Reflections on Twenty Three: He Trains my Hands for War and my Fingers for Battle

Monday, August 14, 2023

If you've been around my blog for a few years, you may know that I typically publish a blog post every year on my birthday — reflecting on God's work and goodness in my life. As you may have noticed, there was no such blog post put up last year. 

Only a few weeks before my 23rd birthday, I had a painful breakup. When it first happened, I hoped I would be able to grieve and heal enough in the few weeks before my birthday so I would feel capable of sharing my typical style of post — one that gives honest detail, rather than pretending that all is well forever and always. But I couldn't get past the continual feeling of extreme vulnerability that came from the breakup, and so even after I began writing that reflection on year 22, I was not able to post it. For which I would like to apologize...I started this blog with the intention to share honestly and transparently about the journey God has me on...I always attempted to use each birthday reflection as a means to edify others — and I am a firm believer that pseudo-perfection exuded by some Christians who refuse to share any level of transparency is more damaging than helpful. We don't set good examples for others by acting like everything is fine and that all is perfect — it is in our weakness that Christ is strong [2 Cor 12:9]. This does not ever permit us to give sin a free pass in our lives, or to "be real" in ways that dishonor the name of Jesus — rather, it means that we must recognize that the reputation that most matters is certainly not our own — it is Jesus who must be lifted high in our lives, in every season, amidst our triumphs, amidst our failures, when everything seems wonderful, and on the days we're grieved to the very depths. "That in everything He might be preeminent" (Col. 1:18b). 

Although I failed to bring you with me on the surprising journey of year 22, I look forward to restarting this tradition for year 23 — and if I am blessed with the painful difficulty of future breakups, I'll bring you along in the birthday reflection of that year rather than being avoidant of doing so. Because God works in our heartache and pain just as much as He works in our joy and happiness.

Reflections on Year 23

Year 23 started off with grief after a breakup. Even if my day included many hours of work, the sadness I felt was the predominant thought I was constantly sorting through. "Will any good come out of this…? Please, oh God, would you mold me into the woman you intend for me to become? I have failed so many times and in so many ways, and yet you are present and working" [08.22.22]. In my free time, I found myself trying to understand the meaning of my suffering. I found these words helpful:

  • "How often do great afflictions work our lasting good" (CH Spurgeon).
  • "God is never closer than when your heart is aching” (Joni Eareckson Tada).

  • “In acceptance lies peace” (Elisabeth Elliot).

One thing was certain — my heartache was constantly pushing me to turn to the Lord in prayer and to run to His Word for direction, meaning, and healing. A few months prior, I began my new job at Protect Life Michigan, working in marketing. My boss was about to resign and become a stay-at-home mom to her baby, who was soon due. Conversations within the nonprofit organization about how to restructure the departments when she left were continual — eventually, I was offered the opportunity to be promoted. I was scared but felt that I should take on the promotion for the unborn. The nerves would gnaw at me when I thought of being in charge of a department: "This weekend, I have been talking to mom about how nervous I am to become a manager. My boss…will resign in about 4 weeks, and then I will begin to manage [my other coworker]" [09.03.22]. It was time to learn new skills and be pushed into a role I wasn't completely sure I was ready to take on. It felt like going skydiving without a harness.

Roe v. Wade and Proposal 3

Around the same time, Protect Life Michigan launched a full-on campaign against the pro-abortion constitutional ballot initiative Proposal 3 that threatened to fully deregulate abortion and legalize the killing of preborn infants through the ninth month of pregnancy in Michigan. I was extremely frustrated that pro-abortion groups were targeting our state. Many pro-life advocates had been working for decades in Michigan to end abortion, and, finally, once Roe v. Wade was overturned, the states had the freedom to protect the unborn (although, our large-scale aspiration is for a federal abortion ban). In Michigan, a court case known as People v. Bricker affirmed our pre-Roe statutes banning abortion from fertilization, only holding an exception for the life of the mother. I was very hopeful that this statute would be in effect before the summer of 2022 was up if the Supreme Court successfully overturned Roe. I am so grateful the bloody, evil case Roe v. Wade was rightfully overruled on June 24, 2022. This case was the epitome of discrimination and injustice and led to the deaths of over 63.5 million unborn children — each one an individual who deserved love, protection, and human decency. Instead, they were brutally killed. May we live our lives in such a way that testifies to their value — relentlessly pursuing justice for unborn lives.

