Debunking Boaz

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

If you’re familiar with the Bible then I’m guessing you’ve heard of the story of Ruth.  If not, let me give you a quick summary.  Ruth was a woman who married a man from a foreign land and tied herself to his family.  Her father-in-law, her husband and her brother-in-law all die (not simultaneously) and her mother-in-law (Naomi) decides to return to her homeland.  Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to stay with their own families.  Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah stays.  But Ruth clings to Naomi and ends up returning to Naomi’s homeland with her.  Ruth then goes to work in a barley field as a means to provide for herself and Naomi.  There she meets Boaz who just so happens to to own the barley field Ruth is working in.  Long story short, Naomi finds out who Ruth is working for, realizes it’s a relative who can “redeem” Ruth as wife and mother and plays matchmaker between the two.  Her instructions and Ruth’s obedience pay off as Boaz marries Ruth and Ruth gives birth to Obed who was King David’s grandfather.

The book of Ruth is one of redeeming love and used as an example of how God can take tragedy and turn it into glory.  However, if misinterpreted, it can easily be romanticized and fill people, especially single women longing for marriage, with false hope.   For a woman longing for marriage, especially one has endured much rejection and/or abuse, the story of Boaz redeeming Ruth can fill her with the idea that God will use a man to redeem her circumstances also.  I want to be clear-Boaz was a kinsman redeemer but he did not redeem Ruth.

In Ruth’s cultural times, a kinsman-redeemer was a relative who carried out an act for a near relative who could not carry it out for themselves. In Ruth’s case, she was left a childless widow.  Boaz acted as a kinsman-redeemer by marrying and impregnating her in order to carry on her husband’s name (Ruth 4:10.) Boaz was a man of noble character but he was not a knight in shining armor who rescued Ruth.  He was a man who was impressed with Ruth’s beauty and work ethic.  He saws Ruth’s approach toward him as an act of kindness.  He also admitted there was another relative closer in relation to be Ruth’s redeemer. He protected Ruth’s reputation but was willing to step aside if the other relative chose to redeem Ruth himself (all found in Ruth chapters 3 and 4.)

Ruth was not a damsel in distress either.  She suffered great loss.  She made hard choices.  She worked on her own accord.  Ruth doesn’t bring up the idea of remarriage or children.  Her mother-in-law does.  Ruth only obeys the directives Naomi gives her.  Ruth was not wallowing in sorrow or waiting for a man to come along and rescue her.  She was in survival mode focused on taking care of herself and Naomi.  God stepped in and redeemed Ruth’s circumstances by connecting her to Boaz but God is Ruth’s ultimate rescuer.

No where in the book of Ruth does it mention that the desires of her heart was remarriage or to have a child.  In fact, when Naomi tells her to stay in her homeland, it’s because Naomi had no other sons for her to marry in order to bare a child.  Naomi tells her to stay with her own family and find another husband there.  But Ruth tells her this; “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)  Ruth does not choose to go with Naomi hoping to meet Boaz or any kinsman-redeemer.  She goes with Naomi because that’s who she identifies as her family and she has a loyalty to staying with that family.  The Bible doesn’t say it, but I believe Ruth either had no intentions to ever remarry or simply trusted God to take care of the matter.  Either way, remarriage was not Ruth’s priority.

Please don’t misinterpret today’s post.  I am not against marriage or remarriage.  The point of this post is to empower the woman who believe a man, a relationship and/or marriage is her saving grace to let go of that ideology.  To the woman who thinks her life will begin when God finally sends her the man of her dreams, you’re missing out on life that’s happening right now! God is our true redeemer.  He was Israel’s redeemer in the old testament and He sent Jesus to be our redeemer from sin in the New Testament.  He saves our circumstances and He redeems us from sinful mistakes.  No human being has the power to do that.  Expecting someone to redeem us puts unnecessary pressure on the person we identify as our savior.  It also is a form of worship and violates the Ten Commandments (Thou shall have no other gods before Me…)

If you are a single woman and your heart’s desire is marriage, please don’t pray for a Boaz.  Boaz was Ruth’s husband.  He can’t be yours.  Pray for the man God has designed for you.  While you’re waiting, be diligent in your work, recognize where you can rescue yourself and trust God to rescue you when you cannot.  Be the provider for the family God has gifted you, even if that family is just you and a pet or two. Trust Him to be your leader and partner.  See God as the husband you wish you had because we are all His bride. He is ultimately the One for each and everyone of us.

