When All I Am Capable Of Is Being Unloved

Beautiful sunny sea view, Blue sea and sky with clouds

I was recently making a playlist to add to my collection. I was searching for certain songs to help get me back after a couple of days of wandering off. I struggle so much this way! I think I can manage things on my own and do things my own way. I do this way too much. It’s inevitable that I will stumble and begin a downward spiral into a very dangerous place. A place of doubt.

So I gathered all the songs I thought would calm my restless soul and help lead me back to still waters. I labeled the list “doubt” and set it up in my phone. It was then that I realized I had already made a playlist a few months ago with several other songs and also labeled it “doubt.” Hmm. I guess I am a creature of habit.

There are a few meanings of the word ‘doubt’, but the one I struggle with is listed as an inclination not to believe or accept. This pretty much describes my inward daily battle.  I doubt God’s provision and wisdom. I doubt the truth. There are times when I doubt that God is good enough or that He is here. But what I struggle with the most and also think is the most dangerous of all for me to doubt is to doubt that I am loved.

If I feel unloved I can’t love others. If I can’t love others, the kingdom cannot grow.

I had a great childhood. I grew up with two  great brothers and both of my great parents. I am married to a godly man who sharpens me and praises me daily. I’ve never been abused or neglected and I have no  reason to doubt my worth.

Ah, but I do! Because I am a sinner. A really good one. And Satan knows this. He knows what has made me stumble and he just loves to throw it back up in my face in an attempt to counter me worthless. He’s really very good at whispering lies to me that the things I have done make me unlovable. He knows I am a doubter and he uses it to fight the battle for my soul. He would love nothing more if I believed his lies that I am worthless, ugly, useless, a fraud. Unlovable. He would love it if he could cripple me that way and leave me wallowing in my own pit of self-destruction. He knows that if he’s crafty enough, I’ll believe him. And I have so many times. But he doesn’t love me, so why believe him?

I wrote a few days ago from 1 John 4:16 that God is love. He’s the very definition of it. Which to me means that he can’t not love. I’ve been trying to remember this truth over the last several days, but again, I doubt. So it was during a quiet moment with me and my savior as I listened to Hawk Nelson’s newest release, “Drops in the Ocean” that He gave me a beautiful vision to help me remember how much he loves me. I’m pretty sure He won’t mind if I share it with you.

The vast ocean is spread beneath our feet. My sin has been cast into the depths never to be retrieved. My Savior holds me close and leads me in a dance across the surface of the water. Because He’s capable of doing that. If I just allow him to lead me in the dance, we’ll move in harmony together. I’ll never have to doubt again. And in His arms is where I feel the most loved.

 

If you wanna know how far my love can go

Just how deep. Just how wide.

If you wanna see how much you mean to me

Look at my hands. Look at my side.

If you could count the times I say you are forgiven

It’s more than the drops in the ocean.

Hawk Nelson

 

 

 

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If Jesus Could Comment on Facebook

BlueLike Hand

Hot topics. I usually try to avoid them because I don’t gravitate towards controversy. Usually. Unless it directly affects my life I have other things to worry about.

I respect those who can debate. I respect those people who have the drive to stand up for what they believe in, can articulate what they have to say, and wisely express themselves. Politics aside, everyone has an opinion. And everyone is entitled to it. I welcome an educated discussion because I know what my feelings are, what my beliefs are based on, and it will have to be anything resembling a rapture to change them.

But this is where things get messy. Because I hate coffee. I don’t like the smell of it. The taste of it is nasty. And it’s just really gross when my husband leaves the grounds in the sink. Yuck! I have a hard time understanding why there is a whole culture devoted to coffee.

Did I just lose you, coffee lover? Are you about to share this post with all of your friends on social media, swear me off as incredible, and vow never to associate with me because I don’t love the same thing you love? Surely you aren’t outraged by my lack of coffee affections simply because you love it so?

But don’t we do that all the time? Our world has become so ridiculously dogmatic that I think we are letting the second greatest commandment slip through our fingers and the end result will be tragic.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 12:31

Sometimes I wonder what Jesus would say if He could comment on Facebook. If someone posts something against Him would He “unfriend” them? Would He say, “Well, I’m never listening to them again! They don’t agree with me!”

No! Jesus did not come into this world to condemn it. We do a really great job of that ourselves. He came into this world to save it. And that is not something we as humans can do.

