Five Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say

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The more I do this adulthood thing, the more I realize few things in life are ever really certain.  Jobs switch, moves happen, people come and go.  We are in a constant state of motion, moving forward, stepping backward or swaying somewhere in-between.  Few things remain the same.  But if we are lucky, we can stop and think about our hopeful handful of certainties.  These are the aspects in our lives that stick with us through thick and thin, in seasons of triumph and trials.  Their truths are engraved so deeply in our hearts, we can confidently say that if they changed, it would change who we are.

So, I decided to do it.  I sat down and wrote my top five you will never hear me say.  And even though it’s been said that we should never say never, these realities are my exceptions.  And it makes me wonder, Dear Reader… what would be on your list?  What would be your handful?  If you are feeling daring, I would love to know 🙂

1.)  I hate chocolate.  I mean, let’s start this off light, but completely serious.  I will never betray chocolate.  I believe God made this manna from heaven because He knew we would need phyiscal proof that He is good.  For real.  When I need a pick me up… chocolate.  When I need to reward myself… chocolate.  When I need something to bribe my kids with… chocolate.  When my husband wants to show me he loves me… chocolate.  It really is the answer to almost any problem, and it is the taste I just couldn’t live without.  Chocolate and I are here to stay.

2.)  I can go it alone.  There are times I like to pretend I can do things without the support and encouragement of others, including God, but who am I kidding?!  I need my people.  I can’t do life without others by my side, something our Creator knew full well… He knew we needed relationships with other humans.  He knew we needed authenticity with those we trust and fellowship with people we enjoy. God, Himself, is extremely relational.  He could have made the universe and left it at that, but His heart craved closeness with His children.  Our Father moved heaven and earth just to be with us.  Jesus left His throne room in order to walk by our side.  His love is no joke.  It is infinite and true and full of grace.  And as He walked with God’s Sons and Daughters, He called them by name.  He called them His dearest friends.  If God chose to never go it alone, I figure it’s okay for me to never do it either.

3.)  Family isn’t important.  Kind of piggy-backing off of the previous point, I could never NOT put my family first.  Sure I have passions and dreams and work that I want to pursue.  But in the end, if I pursue those things harder than the people God has given to me, a part of my soul will feel it.  My husband and boys are my world.  My parents, grandparents, siblings and their families help make me who I am.  No family is perfect and relationship strains happen, but nonetheless, every relationship within my family is important.  They help me grow and give and love, and I am so blessed to experience those things in return.  Even if we experience pain and heartache within our earthly families, God extends a royal invitation to His children… an invitation to sit at the table and dine with the King of Kings in His Kingdom.  We are part of a holy family that will never fade, a kinship that is eternal and powerful.  We can never remove ourselves from this family, and our Father can never remove His love from us.  It’s the deepest part of who we are, and it always comes first.

4.)  There’s nothing for me to do.  Sure, I have a house full of boys, with chaos and clutter following me wherever I go.  There is never dull moment, and I never get to the end of my to-do lists.  Still, as I push past the surface level mess, I realize God has called me to do great and glorious things.  Sometimes I forget who I am, and I forget my role on the is earth.  But when Jesus gently reminds my heart of the truth, I can’t help but stand a little taller.  I am His.  I am important.  And I am going to change the world.  As long as I am breathing there will always be something for me to do, but I want to make sure I’m doing the right things.  Things that make a difference and reflect His ultimate purpose… loving others well and loving Him.  As long as everything I’m doing points to those two imperatives, all other things will fall into place.  The white noise in our culture is at an all-time high, but God’s voice will always break through.  As He speaks His life into my heart, He wants me to share this life with the world.  He wants me to know my worth and embrace my identity.  And I pray I get to be a part of others discovering theirs.

5.)  God is not real.  I’m sorry, but God has just done too much in my life to deny His existence.  He’s changed me in ways I never thought possible, and He’s saved me from things I never could escape on my own.  And it’s not just me… I’ve seen countless lives transformed by the power of His love.  Relationships restored.  Pasts redeemed.  Hearts healed.  There’s just too much evidence pointing to the truth of His personhood and character.  His beauty is part of my soul.  His Spirit is part of my life.  His goodness defines who I am.  He knows me and loves me and has changed everything I am.  Many other religions have gods and goddesses that require sacrifice and service and perfection in order to gain acceptance.  But the God of the Bible is the only God who did the opposite.  He sacrificed everything so we could be with Him.  Jesus’ life was laid down in order to make the unseen seen.  It was a tangible expression of His faithful promise to make all things new and brings us back to Him.  There’s no other love like His out there.  Not in any religion or any church or any relationship.  His grace is perfect, so we don’t have to be.  If that’s not real love folks, I don’t know what is.

