Monday, December 31, 2012

The end of the best (worst) year:

Ephesians 3:20
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

It's the end of another year.  

It's amazing to think of the different meanings that phrase holds for different people.

For some, it is the passing memory of some of the most significant and joyful moments of their lives.  New love, new life, new opportunities.

For others, it is the closing of maybe the most difficult chapter they have ever faced.  Grief, sadness and sorrow.  Darkness, loneliness, and failure. 

I, for one, find a place in my heart for both of those definitions as I reflect on the passing of 2012.  It was a year filled with the greatest joys I have ever experienced, but it was also a year of enduring some of the darkest times I may ever have to face.

But either way, through both the joys and the struggles of this year, I'm thankful to be able to say that I am in love with a God "who is able, through his mighty power at work within [me], to accomplish infinitely more than [I] might ask or think..."

More than ever, I am in awe of God's mighty power at work in my life this year.  Deep down I've always known that He powerful, but for the first time I am believing in His power at work within me, and through me.  Because of who He is, I am freed to be me. 

As I reflect on my life this past year, it's so easy to see God at work through the good times:
Celebrating five amazing years with the man of my dreams...
Experiencing the birth of my first son...
Enjoying the experience of writing my first book...
Witnessing the ever-exciting development of my precious toddler...

But, more than anything, I see His work through the difficult times in my life this past year- accomplishing infinitely more in me than I could have ever asked or imagined.   

 "Sorrow has opened up my eyes to see what real joy is.  Pain has been the catalyst to my heart's happiness". 

So thankful for a God who is faithful.  For a God who is loving and true.  For a God who takes both the light and darkness of our lives and by His grace, transforms them into exceedingly, infinitely more than we could ever hope, dream of, or imagine.

I'm dreaming big this year...which means my God is dreaming even bigger.  

Here's to the close of a really good year...

And the start of an even better one...

Happy New Year to you and yours!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Love really means:

[Love] is not self-seeking...

"Have you ever said, 'I love oranges?' Exactly what do you mean by that?  You are actually saying oranges do something for me.  But after you have squeezed everything you like out of the orange you will throw away the peelings... Biblical love is not getting all you can from another person but giving all you can."

I read this quote today, reminding me of the true meaning of love.

Real love is a love that gives.  Selfish love is one that takes.

Take some time to really consider your relationships and your understanding of love.

What do you do when you reach a point in which you are no longer receiving?  No longer feeling?  No longer enjoying?  What happens then?

Since when has our definition of love shifted from the biblical act of giving to the selfish act of receiving?  Since when are we focused on getting instead of offering?  Taking instead of sacrificing?

Lets learn to truly love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Should relationships be this complicated?

Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with one another.

What is up with dating being so complicated these days? I understand that we are complex human beings by design...but was it ever supposed to come to this?

I receive hundreds of emails from young men and women who have read my articles and posts...and who all have one thing in common- they are looking for love.  While I love hearing from people and helping in any way that I can, I find myself amazed by the complications and baggage that are often associated with dating relationships.

As an outsider looking in- after reading a 10 page email or hearing a story filled with break ups, lack of boundaries, hurt, pain, and's easy to see that things are not as they should be.  Relationships are hard work, but they should never be damaging, confusing, or wounding.  They should never emit constant conflict, chaos, and catastrophe. 

Right relationships were meant to be healing, to bring hope...and to embody harmony. 

But sometimes it's harder to see these things from the inside looking out. 

You see, Jesus calls us to live in harmony with one another.  It's easy to consider harmony as we interact and relate to the world around us, but why do so many people fail to see the need for harmony in their own personal relationships?  If we are called to harmony with the world, how much more to the intimate relationships that we're involved in.

Take a look at your dating life and ask yourself what it reflects.  Does it reflect chaos, or harmony?  Joy, or pain?  Growth or paralysis? 

If you answered the latter, maybe its' time to consider a change.

Because Dating was never meant to be so complicated...and if it's complicated will be complicated unhappily, ever after...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Mother's Reaction to the CT Tragady:

Proverbs 14:26
Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

As a nation, it is safe to say that we are all carrying heavy hearts.  The tragic events of Friday, December 14th will not quickly be forgotten in our hearts nor erased from our minds.  The day when young, innocent life was brutally slain. Snatched from the hearts and stolen from the hands of loving parents...all in a blink of an eye.  

With those stolen lives, came the abrasive realization that we are not in control.  Maybe we never really were.

For mothers and fathers like myself, in an instant- a fear swept over us in grasping the truth that there is only so much we can do to protect our children.  Only so far we can hide them from the pain of this world.  Only so long we can cover their eyes, guard their ears, protect their hearts, and hold them close.  

I found myself carrying the sting of fear on December 14th.  Realizing that I had no control over the fate of my life and even darker still, no control over the fate of my children's life.  Yes, I can love them, hold them, and nurture them.  I can teach them, discipline them, and correct them.  I can guide them, lead them, and encourage them.  But at the end of the day...there is only so much that I can do.  The rest is completely out of my hands.

I found myself slipping into fear.  Drowning in it.  Gasping for breath.  Wondering how to live from here...

Then Jesus so graciously spoke these words into my aching heart,

"Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge."

I paused to soak in the reality of this truth.  

The reality is that as Christians, we have an amazing and eternal hope.  When we finally acknowledge that our children are out of our hands, we are opened to acknowledging that they are safely passed into His.  

Whether in this life or the next, those who give their children the fortress of the Lord have given them the greatest gift imaginable, here on earth and ever, ever, ever after.  

The Lord will be their refuge.  

When they face hard times...
When they feel afraid....
When no one else understands...
When they feel all alone...
When they don't know which way to turn...
When their parents have fallen short...
When they are standing before an important choice...
When they are confused, scared, and in need...

Parents, there is no greater gift to give our children.  There is no greater way to protect their little hearts.  There is no greater plan to keeping them safe...

Then to allow their safety to rest in the refuge of the God who knows them, loves, them, cares for them, and watches over them better than we ever can.  Better than we ever will.  

But it is our job to lead them to Him.  It is our job to model and exemplify his grace.  It is our job to introduce them to His love. It is our job to fear Him, to love Him, to honor Him, to trust that they can see, that they can believe, that they can live in such a way too.  So that they can find an eternal refuge. 

Here on earth, and forever...forever more.  

Oh Lord, may we know you so well, may we fear you so lovingly, may we love you so that our every breath brings our children one step closer into your loving, safe, and eternal arms. 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The only way to Love better...

 [August 2006: Philadelphia, PA. Shortly after my arrival back from Egypt, and one month before we would be officially engaged!]

June 9th, 2006

Exactly one year before John and I were to be married. 

But believe it not, though we felt the closest we'd ever felt to one another emotionally, geographically- we were thousands of miles away.

