My sister celebrated her 28th birthday this last Tuesday. I look a lot like her, only she is a little shorter than me, and a whole lot stronger. She is married and living in southern Canada. Other than that, I know very little about her life. The last time I saw my sister was at her graduation from college, which was after my first year of college; that was about six years ago. So, why the distance, you ask? Well, let me not tell you. For one, I do not have a conflict with her or her husband. And, for another, to take sides would make it seem as though I do not love the individuals on both sides of the conflict wholeheartedly. I do not love out of obligation to blood, but out of choice. It hurts to be caught in the middle, and it can be overwhelming at times; that is the only reason I will give for my distance from my sister.
Though I have not seen her in so long and I have not talked with her for over a year, I want to share with you all my birthday letter to her. I have written birthday letters to my spiritual sisters in the past, but I have never written one to my sister by blood, so I felt it was about time. Now, I have yet to write letters to either of my brothers, but I can talk to them face to face or over the phone; with my sister, that is not currently an option. Sending a letter is also not an option, but maybe this will somehow reach her, and I pray that she will be as encouraged by reading it as I have been encouraged by writing it…
You are another year older. I am sorry I could not be there to celebrate with you. I pray that God has blessed you with friends in your “new” hometown that encourage you today and bring you hope for the future. Every year of life should be celebrated! Because each year that passes brings with it milestones that show God’s faithfulness and grace. Year after year, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me, and I hope that is the same case with you. Somehow, things work out, and God’s impossible plan becomes possible. Looking back at the past year gives hope for the present year, because, as God has been faithful before, so too will He be faithful again. Amen!
Throughout your whole life, your Abba has been the one who carried you. I know it is hard to admit sometimes, but without Christ, there is no distance that we can span. But with Christ, the distances are erased. You are so far from where you first began and I pray that the distance you have gone in miles will pale in comparison to the distance you have gone with Christ. When you sit and when you rise, that is a distance that you travel with Him. Each word, each thought, and each action are footsteps with your Abba. So, if you ever feel stuck in life or in faith, consider the truth: Christ goes with you at all times. No matter how small the step, God multiplies your efforts and makes your step of faith become a leap. So, I challenge you to take steps of faith this year and allow God to make it a leap. Yes, Jesus has great and beautiful plans for you, so let His Spirit breathe in you and let His Word define you to the point where every life you touch experiences the impossible love of Christ.
“Let no man despise your youth; but be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Meditate on these things; give yourself wholly to them that your profiting may appear to all.” 1 Timothy 4:12-15
Whatever gift God has given you is meant for His glory. And I think it’s awesome how the gifts God has given us are often the things we most enjoy doing. Like it says in 1 Timothy, throw all that you are into developing your gifts, that the world would see your progress, and glorify God. From a young age, you have had the gift of art, and I pray that God would develop that gift in you to the glory of His kingdom this year. I still have a picture that you drew for me when I was sick; it was of a waterfall and some mountains. You would probably be embarrassed by that picture now, but it was a blessing to me then. I hope that you are using your gift in the same way today.
Though I would love to someday see your face again and rejoice with you in person for your triumphs in life, there is one thing that I want more; that your life be a beacon for Christ that turns the world around you upside down. More than anything, that is what I desire for you… as much as I desire it for myself. There is something worth more than family, more than blood, and more than friendships, and that is Christ. As I was praying last night, Jesus brought to mind these Words: “If an individual come to Me, and hate not father, mother, wife, husband, children, brethren, sisters, yea, and their own life also, they cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Jesus goes on to say in the next verse; “And whosoever does not bear their cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.”
Sometimes, the cross you bear may seem to be beyond your own strength, but you cannot depend upon blood or even love to give you strength; your strength comes from Christ alone. Jesus chose to use a strong language when talking about what His children must sacrifice for Him, but He does not command us to show hatred to any human being. Being His disciple means that Christ and His kingdom take precedence over everything, which would mean that, if anything, you would love those around you more deeply than most; but that love is far superseded by the love you have for Christ. That kind of love also means that you desire the salvation of those around you more than their bodily blessings. The truth is that we will all perish, so we are all in desperate need of a Savior today. And if you are not willing to lose everything you hold dear for the sake of the Kingdom, then where is your faith in the One Who gave you everything you hold dear? Paul put it really well in Philippians 3:7-10, when he said:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. Not being found having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ – the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like him in His death.” (Philippians 3:7-10)
I hope that the cross you have to bear is lightened over the course of this year, and that you will lead friends and coworkers around you to the hope and rest you have found. May the LORD bless both you and your husband with His providence and grace every day. Most of all, I pray that your life and the life of your husband would be reflections of God’s light and glory. May He use you both in awesome ways. Happy birthday, sister! I Love You! And I hope to see you soon!
Your Sister in Christ,
P.S. Maybe someday you will be able to read the letter from Mom, too. For now, I hope that this letter will bring encouragement to you. 🙂
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