Dear friends, we need to know what we know for sure.  It’s worth the time and energy to write these things down in our hearts.  Because yes, few things in life are truly certain.   But it’s the precious few that make life worth living.

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I’ve got an official AUTHOR WEBSITE!

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Hey All!
So exciting news!  My husband is awesome and made me an AUTHOR WEBSITE, which will basically be the hub for all my other social media stuff and my blog.  After talking to lots of professionals and authors regarding getting published, ALL of them said it is really important to build a community of people who would like to support me and stay connected as we journey forward towards whatever God has in store.  That’s mainly done through subscribing to the website because I will be sending out newsletters and other fun little things to keep everyone encouraged and in the loop.  It also opens up the avenue for praying for each other, which is fantastic.
Soooo… long story short, I’m officially letting the Facebook Universe know!  If you are interested, please CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE {still weird to say… ;)}.  And if you’d like to receive updates, just subscribe at the bottom of the Home page under “Let’s be email friends”…  it literally takes 10 seconds.
Thank you guys for being so kind and supportive during this crazy publishing process.  I’m still unsure how things are going to go down, but I know my God promises it will be good.  Appreciate you, friends. 💛
Love,
Becky

Dear Discontentment… Just Don’t.

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Okay, I had this whole other post ready to go.  Was about ready to get it up on the blog, but then Jesus stepped in and whispered a certain something into my ear and I JUST HAD TO WRITE ON IT (as is true of writer brain…)

A dear friend of mine is moving.  She is one of those people who make you feel so valued and important, like your situations matter and mean something.  She would always offer to buy me a drink at Starbucks or grab some donuts for my kids at DD.  She would listen and love and pray.  And because she is such an amazing human, the truth is inevitable.  She is going to be severely missed.  But during our last playdate we were chatting and crying and hugging, and her cute daughter kept coming up to her momma.  The park we were at was huge and full of anything an elementary school girl could want (except for maybe a couple more cute boys her age ;).  But just like clockwork, she would mosey her way on over to us and pretend to be totally casual.  She would stand just close enough to hear our conversation without looking like she was butting in.  My friend kept asking her if she wanted to play over there or there, but every time the answer was no.  We both smiled at her and then at each other.  We knew exactly what was going on.

Many years ago (no, I will not say how many… ;)) we were her.  We were the little ladies standing outside of the big girl crowd.  We wanted to be included and invited and wanted, feelings that have only transformed with age.  But it really was ironic.  When we were youngin’s we wanted to grow up as fast as we could.  And now that we were world-tackling women, we looked at the beautiful face of innocence and desperately wished we could be young once again.

Sure, we’d accept fewer wrinkles and gray hairs.  And we’d gladly welcome the ability to eat whatever the heck we wanted without gaining a stinking pound.  But in reality, the allure of youth has more to do with the freedom of mind it brings.  No worries about debt or bills or meeting that deadline for work.  No fear of sickness or disease or death of loved ones.  It’s a space in time where the hope for the future outweighs the realities of the everyday.  Where the biggest upset in your relationships is your fight with bestie Suzy and not the loss of a marriage.  It is a tender, more simple time in life that goes by way too fast.  And all the while, you wish it would go by even faster.

But sweet friend, isn’t that the human plight?  We want what we don’t have and when we have it we want something else…  When we are young we want to be older, and when we are older we want to be young.  From an early age we practice the hard art of discontentment, and it doesn’t take us long to master it.  I see it every day with my kids at home…

“Mommy, I don’t want milk.”

“You just asked for this…”

“Yeah, but I want apple juice so bad!”

“Ok, then I’ll give this to your brother.”

“NOOOOOO!  I want it!”

*stares blankly at confusing child, contemplating chugging milk herself*

As women, we feel this tension in a special way.  It hits a sacred part of our hearts, a place where we want to feel true wholeness in the midst of a widening hole.  We long to feel like we are complete, like we are enough, like we are at peace with what we have and who we are…  So we continue to pour the wrong things into our lives in order to fill the empty gap.  But this desire is planted so deeply within, it cannot be quenched with the temporary.  It continues to grow and yearn, and it is there for a single purpose.

It is a holy awakening.  It is a gift from heaven meant to draw us kindly back to His fullness and freedom.

