I’ll See You Soon…

“I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.”

‭‭2 John‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There’s a movie titled Dear John. It’s a love story about a couple who spent most of the beginning of their relationship in separate countries. Their occasional face to face encounters were short lived because other commitments kept them going in different directions. The bulk of their relationship consisted of letter correspondence.

Throughout their relationship, the couple never said goodbye. They parted ways and ended their letters with “I’ll see you soon.” To them, “goodbye” was something final and permanent. Because they wanted to be in each others’ lives, they chose to part ways with a sentiment that would remind them that they would be together again no matter how long they were apart.

Even when their relationship seemed to be permanently over, it’s really not the end. The final scene leads the viewer to believe their relationship rekindles. There’s also a voice over of the woman reading a letter to the man. The letter closes with this:

“…no matter how many years go by, I know one thing to be as true as it ever was, I’ll see you soon.” Those words are a depiction of an incredibly powerful connection and a love that was never ending.

In the scene where the relationship ends, the man burns all the letters he ever received from the woman who was rejecting him. Oh how I’ve “cleaned house” to rid myself of past relationships in an effort to heal a broken heart and move on. In fact I recently unfollowed certain social media pages just to forget about a close friend whom I’ve parted ways with. A close friend that I used to say “I’ll see you soon” to. A close friend that if I’m being honest, I loved as more than a friend but a real relationship never came to pass.

The very day I decided to remove all that reminded me of him, Dear John aired on TV. My hardened heart tempted me to change the channel but the Holy Spirit prompted me to keep watching it. Truth be told, I didn’t get why until I tried writing this post. I’ve deleted two drafts and quit writing briefly before realizing what the Holy Spirit was showing me.

God used this movie to remind me He keeps people in our lives in His way and for His reasons. Some people come into our lives to help us develop our character, to test our patience and to stretch our ability to forgive. These are people we sometimes beg God to remove from our lives but He keeps them near us-sometimes too close. But there are others who’s purpose in life is to grow our hearts to a love that supersedes anything we could ever imagine (like what God promises in Ephesians 3:20.) These are the people we want to keep that God may take away. He does this, not because He doesn’t love us but because He knows that heart break grows a compassion that produces more love. I am a walking testimony to that.

If you’re reading this-I believe God has a message for you through this post. God wants you to know how much He loves you and just how deep He wants to grow His love within you. If you’ve written off the idea of loving someone or ever being loved, don’t say goodbye just yet. Instead, place your wounded heart in Jesus’ scarred hands and let Him fill it with a love that will make you feel as though you’re going to burst. The process is painful and overwhelming. It will bring you to your knees and even make you sob. But oh the joy that is felt when you are filled with a heart that is hand crafted by Jesus. Don’t say goodbye to love my friend, simply tell love, “I’ll see you soon.” It’s then and only then that our joy will be complete.

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Show Me Love

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I seem to write a lot about love. More so, God seems to put this word on my heart a lot and so I write about it. I’ve written about different types of love, the cost of love and what real love is. This weekend, God has really been pressing on me to write about breaking down walls in order to give and receive love. The walls I’m referring to aren’t that of someone else-they’re the walls we build around our own hearts to keep us from getting hurt.

There are a variety of reasons those walls are there-perhaps your parent deeply wounded or abandoned you. Maybe a lover or spouse was abusive or cheated on you. Maybe you grew up around members of the opposite sex who were abusive and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Maybe you’ve gone through a string of relationships feeling used and disposable because that’s how past lovers treated you. Maybe you’re like me and select “all of the above” as your reason for hiding your heart behind those walls. Whatever the reason, each disappointment or heart breaking experience added another brick or layer and your wall is probably at a point where no human in their own strength could ever break through it.

I watch a lot of romantic comedies and Hallmark movies. I love Love. I love watching couples meet, flirt, date, share a first kiss, fall in love, face conflict that nearly tears them apart yet and in the end see love conquer with them living happily ever after. My favorite fairy tale has always been Cinderella. Realistically speaking I don’t wait for a prince on a white horse to show up with a glass slipper and whisk me off to his castle but I do long for a man who would cross the ocean and travel through Hell or high water just to be with me. I think some of that stems from watching so many romantic movies.

Movies are a great source of entertainment. I work two jobs and my second job is actually working at a video store so I obviously love movies. Romantic movies can give us a false sense of what real life romance and love are really all about, but they can also model what grace and forgiveness look like. Take for instance the Hallmark movie, All of my Heart, Inn Love, starring Lacey Chabert. In this movie, Lacey’s character is small town girl with dreams of being a successful baker and owning a country inn. Her fiancé is a big city financial guru who moved to the country and joined in on Lacey’s character’s aspirations. They’re character set-ups are really polar opposites. Every love story has to have a climax-the moment where viewers think the couple is breaking up or will never end up together. In All of my Heart, that moment comes when the big city fiancé takes a temporary job back in the city to help make ends meet and starts displaying old characteristics that Lacey’s character isn’t attracted to. Obviously they’re wants start to pull them away from each other.

At one point, Lacey’s character gives the engagement ring back telling her fiancé to give it back to her when he’s ready to come back to the life they were building. Then there’s a few minutes of scenes showing them living apart and both very unhappy. In the end the fiancé realizes a life with the woman he loves is more important than any successful business adventure or financial gain. He leaves the city life for good and returns to the small town, goat farming, inn keeper life devoting himself to celebrating his fiancée’s accomplishments. Of course the ending is written to lead the viewer to believe the couple lives happily ever after.

