Archive of ‘Love’ category

Paint & Passion

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If you walked into my parent’s house, the first thing you would notice would be an entryway table that was made to hold the pictures of maybe three grandkids but is actually holding the pictures of eleven. Then you would notice that no place in the world smells better than this one filled with the scent of food cooking and twenty different candles burning and then, you might turn your head just to the right and notice a hutch full of tea sets.

These are the things that my mom collects. Her people, her candles, and her tea sets. Her love of candles was passed down to me and my sisters by osmosis. Scent is an addicting thing and when your childhood home smells as wonderful as mine did, you want to keep that good thing going for your kids. And as far as her people go, well they’re my people too and we tend to that collection together.

The tea sets were a little different though. I can pinpoint when she passed that appreciation on.

I was thirteen and smack dab in the middle of misery.

My seventh grade basketball picture should come up when you google “awkward phase.” I was skinny as a stick, had braces, a unibrow, and a super short haircut that would have been cute on a grown woman with confidence and sass but just made me look like a boy.

I think my mom knew just how bad things had gotten and any girl can tell you that the way to cure a bad day is with some girl time. So, one day, my mom let me skip school for the afternoon and took me to a pottery painting shop that had just opened.

“Let’s paint a tea set!” she said to me, eyes smiling. And we did.

For weeks, we would go to the shop for an hour or so and paint one tea cup, one saucer, one sugar dish at a time. We decided to do it in Mary Engelbreit fashion — a bright yellow base with black polka dots and hot pink swirls. It became our project and every time we finished a piece of the set, we would paint our initials on the bottom in solid black paint.

I would watch my mom swirl on her “SDF” and thought that there had never been prettier letters anywhere. I would try to match my “KEF” with her letters and I could swear that each cup’s initials looked better than the last. I wanted them too anyway. I wanted my handwriting to look like her’s, my painting to look like her’s, my life to look like her’s because there we were in a bright little pottery shop surrounded by paint and dirty brushes and she was choosing to stay. She wanted to be with me, an awkward nobody who had to safety pin my pants because I was tall enough to shop in the junior’s section but certainly not curvy enough.

We visited that shop for weeks until our tea set was done. We brought it home and I helped my mom put it into her tea set hutch. We stacked our bright polka dotted cups and tea pot right next to her fine Austrian China. She let our oversized pottery edge out the delicate, floral patterns and gold leaf swirling that had been her’s for decades.

She let the set that we made take center stage. All because it was ours.

That tea set isn’t valuable. It certainly shouldn’t even be in the same category as some of her beautiful pieces, but it’s still there in that hutch, our loud, swirly, polka dotted set is what grabs your attention.

That set is the product of a bunch of ordinary afternoons where my confidence was built and my self worth was affirmed. That set says, “My Mom chose me and she wants you to know it.”

That time that she spent with me, sharing her stories and her art and her moments, resulted in a shared love. She invested the time in our relationship and because of that, a passion was passed on to me.

Of course, I’m not crafty like she is but I certainly love and appreciate the beauty in the swirl of a teacup and the joy that comes from holding something so pretty in your hands. She gave me that by investing in our relationship, just like she passed on her love for prayer and for studying the Bible, her love of worshiping and her love of investing in people.

You see, that tea set taught me more than how pretty a tea cup can look or how relaxing painting can be. It taught me the key to passing along passion and love; it’s time, consistency, and relationship.

This is important. Pastor and commentator R. Kent Hughes says, “While [Genesis 2:18] relates directly to the creation of Eve, it is also a primary ontological statement about the nature of man, who is, whether he admits it or not, a relational being. His growth and significance are worked out in relationships.”

As Christians, our growth and significance comes through investing in and building God’s Kingdom by investing in and building people. Look at how the early church did this in the book of Acts.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:46-47 NIV

They spent quality time with each other consistently, and together, through relationships, they built the Kingdom of God.

Just like my mom was always consistent in sharing her love and her passions with us, the early church did the same. And the results were the same; the passing on of passion. The building of relationships between both people and those people and God.

Sometimes, a lot of times, passing on our passion for our faith and love for the Lord can be boiled down to investing time, love, and energy in a relationship. Whether it’s through shared interests, shared situations, or some tea in a pretty little cup, let your relationships dig deep and long and let the moments add up. Whether it’s through painting or praying, let that passion travel.

Power of Marriage

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Confession time. This week, I had a moment. Now, if you don’t know what I mean by “a moment,” you might once I’m done describing it. You know, those times when logic gets the boot and we just let emotion run the show. Where the tears seem to flow freely even when we don’t want them to and the reasons for it are as lost to you as a needle in a haystack.

Well, actually, when my “moment” came over me this week, the reason was not very hard to find. It was all over the bathtub and the carpet outside of the bathroom. It was all over the bath toys and the porcelain and the smell of it was all up in my nose. If you haven’t guessed it, it was poop.

My daughter, who we have finished potty training and who has pretty much mastered the art of using the porcelain throne had some tummy troubles, threw caution to the wind and pooped all over the tub during bath time. And then she had the same troubles again right outside the bathroom door while she waited for me to clean out the tub. It was terrible. It was nasty. It was apocalypse now all up in the bathroom. And all this came after a day that had been spent fighting the typical battles that come from the terrible two’s and my own frustrations.