As our souls reach for ‘the better’, our Creator refuses let our spirits rest until we’ve found the BEST… and honestly, THANK GOD FOR IT!  Because His Best doesn’t rely on things.  It doesn’t rely on looks or works or popularity.  Our gracious God wants all of His children to experience authentic freedom, and one of the most freeing things we can do for our souls is to rest in the glory of true contentment.  It is a precious state we will know forever in eternity, but we can capture glimpses of it in the here and now.  It is a place of LOVE.  A place where we know that no matter what happens or what we have, we are adored as Daughters and Sons of the Most High.  It is a place that cannot be shaken by circumstances or outcomes.  It is a place that reigns above grievances and the grave.  It is hallowed ground that is open for all to embrace, if we choose to lay down the good for the GREAT!

Because the seasons of life will come and go.  Highs and lows will ebb and flow, but the faithful care of Jesus will always remain the same.  Real contentment doesn’t have to do with what you have or where you are.  On the contrary, it has everything to do with Whose you are and Who He is.  Dear Reader, please know am there with you.  I experience the weight of feeling like I need something more in order to make my life a little more complete.  But at the end of the day, that just makes me temporarily happy.  It doesn’t make my joy complete.

We have a such sweet Savior, and He offers us independence from many things, but in this case, He delivers us from the case of the ‘less than’.  He opens His arms and invites us to come and experience life in all of its abundance.  The news channels make it painfully clear that money does not buy soul satisfaction.  We need the real deal.  We need the One who helps us live with open hands and hearts.  We need the One who pours His promises of into our minds and liberates our spirits so we can receive the beauty of NOW.  Right here.  Right as we are.

In a world addicted to more, let’s be the rare ones.  Let’s be the ones who trust the Giver of all good things, no matter how big or small.  Our stories cannot be compared to anyone else’s, so let’s stop wishing we were them.  God’s faithfulness is stamped into the fabric of our lives, and His cup of blessing will always overflow with love because He is an incredibly good Father.

Apple juice or milk, my friends…

Drink it in.  And drink it fully.

Semi-Trust Fall

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Please tell me I’m not alone when I say I think my youngest boy is crazy…

He’s the cutest thing with dimples that could make the world implode, but he’s also flat-out crazy.  He finds anything high up (counters, couches, tables, toilets…) and does the same insane routine.  He stands tall, puts on his proud two year old grin, looks at me and says, “I’m gonna jump!”  At that moment I have precisely 3 seconds to run and catch him before he launches himself off into space.  My success rate is relatively impressive since I’ve avoided many visits to the ER… thanks to the God-given superhero skills He’s bestowed to every mom.

But what I find to be fascinating is the fact that he WANTS me to catch him.  He purposefully grabs my gaze and makes sure I’m aware of his game plan.  He wants me to rush to his side and help him in his free fall.  But most of all, he knows I will be there for him.

It’s a complete trust fall.  He believes in me and knows I will be his faithful rescuer every time.  And as I look at his facial expression right before he jumps, I imagine what life would be like if I had real FAITH LIKE A CHILD.  No fear.  No second guesses.  No hesitation.  Just unabandoned freedom to go for it and trust that everything will be okay.  Because if I’m honest, my adult-ing with Jesus doesn’t look like a trust fall most days.  I’d be lucky if it looked like a semi-purposed tumble…  Don’t get me wrong, I want to trust God with my most precious things.  I want to give Him my dreams and desires and hopes.  But something inside makes me want to postpone my leap.  And I have to ask myself why?

We all want to be the brave ones.  We want to gage the situation and decide the beauty of the outcome is worth the risk.  But what happens to our hearts in the moments before we let go?  And more importantly… where are we looking before our feet cross the final threshhold?  Because so often I find I’m looking down.  Whether it’s at my shifting feet or the distance below, I have a hard time allowing myself to walk forward into the fall.  But God gently lifts my head and holds my gaze.  He has a future for me and for you that lies just beyond the brink.  And when we hold back, we are also choosing to hold back from experiencing His abundance in a brand new way… something no Father wants for His children.

Sweet friend, we may be afraid to fly, but God has made our hearts to soar.

He doesn’t want His children to live on the edge of their dreams.  He wants us to boldly step over our self-perceived limits and embrace the steadfast arms of our Father.  He is there.  He is with us and behind us and in us.  There is no place we can go that our God has not already been, and in His kindness, He has already made a way.

