the Stone and the Oak

A journey into bible education with the stronghold of the of the oak the accountability of the stone

This is Alexis.

Her drink is a peach and mint tea with honey.

Just one look at Alexis’s bible— overrun with pink sticky notes and annotations— and it is clear she is in love with the Word. In our lovely time together over our cups of tea, Alexis referenced several parts of the Bible; all of which were powerful and inspiring. But rather than do a deep close-reading of one of these passages, Alexis spoke of what was on her heart and mind and something else emerged. As she spoke, I found myself collecting gem after gem of sage practices that she uses to bring herself closer to God.

So this edition of Sips & Scripts will outline four of Alexis’s spiritual practices that I found inspiring and know will benefit the readers of this blog.

  • Alexis asked God to reveal a focus word to guide her through 2020

“In church recently, we discussed the book of Galatians. The sermon was about the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom and how the less His followers strive to do by themselves, the more glory is given to God. And here we live in a society where we are judged by our effort and output and then find ourselves perpetually burnt out. And if we are saved by faith and not works, then why are we always so rushed, so stressed, so tired?

But in looking closer at the gospel, I noticed that Jesus was never in a rush, ever, and He had the most important responsibility of any human.

Jesus was never in a rush, ever, and He has the most important responsibility of any human.

So I realized that it comes down to priorities. What are we determined to make time for? What needs to be cleared out?

This sermon connected to the word “simplify” that had been encircling my mind and is now my focus word for 2020. I am a nursing student, so my class and clinical schedule can get pretty full, but I am going to simplify my free time. Whenever I used to find gaps in my schedule, I would immediately fill them; but now I am capitalizing on grace and creating time for rest.

I am also simplifying my physical space by getting rid of clutter and removing distractions from my bedroom walls. In fact, I haven’t even put anything up in their place, and I love the bare walls right now. When I wake up, I am not distracted; my focus goes right to Him.”

  • Alexis grounds herself before her feet hit the ground

“As soon as I wake up, I properly equip myself for the challenges of the day. I pray, I read my Jesus Calling devotional, I meditate on its message, and I journal before I take my first step. This practice is like putting on the armor of the Lord, like in Ephesians 6, before I go out into the world and face its challenges. Before I was really disciplined about this practice, and if I skipped a day, I felt unguarded. I would go back and read the Jesus Calling devotional for the day I missed and realize that it was just what I would have needed. I am much more consistent with this practice now because it feels absolutely necessary to me— like breathing. Sure, I can skip a day, and go through the motions, but that is not what I was created for.

I like to gift Jesus Calling books to non-believers because the devotionals are tailored to daily circumstances and bring such comfort.”

  • Alexis stops feelings of overwhelm and lies from the enemy by redirecting her thoughts to Jesus

“If I ever get overwhelmed or caught in a spiral of anxious thoughts, I do a few simple things that really help. One thing I do is I lift my sight. When I look upward, my focus is shifted from my own fears to He who is bigger than them. Another thing I do is just whisper the name, Jesus. No other words are even necessary. I whisper His name and it feels like he reaches out His hand to pull me out of the depths of darkness. I whisper Jesus and I feel rescued. And if I ever get caught up in any “What if?” worries, I redirect my energy to gratitude. The “What if” fears aren’t real in the present moment, but my gratitude is.

When I look upward, my focus is shifted from my own fears to He who is bigger than them.

Last month, I went through a particularly anxious situation. I was going to Japan to visit my Buddhist relatives. I was the only Christian, and I was incredibly nervous about that trip. I was losing sleep and just feeling unsettled. I turned to 2 Timothy 1.7: ‘For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and a sound mind.’ It reminded me that any fears aren’t sent by Him. And that He fortifies me through the Holy Spirit.”

  • Alexis boasts of her weakness and His strength

“I am goal-oriented, driven, and focused. Like any personality traits, they have their pros and their cons. Though I can be described as ‘high achieving’ and someone who ‘has it all together,’ if I let these things get out of hand, they overtake me. I can become a prisoner to achievement and start seeking the approval of people, not God.

A verse that has helped me understand my identity in Christ is 2 Corinthians 1:9 ‘But he said to me, ‘My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’

This verse reminds me that I am limited but He is unlimited, which is counter-cultural. American culture will tell us that we should be independent, lean on no one, etc. But Christians know we are nothing apart from Him. If anyone asks me how I ‘do it all so well,’ I am ready with an answer: it’s because of Jesus.”

If anyone asks me how I “do it all so well,” I am ready with an answer: it’s because of Jesus.

Alexis is only 23. I tell her all the time that I wish I could have been as convicted as she is when I was 23. There is no doubt in my mind that God is going to use Alexis for incredible things.

I have heard Alexis say that in her nursing clinicals, she likes to imagine that her patient is Jesus so she can give the highest level of care and love to that individual. Can you imagine how many people Alexis will be able to serve in this beautiful way?

I am so honored to know Alexis. I call her one of my “kindred spirits” a la Anne of Green Gables.

If you would like to pray for her, she is seeking prayers for guidance after nursing school. She is applying for a few different externships, and she wants clarity for which medical area of specialty she should pursue.

with His love,


The human brain contains what is called the comparative frontoparietal network which allows us to take in stimuli and compare, contrast, and categorize as part of our biological makeup. Making quick decisions based on comparison must have been important in agrarian life: pick the clean fruit; leave the bug-ravaged fruit.

In their article “The culture of social comparison,” Baldwin and Mussweiler posit that “comparative thinking can be observed in humans even as early as infanthood. This evidence suggests that comparison is one of the most basic building blocks of human cognition.”

So the mechanism to compare is a key part of being human, and it has a couple of avenues: evaluation or judgment.

Aren’t those the same thing?

There is a slight difference here: evaluation means to assess objectively, whereas “judgments are emotional in nature and often suggest a moral, self-righteous approach” (Jameson).

And in James, amongst other books, it is clear that judgment should be left to God alone: “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4.12, ESV).

But in Paul’s second letter, he experiences both comparison and judgment by those to whom he is addressing the letter—the followers of Christ in Corinth.

In chapter 10, he references one of their criticisms against him:

His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account

2 Corinthians 10.10, ESV

In this criticism, the Corinthians are suggesting that Paul is not strong enough to lead them, and there is the additional insinuation that he falsely represents himself in his letters.

Ouch. This is quite a harsh judgment upon Paul, who has devoted himself to this population.


Paul acknowledges his faults but defends his character

He begins his defense in this way: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge.” And he goes on to indicate that he never suggested otherwise: “in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (11.6-7, ESV).

Paul warns the Corinthians of the “apostles” to which they are comparing him

Paul even refers to these other leaders as as “super-apostles” which makes me think he is offering a tone of sarcasm. He insists “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles for Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (11.13-14, ESV).

Paul implores his audience to indulge him in a little hypothetical comparison scenario

Paul responds to the comparisons the Corinthians initiated. He is saying, ok, pretend I were someone who boasted, let’s see how I stack up:

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea [he continues to list the dangers he encountered]… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on my of my anxiety for all the churches


Paul continues to make his case for why he is a worthy apostle: “l must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord” (12.1, ESV).

Did you note in this excerpt that Paul acknowledges that boasting gains nothing? If he knew that, why did he do it?

Perhaps he feels so strongly about aiding the population of Corinth that he wants to try and win their trust back in any way possible. Or—and this is not mutually exclusive—perhaps Paul fell victim to the human response to harsh judgment: defense. We spring to defend ourselves in the face of unfair judgment.

But Paul writes of his growing conceit, and how he was humbled:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about (the thorn of the flesh harassing him and checking his conceit), that that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 9-10, ESV

So from verses 9-10 Paul determines:

  • God’s grace is of so much more value than the opinions of others.
  • Why would we need Him if we were without faults and flaws?
  • We should not boast of our strengths but of our shortcomings because then God is glorified all the more.
  • Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities— we accept all for the sake of Christ.


On Social Media

We take the curated, exterior lives of others and compare them to our messy interiors. It’s an exercise in disappointment every time.

