Life in Lape Haven

Archive - February 2016

The Parable of the Dough

Life in Lape Haven: The Parable of the Dough. Kneading and rolling out dough one day became a spiritual lesson on being pliable and receptive to God's work in our life.

The other day I was working on dinner, preparing some unleavened flatbread for Brad and me for our Daniel fast. I had made this bread before, and it worked out wonderfully.

However, this time as I mixed it up in my Kitchen Aid, it wasn’t coming together as easily, so I decided to knead it the rest of the way by hand. I had kneaded my previous batch, too, so I didn’t think this one would be much different.

But it was.

Every time I tried to knead the entire batch together, little pieces would crumble off. So I picked them back up and worked them in, and as I did, other pieces would fall. I’m not sure why, but this dough seemed a little tougher, even though I did exactly the same thing as with my other batch.

As I continued to knead it, the dough continued to break apart, rather than become more elastic and pliable, as it should.

Knowing that it needed some more moisture, I dribbled a little olive oil on it and continued my efforts. The oil helped, but it didn’t soften the dough as much as I had hoped. Since I didn’t have all day to play with it, and my hands were getting a little tired, I decided that I was just going to have to roll it out and see how things went.

Things didn’t go well.

Without the elasticity the dough needed, rolling it out into eight little circles of flatbread was a chore. I had to apply lots of pressure while using the rolling pin, so much so that I feared cracking the wood of it.

I finally resorted to half rolling and half pushing across the dough with the rolling pin, just to get it thin enough to bake. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The toughness of the dough resisted the process, causing it to crack in places, and the piece to end up as an odd, jagged sort-of-circle shape.

Toward the end of the tedious process, my hands were getting sore, and I was getting frustrated. It was such a fight.

As I worked a particularly stubborn piece, leaning my weight onto the rolling pin as I shoved it along the top of the dough, God said, “This is how it is when the clay resists the Potter.”

I paused and stepped back to look at the dough (and to give my hands a break.)

Life in Lape Haven: The Parable of the Dough. Kneading and rolling out dough one day became a spiritual lesson on being pliable and receptive to God's work in our life.

How the dough should have looked, but didn’t.

This dough felt so much different from the batch I’d made before. It was denser, tougher, and less flexible, and now it had crackles from the rolling pin stretching and pulling it, instead of being a smooth, pliable, and even circle of soft dough.

As I went back to rolling it out, I thought about how people sometimes fight against what God wants to do in them and how much harder that makes the process for them.

When we face difficult circumstances or when God is trying to stretch us and mold us more into what He’s created us for, rather than being flexible and pliable under His touch, sometimes we push back or stubbornly stand still, refusing to follow His nudging. Were we soft and elastic as we should be, His touch would feel much more gentle and the stretching less painful.

Looking at the last few pieces I needed to roll out, I was tired of fighting them. I almost wrapped them up and put them in the refrigerator to mess with later (thankfully God doesn’t do that to us!). However, I decided to try to help them out a bit more, and I added a little warm water to my hands and worked it into the first dough ball.

Once the water was absorbed in, the dough was noticeably more workable and soft. Apparently I should have added a touch more water to the whole batch in the beginning, but I was in a hurry, trying to get dinner underway while keeping my ears attuned to my boys playing in the other room. Lesson learned. I did the same thing to the remaining pieces.

(I know, some of you bakers were thinking that from the beginning of the story. I should have, but I was just hoping it would come together.)

As I rolled out the slightly easier pieces of dough, I continued to think about God’s analogy of the tough dough and us, as His children.

Because the tough dough didn’t represent someone who didn’t follow God. Later I realized that my dough was even more symbolic because it was unleavened. Leavening, such as yeast, in the Bible represented sin. So, my dough didn’t represent a sinful person.

It was us, those who claim to want to become more like Him that sometimes fight the work He’s doing to make us that way.

Going back over what I did with the bread, God pointed out other things, too.

Like the oil, and how even applying the oil to the bread didn’t make it as tender as it could be, even though it helped. In the Bible, oil is usually a symbol for the Holy Spirit. However even though He can draw us and woo us, and we can be in His presence, our hearts have to be receptive.

We have a part to play in being the workable, moldable dough for God to shape and use.

For my dough, I added water. That made the difference in the end.

When I thought about the water, all I kept hearing was “the washing of water with the Word,” which comes from Ephesians 5:26. “So that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God].” (Amplified version).

