Summer Resolutions

I refuse to make New Year’s resolutions in January because chances are, I will never keep them. They just seem so ominous and unrealistic, usually involving a transformation in lifestyle and habits. January 1st seems like such a random day, to me. Yes, the calendar year changes, but in actuality nothing is significantly altered, other than the fact that we have partied for a month and a half throughout the various holidays, and probably gained 15 pounds in the process. Hence all the diet and exercise resolutions that Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym take advantage of 😉

But today is different. Today marks the beginning of my summer schedule, which means I’m not working the same type or amount of hours as during the school year. Instead, I will be compacting all my private lessons into two days a week for the months of June and July. Therefore, I am looking forward to having two months of, well, a bunch of free time, and I want to use it well! So here are my resolutions for my summer:

  1. I will prioritize spending time with my family. I will have fun with Gabriel (I anticipate lots of trips to the pool), have plenty of picnics, go to the lake, play games, and have meaningful conversation with every member of my beautiful, loved family.
  2. I will clean and de-clutter my house. I’ll start with closets. I foresee many trips to the donation drop-off at Goodwill. I will, hopefully, tackle drawers and cupboards, and who knows, maybe even the laundry room!
  3. I will deep-clean my house. Once.
  4. I will cook more. My family will definitely appreciate that.
  5. I will take more time to write and compose.
  6. I will start and finish a book to help me grow spiritually.
  7. I will start and finish a book to read for fun.
  8. I will spend more time with friends, which will not be hard, considering I have barely done that lately.
  9. I will venture out more. I will take time to go places around this beautiful city and state, see new sites, and learn more about this culture and history.
  10. I will NOT stress if I don’t achieve the previous 9 nine things I’ve set out to do. Instead, I will be happy if I accomplish 50% of it and satisfied if I reach 75%.

I shall write a follow-up post at the end of the summer with actual, tangible actualization of my resolutions. How’s that for accountability? 😉

These are pictures of my summers during the past two years of our life in VA. I have very good memories attached to every single one of these:

Summer 2013 in DC

2 years ago at Sunday Park

2 summers ago at Sunday Park

Goofing off with this goof

Summer 2013 at Yorktown

Summer 2013 at Yorktown

Gabriel at the pool in Brandermill

Gabriel at the pool in Brandermill

2 summers ago at Jamestown with my brother and his beautiful family <3

2 summers ago at Jamestown with my brother and his beautiful family ❤

With Geneva and Daniel at a Flying Squirrels game. Best fireworks in town.

With Geneva and Daniel at a Flying Squirrels game. Best fireworks in town.

Last year in DC

Last year in DC

2 summers ago at Sunday Park

Last summer at Sunday Park

2 days ago on a date with my beautiful mother to the VMFA

2 days ago on a date with my beautiful mother to the VMFA

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To the unmarried, Christian teenage girl who is pregnant:

I am proud of you.

Despite glances, gossip, and open criticism, you have chosen life.

Some have looked down on you for not terminating your pregnancy, making the assumption that the choice of birthing a child at such a young age will result in nothing but failure for you and for your child. Others have felt scandalized and even doubted that your faith in God is living and well, and have treated you as if your pregnancy made you unworthy of God’s love and grace.

You have felt ashamed as you have disobeyed the Word of God, which you have desired to follow throughout your life, and now your lack of judgement is worn on the outside, for all to see.

Yet, you have not chosen the “easy” way. You have wisely understood that despite your weaknesses, mistakes, and sinfulness, you have received a gift from God: the gift of life. You have decided that this life is more important than your social standing and reputation. You have put your life on hold and have made sacrifices and changes in order to carry and nurture this baby.

If you decide to parent this baby, you may give up your old dreams and replace them with new ones; you will live for another person and adjust your direction in life. It will be costly. If you chose to bless another family with the life of your child, by choosing adoption, you will suffer separation, yet you will be content in knowing your child will be well loved and cared for. It will also be costly. No matter the choice, you have willingly signed up for a very difficult task, and you have put the life of your baby over yours, and have shown tremendous maturity and displayed the heart of God for each one of his children.

