t giving up on God.
Same goes for Seth. And in a way, I think Seth might even have it worse than Temira, since he sees Paul through the love of a child for his parent. Seth’s story is emotional in a whole other way, since his perspective is very innocent and he doesn’t understand. That makes it much harder for him to cope with hardship, since he can’t reason like Temira can. And his perspective is much less tranquil. Yet he shows incredible faith, so much trust and courage that God even used him as the “anointed” to save an entire empire. In saving Paul’s life (Acts 23:16), he saved the city of Rome and reached out to the empire. Wow!
And, of course, Paul himself. Through writing about St. Paul as a real, relatable person (rather than the otherworldly view the Bible does tend to give us), I experience in a very personal way the incredible trust Paul cherished in God. I mean, I don’t know anyone who has suffered or will probably ever suffer half as much as Paul did. Yet he trusted, and that faith is just amazing.
Let me say again – wow!
We can always trust Christ, because he will never leave us. Nothing – not tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, or COVID shall ever separate us from his love (Romans 8:35).
#8: God blessed me with When Calls the Heart.
Yay! As you guys know, I am a huge Heartie. I actually discovered When Calls the Heart only a few months ago in September 2020. I watched all the seasons and immediately loved it. And season eight is making me so happy! It’s so intense, and I’m totally here for it. Episode ten comes out next week and I’m waiting with bated breath. I’m so excited to see what happens next, and y’all… those of you who watch the show… what do you think of Fort Clay? I’m rewatching seasons 6 and 7 with such a different perspective after the secret was revealed….
Anyways! I love WCTH not because it’s an entertaining and fun show, but because of the biblical values presented in it. It’s such a blessing that there is a show in the world that portrays hope and light! That is sorely needed in today’s culture, when so many people are obsessed with consuming horror and obscenity. But WCTH teaches about friendship, love, and redemption. Who else is absolutely loving the faith Joseph Canfield brings to Hope Valley? Oh yeah, the town is literally called Hope Valley!
To me, it’s just such a blessing that God has provided me with a show I can watch for fun, but while having a clean conscience and not having to worry about any profanity or inappropriateness. All the themes are uplifting, and it’s completely family-friendly. I’ll always appreciate the blessing of having something relaxing, clean, and positive to watch. Not to mention that it’s based off a novel by Christian author Janette Oke. I love Janette Oke; I haven’t read WCTH though, which I definitely need to do!
Anyways, it’s just great to be able to watch something without fear of it going against my values.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post and were blessed and uplifted by it! Remember that I deeply appreciate each one of you and what you bring to this family. I’m praying for you every day, and praying that every post I put out strengthens your relationship with Christ instead of weakening it. You guys have encouraged me in my relationship with Christ in so many ways. Thank you!
Now for my five nominees! I tag:
- Katie @I’m Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read)
- Victoria @Soli Deo Gloria
- Arein @My Golden Shire
- Ariel @Scribes & Archers
- Ribbonash @Virtual Paper
So, what are your thoughts on my list? How’s life and writing? Feel absolutely welcome to share ways God has blessed you or things he has taught you this past year! I would love to hear anything you want to share.
You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!