Being in the Word keeps our hearts receptive to God’s leading, God’s nudging, and God’s molding us. It shows us Who God is and how He’s called us to live. As we spend time in God’s Word and apply it to our lives, we become more like Him. Doesn’t the Bible tell us we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds”? (Romans 12:2)

But when we don’t have a clear picture of Who He Is and what He wants us to be, we’re more likely to resist those changes and to fight against the Potter as He works the clay from a lump into something beautiful and useful.

God’s Word gets to the heart of the matter, literally. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Do you want to be shapeable and transformed into what God wants you to be? Stay in the Word. Get it deep in your heart. Spend time in God’s presence. (You need both water and oil to make a decent dough.)

As for my flatbread…well, it wasn’t as pretty as the last batch, but it was still edible and tasty. As soon as I had baked them all, I stored them in a plastic bag together and sealed it. Keeping in the moisture while they cooled softened them all up a bit more, which was just what I wanted.

(Maybe that’s a good analogy for staying in fellowship with other believers, iron sharpening iron and all that.)

So, I encourage you to be soft dough today. Let God move and work in your heart so He can roll you out easily into exactly what He’s shaping you to be.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand. ~ Isaiah 64:8

 

More Daniel Fast Recipes

Life in Lape Haven: Tried It Tuesday - More Daniel Fast Recipes. Hubby and I are in our second week of participating in a 21-day Daniel fast with our church, and I'm finding lots of new recipes to try as we follow the guidelines of this partial fast, which includes only vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and water. These two recipes are our favorites from this week.

Last Tuesday, I told you all about how Brad and I are participating in a 21-day Daniel fast with our church for most of February.

As we head into our third week of this partial fast, I’m so thankful for the internet and all the Daniel fast recipe ideas out there for us to try. Since I’m not used to cooking with just vegetables and vegan ingredients, we would have exhausted my meal ideas within the first few days for sure!

This past week, we’ve found a couple more tasty recipes to add to our Daniel Fast meal planning.

First up is an unleavened flatbread that was fairly easy to make and surprisingly tasty despite its simple ingredients. Elijah and Josiah “helped” me make this Lavash Bread by fighting over who got to roll out the pieces with me.

However, I think their favorite part (and maybe mine, too) watching each flatbread bubble up once we placed them on the hot pizza stone in a very hot oven.

For the recipe, I used about 3-1/8 cup of unrefined whole wheat pastry flour instead of white bread flour and 3/4 cup warm water, along with the oil and salt. We didn’t top it with any seeds. 🙂  Mine didn’t puff as big as the pictures online, but we’re okay with that.

As soon as these cooled enough, the boys devoured two of the eight pieces, slathering them with hummus. In fact, I had to hide some of it so our two little guys, who aren’t doing the fast, of course, wouldn’t eat all our “special” bread.

 

The other recipe that was a HUGE hit this week was the meal I made last night for dinner.

I had seen several recipes for “mock” shepherd’s pie, and I was curious to make one of them. I picked this “Cottage Pie” recipe that uses lentils and mushrooms for the “meat” part of the dish.

Knowing how much Brad loves mashed potatoes, I was pretty certain he would enjoy the meal if only for the potatoes. However, he really, really liked it all and was surprised at how good it was.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much my two little picky eaters would gobble down! It was kind of a gamble for me to make only our Daniel fast food and not prepare something familiar for the boys to eat, but I’m glad I did. Our boys loved it, too! Josiah has been especially fickle with food lately, so I was really surprised when he and Elijah both had second helpings, and Elijah said he wanted “to eat this every day.”

I did adapt my recipe a good bit from the original one in the link, based on what we had on hand.  Here is MY ingredient list:

For the mashed potato topping

8 medium to large potatoes (I baked mine in the oven then scooped out the insides, using my mashed potato shortcut)

2 Tbsp. Coconut Spread (butter substitute)

¼ cup Coconut Milk (You can use more or less depending on your preference)

¼ cup Vegetable Stock (again, however much you need)

¼ tsp Nutmeg (Never used it in potatoes before, but it was good)

Salt to taste

 

For the filling

1 cup Lentils, prepared according to the package instructions (I did drain away the excess water once they were cooked)

1 Bay Leaf

1 tsp Sea Salt

8 oz. Cremini (Baby Bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

4 oz. Button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2-1/2 cup Vegetable Stock

2 Tbsp. Cornstarch

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 medium Onion, chopped

½ tsp chopped Garlic (about 1 clove)

1 Carrot, diced small (about ½ cup)

1 Celery Stalk, diced small (about ½ cup)

½ tsp dried Thyme (I ran out, or I might have used more)

¼ tsp dried Rosemary

 

I followed the basic directions of the recipe – prepping mashed potatoes, cooking the lentils, then sautéing the veggies (I put the garlic in the filling but not in the potatoes), and then mixing the lentils, veggies, and vegetable stock to make the thickened filling. Then I topped the filling with the potatoes and baked it about 30 minutes at 375.

