A New Resolution

By Bindu Adai Mathew

This year I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. Now don’t mistake me. There’s plenty I want to improve about myself and my life, but this year I decided on a different approach. I created New Year Intentions.

A New Year Intention is a conscious, dedicated, yet kinder, gentler approach to achieving specific goals. Now I know the experts say without a detailed plan, measureable goals, a specific deadline, accountability, yadda yadda yadda, a goal is less likely to be achieved.  And for some things like tasks and projects, I would agree that is probably the case. But for other things, such as the yearly goal most people have to get into shape or start living healthier, I realized telling myself to cut out sugar, caffeine, carbs and working out 4-5 times a week might work for the month of January, but by February or March, I either get bored or “too busy” or too tired to continue. I love my morning toast and chai. And my afternoon Spicy Cheetos.

Make realistic goals would be some experts’ response. Yeah. I guess. But somehow the yearly New Year’s resolution eventually becomes something I abhor. I intentionally shirk from it after a few months. Because whether it is a lofty, unrealistic goal or just something minor I want to change about myself, I find that anytime I don’t follow my goal for that day or that week, I start reaching for the eject button and am ready to abandon my goals.

A New Year’s Intention, on the other hand, is a shift in mindset. My New Year intention isn’t just a goal that I attain… it’s a lifestyle change. Rather than focusing on a specific amount of pounds to lose or a specific size of clothing, I, instead focus on making healthier choices, whether it’s what I decide to eat or how much of it to eat. It’s recognizing I want to be healthier, that I need to eat better, work out more. And that is my intention every day. That is my intention even when I don’t work out for a few days during the week and that is my intention as I bite into a sweet, soft donut that someone brought to work on Friday. Yeah, you heard me. So as I eat that donut, I’m not plagued with guilt. I’m not plagued with worries about my skinny jeans no longer fitting. That I don’t have a right to eat this donut because I didn’t work out earlier in the week. And neither am I plagued with thoughts of getting to the gym that night or the next day to “burn off” that donut. Instead, I’m enjoying that donut for all its sweet, warm gooey goodness. BUT. I know that donut is not healthy for me. So after a few bites, I realize that my initial desire for the donut has been curbed and because I’m not plagued with a “heck, I already screwed up, I might as well finish it and then grab another donut” thought, I can actually set the donut down and not feel I have to eat all of it. I’m no longer “feeding” my guilt or shame. I can listen to my body and create that space between want and truly need and make a better decision. And because my mindset has shifted, I don’t feel “forced” to make a healthier choice for food at lunch, but realize I want to. Because I truly want to give my body what it really needs. Because that is my underlying intention. Every day.

The same goes for working out. Become more organized. Procrastinating less. Spending more time with God.

This past week, it was hard to find some focused quiet time in the morning to read my Bible. So instead, I turned on some praise and worship music and worshipped God as I made my daughter’s breakfast and packed her lunch and then had a conversation with God on my way to work and during my afternoon break. I think of “time with God” less as a formal, set time but rather than a continual, all-day awareness that He is with me, that He is in control, and I often now speak to him throughout the day like I would with a close friend. And eventually I’m back to reading my Bible on a more consistent time frame.

A New Year’s Intention isn’t casual or half-hearted. In fact, as its name implies, it’s very intentional. It has to be well thought out and some specifics do need to be identified and followed through. But most of all, it has to be something you are ready to do. It requires a commitment. And perseverance. But it’s guilt-free. It allows you to be human. To “mess up. “ But you never have to get back in the saddle, for you never got off.

So whatever changes you want to make in your life, remember, above all else, be kind to yourself. And persevere. For as Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.

To You, Sue

By Bindu Adai Mathew

Today the world lost an amazing person – Susan (Sue) Varghese Thomas – after nearly a 10 month battle with cancer. She had a bright smile, endless optimism, a creative energy, and a beautiful heart.  In many ways, I considered her a kindred spirit because like me, she was an aspiring writer. We shared similar struggles with getting published along with the ups and downs of carving a legitimate career out of our passion for writing. She was Indian and Malayalee like me, and most importantly, she was a sister in Christ.

But I never met Sue. In person, that is.  It was a close friend we had in common, Suja Jacob, who brought us together. Because of our shared love of writing, Suja always told us about each other. So when Sue published her book, The World from My Fire Escape, I felt personally invested in her success as a writer. I followed her on her blog, and when Facebook became popular, we also became Facebook friends.

It was through Suja that I first learned Sue had cancer. It was also through Suja that I learned that Sue’s cancer had worsened when she called me a week ago after seeing Sue. She was in tears after seeing Sue’s condition.