I held it together for the most part, cleaning and sanitizing everything and then drawing a new bath for the kids. The rest of the day went on and bedtime came as usual and then, when we were lying in bed, my sweet, unsuspecting husband opened the door for the freak out.

“Are you ok babe?” he asked me.

“Sure. What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, you just seem a little overwhelmed today. Not completely your self.”

That was it. He had opened the hatch and the crazy, cuckoo birds were free. Cue the hysterical “moment” I’ve been leading up to. Declarations of how my day was, “Nothing but poop!” and how, “Everything is a battle.” Tears came over a day that, in my head, had seemed so awful and my wonderful husband offered solution after solution, and encouragement after encouragement all while I shot them down. It finally ended with my mentioning that it was late and I had to be up at 6:30 to get our son to school. I hadn’t meant it to be sassy but I’m sure it came across like it and thus ended my drama and selfishness for the night.

He had only meant to help me talk it out, to encourage me and to touch base but instead, he got to have a front row seat to my complaining and selfish pessimism. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he never tried to touch the subject again. I hadn’t been open to the (very good) solutions he had offered to our terrible two’s struggles or how he had validated my frustrations. I had just wanted to be mad and wallow and to choose to see the negative. Who would want to open that can of worms again, huh?

My wonderful husband. That’s who. The next morning, he made the kids breakfast and helped me get them dressed. He made sure that I got to shower and get ready in complete, uninterrupted peace. He checked in with me throughout the day and jumped at every opportunity to lighten my load. Why? Because we’re married that’s why.

I had my moment, the one that revealed where I was struggling to walk well in my calling of motherhood. He saw as the walls cracked and selfishness and anger were creeping in. He heard it all but instead of judging me or resenting me or taking a step back so I could figure out my heart issues on my own, he pushed in close and decided to serve and love and help me. Instead of letting my struggles be my struggles, he made them ours and he did all that he could to create a space for me to be refreshed and find the place that I needed to be in.

I know this is not a monumental struggle. I know that it might seem small, but the message and the action that was demonstrated in these ordinary circumstances is not small at all. My husband saw the worst of me. He sees it all the time actually but what I have in our marriage is a place where the worst of me can come out and then be worked out with a helpmate.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV

Within the space of a marriage, our worst selves are safe to be revealed not so we can dwell with them, be comfortable with them or embrace them, but so we can find our way away from them towards righteousness with the help of someone who loves us unconditionally. Nothing on this earth mirrors our walk with Christ better than that.

Love, the bedrock, the motivation, the heart, and the soul of marriage and of Jesus sacrifice for us as well, is the reason for this. Why? Because 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”

The very feeling and action and power that is synonymous with marriage is something that has selflessness and servanthood and safety at it’s core. It takes no pleasure in evil but pushes and perseveres until the truth of who we are in Christ is revealed. And then it rejoices.

That is marriage. The ever present, ever persevering force of love that propels us towards our goals of righteousness.

As if his actions didn’t speak it clearly enough this week, my husband said something today that was beautiful and profound.

“You’re supposed to do everything you can to help your spouse achieve their goals.”

That doesn’t just go for getting a promotion or running a marathon. That applies to spiritual things too. Things like helping your wife, the crazy, frazzled stay at home mom, find peace and power and provision from Christ to mother in grace and joy.

This week, I’m praying about ways that I can do that for Scott. Will you join me in seeking the Lord about how we can help our husbands grab hold of the things that God is doing in their hearts? Will you pray about how to make your marriage one that better mirrors the love and safety and motivation that we find in Christ? Because I promise you that the “moments” are going to come where the not so good sides of ourselves or our spouse will be revealed but within them, we get to make room for God to use us and our promise to each other to propel us towards righteousness.

The Art of Practicing Love

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Love is kind of a gushy word. People use it often, but at the same time not enough. People sing about it, read about it, watch movies about it, and think about it sometimes constantly throughout the day. And yet, love is still hard to understand. Love, when talked about in the romantic context especially, can seem easy, automatic, almost an accident or something we can just “fall” into. But there is a deeper side of love that we also long for in the midst of the other loves we are surrounded by each day. A love that was demonstrated to us by God when he created the earth and everything in it, and then was confirmed as he journeyed with humanity demonstrating his love to the extent of sending Jesus to incarnate that love.

As John describes love in one of his letters to the early church, love is important because it is the way we display who God is in our everyday lives,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

This sweet little line is important, and many Christians and non-Christians would agree that love is important, but I have found it is easier to talk about the importance of love than to live out that love on a daily basis. The kind of love that John is talking about takes practice.

For example if I told you to just go out and love your husband, or your brother, or your neighbor it might be easy for you to agree with the idea but there are moments when it is very difficult to actually do. It’s easier for me to love myself and do what I want to in the moment and get my point across rather than choose to love someone else. But when I choose to love in that way, where I have directed my love at another person made in God’s image, it makes way for God to use me in that person’s life.

