My Testimony: He Softened My Heart

2 Corinthians 5-21When I first began this blog, I knew I wanted to talk about my relationship with Jesus Christ. But, I did not know to what capacity or frequency this would occur.

I had faith in Jesus when I started this blogging journey. But, I wouldn’t say it was secure. My faith often wavered. I am not ashamed to say this either.

Even though I began this journey with wavering faith, I still knew that without Jesus Christ, the blog would not exist. Ultimately, He always has been and always will be the purpose and life behind my blog.

When I began my blog over two years ago, I had only been consciously and actively walking with Jesus for a brief time. It was at this time that God was no longer an afterthought. Instead, He slowly became the forefront of my life.

Growing up, I heard about Jesus at church and vacation Bible school. I even heard about Him from friends and family. Even though I vividly remember accepting Him into my heart at the age of eight or so, I did not fully grasp what I had done. I did not fully grasp what it meant to walk with and trust in Jesus. In fact, it took quite a few times of proclaiming to know Him for me to understand the magnitude of what I’d done.

All this to say, fast forward 15 years since eight-year-old me accepted Jesus into her heart. I am ready to blatantly share with you who Jesus is and why I cling to Him and trust Him wholeheartedly. I am ready to share with you about my precious Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.

Part of the reason why I struggled to blatantly share about Jesus Christ prior this moment is because I did not feel confident in my ability to do so. But, God has laid this deep desire on my heart to share. He has helped me realize it is not about my ability to do so. It is about Him. So, even if I don’t get all my words right, I know God will use this for His good and glory.

I will be using the lyrics from the song The Gospel Changes Everything by Meredith Andrews to help share The Good News. For, I am someone who often uses music to deeply connect with God.

The song opens with the verse:

The gospel changes everything,

The turning point in history.

Even now, it’s changing me

From who I was.

Yes, the Gospel changes everything. It truly is the turning point in history.

Before I knew Christ, I was separated from God because of sin. We are all born in total depravity and sin. We are dead in our sins and trespasses until we are made alive in Christ.

The next verse of the song proclaims:

The story of my Savior calls

Me to the wonder of the cross.

The gospel changes everything

And it is changing me.

Indeed, the story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross.

Even though we are dead in our sins and trespasses, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for our sins.

He sent His perfect, sinless Son to save us from our sins. He sent His Son to take our place, so we do not have to spend eternity separated from God.

The song later proclaims:

You saved my soul

By Your blood

And I’m undone

By Your great love.

You made a way,

So I could come

Just as I am

To You, my God.

Yes, Jesus Christ did save our souls by His blood.

In Isaiah 53, Jesus is called the suffering servant. For, without uttering a word, He led Himself to His death. He did not argue. He did not fight. He let those that He came to save oppress Him and judge Him. He was despised, rejected, and scorned by the people He came to save.

Isaiah 53 4-6 declares:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging, we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

I would like to point out the phrase by His scourging. Scourging is not a pleasant word. Scourging means He had a painful death.

In this death, He was spit on, He was whipped, He had his clothes torn from His body. He had nails pierced through Him and He clung to a wooden cross. He was crucified.

But, I tell you, dear friends, there is hope in this painful message.

For, not only did Jesus die on a cross for our sins, He rose again from the grave so that we could one day know Him intimately and personally. He rose from the grave three days after His death, so that we could spend eternity with God.

For, Isaiah 53:11 declares:

As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us (Romans 8:34). Instead of seeing us as broken, sinful people apart from God, God sees those who choose to believe in Him as Redeemed, beloved children because of His Son.

In my own life, in high school, I was a cynical, hard-hearted person. I resented God and wanted nothing to do with Him. I thought He did not love me with an everlasting love because of all the trials I had been through, specifically starting my life as an orphan in Russia.

However, God began a new work in me. He chipped away my anger and frustrations towards other people and situations that were out of my control. He softened my heart.

Now, I strive to love people as Jesus loves me. I strive to find my peace and comfort in Him, rather than any person or situation. Now, I see Him as a loving Father who will never abandon me like my biological parents did.

He had a plan when I was an orphan. He has a plan today, as I find myself happily married. He has a plan for the future and whatever trials and joys come my way.

No, I do not have a perfect walk with the Lord, but I know that, in Him, I am beloved, cherished, adored, protected, cared for, and so much more. If you’d like to hear more about my testimony, comment and let me know.

So, what are we to do with all this? What are we to do with this truth? What are we to do with The Good News?