“I really thought God would have healed her,” Suja said, her voice and spirit broken with pain. “I don’t even know how to pray. Do I pray for God to take her so she’s no longer in pain? Or do I pray for her to be healed? Of course, I want her to be healed, but I don’t want to see her suffer like this.”

“You definitely pray for her utter and complete healing, “ I encouraged her, my voice strong with conviction. “With her body wracked in pain, you must stand in the gap and believe for her. You believe God, despite Sue’s condition, can and is willing to heal her. And then you pray for God’s will to be done.”  As I spoke encouragement, I felt faith well up in my own spirit. Yes, I felt, God is the healer. He who brought the dead back to life, He who created Life out of nothingness, He is able. What is impossible for him? Nothing.

“If it’s not her time, she won’t go,” I reminded Suja. “No one, but God can give or take life.”

So this week, I really prayed for Sue. I prayed the pain she was in would subside and be tolerable. I especially prayed for her complete healing and that she, too, would have the strength to believe despite her pain and circumstances.

So you can imagine my shock when I got the call that Sue had died this morning. As I comforted my friend, I felt sadness overwhelm me as well. Gone too soon. I think of all the books she still had in her, waiting to be discovered by new readers. The places she had yet to explore. The love she still had yet to share.

And then suddenly her passing seemed so wrong. But we prayed fervently, I reminded myself. And I know God heard us. And just like all things we don’t understand, I am reminded that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and while He was fully able to heal Susan, He decided it was her time.  And then I’m reminded she is in Heaven. HEAVEN. What am I mourning but our loss? For she has truly gained her reward. As she is pain-free in Heaven in the presence of a God whom she truly believed and loved.

As it reads in 2 Timothy 4:7:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Now enjoy your reward, Susan. You’ve earned it. I just wish you could have written about your experience… oh what a bestseller that would be!

Child-like Faith

By Bindu Adai Mathew

When I was young, I was taught to pray to God, especially when I needed His help with anything. Back then I felt blessed when my prayers were answered. And for the times they weren’t, I was disappointed, but I never recall being hurt or angry with God when things didn’t happen the way I prayed. I always knew he was all-powerful, and I always believed He was all loving. But honestly, luckily for me, my problems never felt overwhelming to the point where I was bitter and angry at God. Or maybe back then, I just had that child-like faith.

Even when 911 happened, I didn’t question God’s sovereignty or His goodness. Even when one of my best friends from high school was murdered by a serial killer in 1999, I didn’t question God’s sovereignty. I was shaken, scared, and I questioned why God allowed it, especially since He had protected me from being there. I still recall the week before she died, we had initially made plans to have dinner and maybe even have a sleepover so we could talk into the wee hours of the night like we did when we were in junior high and high school before I headed back to grad school. But just the day before, she cancelled, and the very night I should have been with her, she was murdered. So while I was upset, shaken, and had lots of questions for God, I still didn’t question His essential goodness.

As I’ve gotten older, in many ways I believe my faith is deeper. I know that He is truly Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent. Yet with that knowledge, there is also a deeper testing of my faith, especially as life’s challenges beat on our souls and hearts like pounding waves in the midst of a storm. In the desert, in the waiting, I often find myself looking up and not just asking, “Why?”  But now my “whys” aren’t just a question. They’re sometimes an accusation.

We know that every blessing comes from God, and when you see movies like “Miracles from Heaven,” our faith is renewed because that is the kind of God we serve:  a God of mercy, justice, and love. It is with movies and testimonies like that when we know that all things truly do work together for good. But yet, each of us know of plenty of other prayers that haven’t been answered in the way we had hoped.  A beloved family member or friend still died of cancer. The couple struggling to conceive continues to remain childless. A marriage that was prayed over never got restored and still resulted in divorce. A wayward child or family member is still lost.

So when we seek God. When we pray. When we stand in that gap and believe that God is good and that He can and is willing, and things still don’t work out, what then? When we experience things in our lives that are contrary to His will, what do we believe then? Is God still good? We KNOW the answer is yes. But we may not always feel that way.

I believe it is when we believe and continue to trust God even when the situation looks hopeless that we then truly grow and we truly experience the miracle we were seeking. It is when our eyes can look past the natural and our hearts are resolved to trust that we see the supernatural. We see glimpses of God in His glory. It is when we focus on God and not just what we want or prayed and refuse to give up our faith that not only does God shine… but we shine. And it is when our faith is not based on what He does or doesn’t do but what He did on the cross and who He is that we then truly experience that life-transforming answer we were seeking.

So during this month, I pray that those April showers fertile your heart… may they wash away your guilt, your anger, your bitterness. May that child-like faith, along with love and joy, bloom into beautiful flowers in your soul that not only last through the month of May but throughout the year.