I understand that none of us want to highlight the low points and messiness— but at what point does what we put forth present a false version of ourselves? I don’t know about you, but my favorite accounts are the ones with a balance of the beautiful curation paired with the real and the messy.

When I started this account, it was a hard decision for me to go filter-free when I film my face on stories, but I decided that people deserve to see the real me, for better or worse. Don’t get me wrong, I still cringe every time I watch my own stories; vulnerability is not always pleasant.

In the Workplace

Are you in a position working alongside other people in similar positions? I am. Situations like these naturally lend themselves to comparison.

Though we are all made to have certain strengths and weaknesses, when we place two or more things (or people) next to one another, our human brains take note of what distinguishes one from the other.

I am struggling, for instance, with feeling like I have much to offer in the online capacity. As an educator, I have always felt more comfortable with in-person teaching situations, and here I am navigating the tech world as best I can and still feel like I am coming up short at times.

In Family Roles

Do you have a sister or brother to whom you were compared? Or perhaps you compare yourself to a sibling without any exterior influence. Did you marry in to a family and feel compared to the members within? Were you adopted and compare yourself to the biological children of the family?

Though I want to believe that all families were good about reserving comparisons like mine was, I know that just is not true. Many of you probably felt the sting of comparison and judgment just by being who you were designed flawlessly to be.

In Parenting

I remember hearing someone once say: “everyone is an expert in parenting… and then they have children.”

If you are not yet a parent, you do not yet know the world of scrutiny and judgment in which we parents currently exist: people watch how I parent at the grocery store, at a playground, at school drop-off, you name it.

This hyper-scrutiny of parents is relatively new, historically speaking.

Time was, if citizens heard about a child getting injured in an unusual way— falling from the top of a hay bale stack, let’s say—the response was usually sympathetic. “Poor child, poor parents,” was the general response; “I hope they are all ok.”

No longer. Perhaps it is our brazen online culture that seems to enhance unfriendly comments with the security of the screen to mask the commenter— but the reaction to the same situation is to find who to blame and blame them loudly: “Someone should call CPS! Some people should never be allowed to have children!”

Judgments like these take no account for human error—no account for the imperfection that occurs in all of us.

And those of us in the role of parent know that there is no harder or holier work on this earth— parents need grace upon grace upon grace.

And those of us in the role of parent know that there is no harder or holier work on this earth— parents need grace upon grace upon grace.

Speaking for myself and other parents with whom I interact, we do the very best we can with the children given to us and with the resources at hand. And it still isn’t enough. His grace has to take over. And thank goodness “his power is made perfect in weakness.”


His grace is of so much more value than the opinions of others. In the end, it really does not matter what other people think; I can do everything “right” and people will still form their own opinions of me. It is only what God thinks of me that matters.

Why would we need Him if we were without faults and flaws? If we were perfect, we would have no need for God. We are flawed beings—yes, even that seemingly perfect influencer on Instagram is flawed— and God delights in supplicating our needs.

We should not boast of our strengths but of our shortcomings because then God is glorified all the more. How many of us truly boast of— or even reveal—our shortcomings? We seem to think that if we share our weaknesses, we will not be accepted. And yet, the opposite is true.

Brené Brown, in her second Ted Talk, Listening to Shame, asked the audience if they thought the vulnerability they saw on stage at TED was weakness or pure courage? The audience indicated the latter.

But we as humans, and believers, don’t tend to boast of our shortcomings. God is pushing me deeper into this. He called me to share my struggles with anxiety this last March, and I felt as vulnerable and weak as you might imagine. But the response was lovely. Still accepted by my friends, I was able to boast of how God helped me out when I could not help myself.

Those of you who have been with the blog since the beginning probably remember Alexis talking about this very verse in our Sips&Scripts chat. She is a go-getter, and wisely reflected that achievement can often go hand-in-hand with chasing the approval of man and not God.

God cares not for our worldly achievement; he wants us to achieve total reliance on Him.

Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities— we accept all for the sake of Christ.

All four of Paul’s conclusions are easier said than done—that I recognize. But isn’t Christ worth it? Isn’t he worth enduring all of the above? Isn’t heaven worth it?

It is human to hide weakness, recoil from insults, actively try to avoid hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

But that is why God’s kingdom is upside-down from the impulses of the flesh.

Comparison can be unfair. Judgment can sting. But we are His beloved, no matter what the world might try to say otherwise.

with His love,


This is Michelle.

Her drink is coffee with homemade dulce de leche.

And she is not sitting across from me on a quilt in the park, as the last several Sips & Scripts would suggest. She is in her house in San Diego with her two sweet daughters, her husband, and her enormous doggie, Zeus.

You see, Michelle is a friend from my graduate program at San Diego State University. I can still see her: this hip-but-not-hipster girl from New York, walking around our classroom performing a literature-based skit in her Mickey Mouse shirt with the utmost confidence. Michelle was cool and different, and I loved getting to know someone outside of my usual circle of friends.

Almost as soon as my MA degree was conferred, I moved to Florida to take a professorship, and Michelle and I still kept up with each other via email. I’ll never forget sending her the email that read: “so… without notice, Andrew and I are expecting our first baby due mid-October” and I instantly received one in return that said (pardon her French) “No sh**! I’m pregnant and due mid-October, too!”

Our babies were born exactly one day apart: my eldest son on October 14th, and her eldest daughter in October 15th. So far, plans to arrange their marriage have not gone so well seeing as we have seen each other… once…maybe twice since their births.

Nevertheless, it has been wonderful to keep in contact with Michelle despite cross-country moves, job changes, and the births of subsequent children.

In more recent years, our conversations have drifted back to the topics of Jesus and faith as both of us have grown deeper into our roles as Christian women.

When I asked if Michelle was interested in having a Sips & Scripts chat, she said yes immediately, and was prepared with her topic and verses when we met via Zoom. I would expect nothing less.


“During the current struggles of the pandemic and the strained racial relations, there are a couple of verses that have helped me and offered guidance.

The first verse is a familiar one, 1 Corinthians 13.13:

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love


But in the King James Version, it reads:

And so faith, hope and charity abide, and the greatest of these is charity

1 Corinthians, 13.13, KJV

I found the King James version to be really interesting. Charity is love in action—behavior-driven, whereas the word love reflects a feeling: such as, I love my family; love is easy.”

(Michelle and I went off on a bit of a tangent about the Greek word in that verse— agape— and why it might have been translated into both love and charity. I learned from The Bible Project that agape was the attempt in the Greek language to explain the concept of divine love: God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others as an expression of God’s love. It is characterized by love as service when we actively put the needs of others before our own— just as Michelle said).

“So if I accept the word charity as love-in-action, it reminds me that my behaviors during these troubled times need to reflect care for others.

This can start in my home; am I being charitable with my time? Am I carving out enough time for my daughters?

I love verses that refer to human behavior. They always help me adjust my own choices.”


“So, let’s revisit this verse in terms of the pandemic:

  • Faith: we must believe that God will see us through. We hold fast to that belief.
  • Hope: though the news would convince us that all is hopeless, if we turn back to God, we remember that hope comes from Him.
  • Charity: we actively offer grace and forgiveness to each other. So much division has occurred as a result of our situation: you have the mask-wearers and the mask-protestors who are suddenly mortal enemies. We forget that it is ok to disagree and still be caring towards one another.

I try to remember that we are all feeling stressed, and the pandemic affects each of us differently. In fact, I heard someone say the pandemic has amplified all of our predisposed qualities (ex. an anxious person becomes super anxious, and a person who fights for personal freedoms will fight harder and louder). And every one of us needs grace.”

And every one of us needs grace.


“Another verse that I’ve been using as a lens during the pandemic is Romans 5.3-4

…we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope


The first part of that verse is difficult — find joy in suffering? It goes against our human nature; we try to avoid suffering. But we know suffering is a part of life. And we are all suffering in some way right now.

I learned from previous experiences with depression, that letting oneself feel the hard feelings is healing. So I let myself feel whatever I need to feel during this containment — overwhelmed, frustrated, whatever. I have accepted the feelings of suffering rather than trying to dismiss them.

I reflect on previous struggles and admire the skills and knowledge that came from that period. I notice that God always provided a way out of it. For me, joy comes that way.

