Falling In Love….Again

Red Heart Shape

I remember the first time I saw him.

A new family moved into our church’s neighborhood and while I say they were new, their family had been going to our church for years, but this one branch had finally settled with the rest of the family.  I was a young girl in college, playing the piano at church on the weekends.  The woman sang in the choir.  She situated herself so that she sat beside me when I stepped down from the piano.  She would whisper to me about her son that would soon be visiting, place photos of him in my Bible…just plain harass me about the guy.  I asked my mother to always be a bearer between me and the crazy lady.

Then her son finally started coming to church with her and he would stare at me through the entire service.

Creepy!

But one Sunday I didn’t play the piano and sat on the back row.  Low and behold if the son didn’t sit right in front of me.  I thought about slipping out…but then I noticed his shoulders and his hair.  Broad and blond…his hair was blond, shoulders broad.  He was a professional boxer and had just had his last fight, retired at the age of 28.  He had come to his parents’ home to recuperate and plan his future.

His mother decided I was his future.

And I guess I was.  We’ll be married 26 years this June.

It was not love at first sight, but there was lots of laughter and the love soon followed.  He chased, I told him to get lost, he teased, I laughed, he offered free food and I accepted!

Looking back over the past 26  years…well 28…we dated for two years first….I’ve noticed that sometimes, we take each other for granted, the specialness of our relationship is sometimes missing, we just expect things from the other person because it’s always been given before.  Words of thankfulness don’t always appear in our conversations and worst of all, communication sometimes lacks completely.

It’s not that there isn’t love; it’s that the love relationship hasn’t always been tended to.  We’ve been busy making sure there are groceries in the cabinets, the cars are all running, the bills are being paid, and the clothes are being washed (just to name a few distractions).  These are all good, but not the most important thing.

The love must be nurtured above all else.

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.  Luke 10:42 KJV

Unfortunately, this could also be said about some spiritual relationships.

I look at new Christians much like I look at newlyweds and I’m envious.  I want that spark and sizzle I see in them, that “can’t stand to be apart from each other” attitude.  Their love just oozes….it would be sickening….if it wasn’t so sweet.

When did you fall in love with Jesus?  Was it just a few years ago and is the tingly feeling still there?  Or has it been many, many years and you sometimes find that you take Him for granted….no need to pray, He knows your every need, and He’s always come through for you in the past….no need to read the Bible, you’ve read it before, nothing has changed, Genesis is still the first book of the Bible, Noah still builds an ark, Jesus still goes to the cross.  You know those “stories”, why re-read them?  They are kind of hard to understand anyway and sometimes depressing.  You would much rather focus on the “Polly Anna” verses…those that make you feel good.

I also remember the first time I met Him.  I was a little girl watching Billy Graham on TV.  I felt something, this strange heart-racing fear that if I didn’t do exactly what Mr. Graham said, I would not be in Heaven with my family.  I ran to the den, hid behind the sofa and prayed for forgiveness of my sins.  I begged Jesus to be in my heart like He was the rest of my family’s.  I didn’t want to be left behind; I wanted to be with Him and with them.

Don’t ask me what words I said.  All I know is that when I stood up from behind the sofa, the fear was gone.  I felt….loved, chosen, special.

Much like a bride on her wedding day.

My beloved is mine, and I am his…Song of Solomon 2:16 KJV

Just like our marriage, our spiritual relationship takes work.  We have to choose to spend time with The Groom, talk to Him, and listen to Him.  We don’t do things to win His love…we already have that….we do things (like love, be kind, follow Him, study His Word) because we want to please Him, we want to know Him on a deeper level.

It takes commitment, it takes obedience, and it takes time.  Little by little, we come to the place where all things pale in comparison to Him.  We fall in love with Him.  We choose Him over activities, over hobbies, over our own private time.

I interpret Luke 14: 26, 33 and Psalm 37:4 in this way:

If you love anyone else more than you love Me, you cannot be my bride.  You must love Me so much that even the love you have for your parents, your children, even your spouse looks like hatred.  You must forsake all for Me!  But, my bride, I will give you the desires of your heart, if you will only delight yourself in Me.

So this month…the month of love…what are you doing to fall in love with Jesus again?  What are you doing to revamp your relationship?

I’m sure you’ve been reading this month on some way to re-ignite the fire in your marriage.  I challenge you to do the same in your spiritual marriage and you know, most of the suggestions will work either way, for your earthly husband or your heavenly Husband!