My church here in Zambia does not have a pastor, so people in our community volunteer for everything from music to Sunday school to preaching on a Sunday mornings. A few weeks ago, we invited a mission group that has been here for a couple of weeks to speak in place of the sermon and tell us about what they have been learning through their work here in Zambia. These women are birth attendants, so they go into the large government hospital every day to help out in the labor ward. One of them talked about one day at the hospital where she and a friend visited a woman who was alone in her room and about to give birth. The doctors were already prepared to help the woman give birth, so the women visiting didn’t actually have to do anything, but they stayed with the woman held her hand during delivery. At the end she told the girls that they were her angels and right before they came into the room she was praying for someone just to be with her during the delivery process.

These women came with skills and knowledge that allow them to work in the hospital, but it was in their obedience to love this woman and to see her and to simply be with her that God used them to answer her prayer. Their simple action of practicing love through being present made a difference for that woman and God was given the glory through them.

After these women shared their stories, it freed up the floor for some other women in our community to share about how God had specifically answered prayers through another person. That is amazing. You can be that person; I can be that person. If we truly receive the gift of love that God has first extended to us, it should flow out of us in every aspect of our love.

Adam Hamilton, a mega church pastor, was quoted in a book I was reading, giving a similar instruction to his congregation,

“If 12,000 of us realize that we’re missionaries first and we go out into our workday world every day on mission to bless, to love, to heal, to bring justice, to serve God in the workplace — then we finally begin to do that, I tell you, the world is going to be different.” (The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, pg. 95)

It is not enough to know God’s mission and even to preach God’s mission, we have to practice God’s mission by bringing it to life through our actions in our communities. Look at your schedule, where can you practice extending God’s love today?

Are you going to the grocery store? How can you use that as an opportunity to practice God’s love?

Are you meeting a friend for coffee? How can you use that as an opportunity to practice God’s love?

Are you sending a bunch of emails? How can you use that as an opportunity to practice God’s love?

It makes such a difference for me when I am going throughout my day and I realize my opportunities to practice God’s love. I don’t always do this, and many days I can get stuck in autopilot just making it from one day to the next, but it makes all the difference when I take the time to consider how God can use me, I obey, and trust God with the rest.

Ways for us to practice God’s love are endless. Our world has so many needs, and many of you may have heavy hearts thinking about the people and places in our world crying out for God’s love in their situation. Where are your opportunities today to be that answer? There is so much to do, God’s work is not yet done, but what is the one or two things where he has called you to participate in it today?

Peter Greer sums up this idea well,

“I don’t know why suffering happens, and trite answers are offensive to those suffering. But I do know what happens when people see the pain of others and respond with Christ’s love.” (The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, pg. 132)

Let us respond to our context in Christ’s love today. May we practice it where we have opportunities today. And when you are tempted to sit back and look the other way, pray for Christ to move in you and through you despite of you. Rely on his love when you don’t feel like you have any left of your own. May we open ourselves up to being his hands and feet right where he has placed us today. May Jesus work through us so that the words he read in the temple may again ring true,

“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me

To proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed,

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

…And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

God is fulfilling this scripture today as well, many we pray for our eyes to be opened and for the strength to practice and participate in Christ’s work among us.

Love Poured Out

“Now one of the Pharisee’s invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” Luke 7:36-38 NIV

There she was, the outcast in the home of the Pharisee. The sinner in the home of the religious. The imperfect, transparent, woman in the home of the pompous, man with hidden things in his heart. But none of that mattered to her.

She was there to see Jesus.

Can’t you just picture her? Sneaking her way into the home that she was probably unwelcome in. Everyone in town knew who she was. They all knew her sin and judged her harshly for it. They all probably saw the alabaster jar that she carried and scoffed, mumbling under their breath to each other about how she had “earned” the money to pay for it. I’m sure that Simon, the Pharisee who’s home they were all in noticed her approach and his feathers ruffled, but her eyes were focused. Her heart was resolute.

I don’t know what had compelled her to come, what she had heard about Jesus or what had made her heart catch at his name, but come she did with her treasure and tears in tow. It must have taken so much bravery to enter that house, the one filled with her neighbors and those who judged her but she knew that grace lay inside those walls and she had to be near it.

It seems that all of her confidence and bravado faded as soon as she was near Jesus though because the Bible tells us that she simply stood behind him. She was overcome with humility, overcome by the fact that she and her sin were in his presence and she faltered. She didn’t announce her presence or tap him on the shoulder. She didn’t introduce herself or say a simple “excuse me Jesus.” Instead, she stood behind him, staring at his feet that would hold the nails and his back that would take the lashes and she began to weep uncontrollably.

Perhaps she was embarrassed. Perhaps she was overcome and all she could think to do was to bend down, to bow down and to let her tears fall on Jesus’ feet. Her vision must have clouded, blurred by her own tears but she grabbed for her alabaster jar, opened it and poured its contents out, all over Jesus’ feet. And then, in a gesture that is so heart-breakingly beautiful, she takes her hair — her long, beautiful hair — and wipes Jesus’ feet, her tears, the perfume, all of it, with it and then tenderly, through her sobs, she kisses them.

