My First Love

Jesus, help me seek You with my whole heart.

There is so much in the world vying for my attention. There is so much that promises to fulfill. But it’s all lies- fulfillment, true fullness of life, is found in Christ alone.

Lately I’ve been finding it is requiring a little more discipline to make the time to spend with God, but when I do, when I sit down with my Bible, instantly there is nowhere else I’d rather be and nothing I’d rather be doing. It’s like until I sat there before the Lord, ready to hear from Him, I didn’t realize how thirsty I was. The thirst is always there, so much so that I hardly even notice it, but when I make time for Him I suddenly realize. Oh, how He satisfies. And oh, how quick I am to forget that!

I feel like I am programmed with little “warning signs”. When I start to think certain things or feel certain ways, I know I am not getting enough of Jesus. And yet, because I am so quick to forget that it’s Jesus I need, I keep plowing forward, looking for something else to fulfill. And that never goes well.

It’s like I’m driving a car and the needle is on empty, but I completely ignore that and find myself stranded on the side of the road a few miles later, shaking my fist and asking the universe, “Why does this always happen to me!?” It’s illogical that I’d somehow feel justified in protesting my plight when I was given ample warning that I needed to fill up.

Lord, help me remember that YOU are life. Help me continue to fall deeper in love with You.

Time spent with you is invaluable. Nothing is worth trading that time for something else.

I am Yours and You are mine,
forever and ever.
Amen.

Family

Today I’ve been giving some thought to what family is.

I know family isn’t one of those unexplored, under-discussed topics. I promise I am not trying to be profound in any way. I am just wanting to be honest. To explore in writing what God has shown me.

I don’t know why God gave me the family He did. I don’t know how He, knowing how things would turn out, could possibly see my family as being the best fit for me. I don’t know how He could possibly have thought it would make sense to put a tender-hearted, family-oriented person into a family that was destined to crumble. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to understand. My understanding (or not!) doesn’t make God’s decision and plan any less perfect.

A dear friend of mine used to tell me to love people “with open hands”, which used to make me really mad. “If you cannot depend on someone to stick around, if you cannot rely on them, what’s the point in loving them!?” I used to wonder. But now I know that people will always let us down, and that their flaws don’t disqualify them for our love. I also know that loving people is much less scary when God is our God- and not man. Some people will stay, and some won’t, and that is okay.

God provides.

When I watched my life–everything I thought I could rely on–crumble, I was not alone.

When I thought I was an orphan, I was wrong.

When I thought no one’s eyes would ever light up again when they thought of me, I was foolish.

Every day I’ve felt like I was marching through this life alone, I have been mistaken.

And also, there has been blessing in those days. On the days I thought I walked alone, the days I thought I belonged to no one, the days I felt like no one would claim me as their family, I had no choice but to cling to Jesus. And I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful for those days.

It doesn’t matter if we understand. We will never, in this lifetime, fully understand what God is doing. But it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. We have to trust in Him, and not in our own understanding, right? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere… 🙂

And now that I can see things more clearly, now that the dust has settled and I am looking at this new life of mine, which is nothing like the life I envisioned for myself, I boldly, and with a smile on my face, will testify that the Lord provides.

I am not without family.

Family isn’t about last name or whose smile most closely resembles your own.

It’s not about who understands you or who even appreciates you the way you most deserve to be appreciated.

It’s not even about who you spend your holidays with.

Family is about who carries you in their heart.

Family is the people who tell you the truth, even when it makes you feel mildly violent towards them.

Family is the people who say to you, “Drive safely. Call me when you get home.”

Family is who you feel comfortable calling “just to say hi”.

Family is the people who know you and still claim you.

And family isn’t forever. It just isn’t. I have had family, biological and otherwise, who were only in my life for a time, for a season. And that is okay. It doesn’t make it any less real.

For instance, I don’t have to question my entire childhood just because things are different now. My childhood wasn’t unreal. I wasn’t unloved. It was just a temporary thing. A sweet, sacred, imperfect, lovable time in my life which I can look back on, both with fond memories and with the objectivity that comes with adulthood.

