Signed, Sealed, Delivered…

God builds us up to send us out.

It’s only in the stories that hurt that we can experience His comfort. Have you ever listened to someone share their story and think “How on earth could someone have to go through that much on this earth”? These are the stories that glorify Him most. Because, “if THEY can lean into God through THAT, surely I should be able to.” He comforts us to send us out and comfort others.

He corrects, teaches, and shares wisdom for our own healing and then to share with our children and others. May we learn something from others so that we don’t have to experience everything first hand.

It’s the hard stuff in our lives that is most likely to impart wisdom or recklessness. Anger can wreak havoc on our lives and loved ones. Are you asking for strength, His power to forgive, wisdom?

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 (NIV)

That’s a promise! It WILL be given to you.

When we feel the full expression of God’s forgiveness for ourselves, we can’t help but offer it to others. When He corrects us, someone else needs to hear.  When He changes our desires, it’s to align us with His will.  When we choose to love anyway and in spite of, it’s because of Him. If it’s HIS love that helped you, it’s HIS love you will share.

God builds us up to send us out.

The way He has worked in your life, the courage He has summoned in you, the ways He has renewed your mind, the healing from that specific brokenness, the relationships He has replaced, the hearts you can touch, all come from your specific story. Each one of ours is different and I would LOVE to hear yours…

He meets us right where we are so that we can assure the next person that He will too. Our God LONGS for us.

He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (MSG)

In each of your hard places, God has a special purpose. When our faith is tested, it is also strengthened. And, it is strengthened for a reason. Through Christ, we could be used to break a generational cycle, reach others across the globe, touch a heart across the cubicle or our own table, raise a warrior for Christ…all and only through Him. (Philippians 4:13) Who knows how He’ll use you?  That’s part of the adventure. No matter what, giving Him the glory, regardless of the outcome, turns our ashes to beauty.

He doesn’t need us to accomplish His plan, but what an honor to be used in any way, shape, or form for His purposes. This is His desire for us. To turn our lives into living testimonies. Your story may seem too ugly to share, but check your return address…There’s a place with your name on it.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. John 14:2-3 (GNT)

Signed with the blood of Jesus, Sealed with His love, and Delivered into His arms…

Advertisements

Painful Dealbreaker

dealbreaker

I find myself on the outskirts of another painful breakup. Another reason dating is hard. Another risk I’ve taken, put my kids in the middle of, and opened myself up to. This is very hard because he was a wonderful boyfriend. He treated me better than I’d been treated before, he respected me, committed to me, and loved me well. Marriage was on the horizon. Yet, here we are…

I go between sad, irritated, and thankful. Sad that it’s over. I miss him. Irritated that it came to this. Yet, thankful it came to a head before a wedding and not after. This didn’t come down to lack of love, rather compatibility. I have no doubt he loved me, all of me. All of me except my faith. That’s what it came down to. My church was our issue. He doesn’t agree with it and I do. The more he searched, the less he did. The more I pray and ask, the more I do.

No church is perfect. They are all set up by and filled with imperfect human beings, but I feel called in to serve and to help, not called out.

Once it finally came out that he wouldn’t/couldn’t marry a person of my denomination, I knew there was a change that needed to take place. Either I leave my church or we part ways. It came down to lack of peace vrs. pain. I knew in my heart, that I would feel a lack of peace walking away from my church.  Leaving would be turning my back to truth I believe in and that I want my daughters to learn as well. I also knew we would both feel pain letting this relationship go. We loved each other, no doubt. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean lack of peace. Peace may lead to pain if it means letting go of something you wanted so badly to work out.

This has been hard for us both. We both want what’s best for each other and I guess it’s not us together. I’ve learned another painful lesson. Two people can love Jesus with all they have, but if other beliefs are polar opposite, it can lead to unrest in a marriage and confusion for the kids. To be equally yoked is more than loving God. To be equally yoked is to be able to have a conversation about core beliefs and nod rather than shake your head. It makes sense to me that if you’re both following God and it’s leading you in different directions, it must be best to let that happen. This narrows the dating pool down even further than age, location, love, and tenderness. And, we all know how hard those are to come by.

I know in my head that I’d rather be single than forsake a faith that I believe in. But, my heart is grieving this loss and I pray that God will heal us both. I want us both ready for the ones He knows will meet our deepest desires in Him.