We’ve heard the story before. We know about this woman but have you ever thought about how awkward this moment must have been? How uncomfortable for people like that to be around a person like her, to watch a woman come in and weep and clean Jesus feet with tears and hair and perfume that was worth as much as a year’s worth of wages (Mark 14:4)? Everyone must have wondered what was going on, must have suppressed insults or laughter or disgust but not Jesus. In my mind, he sat there with his eyes closed, smiling in pleasure. In my mind, he takes a deep breath, inhaling the scent of beautiful perfume and salty tears and exhales while he feels her love. The sound of her weeping is precious to Him and He wouldn’t dare to stop her. To hinder her worship and adoration and love.

“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7: 44-47 NIV

“For she loved much.” That’s what Jesus saw. In the home of the religious elite, the thing that stood out as noteworthy and righteous was the love of this sinful woman. Love that was pure and fragrant and powerful. Love like perfume that saturated the room with it’s presence, that’s overtook the dirt and grime and stench of whatever was in her life before, love that compelled her to humility and sacrifice and the baring of her very heart. That’s what Jesus saw and it was precious to him.

That’s what He asks of us. To love much. To love deeply with all that’s within us. With our tears and our treasure. With our past and our future. With our egos and our reputations and our vanity and our image. To love much.

The Bible tells us, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) and I think this story is a perfect example of that. Here is a woman who’s heart was in just the right place. She knew where she had been and what she had done. She knew heart ache and embarrassment and desperation and she knew that she needed Jesus. She was willing to make herself small in the eyes of people so that her love for him could eclipse it all.

Do we do that? Do we love him with all we have to offer? She took everything she had of worth; her treasure, her beauty, her pride, her reputation, her very emotions and poured them out for Jesus. What would happen if we did the same?

What if we gave it all, everything our hearts had to offer and we just kept pouring it out for Him? We kept offering it to the dirty and forgotten parts of this world, offering our love and sacrifice to them like she did to His feet? What if we didn’t care if serving Him was messy and required sacrifice and heartache? What if our pride and vanity were forgotten and we let it all get saturated, dripping, sopping wet with the stuff of loving and serving him?

Because it’s not supposed to be all easy, all fun and games, all clean and tidy and simple. Sometimes — a lot of times — loving Jesus much means giving whatever we have and looking like fools while we do it. It means offering our best for Him, pouring ourselves out for him, letting our hearts break for the things that He loves because His grace has washed over us and His love has overtaken us and we’ve seen and felt and known His goodness and we know that even our best is nothing compared to even His feet.

Because Christ’s love, the love that took him to the cross, to the nails, to the whipping and spitting, and thorns for us, compels us. It deserves much from us.

So what will we give? What will we pour out for Him and His Kingdom? We all have something and He wants to use it for His purposes. Let’s search our hearts and find the thing that we can offer. Let’s find where we can love Him more, where we can sacrifice bigger, feel deeper, and love harder. Let’s give it all like the sinful woman in the Bible and let the fragrance of our love fill the earth like perfume.

Let us love much.

Important Things

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“One of the teachers of religious law was standing listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus has answered well, so he asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Mark 12:28

I can imagine Jesus got questions like this quite often. He did a lot of teaching in parables and talking about heavenly things that are difficult to wrap our minds around. In this chapter of Mark, the Pharisees were asking Jesus all kinds of question in the hopes of him saying something so wrong that they could arrest him. However, this last question from a particular Pharisee seems more genuine. He has heard Jesus respond with wisdom and grace to all of the other questions the Pharisees used to try and catch him off guard, so this teacher of the law asks a question that is probably on the minds of many others who listened to Jesus. The answer to this question continues in Jesus’ theme of confronting conventional wisdom and commonly held beliefs not founded in the truth.

“Jesus replied, ‘the most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all you mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Lord your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

As simple as this message seems, I have found it quite difficult to follow. I wonder, ‘Are you sure Jesus? Just these two commandments?’ I mean think of how the Jews present received this message, especially rule followers like the Pharisees. In Jesus’ culture, many of his listeners devoted their livelihood to memorizing the stories and laws of what we know today as the Old Testament. Each day I am sure it took not only memorization of all these laws, but also careful planning to follow them throughout each and every moment, and now Jesus is saying they can shift their focus to the two most important commandments.

However, among many other Jewish practices, these two commandments require just as much if not more careful attention because loving our God and neighbor rightly applies to the deeper calling to pay attention to the attitude of our hearts. So, it’s actually easier to focus on following specific rules already laid out for everyday tasks such as working, cleaning, worshiping, etc. rather than truly paying attention to our motives and the way we treat people throughout our daily tasks. Though following all the laws of the Old Testament may seem like a foreign concept, I find myself like the Pharisees at times where I cling to rules I have made up in my head for everyday living rather than making space for the most important commandments that call me to focus on my heart.

In fact, my sweet husband has been noticing this trend in my life as well, and has made the discovery that I too have a lot of unspoken rules! We’ve been married for just a year and seven months, so we still have cute newlywed moments, but as we get to know each other more deeply, along with the sweet feelings of acceptance and companionship, knowing someone this well can also get ugly.

So, as of recently, Drew and I have been in an interesting season of resistance toward each other. We never really fought while we were dating, so we are navigating through how to best deal with conflict together as husband and wife. Sadly, we both have a tendency to be stubborn and we bring out a competitive side in one another that we have to keep in check, or it can be disastrous.