When I lived in Maine, I had a family. I didn’t realize it at the time, nor did I appreciate it as much as I should’ve, but a small band of individuals claimed me. They took me in. They called me theirs. Even though I did nothing to “deserve” it. That’s another characteristic of family- you don’t have to earn their love or prove yourself or “qualify” in order to belong; they just love you. Again, it’s imperfect love, but it’s still love.

And love, whenever it shows up in life, is a gift from God.

He provides.

There is purpose in the loneliness. God doesn’t waste anything. Not one tear, not one prayer, not one dream or hope or longing, not one single moment of suffering or joy have gone undetected to Him.

He knows me. He knows what makes me laugh spontaneously, even when there’s no one around to hear. He knows what makes me tilt my head toward heaven and thank Him. And He knows what makes me fall to my knees and plead with Him. He knows the empty places in my heart. And He knows what I need.

Infinitely better than I ever could, the Lord provides for me.

He will give me surrogate mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers and grandparents as He sees fit.

And my friends’ children? My nieces and nephew? My clients and their children? Not having children of my own right now enables me to fully embrace and love the other children in my life.

No longer having faces I can rely on seeing around the table on Thanksgiving has enabled me to expand my definition of family. And the beauty of that? Not only does God provide for me, but He provides for them as well. The people in my life who I call family? Not only are they my family, but I am theirs. We are doing life together- combating loneliness with love and laughter and the comfort that comes from really knowing someone. That’s yet another characteristic of family- family is who you do life with.

Lord, expand our narrow view- of family, and love, and what we “need”. Change our definition of what our life “should” look like. Change our perspective. Help us see more clearly just how well taken care of we are. Help our prayers be punctuated with hallelujahs.

Help Us Dance

“Notice that what the serpent told [Eve] was not only plausible; it was even partially true. Eating the fruit would indeed open her eyes to understand good and evil. In her innocence, Eve was susceptible to the devil’s half-truths and lies.”

Of course I am familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and that wretched serpent, but I don’t think I’ve looked at it quite that way before.

Certainly I know that Satan is a liar, but I didn’t realize before how subtle his lies can be. I didn’t realize how his lies might even start out as a small piece of truth. He gets you to agree with that truth and then tries to assign meaning to it. And the meaning he assigns, and the way he suggests you should respond, those are the lies. But he is so subtle about it that you don’t even realize what he’s done. He doesn’t go for the jugular so that you can fight back with what you know to be true, he is sneakier than that.

For instance, rather than say, “God doesn’t love you,” which would do little more than elicit and eye-roll from those of us who know that to be laughably false, he might get you to agree that a certain social situation was uncomfortable. Then he will start with the lies. He might suggest that people don’t like you. That you don’t fit in. That you are hopelessly flawed. That you might as well just stop trying. That you don’t matter. That your future will look just like your present. That you will be alone. That God doesn’t care. That if God loved you, your life would look different. And before you know it, you’re walking around believing that God doesn’t love you.

Satan only asks for a little- at least initially. He only asks you to agree with him on some small thing, and then he lets you run away with that lie. He lets you elaborate on it until your whole way of seeing life and yourself is based on what you FEEL to be true versus what God says is true.

Satan loves to make us act on half-truths.

Lately Satan has been reminding me that there are no guarantees in life. Is that true? Yes. But before I know it, I find myself believing that if I want my life to look a certain way, I need to take matters into my own hands. He tells me God’s timing isn’t perfect and that I deserve better than what God has for me right now.

It is about then that I catch myself running away with the lie and am able to put a stop to it, but it’s so subtle. Satan is so subtle. It would be so easy to overlook the fact that it’s a lie. It would be so easy to march off, nose in the air, believing that it was actually was some deep truth about life that I had wisely and cleverly discerned all by myself.

I am so grateful that God left us the Bible. I am so grateful that Jesus came to earth to show us how to use the Bible as a weapon against the forces of evil. I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit within me can gently remind me when I begin believing something that isn’t biblical.

I am grateful for all the discomforts of life, including having no [good] choice but to trust in God’s timing and His plan.

Over and over again lately I am reminded that my hope HAS to be in God alone.

I cannot hope in a person or a relationship, I cannot hope in the fulfillment of a dream, I cannot hope in myself.

