You’ve Been Churched

Church is such an interesting concept. I mean, for starters, the word has so many different meanings and connotations for different people. For some people, the word “church” brings on a sense of peacefulness and happiness. For others, it brings on a sense of nausea. Even for those who follow a church-going religion, church can have so many different meanings. It can be a sacred, holy place where you should be on your best behavior. Or, it can be a fun, lively place where you can be your goofy self. It can be a place where you feel obligated to go, a place where you go to out of habit, or a place where you look forward to going to every week. It can even be a place that you avoid, because you really don’t think that it’s necessary to attend.

Some people see it as a sort of club where they can be around like-minded people, perhaps even using it as a gathering place to discuss how wrong the rest of the world is. For those who are not part of religions involving churches, it can be a building that they sneer at when they drive by, because they see it as an ugly, misguided, or useless place. And for some people, church is simply a place that they politely ignore because it doesn’t apply to them.

However you see church, there is probably a long story behind it. When I think about church, I tend to have positive feelings. You could say that this is because I’ve had a lot of positive church experiences, or because I was raised with church as a normal part of my life, but I think that the biggest reason is that I know the inventor. I know and understand what church is meant to be, because I’ve read about it in the Bible, the way that it was when it was originally created. I just so happen to think that the Biblical model of church is pretty awesome.

Simply put, the Biblical church is a group of people who believe in the God of the Bible and who are commissioned to share the love of Jesus with the rest of the world. As children of God who are wholly forgiven and purified by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the church can live free from sin by depending on God’s grace instead of their own obedience or rule-following. The church is not meant to be a place of judgment, rules, secrecy, or exclusion. Instead, church is meant to be a place of unrelenting love open to all people, eager to help those in need. What a beautiful picture!

Unfortunately, churches often fall very short of this image. Over the years, many churches have turned into their own worst enemy, pushing people farther and farther away from God instead of drawing them closer. But there is still hope! There are still many churches out there that understand God’s plan for them. If we can learn to see church in a healthier way, then maybe we can one day get to a place where all churches will reflect God’s love the way that He intended.

Although no church will ever be perfect, they can certainly still be healthy. Healthy churches come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Ever since my husband and I moved to Riverside County about a month and a half ago, we have been searching for a new church to be a part of. We have discovered that every church has its own unique style and personality, and that some churches fit us better than others. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that! In fact, I think that it’s vital that healthy churches exist in many different forms, because that means that many different types of people will be able to find a church that suits them. For Cory and I, though, it has been a bit difficult to find a church that we really feel at home in.

In Orange County, we attended a wonderful church called Saddleback. Saddleback Church is a very large, well-known church with eight different campuses in Southern California. We were part of the college-aged ministry called Crave, which met at the campus in Rancho Capistrano, and we also served in the children’s ministry at the same campus on Saturdays. Sometimes, we attended church with my family at the original “main” campus in Lake Forest. No matter which campus we attended though, the feeling was pretty much the same; we belonged. Being a part of Saddleback Church was an awesome experience. This is definitely one church that understands its purpose to share God’s love with everybody!

Now that we don’t live very close to any Saddleback Church campuses, we are discovering just how great we had it there. We haven’t yet found any churches near us that suit us as well as Saddleback did, and I realize now that I never truly appreciated my church for how great it was. If you are part of a church that you love, then I encourage you to really enjoy it and don’t take it for granted!

I am sure that we will soon find a church out here that is filled with as much love and is as welcoming as Saddleback is. As much as I love that church, I know that the Church is really all of God’s children around the world, and that church is about relationships with God and other people. I am sure that we will find a church that understands this as much as our old one did.

There is just one more thing that I want to point out about church, and that’s the reason why being part of one is so important to me. I know a lot of Christians who don’t attend church, and their list of excuses for it are about as long as my arm. One of the most common reasons I know of is that “you don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian.” I also know a lot of Christians who attend church because they feel obligated to. But both of these approaches are missing the most important reason to attend church; because it makes your life better and helps you to grow!

I do not believe that I need to go to church to be a Christian or to love God, or especially to go to Heaven when I die. If I believed any of those things, then I would have a woefully poor understanding of the Bible and of God. No, I go to church because I see a difference in my life when I do. Regularly attending church strengthens my relationship with God, allows me to build relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and helps me to become more and more like Jesus. All of those things make my life better and bring me joy!