Here’s where grace and Forgiveness comes in to play. Never in this movie does Lacey’s character attack or speak hurtful things to her man (her fiancée also never speaks unkindly to his woman either.) When he returns to the home they were sharing, she greets him with open arms and embraces him. There is no punishment or even thought of punishment or spite displayed. She does nothing to make her fiancé prove his love for her or make up for nearly abandoning her and their relationship. She simply welcomes him home and shows him love.

Then there’s my heart. When I watch these movies I tend to think about how I would handle such scenarios. With each conflict I’ve watched in these types of movies I tend to have the same response-put up a wall, don’t forgive easily and make the other person prove his love. Unfortunately, this is how I’ve handled many relationship issues in my own life. Why? Because I unknowingly have punished new relationships for past lovers’ mistakes. I’ve also been far too prideful to ever admit that to anyone or myself, until now. I have a wall built around my heart. I’ve blamed men from my past for having this wall. I naively believed God was going to send me a man so out of this world that would have the super strength to demolish this wall and then I would know it was safe to love him. But let’s be real-God is telling me I need to open up my heart and let Him knock down this wall because my fortress is not only impenetrable, I think it’s covered with barbed wire to ensure nobody can even try to climb over it!

There’s a song from the 90’s by Robin S called Show Me Love. It’s the inspiration for the title of this post because it’s been playing through my mind today. The first few lines of this song describes my heart to a tee-

“Always been told that I’ve got too much pride,

Too independent to have you by side

Then my heart said, all of you will see

Just wont live for someone until he lives for me…”

Character was definitely God’s word for me in 2018 but I am thinking love is too. Maybe it’s a sub part to my character? I’m not certain but I do know this-God is showing me the walls that have to come down so that I can freely and unabashedly love those already in my life and everyone God will continue to bring into my life.

What about you? Do you live behind walls of false security? Are you governed by pride? Are you holding on to past wounds and guarding your heart in an unhealthy way? I pray Ezekiel 36:26 over you and stand on God’s promise to “give you a new heart and a new spirit. May He remove from you this heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” May you and I become fully surrendered and allow God to demolish the walls we’ve hidden behind for far too long. It is only with a surrendered will that God can really show me (and you) love.

With These Broken Wings

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I do not respond well to rude or arrogant men. I do not respond well to anything that I interpret as rude, arrogant or controlling especially if it’s a man that displays it. I am not a man hater, nor am I a feminazi. My reactions stem from my experiences with men who repeatedly did not act as a man should.

I grew up with a single mom. My biological father abandoned us when I was only two. When I was three years old, my mother married the man I called “daddy”. For four years I felt the most love and security I have ever known. God blessed me with a man who chose to raise me as his own child even though we had no genetic ties. I firmly believe it’s the reason I love so many children as as if they were my flesh and blood. But my daddy died. And I spent the remainder of my childhood and teenage years being raised by a single mom.

I grew up around alcoholics and abusive men. One of these men screamed at me so much that I vomited. Another took me into a room, turned the lights off and started yelling just to scare me because he knew I was afraid of the dark. I never had a male teacher that I liked or respected. To this day I struggle with male authority because I am simply inexperienced with it.

After my daddy died I longed to feel loved and secure again. My mom did her best and she worked hard to provide for us. I know she loved me and she made a lot of sacrifices for me. She’s the reason I have the strength to persevere through the trials I face as a single mom. But she couldn’t replace the love I lost. She couldn’t give me the amount of love two parents give. After all, that’s humanly impossible. So when I became a teenager I chased after that love through boys and dating relationships.

Most boys I had crushes on didn’t give me the time of day. The ones who did tended to be trouble with a capital T. My senior year, I was blessed to meet a young man who became my boyfriend all through college. He was funny, kind, loving and very protective. He definitely seem to be the answer to what I had been missing. But we were young, immature and hadn’t the first clue on how to make a relationship work. Our relationship eventually ended based on the decision that we were better off friends than in a romantic relationship. When it ended, the void began again.

Over the next few years I found myself drawn to men who had zero desire of settling down and making an actual commitment. They were mostly looking for a woman who wanted to party in various forms. Time and time again I was left disappointed and feeling undesirable. Yet I kept chasing after this desire to be chosen. I defined my self worth based on whether a man would choose me or not. Because I was rarely chosen, I convinced myself I had no value.

Since that college relationship, I’ve had two other long term relationships. One produced my two children. The other occurred a few years ago. Neither filled the void, made me feel loved or protected. Both brought more insecurity than I was able to handle. One was dangerously toxic and consisted of years of being emotionally torn down. The other should’ve never happened because I was incredibly broken and hadn’t even begun healing from the first one. A bird who tries to fly again with broken wings only ends up hurting itself more. That’s exactly what happened in the latter relationship.

Bitterness engulfed my heart like a neglected garden overtaken by weeds. I grew critical and more distrusting of men. I closed myself off to dating. To be honest, I also had some very angry moments with God. Many times I asked God what I did wrong to deserve such maltreatment. After all, suffering can be the result of our own mishaps. But it can also be something that God allows to happen or even brings upon us as part of His refinement process.

Through the years God has tugged at me to begin the healing process. That starts with laying down my brokenness and surrendering my past completely to Him. That is not an easy thing to do. As exhausting as it is to carry around heavy burdens, they’re a constant reminder to stay guarded and work as a shield to keep me from getting hurt or broken again. But God won’t heal me if I’m not willing to tear down the wall and lay my burdens down. He beckons all of us to come to Him, weary and heavy laden, and promises to give us rest. (Matthew 11:28).