Instead of spending my summer with my boyfriend...I was on a mission trip in Egypt that summer; following through with a commitment I had made to Jesus long before we had ever met.  A commitment to love God more, to serve the poor and needy, and to do my earthly best to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  John was taking a course, studying 18 hours a day intensively for what he thought may be his only chance at entering med school and fulfilling God's calling on his life to become a doctor.  His one chance at literally being able to make "the blind see".    

There is no doubt about it, June 9th, 2006 found us both in a really good place.  A place of obedience.  A place of focus.  A place of faith.   

A place where more than ever before our hearts were hidden in the heart of Jesus.  Reading through my journals today was such an incredible reminder to me of the reason why John and I are so in love:

Our love has always been founded in Something Greater than ourselves. 

That day I wrote:

"God is stretching is both...reminding us that we are working primarily for our union with Adonai...all else will follow, and must only follow...

Lord, Thy will be done."

It's easy to forget the glue that binds us together.  In fact, looking back at the times we have struggled most in our marriage the root of the problem always leads to our forgetfulness.  

Forgetfulness- forgetting that God is the Source.  That from Him, by Him, and to Him come all things.  Forgetfulness that in Him do all things hold together. 

When we forget...when we wander...we become self-absorbed...we become self-focused...we stray from the source of True Love, and our marriage is so subtly pulled apart.

I'm reminded of this truth today, because with the hustle and bustle of life I feel that I am personally starting to go down the path of forgetfulness.  These days, I have not acknowledged the Love of my Life and given Him his rightful place in my heart.  I have failed to run to Him to fill me up with more love, more grace, and more forgiveness.  I've been distracted by the things He has "called me to" and failed to remember that more than all of these things:

I am called to Him.

This is where it all began.  This is where it all must remain. 

My life has never been more satisfying, through singleness, through dating, or through marriage- as when I find that I am most satisfied in Him, most intimate with the Lord of my life.  To be in God's presence is to be forced into the overflow of all that is good...and in turn, be able to emit those very good things to the world around us. 

Maybe I have been trying to do too much by myself.  Maybe I have been trying to love on my own...

It's time to remember what holds all things together.  It's time to recall what binds my heart, mind, and heart in steadfastness.  It's time to remember my FIRST love...because therein lies the only answer to be able love at all.

"When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest t all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed bu increased."--C.S. Lewis

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Does the Church embrace singleness?

1 Corinthians 7:32
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 

Does the Church embrace singleness?  I threw that question out there this morning on my True Love Dates Facebook page.  

It was interesting to read the thoughts and responses from young men and women, but one woman's comment caught my attention:

"It is almost as if it is okay to be a single man but they [the Church] are not quite sure what to do about a single woman.  Many times they feel sorry for her or pray for God to bring the right man. There seems to be a definite double standard.

This statement really caught my eye because I find myself agreeing with her.  Remembering the days of singleness and the Christian culture that I was surrounded by, there seemed to be some sort of a double standard- where women felt less for being single, while men continued on peacefully with their bachelor lives.

I was thinking about this today, and why this seems to be the truth.  Although it's easy to blame the Church for everything, I believe the problem has a lot less to do with the Church, and a whole lot more to do with us...single young women, desperate to love and be loved.  

You see, I wonder if the church does not determine the value that is put on us- but rather, reflects the value that we put on ourselves.  

Looking back, I wonder if the church does not "embrace" singleness because we have a hard time embracing it ourselves.  As a single woman, I remember struggling so much with the idea of being single, as though it were a trial to get through, a temptation in which I had to persevere. 
It took me so long to embrace, enjoy singleness myself. 

As women, I think we all struggle with the same things.  The longing to be valued, loved, and embraced by another human being.  The longing to be walking with someone alongside, someone to witness our lives, in order to somehow make our lives matter.  

As Christian women, I think sometimes we devalue ourselves when we are single and alone.  I think we forget that our value is not attached to our relationship status, but rather to the God who has made His home inside of our hearts.  Our evaluation of self has the tendency to rub off onto the people around us.  

We teach people how to treat us by the way that we treat ourselves.  We teach people how to value us, by the way that we value ourselves.  At the root of the Church embracing singleness, is a long line of individual men and women, struggling to embrace singleness themselves. 

As a married woman now, I look back and I see the mistakes I made as a single woman- longing to be loved, valued, and embraced.  And the truth of the matter is- even in marriage...the struggles with value and self-worth have not gone away.  They still haunt me day by day and the unconditional love of a husband was not the cure that I thought it would be.  The truth of the matter is, the only solution I have found is nestled deeply in the heart of Something more.  Someone more. 

We will not embrace singleness as a culture, and as women at large, until we have truly learned to embrace our God-created, God-restored, God-loved, God-valued selves.  We will not embrace singleness as a culture, until we have learned to be at peace with who are are, standing alone.  And maybe, just maybe, even then we will never truly embrace our "singleness" because that's not the core of what we were meant to embrace. Rather than defining ourselves by the broad brush stroke of a relationship status, maybe our definitions need to run a little bit deeper.  A little bit truer.   A little bit more in line with the God of relationships, who calls us to rest only in Him. 

May we, as women, seek to create a culture in which we teach the world around us to treat us like we deserve to be treated.  Valued, loved, honored and respected.  Single, or not.  We are daughters of a King.  Let's live that way. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Are you in love, or just in need?

1 John 4:18
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."

I was having a conversation today about the stark difference of being in love and being in need.  When you really get down to the roots of each kind of love, they are unmistakably polar opposites, although from the outside in they may appear the same. 

There are many who believe that they have fallen in love, only to realize that this love is purely based on need.  A need to be wanted, to be valued, to be affirmed.  A need to be taken care of, to be nurtured, to be safe.  Need-love drives you toward another out of your disparity.  It binds you together by its codependency and unites you in its fear.  It takes two empty people, and fools them into thinking that they can fill one another up.  But in the end, fulfillment never comes.  In the end, their desperate needs cause them to feel more and more depleted.  In the end, their needs grow even greater in the shadow of a false and dying love.   

True love is never based on need, it is birthed out of covenant.  It is founded in commitment.  It's a love that speaks permanence and unconditional positive regard because it's a love that is based on choice.  It loves even when it doesn't feel like loving, and gives until it can give no more.  It loves the one before it because of who they are, yet continues to love because of who it is.  It is an unrelenting, passionate, fierce and growing love that simply loves for the sake of loving...a love that loves to love, rather than a love that loves to be loved. 

It is a love that offers something not a love that only takes. 

It is a love that wants nothing from the other but the opportunity to love them better.

True love is a reflection of a God who truly loved...completely, wholly, perfectly.