I am proud of you.

So stand tall and rejoice in your choice. Do not let anyone bring you down. Life is a gift from God. Always. You inspire me to be brave and courageous.

I pray for God to fill you with his spirit, so you can obey him always, persevere in suffering, repent when needed, forgive when called for, pray constantly, and trust him in all circumstances.

Cancer

This morning I went to the infusion center to get iron pumped into my blood. Being at the cancer center was sobering. While in the waiting room, I picked up a book called Lilly Oncology on Canvas: Expressions of a Cancer Journey. This book highlights selections from the 2012 Art Competition and Exhibition. I love art (can’t draw or paint to save my life but I can appreciate it when I see it), so I went through every page during my 45 minute stay.

Lilly Oncology on Canvas

I thought of my dear friends who have lost loved ones to cancer. I thought of those I know, some closer than others, who are currently fighting the battle. I thought of relatives and friends of cancer patients who suffer alongside them. My heart ached. I prayed. I read the stories behind these works of art created by either cancer patients and their loved ones or caregivers. There were heart wrenching stories of death and suffering. There were also many stories of victory over cancer, new life, hope, and gratitude.

I noticed a common thread from cancer survivors: a new-found appreciation for life. I read words such as “celebration”, “thankfulness”, and “newness”. I read stories of holding family closer, listening more, not taking things or people for granted, treasuring every moment, and feeling happiness in the smaller things. As horrible as cancer is, people who go through it can often find a new way to see the world around them. What a gift. What a horrible, awesome gift.

As I write this, I pray and hope that my cancer-ridden friends find complete remission and healing, as well as supernatural strength to endure and conquer. I pray they will be filled with faith and hope, and come out on the other side, knowing God better, understanding life more fully, and appreciating every moment. I also pray for myself and my loved ones – the ones who are cancer free – My hope is that we also live as if life is a gift, because it is, and that we are able to celebrate it and enjoy it, because we just never know what the future has in store. Life is precious and should not be taken for granted. May we not waste a day, but find purpose and fulfillment in living, until God takes us home.

What I Didn’t Know About Snow Until I Moved to Virginia

Things I never knew, and liked, about snow until I moved to Virginia:

  • Snow swirls. Unlike rain which falls straight down, snow is light and dances as it makes its way to the ground. It’s quite mesmerizing, actually.
  • It’s loose and fluffy, but at the same time, it sticks together and packs itself up. It disintegrates in your hand, but it can easily be compacted into a ball. If the surface on which it falls is cold enough, it will stick to it, no matter what the incline is. It is beautiful to wake up to white roofs and tree branches, yet easy enough to brush it off your car (of course, this is without ice, which is a whole different story).
Back porch

Back porch

My front yard, this morning.

My front yard, this morning.

  • I’m happy we only get snow a few times a year in central VA. Snow is pretty when it’s fresh off the sky. Yet, it can turn ugly while it sits there for days, making everything more cold and more wet than you want it to be. So, again, glad it doesn’t happen that much where I live, because I can see how it would be really easy to get tired of it. I’m grateful it is few and far between; it’s enjoyable and sporadic enough to maintain its magic.

Undisturbed, fluffy blanket

  • Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of falling snow is how silent it is. I’m used to rain storms, with loud drops of water coupled with roaring thunder. But snow is simply quiet. Everything is quiet. Animals are quiet. Traffic quiets. The world seems to stop and sit still. Waiting. Watching. It’s captivating. There is truly nothing like it.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