One of my first rules had to do with my cute little tea towels many of my friends got me at my bridal shower or on my wedding day. They all had pretty delicate stitches on them and I loved hanging them cutely on the handle of the oven, just like the newlywed housewife picture in my head. Drew, on the other hand, is a clean freak. He values things being clean more than he values things looking cute. To my horror, Drew decided to use my sweet little tea towel to mop the DUSTY, African floor of our kitchen. The sweet man meant well, but I was so upset! He broke my rule! We were only had a few wedding gifts we were able to pack with us when coming to Africa and he used it TO WIPE THE FLOOR??! I found myself mourning the loss of my poor, once cute, little tea towel.

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Newsflash: there is a much larger picture than my rule about which towel to use!

Although this story is a rather goofy example, my rules often bring me to the same preoccupation that I believe Jesus tried to point out to the Pharisees. I come up with ways I think my life should go, whether it’s the course of my day, my career, my future, or how my tea towels should be used, but so often I miss opportunities to love those around me, and love and acknowledge the holiness of our God.

“The teacher of religious law replied, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all the burnt offerings and sacrifices offered by the law.” Mark 12:32-33

How I long to have the same “Aha!” moment like this teacher of the law. I have been meditating on this quote from the book I have been reading with my team at work, where Peter Greer comments on passages like this where Jesus tells us the most important aspects of our lives.

“There is nothing wrong with a bigger ministry or congregation, but a fascination with such markers is toxic… Jesus defined success as loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor. The extent of our love, not numerical growth, matters most.” (pg. 76, 80 The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good)

The extent of our love, not numerical growth, matters most.

In other words, though some of my rules and the pursuits I have for my day and my life may be good, they are not the most important. I want point myself to the most important things each day rather than focusing on what I have decided I would like to accomplish. I want to sit down at the end of the day and instead of asking myself, was I successful with what I wanted to do today? I want to ask, was I successful at loving my God and the people around me today? It seems like the latter is more like what Jesus would ask me.

What is it throughout your life and throughout your day that you are striving after? Is it focused on the most important things, or something you came up with using human hands?

May we be women known by the extent of our love.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous of boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Life Should Be Interruptible

Oh, the Lord is trying to get a hold of my heart in new, exciting, and terrifying ways, ladies! I began a journey at the beginning of this year. I started reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels more and more, and I can’t get over His LOVE for people. His compassion, His care, His deep devotion to service. I’ve been reading at least a book a month so far this year, and in February the Lord kept telling me, “READ ‘INTERRUPTED’” (by Jen Hatmaker). I started this book a few years ago and never finished it. I now know that my heart was NOT ready for the message God wanted me to hear at that time.

So, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about — WHAT message? Jesus is starting to WRECK my comfortable Christianity. You all know what I mean by “comfortable Christianity”… the Christianity where we attend church 3 times a week, the one where we sing our worship songs, read our Bibles, sing in the choir, serve in the nursery and youth group, and try to be kind to others, BUT also the one where I’m doing NOTHING radical. I’m not reaching out to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the homeless, the abused. I’m staying in my comfortable bubble where I hardly interact with anyone outside of our church. I sort of like it that way. Comfort is safety.

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While serving dinner to the homeless in Southern California, this woman’s T-shirt serves as a testimony to the reason behind the time, love and salad dressing she has donated to this forgotten community. Her relationship with Jesus — the ultimate Servant to us all — has spurred her on to interrupt her comfortable life and love on those outside her own church community. 

Photo by Lauren Koski 

Let’s be honest… Jesus didn’t just stay with His disciples or in the confines of the church. When you look at His ministry, He is literally reaching out to the outcasts. He’s healing lepers, the demon-possessed, the blind, the lame, and the deaf. He didn’t stay within the confines of COMFORTABILITY. I never intended to find myself here — comfortable and complacent, going through the motions of Christianity. I THOUGHT I loved like Jesus loves… and sometimes I do. To those in my family or those people who bless us or those who have the same beliefs or those who are clean. Yeah, I love them. But am I truly loving everyone? There’s so much more to this radical love than I knew. There’s a whole big world out there who needs Jesus, and we aren’t going to convince them of that through arguments or strangers appearing for a second to tell them of Jesus to never be seen again or even through ignoring them. Love, service, and relationships speak the loudest volumes.

I love that Jen Hatmaker speaks truth and challenges our complacency through sharing her story in Interrupted. She says, “Until we are all compelled and contributing, we’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.” I CAN’T AGREE MORE. The legalism has got to go. The unkindness has got to go. The selfishness has got to go. We need to be restored to what the Church should TRULY look like. Church isn’t a service… Sunday, Wednesday, whatever day. Church is supposed to be PEOPLE. People loving like and looking like Jesus. The Church should be the greatest aid to this hurting world, yet we seem to continually hurt it more instead of helping. Or we just remain complacent, flying under the radar while blessing only those people already part of our churches… pouring into ourselves alone.

It is the Church’s job to take care of those in need. The single moms, the orphans, the homeless, the sick, the elderly, the tired and weary. Our call in Matthew 25 to take care of those in need isn’t just a suggestion. CHRIST MEANS IT. Look at the severity of this call!