But it is a love that can be found here on earth, in glimpses, in moments...moments of sheer bliss, utter selflessness.  It is a love that reminds us of the Source of our perfect love.  And points us back to Him for more.  The Perfect love that casts out all fears, all doubts, and all needs. 

Because only in Him can our needs be met...and only then, are we free to truly love...

Lord, help me to love in this way...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don't Want Peace, Do Peace...

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

December always arrives so slowly, but disappears so quickly.  For me, it symbolizes the end of something old, and the hopes for something new.

As this year comes to a close, I've really been challenged by the idea of peace.  Just turn on any news station and you will quickly learn that peace is something that's rare...yet, it's something that we desperately long for.  But something that God has challenged me with lately is this:

We talk about peace on earth, but what about peace in our lives?

We long for the nations to let go of their differences, but what about the grudges that we hold on to so tightly?

We strive to end war and violence, but what of the bitterness in our own hearts?

More than anything, as this year comes to a close, I've been challenged to live in peace.  In peace with everyone around me, all people in my life. 

I've noticed as I mature and grow older, I've become a lot more sensitive to these things.  In childhood, when relationships used to be easy and fun, bonding over a game of hop scotch or a peanut butter sandwich was easy. Now, managing relationships requires so much more.   They are filled with expectations, needs, and emotions.

If I'm honest, I know that I have not always given as I should or loved as I could.  Before this year comes to a close, God is challenging me to do what I need to do to make sure that my heart is at peace with everyone in my life and everyone in my past.  To ask forgiveness, to repent, and to make amends.  To love better, encourage greater, and give expecting nothing in return.

It's time to be freed from the past by dealing with it.  It's time to strive toward peace on earth by living it out in my life. Relationships won't always be mended or restored, but I am called to do my part, "as far as it depends on me..."

Give peace a chance....

Here's to December. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Vote for Your Favorite Subtitle and Chance to Win!

As November passes by we are one month closer to the release of my book, True Love Dates (Zondervan, August 2013)!!

I'm excited to announce some of the subtitle ideas we've been brainstorming with the team at Zondervan, and would ask that you please take a moment to comment and place your vote!

All who vote will be entered to win one of the classic dating books by Dr. Townsend and Cloud called "Boundaries in Dating" (or if you're married, my all time favorite marriage book "The Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas). 

The top three subtitles (in no specific order) are:

1.  True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life
2.  True Love Dates: Three Dates to Finding the Love of Your Life
3.  True Love Dates:  Finding True Love Within the Chaos of Dating

How to win:
1.  Cast Your Vote by commenting in this post! - (Name gets put in the drawing 1x)
2.  Refer a friend to vote and have them put your name in the comment box (Each friend that votes  = Additional opportunities to have your name drawn- no limits!)

Thanks for your help and I'm excited to share these great books with you!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Can Jesus take the place of a girlfriend...err, boyfriend?

Genesis 2:18
It is not good for man to be alone...

"Jesus is your boyfriend now..."

I was watching a funny you tube video by this comedian who talks about stuff Christian singles hear.  It's full of phrases that most Christian singles have heard at some point in their lives.  Lines about waiting on God, happening when you least expect it, and viewing Jesus as your significant other...

Things people actually say.  Things Christian people actually say.  

But, I wonder, for all the struggling singles out there- are those phrases really helpful?  I mean, is it even possible for Jesus to take the place of your significant other, for Him to be your make believe boyfriend in times of loneliness and isolation?

For some people, those phrases are.  For some people, they can look past the simplicity of those phrases and make a place for Jesus in their hearts as their companion, friend, and significant other.  But I know for me as a single woman...that was hardly the case.

I used to feel this terrible guilt when I was single.  I felt guilty for longing for a husband.  Guilty that Jesus wasn't filling the voids and deficits in my heart.  Guilty that Jesus was not "enough" for me, because deep down I longed to be in a relationship, to find true love, and to hurry up and get married!  As much as I was in relationship with Jesus, and as much as I loved Him with all of my heart...there still seemed to be room for someone else.  A place in my heart that had not yet been filled.  Jesus was my Savior, My Redeemer, and My Love...but I was never really able to make him my boyfriend.

I think as Christians we are too hard on ourselves.  I think we place expectations on our shoulders that are not only unrealistic...they are un-human.  For the single man and woman out there, take heart...even God is on your side with this one!  The truth of the matter is that God himself saw that it was not good for us to be alone.  He creatively fashioned for Adam a wife...and that ancient design to be connected with another human being is something that was placed in your lineage from the very beginning of time. 

If you long for that connection, that relationship, that intimacy with another human being, take were made to have that longing!  It doesn't mean that you are unholy, or that Jesus has not filled your heart the way He should...rather, it means you are human, created in God's image.  A God who loves, who connects, who longs for relationship. 

Jesus can never be your boyfriend/girlfriend, because He was never intended to.  There is a significant part of your heart that was designed specifically for JUST Him....but there is a part of your heart, that was also designed specifically for others. 

He can never be your boyfriend/girlfriend, because He was intended to be so much more than that.  He was intended to be your Master, Your Savior, and your Healer.  He was intended to be your Counselor, Your Peace, and the Love of your life.  He longs for you to be in relationship with Him, but He has made you to also be in relationship with others.  Because He knows how you function, and He knows what's good for you. 

If He is God, then He can really be trusted with your heart, with your future, and with your relationships.  Jesus may never become your significant other, but He can become your significance, your serenity, and your satisfaction.  Trust Him for this. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Evening with a Homeless Man:

Matthew 25:40
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

We were walking the streets of D.C. early this week, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and of course...homeless people.  As we walked by this one particularly busy area on a Sunday evening we noticed 3 homeless men, fighting for a spot on the street.

A fourth man walked by, shaking his head in disdain. He looked to us and said "three homeless men, fighting for a spot on a street they don't even own!  How silly is that?"  To be honest, he looked a little homeless himself.  Dressed in sandals on a cold windy day, and somewhat unkempt hair and clothing.  We smiled at him, and the situation in general, and continued walking. 

Three blocks later, this middle-aged man in sandals was still walking by us- only a few feet away.  

And then came that feeling.  You know, that little voice inside of you that grows louder and louder.  The echo of the Holy Spirit, whispering your name, telling you what He wants you to do.  

"Talk to him," the internal voice said.  "Invite him to grab a bite to eat".  

Really, God?  It's 8:30pm on a Sunday night, in the middle of D.C.  Really, God?  We have our two kids with us, only 25 months and 5 months you really want us to take the time to buy this man a sandwich?  But, it's freezing out!  And our warm hotel is only a block away...

The voice persisted.  God softened my heart with each step and filled me with compassion.  Turning to my husband, we both looked each other in the eyes and knew what we should do. 

"Sir, you don't happen to be homeless do you?"
With a chuckle "Why yes, yes I am..." he said.
"Well, can we buy you something to eat?"