While this is a really yummy dish, it did take a while to prep (lots of veggies to slice and dice), and it required several pots and pans, even though it all ends up in one eventually.

However, with as well as my boys ate it and as delicious as it turned out, I might be persuaded to make this one again sometime even after the fast is over.


A Dream Is Just a Wish Unless It’s Also God’s Plan

Life in Lape Haven: A Dream is Just a Wish unless it's also God's Plan. Sometimes the desires of our heart are not in God's plans for us. Other times our dreams come true, but in His timing. Either way, the crucial point is trusting that His plans for us are the best and being willing to accept whatever they are.

When I was a little girl, I loved my fairy tales and Disney princesses, especially Cinderella. She was my girl. Sweet, hard-working, beautiful, and determined to make the best of a bad situation, she always held on to the hope of her dreams coming true.

Having a solid affinity for the stories and romance, one of the dearest dreams to my heart was one day meeting my own Prince Charming and beginning our happily ever after, helpful mice being optional.

Inspired by my parents’ love story where they met in junior high and married the summer after my mom graduated high school, I grew up hoping to meet my Prince early, as in while I was in high school or slightly thereafter. The idea of spending as much of my life as possible with my guy and having our family while we were young was my ideal plan and dream.

As it turned out, that wasn’t God’s plan for me. 

Jesus had my heart from the time I was a very little girl, around 5 years old, so even though I swooned over Disney movies and books like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables growing up, I was confident that He was orchestrating a beautiful love story for me that would match any that I’d read about or watched on the big screen. Again inspired by my parents, I began praying for my future husband when I was 10 or so.

My prince was going to be a man of God, first and foremost. He would love God, and he would adore me. He would have a heart for ministry, love children, be a diligent worker, be intelligent, have a delightful sense of humor, and be handsome and charming (of course), plus a lot of other awesome stuff.

By the time I was old enough to start dating, which in my family was 16, there were very few guys whom I would actually have wanted to date. I had guys that were good friends but nothing more. So, I prayed more consistently for my guy and spent my high school years being romanced by my True First Love, growing closer to God and finding ways to use my talents and giftings to minister to others and bless Him. I was aware of the boys around me, but I was patiently waiting for God to bring my guy along when the time was right.

After high school, my family moved to a very small town (one-traffic-light small) where my dad began pastoring a church, and I began to wonder what God was doing. Despite having graduated with honors, I didn’t feel as though I was supposed to pursue a college education. Instead, God led me to a job at the local weekly newspaper.

So, I worked, I continued to serve in ministry where there was opportunity, and I continued to pray for God to lead me to my prince (or him to me – I wasn’t picky).

As time went by, we moved to Ohio. I worked at a couple of different jobs, served in Children’s and Youth ministries, developed good friendships with both girls and guys, and was still single. The only guys I knew of who had wanted to ask me out since high school were the creepy uncle of a friend (the man was older than my parents), the strange dad of one of the youth girls I taught at church (almost as old as my parents), and later a heebie-jeebies-inducing guy at work. I was getting a little discouraged. My Cinderella, “a dream is a wish” heart was confused and frustrated.

My sweet mom was kind enough to point out the positives to all the weirdos, though:  “At least you don’t have to wonder if they are ‘the one,’ because they clearly are NOT.”

Of course, that didn’t stop my questions for God and the doubts about myself. Of all the dreams in my heart, my biggest dream and desire aside from following God was to be a wife and mother. But what if that wasn’t His plan for me?

Life in Lape Haven: A Dream is Just a Wish unless it's also God's Plan. Sometimes the desires of our heart are not in God's plans for us. Other times our dreams come true, but in His timing. Either way, the crucial point is trusting that His plans for us are the best and being willing to accept whatever they are.

Dressed as a princess for our children’s church’s Kingdom theme.