  • Snow reflects light, like crazy! Nights full of snow are absolutely gorgeous. The slightest hint of light drives away darkness. During the day, if it’s sunny, the reflected light is almost blinding. It gives me hope, remembering that in the cold and in the dark, God can, and often does, send heavenly provision that brightens life.
  • Snow days (at least in Central VA) = mandatory rest days :). Schools close and businesses often do the same. Since my husband works on a school schedule, if the local community college closes, his job closes as well. So yay for family time on snow days! Snow days = playing outside, bonding with the kids, reading, blogging, and board games.
  • OK, OK, I will include one thing which I don’t like about snow. It’s messy. It gets on your shoes which eventually gets into your house or your car, wetting everything. And if there happens to be salt on the floor (which happens outside of business and stores to prevent slipping), that stuff will stick to your shoes and stain your floors. Yup. I really dislike that aspect of snow. But considering it’s an occasional nuisance, it’s not so bad, after all.
3 layers of socks before venturing out

3 layers of socks before venturing out

Snow selfie, of course 😉

Daniel tried to go out driving but got stuck on our street 😛

My handsome men (minus one)

Stephano, the snowdude

My baby and I with Stephano ❤

Elise graduated from high school. I graduated from homeschooling.

Two days ago we officially celebrated Elise’s high school graduation. It was a lovely afternoon with lovely friends and lots of sappy moments. It was a time to express our love and support of Elise, and very sweet and encouraging words were spoken.

It was also the end of an era, for me personally. I have completely finished homeschooling my children. It’s hard for me to believe that this was my life for 20 years! I am so very grateful for the honor and privilege I’ve had to educate my kids at home. It hasn’t all been good. Not all fun. But it has been worth it, a blessing, and something I would do all over again if given the chance.

But enough of that. I spent a couple of days putting together a video of pictures of Elise. It’s a long, 24 minute video, which I don’t expect anyone to watch. I put it here because I want to keep it in my page. I will watch it many times because I find meaning and memories in each one of those pictures (but seriously, I don’t expect anyone else to put themselves through 24 minutes worth of adorable pictures ;))

So with tears of gratitude, I give God the honor and glory for his goodness and mercy in our lives. Despite the difficulties and challenges, He has demonstrated his faithfulness day after day. Soli Deo Gloria.

The Twelve Months of 14K

On the first month of 14K my true love gave to me, a house full of fun-loving teens

     

On the second month of 14K my true love gave to me, lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

   

On the third month of 14K my true love gave to me, great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow,

And a house full of fun-loving teens

On the fourth month of 14K my true love gave to me, reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

 On the fifth month of 14K my true love gave to me, Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

     

On the sixth month of 14K my true love gave to me, road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

On the seventh month of 14K my true love gave to me, hot Miami sun

Road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

    

On the eighth month of 14K my true love gave to me, photo shoots and birthdays

Hot Miami sun

Road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

     

On the ninth month of 14K my true love gave to me, Tom Sawyer rehearsals

Photo shoots and birthdays

Hot Miami Sun

Road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

On the tenth month of 14K my true love gave to me, bonding time with fam’ly

Tom Sawyer rehearsals

Photo shoots and birthdays

Hot Miami Sun

Road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

     

     

On the eleventh month of 14K my true love gave to me, a surprise engagement

Bonding time with fam’ly

Tom Sawyer rehearsals

Photo shoots and birthdays

Hot Miami Sun

Road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

On the twelfth month of 14K my true love gave to me, wonderful children

A surprise engagement

Bonding time with fam’ly

Tom Sawyer rehearsals

Photo shoots and birthdays

Hot Miami Sun

Road trips and recitals

Charlotte and her pig

Reservoir canoeing

Great BBQ-ing

Lots and lots of snow

And a house full of fun-loving teens

In loving memory of my fun-loving uncle, “Tio Aris” (1950-2014)

You will never be forgotten

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Perfect Description of the Past Week

This week has been some week. Seriously, a week of extremes, in circumstances, emotional reactions, and spiritual responses; a week of utter failures and amazing victories. Care to know what happened? Here it goes!