We are to cling to it. We are to trust in Jesus Christ and accept Him into our lives. We are to trust that He died and rose again.

We are to accept that we are sinful people who deserve eternal damnation. But, instead, we have a God, who loves us so much, that He was pleased to crush His Son, for the sake of man and for His glory.

We are to proclaim the Gospel and spread The Good News to the ends of the earth by obeying the call of the Great Commission. We are to tell people that one day each of us will stand face to face with God. We will either see Him as our Judge or as our Savior.

We are to fight the good fight of faith. We are to run the race. We are to spend our lives on this Earth wholly dedicated to Him until the day we see Him face to face and He declares, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

No, this does not mean we won’t be sinless people once we accept Jesus into our lives. Nor does it mean that our lives will miraculously become easier. Walking with Him is a daily commitment of repentance and turning from sin. Walking with Him means going through trials and tribulations and moments of joy, all intended to bring us closer to Him.

Thankfully, it also means, just as God has changed my life, He can change yours. We can live a life dying to ourselves and striving to be more like Jesus each day. Most importantly, we can be assured that we serve a God who is with us until the end of the age.

Lastly, I tell you:

Accepting Him into your heart does not have to be anything fancy. You can simply pray:

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for sending your Son to die for my sins. Please forgive me for my sins. I trust in You. I want to follow You with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.

In Jesus name, Amen.

I pray that even one of you would be touched by this. I pray that God would use this post to bring you closer to Him. I pray that you would run towards the underserved, redeeming love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you want to know more about Jesus and what the suffering servant that He is, I would encourage you to read Isaiah 53 in its entirety. Also, please do not hesitate to ask me questions. No, I am not a theologian or pastor. Nevertheless, I am a young woman after God’s own heart, who longs to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world in the best way I know how—by writing about it and sharing my story.

Blessings,

Renata

Confronting Death: We Are But Vapors

James 4-14As I sit down to write this, I find my heart hurting in a way I never thought it could. My heart aches and pains for two people I barely knew. It throbs me to my core.

For the first time in my life, I know what it is like to deeply, uncontrollably cry over the loss of a stranger. I don’t know what it is about these deaths that are so different than all the others I have experienced.

Maybe it is because these people were young and after God’s heart.

Maybe it is because these people were just starting a new life together as husband and wife.

Maybe it is because, even though I did not know these people, I know they loved God wholeheartedly.

Maybe it is because their deaths are a reminder that God gives and takes away, whether we be young or old.

Maybe it is because earlier this week marked two years since some dear friends of mine lost their mother to cancer.

Maybe it is because, even though I have never lost someone unexpectedly, I do know what it is like to go through a whirlwind trial—to wake up in the morning at peace, yet go to bed lost in a sea of confusion.

Maybe it is because we serve a God who declares, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9.

Maybe it is because we serve a God who also declares, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –  Romans 8:38-39.

As I grow older, I learn more and more each day, life is not absolute. Death is inevitable, for we are not invincible. We are but vapors in this life. I am at peace with this, for I know Jesus Christ will call me home. I am at peace because my heart longs for Jesus’ second coming. My heart longs for His will to be done.

I can mourn in strangers’ deaths and rejoice because they are home with Jesus Christ. I can understand and fully grasp that death is inevitable, but still hurt for those I do not know, especially those who do not know Jesus.

Although I understand death is inevitable, it does not change the pain that follows it. It does change the heartache and confusion.

So, whether I go home with my Savior in His second coming or I go with Him beforehand, I know my death and life have a purpose. My inevitable death and my life have a purpose in Jesus Christ.

It is because of this purpose I find in Jesus Christ that I will never shy away from talking about death on this blog. It may be an uncomfortable topic, but it needs to be made known. May this verse of the song In Christ Alone be the cry of all our hearts this day and forevermore:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home,

Here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand.

I pray for every one of you reading this. I pray that God would bring you to Himself. I pray that if you have been running from Him, that you would run no more. For, we never know our last day on this earth. Our days on this earth are short compared to the magnitude and permanence of eternity.

I pray that God would open your heart to His everlasting love. I pray that you find peace and comfort in death. I pray that you find peace beyond understanding and relentless joy for God, the Father.

Blessings,

Renata

Lessons Learned: God Protects

Psalm 18-2

My husband and I have our anniversary next week. It’s crazy to think that when I started this blog, we were only dating. Now, here we are, married for nearly two years. Time really does fly by. Before I know it, we’ll be celebrating 50 years together, Lord willing.