That case, People v. Bricker, whatever came of it? Well, the abortion ban was in effect for something like 6 hours on the day Roe v. Wade was overturned prior to an unjust injunction being placed on the law. I would like to take a moment to state the obvious — WHY would the leaders of the state of Michigan stop a law from being in effect that protects tiny babies from having their limbs cut off, their nutrition taken away to the point of starvation, and their tiny bodies being suctioned away to death? This injunction led to many specific babies being killed — children whose names are not known to us — but whose lives deserved protection. It was incredibly sickening to me that even once God had so great a mercy on our country as to expel Roe v. Wade from our nation's laws, the state of Michigan had so great a disdain for the lives of the unborn that the slaughterhouses were reopened immediately after they were closed. God will not hold our state guiltless for the grave sin of violently killing babies — ninety of them every single day — especially considering that He provided us a clear opportunity to do what is right in His eyes, to protect defenseless infants who cannot scream out in their own defense.

Campaigning & Canvassing

But, of course, a majority of the politicians and state legislators were unsatisfied with merely putting an injunction on the anti-abortion law Michigan had passed a hundred years ago...No, they argued, it must be utterly abolished. Thus, pro-abortion groups, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, announced their intention to collect signatures for a constitutional ballot initiative that would repeal every pro-life law ever passed in Michigan and make abortion legal until the 9th month of pregnancy. Due to these horrific circumstances, the non-political group Protect Life Michigan started our very own 501c4 (a type of nonprofit organization that does political advocacy) and launched a huge voter-education project. If wealthy pro-abortion groups would attempt to change the trajectory of our state to see to the deaths of many more babies, then we would put up a full-fledged fight against it, in hopes of stopping their pro-abortion intentions. 

Alongside many other young and passionate advocates,  I began canvassing for hours on end — working to convince Michigan voters in the mushy middle to vote no on Proposal 3. We were often working well over 40 hours per week, taking on as much canvassing and educational work as possible, certainly to the point of overwhelm. I penned in my journal, "Oh Lord, please help me to genuinely believe that you are here with us, toiling among us, helping our efforts. Please cause Prop 3 to fail. I know you are able. Show us your power. Please give me peace in the storm" [10.07.22]. Our team of a little over 20 staff and 1,000 volunteers was able to get 30,000 no-votes confirmed at people's front doors.

Throughout this season of constant door-knocking, I was working through my own struggles of uncertainty about my life story: "Please help me to remember that you were present in my past. My past does not make sense to me, but I know you see how it is all being worked together according to your purposes. I don’t understand why my story has had to be so broken and so full of loss. Lord, bring beauty from these desolate ashes" [10.20.22]. In the moments between doors and on the road driving to the next canvassing location, you could often find me deep in thought, considering my past and how things were being worked out. God was faithful to give me strength and fortitude to keep advocating for life amidst my own personal highs and lows — "Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle" (Psalm 144:1).

Election Day

Alas, the much-anticipated election day arrived. I joined Protect Life MI staff and some of our volunteers for the election watch party. Everyone went off to bed by 11pm, but I couldn't sleep — I prayed continually for Proposal 3 to fail and hoped for a miracle. The polls were close throughout the night. I fell asleep around 2 in the morning, uncertain of the results....soon to awake to the news: "Proposal 3 has passed into law. Oh Lord, spare our land from this evil. Change the hearts of those who voted yes. Lord Jesus, save unborn lives" [11.10.23]. It's hard to describe the extreme level of devastation every person on our team felt. Tears were numerous. Our hearts were broken for the women and children of Michigan.