As far as endurance goes, this pandemic is not on our timeline. Trying to predict the end or think of how many months we have left doesn’t necessarily help anything; we can’t think of the pandemic in its whole scope, so we just focus on today. Can I get through today? Yes. Can I get through tomorrow? Yes— even if the days are hard.

As we endure this pandemic, we are gaining—as the KJV version calls it—experience, which builds our character in Him, and ultimately we will push through to hope.

The hope often can’t be seen until we’ve cleared some of the suffering away. For me, hope comes out of surviving difficulty. It fuels more hope for future struggles.

Even in the pandemic, there are certainly moments of joy here. When we start counting the ways that we are benefiting from the containment, giving thanks to God for them, it makes us more open to the experience.”


“This pandemic is the first major extended event in a long time in US History that calls for hope and faith.

And so we turn to the one book that can offer such things.”

Michelle’s close-reading of these bible passages is a helpful reminder that scripture is not meant to be rushed through.

Take a verse, break it down. I can hold each part— each word— up to the light like a color slide and examine it in light of my particular circumstances.

In this case, let the words in our favorite passages give us new perspective, new tools, for pandemic burnout.

with His love,


Father’s Day is half a week away, and rather than doing the last-minute, panic-buy where you shell out way too much money for a lackluster gift, consider making him something meaningful.

I decided to make these photo coasters for my Father-in-law because, like all grandpas, he adores his grandkids— and we are on a tighter budget these days.

You will need six things to make these coasters.

Do you only see five? Crumb. Me, too. I forgot to take a picture of the backing! Have no fear— I will make sure to cover it in a bit.

1: 4×4 tiles

I found a large stack of tiles at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore. If you don’t already know, Restore has secondhand building supplies that have been donated, and all proceeds from the sales of these items support Habitat for Humanity— an excellent cause.

The tiles were 5 cents apiece! You can’t get anything for a nickel anymore…except apparently 4×4 tiles.

Sure, you can get your tiles at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but if you are a thrifter and treasure hunter like me, it’s a lot of fun to dig around at Restore.

If you do. Hey secondhand, don’t worry if your tiles have stains or scratches on the front; the photo will cover almost the entirety of the tile’s face. As long as the edges are good, and there is no mortar stuck to the back, the tile will work!

2. 4×4 square photos

Left: 4×4 photo from Walgreens; Right: Image printed on cardstock at home

I did a little experiment to see if there was a difference between using images printed at home on cardstock versus the glossy 4×4 prints I picked up from my local Walgreens (they were 20 cents a piece).

Both glossy prints and images printed on cardstock will work, but keep in mind that the ordered prints are usually pre-cut with straight edges and the cardstock you will cut yourself. So, unless you have a trusty paper cutter, the edges might be imperfect for the cardstock option.

I liked the deeper saturation of the glossy prints, so I opted for those after comparing them side-by-side.

3. Brush for applying ModPodge

The first step is to apply a generous coat of ModPodge to the tile

If you have a disposable foam brush, I’d use it because Mod Podge is a glue and therefore not always easy to wash out of a standard brush.

4. Speaking of… ModPodge!

ModPodge is a crafter’s bread & butter and comes in many different options: matte, glossy, dishwasher-safe, and on.

As you can see from the above picture, even my three-year old can handle the first step of applying a liberal layer of Mod Podge to the surface of the tile. Mod Podge is non-toxic, so I don’t have to worry about his involvement.

My three-year-old, who needs to clean his fingernails, helps me press the photo onto the tile layered with ModPodge

Once the photo is fixed in place on the ModPodge-coated tile, go ahead and apply the top coat of ModPodge right across the photo itself.

Remember, ModPodge dries clear, so don’t be hesitant to give the photo a good coating and give extra attention to the edges.

The coaster that inspired me! This was made for me by my sister-in-love, Monica, right after my third was born.

Yes, you will see a faint appearance of brush-strokes when it dries, but the evidence of the crafting is what reflects the love that went into making it. You won’t find these coming out of a factory.

The evidence of the crafting reflects the love that went into making it

5. Acrylic sealing spray

Now to really help the coasters stand up to the moisture of an icy drink cup, you’ll need to spray an acrylic sealer over the dried ModPodge layer.

Acrylic Spray Sealers are not non-toxic, so be sure to do this project outdoors and keep the kids at a distance.

Here, I am spraying the first of two thin coats of the acrylic sealer

The acrylic sealing spray I chose has a glossy finish, but you can also find other brands in a matte finish.

Once you’ve let the second thin coat dry, the front of your coaster is complete, and you only need to add the backing.

6. Cork backing or felt bumpers

Because raw porcelain tile will not be kind to a wooden table, you’ll need either:


Here is the large pack I ordered from Amazon in the hopes of making more coasters in the future:

Click image for link
They peel easily

And adhere with a press

If you want to make a smaller batch of coasters, you might want to opt for…


Felt dots like these can also be found at Target and WalMart near the furniture section. You will need four dots per coaster— one for each corner.

Project complete!

My coasters are ready to wrap up for Dad! He loves Diet Coke, so I might also include some Diet Coke and have the kids write a little cheeky note on the gift box asking where he will put his Diet Coke cup.

So tell me, what is the best handmade gift you have ever received?

with His love,


I was tagged by my new friend, Barb, from My Life in our Father’s World, to share 10 things that make me happy. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Crepe Myrtle Blossoms in Hot July

My husband snapped this photo a few days ago

It’s always a little melancholy to see a green, lush spring front yard die with the summer heat. But every late June/early July, our crepe myrtle trees come alive with these pink blossoms. It’s one of my favorite places to pray.

2. Community rock projects

The boys and I added three painted rocks to the community rock garden

Whether it is the hide-and-find community game or a rock garden like the one pictured above, the boys and I had fun painting and delivering rocks. It’s something to do when so many places are closed to the public.

3. Meeting Christian Women through this platform

Here is the thank-you picture Rheanne Loren (pictured right) sent me after winning the giveaway T-shirts. I’ve linked her YouTube channel here.

We all know social media has its drawbacks, but one of my favorite perks is that I am able to meet other Christian women from around the nation (or globe!) who are in different walks of life from me. Kindness can still be felt through our screens, and connection can still be made.

4. Coffee with my cousin

The first Sips & Scripts featured my cousin, Kim, who has been the blog’s biggest supporter from the first day it launched. She and I have gotten into the habit of letting the five kids run around my house while we enjoy an iced coffee together. These visits are recharging for the mamas and the kiddos alike.

5. Hair scarves

I don’t seem to have a good picture of me with a hair scarf, so I pulled these from my stories. Ever since containment started, I’ve quit straightening my hair so much and let it air dry; the curls have really sprung up. I like tying a hair scarf with my updo for summer.

6. Story time with Papa

My parents live in Florida, and my brother and his family live in Georgia— it’s rough having them so far away. My dad (the boys’ Papa) has been reading to his grandkids from Treasure Island twice a week. It’s nice to hear his voice and see the sweet faces of my niece and nephew. And yes, Papa is wearing a pirate bandana.

7. My Supportive Work Environment

Our message to the college’s graduating students

I am an educator who spent many years in the college classroom teaching rhetoric and composition; but since having my last son, I have opted for a different role with less of a demand on my time. I work with a team of five other coordinators who run a support service for the college. We get to work alongside incredible college students, and our center has fostered a wonderful culture of support and encouragement. I love being a part of it.

8. Swimming with family

My brother-in-law tossing my oldest son

Anyone who knows me knows that fall has been my favorite season even since I was young. But I must say, having kids has really made summer move up on my list. The long evenings, grandma’s homemade vanilla ice cream, and the squeals of my kids as they play in the pool have given me new appreciation for what is our most difficult season in terms of weather (we exceed 110 degrees each summer and sometimes 115). My husband loves being in the water, and we are excited for our above-ground pool to be installed next week!