And with that began our conversation with Charles.  A sweet man who had lived through great obstacles and struggles, yet was full of life, wisdom, and strength. We passed our hotel and walked  few more blocks with Charles.  It was a really blessed evening, filled with good conversation, a chance to pray for him, encourage him, learn from him, and get to know him.  A chance for him to get to know us, to hear about our children, and to feel connected in this lonely world once again.  A chance for him to hear about Jesus in our lives, and what He could do in His.  A chance to be the voice, the hands, and the feet of Jesus...even in the freezing cold streets of D.C.  

We were blessed by Charles, and I hope he was blessed by us.  More so, I hope our children, even at such young ages, will learn to live a life that is more in tune with Jesus in their hearts than any other voice in this world.  That they would learn to love, to serve, and to give back all that they have been given. 

Lord, give us the strength to teach them that in how we live our lives. 


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why There's No Such Thing as Casual Dating:

Matthew 5:37

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'..."

They'd been dating for about 4 months.  Everything seemed to be going great.  They got a long really well, had similar interests and goals, shared beliefs and values, and simply had a lot of fun together.  But all of a sudden one day, she seemed to back off.  Just like that.  No warning.  No communication.  No answers.  A few weeks later they reconnected, and this is what she said:

"I'm just not ready to commit to this level of dating.  Can we just keep it casual?"

The fallacy of "casual dating" strikes again.  I cringe whenever I hear this phrase.  Though many people use the term in an attempt to maintain space, push off commitment, and implement some distance- in my humble opinion, what it really means is this: I'm just not sure if you're right for me. 

In this day and age, we have a tendency to complicate dating.  I love this verse because it reminds us that simplicity is so important when it comes to our communication with others- including others of the opposite sex.  Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.  If we seriously applied this rule to dating, the "maybe" of casual dating would vanish instantly within the certainty of yes, or no...

Here are a few points to think through if you are stuck at the dead end of casual dating:

1.  Are you past the point of casual?  There is a time and place for casual.  That time is called the stage of the firsts.  First time meeting.  First conversations.  First dates.  In the early stages of dating it should always be casual.  No thinking ahead, no commitments, and definitely no promises.  It's a time of knowing and becoming known.  It's a time of testing interactions, communication, and attraction between two people.  The first few months of dating can be considered casual, because the direction up ahead is still unclear.  But what makes a relationship turn from casual into committed?  The answer is always time.

Within a few months, the very nature of a relationship turns from casual into committed.  The time that you spend together, the conversations you exchange, and the affection you begin to develop can no longer be considered casual.  Once you have entered this stage of a relationship, there should be no going backward.  The future is either a YES, or a NO.  Time should always eliminate maybes, and if it hasn't- then the maybe is actually a NO.

2.  Consider what it is about casual that makes you comfortable:  If you are the one that is longing for casual, you need to ask yourself why.  Either the problem lives within you, or within the relationship.  For some, the baggage of their past brings fears of future, commitment, and permanency.  For others, the relationship itself is not all that they had thought it would be.  They see flaws within the relationship and they're filled with doubts, fears, and worries about the future. 

Rather than helping you make a decision, casual dating keeps you stuck in confusion longer than you were ever intended to stay.  It paralyzes you from making a choice, and keeps you stagnant in mediocre rather than moving forward toward fulfillment.  If you are comfortable in a casual relationship, you need to really consider what it is that is keeping you from moving forward, and be quick to deal with whatever that thing is.

3.  Realize the cost of casual:  For those who are living within the comfort of a casual relationship, there is always a cost.  Relationships are meant to be exciting, fulfilling, and healthy.  They are made to grow, to stretch, and to mature.  They are meant to deepen in intimacy, connection, and in love.  If you are at a stand-still within the world of casual, you have to really ask yourself what you are missing out on.  There is always a cost.  Casual will always take the place of passionate.  Casualty will always win over certainty.

Maybe by holding on to casual you are keeping yourself from a relationship that could offer you so much more.  Maybe by waiting for things to magically change, you are missing out on the change that could be taking place inside of you.  Maybe by clinging to complacency in a relationship, you are saying yes to casual and no to finding true love.

The one thing to remember about relationships is that they are not as complicated as we make them.  Healthy relationships are natural.  Healthy relationships are comfortable.  Healthy relationships progress every so easily, deepen ever so quickly, and develop ever so passionately.  There is no room for the "maybe" of casual when it comes to finding true love, because true love is certain.  Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

It's time to let go of casual, and step into something new. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

What Your Encouragement to Others Says About You:

Hebrews 3:13
So encourage each other that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 

My cousin Jennifer is one of the most encouraging people I know.  For the past year I have been observing her bless and encourage the people around her with phone calls, text messages, emails, and so much more.  It seems so natural for her, as though she doesn't even have to think about it.   No matter what has been going on in my life the past couple years, she's always reached out to say a simple hello and let me know she is thinking or praying for me....even during times when I wasn't always reaching out to her. 

I'm challenged by this kind of encouragement in the body of Christ.  It's a kind of encouragement that embodies the love of Jesus.  It's a kind of encouragement that reaches beyond self and into the lives of others.  It's a kind of encouragement that exudes confidence, grace, and sincere compassion.   

I want to be a person that encourages those around me, because according to scripture, people who can't seem to encourage others are some of the most hardened people on earth.  In Hebrews we are reminded to encourage each other daily..."so as not to be hardened by sin's deceit." 

When encouragement is difficult in your life, you must really ask yourself why.  Because 100 times out of 100, the difficulty to encourage has nothing to do with the people around you- and everything to do with your heart.  When we fail to encourage those around us, our hearts become insecure, covetous, isolated, and weak.  Like the Grinch, our hearts become three sizes too small.  Our lack of encouragement is always a symptom of something more.  Something deep inside of us that is not as it should be. 

You see, the greatest deceit we can experience is by believing this world is all about us.  The hardest our hearts will get, is when we believe that we are to be recipients of encouragement rather than distributors of encouragement.  When we focus inward, we will find our hearts cold, hardened, and alone.  We will find ourselves trapped in our own sin of selfishness and despair. 

I want to practice encouraging others in every aspect of my life.  I want to work on being called outside of myself, focusing on the lives of people around me.  I'm doing my best to practice this within my core group of friends, but I want it to become so much a part of my life that it is felt by everyone I come into contact with.   I want the confidence of Jesus and the value I have in Him to be my foundation, so that I am freed to give encouragement to others without the motive to receive it in return. 

I want to encourage others daily, so that my heart is soft and secure...and freed to love like Jesus loved.

"Student says- 'I am very discouraged what should I do'. Master says- 'encourage others'"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are you stuck on your past?

Genesis 19:26
But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

One of the greatest things that inhibits us from moving our past.  