THE BAD

How about we call it, a series of unfortunate events, too many to list. Among others:

  • While the family was out enjoying Christmas activities last Sunday evening, the adorable, cuddly Bosco (the pony-sized puppy which has been living in our house the past two weeks) managed to wreak havoc by plentifully peeing on our rug, eating massive amounts of chocolate cake which in turn produced profuse diarrhea, and drinking out of the toilet bowl (I’ll spare you the details). Two days ago, I came home to chewed up carpet, because, what is more fun to a puppy than tearing up the carpet, of course.
  • On Monday, while getting ready to go out and do some last minute grocery shopping before Christmas, and while trying to maintain enough self-control to not kill the adorable, cuddly Bosco, I heard the loud crying of my oldest daughter who had twisted her ankle outside and was now not able to walk from pain, resulting in a trip to the emergency room. (This run-on sentence describes the run-on emotional toil on my already overflowing cup). Oh, and, get this, while preparing to rush Lizette to the hospital, the puppy bolted out of the house, happily galloping at the speed of sound, while all the kids (except the injured one) ran after him like mad people all over the neighborhood, to the amusement of our neighbors. At the hospital we discovered Lizette had injured ligaments and would then begin a period (which has not ended) of immobilization of the leg, as well as the use of crutches. I do not recommend crutches in a split level home….
  • My original plan was to have a peaceful Tuesday: I would take time to prepare and organize my music, as I was leading the choir for our church and we would have our dress rehearsal that evening. I would also begin my preparations for our Christmas Eve dinner, cooking some, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house. But then life happened and my Tuesday looked nothing like I had pictured it. It was rainy and cold, and I was out purchasing pain killers, doing the shopping I had not gotten done the previous day, and dealing with relational and emotional, family issues. So I panicked. Yes, I totally panicked. And what do I do when I panic? I pass it on to the husband and the kids, of course. But more on that on the “UGLY” chapter… (how’s that for a transition?)

THE UGLY

Here’s where it gets really good. You see, ugly is so ugly. As I was saying, panic, and worry, combined with perfectionism and pride, make the ideal recipe to, well, let’s say, kill the Christmas spirit. It began on Tuesday as I started anticipating I would not be ready for Christmas Eve. I transferred this pressure to my family (oh, and did I mention that my lovely, future daughter-in-law has been visiting us and watching me in “action” this whole week?). I wish I could blame my hormonal changes. But even though hormones can (and probably do) accentuate my emotional responses, they are not to blame for the sin that so reigned in my heart, putting my family in great distress. After my initial mini-fit on Tuesday, I told myself I would have a good, peaceful day on Wednesday. I got up that morning with a new resolve to be positive and stable. Ha! My “good” attitude lasted for most of the day, until BOOM, I completely lost it! I’m talking hyperventilation, anger, frustration, and worst of all, blaming and shaming. My family had been nothing but helpful and cooperative all day. But the enemy of my soul knew where to get me. A comment. A look. A tone. An unfinished task. A feeling of being out of control. Fear of failure. Pride. You name it!

And so just as our family was leaving the house to go to church, where I would lead the choir in the entire service of Lessons and Carols, in “joyful” celebration of the birth of our savior, I was acting more like a dog with rabies than a daughter of God. I arrived at church in distress and in tears. I then proceeded to lay guilt on my sweet daughter, who had been so loving towards me all day. The choir assembled in the appropriate room at the previously assigned time, ready for their warm-up. I did not show up on time, but walked in 10 minutes late, still red-eyed, as I barely composed myself to lead them in a short warm-up. My incredible sinful attitude was being displayed for all to see, and I needed to get a grip within the next 12 minutes.

THE GOOD

Praise the Lord, the good outweighs the bad and the ugly! The only reason it outweighs it, is because the good comes, not from me, but from God himself. He is perfectly good, and kind enough to shower his children with goodness, not once or twice, but always.