We have learned a lot in two years. We have gone through our fair share of trials in two years. Each event that we have gone through, good and bad, has brought us closer together. As I’ve mentioned throughout portions of this blog, I found myself in a deep pit about a year and a half ago.

Within the first six months of our marriage, we had quite the rollercoaster ride. As I continue to process that event and everything that has happened, one major lesson sticks out to me. In these nearly two years of marriage, God has taught me He is a protector. He has taught me His grace and goodness are rich and sweet.

In the middle of chaos and the pit I found myself in, my marriage only deepened. That isn’t to say we didn’t have our trying times. Believe me, we did. In fact, there was a time in the middle of it all that I questioned if I believed in God. There was a time I hit rock bottom.

Looking back now, I realize:

God protected my marriage in the chaos.

My marriage remained sweet and kind.

My marriage was true and genuine, even as I found myself surrounded in a pit filled with lies.

My marriage was strong, even as all the other relationships I thought were strong began to crumble.

My marriage was God-breathed and God-given.

Even as I look back at the time before I got married, I can see God’s hand in my life. I can see Him protecting me from the trial to come, in order to bring my husband and me together as one.

I can see Him knowing me and loving me so well in His perfect timing. I can see a God who is so much stronger and mightier than I will ever be able to fully comprehend.

I slowly experienced God’s presence and protection in a way I had never felt or understood it before.

It took going through the pit for me to see God for the protector, shield, and defender that He is and always will be. It took walking through a deep valley in the first year of marriage for me to understand the power of God’s perfect timing.

Although I still do not fully understand why this trial took place, I do understand God on a deeper heart level than before I found myself in a pit. I may never know why the trial occurred. I am slowly starting to understand that it does not change what I have learned or what I will continue to learn from the trial, nor does it change who God is.

I tell you this: As I walk into my third year of marriage soon, I have a greater reverence for God. I stand in awe of His goodness and undeserved grace. I surely do not have marriage or the Christian walk figured out, but I do know Him deeper and more intimately today than I did two years ago. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Blessings,

Renata

Why I Study Communication

Good-communication-is-quoteOf all the posts I have made on this blog, I have yet to explain why I am studying communication for my bachelor’s degree. I think I once convinced myself that it was not an important detail or it wasn’t worth mentioning. Nevertheless, as each class goes by, I realize it’s not an utterly useless post. After all, this blog is a testament to my life and my past, present, and future experiences. Besides, the answer might surprise you.

As I’ve mentioned countless times, I studied English Literature in junior college, which I loved. I even considered studying English Literature for my bachelor’s degree. Actually, I would’ve double majored in English literature and communication had I stayed at the school I attended for a semester right after taking a gap year. But, that school simply wasn’t a good fit for me.

After weeks of searching and some more weeks filled with waiting for a new semester to roll around, I committed to a school. I found a university I liked and I stuck with communication. I chose to stick with communication because it deeply interested me. Plus, I knew I wanted the major to complement my associate’s degree.

At this new school, I had to decide between English and communication, unless I wanted to be there for years on end. I only take one class at a time since I work full-time as well. I knew myself well enough that I wanted a change of pace. Plus, I didn’t want an extremely specific degree. I thought communication was the happy medium—specific, yet general.

Most importantly, I chose to study communication, not because I have communication all figured out. I can assure you, I don’t. I chose to study it because I knew no matter what profession or career I had, I would need to communicate with others, whether it be face-to-face or virtually, or in a group or on a team.

I think a lot of people tend to believe, “Why in the world would someone need to study communication? We do it every day. It’s fairly common sense. There’s no need to devote an entire degree to it.” To those people, I say, we need to study communication because it is such a big part of our everyday lives.

In fact, I knew that if any part of me thought I was a good communicator, I needed to take the plunge.

I am about halfway through my degree plan and let me tell you, I am content with my choice. Although the degree has more busy work than I’d like, I have learned a great deal from it. Studying communication challenges me to find a better way to say something. It challenges me to constantly reflect on how my attitudes and behaviors affected an encounter.

It brings me out of my comfort zone. It brings my tendencies, behaviors, and thought attitudes to light. It humbles me and pushes me to be better. I am intentional about putting to use what I’ve learned. This degree isn’t just about me. It’s about myself and how I interact with others.

Now, I don’t think this degree of study is for everyone, but I do think everyone can grow in their communication skills with and without a degree. Nevertheless, I do think it is important to find a degree that excites you, yet also challenges you.