For Andrea, that was exactly the case.  She was unable to get over the struggles of her past.  The neglect.  The abuse.  The longing for love.  Longings that were never filled.  Love that was never felt.  20 years later and she's still asking why.  Looking back, trying to make sense of it all.  And in her pursuit of looking back- she has failed to look around, and has ceased to look forward.  She has lost her present and her future...because of her past. 

Lot's wife struggled with the same things.  God had called Lot and his wife out of Sodom, and into something new.  Out of the darkness of their past, and into new adventures.  Out of the sin and struggles that they were surrounded by, and into something better.  But Lot's wife was unable to let go of the past.  She looked back...and "became a pillar of salt".  The truth of the matter is that the past can be paralyzing.

It's healthy to sort through our past every now and again. It's important to understand where we came from and what we went through.  It's vital to see the things from our past that made us who we are today.  But when we find our gaze is fixated on our past...we will ultimately waste our present, and lose our future.

God calls us to look forward. To see the new things that He is doing in our life rather than to dwell on the old.  To focus on hope, healing, and potential rather than waste our life on regrets, judgements, and needless analysis.   

He calls us to live for today, and hope for tomorrow...because no matter what has happened in our past, greater things are yet to come. 

Maybe you are stuck on your past.  Maybe a devastating break up has paralyzed your heart.  Maybe the sting of abuse and neglect continue to haunt you.  Maybe the choices you made and the road that you once traveled are causing you major regrets. Maybe your mind is filled with things you "should have" done and bogged down by those which you shouldn't have.  Maybe your heart is heavy with loss, pain, and unending questions of "why".   If this is you, the past may be wrapping it's deadly tentacles around your heart, trying it's very best to steal your life and rob your hope. 

It's time to overcome your past and stop looking back.  It's time to focus on your present, here and now.  It's time to look around and focus on where you are now and where you hope to be.  It's time to trust God with your future, and allow Him to help you fix your eyes forward. 

Don't let the pain of your past take away from your present and keep you from your future.  It's time to look forward and be freed. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You're So Vain, bet You think This Post Is About You....

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was hunter, known for his beauty.  Filled with pride, he loved himself so much that he was unable to love others.  Eventually, he was led to a body of water, where he glanced his reflection- unbeknownst to him- and fell in love with himself.  He was unable to leave the beauty of his very own reflection. 

And there he would spend the rest of his days, alone with himself...until the day that he died... 

As hard as it is to admit, there's a little bit of narcissus in all of us, isn't there?  A part of us that is afraid to take our eyes off of ourselves.  A voice inside of us that lures us in, keeping us fixated on self, preventing us from focusing on others.  Sometimes this voice comes with the sound of praise- reminding you of your accomplishments, stroking your ego, and giving you glory for all that you have done and all that you are.  Other times, this inability to take our eyes off of ourselves comes in a discouraging way.  Causing you to obsesses over yourself...if only I could have done better.  If only I could do more, be more, have more...

No matter which voice, whether positive or negative, we become the center of our attention. 

When we are consumed with ourselves, we are inhibited from loving others the way we were intended to love them.  When we are the focus we miss the opportunity of connecting with others. 

Pride and selfishness are some of the most isolating characteristics a human can possess....and whether the focus is positive or negative...fixation on self is just that.   

For those of us who cannot stop looking at ourselves...we will find, like Narcissus, a life filled nothing but self.  We will find everyone else around us fading away, washed up in the waves of our selfishness.  Consumed by the appetite of our ego.  And ultimately...desperately, and utterly alone.

C.S. Lewis declares that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but learning to think of your self less....

To allow your focus to fall on the people around you, and the God inside of you.  The God that is calling your name, asking you to love Him because He has already loved you.

The ironic thing is that the God who loves us so much is the only One who has the authority to focus on Himself...but He chose, in fact, to focus on You instead.  To give His heart to you.  To give His life for you.  To think of you in His last dying moment...instead of thinking of Himself. 

The only way to be freed from the snares of ego and pride is to do just that.  The only way to unlock the prison of selfishness and be freed from the obsession of insecurity, is to fix your eyes on others.  To allow others to be loved and valued just as much as you love and value yourself. 

Because no matter how hard we try to save ourselves... turning our eyes away from this self is the one and only place where true salvation can be found.   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

5 Things I LOST now that I'm a Parent: But what I've Gained

I was just taking in my life the other day and looked to my husband and said, "When exactly did these little people get here?"  It's amazing how quickly life goes by and how fast we have transitioned from newly weds, to love birds, and now to the parents of two amazing little kids (Ella- age 2, Elijah - age 5 months).  5 years has gone by fast, and we're excited to see what God has planned for the next 50!

Who could have prepared us for the world of parenthood?  Pretty much no one.  With this transition opens up an entire universe, one to which we never knew existed.  New rules, new standards, and in fact...a new you.  Our lives have changed so much over the past 25 months and with that change has come a lot of sacrifice.  Some days you look around at the mess, the laundry, chaos, and the insanity and all you can think about is the sacrifice...but most days...most days are filled with so much joy, and such blessings. 

We have lost some things through the transition into parenthood, but we have gained so much more.  Here are some of those things:

1.  We have lost sleep:  Let me put it this way, no one told me I had to be an early bird in order to put in an application for parenthood. it's a little too late.  My husband and I love us some sleep, and I look back fondly with memories of Sunday mornings, pre-children, sleeping in until 10:45am and still catching our 11am church service right down the road.

Well, I can't remember the last time I have seen 10am on my alarm clock.  And on sick nights, newborn nights, and teething nights...I see a lot of numbers on that clock (2am, 4am, 6am...) none of which are 10am....

Though John and I have lost many hours of sleep over the past two years...we have gained so much joy.  The mornings are a fun time for our family, and it's incredible to be greeted by these precious little kids that love and adore you so much...and to see the biggest smiles on their faces and the immense joy they have in just starting a new day.  Such innocence.  Such beauty.  So much so, that some mornings John and I have resorted to take turns going in to get them just because we each want to be first to see their precious smiles.

For this, I wouldn't trade anything...not even all the sleep in the world.

2.  We have lost freedom:  One of the first changes I felt after the arrival of our first was the complete lack of freedom that we now had.  Going from being completely independent, to now having a little life completely dependent on you  definitely comes with some pressure.  No more late nights out, no more midnight movies, no going out to eat past 7pm (unless you have a sick love for tantrums...).  Our schedules revolve around our children, and if you're having a backyard party at 2pm...well, there's a good chance we can't make it, because it's nap time ( have a sick love for tantrums...). 