  • Grace: I am a recipient of it. Everyone who saw me at church on Christmas Eve knew I was not well. But every single one of them smiled, said a helpful word, and encouraged me. There wasn’t a single complaint, even if well deserved, but even as I walked in late, I was greeted by happy, forgiving faces and patient hearts.
  • Forgiveness: Boy, did I have to ask for it! Sitting at the table on Christmas Day I asked my family to forgive me, and was blessed by their immediate willingness to do so, without reservation.
  • Rescue: I don’t know how I led the choir on Christmas Eve. Honestly, my mind was only present half of the time. But the service was not about me. It was about Jesus and the goodness and love He displayed so openly by leaving his rightful place in heaven to become a human being. So God took care of it. He enabled the choir to sing their hearts out, he helped me to not be lost or make mistakes, and in the end, He received the attention and the glory, the way it was meant to be.
  • Love and friendship: Despite the disaster earlier in the day, our Christmas Eve dinner was lovely. Our family was happy to share this time with wonderful friends. The food was amazingly delicious. The caroling around the piano was uplifting and sweet, and the joy of God was evident. He had compassion for me and gave me what my heart so deeply desired, even though I did not deserve it.
  • Prayer: Our need has been greater, so prayer has increased. The ability to pray is a gift from God. Because Jesus was born in a manger and grew up to become the sacrifice for our sins, our Passover Lamb, we now have full access to him! We pray and he listens! It’s quite amazing. Not only has our family prayed more, but I have been specifically touched and encouraged by Lizette’s prayers. You see, she has gone years without praying… or believing in God. But God has begun a great work of inward transformation in her. At every turn this week, Lizette was the first to say, “Let’s pray”. No amount of bad or ugly can outweigh the joy of hearing her words and seeing her heart being poured out to God in faith and trust. Isn’t God good and merciful?

Today has been quiet, happy, and peaceful. Bosco is still alive and, somehow, still here (It’s a Christmas miracle). We are learning to keep him away from food and toilet bowls. This morning Lizette, Geneva, and I prayed and laid hands on him so that God would help him as well ;). We are eating delicious left-overs and Lizette’s pain is not as intense any more.

Elise and Bosco. Cute, right?

Elise and Bosco. Cute, right?

With my 3 daughters on Lizette's birthday, last Friday

With my 3 daughters on Lizette’s birthday, last Friday

Gabriel: Answered Prayers!

Back in June, I wrote a desperate request for prayer for Gabriel (In Need of Prayer). Then again, in August (Prayers for Gabriel).

It’s been a couple of years of seeing Gabriel decline, and for close to a year, he has struggled with his eyes, closing them almost 100% of the time, walking around like a blind man, fighting “Iritis”. We have done all sorts of tests on him and have found no cause for the recurring issue. It has been incredibly frustrating. We have also started Gabriel on psych medication for the first time. The process has been long and emotionally taxing.

But today I’m writing with more hope and better expectations, for the following reasons:

  1. Gabriel has been fully opening his eyes for almost 2 weeks! He hasn’t gotten car sick (a side effect of car rides with closed eyes), he is not running into people, and he has been drawing and writing more, just like he used to. This is so encouraging! It is so fantastic to see his beautiful, blue eyes, which have been in hiding for so long!

  2. He seems happier, overall. This means his eyes are probably not hurting and his mood is normalizing again. This also means that the psych meds are probably helping him. Again, encouraging signs for my heart!

  3. He has been approved in a program where I can hire people to work with him at home. I can choose the workers myself and design a program specifically for him! I am currently (and urgently) looking for workers… so message me if you are local and interested 😉

So for all of you who have prayed for Gabriel, THANK YOU! I’m not sure if the Iritis will return or not. I really hope it doesn’t. So I ask you to continue to lift him up in prayer. Please ask the Lord to send us the right people to work with him as well, and to design the program that works best for him.

I am so grateful for all of you. The Lord is attentive to the prayers of his people.

About a month ago, Gabriel posing for the camera with his eyes closed

About a month ago, Gabriel posing for the camera with his eyes closed

Fiddler on the Roof: Musings and Pondering…

What a show! What a magically, wonderful show! As I prepare to be the music director for CWorks’ winter production, I can’t help but to ponder on the meaning and the impact this script and music will have on all of us. First of all, the show is highly entertaining due to its rich characters, fabulous music and dancing, timeless humor, and deep cultural connections. It is also thought provoking and enlightening, covering themes such as family values, tradition, and antisemitism.