Furthermore, I challenge you to go outside of your comfort zone with your degree if at all possible, whether it is the school you attend or the way you obtain it (online or on campus). If it seems a little overwhelming or impossible at first, that probably means you are heading in the right direction.

Blessings,

Renata

 

Life with Cerebral Palsy: Dealing with Comments

1 Samuel 16-7I am going to be honest with you, guys. I had another blog post idea in mind for this week. In fact, I’ve been thinking about the post for nearly a week now, so it’s definitely something I want to discuss. But, something came up. Some other idea announced itself like a megaphone. It was clear my original post idea for the week needed to be put on a hold.

Now, you find me here. Something happened to me today that I didn’t think would rub me as much as it did. Something deeply pained me more than I was willing to let on. I have previously talked about my life with cerebral palsy in various posts and faucets. As I look back on one of my posts about life with cerebral palsy, I ran across a line I wrote that said, “I let go of the rude comments people made to me in middle school.”

Reading that line today stung a little bit and not for the reasons one may think. Indeed, I have let go of the comments people made to me in middle school. As I’ve lived more life and more days with my disability, I’ve learned that what was said to me in middle school was coming from people who were in the same boat as me at the time—just trying to figure out hormones and who they were.

But, that line stung a little bit because it made me realize that comments about my disabilities were not, in fact, going to stop in middle school. They just weren’t. In fact, I dealt with a comment today. And it hurt. It hurt a lot more than I thought it would. This person asked me if I would be normal after having physical therapy. In response, I said, I would let the comment go.

Nevertheless, it’s been much harder to let go of what it stands for and what it reminds me of. It is my reminder that I will constantly be around people who do not understand or have any idea what it is like to be disabled. I will constantly be around people who do not know how to behave around those who are different than them.  This does not end in middle school. In fact, it only continues and gets worse.

I can vividly recall three instances in my adult life when someone blatantly made a comment about my disability without second-guessing. I can vividly recall how I felt in each of those moments. I can vividly recall how angry and hurt I felt. I can vividly recall wanting to explain myself or say something but not knowing how.

Today, one of those instances occurred.

And it hurt.

It hurt deeply.

It did not hurt because I was ashamed of my disability. It hurt because it was evident this person viewed me as something other than “normal” or capable because of it.

I am still trying to process it all now. Even if I don’t have all my thoughts together, it’s worth discussing.

Truthfully, I find my heart breaking not only for myself but also the people who have ever made a comment or glanced at me awkwardly because of my disability. I find my heart breaking for these people because they are missing out on so much.

They are missing out on getting to know me on a heart level. They are missing out on the beauty of Jesus’ grace. I can let go of hurtful comments because I know who I am in Christ. I can let go of snide remarks because I embrace my disability.

But, it is extremely hard for me to know there are people who have such a skewed view of people and this world. It is extremely hard for me not to spend hours wondering who or what may have led these people to believe it is acceptable to see others only for their impairments and nothing more.

So, I am in a bit of a tough place right now. These comments don’t happen often, or at least to my knowledge, but the sting gets worse each time. But, not for me. No, it gets worse for the people who fail to see me beyond my disability.

If you’ve ever had a comment made to you because of your disability, just know you are not alone. Also, know that those comments do not define you, nor does your disability. It may be part of your story and God’s plan for your life, but it does not define you.

May we all find the courage to see others for their heart and not their outward appearance or impairments.

Blessings,

Renata

Living with My Husband: Worth the Wait

Lamentations 3-25In the past week, I’ve thought a great deal about how wonderful it is to live with my husband. I recently took a stroll through our apartment. In that stroll, I couldn’t help but thank God for the life He has given me. Yes, it has had its fair share of trials, tribulations, heartbreaks and everything in between. But, they all led me to where I am now.

Now, I am married to a sweet man, whom I deeply love and cherish, whom I also live with, which still blows my mind to this day. Don’t get me wrong, I lived with others before, especially coming from a big family and simply having junior college roommates.

But, I had never lived with a guy until I married my husband. I mean, I began my wedding day living on my own and ended it living with my husband. As a Christian believer, I chose to not live with my husband until we were married. I realize not everyone will agree with our decision, but it is what God called us to.

In a way, I relate to Monica on Friends when she realizes she’s living with a boy. She freaks out a little, no matter how prepared she may think she is. I freaked out a little just because it was new for me, not because I didn’t want it to happen. I knew it was part of God’s plan for my life once I married my husband. For that, I was grateful.