Church is not a mandate from God, it is a gift and a tool that he lovingly gave to us to help us during our time on Earth. Jesus didn’t die just to save us for eternity, He died to save us for life! What I mean by that is that God doesn’t just want to be in our hearts, He wants to be in our day-to-day lives. Jesus wants us to put Him in control of our lives because He loves us and knows what’s best for us. We cannot receive God’s best for us if we don’t live with our eyes and hearts set on Him. Going to church is just one way that we can receive some of the blessings that God wants to give us. Some of the greatest friendships I have ever had were with people who I met at church, and some of the closest moments I have had with God were in the presence of fellow believers. I love church because it brings me closer to God and it helps me to become the person that He made me to be. And that simply feels good.

Baby Fever 2.0

I recently caught a new, severe strain of baby fever and have been battling this powerful virus for the past few weeks. Some of my symptoms have included researching baby names late into the night, “accidentally” walking through the baby section at target, and stuffing my shirt with a blanket to see what I would look like pregnant. Not to worry though, the prognosis is good; I know that I can fight it and I will soon be back to good health.


All jokes aside though, I really do have baby fever. The fact that I’ve been struggling with insomnia for the past month or so hasn’t helped things. I’ve spent many nights lately just laying in bed thinking about babies, and all of that thinking has not done much to help matters. But don’t worry, friends and family members who are reading this; Cory and I are not planning on having children any time soon. We’re not ready for that yet, financially, and our sense of responsibility is strong enough to override any wishes that we may have for starting a family right now.

Still, I’ve been doing some research about baby-related matters and last night, I started to look into the debate about the “right number of kids.” My husband and I are considering having up to six kids, two of which would be adopted, and I was curious about what other people think about large families like that.

There are many passionate arguments for and against having so many children. Many people believe that having any more than two children is wrong because of the environmental costs. They argue that the world is already overpopulated and that having more than two to “replace you” would be irresponsible. Some even argue that having more than one is wrong, and having none is preferable, because we need to reduce the population. While most of these people are not basing their opinions on God or the Bible, there are actually many Christians who believe that our duty to protect and care for the planet requires us to limit the number of children that we have to a maximum of three (and many believe that one or two is better).

On the other side of the coin, there are those who argue that people should have as many children as they want to and can handle. Christians, in particular, often have some wild opinions about the matter. For example, many Christians argue that God commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply,” which they feel means that we have a duty to have as many children as possible. Some even believe that we should continue having kids even when we cannot provide for them financially, because it forces us to rely on God to provide. And of course, there is the belief that not having children is a selfish and sinful act, and that having as many children as possible is the most selfless thing a person can do with his/her life.

I rarely believe that any extreme stance on an issue is the best approach, so neither of these camps really felt right with me. As a Christian, I want to base every decision that I make on what God thinks. Part of how I figure out what God thinks is by figuring out what other Christians think, because the Bible doesn’t always spell out everything in black and white. Unfortunately, we are all flawed people and it isn’t always easy to tell what God thinks by looking at what people think. Often, this approach will lead to a less Godly decision than if we’d just tried to make it on our own in the first place!

So what is the right number of kids to have, and how can we make that decision based on what God wants for us? I don’t necessarily know the answer to this question any more than anybody else does. But, I do have an opinion based on my understanding of the Bible.

God’s greatest commandment to his followers is to love Him and to love others. Having children can certainly teach us to love Him more because it gives us a better understanding of His love for us! When you have a child, your understanding of unconditional love grows. That’s the kind of love that God has for us, except infinitely more! On top of that, having children can improve our ability to love others. Raising children requires sacrifice, patience, and many other Godly character traits, and it can refine these character traits in us as well. So yes, I believe that having children can be a tool for God to teach us how to love Him and others better.

God also commands us to take care of the planet that He created. We are responsible for protecting our resources, and God never intended for us to abuse them. But how does having children fit into this picture? I think the key is to focus on intention, not legalism. Having three children or more may negatively affect the planet, but so can pretty much everything else we do. It’s kind of like arguing that we shouldn’t do homework because using paper kills trees.

The fact of the matter is that we cannot control every consequence of every decision that we make; sometimes bad things happen as a result of good decisions that we make, but that doesn’t change the fact that the decision was good. The same idea can be applied to having children; as long as we raise our children in a way that teaches them to care for the planet to the best of their abilities, I don’t believe that having many children is wrong for environmental reasons. Children are a gift from God and created by God, and I don’t believe for a second that He would ever regret creating a child because he or she added to global warming. On that note, though, we absolutely do have a responsibility as parents to teach our kids the value of our planet. Christians especially have a God-given calling to work together to protect it and all of the people on it to the best of our abilities.

Different numbers of children are right for different people. There is no “right number” of children to have. Some people are called to raise many children, and some are called to raise none. All that matters, really, is that we strive to love God and others, and whether children are a part of that story for us or not is up to us. I honestly think that sometimes, God really doesn’t have a preference in what we do as long as our intentions are pure.