I am a Christian, therefore I see everything in life through the lenses of my faith. From that perspective, I write this analysis of the content of this script. It is not exhaustive by any means. It simply reflects my own (limited) thoughts and pondering on the subject matter.

Brief Summary

In the fictional, Russian village of Anatevka, lives a milkman by the name of Tevya, along with his wife Golde and his 5 daughters. The story takes place at the turn of the 20th century, depicting life in a Jewish community coexisting with gentiles who, influenced and encouraged by the Tsar and a generalized antisemitic sentiment, persecute, drive away, and disperse the Jewish people living among them.

In the midst of this political turmoil, Tevya faces even greater challenges and difficulties in his own family. He has always held fast to the traditions of his people, but now his daughters are stepping away from his way of life, rejecting the old ways and choosing their own path. In Tevya’s mind, there is a struggle maintaining a balance between protecting the traditions of his people and supporting his loved ones. The fiddler on the roof illustrates such a struggle. In Tevya’s own words: “You might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy.”

Analysis

While there are many aspects of this show that could be analyzed, my aim is to limit it to the traditions depicted in this story. I find them fascinating and worth thinking about.

In Jewish communities there are discrepancies as to what is allowed or desired according to their religion. Much like Christianity, which has differences in denominations and cultures, yet has the same core system of belief across the board, Judaism has many faces and degrees of religiosity, while being united in common beliefs. This is not an analysis of Judaism in general, but a discussion on the traditions seen in this particular family and community of Anatevka.

Traditions

As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of traditions reflected in this story: Those ordained by God, and those made up by people. The script does not make a distinction between the two, but I think it’s worth mentioning the difference.

The God-mandated traditions are the ones that were established in Scripture from the time of Moses. The ones designed by man happened through the years and have strong cultural roots.

The Sabbath: The show opens with preparations for the Sabbath. The day of rest was most definitely established by God. In the Genesis account of the creation of the world, God worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th. One of the 10 commandments given by God to Moses said to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”. The Jewish nation was strictly ordered to maintain a day of rest, from generation to generation. The purpose of the Sabbath was to 1. provide time for everyone (including servants, slaves, and animals) to rest; 2. have a day dedicated to the worship of God, free of distractions; 3. to point to the Messiah. In fact, from Christianity’s world view, all God-mandated laws were given to prepare the way for Jesus, and in Jesus, all the law is perfectly kept and fulfilled (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill it” – Matt 5:17). So how did Jesus fulfill the law? 1. By keeping it. 2. By becoming our rest. This sounds simplistic, but it truly is a remarkable, deep truth:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus provides rest. This profound truth shows us that in our quest for salvation and in our desire to be right with God, man has always struggled to perform, do good, please a perfect God, and has always failed. Through religion, we cannot possibly reach God, because He is holy and we are not, he is perfect and we are flawed. All our efforts, in the end, are tiring and heavy. So when Jesus stretched out his arms on a cross and died on our behalf, He unequivocally declared that He, the only perfect sacrifice, paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, we need to struggle no more. We can actually rest from trying to be right with God. We are right in Him. We now please God because we love him, not because we hope He will avert his wrath. It is the greatest of news! And it is most certainly true rest from our labor. JESUS IS OUR SABBATH.

Match-making: Now here we see a tradition that is not mandated in Scripture. This is a cultural custom which in many cases has proven to be very practical (I guess?) Match making is at the center of this story, as one of the traditions that is upheld, almost at the same level of the other God-given laws. We see examples of matches being made in Scripture, but there is no law dictating it as the only way to marry. Tevya’s daughters go against this tradition by choosing their own husbands. Even though he struggles with this, Tevya goes along with their choices (at least with two of the three daughters), proving he is progressive and caring enough to break from his own way of life in order to support and love his family.