Yet though our life has been somewhat restricted...we have learned to find so much joy in the people in our life rather than the events in our life.  There is something indescribably special about spending the evening at home with the kids and playing games, doing crafts, or having a dance party (that Elmo guy can really break it down...).  We have so much fun having picnics at home, walking to the park, and having friends come to play.  We've learned to connect more with our family, but we've also learned to connect more with the friends in our lives.  Though we can't always go to the fanciest restaurants...we can have friends over for pizza, ice cream, and games.  Sharing these moments with the people we love most have become some of our most special memories.  Forget freedom...we have each other. 

3. We have lost our hobbies:  It's really a miracle that I'm even writing right now...before bedtime, and not during a nap.  (Well, Baby is napping...and Ella is playing kitchen set with daddy).  But seriously, there's a whole lot more that I'd like to do than write.  I would love to enroll in cooking classes, go play tennis on a beautiful fall day, and sit and read books at a coffee shop.  John would love to play some basketball, take up woodworking, and learn the drums...but you know what, we don't have the time right now.  Beyond our careers and our family, and after spending time with some friends- at the end of the week our time bank is pretty much spent- and our minutes don't roll over! 

Though we've given up our hobbies (only for a season...), we've been blessed to find so many new joys in our children.  I love cooking for my family every day, getting creative with meals and making fun treats.  John takes some time out to work with his hands, making things for out kids to enjoy rather than just going out and buying them. We've learned to make do with the time that we have and integrate our hobbies in those ways.  There will be a day to drive to Starbucks and pick up my books once again ...but for now, I'm going to enjoy Dr. Suess, The Hungry Caterpillar, and All of God's Critters again, and again, and again while my little ones are snuggled close. 

4. We have lost our dreams: You know, lost is a strong word.  Rather, our dreams have been transformed.  I remember the days of longing to travel, to see the world and write about it.  Or of opening a home for troubled teenage girls and pouring into their lives every day.  And long...long before that....dreams of playing in the WNBA (yes, this is now funny to me too...). 

Though my dreams have come and gone throughout my life, most recently  my dreams have been transformed.  The moment I saw the precious face of my teeny little babies, I knew my dreams now belonged to each one of them.  I live to make them smile, and dream about the day when they will find their purpose, joy, and significance in this world- and in the eyes of our God.  For now, I live to teach them those things, and my greatest dreams are for them to know that they are loved.  Oh, so loved.  For me, there is no greater fulfillment than that.     

5.  We've lost our view of God: I don't know what I thought of God before.  I mean, I was in relationship with Him, and I knew He loved me and I loved Him.  But you know, I don't think I really grasped that until I had children of my own.  Having these children as an extension of who I am has taught me to love in a way that I never even knew was possible, and to give of myself in a way I never dreamed I could.  To know that I serve a God who loves me in such a deep way is breath taking.  He is willing to give everything for me.  And He did.  His love for me is ferocious, and because of this He wants me to live my life in a way that matters.  He wants to fill my heart with joy.

John and I find ourselves learning lesson after lesson about God's love and grace through our daily interactions with our children.  We have gotten just a glimpse of his heart in a way we never saw before....and the Father's love for us  is so much greater than we could have ever imagined.   

I am so thankful for my children, and for the family God has given me.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of these joys, but I am thankful for a God who is willing to graciously remind me of all that I have been given.  The joys far outweigh it all.  I'm grateful.  May you be, too.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taking off your mask: On Being Real

Psalm 139
"My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth."

I spoke at Faith Evangelical church last evening in Allentown, PA to an amazing group of young men and women.  One of the topics that was addressed was about authenticity in relationships...and how to be real with the people around you.  The conclusion?  Sometimes it's really hard to be real.  Sometimes it seems impossible to let go of the mask.  Sometimes it's painfully difficult to show your true self to the world.  The person we are, not the person we want to be.  And's hard to believe that we have anything worth really showing. 

Psalm 139.  Easier to read than to believe sometimes.  A psalm filled with value statements promoting our worth, our value, our meaning in the eyes of God.

"Intricately woven"...."Fearfully and wonderfully made." 

Sometimes we feel more complicated than intricate.  More afraid than fearfully made.  More wounded than wonderful.

It's hard to be real, because that means letting our true colors shine.  It means sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It means being open and honest about our struggles and our fears, our joys and our strengths.  It means being okay with where we are and who we are becoming, and then sharing that with the world.

It's hard to be real because sometimes we don't even know who we really are.  We know who we wish we were.  We know who we want to be.  But sometimes it's hard to come face to face with who we actually are.

It's hard to be real because it leaves us vulnerable and exposed.  It allows us to be seen, which allows us to be judged, which allows us to be valued.  Sometimes we're more concerned about how this world values us than how our God values us. 

If we're going to be real, we've God to really understand who we are in the eyes of God.  We've got to be confident with who he has made us, where we are at, and where He's taking us.  We've got to be okay with our humanity- struggles, sins, and all, recognizing that only in the pit of our humanity is when we are in need of a Savior.

We were rescued by a God who connected with us by his wounds.  Maybe sharing ours will be the only way that we can really connect with others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Five Ways We Keep Our Marriage Strong:

Google "marriage jokes" and these are some of the things you'll find:
Marriage is not a word. It is a sentence--a life sentence.

Marriage is very much like a violin; after the sweet music is over, the strings are attached.

Marriage is love. Love is blind. Therefore, marriage is an institution for the blind.

Marriage is an institution in which a man loses his Bachelor's Degree and the woman gets her Masters.

Marriage is a thing which puts a ring on a woman's finger and two under the man's eyes.

Marriage certificate is just another word for a work permit.

Marriage is not just a having a wife, but also worries inherited forever.

I really despise marriage jokes.  First, I despise them because they are critical, negative, and completely discouraging.  But secondly, I despise them because at the core....they reflect the heart of a very broken society, with a very twisted view of marriage.  They reflect a world around us that is struggling to see marriage as a blessing, but rather see it as a hindrance.

Turn on the local news and you will hear story after story of broken marriages, destructive relationships, struggling families, and the on again off again romance of Hollywood that confirms our societies apathetic view on holy matrimony.    

I despise marriage jokes because I believe they affirm the very thing the Enemy is trying to do in the world around us- steal, kill, and destroy our God-ordained, God-given, God-created relationships.  They make light of a very serious matter and snuff the image of God in the very relationships that were meant to reflect and honor Him.  
Marriage is no walk in the park. It is a road full of really hard choices, ridiculous selflessness, and constant service.  But it is a journey full of blessing, healing, and hope.  It is a hazy glimpse of God's incredible love found in the eyes of another human being. 

My husband and I take this seriously, and try to live out this kind of love each and every single day.  Some days are way harder than others, and many times we make mistakes.  But more than anything, we have committed to five things to keep our marriage strong...