 

Cleaning Out Your Closet

By Bindu Adai Mathew

Spring is here! Well, let’s be honest, here in Florida, our “winter” is actually the equivalent of Spring up north. Growing up, I always loved spring… warm but cool weather, the trees have leaves again, there are fresh, colorful flowers everywhere. I‘ve always adored the Spring season because it makes me feel alive again. My mom also loved Spring, and like mothers everywhere, she always liked to use that time to clear out our closets and do some deep house-cleaning.

For me, cleaning out my closet and getting rid of toys and clothes was the equivalent of forcing me to eat liver and spinach for dinner. It was the equivalent of no cartoons on a Saturday morning or no swimming pool in the summer. It was neither palatable nor fair. So what if I didn’t play with that toy anymore or that I no longer wore that dress?? It was MY dress… it was MY toy. And I still liked both, and I was not ready to part with either.

Then high school hit, and I not only hoarded my clothes and toys, but I began to save my schoolwork. I began to worry that I might forget how to do a quadratic equation in college, so what if I still needed my notes and homework to figure it out? (In my defense, there was no Google or Internet back then.)

My mom fought a yearly battle with me, encouraging me to clean out my closet and get rid of unneeded things. “But that was my first Trapper Keeper! I have to keep it!” or “I know parachute pants will come back in style. Why do I have to give them away?!”

As I got older, my mom eventually left me and my closet alone. Over the years, my closet grew… and grew… to the point that any time I moved, it was not only painful and overwhelming but truly a nightmare. And after my last move, I realized that my mom had been right all along. However, it’s still not been an easy task to clean out my closet.  I’m very sentimental and I take very good care of my things, so it’s very easy to continue to hold on to everything.  But now I’m in a home where closet space is limited, and I realize that if I do want to make room for new things, I do have to let other things go…

This year particularly I realized it’s not only clothes, shoes, and paperwork that I often hoard. I also hoard unresolved feelings like unforgiveness… resentment… bitterness. I hold onto those hurts and pull them out to look at them, think about them. It’s almost like pouring salt on an old wound. But rather than letting them go, I put that hurt right back in my closet, storing those feelings away until the next time I’m feeling vulnerable or hurt and decide it’s time to think about them.

Just like an overrun closet filled with unneeded things can limit our ability to have room for new things, so can a overrun heart that is filled with hurt and unforgiveness. It’s not only limiting but debilitating. It not only limits your own potential in life, but just as importantly, it limits God. While nothing is impossible with God, He works best in us when are hearts are clean and pure. And more than our current circumstances that we’re focused on, he’s more focused on our hearts, and he often uses our circumstances to transform our hearts.

In my new year posting, I mentioned that it is time. And I truly believe that. This is the time. Today. This year. It is time to let go. Time to let go of the hurt, the disappointment. Time to forgive your friend/mother/spouse/child. It is time to forgive yourself. As the Bible eloquently stated, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. To make room for the new, you have to let go of the old.

As I think of the promise of spring and the concept of letting go of the old and embracing the new, I’m reminded of the closing chapter of my novel, The Chrysalis:

Like the rings of a tree, each of these events marks a significant year in my life. And now another year has come and gone. And soon enough, this moment, too, would be a distant memory. I could suddenly feel time ticking again. It is as palpable as my heartbeat. I can feel the grainy sands of time slipping through my fingers. As much as I want to curl my palm into a fist, it is inevitably slipping through my fingers. I have only one choice, I realize. To embrace it. To embrace this life—my life. Because Life is happening—with or without me. There was already so much wasted time spent on wishing, wanting, waiting… when life was all around me, ready to be experienced and enjoyed.

Our lives are like this forest. Seasons of beginnings and endings, marking both life and beauty as well as desolation and emptiness, all leading us to where we are, where we are meant to be.

I dig my hands deeper into my pockets in a futile attempt for warmth and march on, eager to explore parts of the forest that I had never seen. It seems to go on for miles, but how far had I ever gotten? Something had always stopped me from exploring—busyness, laziness, fear. I always said that I wanted to explore, but somehow I never had the time. But now the trail lies before me, a seemingly never-ending road of possibility stretches before me, winding and twisting, leading me, and now Life has simultaneously presented me all the time, the interest, and opportunity. As I walk, some markers are initially familiar, but soon enough, I am on unfamiliar ground.

I haven’t even gotten farther than a mile when I come upon it—there amongst the brittle, dead, seemingly barren branches—one little leafling pushing through the lifeless tree bark. A bud. Alone in its dark green, fragile glory, it dares to breach its tiny blade through. It is a reminder that yes, change is on its way and what was once barren would bear life once again. One small bud. Of Hope. Of Life. I smile at the reminder.