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Letters to My Family

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I’m making a list…I’m checking it twice…..

No…I’m not going to find out who’s been naughty or nice.  I am, however, going to make a commitment to the people on that list.

A commitment to pray for them in 2012.

My list has 34 names on it.  Some of them I see every day, once a week, once a year, or never.  It is a list of my family members (immediate and extended).    I’ve listed my husband, my children, my son-in-law, my father, my brothers, their families, my aunts, and my cousins.  My commitment to them is, not just to pray, but to write them a letter….a handwritten letter on stationary, mailed through the US Post Office, with a stamp, during the year.  If I write at least one letter a week, by the time the Christmas card season rolls around, I’ll be ready to send them all a card, too.  I’ve used a basic Excel spread sheet to make my list.  It will give me room to add addresses, birthdays, a check-off system, even a place to add gift ideas with their likes/dislikes.

Why would I write a letter to my husband or my children, you may be asking?  I see them every day, almost.  If I don’t see them, I at least text them daily or “facebook” them, especially the extended family.  My son asked me one day why had I certain messages locked on my cell-phone so that they couldn’t be erased, the messages from him and his sister where they had texted me that they loved me.  I told him that one day, he might not feel like texting me that message.  We might have a falling out, or he just might be mad at me for some unknown teenager’s reason.  I wanted to be able to look at those to remind myself that they did in fact love me, even if current actions weren’t showing it.

However, the main reason I am committing to write each family member this year comes from my journey from the previous year.  As many of you know, I lost my mother and my grandmother in 2011.  As we have been going through their estates and belongings, I have become the keeper of all things photographic or written.  I’ve spent the last year reading journals and looking through photo albums, and scanning pictures into my computer so that I could share them with the rest of my family.   Every picture, no matter how blurry or out of focus, of my mother, I scan.  I want to remember her every look and I’m doing that through the pictures.

In the midst of going through some of my things, I found the cards and notes that she had sent to me over the years.  I cherish those notes now.  I look at them over and over again and remember how much she loved me.    I understand that there are lots of people that never received such a note from their parents; they never felt genuine love from their parents, never even heard the words spoken.  My heart aches for them.

I want my family to know how much I loved and prayed for them.  When the day comes that I can’t speak the words myself, I want these letters to remind them….they were loved.

Also, for right now, I want them to know that I am praying specifically for them.  So many times we say “I’m praying for you” and then go on our way.  The person trusts that we did indeed stop and pray for them…but too often, we don’t.  We say it and then go on about our business, never giving that prayer another thought.  With this list, I am committing to stop and pray specifically for them.

How can I pray specifically for them, especially for those that I’m not in close contact with now?  First I will pray that they are growing spiritually (who doesn’t need that pray?!) and for their physical safety.  As I learn of more specific areas I can pray, I will add those.  I am hoping that this will open lines of communication that have been closed for too long.  I hope that they will contact me back and ask me to pray in for certain areas of their lives.  I’ll add those requests to the Excel spreadsheet as a constant reminder of their needs and a place to chronicle answered prayers as I hear of them.

For my immediate family, I’m going to be writing them on a regular basis, maybe sharing insights from Bible studies that I come across, ideas to help them in their spiritual journey, encouragement for dreams being dreamed.  For those still living in the house with me, I’ll leave the letters in places only they will find them (under their pillow, in their office, in their car).  For my extended family, I’m going to send them copies of some of the pictures I’ve scanned, maybe pictures of them that they never saw before or pictures of those grandparents that connected us together.

You know, this isn’t a new idea.   God did it.  He wrote letters to me and to you.

The Bible.

The signature is written in blood.

It’s to remind us that we are loved.  It’s to encourage us, help us in our spiritual journey.  It’s to remind us that we are being prayed over.

John 17:9, 15, 17, 24….I pray for them….that thou shouldest keep them from the evil…{that God would } sanctify them…{that they will }be with me where I am

Who’s on your list to pray for in 2012?

 

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2008

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I wrote this post on my personal blog in January, 2009. The reason I share it with you today is that I want to encourage and comfort those of you who are enduring a trial.

As you will see as you read this post, 2008 was a horrible year for me. To be completely honest, 2009 wasn’t too hot either. But here we are in 2011, and I can honestly tell you that God has been faithful. He has brought us through. Life is not perfect (never will be this side of Heaven), but in 2008, I honestly felt that I would never smile again or have a reason to be happy. If there is one thing you take away from this post, I pray it is that God truly does work all things together for our good. Don’t give up no matter what you are going through. Keep your eyes on Him, trust Him with all your heart. Let Him hold your heart. He will not let you down.  