9. The Pup with the Cookies ‘N Cream Paws

Lucy Ruth, our sweet Aussie/Border Collie mix
I snapped this one right as my middle son was getting puppy kisses

I pulled into our cul-de-sac one afternoon as I was driving my oldest son home from a birthday party, and there in the driveway was a tiny black pup, whose head entirely covered by the baseball cap my middle son had just put on her. She had been brought home without my knowledge. I spent a whole two minutes being exasperated with my husband, but once she was in my arms, it was over. She’s been a part of the family ever since. She does well with our 12-year-old dog, Lady, who has slowed down quite a bit this year. But she truly delights in having young boys to play with—she found the right home.

10. Morning snuggles with my youngest

My last-born is my calmest child in terms of energy. While the other two pop off the pillow more quickly, this one takes his time waking up and is content being held for 20…30 minutes when he wakes up. Since I don’t have to rush out the door to work anymore, I can to indulge him (and me, let’s be frank) in long morning snuggles. He will never be this little again. I take it all in, letting my hands and my heart make carbon copies of his tiny-ness and his sweetness.

It would be a great failure on my part to accept this happiness without offering thanks to the source. God, every one of these things has come from your hand, and I am so grateful.

with His love,


PS. I tag these new friends to post about 10 things:

Sarah Butterfield

Kim Mulvaney

Nicole Williams

On my Bible-reading calendar, I slated Romans for June, not knowing that June 2020 would see a turmoil in America like we haven’t seen in ages.

Late May saw the death of George Floyd and so early June saw the subsequent uprising of protests against police brutality that morphed into a Black Lives Matter movement so forceful it was impossible to look away.

And so this month started with clenched fists that have slowly started to unclench: arson and looting have been overtaken by peaceful protests and conversations about how to fix what is wrong in our race relations.

Though the Civil Rights era granted important and necessary rights to Black citizens, the racism that enveloped the era was not magically erased as some would like to think. Sadly, racism and prejudice are still a part of our national fabric, and June 2020 feels a little bit like the fabric has been ripped to shreds.

So now it’s time to sit down at the loom and begin weaving again. But how to bring the threads together in a harmonious tapestry?

How can one person—a white person—help?

I started the month feeling stuck. I am a friend to many people of color and I also am the daughter-in-law of a former county sheriff. Was I supposed to have a side here? It sure seemed like people were jumping onto one side or the other.

But jumping onto a side is reinforcing a divide— exactly what our country wants to avoid.

Nevertheless, I recognized that we have lots of dysfunction in our race relations, and I want to help enact change. But where to start? And what can I—a White woman— do? What is my place in all of this?

Thankfully, I found the book Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation. I had been searching for a resource that wasn’t saturated in politics and partisanship, and Latasha Morrison delivers. Using God’s word as her foundation, Morrison outlines what kind of work can be done to create true racial reconciliation and unity between believers.

Click to see purchase options on Amazon

Though I typically love a hard-copy book, I couldn’t wait to get started, so I purchased the digital version and have been tearing through it on my tablet, nodding my head and highlighting sentences on just about every page.

Bridges. We can bridge this divide. I want to be a bridge.

I’m 200 pages in, and it feels like a guidebook to help me start the important work of being a bridge builder.

Paul saw the need for a bridge

Paul was a bridge builder in his letter to the Romans.

He knew there was a great divide in the Christ-followers of Rome at the time: Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.

The term Jewish Christians refers to those of the bloodline of Abraham. They are followers of Christ who hold fast to the laws that Moses put forth in the Torah (eating Kosher, circumcision as necessary, etc.).

The term Gentile Christians refers to non-Jewish people (in this letter it refers to the Greeks) who believe in Jesus as their savior but do not uphold the ceremonial laws of Moses.

Paul saw unification between these two factions as one of the main purposes for writing his letter. If Jew and Gentile could come together in the name of Christ, the church would have an enormous platform in Rome to grow and thrive.

Paul reminds his readers— which, again, were a group divided by those who followed the laws of the Torah and those who didn’t— that it is not by law that Abraham became the father of all nations but by faith:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and promise is void.

Romans, 4.13-14, ESV

Obedience to the Torah is not how we gain access to salvation, he asserts. We are rescued by God’s righteousness.

Paul reminds Jews and Gentiles of their common roots

Paul makes his case for salvation despite the law, but he also needs to address the issue of lineage from Abraham. If Gentiles didn’t descend from the holy bloodline, how could they be part of the family of Christ?

In anticipation of this objection, Paul explains justification by faith: believers, regardless of ancestry, are made part of a new family with Jesus as the head (Bible Project).

To help explain the idea of a new family in Christ, Paul uses the metaphor of an olive tree in chapter 11:

“… you [gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree”

Romans 11.17-18

Simply put, the Lord is the nourishing root, and the original branches are the lineage of Abraham. Paul refers to the Gentiles as branches grafted in, now firmly a part of the tree—of the family. So Jews and Gentiles are one family in Christ, and God will graft in anyone who follows Jesus.

John Piper, noted theologian, discusses the divide between Jew and Gentile this way:

“Neither Jews nor Gentiles have priority in how they are saved by faith in Christ… Ethnicity is not decisive for salvation.”

John Piper, Desiring God

How does Paul suggest the two factions work towards unification?

Assuming his audience will accept his claims, Paul offers instructions on how to begin to bridge the gap between Jew and Gentile. Here are three of his main suggestions:

1. Love your neighbor

Paul argues that the practice of loving one’s neighbor as oneself will fulfill all of the different commandments:

Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law

Romans 13.10, ESV

2. Do not judge one another

Paul asks his readers to withhold judgment of each other:

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls […] Therefore let us not pass judgment on another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”

Romans 14.4,13, ESV

3. Lift up your brother

He continues on, using language that reflects building one another up, because Paul knows when we lift our brothers, we rise, too:

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding […] Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Romans 14.19, Romans 15.2, ESV

Love your neighbor as yourself; withhold judgment; build each other up.

I think we Americans could heed this advice in our current situation.

How do we work towards racial unification?

As I mentioned earlier, Morrison’s book acts as a guidebook for Christians ready to enact true change in our race relations.

The book includes a series of steps that must be taken to bridge the racial division (in order, for effectiveness):

  • Approach the process with true humility
  • Learn the truth about America’s history
  • Empathize with the oppressed
  • Acknowledge personal bias, personal sin, and collective sin
  • Lament past injustices
  • Let go of shame and guilt
  • Confess
  • Offer forgiveness
  • Repent
  • Make amends
  • Restore relationships
  • Reproduce this experience

The steps aren’t easy. The conversations can be difficult. But the result of reconciliation is worth every bit of discomfort in the process.

Whether we use the metaphor of the olive tree with our Heavenly Father as the holy roots or that of the love of Christ as the bridge between a great divide, we know that we can achieve reconciliation when we set our eyes on Him.

Reconciling differences and repairing past hurts takes work. It is a holy work, a humbling work, a necessary work. If we do the work, we can achieve the unification that Paul hoped for the Romans:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and father of our Lord. Jesus Christ

Romans 15.5-6

with His love,


This is Jade.

Her drink is an iced maple cinnamon latte.

I have a special backstory with Jade because she took care of my youngest baby when I resumed part-time work at the college. I remember holding him on my hip as I listened to Jade talk with anticipation about her new role as a missionary-barista in the middle of Mormon country in Ephraim, Utah.

It’s been about three years since I saw Jade last, and she spent two of those years in her mission in Ephraim.

Last week, we sat in the shade of the mature pine and cottonwood trees and chatted about her upcoming wedding before she dove into her heart’s passion: speaking truth and love to members of the Mormon population.

Jade’s interest in the Mormon/LDS population

“When I was in high school, I had a Mormon best friend. Curious about her religion, I read the book Escape by Carolyn Jessup in which she details her disentanglement from the Mormon faith. Startled by what I read, I asked my friend if her parents were polygamists. She was furious at me. Reeling in confusion, I dove back into educating myself about Mormonism.

I learned about the different sects of Mormonism (rather, LDS, as they prefer to be called now), and though I adored my LDS friends, I discovered startling contrasts to my own faith system. Thus, my desire to witness to the LDS population began to sprout.

After a few semesters of college, I discovered Tri-Grace Ministries and their non-profit Christian coffee shop, Solid Rock Cafe, in the heart of rural, central Utah.