God will always be our Mr. Right.  If we misinterpret Boaz and especially if we get caught up in romance or Hallmark movies, we can easily become impatient and fall for a Mr. Right Now.  Wait on God.  Trust His ways.  Celebrate your singleness (it’s just as precious gift as marriage) and work hard at being the woman God made you to be.  If being a wife is part of His design, it will come to pass, just like it did for Ruth, in God’s time and His way!  We don’t need to manufacture our own love stories.  Ruth didn’t and God gave her Boaz.  Trust Him to write your love story too!

 

Why Do We Cry

Why do I cry when you speak harshly?

As if your words could ever define me.

Your violent words seem to shred me

But God’s Love continues to heal me.

Why do you cry when he doesn’t come home?

As if it’s a worse feeling to be alone?

It’s not your fault he has a want to roam,

God’s love makes you whole, even as one.

Why does she cry when he doesn’t respond to her chase?

She looks in the mirror and thinks it’s because of her face.

His interest in her is a game at his pace.

But God’s interest in her is a lifelong love, not just a phase.

Why do we cry when the world is mean?

When nobody cares is what it seems?

There’s a God above who sees our pain,

And brings sunshine in every season of rain.

Dry your tears and I’ll dry mine.

For there’s a love far greater than any human can define.

There’s a man who pursues you and me every minute of the day.

He keeps His promises and never goes astray.

His name is Jesus Christ and He died for you and me.

He showed His unconditional love on a cross at Calvary.

The only names He calls us is “beloved” and “grace”.

He only sees beauty when he looks at your face.

He says we are fearlessly and wonderfully made.

And when we believe in Him, we are saved.

He chases you and He chases me.

He longs for us to chase Him daily.

His love is not a game,

It is more fierce than an endless flame.

So dry your tears and I’ll dry mine.

The love that we long for is easy to find.

It’s in Jesus Christ

And His Love makes us refined!

Love Actually

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Do you see the man Jesus made you to be?

Or do you see who the enemy has fooled you to believe?

How do you not know that you were made for love actually?

 

When you greet an old friend what are you thinking?

Are you happy to see them or do you fear they may judge you?

When meet a new face you keep many things hidden-

Afraid of letting most see the real you.

 

When you look into the mirror what do you see?

Do you see an aging face and life enslaven?

Or do you see yourself as Jesus sees you-

A royal heir to His Kingdom of Heaven?

 

When someone shows you love, how do you feel?

Do you open your heart and receive it?

Or do you reject what doesn’t seem possible?

How do you not accept that Jesus’ love is unconditional?

 

You let your mistakes define you.

Jesus longs to let His love refine you.

You hide behind jokes and forced smiles.

You embrace a false positivity instead of a healed lifestyle.

 

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

You see a monster living with pain, regret and infidelity.

This view overrides what Jesus is showing you.

You are forgiven, accepted and loved actually.

 

When  I look at you  I see eyes that glisten

with a hope that you will be healed from this brokenness.

But your smile tells me you feel empty and lonely.

Your embrace says you fear you will never know wholeness.

 

My heart wishes I could change your view

Of yourself, your life and who you are meant to be.

But all of my efforts just get rejected

because you aren’t ready to accept love actually.

 

We love because He first loved us.

This piece of scripture means you were made for love.

The enemy longs to keep you thinking you’re a monster.

As God keeps showing you you’re worth fighting for.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

A man of God fully redeemed-

That is my prayer for you for 2019.

When you look in the mirror  I pray you will see

That you are a man filled with His love actually.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.