My opinion of your habits, lifestyle, comments, friends, job, parenting skills, where you live, whether or not you go to church, your beliefs, your political affiliation or anything else DOES NOT MATTER. Opinions are not love. I don’t love my neighbor based solely on agreeing with the same things.

I love my neighbor by being a helping hand. Even if they are gay. I love my neighbor by taking them a meal. Even if they are unwed and pregnant. I love my neighbor by watching their children for the afternoon. Even if they are living on welfare. I love my neighbor by buying them lunch. Even if they can’t speak English.

This is really hard to do. I know it is. I struggle with this every day. And I fail at it every day.

The truth is that not a one of us doesn’t need to change something about ourselves. Not a one of us can cast the first stone.

So can we please, for the love of God, stop with the attitude that if you are not on my bandwagon you don’t deserve a wagon of your own?

 

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Everything I Need To Know Comes From Hollywood

cheering woman open arms to sunriseOne of the saddest things I think people are afraid of when it comes to surrendering yourself to someone or anything would be that they might feel trapped, tied down, or a loss of independence.

I ditched the Super Bowl last night and watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I don’t remember ever seeing the whole movie before. However, I do remember singing “Moon River” over and over again when I was younger. It’s a sweet and quirky movie with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly.   Basically, it’s the story of a young woman who is afraid to love and be loved. She sees herself as a free-spirit and doesn’t want to be captured.

I loved it. I saw a lot of myself in Holly Golightly. I’m a free spirit. I don’t like to have people tell me I can or cannot do something. I like my space and only allow certain people or things to occupy it with me. I don’t like restrictions when I want things my way.

The end of the movie was Hollywood cliché, but I was surprised by the dialogue when Holly’s long-time friend and neighbor tells her again that he loves her. Her reaction is typical of anyone who wants to live a free and unattached life.

Paul Varjak: I love you.

Holly Golightly: So what.

Paul Varjak: So what? So plenty! I love you, you belong to me!

Holly Golightly: [tearfully] No. People don’t belong to people.

Paul Varjak: Of course they do!

Holly Golightly: I’ll never let ANYBODY put me in a cage.

Paul Varjak: I don’t want to put you in a cage, I want to love you!

Ok. Big deal. It’s a Hollywood love scene with all the drama included. But it struck me. I could have had this very conversation with a man who wants to love me just for who I am. I used to think that if I allowed him to love me it would mean giving up the life I wanted. I used to think that surrendering to him meant being someone I didn’t want to be. I used to think that letting him love me would leave me feeling trapped and caged with legalism.

To make my point I’ll change the names to protect the innocent and let’s read the dialogue again.

Jesus: I love you.

Me: So what.

Jesus: So what? So plenty! I love you, you belong to me!

Me: No. People don’t belong to people.

Jesus: Of course they do!

Me: I’ll never let ANYBODY put me in a cage.

Jesus: I don’t want to put you in a cage, I want to love you!

The fact is that Jesus loved me first and I do belong to Him. I love Him because He first loved me. And his love is exactly what sets me free. Because with his love comes grace to be free from my sins and mercy to be forgiven. With grace and mercy comes freedom. With freedom comes the ability to roam and grow. Roaming and growing causes dreams to be born and if you love someone, you trust each other with your dreams. Jesus loves me enough to dream for me. And He’s got God-sized dreams for me!

That’s a love worth my eternal devotion.

Jesus doesn’t require rituals. He’s not looking for strict Bible reading schedules and memorization for me to be loved. He knows I’m gonna screw up! That’s the whole reason He died for me. My lack of deity does not make him love me any less. Could there be any more freedom in the fact that no matter what I do I cannot be loved any less?

It tells me of a Savior’s love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

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Love: It’s Not What You Think

Red heart-shaped candy on a wooden background.

I’ve looked for love in so many places. I’ve searched for it in my friends. I’ve tried to find it in my spouse. I even thought I found it when each of my children were born. On bad days I thought I’d find it in a bowl of ice cream.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized you can’t find something that you can’t lose.

Love is not something tangible that you can find and hold on to. Love is action. Love is doing. Love is loving.

The fascination I have is that the Bible teaches in 1 John that God is love.  So, if God is the very definition of love, then He must always be in action. He must always be doing. He must always be loving.

But isn’t God something we search for? Isn’t He something we want to hold on to? Isn’t He something we want to one day witness in His almighty glory in Heaven? If God is love, then love must be a thing. Right? That would make sense to this simple-minded Southern gal. That would make processing God easier for me. That would make Him easier to understand, easier to relate to and easier to teach to my children.