1.  Friendship:  It's easier to be friends than lovers.  And those who start as friends, make the best lovers.  John and I founded our relationship on a really strong friendship.  I see the roots of that friendship sprouting in our marriage every day.  Each component to our friendship is like a string- and we have string after string tying us together and holding us close.  We share similar interests, hobbies, passions, and beliefs that keep us connected.  But we also have many differences- differences that we see as opportunities to learn, experience, and get to know one another even more.  We love spending time together, experiencing things with one another, and consider the other as our best friend.  We don't let our marriage cover over our only accentuates it. 

2.  Laughter:  When I met John I thought he was the funniest man alive.  Now I know better :)  But the truth of the matter is he keeps me laughing and makes me smile.  We have so much fun together, and some of our most intimate memories involve us laughing until there are tears streaming down our faces.  There is a time and place in marriage for tears of frustration, anger, and sadness...but there should also be a time for tears of joy.  Make that a priority in your marriage.  

3.  Confession:  As hard as it is, John and I are getting really good at saying sorry.  But we've evolved.  We don't just say sorry anymore- because the word "sorry" doesn't always hold much meaning.  We have learned to confess to one another, to take ownership and responsibility of our sins, flaws, and weaknesses, and to apologize specifically for how we have hurt each other.  As humbling as this can be, confession has brought an intimacy between us that is far greater than any prideful "rightness" could ever bring.  We've learned to confess to one another, and then to forgive one another.   

4.  Affection:  While affection was the norm in our first 3 years of marriage- two children later, a lot has changed.  Affection is no longer the "norm", it's a priority.  It's an action and reaction to one another that involves being deliberate and choosing to make time for intimacy, romance, and quality time.  It's a part of our life that we've had to learn to integrate in our day to day, rather than just save for special date nights.  We give affection through our words, loving glances across the couch while reading books with the kids, holding hands in public or even across our dining room table.  We've learned to show affection through our words, our actions, and our attitudes with one another.  And let me encourage you...a little love goes a long, long way. 

5.  Connection:  With so many opportunities to "connect" throughout the day via Facebook, emails, text messages, and interactions with others- sometimes our need for connections is depleted by the time we are face to face with our spouse at the end of the day.  John and I do our best to save our connecting for one save our favorite stories of the day with each other, to call and text each other throughout the day, and to always save the last few minutes before bed as our time to emotionally connect.  We're deliberate in having deep conversation with one another, and make the most of the time we're apart by thinking about each other and then sharing those thoughts when we get the chance. 

Marriage is not an easy road, and the proof of that is reflected in the many marriages around us that are falling apart.  But God's design for marriage is not to add burdens but to bring blessing into our lives.  May God give us the grace to honor our relationships with our spouse, to invest in them, and to show them the love of Jesus every opportunity we get.  And may we be blessed in return. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Sign of True Love: Transparency

Song of Solomon 8:7
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. 

"You're boring!"

The commercial on T.V. started off by showing a young woman telling her boyfriend that he was...boring. 

In comes credit card advertisement with the solution.

You don't have to be boring anymore!  The next few scenes portray the young man living it up with his credit card rewards, no longer the boring man he used to be.  All to win back the heart of the witch who just stomped on it.

Really?  I mean....really?

Commercials like this absolutely kill me.  Not so much of the ridiculous content that they advertise, but more so, because they reflect the heart of our culture.  A culture so afraid of rejection, afraid to be singled out, and so utterly desperate just to fit in.  No matter the cost. 

A culture willing to bend and fit into any mold, if only to be loved and accepted, if only to be valued.

It breaks my heart to see this theme resonating on T.V., but even more so in the world around me.  Young people I hear from every day through emails, over phone conversations, at talks, and in sessions...longing to be loved, willing to give up everything...even their very self.

One thing I love about my dating relationship with John is that we were always real with each other.  Never trying to be something or someone we were not.  We both believed with all our hearts that one of the keys to finding true love was in being real.  When the person standing before you is completely know your love is based on truth, because it's founded on what is actually there...rather than what you wish, hope, or dream could be there.

There were so many things about me that John loved, things I never imagined someone could ever love.  My clammy hands.  My frizzy curls.  My need to have deep conversations all hours of the day and night.  But those were the things that made that is what he fell in love with.   He loved me for who I was, not for who he wanted me to be.  And for the rest of our lives in marriage...I am freed to be myself.  Completely, wholly, and transparently me.

Why settle for a relationship in which you are asked to be someone you are not?  Why settle for hiding the parts of you that make you transparent, real, and authentically you.  Why become someone else to find love, when true love can find you...just for being you.  A love that cannot be quenched, a love that can never be washed away. 

Embrace your God-created self.  Every part of it. From your body type, to your spirituality.  From your emotional temperament to your silly quirks.  From your convictions to your hobbies.  It's okay to be real...because, though you risk's the only way that you can experience true and complete love.

And that kind of priceless.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthdays, Monsoons, and Blessings: When it Pours

Malachi 3:10
Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

It rained on my birthday. actually poured.  Like, monsoon-kind-of-poured.  There was a torrential downpour most of the day, with tornado watches and flood warnings.  This isn't the first time it rained on my birthday, either. I remember being locked in doors my junior year of college, as we waited for the incoming hurricane.  Instead of being out celebrating, my roommates and I were glued to the weather channel, wondering if we were going to have to board up our windows and doors!  Talk about a bummer.

But you know, this Tuesday as I woke up to the sound of rain and looked out of my window into the haze, I wasn't discouraged to see the rain.  For me, the rain was symbolic.  I felt like God was speaking to me through the tiny drops slithering down my window pane.   

No one really likes rain.  It puts a damper on things, figuratively and literally speaking.  It gets in the way of plans, generates bad hair days, and makes the roads slick for driving.  It brings with it clouds.  Clouds that darken the shining of the sun, shading its light with a haze of grey.   It makes you feel lazy, cold, and sucks ever ounce of your motivation.  There is something about the rain that just isn't fun.

I've just come through a rainy season in my life.  One that sapped my motivation and my strength.  One that set up a haze of darkness over the light in my life, causing me to see things through the fog.  I've been walking through the rain, and at times it's left me drenched in it's down pour.  Shivering, cold, and alone.

But you know, that is not what I thought about as I woke up on the morning of September 18th.  God was not using the rain to remind me of my struggle...but to give me hope for my future.  Rain brings life, nourishment, and growth.  Rain brings fruit, and creates a harvest.  We always want to collect the fruit...but in order to do so, it first has to rain. 

But you see, I believe that this season of rain will soon pass, like the rain always does.  I'm already seeing the clouds begin to break up and move away.  Yet I'm expecting more than just the ceasing of rain.  I'm expecting blessings.  There are always blessings after the storm. 

I have been faithful to God through the rain, and I know that because of who He is...greater things are yet to come.  I'm expecting Him to open the floodgates of heaven, and pour out so much blessing that my life won't even be able to contain it.  I'm believing that.  I'm speaking that into my life.  Because these are God's words, and His words are always more truthful than my own.