Each of our staff went forward from that day with fresh resolve to fight for the unborn, even if the circumstances were grim. Unborn children have a right to our defense, even in the most difficult seasons.

“No matter how this season feels to me internally, He is faithful and He is working in my life. He will have His way and He will accomplish His will in me. Maybe it is difficult. Maybe I am hurting some on the inside. But He is nonetheless present and faithful. God is working together all the painful events of my life for my good — even if I have not yet seen what that good is. Lord, show me your love is endless” [11.28.22].
I clung to the hope that "Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). The same God who created every preborn child was going before me in my internal hardships and in the difficult fight for life in Michigan. 

In December, I took a trip to DC for a week to visit my friend Myah. This trip was refreshing to my soul after working constantly to stop Proposal 3 — being away from reminders of the campaign gave me an opportunity to rest. I spent a lot of time on that trip reflecting in my journal about the recent happenings in my life — asking God to work in the events that felt confusing to me. The Lord continually reminded me of His sovereignty over my life experiences — "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me" (Psalm 138:8a).

That winter was marked by continual work for the unborn, attending a church small group & building community with other Christians, and a horrifying event....

Active Shooter

On a February evening, my sister Cami sent my family a text, telling us that there was an active shooter on her campus. Cami was lying on her dorm room floor with the lights off; she and her roommate had moved their dresser against the dorm room door in case the shooter would attempt to come in. I was completely horrified. My little sister and her friends could be violently killed. I watched news coverage as the police attempted to track down the gunman — no family was allowed to access the dorms until the police could clear the building. I wanted nothing more than to pick my sister up from school and bring her back home for her safety — about an hour from the campus. But I could do no such thing. All we could do was text her and call with whispered voices to attempt to make sure she was ok. 

Praise be to God, her life was spared from death, but, tragically, several students on her campus did die that evening. It was incredibly traumatizing for her. I got in my car the following morning and picked her up from campus. I reflected later: "Lord Jesus, thank you for defending Cami from violence yesterday night when the active shooter was on campus. She could have been killed. She was in the part of the campus where the shooter later killed people only an hour before he got there. Thank you for protecting her and defending her and keeping her safe and for answering our prayers for her" [02.14.23].

Sometimes we don't even know to pray yet about something...and God shows us His care, mercy, and power by intervening before we even know there is a problem. So it was the night of the shooting. My sister and her friends all met up at one of the cafeterias on campus to hang out. They intended to stay at the cafeteria for several hours, but, for some reason, they suddenly felt they should all leave and go back to their dorm rooms — an hour before the shooter entered that very room of the campus with a loaded gun and intent to murder students. I believe God was present in that cafeteria that night and caused my sister and her friends to leave. He showed us His mercy and spared my sister's life and the lives of her friends by granting them the sense that it was time to leave. 

God is faithfully at work every day of our lives, but that day I saw his powerful hand in a way that was incredibly tangible. Remember — God is working in your life, protecting you in ways you may not even see today, and going before you in ways you do not even know. Who knows what kinds of daily miracles He might be doing in your life that we may not know about until heaven.

A New Cause: Becoming Passionately Anti-Porn

I have always been against pornography, but recently this passion has grown. I shared a simple Tweet I found interesting about how harmful porn is in relationships and many people commented — apparently I really stirred the pot. A Christian guy I know commented on my post about how he regularly views porn and it’s fine — he argued all that matters is that a guy doesn’t lie about it. Such a perspective is itself a lie from hell…His unbiblical defense for something so harmful, objectifying, and wrong was one catalyst that grew my anti-porn passion to greater depths. 