Oh, but that would also be putting Almighty God in a box. If we could contain God then it would cheapen how beautiful, powerful and mysterious He is.

So this is my challenge and something that quite honestly I think about a whole lot. The word “Love.”  There are so many facets to the word, the concept, and even the reality. I need to write about it. I need to work it out. I can’t wrap my brain around God and Love. And I never will, really.

To me, it’s fun to think about Love and to think about the infinite aspects of the word. Of God. It excites me. Inspires me. Drives me. And intrigues me. I can’t seem to get enough.

So, let’s explore Love for the next several days leading up to Valentine’s Day.  The Bible is abundant with the word, using it hundreds of times depending on the version you happen to hold in your hand. I encourage you to follow along with the exploration on the topic and join in any discussion. I just need to dig and I need to do it with you. There won’t be a rhyme or reason to it. I’m depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance on this one. I find that is the best for making me think anyway.

If this sounds interesting to you, join me! Follow my posts. I am excited to fall into Love with you!

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The Joys of Imperfection

I love to sing at the top of my lungs. I don’t normally reserve this practice for when I am alone either. Ok, so my co-workers appreciate restraint while I’m in the office. But my poor family will often be subjected to whatever I am diggin’ on the radio. And when I say radio I really mean my 6 disc changer that is almost always stocked with TobyMac. Isn’t that a commandment? Thou shalt always have TobyMac on your playlist? Maybe not.

I don’t care that my cd’s are already old-fashioned. I like them. I like having to physically manage my music collection. I like the colors, art and shine of the cd’s. I like to arrange them by artist, year, and my personal preference of the week. I like having them take over my car. And, this is nuts, I like the sound the changer makes when it’s looking for what I asked it to play.

I so shoulda been a DJ.

Once I find my jam I can kinda zone out. I forget about work. Homework. Housework. Making things work. I just lose myself in whatever and wherever the lyrics are taking me and I just sing. I sing off key. I sing the wrong lyrics. I sing imperfectly beautiful and perfectly inspired.

Imperfect

There is so much joy in the imperfection of singing just because you are inspired to do it. It reminds me of the lyrics in the old song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I am free!

There’s no time to worry about my imperfections when I delve into my freedom. It doesn’t matter that I won’t win a spot on American Idol when the object of my affections rejoices with every rugged note of praise I sing.

So I sing. I sing with my kids. I sing with my husband. I sing because I can’t help myself and it is my happy place. I’ll never be famous, on Broadway, or signing autographs.

But He knows who I am. And that is all that matters.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

I had some requests from my last post to leave this recipe on the blog. It’s super simple and delicious. I reach for this recipe often at my kids’ request.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 can chicken broth

1 can refried beans

1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)

1 can chicken, un-drained (you can use cooked diced chicken or pulled from the bone)

1 can whole kernel corn un-drained

3/4 cup salsa

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

 

Dump all the ingredients (except the cheese) in a large pot, mix well and heat through. I usually let it simmer for 30 minutes. Then I add the cheese and stir to melt.

Serve with tortilla chips, extra cheese, sour cream or whatever other toppings you like. Enjoy!

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Things You Shouldn’t Hide From Your Children

 

 

Hide and seek

I was in the kitchen with Lucy making a recipe I’ve made for years. In fact, someone brought the meal to me when Lucy was born and I asked for the recipe. It’s a chicken tortilla soup recipe that’s perfect for a busy and cold winter night. It calls for only a few ingredients and no prep at all. Just open a few cans and dump it all in one pot. Simple!

So, I opened all the cans that needed to go in the soup and Lucy was in charge of the dumping and mixing. I handed her the chicken broth.

“I never knew there was chicken broth in this soup!” She seemed really surprised.

Then I handed her the can of refried beans.

“Beans? I never knew beans were in this soup either!”

Next the jar of salsa.

“Salsa too? Wow! It’s amazing what you learn when you cook with your mom!”

It was cute and we both laughed, but I thought to myself that I must have been doing her such a huge injustice all these years. How have I made this soup for nearly 10 years and she didn’t even know the basics of it? How did she not know that the foundation of chicken soup is chicken broth? It seems so simple, but it’s just because I never showed her.

So I made a mental note to make a better effort to show her the things she should know before it’s time for me to kick her out of the nest.

Don’t hide your affections: Be generous with hugs and kisses. And slather on the praises. It may surprise you how making a big deal over noticing that they FINALLY put their shoes away without asking makes a kid feel good. It makes them feel noticed. It makes them feel like they pleased you and it makes them want to do it again. It also teaches them that you meant it when you asked them the very first time. Maybe the next time it won’t be as big of an issue.

