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.