With outstretched arms, I lift my head to the waning sun and twirl around slowly and then faster, faster—for after the winter, the spring surely comes, and with it, I, too, am reborn.

The Color of Love

By Bindu Adai Mathew

 

If love were a color, what color would it be?

Is it white and pure, like freshly fallen snow?

Or is it ocean blue with waters that run deep and wide?

Or is it the color of the midnight sky that knows no end?

Or is love yellow, bright like the sun, piercing the darkness with its radiance?

Or is it petal pink, soft, delicate, like a baby’s whisper?

Or is love like a rainbow, a kaleidoscope of all color?

Or perhaps love is neither.

Perhaps true love is truly just color-blind…

 

No, my friends. Love is Red. Crimson.

Love dripped from a pure white soul, down a grey rugged cross, and covered the brown, earthy ground.

Love illuminated through the darkness and clothed us with forgiveness.

Love endured all and forgave all.

Love is the color of the blood that was sacrificed so that we could truly live. The life-blood that beats within our hearts, flows within our veins, and rebirths our soul.

The color of Love, my friends, is Red.


For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son. That whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 
John 3:16

Which Direction Are You Facing?

By Bindu Adai Mathew

When you drive, what direction are you generally facing? Unless you’re reversing out of your driveway or a parking spot, most likely you are facing forward most of the time you are driving.  Imagine though, that you are intending to go forward, but your neck is craned around to constantly look behind you. If you did that, more than likely, your car would veer off its course or worse, crash into something else.

We all know the dangers of texting or driving. Even taking your eyes off the road in front of you for a few seconds can result in tragedy.

But that is exactly what happens when you are constantly dwelling on your past. It’s human nature to want to think about our past. Our memories are powerful and they can have lasting effects on our life. It can be fun to reminisce with some good friends and family about our lives. However, whether it was the “good ole’ days” when life was so much better or some deep childhood hurt we can’t move past, constantly focusing your attention on the past can result in veering off your course in life. We can’t change the past. We can’t access it except through our minds and memories. But if you don’t like where your life is or where it’s headed, you must focus on where you are and where you want to be.

So which direction are you facing today? Is it focused, forward with anticipation, ready to move and adjust as needed in your journey? Or are you constantly looking and dwelling on your past?

Perhaps your life isn’t moving forward because you’re facing the wrong direction.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  Isaiah 43:18 NIV
“But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.   Isaiah 43:18 NLT

Still Standing

By Bindu Adai Mathew

I remember watching in horror as the World Trade Towers crumbled into a heap of metal and dust in 2001. I drove to work in a daze and just as I got there, news came of the Pentagon being hit and another plane crashing.

One of my good friends called me crying in panic and fear, worried about a cousin who worked in the Towers. She asked me if I thought this was the end. I said, of course not, but after our conversation, I, too wondered what was going on and if she hadn’t been that far off. And later that day as I watched the news reports and especially at all the lives that were lost, I, like many, wondered how God allowed this. I recall hearing the stories of families who lost a father, a sister, a loved one, and those who were still searching to find their bodies amongst the rubble, and I again wondered how God allowed this. Unlike others, I didn’t question God’s existence or His sovereignty, but I definitely questioned His Plan.

Now over 15 years have passed, and while our way of life has changed, it wasn’t the end of the world. Life has continued, and throughout the years, we’ve continued to see horrible acts of terrorism in school shootings, movie theater shootings, and other random, unexpected acts of terrorism. But yet, life continues. It endures.

Perhaps this morning, you’re looking at your own life. You’re surrounded by heaps of rubble. You’re enduring but you’re wondering where God is… and how He allowed something to happen in your life. Perhaps you’re looking at a dream that is in tatters… or you’re reflecting on a relationship that imploded… or you, too, have lost a loved one. You’re suffering in pain and wondering where God is…

For those of you, I share this verse I came across during my quiet time today:

“If the Lord had not been on our side–let Israel say–if the Lord had not been our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalms 124: 1-8

We may not understand why God prevents some things in our lives and allows other things to happen. But there is one thing we can be sure of… if it weren’t for God, we would have been consumed by our loss. We wouldn’t still be standing.

And for those of you who have been knocked to your knees by your struggles, by your loss, like the Towers, you, too, will be rebuilt.

But first we must clean out the rubble from our lives. We must make room in our hearts for something new. We must realize God is still God. And we trust him with a child-like faith.

Out of the rubble, if you allow it, God can rebuild your life. He can rebuild your dreams. He can make you stronger. He can help you stand taller.

If you allow it.