Don’t hide your affections with your spouse: I’m not talking about elaborate expressions of PDA because, EEW! But your children need to know you love your spouse and you aren’t afraid to show it. On the same token they need to see how the two of you handle your arguments and kiss and make up. This world is driven by a “My way or the highway” mentality these days. Your children need to see you work out any simple disagreements. And that it’s ok to disagree and move on.

Don’t hide your praises and thankfulness: I hate Winter. I just can’t stand the cold. So when I walk into my nice warm home I often say out loud, “Thank you, Lord for my warm home.” After a long drive home from vacation, when we arrive safely in the driveway I will say, “Thank you, God for a great trip and for getting us home safely.” This shows my children two things; I am thankful for the blessings and that God is always there and in and active relationship with me. Hopefully, one day they will understand the same things.

Don’t hide your prayer time: Yes, have your quiet time in private as we are called to do. And don’t flaunt the fact that you are spending time with Jesus. But don’t make a secret of it either. There are some days when I have to tell my children to leave me alone for a few minutes because I need time with Jesus to just lay a few things at His feet. They don’t need to know what those things are necessarily, but they need to know that I trust Him and can go to Him when I need Him.

Don’t hide your vulnerabilities: Lucy can’t stand it when I cry. She’ll run to my side and try to make it all better. But she needs to see that I do. She needs to know that I get scared, upset, frustrated and angry and she needs to see how I handle those emotions. Some days, I will admit, I do not handle them very well. But she needs to know that it’s ok to cry and ask for help when it’s needed.

Don’t hide your flaws: When you mess up, fess up. Because we all do. Admit your mistakes and share with your kids how you plan to fix it and move on. Ask for forgiveness if it’s needed. I’ve had to do that way more than I want to really admit.

Most of all…

Don’t hide the Gospel from your children. Share it openly, freely and find it in your every day surroundings. The love of Jesus is such good news! If that’s all you ever reveal to your kids, that will be enough!

“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

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Why It Is Impossible To Love A Child Like Your Own

I have to give up on loving my children. I have tried since before they were born to love them well, but I just can’t do it.  You would think it would be easy to love such a sweet and perfect gift. You would think that the adorable way they mispronounced “breakfast” as “bref-tist” every morning when they were toddlers would be enough for me to fall head over heels. Their contagious laughter should be enough for me to hold on and never let go.

But I have to let go.

The truth is they aren’t even mine. They are on loan from their Heavenly Father who has entrusted me to raise them for Him.

As much as I think I love my daughters, their Father loves them more. I can’t compete with that. No matter how many peanut butter sandwiches I cut into hearts, or how many notes I leave in their lunchboxes I can never love them as if they were my own.

Sometimes I wonder what He must have been thinking when He loaned them to me. Surely there would have been someone else better suited for the job. But the truth is that God knows what He’s doing and He never makes mistakes. So, if He thinks I am capable of raising His gorgeous Abby Faith and Lucy then it must be true. Of course, I cannot do it without His help and guidance, which I often fail to seek.

I wish I could do it. I wish I could love them like He does. I wish I could give them all the grace, mercy, love and patience they crave. But I can’t.

My only prayer is that they know that too and one day will seek His face over mine. That would be the ultimate reward for taking care of His kids here on Earth.

God's daughters striking a pose on a walk today.
God’s daughters striking a pose on a walk today.

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Christmas Lights

 

I can’t stop thinking about what happened to me on Christmas Eve. I’ve been praying about whether or not to share it, but I feel that if I don’t it would be like trying to hide my light under a bushel. So this is a prayerfully thought out version of the Gift I received straight from the Manger on Christmas Eve.

I have been struggling a lot this year with the Winter Blues that is caused by the lack of sunlight.  I haven’t been officially diagnosed, I just know I am not myself. And my poor husband knows it too. It’s been so dreary this season already and it’s just barely Winter. I feel like I’ve been trapped in darkness. I’ve been crying for no reason. Crying for made up reasons. And crying for reasons that happened years ago. I feel like I’m just going through the motions to survive until Spring.

Trying to get into the Christmas spirit when you feel like that is next to impossible. And I felt guilty for feeling awful which then makes me feel even worse. Sigh! I had no reason to feel so bad. I have a comfortable home, a job that I love, and a sweet husband and well-behaved children. I have my health, good friends, and family close by. There was no reason, other than the lack of light, for me to feel so blue all the time.  So, I installed full-spectrum lighting in the main rooms of my house just to try and feel better.