The coffee shop and ministry were founded almost three decades ago by Chip and Jamie Thompson who discovered that Ephraim was a region virtually untouched by Christianity.

They bought the property, and opened their doors to the non-coffee-drinking LDS population— a venture that could only be bolstered by faith.

The ministry’s foundational verse is

‘Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’

Ephesians 4.15-16, ESV

So I moved into the flat above the coffee shop and joined Tri-Grace ministries in their mission to speak the truth in love.”

Loving those who need the loving truth

“Solid Rock Cafe sits across from the predominantly LDS two-year state college, and so the clientele is college students, but not the incredibly pious LDS— they won’t find themselves in a Christian coffee shop.

The customers we see typically fall into three categories: those of non-LDS religions, those without a faith base, or on occasion, LDS who are struggling with questions.

The coffee shop has barstools at the counter where the baristas work, and individuals who are open to having a conversation will typically sit there.

Because a core tenant of our mission is to offer love, I see my role as a relational evangelist. I build relationships—genuine relationships—with whomever comes to the counter.

Building relationships looks different with each person. For instance, the college has a prominent LGBTQ+ club, and so first and foremost, I let them know that I am a safe person.

I then remind them that God loves them unconditionally. It’s an expected message from an evangelist yet one worth emphasizing.

Then, if we engage in a deeper conversation, I encourage that person to set the issues of sexuality and gender to the side in order seek identity in Him—not in sexual orientation.

Lds— an unlikely population for conversion

“A central principle of the LDS religion is “family forever,” which means that every single aspect of an LDS member’s life is entangled with that particular belief system. Meaning, if a person of LDS faith decides to convert to Christianity, it comes at high earthly costs. It means being essentially excommunicated from the church and parting from their family. If said person is married, his/her spouse is pressured to file for divorce.

The costs of leaving the LDS community are high, but Jesus is worth these high costs.

The costs of leaving the LDS community are high, but Jesus is worth these high costs.

So though I plant seeds of truth that God may bring to fruition, it takes, on average, 7-12 years for an LDS individual to fully leave the religion. So, I have to be comfortable with my role of the seed planter, and I pray to the Lord that I get to see some of the fruit when I get to heaven.”

The issue of the Bible

“One of the main points of disagreement between the LDS church and Christians is the validity of the Bible. The LDS church maintains that The Great Apostasy came over the world upon the death of the last apostle, and that the written biblical documents were altered and Jesus’ truths were removed.

If entering into a dialogue about this with someone of LDS faith, I would point out that the last apostle, John, died somewhere between 90-100AD. This means that 20-30 years prior, the biblical manuscripts were already taken away from Rome during the Jewish Diaspora.

The manuscripts would have been spread into many different lands and translated into five different languages at the point of John’s death.

Because the LDS church does not claim a supernatural cause for the alteration of the Bible, members accept that that wicked individuals found every copy of every translation and removed the same truths from each—an impossibility.

It is these kinds of discussions that make up another major tenant of our mission: to prove that the Bible is trustworthy.”

Archaeological evidence of the Bible

“The Solid Rock Cafe has a museum-style display area where Chip and Jamie have included artifacts from Israel.

Chip jokingly refers to himself as an amateur archaeologist, and he and Jamie hold tours of Israel where they walk the grounds that Jesus and the disciples walked and look at the locations of important events.

It’s their mission to have non-believers attend the tour to be able to show them earthly evidence of what is contained in the Bible. But also they love bringing Christian leaders on the trip to further equip them to teach about what they learn there.

It’s awesome to have artifacts and places to lend validity to the Bible. The LDS church does not have these things to substantiate the Book of Mormon, and it is our hope that LDS members start to believe in the credibility and trustworthiness of the Bible.”

Another opportunity for evangelism: The manti pageant

“Ephraim is close to Manti, Utah, the site of the an LDS pilgrimage and celebration called the Manti Pageant that took place for 52 years. LDS members came in thousands to watch dramatizations from the Book of Mormon. The Pageant has recently been discontinued— which I would like to credit to the slews of Christian evangelists also in attendance.

As you might imagine, evangelism can take on many forms, but we from Tri-Grace Ministries set up a bible museum in the food court with our artifacts and to continue our mission of proving the Bible as trustworthy.

“We love the LDS population and we want its members to discover a relationship with our loving God.

We want God’s love to be evident in how we speak and how we treat people.

If evangelism occurs in a non-loving way, why would the recipient want to listen?”

If evangelism occurs in a non-loving way, why would the recipient want to listen?

What’s next for jade

Jade’s wedding will take place in October to her fiancé, Mark. She gave me a sneak peek of the dress, and I gasped at its beauty.

More beautiful, though, is hearing of Jade’s plans to continue in evangelism to LDS members with her new husband. Though they both would love to live in Utah at some point, they have discovered the need for LDS-focused evangelicals right here in the Central Valley.

With God aching at the hate and divide in our country right now, undoubtedly he is pleased to see Jade developing genuine, loving relationships with those who don’t know Him.

And love is a language we all speak.

As I mentioned in my Instagram post, I was not terribly familiar with Acts before starting it. I had familiarity with the gospels, but Acts was somewhat of a mystery to me.

And to my surprise, Acts is the most action-packed collection of fantastic (and harrowing) stories of the apostles as they begin to build the Christian church against all odds.

The apostles are repeatedly punished for their proclamations of Jesus as Christ. For instance, Stephen, an apostle whose countenance was like a “face of an angel,” enters into a grand debate with religious officials from surrounding regions and proclaims the truth of the Lord (Acts 6.15, ESV). He is stoned for his actions, and as he dies he cries out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7. 59-60, ESV).

One of the witnesses of this stoning was “a young man named Saul” who “approved of [Stephen’s] execution” (7.58; 8.1, ESV).

Saul’s radical conversion

Saul grew into the champion of anti-Jesus initiatives by “ravaging the church, entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (8.3, ESV). Can you imagine? The same person who is credited with writing thirteen of our Bible’s books, once was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (9.1, ESV).

Bound for Damascus to capture and imprison more followers of Christ, Saul receives a message from Jesus:

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

Saul is on the ground, overwhelmed by the intensity of this message. Jesus asks him to rise and enter Damascus and await further instructions.

So Jesus has given Saul his first direct command: rise. And what does Saul do? Saul obeys. Saul’s rising from the ground is the first act of obedience to the Lord.

But he is instantly struck blind.

So in the very same moment that Saul follows the instruction of the Lord, his eyesight is taken from him.

Is the blindness a punishment? Perhaps an argument could be made as such.

But I would posit that his blindness is the method Jesus uses to transform him into the apostle He needs Saul to be.

His blindness is the method Jesus uses to transform him into the apostle He needs Saul to be.

The cocoon of blindness

For three days, Saul is entirely blind and neither eats nor drinks. After the third day, Jesus calls a disciple named Ananias to lay his hands on Saul and restore his sight:

Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.

9. 15-16, ESV

When Ananias lays hands on Saul, “immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight” (9.18, ESV).

Jesus could have used any method of transformation he wanted, but he chose blindness. Why? How did removing Saul’s sight aid in his transformation?

In removing Saul’s eyesight and appetite, Saul is effectively removed from distractions and a space is created for reflection and preparation.

Though it does not explicitly mention either reflection or preparation in the Bible— consider it for a second. Up until that important moment, Saul has dedicated his life to persecuting Christians, and has now undergone a polarizing change. He now believes and he is obedient.

So the Lord silences all input and allows Saul to just be still with his thoughts for three full days.

If I were Saul, I would be thinking about all of the things I had done wrong. I would be repenting and praying for forgiveness. I would be considering how I could correct my actions. I would be wondering what Jesus had in store for me next. I would be dedicating my heart to Jesus and preparing to follow his guidance.

And just as a cocoon is created around a caterpillar, blocking out everything external so it has the time and space to transform, so Saul emerges from his cocoon a completely different being.

A cocoon of reflection and of preparation.

Containment is a cocoon

And strangely, we all find ourselves in a cocoon of sorts right now, don’t we?