It’s so crucial that we remember the tender heart of our God when we face of daily jumps.  If our eyes are fixed on our circumstances or our fears, we may decide it’s too uncomfortable or unsafe.  But when we look at the One whose gentle character and good intentions precede Him, we will find He is worthy of our trust.  He is able to help us overcome any obstacle placed before us, including our own doubts.  Jesus has done everything in His power, moving heaven and earth, to show us the extent of His lavish love, and that LOVE won’t give up on us now.  Even if our falls become tumbles or we get wounded in flight, His faithfulness will continue to fill our minds with the truth.   And the truth is this:  Nobody is more qualified to catch you than your Creator.  

So I’m thankful.  I’m thankful for the process of learning how to fall into God’s goodness and grace.  I’m thankful for His patience when I stand on the edge and don’t know if I can do it.  I’m thankful for His mercies that are new every morning and His promise to love me through my fears.  And I’m thankful for the determined look of a two year old boy and the lesson he’s taught me.

I have some big things coming up this weekend.  Opportunities to leap and let go.  But my heart feels a little stronger now.  My eyes look towards the One who calls me His Daughter and friend.  I smile, knowing He’s gone before me with my future tightly knit into the palms of His love-scarred hands.  He tells me I am courageous, and this time I’m going to stand tall and believe it.  This time I’m going to do it.

Watch out world…

This girl’s gonna jump.

Risky Business

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Guys, I’m kinda freaking out.

In a little under 2 hours I will find out if I’ve won a coveted 1-on-1 appointment with a well-known publisher, in which case I’m pretty sure I will pee my pants.  A couple of weeks ago I took a “am-I-really-doing-this” risk.  Life was crazy with sick kids, travel plans, and the usual chaos that comes with raising three young boys.  It was pretty clear that submitting a piece for this radio writing contest was not in the cards, but still… I couldn’t get the competition out of my mind.

So with five days left in the voting process and one month behind all other contestants, I did it.  I prayed and asked Jesus to give me a story that lined up with the themed verses.  And in a matter of hours, my thoughts were flying faster than my fingers could transfer them to the computer.  I submitted my piece and handed the rest over to God because it would be a complete miracle if I got enough votes to make it to the second judging round.  Literally by the grace of Jesus, I made it!  Not only that, a huge community of support and love rallied behind me and brought me into second place all within the matter of days.  As I sat there watching the number of votes rise, I was completely humbled and shocked.  There were many reasons, but mostly I was awestruck that so many people had my back and actually believed in me…  even when I didn’t believe in myself.

To be honest, deciding to pursue writing was one of the best and worst decisions I’ve ever made.  Best: Because encouraging people and bringing them to Jesus is my passion.  Worst:  I would have to face my fear of rejection all the time, sometimes in public arenas.  It’s one thing to submit something and receive a “thanks but no thanks” email in private.  It’s a whole new level to showcase my rejection on the online stage.  So yes, I’m shaking my boots right now, but the fact that I’m not alone makes it doable as well as worth it.

Let’s be real, when we put ourselves out there it’s beyond scary.  I remember when I posted my first blog entry, wondering if anyone would even read it.  I didn’t know if it would make a difference, but I did know there was no turning back.  My words were displayed for all to see and for all to critique if they wished to do so.  I began to ask fellow authors to share their expertise with the publishing process.  Most told me to expect rejection, which was awesome news.  And so I took it up with God and asked Him if He really wanted me to do this… because I was cool skipping the hard “no’s.”  He never said rejection wouldn’t happen.  He never said I wouldn’t have to grow and learn and regrow.  And every time I continue to bring my doubts to Him He holds my hand in His and whispers I am with you even to the end of the age…

 

In each valley and on every mountaintop Jesus never fails to come through.  With steadfast grace and kindness, He guides me forward, even when it’s more comfortable to remain in the known places.  But chasing dreams was never meant to be safe.  It was never meant to be easy or smooth.  It takes an extreme amount of courage and the willingness to do whatever it takes to reach that God-given goal, including facing your insecurities and fears.  It’s really no coincidence that the themed verses for my story were all about FEAR and SHAME, my biggest foes.  I knew writing the story and submitting it would be a risk, one with a 75% chance of heartache.  But I knew there would be a 100% of regret if I didn’t take the chance.

All the great movies we rewatch over and over again involve the main character pushing through against all the odds.  They overcome and stand and prove to the world that we can walk in victory because our God has made us to shine!  I don’t know what the outcome is going to be in a few hours, but I know that this is part of the journey towards victory… victory over my people-pleasing.  Victory over my fear of rejection.  Victory over my doubts of self-worth.  Because God is in the business of making dreams come true, but He’s also in the business of transforming us in the process.  My stomach may be twisted in knots at the moment, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It’s the growing and the stretching and the trusting that helps us open our hearts more in confident expectation of God’s goodness.