This is a Test.

tested

We test each other. Our children test us. Our spouses test us. Our coworkers test us. The Lord tests us. Our testing of each other is also being used as a test from God. How did you react to that injustice? How did you react to that set back? We pray for patience and then lose it when it’s required. We pray for blessings and then fail to recognize all the blessings around the one we are specifically praying for. We pray for financial relief, but are careless or stingy with what we do acquire.

My faith has been tested. My motherhood has been tested. My relationships have been tested. And, I wouldn’t want it any other way. In order to be strong, we must get through trials. Tests help us realize what’s worth fighting for. Trials are tests. We pass some, we fail some. But, if we learn and grow, no matter the outcome, we are stronger for the next one that comes along. And, another one will come. Not until we enter those pearly gates, will these tests come to an end.

It helps me to remember that tests are not designed to shame us (as Satan would like us to think), but to point out where we need Jesus most. They keep us humble and strengthen us at the same time. They point us to Jesus and remind us why He died for us. Because, only He could pass every test. Now, our dependence on Him is how we do.

If a relationship fails and reconciliation is not desired by both parties, let it go. You can’t make someone desire a friendship or future with you, nor should you have to. The people meant to be in your life forever, will WANT to be in your life forever. This is a test, this is only a test. Jesus loves you.

If you are in need of work, unhappy with your job, or didn’t get the job you wanted, how do you handle it? Are you looking? Are you doing what you can while you wait? Are you a bitter coworker? The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. This a test, this is only a test. Jesus loves you.

Rejection is one of our most painful tests as humans. Where is your sense of worth? In people? In Jesus? When you lose someone, when your heart breaks, when you need money, when you or someone you love is diagnosed, when your spouse or friend turns their back, when your opinion is deemed worthless or wrong, when your faith is questioned, when you mess up, CLING even tighter to Jesus. Cling tighter to Him than any human being. The loss and rejection is temporary, HE is permanent and never changing. This is why we call Him our Rock. This is a test, this is only a test. Jesus loves you.

God allowed Job to be tested. Satan was convinced that Job only worshipped God because his family and finances were blessed and he had a seemingly “easy” life. God allowed this test. This test broke Job’s heart into a million pieces. He lost his children, his health, his friends, his money….but his response?

Job stood up, tore his robe in grief, and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped.  He said,

“Naked I came from my mother,
    and naked I will return.
The Lord has given,
    and the Lord has taken away!
May the name of the Lord be praised.”

Through all this Job did not sin or blame God for doing anything wrong. Job 1:20-22 (GW)

His faith remained.

Tests are hard. They are hard in school and they are hard in life. We have tests for a reason. To find out what we know, what we are made of, what we will fight for, and who we will follow. Praise God for His faithfulness in my feeble attempts and failures. Praise God for the tests that make me realize more and more that I need Him. Praise God for the people who help me study and the people who test me.

For the same exact reason that a marriage becomes stronger when it overcomes tests, our relationship with Jesus becomes more secure through them as well. Satan tempted Job. Satan tempted Jesus. And, Satan tempts us. It’s what he does. He tempts and tries each one of us, with his ultimate goal being for us to curse God in our struggles and turn from him. Hold on to Jesus, dear one, and you will pass the test. Your sinfulness doesn’t discredit you. Jesus died for that. Your loyalty and sole dependence on Jesus gets you the “well done, good and faithful servant” at the end of your days on this earth. Regardless of the specific grade we receive, seeing His sweet face is the ultimate graduation gift after all these tests are over.

I am telling you the truth: those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged, but have already passed from death to life. — Matthew 5:24 (GNT)

 His Face is the A+ and I can’t wait to see it.

What exactly is Godly?

godly

I say I want Godly friendships, a Godly relationship, to be a Godly mother/wife/woman….but, what exactly does that mean? I am consistently reminded that I fall short of “Godly” myself. So, how can I have a Godly relationship when the other half of that relationship is me? I’m starting to realize that to be Godly is to view others as He does. Admitting our imperfections and accepting others. Fessing up when we mess up and leaning hard on Jesus in our weaknesses.

What is a Godly friendship? Does it mean we’re boring and have no fun? No. What it does mean is that we empathize with each other when we hurt, remind each other Whose we are, share joyous occasions, and laugh over the stuff we all have in common. A Godly friendship is a friendship that is anchored in prayer. Not competition. Not fixing each other. Not condemning each other. But, loving each other exactly as we are and where we are….as Jesus does. Celebrating growth and intimacy…..as Jesus does. Covering each other in grace when we fear judgment is what we deserve……like Jesus does. We should walk in the truth of who we are and remind each other when we forget.