My husband and I feel called to have children, but only God knows how many we will end up with. We might have one baby and realize that we’re fine with just one! Or, we might continue to grow our family and end up with many more. Right now, we really want to have two boys and two girls, and we think that if after having four biologically we don’t have that mix, then we would like to adopt. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we get there. Either way, I know that my husband and I are excited to be parents one day, and I’m looking forward to that awesome adventure ahead of us.

Not My Responsibility

Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about my understanding of responsibility. Specifically, I’ve been struggling to understand what kinds of things are my responsibilities and what kinds of things are not. I recently realized that I have an unhealthy tendency to feel responsible for so many things that I can’t control. Over the past week or so, I’ve been gradually teaching myself to let go of those things and give them to God instead.

There are many things that I often find myself feeling responsible for. I feel responsible for how people see me and what they think about me. I feel responsible for earning the approval of others. This applies particularly to people who I care about, but it also often includes complete strangers. I feel responsible for pleasing my family and friends and for meeting their expectations. To be honest, I often feel responsible to exceed their expectations. I feel compelled to be as close to perfect as I can be.

I also often feel responsible for what other people think about God, specifically my close friends and family members. Some part of my brain tells me that I may very well be the only person who can show them the light, and that it is therefore my duty to say or do just the right thing to reach them. I take on the impossible and fully expect myself to achieve it. When I don’t, I feel a huge sense of anxiety and emotional pain over my helplessness to change their minds.

Another thing that I feel responsible for is fixing people. This obviously ties in with the problem I just mentioned, but it goes beyond that. When I see somebody in pain or struggling or suffering with an unmet need, I feel compelled to fix it. It’s not just that I want to help or offer comfort, either. I literally want to make the problem go away, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing to want, it is bad when I feel as if I actually must do so. Because the fact is, I can never make a person’s problems go away completely. And when I realize that there is nothing I can do to fix it, I feel distressed, upset, and helpless. I end up doing nothing, instead pushing the person out of my mind because that is the only way that I can move on with my life.

The truth of the matter is that none of these things are my responsibilities. I cannot please everybody, I cannot force people to love God and live in a way that pleases Him, and I cannot fix people’s problems. Even God cannot or chooses not to be responsible any of these things! He doesn’t try to please everybody, because He knows that being true to His nature is way more important than making people happy. He doesn’t force people to believe in Him, to love Him, or to follow Him, either. In many cases, He doesn’t even bother trying to convince people to do those things! Why not? Because God, in His infinite wisdom, understands that it is not His responsibility to change or control how people behave. He lets people be responsible for their own actions, beliefs, and decisions. Of course, I know that if what I feel is even a fraction of what God feels for those people, then it must break His heart every day that He watches them make those choices. Yet He still doesn’t change His mind. God lets people remain responsible for themselves, because He loves them enough to respect their free will. I have to learn how to do the same.

Do you know what else God doesn’t do? He doesn’t fix all of people’s problems! That is a huge sticking point for some people who don’t believe in Him or follow Him. After all, if God loves us so much, then why doesn’t He just make everything perfect and end our suffering? People have come up with many great answers to that question, but I think it all comes down to this; God lets us take responsibility for the mess that we’ve made in our lives and our world. Originally, he did give us a perfect world! But humanity decided to mess it up, and it’s only gotten worse since then. It’s our choice to make bad decisions and do bad things, and He respects our right to make those choices.

It doesn’t end there, though. God doesn’t just leave us in our mess and say “Best of luck to you, suckers!” The Bible tells us that His heart breaks for the suffering of His people. He loves us, and He hates to see us struggle! Which is exactly why He made a way for things to be different. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us and pay the price for all of our mistakes and bad choices. It is through Jesus that we can find hope for a better way. It is through Jesus that we can have a relationship with the God of the universe, and have hope for today and for the future.

Even those who love God still have problems, though. The difference is that when people who love God have problems, there is a limit to what they can lose. As a Christian, I know that no matter what happens to me in life, nobody can ever take away my relationship with God. Nobody can ever take away my eternal future in Heaven. Nobody can ever take away God’s love for me, and when it really comes down to it, that’s all I need. Because of that, I know that I’ll always be okay. Of course, that doesn’t mean life will always be a piece of cake.

Thinking about all of these things, I think that I might finally understand that I’m really not responsible for all of the things that I put on my own shoulders. And if I follow Jesus’ example, then I can start to understand what I am responsible for. Like Jesus, I am responsible for my own actions. I am responsible for loving God and loving others to the best of my ability. I am responsible for doing my best to live in a way that pleases God, which includes sharing His message with others and helping people in whatever ways that I can. And because of Jesus, I am covered 100% and completely when I make mistakes. Because of Jesus, I am not responsible for being perfect. That, my friends, is called freedom, and Jesus took full responsibility for it a long, long time ago.