Another part of the healing process is confessing my bitter heart and choosing to forgive those who have wounded me. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to forgive the man who abandoned me or the one who yelled at me. I certainly don’t want to forgive the one who cheated, the one who lied, or the one who was only interested in me for “one thing.” I don’t want to forgive the one who continues to text me harassing messages and just recently admitted to “hating my guts”. But want to and have to are two different things. I don’t want to forgive them but God tells me I have to. Not for their sake, I have to forgive them for my own. I also have to forgive them as an act of obedience to God. (Ephesians 4:31-32.) Right now I’m at the stage where I can confess my unforgiving heart and seek God’s help in changing my desire to choose forgiveness.

Once I choose to lay my past down and practice forgiveness, I then have to face my fear of getting hurt once again. This doesn’t mean I start chasing after relationships or become a serial dater. This means I seek discernment in establishing healthy friendships and even professional relationships with men. This also means learning to understand and decipher how men communicate to avoid becoming easily defensive or even shutting down. Too often I’ve assumed the man I think is offending me is like the others from my past. Eventually, God willing, it will mean opening my heart up to the man He will send me who will choose to love, respect and protect me. If that happens, it also means not punishing this man for the mistakes of those from my past.

Lastly-and this one is key-God has been teaching me that no human being, male or female, parent or spouse, can provide the love and protection I truly desire. He is the only One who can. (Jeremiah 31:3; Deuteronomy 31:6) No one I chase, nothing I seek comfort in will ever fill the void I have like Jesus can. Chasing after anything or anyone else is idolatry and God

refuses to have any other gods before Him. (Exodus 20:3)

When a bird breaks its wings, the wings can be immobilized and the bird is ground bound. Although tying the bird’s wings down keeps the bird’s travel abilities restricted, its a necessary part of the healing process. When the wings are healed, the restriction is lifted and the bird can soar once again. When the human heart is broken it becomes immobilized too. It can shut down and even become paralyzed,metaphorically speaking. It’s in these moments we need to allow God to wrap Himself around us and heal us from the inside out. His healing brings wholeness, renews our spirits and strengthens us to soar on wings like eagles.

Currently, my heart is still immobilized because I have chosen the path of self healing instead of walking through the process God’s way. He remains faithful though. He has sent me a handful of kind, godly and selfless male friends who have been encouragers, and helpers. He even blessed me with an older gentleman who treats me like one of his own children teaching me how a man should father a daughter. God never ceases to awe me that’s for sure.

Has your heart been broken? Do you feel crushed? Have you been abused or treated harshly? Do you struggle with relationships with the opposite sex? Are you longing for the freedom of walking in His healing power? Is your past keeping you bitter? Is fear holding you back from letting go or choosing forgiveness? Take a step toward the healing process by simply confessing to God exactly where your heart is, admitting to carrying around old wounds and trust Him to remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Happy Birthday 🎂

“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Today, Sept 29th, is my birthday. I tend to make this day all about me thinking it’s the one day a year I get to be celebrated. Most days I feel under appreciated, overlooked and insignificant to say the least. But God has been showing me that I was not created to live my life for me-I was created to live for Him and to serve others.
Thus I can’t imagine a better way to spend today than to bless others and I want to encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. Today be encouraged to be a blessing to someone in your life or even a total stranger. Buy someone coffee, pay for a person’s groceries, help someone carry something that is too heavy, call a long lost friend and reconnect, pray with someone, strike up a conversation with your cashier, call the person delivering your lunch by name, thank a veteran, hold open the door for someone and especially SMILE at others you encounter today. Our world is full of strife but small and simple acts of kindness can be the reason someone smiles today.

Please share in the comments  how you blessed others or paid it forward with a random act of kindness!  God bless! 🙏🏻💕🎂

Love me Tender, Love me True…

Another Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and the pressures of romance and society’s view of love can be seen in any local retail shop you walk into.  As soon as you step foot inside even the grocery store you’re surrounded by red heart-shaped cardboard chocolate filled boxes, fuzzy heart holding stuffed animals, flowers and even bottles of fancy wines.  Okay realistically, after you pass the Super Bowl displays of beer, Doritos and guacamole, then you pass the love stuff.  But no matter your relationship status, there’s a real pressure there (or at least a nagging reminder) that this day is approaching where, if you’re in a relationship there’s an expectation to show your love and if you’re single it’s a cruel reminder that you’re not loved (at least to those who believe you have to be in a relationship to “be loved.”)

Can I confess something?  I was one of those people who believed I was only loved when I was in a relationship.  Throughout my life I let my relationship status define who I was.  In fact, I even went so far as to let my partner define who I was.  When I was in a serious relationship, if he loved me-then I defined myself as “loved, loveable and worthy of love.”  But when he stopped loving me-well I defined myself as “unlovable.”  I even convinced myself that because I’ve never been married I must simply not be marriage material.  I believed most women were born with a trait that made men commit to them but clearly I was lacking that trait.

The bulk of my past relationships were conditional.  If I behaved a certain way, I was given “love” but if I “misbehaved” according to my partner’s standards I was withheld their version of love.  This was a cyclical pattern in two very serious relationships.  (My first serious relationship was a matter of both of us being too young to know how to make a relationship work let alone be successful in marriage.)  Although I’ve only been in three serious relationships my whole life and a handful of casual relationships there was clearly a pattern in allowing someone else to define me and defining myself in who they said I was, not who God made me to be.  I’ve been single now for seven years and God has done a major overhaul on my heart and my thought process regarding the lies I’ve believed for so long.

