My Testimony

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” –John 3:16-17

Amidst the fallen world we’re experiencing today, I felt an urge to share my testimony. The threats of today often pose challenges to our everyday lives. We are prohibited to meet physically at our churches and we cannot worship together. A sad truth nonetheless. But I can say with all honesty, God’s word has meant more to me than ever during this pandemic. In Matthew 6:34 we are told “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

So here I sit in front of my laptop keyboard feeling the joy of God’s word and it’s now, I want to share with others. God has performed miracles in my heart, brought me to the love of my life, and presented me with opportunities of belonging. However, it wasn’t always like this. I, like so many others, grew up outside the church and although God had a presence in my home, it was nothing like I experience in the future.

I often reminisce over the first church service I attended. I was nervous and scared. Terrified I wouldn’t be good enough for what waited inside. There was an intimidating feeling alive in the pit of my stomach. You see, it was my wife who gave me the invite and as skeptical as I was, I wanted to show her I supported her beliefs. With that being said, I attended New Heights Church in Vancouver, Washington the following Sunday.

It was everything you’d expect at a religious gathering. They worshipped. They prayed. They talked. They worshipped some more. Oh, and they prayed again. The event was over in 65 minutes and if I’m to be truthful, it was the most peculiar situation I’d ever put myself in. I needed time to process what I’d witnessed. I kept telling myself I didn’t belong…

In the passing days, I caught myself fumbling around with the idea of a relationship with God. I started asking questions that posed a threat to my then way of thinking. Was I worthy of being saved? Why did God send his Son to die for our sins? Can anyone be forgiven in God’s eyes? And why, oh why, did people raise their hands during worship? (That last one I spend too much time mulling over.) Nevertheless, I carried on with my life in the usual fashion.

Coincidentally, I found myself pulling into the parking lot every Sunday, dressed in classy clothes, and ready to hear the weekend’s message. The church began to feel like a routine activity and I started to felt less and less intimidated. I know it now but I didn’t know it then, Jesus was calling. I just wasn’t listening. You see, for the first time in my life, I was challenged in a way I couldn’t comprehend. Why do people choose not to sin? What does it mean to live a Christian life? (Up until this point there hadn’t always been a great example.) How often are we meant to pray? But most importantly, can I truly be saved?

Nonetheless, I continued attending even with the doubts I carried. I enjoyed the nice people and the atmosphere felt home-like. I distinctly remember one church service in particular. It was around the summer of 2017. The service was about how Christians grieve. You see, I didn’t realize the basic understanding of why we live in a fallen world and why bad things happen to good people. I didn’t contemplate the idea that earth was never intended to be our real home. They said our home was in the Father’s house of heaven.

I look back at that moment and realize what God was trying to tell me, what he was preparing me for. He was calling out to me at that moment, wanting to have a relationship with me. He knew I’d need him soon…

Shortly thereafter, I visited my parents before a trip to Canada for my wife’s birthday. We stayed the night at their place to divide the driving. It was the halfway point. But that night would throw a wrench in my life. I look back on it with dread and some scars may never heal, but it was THE turning point in my spiritual journey.

On August 11th, 2017 I discovered my loving father was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer. Every bit of my storybook life was shattered into oblivion. Everything happened so fast. I was numb to the bone. Shattered on the inside. Why was this happening to him? Did I do something for him to deserve this? All the instances of disrespectfulness and choices that did not honor my father stung with profound pain. There were so many things I wish I could have taken back at that moment. It flooded my mind. I was chained down by my guilt. I was shameful of who I was and I let it control me for a while. I let it erode at my heart and poison my mind.

Over the next couple of days of overwhelmed emotions, I heard the whispers of the God who loved me, calling out. There was no denying his presence then and I got on my knees and prayed. I pleaded with God to heal my father. I’d do whatever it took to pay the price, but that’s not what He wanted. He wanted a relationship with me. His voice was louder and clearer than ever. Nothing could interrupt His word.

Tears streamed down my face and my agony tortured me. But through the roughest of waters, I felt God’s warmth and comfort. The exact moment is hard to describe because it was an out of body experience. It was like a wash of emotions whispering directly into my heart insuring me of God’s presence. He was with me and He always had. I just had to invite Him in. And I did. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I surrendered my life and put it in His hands. If I was going to make it through the future, I would need His help. I couldn’t do anything unless I went to the Father.

Throughout my life, I’ve felt this kind of void in my heart where I felt something needed to go. I tried different people and various things to fill that void, but none of it worked. But that life was over. As the seasons passed, I saw how God was working in my life. He’d blessed me with a great job, the freedom to accomplish my goals, and above all, blessed me with a wife and happy marriage.