What is a Godly romantic relationship? Does it mean it’s easy? No. Does it mean we won’t struggle with the same issues all relationships encounter? No. Does it mean we never disagree? No. What it means to me is that we view each other as God’s special, bought and paid for, son and daughter. How we view each other is different. This is what makes it Godly to me. Neither of us are like God, but look to God for help on how to love each other through whatever we are facing. Looking to God takes our struggles and rather than hardening our hearts, it softens them towards each other. We can be ourselves with each other. We celebrate the joys and recognize what brings the other happiness or frustration and act accordingly. We care about each other’s hearts.

A Godly relationship leads to a Godly marriage. And, having been through what I’ve been through, I would want nothing short of a husband who views me as God’s prized daughter, even at my worst. A treasure. This is what God intends for marriage. For the bride to be cherished. Knowing I am viewed and loved in this way allows me to be me. Open and honest about what bothers me. Which leads to a much healthier relationship.

What is a Godly mother? Is she perfect? No. Does she still have moments she looks back on and cringes? Yes. Biggest frustration being that she doesn’t know when it will happen again….because she knows it will. I’ve been getting more and more honest with my kids about what hurts, what I need from them, what I’ve been through, when I mess up, about my insurmountable need for Jesus in my life. They know that, to me, He comes first. As much as my heart aches when our relationships are strained, I can pour it out to Jesus and He reminds me who I am to Him. That brings me back to them renewed in my identity, regardless of their actions or reactions. I need that. Our kids can hurt us the most because we love them the most. Lean on Jesus when they do. Let Him love on you and build you up. Then, like we all do, head back in and carry on. It takes a love warrior not to throw the towel in sometimes.

Bottom line is we need to be ourselves. We need to be honest. We can’t be cherished for who we are if we aren’t being our true selves. If you have a friend, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, or sibling who loves you for you, prays for you, and views you as God’s special child, you have a Godly relationship. If you view others this way, pray for them, and point them back to the One who loves them most, you are a Godly person. And, I would love to be in relationship with you, which is another reason I share in this way. To relate, to connect with others who love God.

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. James 1:17

We may feel far from perfect, but we can be the perfect friend (gift) for someone who needs to know they are loved for who they are. Jesus wants us to not only know we are special to Him, but to let others know they are too. In our mess, He asks us to look to Him. In our pain, He asks us to cry to Him. In our joy, He delights in our praise to Him. He loves you with an everlasting love. A love like you’ve never known. A love waiting.

Peace, Be Still.

storms

In the midst of the storm……Jesus was in the back, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him up. They said, “Teacher! Don’t you care if we drown?” He got up and ordered the wind to stop. He said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down. And it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith at all yet?” They were terrified. They asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:38-41 (NIRV)

Do you ever wonder why He was sleeping? Me too. Didn’t He know they were scared? Why didn’t He come to their rescue before they cried out? I’d be frustrated too! Jesus, You KNEW! Yet, You slept……until I woke You. As a human, He slept. As our Savior, He never does. He slept in peace. He woke in peace. He calmed in peace. He spoke peace. He IS Peace.

I have no idea how many times Jesus has come to my rescue before I even knew I needed Him to, but I have no doubt that He has. I have also cried out to Him many times wondering why He won’t come or “wake up” (like I want Him to). Now, I trust He hears me each time I cry out, but His answer will come when and how He says it will.

In financial storms, can He calm? In relational storms, can He calm? When a friendship falls apart, can He calm? Yes. He is our calm before, during, and after the storm. Cry out and trust that He hears. That is faith. Only through Jesus can we sense peace in the midst of a storm…..and maybe even get some sleep like Jesus did.

Let’s remember that in His humanness, He may have slept, but in our humanness we may not. Let the sleepless nights and anxious days be a powerful and prayerful reunion with Him. May His Presence alone bring you the peace you crave. He is mighty. He is personal. He is with you.

What Does That Mean??

god is for us

Romans 8:31 says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I’ve been pondering what this verse means lately and this is what I feel God has spoken to my heart about it.

People and things do come against us in this life. There will be times we have trouble and there will be times when we fail. There will be times we cause problems and times we are affected by others problems and actions. There will be innocent victims and there will be times we flat out rebel against what we know we “should” do.