This is what I'm believing for this coming year, my 29th year of life.  I'm believing in God's faithfulness.  He was faithful to plant seeds into my life, and faithful to water them.  Now, He will be faithful in growing them up.  I'm waiting for this.  I'm hoping for this.  I'm believing in this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why I Hate Running and What I'm Running From:

Hebrews 12:1-2
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

There's nothing I despise more than running.  It takes so much out of me.  Energy.  Strength.  Motivation.  But that's what I've been doing lately.  This time, I'm not talking about physical running.  I'm talking about emotional...and spiritual running.  

To put it vaguely, I've been going through a difficult time in my life.  God has blessed me with so much, and the roots of those blessings run so deep in my life- but the stems of those blessings have began to blossom into pain, suffering, and stress.  The seeds must fall in order for the fruit to be birthed.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit (John 12:24).

I'm waiting for that fruit.  Having to remind myself that it is actually rooted in blessings, though some days blessing is the last thing I feel.  Some days, I just feel crushed.  Pressed.  Persecuted.  And struck down.  

For a moment, I thought the seeds had fallen...I thought it was time to harvest, to taste, to enjoy the fruit.  But I was wrong.  The season is not yet over.  

It's like I was running a marathon, headed toward the finish line, desperate to get to the end.  And when I reached the finish line, I turned the corner and realized that I still had 5 miles to run...

The end would come.  But it was not yet.  

Sometimes, this thought can be more devastating than encouraging.  Sometimes, your body and your soul and your mind just want to get to the end, and you aren't sure if you have the strength to make it through to the finish line. You just don't know if you have what it takes.  Just ask me a few weeks ago, and I, too, didn't think I could.  

But here I still running...

More than anything, I'm thankful that this race I'm running isn't about me, and the strength that I am running with has nothing to do with myself.  I'm thankful that when I am weak and my faith is imperfect, I can fix my eyes on the one who perfects my faith.  I'm thankful that the race has an end, it's not as short as I want it to be, and it's not as straight- but it's a race that was made just for me.  It was marked out for me.  It is mine.  For a reason.   Though I don't always know what that reason is, one thing I do know:

It refines me.  It stretches me.  It teaches me.  It perfects me.  

As much as I hate running...and trust me, I really despise it...I'm learning to be thankful in this race.  I'm learning to run the race marked out for me, and to fix my eyes on Jesus each and every step of the way.  

5 miles to go.  I'm running from fear, doubt, worry, and pain.  And instead, I'm running to Jesus. 

The finish line is in sight.  I'm hopeful that I'll push through and get there.  

May you, dear one, keep running, too. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How to Earn BFF Status: Authentic Friendships

"A friend loves at all times" Proverbs 17:17


If you're anything like me, those little letters inspire a blast to the past.  I remember passing notes back and forth in 5th grade, sealing them with the stamp of my multi-colored markers, boldly proclaiming BFF all over the page.

Best Friends Forever.

Life is so simple when you're in 5th grade, isn't it?  You are free to dream, free to imagine, free to live toward a future that is so easy and care-free.  Free to enter into relationships, believing with all your heart that they will last forever.

But then life happens.  And you grow up.  And you realize that real, everlasting friendships require much, much, more than passing notes after Math class and sharing a peanut butter sandwich at lunch.


I'm re-learning the art of making friends in this season of my life.  I'll be entering into the world of 30 next year, and I never thought that the topic of friendships would still be such a discovery to me at this stage.  I'm learning that sometimes friendships do, "just happen", as they did in the simplicity of 5th grade, but that most of the time- they take a lot more work.

For the first time in my life I'm starting to see authentic friendships as a calling, one that God has been whispering to me about for a while.  I'm finally starting to take the time to listen.  Just like He's called me to my family, and my career...he's also called me to certain friendships.  People he has placed in my life to show me a little more of Himself.  I'm realizing,  that there's so much of who He is that I would be missing,  if I didn't take the time to look for it in the people He has put into my life. 

I'm learning how to build authentic friendships, because I want to experience God in every possible avenue that He gives me to see a little more of Himself.  Ironically, as I've been learning about this subject, I was asked to do a talk at a nearby college on the concept of Building Authentic Friendships.  I've been brainstorming what all of this means to me.  Here's a couple things that I've come up with: 

1. Identify who you're called to:  The older I get, the more I realize that my emotional capacity is much more limited than I ever thought it was.  After spending the day with my kids, the evening with my husband, there's only so much left that I have to give.  And that's not to mention work, parents, siblings, and my much needed emotional investment in my self. I don't know about you, but I used to see friendships as anything and anyone that I seemed to have something in common with or getting a long with.  But to be honest, that made for a very long list of people to hang out with and frankly, I was never able to keep up with all the work that entailed.  But now I'm realizing that beyond similarities and interests, authentic friendships have an element that runs much deeper. 

In order to have authentic friendships, they have to be more than a luxury, but a calling.  People who God has placed in your life, and you in theirs for this specific season of time.   When God calls you to something, you don't let go of it until He lets you.  You hold on to your friends, realizing that through this friendship God is shaping you, challenging you, encouraging you, and stretching you into the person He has called you to be. Since you only have so much to give, be sure you are giving it to the people God has called you to give it to.  And then give all that you possibly can.   

2. Invest in their lives:  It's funny, because making friends is kind of like dating all over again.  It takes planning, timing, and communicating.  It's a process of giving that is made up of time, energy, and emotions.  It's a deliberate act that comes in the form of serving, talking, giving, forgiving, and encouraging.  It takes a whole lot of work, and with that work comes a whole lot of risk.  It's always hard to give to someone, when you have no idea how much, if any, they will give back.  But this is why it is so important to feel that we are called into a friendship.  Because when God calls us to give, He will give us the energy and the strength to keep on giving, even through the bumps and bruises that may come along the road of friendship.  

3. Invite them into yours: This has been the hardest part for me along the journey of friendship.  I find it easier to give, to serve, and to encourage- then to allow someone to do these things for me.  But I'm learning to accept the friendship of others in my life, and to live in the calling they feel toward me.  Inviting authentic friendship into your life means just that.  Opening your world to them.  Letting down your guard.  It requires an authentic and transparent look at who you really are, rather than who you want to be, and allowing your friends to see just that.  It calls for a genuineness that has no room for competition, jealousy, or envy- but rejoices in the prize of being real.

I'm thankful for the friends God has called me to in this season of my life.  Friends who have come along side me rejoicing with me through the highs of life, and mourning with me through it's lows.  I want to learn to live authentically and to give whole-heartedly, because in this kind of relationship I catch a beautiful glimpse of the heart of Jesus.

A Friend who loves fiercely, and gives sacrificially.  Lord, help me to be this kind of friend.