The first thing God did was show me what unconditional love looked like.  Using 1Corinthians 13 (also known as the love chapter) and scripture from Songs of Solomon, God showed me what real love is.  He also showed me that conditional love is not real love and that in those past relationships where I just couldn’t measure up to my partner’s standards, I wasn’t truly loved by them.  If love keeps no record of wrong, how can someone tell you they love you but list everything they find wrong with you right after it?  In their heart I am sure they thought they loved me, maybe even felt very strongly for me at one point but it wasn’t real love.  And I honestly didn’t truly love them-at least not according to 1 Corinthians 13.  I wasn’t always patient or kind to them (especially when they were listing everything that was wrong with me-I kept record of their wrongs too and would fire right back with my own list for them.)

God showed his unconditional love for me best by blessing me when I least expected it and felt the most undeserving.  He even used some of the most unlikely people (people who were at one point someone I had considered an enemy) as tools to bless me.  Every time He did this, He proved his words in Lamentations 3:22, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.” (NLT) I can’t tell you the number of times I was reduced to tears after behaving so horribly or doing something careless but receiving kindness, compassion and blessing in return.  That’s not how our society tends to treat each other and that’s definitely not what I was used to receiving in past relationships.  After all-misbehavior brings punishment right?  Not with God.  Misbehavior may bring correction and discipline but every action we do, good and bad, brings God’s love, mercy and grace poured out over us. In fact, I’m a firm believer that we receive a drowning of His mercy and grace when we are really at our worst.  Why?  Because it’s only then that we can truly understand His unconditional love for us.  It’s those moments of grace that we realize nothing can or will ever separate us from God’s love.

Once I was able to understand His unconditional love for me, God was able to open my heart and eyes to see myself as He sees me-imperfectly perfect.  He did this using friends and family to speak His truth into my and over me repeatedly.  This process has taken the whole seven years of singlehood and to be honest, I’m still going through the process. I am definitely my own worst critic and the cruel words spoken to me from lost loves can still play in my mind from time to time.  Each time I have cut myself down or spoken lies about myself, even to this day, God placed someone in my life to speak His truth over me.  He also used His own words reminding me in Psalms 139 (repeatedly because seriously I am the poster child for stubborn and God has to speak the same message to me over and over again before it finally sinks in.)  My favorite part of this chapter includes these verses:

O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.

You know when I sit down or stand up.

You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

You see me when I travel

and when I rest at home.

You know everything I do.

You know what I am going to say

even before I say it, Lord.

You go before me and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head…

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;

they outnumber the grains of sand!

And when I wake up,

you are still with me! (Verses 1-5, 16-18 NLT)

The NIV version of Psalm 139:14 says this, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  The words “fearfully and wonderfully made” have played over in my mind like a skipping record.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Fearfully doesn’t mean we were made to live in fear, it means we are to live in reverent fear of God and that we were made to be feared by our true enemy.  Instead of fearing the enemy and believing his lies, we have the power to combat those lies with God’s truth and ward off the devil every time he tries to defeat us.  In fact, no matter what our circumstances are, we are not defeated.  Please read that again.  We. Are. NOT. Defeated!  That is a huge thing for me to even type let alone confess because I have lived in a defeated state of mind for far too long.

The last thing God has shown me is two-fold.  1.) Marriage and singlehood are both gifts from God to be used for His purpose and glory.  Neither is a defining factor for anyone.  Neither determines our worth in this life.  2.) My past broken relationships were trials to show me what I don’t want or need in a relationship and especially not in a marriage.  And what is it that I don’t want?  Well, I don’t want to feel alone even when my partner is present because I’m last on his priority list.  I don’t want to be compared to ex-lovers and I don’t want to compare my partner to my past relationships either.  I don’t want a partner who just believes in God’s existence.  I don’t want to be cheated on, lied to or verbally abused again. And I don’t want a man who simply shuts down.  I also don’t want to be someone’s “friend with benefits” or “long term girlfriend.”  Make me your forever or leave me alone.

I don’t want to date around either.  In today’s day and age dating is like jumping into a three ring circus as the ring leader feeling underqualified and being assigned to the clown section.  I am confident any single woman reading this right now will seriously get the euphemism there.  It’s a mind-boggling guessing game that’s like a real life version of “What Not to Wear” and “He’s Just Not That into You” combined with putting on something red hoping to get chased by the bull.  And in my season of life right now, I have zero time for it anyway.  Because I have no desire date, I have earned a reputation of being “closed off” which I have come to terms with.  Not that I agree but it doesn’t bother me because it’s someone else’s perception but again, not who God sees me or defines me as.  When it’s God’s time for me to meet my future spouse, He’ll send him to me and orchestrate the whole journey.  If it includes dating, God will open my heart up to it then.

But what do I want?  Well my dream man is the Rock (or his clone) HA! HA! But realistically speaking I want a man of God who’s a fierce warrior and gentle giant combined.  I want my man to lead me and my children with assurance and confidence the way God tells him to lead us.  I want him to be faithful, kind, generous but also disciplined.  He has to love my children as his own.  No matter how old they are when he comes into our lives, that one is not a deal breaker.  I want him to be athletic and health conscious but still enjoy sweet treats and sugary desserts too.  I want him to pray with me and for me every day.  I want him to encourage me and believe in me and elevate me as I do the same for him too.   I want him to lead but still treat me as his partner and include me in all decisions.  And as unrealistic as some readers may think I want my man to be transparent with me.  Even Dr. Phil will tell you, you can’t have a healthy relationship without open communication.  In a nut shell, as Elvis would say, I want him to, “love me tender, love me true…” I’m also settled in my heart to know that if the presenter can’t offer me what I’m looking for, then he’s not the right partner for me.  And if I don’t get what I want, well I’m secure enough to remain single for the rest of my life then.

