Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
If you'll be in the L.A. area on Saturday, March 7th, we'd love for you to celebrate with us!
Join us at VCC's 12th-anniversary luncheon and hear my incredible story of amazing grace, unfailing love, and undeniable miracles.
Get your tickets today at http://valenciachristiancenter.org/tickets/
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
I once heard a pastor say that we should live each day according to the story we want to be told about us in the end. Live each day as if you’re writing a page in your story. A story that you would be proud of. A story that would reflect God’s hand in the writing. A story that would bring a smile to the face of your loved ones as they retell it.
Recently, my family suffered a huge loss. A loss that left an undeniable hole in the very fabric of our family. My brother, Jim, was such a huge, loving presence in my family. Everyone was touched by his life in some way. His heart was so full of love. His kindness was so sincere. His encouragement was certainly motivating. And his laugh was contagiously joyous. As we grieved over the loss of our beloved, I couldn’t help but remember the saying “What story do you want to be told?” It was as if my brother lived in such a way that would bring honor to God as his story would later be told. It was as if he consciously wrote a page each day that would ultimately weave together a story that was indeed written by a pen in the hand of God.
In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” It was obvious to those who knew Jim that he was connected to the vine, because of the fruit he bore - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-25). To have known Jim, was to bear witness of the fruit of the spirit.
Although he has physically left us, we can rejoice over the inheritance we are left with - a legacy of a fruitful spirit inspired by a beautiful heart wrapped in dignity and love. The story he told with his life was a true reflection of Jesus’s commandment to love. With this in mind, we rejoice in knowing that he is now forever connected to the vine. And as we remember him, we are reminded to live a life with this question in mind - “What story do you want to be told?”
James Thurman Saunders, we celebrate you and give thanks for the fruitful inheritance you have left us with. What a wonderful inheritance it is.
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Thursday, January 9, 2020
My son, Eman, was such a busy body of a little boy. Before his arrival in my life, my days were pretty predictable. My daughter was pretty easy in the sense that she was happy doing whatever I was doing, yet she also knew how to quietly entertain herself as the only child.
Well, in 2001, all that changed. Eman arrived and decided to shake things up. In spite of him having chronic asthma, he was a rough, daredevil, little boy. From jumping off the top bunk of the bed landing his chin on the dresser on the way down (ouch!) to running with scissors and barely missing his eye when he fell with them. We were in the emergency room on a regular basis. My life was never the same.
One day, in his usual 5-year-old "superhero" fashion, he snuck up on our dog and pulled his tail. The dog was startled and turned around and snapped at him causing a long, bloody cut on Eman's cheek. Thank goodness he didn't need stitches (this would have been the third time he'd had stitches on his face), but it was still a nasty cut. Eman was quite upset and shocked by Elmo's response. So to make him feel better, I decided to take him to dinner at a hibachi restaurant that evening. What was I thinking exposing others at the table to his face? There was a lady sitting at our table with her three small children and I happened to notice her little girl snuggling up next to her mother with a frightened look on her face while pointing and whispering, "Look at his face." Her mother smiled politely and assured her daughter that it was okay.
Seeing and hearing this, I decided to change the atmosphere of the table. So I looked at the daughter with the most convincing look on my face and said, "He got into a fight with a tiger, and you should see what the tiger's face looks like." The little girl’s eyes widened as her siblings perked up to listen as I explained how my son had won a fight with a tiger and how the tiger was in much worse shape. And just like that, Eman became the hero at the table and it was an honor for the other kids to be sitting with such a victorious warrior.
That story pretty much sums up how I stepped into the new year - scars, bumps, bruises, aches, and pains, but you should see the scars of the enemy that I fought to get here! I learned that it's not about the enemy you're fighting, but about the army that's fighting on your side. Some battles are tough and some scars are evident, but thank God for (1) fighting our battles, (2) extending His unfailing grace, and (3) offering us a chance to begin again!