No matter how badly I want to be a wife and a mama, for instance, my hope has to be in God alone. Whether or not I am ever a mama, God is still God. My joy and hope cannot be found in what He gives, but in Him alone. It’s only when we fully abide in His love and His truth that joy and hope are unshakable.

Even when my life looks differently than I thought it would, He is good and He doesn’t make mistakes. And I am blessed. Give or take away, Lord, I know I stand here so very blessed.

And certainly I would prefer the comfort of guarantees and the joy of having my dreams coming to fruition, but none of that compares to the comfort of Your present and the joy of knowing You love me. I choose Your will, Lord.

I choose discomfort if discomfort is what You have for me.

I choose a life of praying fervently for the things that matter to me, all the while knowing You will make the final decision and whatever You decide, it will be good.

I choose unshakable joy.

I choose unshakable hope.

I choose Truth.

Hold our hands, Lord. Hold tight to us. Help us not unknowingly believe any lies. Saturate our minds with truth. Help us feel empowered, armed, and well-equipped to face this life head-on. Help us boldly and confidently do battle against evil. And help us not to be so weighed down by the presence of evil in this life that we forget that we have every reason to rejoice. We belong to You, Lord. Help that truth sink deep into our hearts until we are so overwhelmed by Your love that we cannot help but dance.

Tithing. And Worship.

Anxiety and “need” have been plaguing me lately.

But I welcome them. I see them as a call to spend more time with the Lord. If I don’t feel okay inwardly, it means there is to much world or self occupying my heart and mind and not enough Truth and Love and Abba.

Last night, at a shamefully late hour, my brain decided it was a good time to panic about finances. And before I knew it, I was telling myself I really needed to stop tithing.

As soon as that thought entered my mind, however, a second thought followed: “Where is your trust?!”

My trust is in God. My trust isn’t in a paycheck. It’s not in my bank account. It’s not in hoarding and collecting and saving every penny I possibly can in order to feel “safe” or “secure”. I don’t want to find my safety or security in money. I want to find it only in God.

And I know He will provide, but I want to trust Him and love Him so fully that I would continue to tithe even as my bank account neared zero.

And so I tithe. I tithe without fear of the future. I tithe without any contingency. I don’t tithe to get something back, I tithe because that is what my Lord asks of me.

I tithe because the things of this world are temporary. I tithe because I can do more with God by my side than I can with any sum of money. I tithe because as God’s child, I know I am rich.

I tithe because it helps me to bow down to the only One who deserves my worship.

How often do I bow to other things! I don’t think of it that way, of course, but that is what it is.

When I fear people won’t like me, when I fear I don’t measure up, when I disregard who God says I am, I bow to man.

When I worry about money and decide the only remedy is to become stingy with it, I bow to money.

When I think I need to wear a certain thing or look a certain way in order to have value or worth, I bow to beauty,

When I think I need more than what I have, I bow to material possessions.

And how often do I bow to fear!? Is that not the root of all that I bow to apart from the Lord?!

Every time I bow to something other than the Lord, I am taking my life into my own hands in the worst possible way. I am telling the Lord I know best. I am telling Him I don’t trust He will provide.

Lord, I want nothing more than to furiously and passionately pursue You. I don’t want to pursue financial wealth or beauty or others’ love. I simply want You. You alone are God.

And so, I give it all to You. Not just my money, but everything. I give You all that I might feel tempted to pursue that isn’t You- respect, love, revenge. I give You it all. I don’t want anything more or less than what You have for me, Lord.

I love You.

And Lord, I know You will provide, I know You have a plan and that You love me, but even when I don’t understand, even when it looks like You aren’t providing, I want to continue to love and seek You alone. I want to continue to be obedient. Help me to be obedient.

And so I tithe. I tithe because nothing, not one thing, matters more to me than my relationship with God. I want nothing more than to love Him more, trust Him move, know Him more, and make Him proud of me.

Lord, when my heart feels like it needs something, when I feel anxious about what I have and what I lack, help me to remember that all I really need is You. Help me to be heaven-minded. Help me be willing to give You anything You ask of me without hesitation.