“At the final judgment: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”

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Doesn’t this BLOW YOUR MIND?! It is of utmost importance that we take care of those with need. Jesus’ life illustrates this beautifully, and as Christ followers our lives should be a reflection of His.

So where does this leave us? Where do we start? The needs of the world are so overwhelming when we think about the sum of them. We just have to START. Start in your homes. Collect change to donate to adoption agencies. Sponsor a child and write him or her letters regularly. Serve at a soup kitchen as a family. Simplify life in the home. Then broaden your horizons. Look at the needs of your community. How can your specific part of the Body reach your community? How can we make real change happen?

Jen says, “Transformation came in the form of dirty homeless men and abandoned kids. It came through abused women and foster children. It came through neighbors crying at my kitchen table. Transformation began with humility, even humiliation. It started with conviction and discipline. It increased through loss, not gain. It grew through global exposure and uncomfortable questions. It was born out of rejection, replanted in new soil. It was not found in my Christian subculture but in the eyes of my neighbors, the needs of my city, the cries of the nations. It was through subtraction, not addition, that transformation engulfed me, and I’ll tell you something: I am not the same… If an endless array of Bible studies, programs, church events, and sermons have left you dry, please hear this: living on mission where you’ve been sent will transform your faith journey.”

We’ve got to stop creating programs upon programs, trying to get the people to come to us. We’ve got to start meeting them where they are and actually start BEING the Church. I love that last quotation: “Living on mission where you’ve been sent will transform your faith journey.” We have to start where God has placed us. We have to start now.

Showers of Blessing

I went to a bridal shower this weekend. I was in a room full of women, food, beautiful decorations, and anticipation so, yeah, I was happy!

There’s just something so unique and special about showers isn’t there? Women do big events in life well. Whether you’re getting married, having a baby, moving away, or moving in, we just know how to press in and do it together. We see those milestones coming from a mile away and the first thing that we think to do is to get all the girls together, generations at a time, and have them bring blessings with them.

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We bring gifts and we write down advice. We share food and we share life and all of it kind of surrounds the woman that’s embarking on this new chapter in her life like a coat. A really cute, beautiful, expensive, meaningful coat, that keeps her safe and warm and reminds her that she is doing this with the support of her tribe.

There are all of the traditions too. The bouquet for the wedding rehearsal made out of the bows from the bridal shower gifts, the lining of the baby dresser drawers with wrapping paper from the baby shower, the counting how many ribbons are broken to guess how many children the bride to be will have and on and on it goes. All of it, all of it, makes me a little teary eyed.

I well up thinking about it because I just think that there’s something so very moving about a bride practicing her walk down the aisle with a bouquet full of reminders that she is loved and supported and prayed for and wished well. I think the idea of a woman, heavily pregnant with hopes and fears and a baby, tucking teeny tiny clothes away on top of wrapping paper that was touched and trimmed by the hands of those that love her, those that will hold and love her baby, is so special.

It’s special because it proves that life is better when we aren’t doing it alone. Actually, it’s not only better, it’s beautiful.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV

I love this verse in Ecclesiastes because it’s clear about the benefit and necessity of friendship. You see, life will come. It will come gently at times with joy and excitement ushering it in. Those are the times that we throw showers for. But it will also come hard and fast and unexpectedly too and in all of it, friends are needed.

We need them to celebrate with us when things are great and to hold us when things are bad.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 NIV

We need them to “toil” with us as Ecclesiastes talks about, as we raise our kids, invest in our marriages, build our careers, or traverse through the storms of life. We need them because on our own, the return is minimal but with friends, the return will be good.

So, in view of these things, of supporting and loving and working alongside each other as friends in life, I thought I would put together a little list of a few blessings from scripture that you can pray over your friends. These are for the good times and bad. The “shower” moments and the terrible moments. Find one of these scriptures and pray them over the people in your life and situations they’re walking through. Write it down for them and send it on some pretty stationary or in an email. Let it sink in and bless them. It’ll be as good as any gift at a bridal shower!

“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers.” Psalm 20:4-5 NLT

“Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance” Jude 1:2 NIV

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3 John 1:2 NIV

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear!” Luke 1:42 NIV

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”  Prov. 3:3-4 NIV

“May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” Psalm 122:7 NIV

“Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” John 1: 16 NIV

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NLT

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Ephesians 3: 16 NIV

He Stood on the Waves

“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.” Matthew 14: 22-23 NLT

Have you ever felt like there was something in your life that Jesus was insisting you do? Have you ever felt like there was just this one thing that you couldn’t really get off of your mind, this one task, this one person, this one investment or trip or change? That’s what insistence feels like.

In this chunk of scripture, we find the disciples coming off of the high of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes. They had just witnessed Him do yet another impossible miracle and I’m sure they’re faith had been built up substantially. Following this miracle, Jesus insists they do something and, after what they had just seen, they were probably eager to obey; get on a boat. He gave them an assignment. It didn’t seem like they were signing on for a whole lot. They were taking a simple trip across the lake to Capernaum while he hung back behind to pray. No big deal.