Thank you Jesus, we won! May your 2020 be filled with many more victories. Happy New Year!
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalms 91
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
As the year begins winding down, most of us start reconciling our goals set at the beginning of the year with how things actually turned out. It’s a time to give thanks for the things that exceeded our expectations while learning from the things that didn’t quite pan out like we thought they would. Sometimes there are things that we had no idea God even did for us because we were so oblivious to His hand in our lives at those particular moments.
So as I was having a reflective moment, I thought of something I’d experienced and chuckled to myself. It was towards the end of my third stay in the hospital when the nurse came in to change my linen and my gown as usual. I’d been wearing a yellow gown for the past several days, but this time when she changed my gown, she changed me into a blue gown. The next day when she came to change my gown again, I very innocently asked, “May I have another yellow gown? I like the bright yellow color better.” She replied, “Do you feel like you’re going to fall when you stand up?” Confused, I replied, “No.” Then she said, “The yellow gown is for patients who are at risk of falling. It alerts the nurses to keep a special eye on you if you get out of the bed, and someone will always walk with you, even though you have a walker.”
Wow! I had no idea the color of my gown signified if I was at risk of falling or not. I was also completely oblivious to the fact that God had strengthened me beyond “yellow gown status” to “blue gown status”. He can be so subtle in walking with us, that we don’t even know when He changed our status, we just look up one day and realize He did!
This situation made me examine other areas of my life where God had strengthened my walk. As I began to look closely, I saw so many situations in my life where God has moved me from the “yellow gown” to the ”blue gown” without me even recognizing the moment it happened. He saw the signs in various areas of my life where I was at risk of falling and He patiently walked with me to keep me safe.
As we reflect on this year alone, consider the countless risks God has walked through with us, keeping us from falling. Consider the many blessings He has given us while we were completely unaware of the shift along the way. The fact of the matter is, He never leaves us. So as we come to a close of this year and enter into a new one, walk with assurance that He is there to keep us in all our ways.
He is to able to keep you from stumbling. Jude 1:24(a)
Have a blessed 2020!
Thursday, November 14, 2019
This morning was not like any other morning. As I opened my eyes, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Not the regular "thank you" gratitude, but the “speechless, eyes full of tears” gratitude as I reflected on this time last year. This time last year, I lay in a hospital bed, barely able to move or walk as the nurses rolled me back and forth to change my clothes, and as I lay there, I could feel life leaving my body. My son sat next to my bed not knowing what was happening to his mom. In fact, a few days earlier, he'd sat quietly on the foot of my bed at home and asked, "Mom, are you dying?"
Thankfully, he'd driven me to the emergency room on this particular evening. In that moment, I didn't have the capacity to have fear or to think any "why me" thoughts. I was only able to cling to my faith and trust that God was in control. The only thing I remember was apologizing to the nurses over and over for having to take care of me with no help from my own strength. They were loving, gracious angels.
Shortly after having a CT scan, the doctor entered my room and stated very matter-of-factly that she'd need to do a major surgery NOW. I could sense the urgency in the matter as I was already in the process of receiving a blood transfusion. But even at that moment, I asked if she could give me a moment to pray. She paused and left the room for a few minutes. When she returned, I had accepted God’s healing by way of this surgery but had one question to really understand the intensity behind her recommendation - "If I were your sister, what would you tell me to do?" She replied, "I would tell you to head to O.R. right now." I replied, "Okay. Let's go." It was in God’s hands.
Approximately, 6 hours later I was grateful to awaken in ICU with breath in my body. Lots of tubes and beeps were happening around me, but gratitude and grace filled the room larger than anything else. After being in the hospital for a week, I was able to go home the evening before Thanksgiving and today I am reminded of the first evening home. It was surreal, like a dream. I remember as I was sleeping on the sofa (I was unable to climb the stairs to my bedroom, so I slept on the sofa for a couple of weeks.), I opened my eyes at 2:00 a.m. and just looked around the room giving thanks to God that I was actually on the other side of a miracle. I lay there, unable to get up, but feeling so safe in His arms as He carried me through the days and weeks to come.
