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.