I may not be a winner today, but I’m promised victory always.

So thank you for helping make this possible, Dear Reader.  I pray you choose to believe in yourself and in the power of Heaven’s Maker, the One who wants to make your desires come true too.  We can be the Dream Chasers and Life Changers.  We can be the ones who live with the “what now’s” instead of “what if’s.”  And we can always rely on the One who calls us towards our potential and passions because He’s made us for this moment, and He’s made us for His glory.

Even if we don’t believe we have what it takes, His faith in us never wavers.  He never doubts us, and trust me, my friend…  He never will.

Springtime Tease

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It’s actually here.

The last ice blizzard has passed, the birds are out singing their songs, and the temps are finally on the rise.  It’s over a month late according to the calendar, but Spring has officially arrived.  And my kids (and fellow parents!) couldn’t be more ecstatic.

Every year us Midwesterners get excited when March arrives.  We start hoping for green trees and bright flowers.  Some of us actually start to wear shorts when it gets close to 60 degrees (you would too if you were use to wearing parkas).  But just when we think Spring is here to stay, Winter steps right back in and says, “Sucker!”  It’s really quite rude, especially since Winter has already called dibs on half the year.  This annoying game goes on for a few months, until finally Winter takes a bow and allows Spring to take its rightful place in the seasons.  But I tell you, that journey… the path towards sunshine and roses is nothing less than a TEASE.

And sometimes I think life feels that way.  Things start looking up, pieces fall into place, you finally move forward and then BAM!  Roadblock.

You have to break into the savings account AGAIN.

You get the diagnosis.

You hear the news from a friend.

You lose the job.

You have another fight.

You get the note from the teacher…

You feel discouraged, like you’ll never get a break.  And sometimes you never do.  There’s always something pulling in the opposite direction of where you want to go, attempting to stop you from reaching your goal.  And in those moments it’s so easy to give up, admit you are stuck and believe that this will always be your reality.  It’s so very easy, my friend.  I know because I am there myself.

Let me give you a snapshot of the last 7 days.  There are occasions when I think my mommy-ing is on point.  I give all the hugs and tickle the tummies and play with my boys.  I keep them fed and alive and all is basically well.  But this was soooooo not one of those weeks.  I was a complete wreck.  Severely jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, I came home to a house full of sick people who needed me more than ever.  I had no time to recover or breathe, and the amount of crazy demands and constant noise just added to my overwhelm.  I lost my filter and soon became a yelling zombie.  I even heard my soon-to-be 2 year old imitating my exasperated sighs in the other room, which is awesome.  Up to this point I thought I was getting better at handling stress and the raw emotions that came with it.  But once again, my kids and husband got the brunt of my burn out and it made me mad at myself… which again was awesome.

I felt like I was doing some weird dance, with my shifting feet going in all directions.  It wasn’t even a two steps forward, one step backward kind of thing.  I was just trying to keep my balance, and my tango was one step forward, one step back.  I turned my gaze towards Jesus and asked Him honestly…  Where’s the progress and the process?  Where’s the victory and power?  Because looking around all I saw was the standstill and I wondered what He was doing and where He was.

Now that I’ve come out on the other side I can say I’ve survived the week, but I can also say hindsight is my friend.  And it may be yours too, Dear Reader.  Sometimes when we are in the thick of the chaos we forget to look up.  We forget to ask God to give us His eyes… eyes that see the whole picture instead of a small frame.  It’s so easy to do and I do it daily, but life lived from eternity’s perspective helps provide peace in the midst of the pandemonium.  You can have one heck of a week and still have a good life.  You can have a horrible day and still know you are beloved and blessed.  Both are possible.  You can have some Winter and some Spring.

Because even with the changing seasons and the changing emotions and circumstances we experience every day, our God remains faithfully the same.  He is the only thing in this world that will never let you down or fail to come through.  His love is steadfast and His grace is abundant, which means His future for you will be full of good intentions and fulfilled desires.  He doesn’t tease our hearts or send mixed signals.  God doesn’t dangle our dreams and wishes in front of our face and then turn His back on His children.  His character can’t allow Him to be anything other than who He is:  A great God with great passion for you!  His promises are always YES and AMEN, which means His Word is something that can be trusted.  And do you know what His Word says about you and the path you are on right now?

