L♡ve is

Have you noticed that there are a lot of memes out there descrbing what we expect or desire to gain out of a relationship? Even as we view these biblical attributes of love, how many of us, if we’re honest would say we immediately looked at what we could gain in a relationship with someone who would love us this way before looking inwardly?  These traits are difficult and should put us all on blast, but this is how God loves us. Let’s make this a challenge for the month of February. That instead of looking for someone to meet OUR needs that we read these attributes and strive to BE that person no matter HOW others act or respond.. The tricky part is doing it without expectations in return. The truth is, people generally don’t know how to respond to real, healthy love so don’t be surprised if people respond a little rough and question your motives. Don’t forget to pray and ask God to do this work in your heart first. We have no purity of heart on our own so if we try to do this apart from God we might succeed at being nice for a short time but we will not have a lasting and genuine heart change. Who is with me in this challenge?

What is Love?


Love is the most sought after, yet the most elusive thing of all time. Not just romantic love, but lo

ve of all kinds. We were all created to need love and our desire to fulfill that need causes us to seek it out in any way that we think will scratch the deep itch within us. We often hear people say things like “If you really loved me you would ___”, or “If you really loved me you wouldn’t ___”.  It may not be said it in those words. Some of us might be a little more subtle in our approach, but in true human form, we strive to try to pigeon-hole other flawed humans to meet our needs by setting up certain parameters or conditions for them to meet. Everyone has an ideal list of how we wish to be treated. A sacred “do & don’t” list of ideals that we internally expect others to follow in order to make us happy. We fool ourselves into the delusion that if others would just play by our rules we could finally be fulfilled and happy. If that’s not crazy enough, we recognize that we don’t want to be held to anyone else’s standards, so we excuse our own failures by saying things like “nobody’s perfect” when at the same time we are holding a double standard by actually pointing the accusing finger at each other for doing the same things-completely blind to our own ways! What a set-up for utter disappointment, and so the cycle goes…

What is love really though? If you have ever been at a wedding, most likely you have heard a reading of 1 Corinthians 13, aka, “The Love Chapter”. Because of the association with weddings we tend to think this passage is about romantic love, but really the Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about their love toward one another. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails”. This is only 4 verses of the entire chapter and that right there is enough to wreck us all! These are the attributes of love. It takes some maturity and self-honesty to read through this and examine our own hearts but it is also a very liberating thing to deal with our own heart issues and finally stop running away from them. The very first thing that jumped out at me through this passage was the pesky little line “it is not self-seeking”. Well, there goes my list of rules! That takes us right back to the beginning where we talked about the common “If you loved me you would___” and “if you loved me you wouldn’t ___” conditions. We are all guilty of trying to place expectations like these around someone’s neck like a noose. The truth is, whether we actually vocalize our expectations to someone or just inwardly resent them, holding expectations as an entrance or exit to our love is self-seeking behavior. If we are not willing to love that person freely, and assume the risk that they may not return love to us on our terms, or may not do what we want them to do, we are not actually loving them at all. We are simply making an agreement or contract with them, or holding them under emotional blackmail. This is why we come up feeling empty.  Having said that, this also does not mean that in order to love someone we have to tollerate undesirable or unacceptable behavior, nor choose to be around it. It simply means we do not let (good or bad) behavior  or conditions determine, influence or change our love. More simply put: we love (value) someone for who they are and not how they are. They can’t add more value by behaving better, nor can they lose value by behaving worse. Therefore, behavior may change some circumstances, and it may certainly bring consequences, but love does not allow us to change the value of a person based on their behavior. 