For those struggling to face Valentine’s Day this year I hope this post blesses you with the realization that you are loved, you are lovable and you are so worthy to be loved, regardless of your relationship status.  I want to encourage you to seek out God’s unconditional love for you but also to look at yourself the way He sees you.  You my friend are imperfectly perfect too.  God bless!

The Promises of Christmas

I’m a child of the 80’s.  I love 80’s music, the fashion trends, old 80’s sitcoms and especially the brat pack movies like St. Elmo’s Fire, Breakfast Club and my all-time favorite, Pretty In Pink.  My kids are so aware of this that whenever we hear the song, “1985” by Bowling for Soup they both tend to yell out, “Hey mom, here’s your song!”  Ironically there’s a classic 80’s song that’s come to mind this Christmas season and not because it’s a Christmas carol of sorts.  In fact, it’s one of peppy Madonna song called “Material Girl.”  I think it’s prevalent right no, because Christmas is the best time of year to get caught up in materialism and totally miss the true meaning of Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, the song is a fun tune and if heard on just the right day (like when I’m home alone with no audience) you could catch me dancing to it just like Madonna in the actually video.  But the chorus lyrics say it all when we get caught up on the retail side of Christmas: “We are living in a material world and I am a material girl.”  To be honest-I am definitely guilty of being caught up in the “material world” especially at Christmas time.

I love Christmas.  It’s my favorite holiday. It’s the only day I truly love winter because it doesn’t feel like Christmas without a blanket of snow covering the yard.  I love decorating the tree, hanging the stockings and enjoying the glow of twinkling lights on a cold December’s evening.  Because it’s my favorite holiday, I long for everything to be perfect right down to the gifts I purchase.  And that’s where I get caught up in the material side.

I have two children and everyone knows I am an equal opportunity gifter.  That means I make sure each of my children have the exact number of gifts and buy them similar gifts so neither thinks I favor one over the other.  As a single mom, I also feel like I need to compete with gifts they will be receiving at the other parent’s home.  Not because of the other parent.  They’ve never made it a competition I suppose.  It’s just something inside of me that feels I need to give the same kinds of gifts even though that kind of competition is not fiscally possible for me.

I was raised by a single mom in a Christian home.  Christmases were always very modest and any gifts I received were valued blessings because money was not a luxury in our home.  I remember one Christmas the furnace broke in our tiny apartment and my mom and I slept on a mattress in our kitchen using the electric stove as our source of heat.  We opened presents in an ice cold living room and then spent the rest of the day in the one room that was warm.  I never got the latest or most expensive toys, my clothes were usually hand me downs or hand made by my mom.  But one thing my house was always full of was independence and love.  And love is the greatest Christmas blessing I believe we can offer. Love is God’s Christmas promise to us.  He said so in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…” 1 John 4:19 says we love because God first loved us. His love for us is unconditional and has no end.  And His love calls us to love others, even our enemies.  He promises love to us and desires for us to show His love to everyone He puts in our path. But love isn’t the only Christmas promise God gives us.  I believe there are five more that include, peace, joy, comfort, belief and miracles.

Peace is the second Christmas promise.  God’s word shows us this promise when the angels greeted the shepherds with “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) Philippians 4 tells us that God’s gift of peace is the kind that surpasses all human understanding, a peace that will guard our hearts and minds. (Vs 7.)  Isaiah 26:3 tells us He keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him. In John 14, Jesus told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  Godly peace is truly a gift from our Creator that is unexplainable.  But if you ever experience it, you will know the Source of which that peace comes from.

Another Christmas promise is Joy. Have you ever found laughter amidst your sorrow?  Have you ever smiled in spite of the fact that everything around seemed to be going wrong or falling apart?  That’s joy.  It’s like although you’re surrounded by mass chaos your heart can’t stop smiling.  And why?  Because you’re filled with joy that only comes from the Lord and you fully trust that He is in control.  It doesn’t come naturally and just like all of our emotions, joy is a choice.  No matter our circumstances we can choose joy.  Christmas time always seems to bring a supernatural happiness that isn’t seen the rest of the year.  Strangers smiling at each other, “Merry Christmas” wishes offered to even our enemies, and people “paying forward” blessings in a far more generous way.  Why? Because Christmas is joyful.  But joy is a promise of God we can choose year round.  Part of that comes from being content in all circumstances.  Not an easy thing to do but what a world of difference it makes when we choose joy instead of anger, bitterness, rage or unforgiveness.

Comfort is the fourth promise of Christmas.  The bible has many verses about the Lord being near to the broken hearted.  But do you know why Jesus was sent to the Earth?  To be our Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6.)  What are counselors best known for?  Comforting those who are brokenhearted. You see Jesus’ birth was prophesied thousands of years before it came to pass to a people who was at war, enslaved and suffered great hardships.  Even though most died before Christ’s birth, those who heard the story were comforted knowing redemption would happen.  David understood God’s comfort best when he wrote Psalm 23.  In verse 4 he boldly decrees, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”  God never leaves us nor forsakes us.  He is always with and He is our Mighty Comforter.  Personally I’ve climbed up on my Heavenly Daddy’s lap many times in my life sobbing and pouring my grieved heart out to Him because I know He collects all of my tears and even grieves with me.  When someone walks along side with you, collects your tears and grieves with you, that’s true comfort.