We had gone about our days, perhaps complacently, until the COVID-19 containment changed all of that. Suddenly, we aren’t going to work and the kids aren’t going to school. We don’t go to restaurants or the movies. We can’t even hold large-scale celebrations at the moment.

We are relegated to our most essential spaces, and our daily rhythms are completely changed.

If you have a pulse and an internet connection, you know that our society tended toward online laments and snarky memes to deal with the frustrations of this containment. And don’t get me wrong, misery loves company. I enjoyed some of the memes immensely.

But should we be using this space, this metaphorical cocoon, to reflect on our past practices and prepare for our new lives?

Some of the changes in my house have been so drastic that it is hard not to consider how things were, are, and will be.

Starting the day off right

One of the most welcome changes was abandoning the frantic morning rush out of the door. To get myself to work by 8:45, I had to wake up at about 5:45 to get everyone— myself included— fed, dressed, groomed, and packed up for the day. Three hours of scrambling just for the day to begin.

Now, our mornings are calm. My husband and I have taken to making breakfast for each other. I get to pull a sleepy boy into my lap and inhale his hair scent deeply (moms, you know exactly what I mean by the heavenly hair scent).

I’m not scolding said boy to finish his breakfast more quickly or for-the-love-that-all-is- if your shoes were in your shoe bin, they wouldn’t be missing!

If you were a young child, wouldn’t you want your day to begin with long snuggles with mom?

Having hard conversations the right way

In containment, conflict resolution has taken on a completely different M.O.

My husband and I used to rely on the space that going to work brought to diffuse arguments, and we would often resolve them via apologetic text messages.

Now, we have to look each other in the eyes and say the hard things. And listen to the hard things. These conversations are much less comfortable, but I think we move past them more quickly.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The boys no longer have entertainment already prescribed for them in the park structures or the field trips or the trampoline place. They are learning to traverse the swells of boredom which often flow into the shores of creativity.

Though the battle against the screen is one fit for only the most formidable soldiers, the boys have tapped into their creativity to make fun in the most unlikely of circumstances. They haven taken to imaginary play again. They have created an in-house slip ‘n slide with the old crib mattress, and a chalk-marked obstacle course in the front driveway.

We may in fact emerge from this cocoon with some redemption.

The shedding: what needs to be left behind?

When Saul, now Paul, finally regains his sight, he sheds layers, like fish scales, from his eyes.

This detail should not be missed. In previous accounts of men being restored to sight in the gospel, never once is this detail mentioned.

But Paul, it appears had things he needed to discard.

Things he saw— did—valued—believed— those things needed to be left behind. The butterfly does not need the cocoon after the metamorphosis. The cocoon is a necessary part of the transformation, and then it is no longer useful. The butterfly is ready to soar and leave the cocoon without ever needing to return to it.

So not only is Paul able to see again, but he is seeing through new eyes. Fresh eyes. Pure eyes.

Paul goes on to fight for Jesus with more intensity and passion than he had for condemning His followers. Paul willingly suffered for Jesus’ cause, and was able to reach so many people because of it.

I would venture to say that he could not have been such an apostle without the three days of blindness Jesus gave him to transform. He let go of what needed to go and to prepare for a new way of living.

What should we shed?

When we regain normalcy in America, what do we need to shed?

For me, it will be to determine what tasks must get done and creating time for no tasks to get done. That way, there is room for the kids to be embraced and listened to without being herded like cattle from one activity to the next.

It will be remembering to offer acts of service to my husband like making his coffee or breakfast. Sure, we can all function efficiently if we see to our own needs, but that’s not what enriches a marriage.

I will remind my sons that they don’t need someone else’s version of prescribed fun. Fun can be found with just a little bit of imagination and creativity. And your little brother who annoys you? Maybe he’s not such a bad playmate after all.

COVID-19 was not sent from God. It occurred because we live in a broken world that is not heaven. But maybe containment has some gifts in it.

I also don’t want to overlook those who have suffered significantly from the containment. I recognize that this is an incredibly difficult season for some. There may be some serious rebuilding that will occur for many Americans.

I think Paul would consider his life post-transformation righteous but excruciating. Paul suffered greatly. But so many gifts emerged from his suffering.

Is there a gift in your containment experience? Was there any unexpected beauty forged in this strange and unprecedented cocoon for you? I would love to hear about your gifts in the comments.

with His love,


This is Amanda and her husband, Alex.

Their drinks are an iced amber latte and an iced cold brew, respectively.

They are a newly married couple, and I met them at Cottonwood Park to talk about their mission with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. Well, if I am telling the whole story, I met Amanda, Alex, and a plucky little squirrel who got brazenly close to our quilt (Amanda wanted to make sure I got the part about the squirrel in there).


Amanda did most of the talking, mainly because she and I have known each other for years through the local community college.

When I asked what was on her heart, she dove right in to the work she and her husband are doing with Chi Alpha:

“I was raised in a Christian home and knew all of the biblical stories, but it wasn’t until my first missions trip to the Philippines and Indonesia that I started to really embrace the Great Commission as a command meant for me: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28.19, ESV).

I started to really embrace the Great Commission as a command meant for me

After the missions trip, I started college with a plan to be an engineer (I earned my degree in engineering from Fresno State in 2018). However, it was the Chi Alpha campus ministry that really set the trajectory for my future.

The veteran members of Chi Alpha noted my biblical knowledge and started talking to me about what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ.

The members of Chi Alpha refer to 2 Timothy 2.2 as the core of their discipleship mission: ‘You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’ (ESV).

This verse depicts how discipleship is a continuous process: Paul writes to Timothy to be strengthened by His grace and to take what he has learned and entrust it to those who can teach others. If Timothy is being mentored by Paul and will go on to teach those who can teach others, then this verse outlines four generations of discipleship.

And so this verse paired with the Great Commission have really become reflective of His plan for my life. I wrestled for a bit with letting go of the security that an engineering job would provide me, but stepped out in the faith that I am meant to be a disciple to college students along with my husband Alex.

So it is now my responsibility to witness to young adults, to share my faith, and to hopefully help non-believers find their way to the Lord.

This role challenges me in so many ways:

  • It pushes me to know the Bible better
  • It pushes me in my prayer life because I can’t do this on my own
  • It forces me to grow so much more in my faith”


I asked Amanda to give me a couple different examples of how students have responded to her attempts to help create disciples:

“I remember meeting a girl on campus who became a fast friend. I would pick her up, and we’d go hang out, share life, talk about things. I would bring her to the Chi Alpha worship services with me, and she had some powerful experiences during worship— she was really moved.

But in our conversations, I could tell that she wasn’t quite in a place to turn over her life to Jesus. If I brought up the Bible, she would tell me that she didn’t really believe that the Bible had anything to do with her life. She would say things like ‘It was written so long ago that I don’t think it really applies anymore.’

I responded by saying that I make all of my decision based on the Bible—my life choices, how I choose to treat people, etc.

When summer came, we drifted apart, and she told me she was no longer interested in coming to the Chi Alpha worship services.

I still keep up with her on social media, and she has since had a baby. In her captions she writes ‘God is good.’ Even the simple phrase ‘God is good’ implies belief in Him.

So she didn’t end up giving her life to Christ while we were ministering to her, but I believe the seeds were planted at that time like in the verse in 1 Corinthians 3:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labo

(1Corinthians 3. 6-8, NIV)

It’s up to God. I’m not in charge of anyone’s salvation, nor can I take credit if someone gives her life to Jesus. It’s all God. But I do have a purpose: to plant seeds of truth.


Creating disciples won’t always be immediate, but occasionally it can be.

After Alex and I were married, we moved to Turlock to be witnesses to students at Stanislaus State.

We received a call from a local pastor that a mother of a Stan State student was in need of someone to help support her daughter who was having a really difficult time.

So the daughter agreed to meet me and a friend of mine at a local Starbucks.

Over our coffees, my friend and I just listened to her as she poured out all of the difficulties she was undergoing. Her boyfriend had been cheating on her, so they split, and she was having problems with her roommates. She told us she was ready to quit school and move back home. She was mad at God… maybe even denying His existence because how could He let all of these things happen to her if He cared for her?