But, what I’ve received lately about this particular text, is that if we look for a solution to our specific issue or emotions in His Word, He will show it to us. And when we choose to do what He says, it is in our best interest. He doesn’t ask us to do anything out of any reason but love. Because He IS love. Any command He gives, is given for our protection and healing. In other words, He is FOR us, not against us, not fighting us, not preventing joy, but promoting it.

His love covers us when we fail and convicts us to full repentance. This is where change comes in. Full repentance leads to us doing things differently because we actually believe He has forgiven us and we don’t want to hurt his heart by turning back to what He’s revealed as hurtful. Pleasing God is recognizing His love for us and acting accordingly. Recognizing His love enough to make us think twice before turning back to what was hurting us. When we hurt ourselves that also hurts Him. He longs to protect and deliver us from what we look to for comfort and security and point us back to Him. He is a jealous God. He is jealous for us. He longs to be our first love, because He is. He loved us first and He loves us most.

When we are hurt by someone, He asks us to forgive for our own benefit and healing. Leaving the offense with Him and moving forward leads to the abundant life that He promises. Living without forgiveness bonds us to pain, anger, and bitterness that He died to save us from. He asks us to guard our hearts, not to prevent love, but to protect them from the counterfeit. To wait and seek His face and His love in the other person because only then can we know that the person knows what real love is and where it’s found. He asks us to tithe so that we learn to trust Him. He doesn’t need the money, but He does know we struggle with trust. He also knows that the stingier we are, the stingier we become. Giving with a cheerful heart is very good medicine to our selfish and scared hearts.

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10 (HSCB)

Doing what He asks us to do, is for our own good. He isn’t out to kill our good time, take all our money, or prevent us from having relationships. He is all for developing our character, growing our faith, and providing healthy relationships. He is all about coming first in our lives and when we truly make Him #1, He promises us an abundant life. An abundant life is a life full of joy and peace that can only come from Him.

Is following Jesus easy? No. Is it worth it? Completely. Because He is FOR us. The enemy is against us.

 

Value of Friendship

friendship

I was asked to speak at a women’s event at church last night by my friend, Sheila. I thought I’d share on my blog as well. Good friends are priceless.

I’m honored to speak about friendships…Especially, friendships among women. What a treasure they are. I absolutely love it when women choose to relate rather than compete. It inspires and refreshes me. I have a true passion for women’s hearts and it burdens me to witness criticism and competition among women. We tend to instinctively compete and compare when it comes to motherhood, appearance, finances, careers, even passions. Just life. It’s exhausting. Personally, I think this desire to compete is driven by a deep desire to know we are loved and reminded that we are lovely. The fact of the matter remains that we are all in this together. Woman to woman. Friend to friend.

We have the power to choose whether we will help each other or hurt each other. Whether we will encourage or criticize. Whether we will uplift or press down. It saddens me to see how often the latter is chosen. Let’s do what we can to change that.

We have a very real enemy and he wants us to step on each other to get ahead, to be seen, to be heard. We have a Savior who wants us to help each other through this hard life. His way is seeing, relating, empathizing, listening to, praying for, and speaking the truth to in love. These are the ways we can truly help each other through our struggles. Clearly, it’s our choice as to whose way we pick when it comes to treating each other. We can step on each other or we can love each other.

In John 16:33, Jesus says In this world you WILL have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts; we WILL have troubles in this life. Being a true friend will not only make a positive difference in the lives of our friends, but also in our own. God designed relationships this way. Being a friend is being the hands and feet of Jesus to a fellow daughter of God. We all have value. I know this, because we are all valuable to Him. He died for each one of us. His death proves just how much we are worth to Him. Therefore, we should love each other. Relating instead of competing is one of the very BEST ways we can show Christ’s love to each other as women.

We are born into this world hungry for love. I know I was.

I speak from the experience of a daughter who craved her daddy’s approval more than anything else. I still crave his approval, I’m 37.

I speak from the experience of a child of divorce and all the difficulties associated with it. I was in the 8th grade and everything changed. It’s still hard today.

I speak from the experience of a girl who was in her twenties and still hungry for love. I met someone who said he loved me and I believed him. Looking back, he tolerated me. I thought it was enough. I didn’t know any different. So, I fell in love, got married, had 2 daughters and he left me 10 years in…..and never looked back. I felt abandoned, alone, unlovable and hungrier for love than ever….and that’s when Jesus touched me. Literally. His presence enveloped me in my weakest, saddest, darkest moment. I’ve been pursuing His presence ever since.