Nearing my mid-twenties, suddenly it seemed as if God was going to answer my prayers when I began seeing a Christian guy that I’d known a long time. However, even during our relationship, I felt unsettled, as though I should be watching the horizon.

Clearly, that wasn’t a good sign, and shortly after, I was packing up my dreams again and really asking God, “What is YOUR plan for me?”

I thought I had been seeking Him and His will for me, but I had my ideas, my hopes, my dreams, and my ideals. I needed to surrender even my deepest desires to whatever HE desired for me. I thought that I had, but was I willing to never be a wife, never be a mommy, if that’s what He called me to? I sincerely hoped and prayed that that was NOT His plan, but I had to be willing to accept it if it were.

So, I came to a point of complete, complete surrender, and it was hard, but I knew that “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1) I had a plan and a dream, but if it wasn’t God’s plan for me, it wouldn’t work.

It wasn’t easy letting that go and saying, “Not my will, but Yours,” but it was necessary.

A few months later, I found myself being nudged to join eHarmony, and I fought it. A LOT. Online dating sites were NOT for me. Surely, God was teasing. I mean, seriously.

But God was persistent (as I’ve shared before, He has to be pretty persistent with me sometimes), and then He got my mom in on it.  I mentioned to her that I had thought of going on the site to just do the personality test, and she was immediately encouraging me to go ahead and sign up for the whole site.

So, I did…under protest.

Not long after that, I was matched with Brad.

He was everything that I’d prayed for in a Prince Charming, and then some. He was a man of God, first and foremost. He loved God, and he quickly came to adore me. He was leading the youth ministry at his church, loved his little niece, had a good job at which he worked hard, he was smart,  he had a goofy sense of humor,  and he was handsome and charming (in his way), plus a lot of other awesome stuff.

Suddenly, there I was – at the beginning of my own fairy tale. (Actually, God had been writing it all my life. It just had a lengthier prologue than some. ;))

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Feature picture courtesy of Picture Bliss Photography.

Choosing the Good Part

Life in Lape Haven: Choosing the Good Part - Embracing the extra time with my children that comes with a snow day, and remembering that I can choose to be distracted like Martha or I can choose the good part like Mary did. I'll take time with my boys over my to-do list.

Here in Ohio, our winter has been incredibly mild this year, and we were all really happy with that, minus not having a white Christmas. However, the last few weeks have brought the cold, snowy weather that we are more familiar with for this time of year.

Only this year, we’ve got a little boy in school. Once the real winter weather arrived, Elijah quickly figured out that snowy weather could not only potentially mean fun outside, but if you’re lucky, it might mean a day off school, too!

He began looking forward to a snowy forecast in hopes of a snow day, and in all honesty, so did I. Not only because I like having Elijah at home, but also because a snow day MIGHT mean we all get to sleep in a little bit. 🙂

Then came last week’s winter storm, a stomach bug, and another winter storm this past weekend.  Elijah had three snow days in a row, followed by a sick day, and then two more snow days the beginning of this week. Wednesday was his first day back to school since last Monday!

Normally, Josiah and I have a pretty good routine during the day while Elijah is at school. He helps me do things around the house, we play, he naps, we go get Elijah.

So, what did I do when two little boys were begging for my attention all day?  

Either I could let the boys entertain each other while I got some housework done, or I could embrace the extra time with my big boy at home and set aside some time to enjoy my children.

While I did my best to maintain our home, do some laundry, and load the dishwasher, for the most part, I spent time with Elijah and Josiah. Just looking at how quickly they have both grown and changed in the past year, I know it’s important not to miss any opportunities to be with them.

It can be hard for me, though, to step away from my to-do lists. I want an orderly home with clean floors and tidy rooms for my boys to play in. (Of course, once my boys have played in them, they’ll need cleaned up again)

There are so many things that I could be doing FOR my family that I sometimes I have to remind myself to let it go so that I can be WITH my family.

It’s kind of like Mary and Martha in the Bible, where Martha spends so much time making everything nice for Jesus while Mary spends that same time enjoying Jesus.

Luke 10: 38-42 tells us, “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’

And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’”

It says that Martha was “distracted” – that means she wasn’t focused on the right thing. She was missing out. I know there have been days where I’ve been distracted from interacting with my boys, focusing instead on the housework (there’s never an end to it), working on my blog (writing, planning, sharing on social media), or something else that can wait.