We listened to her. We reminded her that God loved her, and that He did not make those things happen to her. ‘He sees you,’ we told her, and ‘He has a plan for your life.’ We encouraged her to stick out one more semester.

She appreciated our time and our efforts, but we know she was skeptical when we parted.

Nevertheless, when we invited her to a Chi Alpha retreat in the mountains, she agreed to come. On the second night of the retreat, she had a powerful encounter with God. She ran up to me and said, ‘God is so good! I have forgiven my ex-boyfriend, and I no longer have any hurt!’

Her transformation happened so quickly! When I spoke to her recently, she told me she has given up on the types of guys she used to pursue and now looks for a man in the church with whom she can grow her faith.

She tells me she now looks for opportunities to bless people when she can. She currently works in a grocery store, and so what she can offer people is a smile to brighten their days.”

Perhaps one day she will be sitting down in a coffee shop, reaching over to pray for someone else who is ready to give up.


People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.

“Our mission is to love above everything else.

People aren’t going to want to hear about Jesus until they feel valued and cared for.

I think of the adage ‘People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.’

So with each person, I have to determine how to love them best. And because God is love, and Jesus is our savior, telling them about the good news of salvation and forgiveness is an act of love.”


Amanda and Alex have been called to pioneer a Chi Alpha chapter in Santa Cruz at UCSC. There is not a whole lot of Christian presence on that campus, and they are hoping to change that.

They move in to their new apartment in Santa Cruz next month, where they will begin their mission. Amanda says she is ‘excited to see what God does.’ I asked her what we can be praying for and she has two specific prayer requests:

1. Meeting the right students at UCSC— finding the believers who can help become the foundation for this new chapter.

This may have an added challenge if UCSC decides to close for the fall, but I know that obstacle will just bring out the couple’s creativity and resourcefulness.

2. Finding a faculty advisor— in order to be established as a campus club, a faculty member will need to act as the advisor.

Facing the Mission Shoulder-to-shoulder

Have you ever heard the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof? There is a line in it that reminds me of Amanda and Alex:

They look so natural together

Just like two newlyweds should be

There is something really special about the energy between two newlyweds who clearly belong together. Amanda and Alex sat shoulder-to-shoulder for our entire talk, turning to ask each other to confirm details or help finish the words in a verse. They talked with excitement about biking to campus together from their new apartment.

There is no doubt in my mind that Amanda made the right choice in choosing the obedient role of a disciple rather than a financially secure position in an engineering firm. And God only knows how her knowledge of engineering might come to aid her in her mission— His plans are multi-layered and released in the proper timing.

I think Alex would agree with me. And I’d like to believe our new squirrel friend would, too.

Something that struck me while reading John, which carried over from the previous three accounts of the gospel, was just how much Jesus rebelled from the standard order of things.

I don’t intend for the word rebelled to carry a negative connotation— the things he was rebelling against were not in line with God’s purpose for his people. It is a righteous rebellion.

Nevertheless, Jesus was, without a doubt, civilly disobedient.

Jesus was, without a doubt, civilly disobedient.

He broke laws and side-stepped ordinances, but he was sent by God to save the world through love and sacrifice. And so his “criminal” activity was always a result of God’s will clashing with the law of the land.

In other words, Jesus was able to distinguish between the moral laws of God and the civil and ceremonial rules that were enacted and enforced by man.

Civil Disobedience in favor of Moral Righteousness

To provide a better definition of civil disobedience and moral righteousness, I refer to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous letter written to white clergymen from a jail cell in Birmingham. In it, he explains the difference between a just law and an unjust law:

One may well ask, “how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws… Now, what is the difference between the two?… A just law is a man-made code that squares with moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.

So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court [to desegregate schools] because it is morally right, and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

Of course there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Sharach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’…It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal.

Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963

Am I saying the Pharisees were perfectly analogous to Hitler? No. The Pharisees believed they were upholding God’s commandments (albeit misguidedly) and Hitler oversaw the killing of six million Jewish people to serve his own twisted ideals of a perfect Aryan race.

But the point MLK Jr. is making is that laws of the lands are not always rooted in morality, righteousness, or the will of God.

The Pharisees Conflated God’s Commandments with Human Traditions

An early point of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees is in their condemnation of Jesus and the disciples for breaking the traditions of the elders.

For instance, in Mark 7, Jesus’ disciples are eating without first washing their hands to which the Pharisees press him for why the disciples do not “walk with the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (7.5, ESV)

Jesus responds by calling them the hypocrites prophesied by Isaiah:

This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

Isaiah 29.13 qtd. in Mark 7. 6-7, ESV

Jesus goes on to say they “leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7. 8, ESV).

He cites examples and ends with “thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7.13, ESV).

By adhering too tightly to traditions, the Pharisees made void the word of God.

What may have started out as Jewish practices rooted in piousness became detached from the word of God and became about the tradition itself. A person washing or not washing his hands before eating does not have any bearing over his heart for the Lord.

Jesus knew this and was not afraid to show the Pharisees where their practices departed from the true will of God.

The Sabbath Commandment

The crux of the law-breaking discord between Jesus and the Pharisees often involved the commandment of keeping the Sabbath holy. Jesus healed the afflicted on more than one Sabbath and the Pharisees used this as their main reason for persecuting Jesus.

To provide a little context, the law in question here is the fourth commandment, sent to Moses by God:

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God

Exodus 20:9-10, ESV

The Jews had fallen into a very legalistic sense of that commandment— meaning, they paid less attention to the spirit of the commandment (to set aside a day to rest in God) and enforced the detail of the law in an extreme and, at times, unloving manner.

Take John 5: 5-17, for example; Jesus finds himself at Bethesda, a body of water around which “a multitude of invalids” gathered. It was a colony for the diseased, who were thereby socially outcast.

Jesus found a man who had been an invalid for thirty eight years, and asked the man:

Do you want to be healed?… Get up, take your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked…The man went away and told the Jews it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was [healing] on the Sabbath

John 5. 6-9, 15-16, ESV

It seems the lawmakers of Jesus’ day believed they were the ones who determined what was and wasn’t lawful to do on the Sabbath. Jesus points out this hypocrisy in several instances.

Hypocrisy Revealed

The Pharisees condemned Jesus and the disciples for breaking laws, and yet opting for legalism over love breaks the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love each other.

We see this in Luke 14 when Jesus goes to dine at the house of a ruler, a Pharisee, on the Sabbath. Jesus encounters a man who has dropsy (called edema today, characterized by full body swelling).

Jesus heals the man while the lawyers and Pharisees watch with what I imagine to be a deafening silence.

He sends the healed man away, and then says to them:

‘Which of you having a [donkey] or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?’ And they could not reply to these things.”

Luke 14. 5-6, ESV

Jesus is pointing out their hypocrisy. Certainly the leaders would save their animals if stuck in a ditch, because in that moment they know that it is the right thing to do in the eyes of God.

In true legalistic fashion, the Pharisees viewed these commandments in black and white: if it resembles work, it is absolutely forbidden on the Sabbath and therefore punishable. But again, as Jesus quoted in Isaiah, their hearts are far from the Lord when they punish rule-breakers for making moral and loving choices.

Their hearts are far from the Lord when they punish rule-breakers for making moral and loving choices.

Mercy, not Sacrifice

A final passage that helps us understand the spirit of Jesus’ lawbreaking is found in Matthew 12:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’ He answered, ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread— which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you could not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Matthew 12. 1-8, ESV

This passage contains everything this blog post has covered— the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the legalism they uphold, and their disregard of God’s will as evidenced in his Word.

Jesus is citing Hosea 6.6 here: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” (ESV).

What good are burnt offerings if one’s heart is far from God?

Jesus is asking us to consider the will of God above any laws that seem to subvert that will or his love.

Love over legalism in our world

Years ago, in my early twenties, I remember observing a Kindergarten class during my process of obtaining a substitute teaching credential.

In the morning circle on the carpet, I watched her lean over to whisper to each child that they were loved by God.

This was in a public school— which by definition is secular and must keep any matter of church separate.

She told me at lunch that she could get in trouble for doing this, but it was a risk she was willing to take to ensure those little 5-year-olds knew how much they were loved.