Marriage: The topic of marriage is central to the story. Again, marriage is mandated by God back in the creation of Adam and Eve. It is the holiest of unions in the human realm and it is to be highly valued by God’s people. In Fiddler on the Roof, the issue of mixed marriages comes to light. We see in Scripture that God created all races and colors and He doesn’t have an issue with inter-racial marriages. However, it was clearly mandated to the Jewish nation that they were to marry within their own faith. Why? 1. To preserve the worship and the knowledge of God throughout the generations, and 2. Of course, to point to Christ.

First, the Jews were the only monotheistic people group for thousands of years. They were the only ones who had the truth of God in their minds, hearts, and in the written law of Moses. They were to marry each other to preserve and advance this knowledge. In Christianity, we see the same principle at work. God calls us to not be unequally yoked (II Co 6:14). This inequality has nothing to do with race, education, or cultural differences, and all to do with our faith.

Second, marriage points to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32). More specifically, it points to the relationship between Jesus and his people (the church). What used to be a distant relationship between man and God, worshiping in a temple containing a big, heavy curtain for the purpose of separating man from God, has become a close, intimate relationship. Jesus has drawn near to us, opening the door for us to have access to God. Ephesians calls it a “great mystery”. I am very thankful for this reality. During this Christmas season, I am especially blessed by the knowledge that Jesus condescended and became a human, in order to be like me, make atonement for me, and have an intimate relationship with me.

Conclusion

I am so thankful for the Jewish people. They have been the recipients of God’s covenant and love, as well as His law and prophets. In spite of persecution, dispersion, attempts of annihilation, and hatred, God has preserved the Jews and has been true to His promise.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, who was a Jew and fulfilled all the laws and the prophets. He has broken the divides that once separated the people of God from all other nations. In Christ, there is no longer Jew or gentile, male or female, master or slave. Salvation is equally available to all, through faith. There is no longer a need to strive to gain salvation, for He has done that for us. He is truly our rest.

Aside from the conceptual analysis of the main themes of this play, I am beyond excited to be a part of it, simply because it is fun and entertaining. And, of course, the music is fantastic! In fact, I need to stop writing this oh-so-long post and get downstairs to my piano to finish studying the music. After all, auditions start tomorrow!

If you live in RVA and want to see this amazing production, you can buy tickets here.

Shalom!

Fiddler on the Roof

Eight Traits That Will Kill Any Marriage

At the young age of 18, I met my then future husband. I fell madly in love, and he felt the same way about me. Within weeks we were engaged and in less than a year, we were married. We were full time students and quite broke. Even though we stepped into adult roles very suddenly, our youth and immaturity was evident as we tried to manage both college and marriage. We were not very good at it and hurt each other deeply. In fact, we were quite unhappy, and to be honest, the only reason why we didn’t get a divorce was because we both believed in the Bible. We didn’t know many things, but there was one assurance we did have: God hates divorce. So, despite our immaturity, unhappiness, endless fights, and financial instability, the word divorce, never crossed our lips. We would stick together no matter what, because our love for God was stronger than our love for each other.

And so we set off to build a family despite our difficulties. We had babies, we worked in ministry, we explored careers, we grew up, and slowly but surely we learned a thing or two about being married and making each other happy. Our marriage is far from perfect, but Juan and I can honestly say we are the best of friends. We have not only survived an unhappy marriage, but we have learned and experienced true intimacy, deep joy, unconditional acceptance, and fulfilling companionship.

I am not a relationship expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned a few things during my (almost) 29 years of marriage. I certainly understand specific characteristics that have the potential to unequivocally destroy this sacred union. Similarly, I understand the antithetical ones that can build and repair it. So here they are:

Eight Traits That Kill Marriage

  1. Pride. Pride says, your faults are bigger than mine; your sin is nastier than mine. Pride wants to be right. It exalts the action over the person. Pride fails to ask forgiveness and refuses to forgive. Choose humility instead. Acknowledge that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and we are all in equal need of forgiveness. Decide to listen and understand over self-justification. Apologize often, and forgive every single time.
  2. Cynicism. Merriam-Webster describes the word as “believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest”. Cynicism doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt. It is the perfect companion to pride. It encourages defensiveness and discourages honesty. Choose to trust instead. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Co 13:17). Take the other at his word, thus encouraging open communication. Ask God for optimism and hope, trusting your marriage can improve, even thrive.
  3. Silence. Lack of verbal communication sabotages growth. Silence speaks volumes, as it is easily interpreted as indifference and lack of desire to connect intimately. In silence there is no conflict resolution, but only fertile ground for misconceptions and discouragement. Choose to talk, and to do so as much as it’s needed. It is the most effective way to know each other, as well as encourage, confront, correct, and enlighten each other.
  4. Manipulation. Its main goal is to control and get its own way. Whether it is through the use of tears, screaming, lying, scheming, nagging, or overpowering, manipulation will kill intimacy, trust, and friendship, without a doubt. A manipulative spouse is not a friend, but a rival. However, patience allows room for waiting. Wait for your spouse to have a change of heart or action. As you train yourself in humility, trust, and open communication, manipulation should completely disappear from your tactics.
  5. Harshness. It is the opposite of kindness and gentleness. Harshness, plain and simply, destroys. Like beach erosion, each wave breaks down one’s dignity. While kindness protects and builds up, harshness lays one bare and humiliates. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov 15:1) Nothing repairs and assures the other of one’s love better than kind words, soft touch, and gentle smiles. Give them generously and expect miraculous results.
  6. Laziness. It is apathy and negligence. Laziness does not make an effort to improve, change, or love. Laziness is satisfied with status quo and is unwilling to do the hard work of marriage. But marriage requires persevering and hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Don’t give up! If you fail today, you can succeed tomorrow!
  7. Unfaithfulness. It does not adhere to vows and it breaks promises. It comes in various forms and degrees, but it is always wrong and lethal to the relationship. Unfaithfulness is rejection and it builds walls of mistrust. Your eyes, heart, body, and soul are only for your spouse. Do not allow even a hint of unfaithfulness to go unchecked. Even when nobody knows, God sees. So be quick to repent, for God is faithful to forgive. Confess and make any necessary changes if you want for your marriage to stand a chance. Faithfulness is the blood of the relationship. Don’t take it lightly.
  8. Isolation. The refusal of intimacy hardens hearts. Physical, emotional, and spiritual separation prevents healing and becomes most unsatisfying. So choose to never live apart, if at all possible, or even sleep apart. Physical closeness and intimacy should be constant; emotional connection and friendship should be sought after with creativity and passion; spiritual oneness should be pursued at all cost. In order for marriage to work, two people must be one, in every sense of the word.

I understand these negative traits because at one point or another, I have displayed every single one of them and have experienced their destructive power. Dear reader, my hope is that you understand the love and fulfillment that can be possible in a good marriage.

The Secret to a Good Marriage:

GRACE

It’s easy to write about what we, as spouses, should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s much harder to live it. They key ingredient is grace, defined as “unmerited favor”. Grace is the character trait that is willing to hit the reset button, to start again, to give second, third, and one hundredth chances. Grace is willing to forgive and not hold on to resentment. Grace understands that we all wrong others and that we are all in equal need of pardon. At its very core, grace is self-sacrifice. Without it, it is impossible to mend a broken relationship. But with it, all things are possible.

In my own marriage, I have learned to give grace and to receive it. No matter how much I have hurt my husband or how much he has wronged me, we have chosen grace, time and time again. But this grace is impossible to manufacture. You don’t order it in the mail or press the ON button to activate it. You cannot even will it into existence. Rather, grace is formed and matured in adversity and need, when we give it a chance. The truth is that grace is a part of God’s character, and only He imparts it. And He gives it generously and in a timely manner. So if you need it (and you do), ask Him for it. He is not only able to give you the grace needed to love a spouse, but willing and joyfully desirous to do so. It is in the power of grace that your marriage will flourish and be a fountain of life rather than mutual discouragement.

Please let me know if I can pray for you as well. It would be my privilege.