Humanly speaking, 2008 kicked my butt.

I can honestly say it was one of the worst years of my life. If the problems of the past year only involved me, I would be able to share more; but there are other people involved and it is their story, too. I don’t have their permission to write about it. Someday I hope to be able to speak more freely, but it probably won’t be for a very long time.

I hesitated about writing what might be perceived as a negative post, because I don’t want to come across as whiny, complaining or that I am begrudging anyone who had a fantastic 2008. Yet, I want to be honest and authentic here.

And I also want to share what God has been doing in my life in the midst of the problems and the pain. I want God’s faithfulness, love, and care to shine in bright contrast to the darkness last year had brought to me. So if I gloss over the hard parts, or merely say, 2008 was a really hard year, you would be missing part of the magnitude of God’s goodness to me in 2008.

There have been nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep and days where it took all I had not to fall apart at work, or in line at the grocery store, or when some well-meaning person would ask, “How are you?”. I learned that my car is a great place to cry and to pray out loud when I want to be absolutely sure no one can hear me but God.

Some of the problems of ’08 have lessened in severity, some have morphed into new problems, and some have improved. In some cases, the only thing that’s changed is my perspective because of what God is doing in my life through all of this. None of the problems has an easy fix or look like they will be going away just because we bought a new calendar. Obviously, these are not the first problems I have had to deal with in my 44 years of life, but they have had a different intensity than the others.

I have been a Christian since I was 9 years old. I have tried to walk with God and serve Him and love Him ever since.  I don’t know if what we’ve been dealing with this year has been a refining by God or a sifting by Satan. One thing I do know is this: even when life seems out of control, God is in control and I can choose to trust Him or I can give in to despair.

I choose to trust.

I trust that God is the almighty Creator of the universe. I trust that He loves me and has a plan for me. His plan is to work all these things for good in my life and to use them to make me more like Jesus. These same things are true for every member of my family. He loves them much more than I do and He wants so much more than I can even ask or imagine for them. He wants that for each of us and for you, too.

My nature tends to be one that wants to fight against the problems, to expend a lot of emotional energy lamenting over the fact that there are problems, and yearning strongly for the time they will go away. I can’t do that in this case. I have had to accept this state of affairs and not try to fix everything, because I can’t fix them; but I am learning how to manage them with Jesus’ help.

I liken it to having a chronic disease that may or may not be cured. You still have to live your life, but you make accommodations for the disease and go through certain measures to care for yourself. With my “disease”, the measures are staying close to Jesus through prayer, reading His word, worshiping Him, and seeking Godly counsel.

Henri Nouwen described it like this:

When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains … those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.

Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described it like this in Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So, I choose to ask God to help me rejoice in whatever suffering I may endure in this life.

And I choose to hope.

Not just hope the way a person may hope for a raise at work, or hope to go on vacation this summer, or hope that their problems will just go away. No, my hope is in something, Someone more sure.  My hope is in Jesus Christ.

Again, it is Paul who wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12 “… Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day”.

What have I entrusted to him for that day? Everything. My life, my salvation, my family. He’s got it all and there is no better place to entrust it all.

So, what have I learned in 2008 that shines so brightly in stark contrast to what we’ve been dealing with?

  • I am not in control. God is. And that is infinitely better.
  • God loves me no matter what. I am not defined by my circumstances. I am defined by my position as a child of God. Period.
  • God’s will is to conform me and all His children into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is using this trial to do that.
  • I have grown closer to God and clung to Him more tightly that I would have if 2008 been a super fantastic year.
  • I have grown closer to my husband. A lot of time stresses can drive a couple apart, but God has used this to bring us closer. Quite the silver lining, I would say.
  •  I have been reminded that this life is not all there is. As a Christian, my eternal home is in Heaven, as it is the rest of my family’s. Even if these problems don’t get resolved here on earth (which would be due to human stubbornness, not God’s lack of faithfulness) they will be resolved in Heaven.

I’m not crying myself to sleep as much anymore, but when I do find myself struggling to hold it together, I know it’s because I have allowed my perspective to shift back to my circumstances and away from the Prince of Peace who is the ultimate Comforter.