I had spent Christmas Eve morning crying over the fact that I haven’t had Christmas with my brothers in about 17 years. I cried because the pie crust broke. I cried because I missed a song I wanted to hear on Pandora and I lost the CD. I cried because I needed two boxes of Jell-O for a recipe and I had only one. Then I cried because the Jell-O didn’t set. I cried because I was crying for crying out loud! No wonder my sweet husband was more than willing to run to the store for more Jell-O!

I ached. Way down in my soul, I ached. There are no words to describe the way it felt. I equate it somewhat to oppression because nothing I was doing on my own was relieving the burning weight on my heart. And it felt like I was looking at my life through a murky glass filled with my own messed-up history. Pretty much, I was trying to make myself feel better on my own.

That is always a dumb idea.

I attended Christmas Eve service with my family at the church I was married in 15 years ago. It’s a beautiful church anyway, but at Christmas with all the poinsettias and candles! Oh! Just Gorgeous! And such a sweet little place close to home.

I  was waiting for the service to begin and listening to a girl sing a lovely song.  I honestly couldn’t hear her very well so I was only partially paying attention. I was thinking of all the things that needed to be done once I got home in order for Christmas morning to happen.

She continued to sing, “What shall I give Him? I’ll give Him my heart.”

Did anyone else feel that? I looked around because didn’t anyone else actually feel someone touch their heart? Mine had literally fluttered.

I took a deep breath and I watched the acolyte continue to light the candles.

“I am the only light you need.”

Shh! Did anyone else hear that? I sat still in the pew.

“I came into this dark world over 2ooo years ago as a light to provide Hope and Joy. Sweet child, you have been searching for the wrong kind of light.”

When I realized He was speaking to me, in an instant my oppression turned to joy! The burning weight in my heart was lifted. I felt like the murky water I was doing life in had been replaced with fresh abundant living water that springs eternal.

I felt full of light.

I realize this is a rare and precious gift. And I am struggling with coming up with words to describe it.  The best I can come up with are:

Emmanuel, Light of the World, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor

The sun continues to hide behind the clouds. And the journey along this Winter path is still pretty long.  But my unmanageable sadness has been plucked from me and replaced with eternal light. The light I should have been seeking all along.

 

John 12:46
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

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Different By Design

Today I just want to keep things simple because I think we’ve lost our ability to do that and be comfortable. So, today I just want to share with you some lyrics that have been dancing with me for several weeks.  I don’t think they even need much of an introduction because when you read them, you will be able to relate. You will know exactly the issue. Whatever it is.

Because we all have one. You may be passionate about gun-control or the lack of it. You may be teaching your children about bullying and how to overcome it. Civil rights might keep you up at night. Or perhaps abortion rights or wrongs is what moves you. You may disagree with happenings in the Middle East or right in your own home town.

The point is, this world is awful enough. And we were created for community. I believe we’re losing sight of that and the end result will be tragic. If we were all created in His image, if we all are meant for a purpose then why do we have such a hard time embracing each other’s unique design?

 

City On A Hill ~ Casting Crowns

Did you hear of the city on the hill?
Said one old man to the other.
It once shined bright, and it would be shining still,
But they all started turning on each other.You see the poets thought the dancers were shallow
And the soldiers thought the poets were weak
And the elders saw the young ones as foolish
And the rich man never heard the poor man speak

But one by one, they ran away
With their made up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade
In the City on the Hill, the City on the Hill

Each one thought that they knew better
But they were different by design
Instead of standing strong together
They let their differences divide

And one by one, they ran away
With their made up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade
In the City on the Hill, the City on the Hill

And the world is searching still

But it was the rhythm of the dancers
That gave the poets life
It was the spirit of the poets
That gave the soldiers strength to fight
It was fire of the young ones
It was the wisdom of the old
It was the story of the poor man
That needed to be told

It is the rhythm of the dancers
That gives the poets life
It is the spirit of the poets
That gives the soldiers strength to fight
It is fire of the young ones
It is the wisdom of the old
It is the story of the poor man
That’s needing to be told

But one by one will we run away
With our made up minds to leave it all behind
As the light begins to fade in the City on the Hill

One by one will we run away
With our made up minds to leave it all behind
As the light begins to fade in the City on the Hill
The city on the hill

(Come home)
And the Father’s calling still
(Come home)
To the city on the hill
(Come home)

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