Belief is the fifth Christmas promise.  The movie Polar Express has a great message about belief even though it’s about believing in Santa Claus.  A little girl is taken through quite a journey to the north pole only to learn that she should believe in herself and her ability to lead.  A little boy, traveling on the same train learns he can only hear sleigh bells when he chooses to believe in St. Nick.  For us, belief works the same way.  We go a lot further in life when we believe in our ability to be great and to do great things.  Our kids are far more successful when they have parents, teachers and communities supporting them, encouraging them and believing in their ability to be the best.  My home town alone showed that this football season when the entire community gathered to send off our local varsity football team with a police escorted parade as they traveled to the state semi-finals.  In fact, a travel trailer sized sign was posted that said, “We Believe” in letters the size of a billboard.  Even though our team didn’t win I believe those boys will go far in life knowing hundreds of people believe in them.

Just like the boy couldn’t hear Santa’s bells until he believed, we can’t hear God’s voice unless we believe.  Belief is the biggest factor of faith.  You can’t have big faith if you don’t believe.  And what is faith?  It’s “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Another word for confidence? Belief!  If you want to go far in this life you have to believe in the One who gave you life and believe in His ability to lead you in a journey that will exceed your wildest dreams.

The final promise of Christmas is the gift of miracles.  The Christmas story itself is an epilogue of miracles-from Elizabeth getting pregnant with John the Baptist at a very old age, John leaping in the womb when Mary visits Elizabeth because he knew he was in the presence of Jesus, a virgin birth and even the wise men traveling a different route home (away from Herod) to prevent Herod from killing baby Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry was all about miracles too-from his first miracle of turning water into wine to walking on water and his greatest miracle which was conquering death, not once, but twice (don’t forget He raised Lazarus from the dead before He raised Himself.)  Christ’s birth, the real reason for this season, is the miracle that reminds us to believe in miracles for miracles still happen today.  We are God’s vessels He uses to perform His miracles today.  Just last night at a candlelight Christmas Eve service I learned of a white helmet squad who miraculous saved a baby that had been trapped under concrete for 16 hours in Aleppo which is a war stricken are in the Middle East.  That’s a miracle.  This time of year also circulates stories of underprivileged families receiving financial blessings after praying for a miracle.  Personally I can tell you I have been blessed with miracles many times at Christmas.  One year I was anonymously gifted with $400.  Another year, after praying for God to give me provisions to bless a family in need and not seeing any room in my budget to give, God literally dropped a $200 prepaid visa card in my hands. And miracles don’t just happen in monetary instances.  Miracles happen through healing, restoration and other provisions too.  God is our Miracle maker.  And they’re called miracles because they’re things only He can bring to pass.  Christmas is a time to increase our belief in His miracles.

No matter what you’re facing this season, no matter whether your house is decorated or not, please don’t lose sight of these Christmas promises.  Love, Peace, Joy, Comfort, Belief and Miracles are the true meaning behind Christmas.  Keep your focus on His promises and you will carry Christmas in your heart all year through.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!  May God richly bless all of your lives in this Christmas season and especially in 2017.

Eye Spy

People tell me I have beautiful eyes.   I don’t say that with arrogance or as bragging rights.  Honestly, I don’t always believe it.  When I look in the mirror all I see is puffiness, wrinkles and dark circles.  But when others look at them, they see a sparkling blue that sometimes captivates them I guess.  Seriously-just last month, while shopping for sunglasses a female store clerk stopped and said, “I don’t want to sound weird but you have really pretty eyes.  I mean they really just pop.”  I laughed, thanked her and may have said it was ok if she meant it weird I’d still take it as a compliment.  I’ve had many male suitors drop the “you have gorgeous eyes” line on me a handful of times also.  In my younger naïve years I would fall for it but since hearing it so much I tend to just respond with “thank you” or “I’ve heard that before.”  But when asked what I think my best feature is, I will say my eyes simply because it’s what I get complimented on the most.

They say the eyes are the window to the soul.  I think I’d have to agree with that.  I’ve seen people with dark souls and their eyes tend to be shifty and beady.  I’ve seen mothers look at their children and watched joy dance through their eyes.  I’ve also seen mothers look at those same children and watched terror or sheer embarrassment displayed through their eyes depending on how their children are behaving.  I’ve seen tired eyes, tearful eyes, eyes that show deep despair.  And unfortunately, I’ve seen eyes glassed over from drugs and alcohol-those eyes can have a complete blankness to them implying the emptiness the person must be feeling inside.

Yesterday I noticed a set of eyes that spoke something else.  I’ve seen these eyes before.  In fact I’ve seen them many times for more than half my life time.  But yesterday I really noticed them.  These eyes displayed a genuine kindness and a humble heart. There was no judgment behind those eyes.  In fact, the person’s mouth didn’t just smile, they smiled with their eyes.  Have you have ever had the fortune of seeing that?  I’m sure I have in the past but those smiling eyes yesterday really got my attention.  There’s was an acceptance I’ve never noticed before but looking back, in all the years I’ve known this person, they have always looked at me with that same acceptance.

God really drew my attention to those eyes yesterday.  I believe He was showing me how He looks at us-with kindness, humility, unconditionally and without judgement.  And no matter what our pasts look like, how much we screw up the present or what the future holds, He always looks at us with acceptance.  Romans 8:38 tells us nothing can separate us from His love.  Jeremiah 31:3 tells us God loves us with an everlasting love-with unfailing love He draws Himself to each of us.  Even though in Revelation 1 it describes Christ’s eyes like flames of fire (vs 14) I believe those flames show the power, passion and unabandoned love He has for each of us.  When God looks upon each of us I believe He doesn’t just smile, His eyes dance with joy and smile too.

If the eyes really are the window to your soul, and my eyes are viewed as “beautiful”, I hope and pray that people see beauty in my soul as well.  But most importantly, I pray they see Christ’s love radiating from my soul through my eyes and that light penetrates their soul as well.