Some rules are meant to be broken.

God’s love is meant to be shared.

with His love,


I will never try to convince you that you need to accumulate more things on this earth. Jesus reminds us to “…store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy.”

That being said, when we do purchase items, say, a gift for mom, we can be mindful of where our dollars are going.

Where we place our dollars is like casting a vote for what companies will prosper.

If we put our money towards Christian-based shops, we are helping those Christian shop owners prosper which will give them more resources to do good works for our Lord.

Am I saying that we should never shop at big-box stores? Not at all. I am fully aware that many consumers have limited budgets and options when it comes to their purchases. Big box stores are a blessing in those cases.

But if you do have the resources to shop small, consider buying your Mother’s Day gift from a Christian small shop this year. As we all know, small shops are hurting in this strange and unprecedented time.

I’ve put together a list of nine Christian small shops that I love and have really neat gifts to give mom this year.

I’ll tell you a little more about each one of the nine I’ve included here:

1. Sparrow Soaps

Sparrow soaps is a family goat farm in Connecticut that uses the milk from the goats to create the most beautiful bars of soap I have ever seen.

From @sparrowsoaps on Instagram

They are always posting pictures of their cute kids and friendly goats over on their Instagram page: @sparrowsoaps.

They have a whole variety of different scents/colors to choose from:

From @sparrowsoaps on Instagram

Bars run $7 a piece plus shipping, but they are running a deal right now to get 6 soaps for $35 with the code WASHYOURHANDS. That’s less than $6 for a large bar of goatsmilk soap which is incredibly nourishing for the skin.

Order by 4/30 to ensure the order arrives by Mother’s Day.

Here’s a link to their website for ordering

2. Hills and Valleys Studio

Kelleigh is a fiber artist in Mesa, Arizona offering lovely, hand-woven and hand-embroidered gifts.

from @hillsandvalleys_studio on Instagram

The florals above seem perfect for a mom who loves flowers and springtime.

She has also been featuring lots of irresistible rainbow designs for moms with a more bohemian vibe:

from @hillsandvalleys_studios on Instagram

If you know a mom-to-be or a new mom, these would be perfect in a sweet little nursery.

Smaller pieces run around $20 and some of the larger pieces are more like $50.

She does have an ETSY shop linked here, but she says most of her inventory is listed on her Instagram page @hillsandvalleys_studios

Though custom orders might take a bit too long to arrive by Mother’s Day, all of her ready-made pieces are ready to ship. Kelleigh says ordering by May 1 is safest, but she might be able to extend past that date a few days if need be.

3. Gracelaced Shoppe

Almost every reader of this blog will be familiar with Ruth Chou Simons: theologian and watercolorist who has brought the Word to life with her stunning, nature-based paintings.

A Gracelaced print in my personal collection
from the hymn This is My Story, This is My Song

It this week—Tuesday, April 21st to be exact—Gracelaced is launching a Mother’s Day collection with a variety of gifts for mom.

From @gracelaced on Instagram

This “Count it all joy” tote and top are two featured items in the collection, but they have so many other beautiful gifts to choose from: new watercolor prints, Ruth’s newest book, stickers, tea towels, mugs and dessert plates—to name a few.

Here is a link to the Gracelaced shoppe; if you check it after Tuesday, the new collection will be launched!

And if you are on Instagram, be sure to check out @ruthchousimons to see how she creates beautiful art at the intersection of the gospel and her life as a wife and mom of SIX boys (not a typo).

4. Crazy Cool Threads

Based out of Alabama, Crazy Cool Threads offers modern, faith-based apparel.

One of their newest releases is so stinkin’ cute I might need to place an order before the sale runs out:

Currently featured for $15 on

I wanted to include a budget-friendly option for daughters and sons who want to buy something for mom but money is tight:

$2.50 on Crazycoolthreads .com

Their stickers come in at $2.50 each and are coated with laminate if your mom wants to adorn her favorite tumbler with one.

You can browse all of the shirts and accessories at or find the company on Instagram @crazycoolthreads.

To ensure delivery on time, the company asks for orders to be placed 12 days prior to the date needed. So have these orders in by April 27th.

5. Antique Candle Co.

I don’t think I can state enough just how much I love this company! I have been a customer of Antique Candle Co for a few years now, and I was drawn to it because the company keeps Christ at the center of its narrative.

The founder of the company, Brittany, started this company with $200 worth of candle making supplies and faith. Six years later, she employs a team of 32 who hand-pour each candle in Lafayette, IN. They use domestic soybeans and non-toxic fragrance oils to ensure a quality product.

16 oz. Country Pear by cottonstem from @antiquecandleco on Instagram

I use the candles in almost all of my giveaways, and I have a rotating selection of my own favorites.

They are seasonally-driven, so expect fresh, fruity scents in the spring and summer and warm, cozy scents for the fall and winter.

8 oz Georgia Peach candle @antiquecandleco on Instagram

On their website, wax melts are $6, 8oz. mason jar candles are $20, and 16oz mason jar candles are $29. They do run occasional sales, and they offer 15% off your first order if you subscribe to their email list.

The antique part of their name comes from their practice of finding antique treasures (tins and copper vessels) and filling them with soy candle goodness. Each antique find runs more than the mason jar prices above, but you may just score a tin that strikes nostalgia with your mom:

Find the full collection at and follow their Instagram @antiquecandleco where they keep Christ at the center of their mission.

6. Birch Fine Tea

This is a new company to me, but it seemed like a great choice for the mom who loves loose-leaf tea.

from @birchfinetea on Instagram

Based out of North Carolina, Birch Fine Tea offers gourmet specialty teas in 2oz increments. Most bags run between $9-$15 and right now they are offering free shipping. Check out their collection of teas on their website.

From @birchfinetea on Instagram

Imagine a bag of special tea paired with a sweet little tea steeper. Steeper? Ok, I just looked it up — tea infuser.

Order by May 1st for Mother’s Day delivery.

7. Dandelions in December

Shiela is an artisan who uses resin to preserve treasures from nature. She is known for her preserved floral jewelry items that come in several different casings.

The wooden casing collection from @dandelionsindec on Instagram
The necklaces run around $38

Sheila likes to include references to scripture in her works as well. She has several pendants that include a mustard seed to represent Jesus’ reminder that even a little bit of faith can change everything.

Recently she collaborated with Natalie, from Vintage Porch, to create a necklace inspired by the verse: “Truly, I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move” Matthew 17.20

The “Natalie” necklace from @dandelionsindec on Instagram

The necklace is priced at $43 but is currently 20% off with code VINTAGEPORCH20. Click here to go to Sheila’s website

Sheila tells me that all orders placed by April 30th will arrive in time for Mother’s Day.

8. Nickel and Suede

I am so glad a colleague at work clued me in to this company. They are posited as the original leather earrings, and the founder is a Christian boy mom just like me!

Leather earrings are lightweight so that they don’t overtax your earlobes, and you can size up for the statement earrings.

The new “Sedona” style earring runs $45 and comes in three sizes

Though Nickel + Suede is known for the teardrop shape, they now offer so many different styles of earring to suit a whole range of tastes.

Rosé disc statement earrings run $39

The company offers free shipping on orders of $50+ and if you order by April 27th, you will allow plenty of time for delivery by Mother’s Day.

9. Harper Grayce signs for locals in the CA valley

I love a local shout-out!

Jen from Harper Grayce makes the coolest rustic wooden signs to order. In fact, a year ago, we commissioned her to make a sign for my mother-in-law from all of the grandkids’ self-portraits:

Image from @harpergrayce on Instagram

The sign is featured proudly in her new kitchen and preserves their little imperfect drawings.

If you are local and have a handwritten message for your mom, Jen can create a gorgeous one-of-a-kind sign for her.

Image on @harpergrayce on Instagram

Custom designs start at $75 and price is based on the type of sign and the complexity of the custom art.

Start creating at; local pick-up in Clovis.

I hope this list inspired you to get your mom something special while also supporting a Christian small shop.

If you know of a Christian small shop you would like me to feature on my Instagram, reach out to me @thestoneandtheoak.

Love hard on those mamas this year— even if it is from six feet away.

with His love,