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One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

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One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Please leave a comment on this post OR email Trish (specifying which gift you are interested in) to be entered. All drawings will be on September 8th at 5pm MST to give everyone a chance to enter.

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Coming In and Going Out

Be still

I was thinking the other day about what I should write on. Which room did I need to check-in to? Running through the “house” in my mind, I stopped in the foyer. What an impactful room! If you actually have one, I bet it is like the sneak peek of your house. Scattered shoes of varying sizes tell of children running in and out the door. Canes and walking sticks represent the golden years of life. Chaos would tell you it was my house, well, that and my husband’s hunting trophies mounted on the walls. Light peering in the front door or side window warms the house and our souls. The foyer welcomes our guests and families into our homes and hopefully provides a safe haven from the daily grind we all face.

While I was reflecting on the foyer, how it is the first thing we see, I was reminded it is also the last place we see before we walk out. The place where we check our reflections in the mirror to make sure everything is pressed and neat. Everything tucked and in place.  Backpacks lined up, briefcases set out, we check to make sure we have all we need for the day.

The foyer of God’s house is most definitely a safe haven for us to run. We can come in out of the storm, the heat or the bitter cold we have faced during the day; drop all our baggage by the bench, take a deep breath, and rest. We are home. We are safe. We are comforted.

It is also the place where our morning pep talk with the Lord can happen. Imagine Him sending you on your way. He straightens your clothes. He hands you the tools you need for the day. He reminds you who you are in Christ Jesus. He tells you that you belong to Him. He kisses you on the forehead and sends you out. Not alone though, for He sends His Spirit out with you.

As often as I need a safe place to drop my stuff at the day’s end, I also need a confidence boost in the morning. I need to look in the mirror and be reminded that I am a child of the Most High King. Yes, there are expectations with that and they are to be remembered, but more importantly there is love. I am loved. Whether I walk in the door at the end of the day having failed or having been faithful, if I am His, I am loved.

For some of you, home is not or was not a safe place. You snuck in your house quietly and out as fast as you could.  You struggle to find rest and security in the image of a house.  I want to tell you, Christ has prepared a wonderful house for you (John 14:1-3), should you choose to move in. His foyer will be grander than anything you could imagine. No yelling or pain or fear.  A place made just for you. You very own hook to hang your baggage on.

While we may not get to see the entire house on this side of heaven, I believe we can have a sneak peek. Our relationship with the Lord is just the front door to all of eternity with Him. Walk into the foyer and let His love wipe off the grime of the day, or even days. Let His light warm your soul. Hang your bags on your hook. Take your shoes off for you are on holy ground. Let Jesus minister to you right then and there. Wounds tended too, burdens lightened, emotions settled, get up and get ready to face the day again. Walk out knowing you are His child, precious, dearly loved and most certainly not alone. The foyer will be waiting for your return.

Psalm 121:7-8  (NKJV)
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.


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I am Yours, Lord

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Father God, it’s time I stop this crazy cycle and come to You
I’m tired of chasing the wind
I’m weary, weak and wounded
So right now I come and lay my head on Your chest
In Your arms I find rest
I am Yours

All the ugly places I hide I lay out before You
All my fears and dreams I surrender at Your feet
Take my life and make it completely Yours
Leave no stone unturned
Search me and know me

Lord God, Thank You for who You are
My redeemer, my healer, my rock, my hiding place, my closest friend
Thank You for being faithful when I am faithless
Thank You for new mercies every morning
You are endless love
Love beyond my wildest imagination

What joy I find when I turn my eyes off of me and onto You
You captivate me
You are beautiful love to me
You sing over me
You wash me clean
You renew my life and make me whole
Praise You, Lord Jesus
I worship You in spirit and in truth

I come into Your presence with thanksgiving and praise
Not because everything is going my way
but because You are God
And You are worthy of my praise

Always

In Your sanctuary I find my reason for living
You, Jesus, You are my everything!
And I am all Yours!
Amen

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Wreck My Life

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Recently, our worship leader prayed these words, “Lord, wreck our lives with Your Love.” And those words struck me at the core. Do I really want to ask God to wreck my life??

I’ve never been much of a daredevil, though I have chosen daring paths before and even was glad about it. But for the most part I really like safe and planned. You can ask my Chris, I am not much for off-roads here in Colorado, though he truly enjoys them so much. If we are in a precarious place, I get edgy and frightened–and it truly makes my Chris mad at me. For he wants me to trust him. He’s an excellent and skilled driver. I know it. But my actions do not follow through–I do not act like I trust him.