The problem was that it kind of was a big deal. You see, when they had been out on the water for a while, trouble struck.

“Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” Matthew 14: 24 NLT

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A storm stuck right in the middle of their peaceful assignment! They had probably obeyed with calm waters in mind, with a straight shot to their destination, but other things happened. The waters rose up against them and tossed them to and fro. Storm winds blew and they were met with resistance and difficulty. They were stuck there, in the middle of the lake, in the middle of the storm, in the middle of their incomplete assignment and they were scared.

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever felt like you set out on the road that Jesus insisted you take, the one where you knew your purpose and calling and effectiveness lay only to be met with a giant storm? Maybe you thought that it would be straightforward, easy even, that you would reach the place that Jesus had sent you to, whether it’s physical or emotional or spiritual, quickly and without struggle, but boy were you ever wrong!

There, in the middle of your there-and-back-again assignment that you were sure Jesus insisted you take, you are being pelted with rain and blown back and forth by the wind and you are scared.

That’s where the disciples were at.

Mark’s account of this story reads like this,

“He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard against the wind and waves.” Mark 6: 48a NLT

So Jesus, the one who sent them, saw them in their trouble and, in a response that is so completely in Jesus’ character, he does this,

“Jesus came toward them walking on the water.” Mark 6: 48b NLT

And He says this,

“’Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage! I am here!’” Mark 6: 50b NLT

Jesus defied the laws of nature and logic and every other thing that the disciples thought was immovable to come to them in their distress. He saw them there, rowing hard in their obedience, rowing hard and fighting to do what he sent them to do, fighting against fear and rain and his immediate response was to go to them. Not just to be there with them, though.

No, he walked on water, on the very thing that they were sent to cross, the very thing that was keeping them from the place that He wanted them to be, to tell them not to be afraid. To tell them that He was there.

He got on the boat with them then and rode the rest of the way to Capernaum. They arrived at the end goal together, the disciples and Jesus, but only after they had witnessed the miraculous.

Jesus had insisted that they go, and despite storms and fear and stalling out, He made sure that they got there.

He will do the same for you.

If He walked on water to make sure that His disciples did not despair and give up in a wet, wind-blown, fearful mess, He will do the same for you. If you feel like you are in a storm in the middle of your obedience and you feel like Jesus doesn’t see, I have to tell you that He does. If you are facing opposition to the assignment that He sent you on and you’re worried that He isn’t near, I have to tell you that He is.

This is the One who walked on water and calmed storms to make sure that His friends got to where they were going. This is the One who did it all just to tell them not to fear because He was near! What makes you think he won’t do the same for you?

So today, picture Jesus, standing on that water, perfectly balanced atop the waves. Picture him saying, “Don’t be afraid.” And see the insistence in his eyes that you keep on going with the thing that He asked you to do.

Take courage! He is near! He hasn’t abandoned you and He will get you to the place that He insisted you go.

A Letter to My Daughter About Her Self-Worth

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Dear Charlotte,

Right now you lay up in your bed sleeping peacefully as I think about the past two and a half years you’ve blessed me with. I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant with you, I cried and cried so thankful and excited for the life we would have together. Each morning as you grew in my belly I prayed over you, for your protection, but mostly for your future and who you would become. The moment you entered this world I remember saying how beautiful you were, I couldn’t take my eyes off you, I was instantly and overwhelmingly in love with you. As you physically grew so did your personality, your emotions, and your mind. I am daily taken back by how insanely smart, kind, loving, joyful, hilarious, beautiful, and sweet. I know that as you grow older you will become more aware, aware of yourself, the world, the people in the world and how they look at you. What I wish I could give you is the gift of being able to see yourself through my eyes every day. I don’t want you to ever think less of what I described you as, but I know someday you will. When those days come there are some things I want you to forever remember…

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1. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. When you were created in my womb, God had a specific design and plan for your life. A life that is full of joy, fulfillment, and beauty. You are here on purpose, for a purpose. Know that the plans God has for your life are way more than what you could ever think for yourself, be ready for an amazing journey!

“The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” Psalm 37:23

2. You are loved by so many people that all want to support you and see you reach your greatest potential. Know that you are never alone, even if life can sometimes seem lonely.

3. You are beautiful on the inside and out. This world will want you to believe that outward beauty is what women should strive for. I don’t agree, I think beauty comes from within. Caring for people, having a gentle spirit, being respectful, possessing confidence, and loving well are all things that make you beautiful. Even though you are outwardly beautiful focus on the inside more and that brings outward beauty.
IMG_1851-14. You are strong and much stronger than you may believe. Don’t give up and don’t give in! You truly can do whatever you set your mind to accomplish, so dream big baby girl.

5. You are so smart. You amaze me by the things you say and do. Continue to stick with your love for reading and learning, this will bring great things your way.

6. Be willing to give yourself grace and plenty of it at times. You will stumble, you will fall, but always get back up. Know that mistakes and wrong turns can bring a beautiful outcome IMG_6650-e1455656074841when looked at with grace. I wish I had been nicer to myself through the mistakes of my life, but you have the chance to do well in this from the beginning. Be loving towards yourself. Charlie girl, if there are days when you feel “less than” remember these things I’ve told you, for they are all true. I pray you find your self-worth through these things and not what society thinks is worthy.
Thank you for making me a mama and allowing me to (hopefully) teach you how to navigate this sometimes scary world.