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  (Isaiah 54:10)

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

“… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

These are good words, but they are even better promises.  God’s love for you is infinitely deep, which means the idea of Him leaving you is out of the question.  It’s not possible, even with our shifting feet and shaky emotions, nothing can separate us from the adoration of a loving Father.  And even when it seems like we aren’t moving and things are stagnant, we can know that our hearts are changing as we encounter and experience His compassion and care… which just so happens to be the BEST kind of progress there is.  😉

Honestly, I would be shocked if we got another snow storm in the month of May.  I’m like 99% sure it won’t happen.  But as I continue to experience the kind heart of God, I become more certain of His dependability and His devotion to you and to me.

Even on the rough days when I’m not confident in me, I am confident in Him…

And of all the things in this life, He will always be my One Sure Thing.  100%.

Loving Love…

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The other day I was reading through a friend’s thread on her Facebook post, and I noticed something I see all the time.  She had made this decision and was pushing head-first into it.  Everyone was pumped and they were encouraging her to do it… except one person.  This individual decided (bravely if you ask me…) to voice her opposite opinion.  She wasn’t judgmental or offensive or anything like that.  She just said she disagreed and explained why.  And the backlash that she received was INCREDIBLE.

It really got me thinking… she was a caring person expressing her disagreement because she truly wanted the best for her friend.  She was willing to go under fire for the sake of bringing something into the light because to her, it was worth it.  It took a lot of guts and she took a lot of hits, mainly focusing on how unloving she was being because she didn’t support my friend’s decision.

Maybe it’s a lot easier for me to notice this because I’m kind of this third party person in this instance, but I actually thought she was the absolute opposite.

I thought she was showing real LOVE.

Have you ever stopped to think about our society’s definition of love?  Have you ever stopped to think about your definition of love?  If not, maybe you should take this second and ponder it queitly in your heart.  Because it matters.  What we believe about love matters because it helps shape our perception of situations.  It helps us define what fits into the category of love and what doesn’t… what’s kind and what’s mean, what’s good and what’s bad.  It helps us pick our friends and our frenemies.  It changes how we see the world.

But here’s the thing, Dear Reader.  Sometimes our glasses need some tweaking.  Sometimes our glasses are tinted and tinged with past experiences and pain.  And sometimes I think we choose to focus solely on the fuzzy aspects of love, forgetting the balance the Bible brings when defining real love in all of its forms!

So I asked myself the question.

Self, what is real LOVE?  To which, my mind and heart replied…

Love is patient and kind.  It does not envy or boast.  It is not rude or prideful or self-seeking.  It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.  It does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects and trusts and hopes.  It always perseveres.  Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

It’s the most classic, cliche section in the Bible that defines love.  And I think it is beautiful.  But I think we all like to be editors.  We like to pick and choose the aspects of love that are comfortable and nice, and we forget about the other not-so-welcomed characteristics.  We’ll take ‘patience’ and ‘kindness’, but leave ‘not delighting in evil’ at the door.  Coming from a person who is addicted to encouragement, I really wish someone else could show people the harder parts of love…  I’d be so good with that!

But is that real love?  Are we really expressing love to someone if we are afraid to share our hearts with them?  Yes, everything should be shared with grace, but we sometimes forget to include the truth, even when it’s needed the most.

I’m a married person.  That means I get to do all the married stuff, including having the tough conversations.  My husband and I were just talking the other day and I said, “Man babe, I’m sorry.  I used to be so much “gentler” with you.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I used to not talk about some of the things that bothered me in our relationship and just brought them to God.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings or offend you, so I just didn’t really say anything.  But now I just bring it all out in the open!”  He looked at me and did this little grin that I’ve come to expect just before he is about to point out something I am oblivious to…

“So you are apologizing for your own growth?”

“Well… no…  I mean… I don’t think am I?”

But I totally was.  You see, sweet friend, Jesus has helped me grow in ways I never thought was possible and part of that has to do with learning how to love like He does.  If He loves me, He won’t just sit there and encourage me if He knows I am doing something that is harmful to my health: mind, body and spirit.  He will gently show me His way and speak His truth over my heart and in His kindness I will turn towards Him.  That does not mean He will just let me walk forward into something that may hurt me because He doesn’t want to offend me.  He will let His voice be known.  And sometimes He uses the words of others’ in our lives to show us His Words of Life, even if we are uncomfortable with them.