I speak from the experience of a working mom, a single mom, a devoted mom, a tired mom. A mom that wants to raise my daughters the very best I can. A mom who wants to live by example so badly and pour the love of Jesus into them daily so that they never feel unlovable like I did. A mom who feels like I fall short all too often. A mom thankful for God’s grace…..everyday.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ll bet some of you can relate.

I grew up feeling like more of a burden than a blessing. God made me feel special. The enemy did his best to make me feel unlovable and unwanted. But, the healing touch of Jesus and the consistent loving hearts of my friends have saved me, more than once, and they continue to….Praise God!

I still have a deep desire to be married and to have the complete family unit, just as God desires and blesses. My friends know this and they want the best for me, just like Jesus does. They remind me of my value when the loneliness and despair sets in. And, they do. My friends remind me that I’m a daughter of the Most High King and He is protecting me while WE wait for a Godly man who views me the same way.

My friends remind me of how much I am loved, past, present, and future when I forget. They inspire me and they lift me up. They value me and that feels wonderful. Looking back I can see where certain people were placed in my life like pawns to encourage and pray for me and my girls. I am forever grateful. And it makes me want to be a true friend to them in return and others in desperate need….as I was.

We make friends during different seasons in our lives….elementary school, high school, college, neighbors, co-workers, church, friends with young children, friends with high school kids, even empty nester friends. Different friends come with different seasons in our lives. Some turn into lifers and some flow in and out of our lives as we go our separate ways. That’s all normal. That’s just life.

One of my deepest desires for my daughters is that they make and keep friendships that point them to Jesus. That in each season of their lives, God will place pawns that point directly to Him. That they will desire these friendships and keep them close to their hearts. That they will be the kind of friend who loves, relates, comforts, and reminds others of Jesus. Let’s all be those kinds of friends…

I have been blessed to make these kinds of friends. If there’s one thing we do when we’re together it’s relate. We talk dating, marriage, motherhood, work/life balance, seeking a deeper personal relationship with God, finding a few spare moments of quiet time, lack of sleep, health issues, mood issues, whatever the struggle…we relate and love each other through it. These women are some of my truest treasures. My personal prayer warriors. They inspire me, cheer me on, pick me up, and love me just as I am. Who does that sound like? It sounds like Jesus to me. He loves us exactly as we are, and too much to leave us there. He carries us.

Proverbs 18:24 in a few different versions –

The Message – Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.

NIV – One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

NLT – There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

These verses are powerful. Friends are family that we get to choose.

To have and be a friend that sticks, loves, accepts, prays, and perseveres is nothing short of a gift from God. Cherish your girlfriends. Our best friends know how busy we are. They don’t demand our time. They make an effort to be in our lives, but they also cut us slack when it’s needed. Because…they KNOW how busy we are. Our best friends know this because they relate. And like a warm cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire place on a cold and drizzly day, their friendships comfort us. We know they love us.

Can we humble ourselves and relate to each other? Can we hug and listen to another tired mom? Can we text a random Bible verse to someone that comes to mind? Can we pray for each other? Can we vent? Can we laugh our worries away? Can we just relate? I’d rather relate with you than compete with you any day…I’m already tired. Let’s just love each other instead. Because, that’s what friends do.

Once again, I’d like to thank Sheila for planning this event and asking me to speak and share “whatever is on my heart”. I started writing in a blog last year. I love to write and I have shared quite a bit of my heart in it, but I’ve never spoken publicly before.

Sheila knows my heart, she is a true friend. We met a couple years ago, right after I moved back to Burleson after my divorce. We both wanted to start a Women’s Bible Study group here at the Burleson church. Our pastor said we both called to inquire about starting a Beth Moore study one day apart. He told us we should meet and do it together. We met at Starbucks and the rest is history. God is good. I know He brought us together. She has become one of my dearest friends.

I look around this room and I see precious women with precious hearts. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about women on my journey, it’s that regardless of our relationship status, we are all hungry for love. We can’t expect that hunger to be filled by our moms, dads, husbands, kids, or even our best friends. They can all contribute, and they should. But, God is our only source of unfailing perfect love. Our friends and families may have or will let us down. We aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t expect them to be either. Only God is perfect. Let’s keep pointing each other to Him, after all that’s the most loving thing we can do for each other.