The next few weeks were filled with family coming into town to take turns taking care of me, along with home nurses and physical therapists. And, as you can imagine, the gratitude on that Thanksgiving was immeasurable. I was surrounded by loving angels.
So today, as I awoke, the regular gratitude was superseded by gratitude that can't even be described. I have named November 14th as my new birthday and every day Thanksgiving. Yes, I was born on February 3rd, but on November 14, 2018, God rewrote my ending and gave me a new beginning. It was hard to imagine the girl laying in the hospital being able to live the life I'm gifted with today, but I can hear the voice of the Lord saying, "Daughter, your faith has healed you." (Mark 5:34)
As a result of my past, I now see and hear everything so differently in my new life. I take everything that Jesus did personally. His body was broken just for me. His blood was shed just for me. His amazing grace was extended directly to me. His unfailing love was given just for me. I am grateful for all that He's done for me. Today, I celebrate life...more abundantly!
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
I used to have a dog with a “runaway spirit”. In fact, he came into my life because he’d run away from someone else. I found him roaming the streets one day, and after posting signs about a lost dog, I took him to the vet to be scanned to see if he had an electronic chip which would identify him and his owner. No such luck, so we adopted him into our family and named him Elmo; however, no matter how much love he was receiving from our family, he took the opportunity to run whenever the gate opened.
After having him for a couple of years, I decided to relocate from Los Angeles to Atlanta. And what do you think happened the week of the move? You guessed it, Elmo ran away. I was devastated! I left his kennel and travel papers with my sister and prayed that Elmo would be found by the time my sister was scheduled to visit me in Atlanta. Sure enough, about a week after we’d moved, I got a call. “Hi! This is Emily’s mom. We have Elmo, again.” Emily was a high school girl in the neighborhood who Elmo had followed home during previous runaways, so they were familiar with my little runaway baby. Oh, how I rejoiced at knowing Elmo had been found. My sister went and got him and brought him to Atlanta with her. Hallelujah!
Knowing I had a runner on my hands (and I loved him too much to see him get lost again), I scheduled to have an invisible fence installed. If you’re not familiar with an invisible fence, it’s an electrical wire installed under-ground around the perimeter of the yard. The dog wears a collar that beeps when he gets too close to the wire alerting him to back-up, otherwise, he’ll experience a shock. The dog eventually learns the boundaries and stays within the invisible fence.
Well, what do you think happened the day the guy came to install the fence? You guessed it again. Elmo ran away! Both the children and I, along with the fence guy, ran through the neighborhood chasing Elmo. Completely out of breath, we finally caught him. After getting back to the house, I will never forget the fence installer’s words as he trained Elmo on how the fence worked - “I see that Elmo has a runaway spirit, so I’m going to need to let him experience a shock so he understands the boundaries. You might want to look away.” Oh, how my heart ached as he took Elmo to the edge of the yard and I heard him howl at the feeling of the shock. After that experience, Elmo stayed on the porch for several days uncertain about what was out in that evil yard waiting for him. Eventually, he learned the system and began to run and play and enjoyed life within the safe boundaries set for him. And to my great joy, he never left the yard again.
Elmo and I have so much in common. He was brought into my life to teach me what safe boundaries look like. I’ve learned that God has a shield of protection around me; however, when I run away on my own will, He sometimes allows me to experience a shock to teach me boundaries. Ouch! It doesn’t always feel good, but like the fence installer, I can hear the Lord saying, “This might hurt a bit, but I’m going to have to allow this shock to keep you safe in My will.” For some of us (and by “us” I mean “me”), it takes a lot of running away before we understand that God’s boundaries are set in place for our lives because He loves us too much to allow us to get lost. It’s not always easy when you have a “runaway spirit”, but I am constantly reminded that the safe boundaries He’s set for me is just a reflection of His great love for me.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
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