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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The Wisdom of Motherhood

“Hear the instruction of your Father; do not forsake the law of your Mother!”

Proverbs 1:8

Today was Mother’s Day.  An obvious choice for a sermon, the minister preached on Proverbs 31.  However, the surprising theme of the message was not about women being the Wonder Woman described in this chapter (a woman most Christian women have compared themselves to more than once and most likely felt they could never measure up to-myself included.) Today’s theme was about wisdom and honoring women of valor because they are very wise women.

I was raised by a single mom.  When I read Proverbs 31 and compare it to my mom, honestly she measures up far better than I do.  If you read Proverbs 31 in a literal sense, my momma brings her husband (and others) good, not harm all the days of her life.  She knows how to select fabrics.  Growing up she sewed clothing for me and my dolls (we had matching outfits).  She made me dolls and crocheted versions of Care Bears.  To this day, she raises Alpacas and uses their fiber to make many beautiful things.  She is a very creative and talented woman.  I have never shared this passion with her and the only sewing I can do is repairing loose buttons and using iron tape to hem things.

“She gets up early and tends to her household.”  My mom was always the first one up, making sure my brother and I were ready for school or church and getting us to where we needed to go on time.  (Me-I’m always running late and my kiddos and I leave in a rush most days. In fact, today I woke them up late and they ended up having Hershey’s bars for breakfast and we were still two minutes late for church.) I am the first one up but I like to ease into my days enjoying the quietness of the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, some days reading my devotionals, other days reading a book.  My kids do get fed nutritious meals on a daily basis so don’t misinterpret the Hershey bars for breakfast statement.  That was a rare occasion and the chocolate bars were leftovers from the S’mores that were made at last night’s bonfire.

“She considers a field and buys it”-my mom has owned several homes and maintained them well.  She grew a few vegetable gardens and even knows how to can food items. She could make noodles from scratch.  I have no desire to own my home.  I tried helping my daughter grow a garden last year and I believe we managed to produce 2-3 tiny green tomatoes.  Nothing else bore any produce.  I do not have a green thumb-another thing I simply am not passionate about either.  I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted to make noodles from scratch either.

Something from Proverbs 31 my mom and I do have in common would be verse 20; “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  My mom always had an open door for displaced people and stray animals.  Okay if I’m being honest, I was the kid who brought home every stray animal I came across but she never told me I couldn’t keep them. At one time, I had six pet cats (this was obviously before I discovered that I am in fact, allergic to cats-Ha! Ha!)  My friends always knew they were welcome in our home.  In fact, some spent time at my house when we weren’t even home.  There were many occasions that family members, for various reasons, lived with us.  Her generosity instilled in me a passion to someday be a key player in implementing homeless to housed programs throughout my country and God willing, all over the world.

I could go on but I am guessing you get the gist of the kind of mom I was blessed with and the fact that I am fairly opposite of her.  Doesn’t make me a bad mom.  Just means I parent differently.  My kids still learn the things I am passionate about and what I am not skilled at teaching them, I rely on others to teach them.  I’m secure enough in my mothering to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and to no longer beat myself up when I make a mistake.  I don’t like to cook and my kids know that.  But they love my sloppy joes and pancakes.  They also know that I love to baking and think I make the best homemade frosting in the world.  My son thinks I throw a football like a girl but he knows he can count on me to throw a football, play catch or shoot hoops with him if he asks.  My daughter is incredibly liberal (not how she was raised) but she knows she is allowed to speak her mind.  In my home we have an open communication policy.  You are allowed to say what you’re thinking knowing that you will be listened to.  But, you must then allow the other person to speak and give the same respect of listening to them, even if you do not agree with what they may be sharing.  There are days they may get a candy bar or even cookies for breakfast but my fridge is always stocked with healthy food choices and I spend 1-2 hours every other week doing food prep to ensure the healthy snacks are easily accessible for all of us.

But as I learned today, Proverbs 31 was not written to be a list of super hero traits we moms must aspire to be.  As pastor said today, “Proverbs 31 may be the final chapter of wisdom.”  He continued by explaining that “wisdom is the ability to live life skillfully.”  Later he stated that “being a Proverbs 31 woman is not about being perfect, it’s about learning to live life skillfully.”  When we learn this, we become women of valor, women of wisdom.  He suggested a great way to gain wisdom is to “Read and Plead.”  This means reading a chapter of Proverbs daily as well as seeking God and asking Him for wisdom.  He quoted James 1:5 (If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”) to back up this suggestion.  He also explained how God in His infinite wisdom, references wisdom repeatedly as a female character.  God made women to be a source and example of wisdom.