It’s much the same way with my relationship with the Lord. I know Him. I know He is FOR me. I know that He is WITH me. I know that He is ABLE to deliver me from, through and in the fire. But often my actions do not show trust in Him. I’m always looking for the safety net, when He IS the safety net. Like with my Chris, I’m sure it frustrates and disappoints God. For He has shown Himself in my life. He has been faithful and is faithful. He has proven to me that He is trustworthy.

So I think, “Lord, wreck my life with Your love? What exactly does that mean?”

It means that I take my perfect plan of a life and home and I submit it to His perfect plan–that may look altogether different from my own.

It means that the women I most look up to in the faith–Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom–became women who ran hard after God, even when His plans, His journey for them, looked altogether different than what they hoped. If I want to live life like them, I need to fully trust that God has BEST in mind when difficult life happens.

That does not mean that I have to be a martyr–or that I’ll lose my husband or family. It may just mean that the difficult things I have faced, like bankruptcy, loss of family and friends, and job loss, will shape my life into something beautiful–if I will let God shape it and trust Him.

It may mean that the things I let define me will no longer define me or shape my future. So this may create a new normal in my life, which is a difficult path to walk.

To fully know God and fully trust Him to wreck my life with His love, I have to surrender to Him. I must continue praying to surrender to God’s plans and be filled fully with His spirit, which is a battle cry to the enemy our our souls. I have faced the roughest two weeks I have ever had; yet, I feel the wind of God’s breath on my face. And I can see some break-throughs in areas I have been praying to see the walls come down.

This topic is not finished, for I am certain that Casey’s prayer might have just changed my life. For I want God to wreck my life with His love. I am so tired of safe living, people pleasing and letting others define me. God is the shaper of my life–and He is the Holy One.

Let this picture bore into your mind of who this Holy One is…Psalm 18:6-19 (The Message)

“A hostile world! I call to God,
I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
my cry brings me right into his presence—
a private audience!

Earth wobbles and lurches;
huge mountains shake like leaves,
Quake like aspen leaves
because of his rage.
His nostrils flare, bellowing smoke;
his mouth spits fire.
Tongues of fire dart in and out;
he lowers the sky.
He steps down;
under his feet an abyss opens up.
He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then God thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.

But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! “

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Through the Eyes of God

Woman Window Shopping

I have been really down on myself a lot lately. In fact, it had gotten to the point that I just couldn’t stand to be in the room with “me” anymore.

This weekend, that all changed. God spoke to my heart in the wee hours of the morning as I sat reading His word, and my whole view of who I am completely changed. I found myself excited again about being God’s child. I found myself looking forward to all that He has for me in my life. It was just a major transformation.

It just amazes me how God will pull you away from all the things in your life that are distracting you so that He can get you to focus on what He wants you to see and hear.

I am glad that I had my listening ears on this weekend. Here is what I heard:

~I love you daughter…LOVE YOURSELF COMPLETELY.

~I think you are beautiful…LOOK AT YOURSELF THROUGH MY EYES.

~You are My child. . .HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH AS YOU WEAR MY LOVE.

~I know you by name. . .YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MINE.

So what is God saying to you today? Listen with your heart first. Your heart is where God’s love will bloom and grow.

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A Walk Will Do You Good

Girl Crossing the Finish Line

This morning as I was walking, God enlightened me on a few things. For the past couple of days I have just felt beat down, ugly, fat, bloated–just NOT pretty.

Today I decided it was time to really start trying to lose these 50 pounds I need to lose. Yes. 50. Anyway, as I was walking I was listening to Casting Crowns and this song spoke volumes to me today. Here is how:

Voice of Truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I’m in (Being overweight)
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone (food, my couch, and chocolate)
Into the realm of the unknown (weight loss and exercise) where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand

But the waves(failures and bad attempts at trying to lose weight) are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed (giving up when it gets hard)
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!” ( you cannot lose this weight. You will always be fat)

But the voice of truth tells me a different story (you can do this. Trust Me)
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory” (Let me shine through this weight loss journey)
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant (being fat)
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors (others who are wanting to lose weight)
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand (not giving in to defeat)

But the giant’s (being fat) calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. “Boy you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

But the stone (my strength) was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don’t seem so high
From on top of them lookin’ down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth (YOU are beautiful because YOU are mine)

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