 

In Candy Land, kids move their players along the path with their goal in mind. Their eyes are on the… Sugar Palace or whatever it’s called. And yes, the road has highs and lows, there are times when they have to backtrack a few spaces and times when they get to jump ahead. But it doesn’t matter, not really, because they know where the road leads.

That is how I want to live. Regardless of the highs and lows of life, I know how this story ends. It ends with You.

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When Love Makes You Cry

Last night as I was reading in bed, I burst into tears. Usually Brittany doesn’t lay in bed with me and read in the evening, but last night she did. And while I was a little bit embarrassed at the time, I think my tears were a good thing for her to be privy to.

I was reading the Beth Moore book I’ve been reading, (The Beloved Disciple), and in her closing chapters she began to discuss the end times. Normally, that is a topic I avoid. In fact, I almost skipped the last chapters. But I decided instead to tiptoe through them, testing the waters. I told myself I would just close the book if things got too intense and come back to it at a later time.

But Beth, (who is quickly becoming my new BFF), in typical Beth fashion, spun it in such a way that I found myself sobbing, not in fear, but in awe of how much God loves us.

I have never, ever, not for a single moment, been unloved. I have never not mattered. I have never been invisible. I have never been insignificant. All the times I’ve felt unloved or like I didn’t measure up? They were lies. They were lies from the pit of hell. And I’ve known that in my head, but last night God freshly revealed it to my heart.

And so I sat there in bed last night, sobbing and blubbering like a small child to Brittany about how “His eyes light up when I wake up in the morning”.

Even now, the tears just keep coming. I almost don’t understand the tears myself, as I don’t consider myself much of a crier, but I think that my heart is just overwhelmed with love for Him. He has seen the best and worst of me. He knows how very undeserving I am of His love. And yet He looks me in the eyes and holds my head in his hands and smiles in His tender, Jesus way, and He tells me over and over again, “I LOVE you.”

How I cannot wait for the day when I can throw my arms around Him and tell Him, “I love You, too.”

After my crying began to lessen last night and I regained some composure, Brittany showed me this video. I think she thought it would make me giggle or something, but instead it just made me cry all over again.

Seriously, life. Sometimes you hurt so good.

And then she showed me a second video, which also made me cry and blubber aloud about how “I cannot wait to have children and be able to make them that happy and have a husband who loves our children that much”. And Brittany laughed while I cried, which was okay with me because I was laughing too. And I imagine that Jesus, with tears of joy in His eyes, was laughing as well. The three of us there, sitting on my bed, laughing.

Because life is good. It is so painfully good.

And every aspect of it that is good, is God.

And so, in closing, I cried last night. I cried because God is good. So, so good.

Thank You, Abba, for every instance in which You reveal Your heart to me.

Wholeness

I have discovered recently that emotional healing is rarely ever instantaneous. Or even final. There’s not a moment when you realize you’re “all better”.

Hurt is multifaceted, and healing is too. It’s a process. A process of grieving what was lost and accepting with joy what God has for you, even when it looks different than what you expected.

It’s so much easier to accept the today that is, even in exchange for the the today that I imagined, when I know that God’s plans are greater than my own, even if I don’t understand right now.

Sometimes I miss being a child, even when it comes to eating the meal that was prepared for me and maintaining a strict bedtime. It’s funny how the things of childhood that made me so eager to grow up were also some of the things that I look back on now as being the foundation to the sense of security and safety I felt as a child. Even if I protested, even if I said it “wasn’t fair”, I knew that my parents had a reason for the rules they made. I knew they loved me. I knew they just wanted the best for me.

And so maybe that’s why I don’t struggle as much as I might otherwise when it comes to trusting God with “faith like a child”. Part of me never really grew up. Part of me never stopped needing someone to look out for me and know what is best for me, even if what’s best for me makes me want to stomp my feet and proclaim how “unfair” it is. 🙂

I don’t know that any of us ever stop needing that. I don’t think we ever stop needing parents. I don’t think we ever stop needing in general. Hunger is a good thing. It keeps us heaven-focused- as long as we correctly identify the reason for the hunger we are feeling.