What I walked away with today is this; the best thing I can do for my children, myself and to honor God, is to walk in His wisdom and to strive to be a woman of wisdom.  Proverbs 3:18 describes wisdom like this, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” This is definitely a verse I am going to meditate on and strive to be.  Hearing that verse this morning instilled a desire to be the tree that is so rooted in an unshakable faith that my children or anyone who encounters me can feel blessed to take hold of because they see Jesus through me and gain wisdom by knowing me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are moms.  I pray your day was blessed and that this post reminds you of the amazing mom/mum that you are.  I pray this post inspires you to measure yourself to wisdom only and to seek God for an increase whenever you feel lacking.  I also pray that you stop measuring yourselves to the literal version of the Proverbs 31 woman and embrace the woman you are, exactly as God made you.  Jesus did not gift us all to be seamstresses, grow luscious gardens or even to be morning people.  But whatever gifts He’s given you, use them for His purpose and glory and shine like the amazing gems you all are.  In case you forgot how valuable you truly are, Proverbs 31 tells us we are more precious than jewels (vs 10), that we surpass excellency (vs 30) and that when we fear the Lord, we are to be praised (vs 31.)

Christ in Me

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today I surprised my mom at her church. It was a blessing to see the joy on her face when she saw me. It refreshing to be back in a church. It’s been a bit since I’ve attended. It was also refreshing to see a man I’ve covered in years of prayers. In church worshipping and engaging in fellowship with other believers.

After church I was blessed to have a quick conversation with this friend. He paid me a compliment that’s resonated with me all day. He told me I have a light in my eyes. A light that is life. I’ve been compliment about my eyes many times but no one has ever seen that in them.

My first response was to point out the tired and purple bags hanging from my eyes. He didn’t allow me to negate his observation though. He simply stated he wasn’t talking about what was below my eyes but what was in them. He said he could see Jesus and a love for people in my eyes. When he was finished I responded with a confirmation that I do indeed love people.

What he said resonated with me because Ive never been complimented that way before. But his words resonated me for another reason too. I thought about the times I don’t act loving toward people-the times I lose my temper, grumble, complain, hold a grudge, take things too personally, or deliberately choose to be rude or unkind. I actually thought I was presenting a falsehood to my friend and that I should message him the “real” me. I wondered if in those moments do my eyes show the opposite of life? At my worst, do they exude death?

Tonight, before writing any emails or messages, God led me to Psalm 139. Reading this chapter showed me what God sees in me (and you.) We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. He made all the delicate parts of us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We are wonderfully complex, a marvelous display of His workmanship. Every moment of our lives has been laid out before Christ before we even existed. Including every bad moment and sinful act we engage in. Yet His thoughts about us are precious! And Isaiah 55 reminds us that His thoughts are not our thoughts-they’re higher than ours.

Today’s conversation was Christ orchestrated for both my friend and for me. God used my eyes to hopefully breath more life into a man who’s felt dead inside for years. But God also used my friend’s words to remind me of who I am in Him.

The next time the enemy tries to define you as anything than who you are in Christ-meditate on Psalm 139 and worship Abba with this chorus from Jeremy Camp:

“So come and empty me

So that it’s you I breathe

I want my life to be

Only Christ in me

So I will fix my eyes

‘Cause you’re my source of life

I need the world to see

That it’s Christ in me

That it’s Christ in me”

This chorus alone reminds us to empty ourselves of all we think we are and fix our eyes on Him-our source of light and life. When we do that, it’s inevitable that others will see His light and His life through our eyes!

What Fruit is Your Tree Producing?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For the past few months I have been obsessively craving oranges. I can eat six of them or more in a day sometimes. Definitely can eat several over the span of a week. But I’m a bit weird with how I eat them. I can’t peel just one and then eat it. I have to peel several at a time and store them in a dish so they’re readily available whenever my belly craves them. If I don’t peel them all at once, they tend to sit, rot and get wasted.

Tasting the juicy sweetness of a ripe orange and throwing away one that’s mushy and covered in a fuzzy green substance reminds me of God’s calling on all of us to be fruit bearers. In Galatians (Chapter 5 verse 22 and 23) we read about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, perseverance and self-control. These are all characteristics God requires of us to display in our day to day lives. Reading the list sounds easy and I am confident there are many times practicing all of these have come natural to all of us. But what about the times when it doesn’t? Let’s look at some scenarios.

When a person cuts us off on the road it’s human nature to react in a harsh manner (not practice gentleness.) when someone wounds us deeply or continues to disappoint us, it’s human nature to stop loving them, maybe even feel hatred toward them. When we’re grief stricken if feels impossible to experience joy. Addictions make it incredibly challenging to practice self-control. When life feels out of control it’s easy to worry and be anxious instead of choosing to be at peace fully trusting Abba. If you’re a parent dealing with a toddler meltdown or a disrespectful know-it-all teenager it’s super easy to lose patience. On days when we’re just feeling grumpy it’s easier to lash out at others rather than practice goodness and kindness.