The First Year

On August 21st, Cory and I celebrated our first anniversary as a married couple. I wanted to write a post about what this first year has been like and our hopes for the many years to come.

Looking back at the time that has passed from our wedding day until now, it’s hard to believe that it has only been one year. We first moved in together at my parents’ house and created our first bedroom as a couple, a space that was all our own. Then, about six months later we moved into a great little apartment in Aliso Viejo and experienced the joy of living in our first home that was all to ourselves. Just over two weeks ago, we moved yet again and decided to venture out a little bit further this time, moving into our new apartment in Riverside County. While three moves within one year of marriage may seem like a lot, we have enjoyed the journey knowing that our true home is wherever we are together.

Besides our living arrangements, many other things have changed for the two of us throughout this past year, particularly our career paths. I decided to leave my university and pursue an Associate’s degree instead, hoping to make a career as an author. Cory left the university as well, a few months later, and jumped into a business venture to start a solar panel installation company. When it started to look like he was going to be successful enough to support us, I considered the possibility of us starting a family and me becoming a stay-at-home mom. I planned to focus on my family and write novels on the side instead of building a career.

Later, it became clear that my husband’s solar panel business was not going to get off the ground because of a lack of funding, and we decided to move on for now and potentially revisit the idea in the future. When that happened, I realized that I didn’t really have a great plan for my future, and I started to think harder about what I wanted to do with my life. It was then that I discovered a gift and a passion that I have for teaching children. With that in mind, I tentatively started to research options for returning to school, this time focusing on online programs that better suit my learning style. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to discover that financially, education beyond the junior college level was no longer within my reach.

Meanwhile, Cory started to refine his own career plans, and came up with the idea of becoming a programmer. It would be fairly easy for him to learn the necessary skills, and a job like that would provide plenty of income to support us. What he really wanted to do, though, was (and still is) to start businesses. Entrepreneurship is his passion and the thing that he dreams of making a career out of. Unfortunately, our financial situation while we were discovering all of this was not optimal. We were by no means struggling to survive, but neither did we have enough extra income to support my new educational goals or his business goals.

After a lot of thinking, researching, and praying, God provided us with a solution. Cory’s parents made an extremely generous offer to support us while we go to school to earn our Bachelor’s degrees, as well as to pay for the costs of school itself. Within the next few days, we found a university with the perfect programs for both of us. I am now working towards my degree in liberal studies, with an emphasis in multiple subjects teaching, which will lead me straight into a teaching credential program when I’m finished. I estimate that I have about three more years until I earn my Bachelor’s degree. Cory is working towards a degree in business administration with an emphasis on entrepreneurship, and he will be finished in about three years as well, according to our estimations.

When I have completed my schooling, I hope to start working as an elementary school teacher right away. Of course, the job market for teachers in California may not be the best right now, and I can’t guarantee that I will be able to find a job at all. But instead of worrying about it, I’m trusting God to provide a way for me. This is where He seems to be leading me, so this is where I will go in faith.

After Cory earns his degree, he plans to become a programmer and run businesses on the side, until he has gained enough experience to secure more funding for some of his bigger ideas. His business degree will only help him to be more successful and potentially more appealing to lenders who could loan him much-needed business capital. Until then, his earnings as a programmer should be more than enough to support us, especially since we will (hopefully) have my income as well.

We are hoping to start a family as soon as we have enough extra income to support it, which we think will be in five or six years. To be honest, that feels like a long time to wait for me, because I really want to have children! But at the same time, I know that we have to make responsible decisions for ourselves and our kids. Plus, one of the great things about getting married young is that there is really no rush to have kids! I still have over a decade of potential child-bearing years ahead of me. And Cory and I are going to enjoy our years of freedom from the responsibility of parenthood. After all, this is the only time that we will have to enjoy our lives with just each other. Once we have children, there is no going back and we will forever be a family of more than two— and quite possibly a lot more than two!

Obviously, we have a lot of high hopes for the future, and I am very excited to see where life is going to take us. The last year has been amazing, and I have loved being married for every minute of it. I’ve often heard that the first year is the hardest in a marriage, and if that’s the truth then we definitely have nothing to worry about! Our first year has only reaffirmed our decision to get married when we did, despite the obstacles and cynics that often seemed to block our path. Simply put, marriage suits us well. Of course, I know that our success so far has very little to do with us and everything to do with God, who is the center of who we are as individuals and as a couple. I am eager to continue growing into a better partner for my husband over the next many years to come, which I can only do with God by my side.


Thank you for being a wonderful husband, honey! I could never have asked for anyone better. One year down, 70+ to go!