Around the same time, I was studying the book of Hebrews and encountered this verse — “God will judge the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). As I meditated on this verse, I wrote in my journal, “Those who have given themselves over to sexual sin will be judged by God. God hates sexual impurity. So let me — with God — love the sinner and utterly hate the sin. Lord, make me braver in the depths of my soul. Give me courage and conviction” [02.16.23]. We must courageously live out biblical sexual ethics no matter the cost. Even if you are "that weird girl with strange convictions" to those around you — it's better to be unwanted by pornified men than to drop our standards in a vain attempt to obtain social acceptance. The One who paid for our sins with His very blood deserves MORE from His children than blind surrender to sin. It's time for all Christians to become fierce anti-porn advocates. Not only should we oppose something as extreme as pornography, but we must also attack its root — lust.

Another catalyst that grew my anti-porn passion was receiving a message from a girl my age who married a man who is ongoingly addicted to porn — she explained that she knew about the addiction before they married, and that it is hurtful to her that her husband regularly looks at porn, but argued that this is just the way it is. It broke my heart to hear how she had dropped her standards and put up with something in their relationship that so clearly violated her conscience and her deepest desires for marriage, knowing he was not able to be faithful to her. Women must date more fiercely, ask hard questions, and be willing to break up if a guy has an ongoing addiction of any kind — for the sake of healthy homes and God-glorifying marriages. It's easier said than done to date this way, but we cannot reflect Christ as we are called to or transform culture effectively if our spouse or ourself is chained to addiction.

Changing My View of Money

I am a pretty spontaneous person...not only with the way I run my calendar, but also with money...For a number of years, I held an unbiblical view of money and saw it as a necessary evil. I often felt that I didn't need to figure personal finance out extensively — I hoped to marry young, and wanted to pass that responsibility off to my husband...I didn't like money or managing it, after all. But a few breakups later, I started to realize that there was no guarantee I was going to marry, so I better figure out how to steward money more carefully on my own. Being a free-spirited spender made it hard to meet my financial goals, but I also lacked insight about where my money choices weren't effective. 

I started reading about Dave Ramsey's baby steps and was intrigued. I had lived mostly debt free, but had made the poor decision in the spring to finance an expensive camera lens for my photography business. I was stressed by the payment plan — even though I was able to manage it — I hated the feeling of debt hanging over my head. So I started the debt snowball, paid off the lens, and became 100% debt free in a few months. I found the Ramsey process of paying off debt so helpful that I was intrigued to learn more.

In April, I took Financial Peace University for the first time, and was incredibly inspired. I finally stopped seeing money as inherently evil, and began embracing a more healthy perspective that it is a tool to be stewarded properly for God's glory. I began the process of working on "Baby Step 3" and saving an emergency fund; it was incredible to watch my behavior around money transform. Dave Ramsey often says: "Personal finance is 20% knowledge and 80% behavior" — suddenly, it clicked. It wasn't really my lack of knowledge about personal finance. I truly had "bad money behavior." Lol. By starting zero-based budgeting with their Every Dollar app, regularly tuning into their financial show, and holding myself accountable to actually follow the budget I set, I began making significant progress. 

Honestly, this whole journey was such a testament to how incredibly gracious God is to us as we grow. I look back, even just a few months ago, before I began working on correcting my wrong view of money, and I feel kind of cringe. But God is such a gentle, gracious, and patient teacher. He sees every single area of our lives He wants altered and transformed to reflect Him more fully — and He lovingly convicts us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It gives me hope to look back and see His care — I've been working for a long time — since I was 14. And I just now learned how to effectively manage money. Yikes. But God is a gracious teacher — He loves His children. When He convicts us, it is always to bring about greater life and health in us. I'm thankful for His kindness.


I have so much to thank God for. I look back over all these memories and many more with gratitude — isn't is amazing how God uses grief, pain, difficulties, and challenging circumstances to cause us to recognize our need for Him more fully? He is a loving Father, and He cares so well for us.

In May, I wrote this verse in my journal, and I think it sums up well how I feel coming to the end of one year and beginning a new one — “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us” (Isaiah 26:12)

I enter year 24 with expectancy — He goes before me.

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