Because that is what real love is.  It protects and rejoices with the truth and hopes for the best in our lives.  Love does not mean placating people and just telling them what they want to hear.  Could you imagine if nobody in your entire existence ever challenged you or pushed you towards a different perspective or point of view?  Could you imagine if no one dared to help you overcome that addiction or reach the potential they saw in you, even if you never saw it in yourself?  Could you imagine where you would be if nobody loved you the way Christ loves His beloved?  It would be boring if everyone just told you what you wanted to hear, but more so it would be sad.  Because you wouldn’t grow and you wouldn’t learn and I believe ultimately… you wouldn’t be fulfilled.

We all need to be loved just as we are, but we also need to loved into the person Jesus has made us to be.  I’m not perfect and nobody is, but we need the perfect love of God to transform our hearts and minds.  And that love is encouraging as well as edifying.

My friends, it’s really ok.

It’s ok to disagree and still be close friends.

It’s ok to show someone you care by telling them truth.

It’s ok to come alongside them in their struggles and ask them to come alongside you in return.

It’s ok to be an authentic, loving person who is comfortable with confronting as well as affirming.

All we need is Love.

So let’s make sure it’s the best kind.

Don’t Be a Not-You

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Okay so I’m pretty obsessed with these Not-You commercials.

If you haven’t had a chance to check one of them out, you should.  I think it’s creative and smart and really drives the point home.  Plus, it will most likely make you smile.  In fact, I’ll post one of them below for you to make it nice and simple 🙂  You’re welcome.

But in all seriousness, these commercials make me think.  Not about buying a house because yeah… MONEY!  But what really sticks out me is this idea of being a Not-You…

A Not-You is someone who may look like you.  You may have various similarities and many of the same likes, but no matter how many (or little) similarities you may have, the fact still remains that they cannot and never will be you.  

I think we humans are prone to many things in life.  There are a lot of positive tendencies, but unfortunately I think comparison and people-pleasing like to float to the top of the list.  We look at others and see what we wish we had.  We see who we wish we could be and what we wish our lives looked like.  And the ironic mystery of it all is the reality that they are doing the same thing when they look at you.  It’s true!  I can almost guarantee it.  It’s so much easier to see the positives in others while simultaneously beating ourselves up for not meeting the standards placed in front of us, whether that’s by ourselves or others.  It’s a game we can never win, and it’s a game that was never meant to be played.

When God made you He never said, “Well I’m going to make you exactly like her” or “This person definitely needs to be cloned so you can be her exact replica.”  Not even close!  He smiled and dreamed of you in His heart and thought of every detail.  He saw who you would become and gave you the potential to change the world all because of the specific gifts and personhood you posses!  He made you uniquely and wonderfully and beautifully in order to guarantee that no one else who has ever walked the face of this planet would be the same as you.  That’s a lot of time and energy and a whole bunch of love all being poured into the process of making YOU!

If we really stop and wrap our minds around the absolute care that went into creating each individual just as they are, we can be sure no one is ever a mistake.  No one is less than anyone else, and every one is worthy of the abundance God has for them.  You are meant to be you and only you.  You are meant to touch the lives of others in a specific way and live your life fully as only you can live it.  And every aspect of your being makes you separate from every one else, and that is a very good, good thing!

My friend, you were made to shine.  You were made to stick out for His goodness and glory.  You were born to be you, so don’t let anyone else try to conform you into their image.  The only person we are meant to look more like every day is Jesus, and that is because He is the definition of grace and truth.  His love is always the answer, and when others look at us, hopefully they will get a glimpse of Him.  But other than that, we need to stop trying to be someone we’re not.

We need to let go of the not-you’s and embrace the reality that we are perfectly made by the God of the Universe.  He doesn’t accidentally make masterpieces.  He made you with a purpose and He made you with divine passion.  And no one can take that away from you.

So please dear reader, don’t be a not-you.  This world needs you too much.

Go ahead.  Be all the YOU you can be!

Five Things Winter Has Taught Me

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We are in the thick of it…  It’s gloomy and cold and snowing at least once a week.

It’s winter in the Midwest, and each year my itch to relocate to a place made for palm trees grows exponentially.  According to my calculations, snow should be present for approximately three weeks.  Then it is no longer acceptable.  We can get through the “White Christmas” holiday fun, but once January hits, blizzards and ice need to get the (snow) boot!