O How He Loves Me (& You)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalms 91:4 NIV

Yesterday I came home to a package in my mailbox from a darling friend I met almost 20 years ago when I lived in another state.  She was actually one of the first friends I made in that state and one of the few I’ve been able to keep even after I moved back home.  Throughout the years God used her to be a tool of encouragement for me, to be His voice when I needed accountability and to know just how much He truly loves me.

This friend’s love language is definitely the gift of giving.  At least 2-3 times a year I receive a surprise in the mail from her; a Power of the Praying Woman bible, a handful of devotional books,  a bracelet with a crown on it reminding me that I am royalty because I am a daughter of the King, even a mouse pad with a picture of my children when they were just a toddler and infant (of which I still use everyday at work.)  She’s definitely a giver, and she never expects anything in return.  The best gift I can give her is quality time by means of a scheduled phone call (because our lives are so busy if we didn’t make phone “dates” we’d never stay in touch) that entails me mostly talking about myself (because she just enjoys listening and encouraging and sincerely wants to know how she can pray for me.)  She’s even taught her son, whom I’ve never been able to meet face-to-face, but is the same age as my son, to pray for me and my children.  It’s endearing to know there’s a child out there praying for us simply because his mom loves us and treasures the friendship she and I share.  Other than my time and my friendship, this amazing woman wants nothing else from me but to see me be the woman God made me to be.

She’s the epitome of Christ-He too, is a friend who’s love language is giving.  He loved us so much He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16.)  He sacrificed His Beloved for our salvation.  Matthew 7:11 tells us;  “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him (NLT).”  He gifts us with the beauty of His creation, with breath everyday we open our eyes, and with an unconditional love that is almost incomprehensible.  He shows His love through unexpected blessings and the gift of godly friendships.

What does He want in return-our commitment to spend quality time with Him.  Just like a friend who lives in another state or even another country, in order to keep a strong relationship with Christ, we need to schedule daily time with Him, time in His Word, time in conversational prayer with Him and time to be still, listening for His guiding voice.  God wants to be up close and personal with you and me each every day.  He desires that we give Him the first moments of our day.  But He waits for us to come to Him.  He longs to hear us talk to Him like we talk to the humans we love dearly.  We can tell Him about our day even though He knew about it before it occurred.  We can express our fears, our worries, our deepest angst to Him and He will listen.  In fact, He will do more than listen. If we surrender to Him, He promises to deliver us from everything that holds us back from His best for our lives.  Did you catch that last sentence?  God is our Best Friend, because He longs to give us His best and His best is better than anything we could gain on our own.

If you’re reading this, I hope this encourages you to make Christ your best friend.  Schedule time everyday to be with Him.  Become so familiar with talking to Him, that like me, you have a conversation with Him aloud in your morning commute to work not worrying about what you look like when a passerby sees you and thinks you’re talking to yourself.

God showed His love for me yesterday through my friend’s gift.  It was a necklace with a feather charm (pictured above) and Psalm 91:4 written on a card.  He knew I would open the package in my car at the exact time Chris Tomlin’s Good Good Father was playing on the radio.  Tears flowed into sobs as I read the words of Psalms 91:4, the words my darling friend wrote in a note card and listened to these lyrics while also staring in awe at the gorgeous necklace laying in my hands;

“You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

“Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think

“As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am…”

He is perfect in all of His ways and He loves us-undeniably.

Unconditional

“And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.  God does all these things to a person-twice, even three times—to turn them back from the pit, that the light of life may shine on them.”              Job 33:27-30

This month, I was facing a $439 deficit that included having to purchase very much needed tires for my vehicle.  I had no idea where the money was going to come from.  I figured a budget multiple times, and  spent a few sleepless nights waking at 2am in a panic wondering how I was going to manage to cover the added expenses without falling behind on my other bills.  I prayed and then I worried, prayed-then worried.

Then I did something else-while I was still worrying, I texted many people asking them to pray for me and for God’s provision.  Asking others to pray for me is a challenge because I wrestle with pride and although I love to help others, I hate being in a position to ask for help.   But I asked, and they prayed.  And God delivered.

The week after Mother’s Day, I found a $100 bill in my purse.  $100 is NOT something I would easily forget and would panic if I lost so I knew it was not money I had placed there.  I learned a darling friend, knowing my prideful heart, slipped it into my purse.  She knew I wouldn’t accept an outright offer and would feel embarrassed and ashamed.  (I had another friend offer to send me the whole $439 but my pride would not let me accept the offer.) I praised God for the $100 blessing but still worried about where the rest would come from.

Time came where I had to get my tires.  I have a Christian mechanic who knows my situation and graciously offered to let me make payments on the purchase of my tires.  When I went in to discuss the payment plan, the officer manager lowered the price of the original quote he gave me saying he was going to make no money off the tires he was selling me.  I thanked him for discounting the price even more.  This meant less I would have to make payments on.  Two days later I had the new tires placed on my vehicle.  I walked into the office and was greeted by the owner of the auto shop whom I’ve become friends with as we attended a 9 month training together recently.  I reminded the owner I was on a payment plan. He handed me a receipt showing $0 balance and told me I didn’t owe him anything.  He wanted to gift me the tires.