And that is why, the older I get, the more I appreciate Jesus’ promise to be all that we need. It blows my mind. I know I say that a lot, but it’s true. Sometimes I feel so moved and in awe of Him that I feel like I could start to levitate or something. Like the little cartoon dude in the Red Bull commercials. Wings could sprout from my back and I could just hover mid-air, arms raised to the sky in worship of the One who created this world and loved us with a love more real and deep than we can even fathom, even though we didn’t deserve it.

I am glad that our hearts are structured in such a way that we never stop needing God. I am grateful that I have no choice but to depend on Him. And I am even more grateful that He is always, always there. He is always exactly what I need. I am never lacking.

And when I realize that I still have tender places in my heart, places that I thought were long healed? I know I don’t have to be discouraged by that. I don’t have to throw my hands up in defeat and envision for myself a melancholy life. Rather, I can rest in the comfort of knowing that God wouldn’t reveal those places to me unless it was time to work on them. Together.

I have been thinking a lot lately about abiding in Him. Truly residing in His love. Because if that is the most important thing to us, we are safe. Nothing can touch us. His love can act as a bubble. A protective barrier. The world’s war and drama cannot touch me. People’s rejection and hurtful words cannot make me believe lies. He is in control of my bank account and the health of my loved ones. I needn’t worry.

I think that the only way to get through life is to continually, moment-to-moment sometimes, commit our hearts to Him. It is only in Him that are hearts are safe. It is only in Him that there is life and hope and joy and healing.

Which leads me to my final thought: At times I have devoted all of my energy towards growth or healing or trying to make someone love me. “This is what God wants for me!” I would protest when I began to feel like I was swimming upstream. And so I’d struggle harder against the current, only to eventually give up, convinced God doesn’t’ actually want anything good for me at all.

But, while God does want for me to be loved and healed and to grow, my focus was wrong. I was pursuing those things instead of Him. I was trying to will myself to grow, force myself to be healed, and convince people that I was worth their time and energy. And when my focus, when what I pursue is a thing instead of the Lord, it is futile. It is like swimming against a current.

We are wired to pursue Him. We are wired to need Him. We are wired not to be able to be self-sufficient.

He has a plan.

And His timing is perfect.

And I am safe.

My future is secure.

His love surrounds me.

No weapon formed against me shall prosper.

God is for me.

Have I begun floating, Red Bull-style, yet?! 😉

Receiving The Gift

Most days, I have been diligently watering my plants. For me, this is huge. I am great at keeping my house clean, but when it comes to outside chores? I’ve never really had much of an interest. I kind of feel the same way about nature as I do my hair- “Let it be wild!”

When I was watering the other day, I discovered that my darling cat had killed a bird. I don’t do well with animal death. I handle episodes of 20/20 better than the animated Tarzan movie. Seriously. And while I am used to my cat killing things, this bird still had its whole face and head unmarred, and that was different to me. It was different than his usual faceless, unidentifiable victims. I saw the bird’s little beak and his closed eyes, and even now my eyes are filling with tears because it’s so sad and it’s so unfair- and it’s so just the way life is.

And so I looked at him for a moment, the bird, and I mentally said sorry to him for his painful and scary and early death.

And I told God how heavy that made my heart.

And then I turned around- just as a hummingbird whizzed past my head and began eating from the hummingbird feeder inches from my face.

And I stood there for probably three minutes watching it. It felt like a gift. It felt like a hug from my God.

And I don’t know the point of this story, aside from the fact that it has stuck with me for about a week, and I feel like it was a moment in my day that God was very much a part of and orchestrating.

I think lately my life has been a series of disappointments and challenges and letting go of expectations or things I had hoped for, and yet God is always there to hold me and hug me and provide for me. It’s like the hummingbird came into my life to remind me to keep my eyes open and appreciate what IS rather than spend all my time mourning what is NOT.

The hummingbird teamed up with God to remind me that life is hard, but it’s also really beautiful.

I am so glad He has a plan. I am so grateful that the pain of this life will eventually make sense. I am so glad that He is bigger and more beautiful than anything this life throws at us. I am so grateful that no hurt is too big for Him to heal.

I am so glad that He is all I need.

But still, I really hope all dogs (and cats and birds and pigs and donkeys…) go to heaven.