And it was during one of my venting sessions with Jesus about Illinois weather, that I noticed something remarkable.  It had just snowed for the 1,000th time and the trees were outlined perfectly in a soft white frosting.  The sun shone at just the right angle and turned the landscape into a spectacle of shimmering glory.  As I drove past in my black minivan I couldn’t help, but think, “I might actually miss this…”

Because in reality, winter isn’t all bad.  Some people like living in these cold climates and  truly look forward to winter!  I seriously doubt I will ever be at that level because… flip flops.  But living with this season for over 30 years of my life has actually taught me a few things (Besides de-icing a car like a boss).  And I can prove it.

Here are the top five things I’ve learned from winter:

1.)  Beauty really can be anywhere.

We may not like everything (or most things) about our circumstances, but God has a way of shining His light into even the gloomiest of places.  Sometimes our perspectives are so fixated on the negative, we forget to keep our eyes open for the positive.  We forget to look for the good and the blessings and the unexpected.  Does that mean we can’t be honest about how we feel and how we are struggling?  Of course not.  But we can turn our eyes towards the One who can transform our minds and help us see His beauty right where we are.

2.)  Winter makes us thankful for the Spring!

Sometimes you realize how wonderful life is because you have come out victorious from the other side.  You’ve experienced the down and the gritty, and now you’ve lived to tell the tale.  The cold days of winter make sunny spring days and warm summer mornings that much sweeter.  God doesn’t long for His children to endure hardships… what parent does?!  But because we live in a world vastly different from the perfection of Eden, we will encounter the muck.  Yet, the gracious promises of Jesus point us towards His kind redemption, and as walk through our winter seasons, we will remember.  We will remember what is was like, and we will be all the more grateful for our spring.

3.)  Life is always changing…

A winter here in the Midwest can go from -20 degrees and icing to 50 degrees and sunshine all within the matter of 24 hours.  It’s pretty insane.  My closet is full of coats, ranging from parkas to light fall jackets.  It just goes to show that every day can be something different.  In an uncanny manner, winter has taught me to welcome unpredictability.  A blizzard may be coming, but it’s not the final chapter.  You never know what tomorrow may bring, and with God in control, a bright future can always be on the horizon.

4.)  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

My kids are obsessed with the snow.  They will withstand the bundling and the triple-layering just to get out there and build a snowman for 10 minutes.  When they see the flakes peacefully falling, they always say, “Look Mama!  It’s so pretty!”  I’m dreading shoveling the driveway, they’re enjoying the simple delights.  Leave it to the kids to point out the obvious.  I’ve been adult-ing for so long, I’ve forgotten to place myself in their tiny shoes and embrace the small things that bring such happiness to others.  I may not think winter is amazing, but my kids can see this season from multiple perspectives.  And it’s time I start taking notice, especially when my eyes are unknowingly out of focus.

5.)  This season won’t last forever…

Unless you consciously choose to live in some arctic part of the world, the winter times will inevitably pass.  There are moments when we think we are stuck… when we think things are just meant to stay the same and there’s no way around it.  But seasons are just that… they are periods of time, however long or short, that morph into the next stage in life.  Even if we feel stagnant, we can trust that our God moves mountains and He is always moving on behalf of His children.  There’s an inspiring verse I like to cling to when I sense my spirit deflating.

“… But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24)

It’s so encouraging to me because hope is all about trusting God for what lies ahead, not for what we already have.  It takes courage to choose hopefulness over hopelessness, but God has made it abundantly clear that as we wait on Him, we can do so with confident expectation of His goodness.  We know the heart of our Jesus is loving and His intentions are kind.  So even if it’s uncomfortable, we can place our dreams and desires in the safest place possible… in the hands of a great God.  His BEST will lead to our best days, and we get the crazy opportunity to witness miracles only He can do.

So yes… winter isn’t my favorite.  But it has taught me a lot.  And maybe if you are a tropical-loving human like myself, this list can give you some hope too.

Because trust me, dear friend.  His faithfulness will see us through.

Through this season and every season to come.

Take Courage

Oh my Lord, friend…

These lyrics speak to the soul, and personally encompass my life right now.  I’m just in the middle, in this unknown weird place that is so mysterious.  Something is happening, but I don’t know what, and my patience can often run thin.

Being in “The Waiting” of any season or situation is never easy.  Sometimes it seems like God has put His answers on hold, but just because we can’t see the change or the answers, it does not mean He is stalled…

God is always moving.  Even in the hard process of waiting…  And He promises His victory and faithfulness to see us through every time.

If your heart needs some encouragement, take a sec and stop what you are doing.  Just listen to these words and soak up this glorious music for 4 minutes.  Trust me, it will be worth it 🙂