My boys are growing up every day. If I spend my days with them distracted by other things, I’ll miss out, and there’s no getting those days back.

Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the good part, the one thing that is needed. In the New Living Translation, verse 42 says, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…”

Of all the things in my home, what’s the ONE thing worth being concerned about over anything else? My family.

Now this doesn’t mean that I should neglect our home and never take care of it. Nor does it mean that I need to be at my children’s beck and call every minute of the day as their constant source of entertainment and diversion. They NEED to be able to play on their own.

However, I don’t want to be so distracted with my to-dos that I’m missing the good part. I want to spend time with my boys, making memories that “will not be taken away from” me or them.

So with these snow days, that’s what I did.

With the first storm, the wind chills were in the single digits at points, so our outdoor time was limited to a very short adventure in some very fine, powdery snow. Stuck inside, Elijah and I taught Josiah how to play “Go Fish,” we did paint with water projects, and Elijah practiced his reading by doing story time for us each morning. We spent several hours one day making rocket ships out of cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, foil, bubble wrap, lots of tape, and tons of imagination.

With this last snow, it was a bit warmer, so we braved the slushy roads and spent an entire day at a snow day playdate with my nephews, where the boys all worked together to make a snowman.

Since Elijah was so good at rolling snowballs and since the boys hadn’t had time with Daddy out in the snow, on Wednesday when he got home from school, Brad and I took the boys outside, and we created the biggest (and heaviest!) Lape family snowman to date.

Sure, I could have stayed inside to work on dinner while my hubby supervised the boys, but these last few snow days have been a sweet reminder to me: Just like the snow, my boys’ childhoods will pass quickly.

I want to focus on what’s worth being concerned with, so I chose the good part, put down my to-dos, and put on my boots and gloves.

Daniel Fast Recipes: Two That We Loved & One I Won’t Make Again

Life in Lape Haven: Tried It Tuesday - Daniel Fast Recipes, Two Recipes We Love & One I Won't Make Again. Since hubby and I are participating in a 21-day Daniel fast with our church, I'm finding lots of new recipes to try as we follow the guidelines of this partial fast, which includes only vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and water. These two recipes are our favorites so far.

For the majority of this month, Brad and I will be participating in a 21-day Daniel fast with our church. This partial fast is inspired by two different passages in Daniel, including the story in Daniel 1 where Daniel and his friends refuse the king’s food and request a diet of water and vegetables.

And that’s predominantly what the fast allows: water, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. We eat fairly healthy as it is, but creating meals without meat, dairy, bread, and sugar has been interesting. Thankfully it hasn’t been as difficult as I anticipated. (Note: There are many different takes on a Daniel fast, so my hubby and I decided that we would follow the guidelines that our church set out. Some interpretations are stricter; some are more lenient.)

Over the last week, I’ve been finding all kinds of new recipes to try out, and while some were just okay, others have been very successful.

The first big win so far was this One Pan Mexican Quinoa recipe that was super easy to make and really tasty. All it takes is a handful of ingredients: black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, spices, lime juice, avocado, and quinoa. I don’t always keep quinoa on hand, but I had picked up some at Aldi (who else LOVES Aldi?) so we could try it out. Now that I know what to do with it, it may become a staple around here. In fact, this recipe is going on my meal-planning list because we all liked it so well.


Another yummy meal came about more out of necessity than planning. When we first shopped for this fast, we had two sick little boys, so hubby made the grocery store run. Awesome husband that he is, Brad did his best to cross off every item on the list I’d given him, and then some. When I saw that he’d brought home six different containers of mushrooms, I was a bit surprised, and I knew we’d have to use those up quickly. Thankfully, I found this recipe for Garlic and Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms. I actually didn’t expect them to be as delicious as they were. I had to keep from eating the whole pan before Brad made it home for dinner.

One recipe that I tried that didn’t work at all for us was a homemade applesauce fruit roll-up. Having seen the easy how-to video on Facebook, I thought my boys would enjoy a fun little treat one day. It seemed simple enough – pour some unsweetened applesauce onto a silicone baking mat, smooth it out, then let it dry slowly in the oven all day. After waiting several hours for the applesauce to dry out, I was ready to surprise my kids with a homemade roll-up. Unfortunately, I must have done something wrong because it stuck to my silicone baking mat, and parts of it were really difficult to get off. I figured I would just try again some other time, but then when I gave the boys the pieces that I managed to get off the mat, they wouldn’t eat them. They just didn’t like it. So, that recipe was kind of a flop for us. 🙁 (By the way, our boys aren’t on the fast, but this recipe would have worked for all of us had they liked it.)