Then there’s the concept of being known by our fruit. If we are a person bearing good fruit we should be identified as such. But what about those who constantly bear bad fruit? What about the people who cross our paths who appear to be mean-spirited, toxic, hard-hearted or down right evil? What about those people who seem so hard hearted that no amount of prayer covering seems ever possible that they will ever change?

First and foremost if you’re a Christian who’s known for bearing bad fruit (maybe you hold grudges, is unwelcoming, always arguing, gossips, harbors hatred toward others, loses your temper easily, over spends/over eats or even over works) it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror, confess these attitudes and behaviors and ask God to cut off the branches that aren’t bearing good fruit. Until you refuse to repent, you will be a tree that produces bad fruit and bears a false witness as to what being Christ like is all about. If you repent, God promises to prune you in a way that will make your tree overflowing with His fruit once again (John 15:2.)

Dealing with nonbelievers who bear bad fruit is a bit more challenging. None of us hold the power in our human strength to change a human heart, including our own. Part of bearing good fruit is being a seed planter for those who bear bad fruit. If you have any knowledge of botany (which mine is very limited) you know that some plants actually populate from having their seeds spread elsewhere. This happens in both plants and weeds which means Christians can plant both good and bad seeds in the lives of those whom we cross paths with. If we want to be good fruit bearers, we have to be good seed planters also (read Mark 4 regarding Jesus’ parable on seed planting.)

How do we do that? We practice the fruits of the Spirit at all times. Think about being a comedian performing on stage for the first time. Your audience boos you and throws rotten tomatoes at you. This is the epitome of being exposed to bad fruit bearers and toxic people. It’s also human nature to want to defend ourselves and to pick up those rotted tomatoes and throw them back. Instead, God calls us to give them good fruit. Sticking with this analogy let’s say when someone throws rotten tomatoes at you, you pull out fresh ripe ones and ask them to join you for a salad. If someone steals from your apple tree, bake them a pie with what’s left. By doing so, you will be planting seeds of the Spirit that God can use to grow your enemies into good fruit bearers also.

This is definitely easier said than done. Trust me-I struggle daily with practicing any of this. I tend to live out my feelings instead of practicing self-control. I lose my temper and throw gentleness, kindness and goodness right out the window replacing them with anger, harsh words and unforgiveness. I wallow in my sorrows and give the enemy my joy. When I try problem solving in my own human wisdom, I get engulfed in worry and anxiety which suffocates any ounce of His peace within me. There are days I make a conscious effort to choose His fruit instead though. Just like choosing healthy food gives your body more energy, choosing His fruit gives my spirit a supernatural energy boost that produces more fruit within me. The more we pour out into others, the more He pours back into us. To keep using a scientific analogy, this would be a spiritual osmosis!

Whether you’re in a season of seed planting or fruit bearing remember three things-one, just like growing a garden or planting trees takes a length of time before the plant is fully matured and fruit is produced, so it may take years before you see changes in those you are discipling to, including even your own children. That’s where consistency, perseverance and the power of prayer play their biggest roles. Just because you can’t see anything growing, doesn’t mean there aren’t roots forming beneath the surface. So don’t give up.

Second, you may not be the person God uses to fully change their hearts. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted the seed but Apollo watered it and only God actually made it grow. This verse reminds us that some hearts may take more than one person to soften and that no matter who God uses, He ultimately gets the glory. It’s His power alone that truly changes hearts. We are just His tools.

Lastly, and this part is a sad reality, some hearts will never change. Choosing the fruits of the Spirit is a choice. There are people who choose to be hard hearted and no effort will ever change them. (Matthew 21:19) I believe God will show you when it’s time to walk away from such a person and surrender them fully to the Lord. We can still pray for a miracle in them but walking away means protecting ourselves emotionally and avoiding getting spiritually burned out. You may not agree with this last concept but just remember Judas was a prime example of such a heart. He walked right beside Jesus and betrayed him. Jesus never pursued Judas after the betrayal because He knew there was no changing him.

Jesus forgave Judas and He calls us to forgive our enemies also-even if they refuse to change. Forgiveness is definitely a seed that when planted can produce amazing fruit in ourselves and in those we choose to forgive. Jesus modeled this as He was hanging on a cross enduring excruciating pain, pushing himself up just to take a breath, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So what seeds are you planting? What fruit are you producing? What is your spiritual tree bearing? Strive to plant seeds that inevitably produce trees that bear His fruit.

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.