Tears welled up in my eyes.  I was so overwhelmed with this generosity, not even my pride could keep me from crying in front of him.  As he hugged me, I told him I couldn’t possibly accept such an elaborate gift. My whole being just felt I didn’t possibly deserve such a gift.   He said he wanted to bless me but if I wasn’t comfortable accepting it then I could pay him.  Before I could respond, the company phone rang and he answered it.  While he was on the phone, another line started ringing.  He was the only one in the office so I offered to help him out by answering the second phone call.  He handed me the phone.  When the two phone calls were taken care, to appease my pride I jokingly told him I had just worked off the tires so I felt better in receiving his gift.  We both laughed and I left the auto shop with a brand new set of tires and a heart filled with an unexplainable awe of God’s goodness and love for me.

Driving home I heard Sidewalk Prophets, But You Loved Me Any Way.  As I sang along to the radio, between sobs I belted out these words:

“I am a thorn in Your crown, But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
“See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with the smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life…”

I didn’t deserve any of the blessings God bestowed on me this month. In fact, I don’t deserve any blessing He has ever given.  I fail Him every single day.  I start my mornings reading His word and praying only to lose my temper and drop an F-bomb before I walk out the door.  That’s not even a dent in the long list of sins I have committed and will commit in my lifetime.  But God loves me, anyway.

Many scriptures tell us God’s love is unconditional. But it’s only when I receive blessings I don’t deserve that I gain a better understanding of what ‘unconditional’ means.  With every undeserved blessing a piece of pride is plucked from within me, my heart is humbled a little more and I find myself offering greater grace to others because of God’s grace and mercy offered to me.  All praise, glory and honor are lifted up to my Father in Heaven, who is my Great Provider and does not give me what I deserve but delivers me time and time again from going down in the pit.  I know He will do the same for you too because trust me, I’m nobody special. But to God, I’m worth dying for, and so are you.

It’s Just a Little Crush…

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7NLT

Oh my goodness!  Did you see his smile?  How cute was he?  Do you think he noticed me?  Oh my gosh!  He’s coming over here…don’t act nervous, don’t say the wrong thing…he asked me for my phone number!  Now I wait for his call….

He called…we’re going out.  Could he be “the one?”  He’s so cute…he’s so nice.  Lord, I pray he’s the one…

The date was awesome and Lord-when can I kiss him again?  He’s definitely “the one.”  Lord, please make it happen in Your time and in Your will…

I don’t understand.  Why did he dump me?  What’s wrong with me?  How could he take my love for so many years and then just throw it away in a text message?  My heart is broken.  I’ll never love again…

That guy is cute…is he single…does he notice me…

A vicious cycle a woman endures when she makes the idea of love, men and being in a relationship the god of her life.  I have been that woman.  I meet someone, fall head over heels in love and get my heart broken-repeatedly.  The heartache made me bitter, skeptical and if you ask my family and closest friends, they’d say “closed off to dating” at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, I made my fair share of mistakes in past relationships.  But I also loved each one with all my being.  I talked about them to all of my friends, spent as much time with them as I could, fought hard to hold on to the relationship and in the end lost a few men who never really loved me.  Worst, I lost a piece of me each time.  The biggest mistake I made was worshiping them, putting them first in my life-even above God.

Putting others before God, no matter who it is, is a form of idolatry.  Yes, God calls us to love one another, but He also says, “You must have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)  He repeatedly warns us that He is a very jealous God.  Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” God is so serious about not wanting us to worship other people that he compares Himself to a consuming fire.  His jealousy for us should devour every part of us to the point that we have no desire to worship anyone or anything else.

God put Song of Solomon 8 on my heart this past week.  He’s been tugging at my heart about idolatry and worshiping people.  When I read verses 6 and 7, the hopeful romantic in me dreamed of a love like Solomon and his wife-a human kind of love, in fact, an Eros kind of love.

Then I re-read this passage and God opened my eyes to see that THIS is how God wants me and all of us to love Him.  When I have a crush, he’s all I talk about, all I think about.  I count down the days until I can see him or talk to him.  With God, I take time spent with Him for granted.  There are days I choose to sleep in rather than read His word and I rarely stop talking in my prayers to listen to His voice.  Sometimes I’m embarrassed to talk about Him with other people.  Yet God, in His patient grace and mercy still seeks me and pursues me daily.  He has me tattooed on His heart, so why don’t I have Him tattooed on mine?  He longs for me (and you) to place Him like a seal over our entire beings.  He showed the strength of His love by dying on the cross for us and conquering death for us.  If His jealousy is a consuming fire, think how more consuming His love for us is.

God’s love cannot be quenched by water or anything else.  Paul tells us in Romans 8, “…that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (verses 38 and 39, NLT) David repeatedly reminds us in Psalms that God’s love is never ending.  And just like we couldn’t do anything to earn our salvation, we can do nothing to buy God’s love.

This week, God has been asking me, “Why am I not your crush?  Why don’t you talk about me the way you’ve talked about those men of your past?  They shattered your heart but I would never leave you wounded, broken or questioning your self-worth.  To Me, you are far greater than rubies.  To me my darling, you surpass them all.”  I had no answer for Him, only conviction in my heart and a realization of the form of idolatry I’ve practiced for far too long.

God wants to be first in my life and yours.  No matter if you’re married, single, divorced, or widowed, God wants to be first-above your spouse, significant other, even before our children.  God first, other second, ourselves third…that’s the order I was taught at a very young age yet fail to practice.  I pray this post opens up every reader’s eyes to examine where God is ranked in their life and to see if there is anyone or anything they are putting in place of God.  If you find something, confess it and know that He forgives.  Don’t shame yourself or allow the enemy to fill you with guilt.  Remember, nothing we do can stop God from loving us.  Let’s all choose to love God like the love described in Song of Solomon 8-like a consuming fire with the brightest flames.  And let’s talk about how awesome He is to everyone we meet like we would if we all had “just a little crush”.