 

About the Author

1 year anniversary - CopyJENNIFER ERICKSON

My name is Jennifer Erickson and I’m the blogger behind The Happy Mama Life!  I live in a small town outside Denver with my husband of 8 years, our 2 1/2 year old toddler Charlotte and our 9 year old rescue pup Maverick! I am a stay at home mom that loves Jesus, loves to make healthy recipes, fun crafts and exercise!

A Letter to My Newlywed Self

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There I was in my first period French class of freshman year of high school, I was so nervous/excited/anxious. Our classroom was split in half so one half of the class was facing the other half of the class. There he was…bright blue eyes, rosy cheeks, tall slender body, and gorgeous lips. Each class we would make eye contact, smile, and look away. This interaction lasted a few weeks, I kept waiting for him to ask for my phone number or my AOL screen name. (Yes, I realize I’m aging myself. AOL chat was THE thing when I was in high school). Finally, as the class gathered by the door before the bell rang, he asked. I was so giddy the rest of the day and immediately signed into AOL as soon as I got home from school and waited….and waited….then I heard the *ding* and all the butterflies started going crazy in my belly. We instantly hit it off, we both played basketball and enjoyed the same types of things. Our first official date was chaperoned by his mom (we were only 15 at the time) and we went to the movies to see “Shanghai Noon”, what a stupid movie ha-ha! After that day we were inseparable, we wrote notes to each other in class and would pass them in the halls between classes, hung out after school, played basketball together, went to all the school dances, he was my love.

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We dated on and off through college (took some time apart to do our own thing) but were engaged the February before college graduation. We were 22 and in love, excited to start our lives together but had no idea what we were doing. We had the wedding and honeymoon of our dreams.

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When we returned to reality we quickly learned we didn’t really know how to have a successful, thriving marriage because we were both so young and still so selfish. So now after almost 9 years of marriage this is the letter I would write to my newlywed self:

Dear newlywed,

You are about to embark on an amazing, exciting, difficult, beautiful, journey called marriage. There will be great up’s and down’s in this journey but keep these things in mind.

1. Marriage is designed by God and therefore is good. “God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage…So guard the spirit of marriage within you” (Malachi 2:15). God cares about your marriage and wants it to succeed, however that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Marriage is more about selfless love and refining you into who God designed you to be than it is about butterflies and lovey feelings. It takes great maturity to lay down your life day in and day out for another person, learning to take hold of that maturity will be key. “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace…But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” (Matthew 19:11-12).

2. Your marriage will not always look like a romantic movie. There are countless romance movies that tell the beautiful story of a man and woman falling in love. The kisses that make a woman get swept off her feet, the romantic gestures, and then the movie ends. Most movies don’t touch on what happens in the middle and end of a marital journey. We spend so much time planning the perfect wedding but not enough time preparing for what it takes to keep a marriage thriving. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!'” (Luke 14:28-30). Create an extraordinary vision for your marriage that includes what you want it to look like in the middle and end.

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3. There will be hard times, sometimes seemingly impossible times. Since marriage is the joining of two selfish, sinful, people it is bound to come across difficult times. “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Know this, you will hurt your spouse, and your spouse will hurt you, but there is room for forgiveness and reconciliation and even a stronger bond on the other side of the difficulty. You and your spouse are a team and should work for a common goal in all good times and more so in challenging times.

4. You should always seek your spouse’s best interest and put their needs above your own. This was a hard concept for me to grasp at the beginning of our marriage. However, once I changed the terminology to me ‘serving’ him it changed my attitude toward it. Serve your spouse with encouragement, helping them fulfill their goals and desires, and giving them freedom to pursue their interests.

5. Comparison really is the thief of joy. In today’s society filled with Facebook and Instagram it can be easy to compare your life with other’s highlighted life. Don’t! Remember that ALL couples argue, and go through ups and downs. Focus on the good in your spouse even on days when the good is hard to find. Know that your marriage is YOUR journey, each marriage is different and will take a different path in different seasons. The grass will grow where you water it….meaning put the effort you would normally use into comparing into your marriage and it will do you a lot more good.

6. You will love your spouse more than you thought possible when they become a parent. The day Brent became a dad will go down in history as one of the most beautiful and sacred moments of our marriage. The look on his face when Charlotte was brought into this world was full of love, pride, and joy. Watching him interact with her, love on her, discipline her, has changed the way I look at him. I never knew how much my love would grow for him once he became the father of my daughter until it happened.

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Proud new Daddy

Marriage takes work but it’s so extremely worth it. These past nine years have been the best of my life and I’m really looking forward to the adventures coming our way.


About the Author

1 year anniversary - CopyJennifer Erickson

My name is Jennifer Erickson and I’m the blogger behind The Happy Mama Life!  I live in a small town outside Denver with my husband of 8 years, our 2 1/2 year old toddler Charlotte and our 9 year old rescue pup Maverick! I am a stay at home mom that loves Jesus, loves to make healthy recipes, fun crafts and exercise!

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