So that’s what I’ve discovered so far during our first week or so of the Daniel fast, at least about the food part. Thankfully, these 21 days aren’t just about a special diet or a list of what we can eat or can’t. It’s a time to focus on drawing closer to God, seeking His face, and spending time in His Word. No matter what recipes we enjoy or fail with during this time, we can depend upon Him to always satisfy our soul.

“You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.”  ~ Psalm 63:5

 

An Unfinished Testimony to Share

Life in Lape Haven: An Unfinished Testimony to Share. Your relationship with God is not just a single event in your history but rather a continuous story of all Jesus has done and is doing and will do throughout your life of following Him.

The other day I was brainstorming ideas for things I could write about and coming up with a mental list of potential blog posts. There are several personal stories that I’d like to tell, but they haven’t yet come together enough beyond a sentence or a few thoughts here and there.

One of those is sharing about my sister, whom my family adopted when I was just out of high school and she herself was married with two children. As I was thinking about it, I knew that that story wasn’t quite ready to be told yet, and part of that reason is because Jodi’s testimony about God bringing family and restoration to her life is a long one, and it’s still being written.

And that’s the thought that gave me pause.

Because if any of us have a true testimony of God in our life, it’s still being written. It’s a continuous story of the work He’s doing in us day by day.

Growing up in church, it always seemed as though when someone was asked to share their “testimony,” it was more about when they started following God, and usually it would be one of three stories:

1 – The Horrible Sinner with the Horrible Past: These were about how a person had once lived in complete Godless darkness, practicing every kind of evil imaginable (usually including drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and the other “big” sins), until someone shared God’s love with them, and the person made a decision to repent and follow Jesus. They were always tremendous examples of God’s amazing grace and His power to make someone brand new.

2 – The Prodigal who Returns Home: A person sharing this “testimony” had usually grown up in church, had a foundation of faith, maybe followed God or perhaps just pretended, but as they got older, they left the church and any relationship with God. Their return to the Lord reminds us of His unfailing love and forgiveness and how He longs to restore everyone to Him.

3 – The Lifelong Christian:  This is another person who most likely grew up in a Christian home, going to church, and they began serving God when they were young and have remained faithful since, never really doing “bad” things. This was me. And when I was younger, for myself and others like me, this “testimony” sometimes felt as though it wasn’t really a testimony. There were no dramatic moments, no brushes with death or danger, nothing flashy.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to the conclusion that this kind of story is just as powerful as any other, sometimes more so, because God saved me from even experiencing al l the bad things. A relationship like this points us to God’s faithfulness, His Spirit’s empowering us to fight temptation and stand strong, and His still small Voice guiding us on the right path when we follow closely. (This is not to say that we’ve never sinned or failed. We need forgiven just as much as anyone. Our story is that we’ve continued to pursue our relationship with God through everything, and He has never let us down.)

BUT HERE’S THE THING: No matter which way your relationship with God began – rescued from a nasty past, returning to your first love, remaining faithful to the Lord – that’s not your testimony, at least not all of it. It’s just the beginning of it.

It’s like getting married.

Your love story with your spouse isn’t just about the wedding …at least I hope not. That’s just the starting point, the “Once Upon a Time” opener.

The best part of the story is the relationship and building a life together toward “happily ever after”: all of the struggles and triumphs, the growth and change, the fighting and making up.

If someone asked me about my husband, I’d probably say, “Brad is such as sweet husband and good daddy. The other day he…” And I’d tell them about how he helped me around the house or had the boys giggling at his goofiness.

If all I had to share about my husband was from when we first met or our wedding, which was nearly 8 years ago, people would wonder about our relationship. They would wonder if we even had one.

A testimony isn’t “that one time that God did something for me,” and it’s not a list of all the bad stuff you did that God has forgiven, or just about when you got saved, or even when God healed you or provided miraculously for your family’s need.

All of those things are part of it, but your testimony should be growing. It’s more a list of all that God has done and is doing in your life because He is good and loving and forgiving. The longer you’ve served Him, the longer that list will be.

But no matter how long that list gets, you’ll still have an unfinished testimony to share. We all do.

Philippians 1:6 – “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”