My father passed away on June 9th, 2019. It was a true test on my faith. God did not fail me once. One of the scriptures I hold dear to my heart is Philippians 1:21 and it says: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The suffering my father experienced through surgeries, chemotherapy treatment, and radiation was over. He’d left it here on earth and was called home to the Father. In the following months, as I grieved, I realized that in some ways I was being selfish crying because my father had won the ultimate victory. He was free of his chains.

A year has passed and I no longer fear death. I know God never intended for this world to be our home. God eventually calls us all to our home in heaven when it is our time and I shouldn’t be afraid. Nor should I dwell in sadness over my father’s passing. He’s in a far better place than I am surrounded by his mother, father, brother and niece. That brings me comfort. I know one day I will see him again.

On December 1st of 2019, I decided to take the next step on my spiritual journey and get baptized. I had never been so sure about doing something in my entire life (other than getting married. )

As I rose from the water, I felt my old self die. I had risen with Christ.

Our baptism at New Heights Church

Testimonies are important. As a follower of Christ, I am always willing to talk about my story with others. No one is too far gone to come to Jesus. Sometimes we have to experience the lowest of valleys to invite him in. But God is here through the highs and the lows. I always remind myself with each valley, there’s anyways a mountain. It all ends with God.

I encourage you to share your testimony with others. You never know who may need to hear it. God’s working miracles in everyone.

Cheers,

Alexander // the Tea Cup Writer

“Paris Letters” by Janice MacLeod Book Review

“Paris Letters” by Janice MacLeod was a delightfully quick read. Having finished the book in four-ish days, I can admit I’ve traipsed through the streets of Paris now (or so Janice has been to Paris and I’ve lived vicariously through her experiences).

The Paris Letters at its core is about freedom, love, and self-discovering. It’s really one giant self-reflection, which struck a nerve within my own life. I found myself relating to the fast day to day work life that suffocated Janice. Although I’m no copywriter, I would have to say my job can be just as strenuous and unnerving. The itch for “going out on your own” as they say, has always been a ship waiting to set sail. Seeing first hand how Janice put her plans into motion is inspiring. 

The story spends a lot of time detailing an epic back and forth love story between Janice and Christophe who can barely communicate with each other. There’s a massive language barrier that exists, but somehow they make it work with unusual methods. Thinking outside the box with hand gestures, pictures, and “Franglish” as she has coined.

I find myself enjoying the watercolored letters to Áine the most. The Parisian imagery and attention to detail they possess was baffling. Having closed the book, there was one letter that I’ll remember for years to come. It can be found in chapter nineteen entitled “How Would You Like Your Eggs?” There’s a moment where Janice meets an elder woman in a cemetery and comes to aid her. I won’t spoil the scene because it’s profoundly pure but I will reveal that it depicts what honest love is. It was heart-touching… Thank you Janice.

But enough of that. Would I recommend reading “Paris Letters” by Janice MacLeod? Absolutely. Coming off the cusp of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy, “A Game of Thrones” I needed something lighter and much more relatable. Janice MacLeod gave that to me along with moments of pure inspiration. Maybe there will come a day in my life when I, too, can chronicle a magnificent tale as she’s done so beautifully.

Cheers,

Alexander.

Should I ditch my writing goals for 2020?

Welcome to 2020 said no one this year!

The start of a new year usually comes with new goals or expectations for what you’d like to accomplish. As a novel writing junkie, my goals were to finish TWO of my works in progress. One of which being, FORSAKEN. A fantasy novel that I’ve been scribbling away for the last five years, only to redraft the entire thing! Another project being HERE AND THERE, a collection of short stories and flash fictions that I’ve labored off and on for a couple years (which is closer to be finished than yesterday!).

Needless to say, as we reach the crest of the year and time has withered away before our eyes, I can say with all honesty, I’ve completed neither of these projects. That’s not to say, however, that I haven’t made strides forward on both, it’s just not progress that meets my OVERLY LARGE EXPECTATIONS nor my established goals.

So In process of reflecting over the last few months, I’ve ditched my 2020 goals entirely and I think you should too. We’re under abnormal circumstances, meaning that things should be handled differently.

What does this all mean?

Goals are detrimental to actually completing tasks, at least I think so. If the goal is too big, then I like to break it down into even smaller chucks so I feel like the train is constantly moving down the tracks (even if it’s at a slow and steady pace). When we focus on the big picture, we tend to discourage ourselves from finishing.

With that all in mind, this year has affected each of us in different ways– negatively and positively. But I’m here to say : Throw away your 2020 goals and leave them in your rear view mirror!

Where do we go from here?

The saying, “keeping looking forward because the past has already happened” should be the mantra you’re living right now. Even if you write ten words a day, that’s still ten words more than yesterday. Being anxious about self appointed deadlines is worthless. You should value the progress forward a lot more than the end destination. 2020 goals are so outdated! Enjoy, live life, and happily write when you want!

Cheers,

Alexander // the Tea Cup Writer