Needless to say, it took quite the adjustment to live with him. When I say with him, I mainly mean it took quite the adjustment to get used to living with someone of the opposite gender. Plus, there was the added notion of sharing nearly everything with him. It was much different than any other living situation I previously encountered, where there are still boundaries.

Yes, we have had to get used to our fair share of quirks and habits. For instance, my hair sheds everywhere. Or, he has to place his keys in the same spot when coming home from work each day. Or, I prefer to take showers first on the weekdays, but not on the weekends.

We’ve also had to find a balance between house chores and errands, especially since we only have one car. Regardless of our vehicle count, though, we had to find a balance because we are a team. We are united as one in holy matrimony.

Not only have we had to find a balance between chores and whatnot, but it took quite a bit to find a “me time” routine. You know, a routine set apart for both of us to spend time by ourselves to relax and unwind. As introverts, we need that time to ourselves to recharge.

Nevertheless, just as we needed to find time to recharge our introverted battery, we also needed to be intentional about spending time together. When I say time together, I don’t just mean sit on the couch and watch a show either. Although, that is nice. I mean, get a little dressed up, go out, enjoy a meal and maybe a game of mini golf. Indeed, go on a date and enjoy each other’s company.

It can be so easy to let the busyness of life go by. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I live with this person. We should have no problem spending quality time together.” Our nearly two years of marriage have taught us that is a lot harder than one might think, especially with me still in school.

Thankfully, we’ve done a decent job of making time for each other. We’ve learned to say no for the sake of us, no matter how much we want to say yes and add another event to our schedule. I continuously learn each day why it is so important to make time for each other, whether we’ve been married two years, twenty-five years, or fifty years.

My call to you is this: If you’ve lived with your spouse for only a short while, be patient. Let the kinks and quirks of living together work out. It will take time. But, it is incredibly sweet, so don’t try to rush it. It’s another part of your lives as one. Cherish those funny moments as you figure life out together.

If you’ve lived with your spouse for a long while, go on a date. Yup, go on a date. Don’t let your everyday routine get in the way of your sweet bond in marriage.

And whether you are married or dating, may Jesus always be the center of your relationship. May He be first in your lives. May He guide your footsteps and ways. Don’t let the judgment of others stop you from waiting until marriage to live together.

God’s blessing for waiting is as sweet as honey, dear friends.

Blessings,

Renata

 

 

Take Time to Reflect: Let Moments Linger

Time stands still - Brian Andreas quote

The other day, I had someone say something to me that deeply encouraged me. It was one of those comments one can easily brush past in the moment. But, when reflecting on it later, you begin to realize the impact it had on you. The same can be said for comments that may not be as encouraging.

In God’s timing, these two types of comments happened in one day. During part of the day, I was greatly encouraged and my heart was full of gladness. During another part, my heart ached.

I’ve never understood the part of life where it is natural to reflect on a situation later and see it much differently than you do in the moment. I’ve never understood why I tend to learn more about a situation in the 12 hours directly following it than any other time. Maybe this is because I am constantly trying to be more aware of what I say to whom and when. I also deeply value understanding all that people say to me, good and bad.

I am notorious for constantly adding commentary here and there about an event or experience well after it has occurred. It can be awhile before I feel like I’ve said all I can say. Maybe this is because I want to glean all that I can from life experiences. Part of that gleaning means deciding if I need to reach out to someone or if my afterthoughts are to be kept to myself.

I guess one could say I see the importance of making the most of an event or situation for all parties involved before I consider it in the past. I am a believer in telling someone thank you for this or that days later. I believe in saying thanks, period, even if it may be at an awkward or unnatural moment.

I believe in living life in the moment. But, I also believe in moments lingering on for a while afterward.

There is nothing wrong with making the good moments last a little longer. For instance, my engagement and wedding day lasted longer by all the people who asked me about them. It seemed like I relieved those precious moments, thus, in a way, making them last longer.

I think God teaches us how to live life in the moment by making a moment last longer in our thoughts. Again, I understand this can be for good or bad moments. I think in this lingering God strives to teach us more about ourselves and our behaviors as well as more about Himself and who He is.

All this to say, I believe it is important to reflect on circumstances as they happen, 12 hours after, or even days or years after. Most importantly, it is important to tell those who unknowingly say the right thing at the right time thank you.

My call to you is this: Live life in the moment. But, do not be afraid to let moments linger, the good and the bad. God uses the good and bad to draw us closer to Him with a heart of thanksgiving. It may take some time realize what exactly God intended in those moments, but the lessons are there if we choose to be open to them.

Blessings,

Renata