So what are we afraid of? We are afraid of emptying ourselves out and being left humiliated and empty in our vulnerable state. We’re afraid of being used up of the best of ourselves only to be unloved in return. In our fear we try to give only part of ourselves, but we hang on to the rest because the desire to try to protect ourselves is so overwhelming. Unfortunately, our attempts to protect ourselves actually cheapens the value of our sacrifice. When the sacrifice is cheap, so is the reward. This is why we are unfulfilled. It actually has nothing to do with how we are loved, and everything to do with how we are loving. Jesus himself, set the standard in his ultimate sacrifice. While the entire world rejected him, hated him, spit on him, tortured him and even his own closest disciples denied and betrayed him, Jesus took on the sin of all humanity and faced the epitome of being used up and completely “alone” when even the Father was forced to turn his face away from him because of our sin. He loved at the greatest cost with nothing in return for him. He loved us first with no expectations. Even if we never choose to love him in return (many don’t and unfortunately many never will) he will never stop loving and pursuing our hearts. We were created  with the need for God’s love. Without it, our relationships will be out of balance. We will fill our lives with things and come up empty until we truly come to know him.  The tricky  thing is most of us feel like we could do a little better in our relationship with God, but we are really good at telling ourselves we are ALL IN with our relationships with people. We are masters at deceiving ourselves. This is why it is critical that we have a daily walk with God, we need to read his word every day and ask him to show us the deceitful things hidden in our hearts. The word of God and our relationships with others is the  indicator that shows us where we are at with God. We can’t love God without loving people, but we desperately need God in order to love people. It’s funny how God made those two things so interdependent! There is just no getting around this and the most frustrating part is that other people actually reveal the selfish tendencies inside of us. This is not to say that other people will not do things that violate our trust or hurt us, but the amount of emotional turmoil we allow ourselves to entertain has everything to do with the amount of responsibility we are taking in our relationships, and how much we are blaming on others. Love recognizes pain as an indicator that we need God to change our own hearts, and in order for God to work change in us we have to be willing to surrender our will, our desires our attitude and yes, even our feelings. Our feelings will scream at the injustice of laying ourselves down unselfishly. Our feelings will always point blame the other way before accepting responsibility. Even if we feel like we are the only ones in the relationship accepting fault, or even if we feel our part is the smaller part in the equation, the moment we complain- even to ourselves, we are no longer sacrificing anything. The moment we expect something in return, it is no longer an act of love but an act of barter. When those feelings rise up and we instead ask God to help us, he can work in our hearts and do in us what we can’t do on our own. We can only take responsibility for ourselves and we have to trust that God will fulfill us when we do that. It doesn’t guarantee us that others will respond appropriately, but they stand a better chance this way, and most importantly, we become free from the empty cycle. 

I want to be very clear. I am NOT describing, nor condoning an abusive or co-dependent relationship. Love does not mean saying yes to everything or being manipulated to do things against our will. Healthy boundaries are vital in a healthy relationship so if someone you are in relationship with is trying to manipulate you, that is self-seeking behavior, and giving in to it is not loving to them or to you. Jesus is our perfect example of love and even he did not allow anyone to push their own selfish agenda. In fact, those who had a selfish motive around Jesus caught a shockingly aggressive side of him. He sharply rebuked them and made it clear that he was there only to fulfill the will of God and not man. Even the  sacrifice he made was the will of God and not man although it was fulfilled through man. 

 A beautiful thing happens when we lay our expectations down. The other person now feels the incredible freedom to choose  to love in return and because they chose it without anything  expected of them, there is now a genuine purity of their love to be enjoyed without any doubts. That is the most fulfilling kind of love there is, and is exactly what Jesus came to teach us. We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

How Can I Bring Change to a World in Need?


  • Recently God showed me two very important things about prayer. The first was that prayer is not about begging God to do something he doesn’t really want to do. When we are praying for things that align with God’s word sometimes it can feel like we are literally begging God to care. The truth is, when we invest our hearts outside of ourselves into something enough to pray more than just a one-time prayer, our own compassion grows. God fuels this process of tension and frustration to build within us so that we will continue to pray and our love and compassion for those we are praying for grows. It is not us changing the heart and mind of God toward people, but God, through our prayers changes our hearts and minds. God called us to prayer because without it we become self-absorbed and without purpose. Unfortunately, for many of us our prayers sound a bit like Christmas wish lists. I’m not saying it’s wrong to ask God for things, but if our prayer time is centered around a desire for comfort for ourselves and those we love we will be self-centered, empty and without purpose. This is a very selfish and unbiblical approach to prayer and is unfortunately, why so many have not found a real connection with God. We were called to be like Jesus, and to be like Jesus is to step out of our own world, care for whom and what God cares about and be partners and partakers in God’s work. In many cases God has already said “yes” to some of our prayers and it may already be written in his word but he needs us to get on board and get motivated. This happens when we pray because when we petition God we become infused with God’s love and God’s power. The second thing God showed me is that often times during this process God will allow enough tension, frustration, love and compassion to build in us that he can then finally use us to take action. If he had asked us to to do it before we started praying, we wouldn’t have had the heart for it. We might look at the situation and think, “how sad, someone should do something” but after we have invested our hearts into praying for it, our hearts are changed and we see things we hadn’t seen before. God then begins to give us vision and courage to do things we may feel like we don’t know how to do but because we see a need, God’s love provides a confidence in us to do what must be done. These aren’t always big, dramatic things. Compassion is given away one small act at a time. Ask God to open your eyes each day and show you people around you who need compassion in any form. Commit to step out of your own world and give encouragement to the down trodden. Or simply meet an obvious need that might be right in front of you. This is what Jesus did and what he has called us all to do.

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Distressed to Beauty

I love the look of distressed furniture and I’ve really come to enjoy the art of distressing my own pieces. But when I really think about it, what is it about taking something and intentionally making it old that we love so much? With real antiques (which few of us can afford to collect) the idea of “aged” makes us nostalgic, the story behind a piece is romantic, this makes it unique and therefore beautiful. The colors between the scarred layers make us wonder where it has been. The flaws and markings of something made by hand increases it’s value and the fact that you will not find two identical pieces makes it special. 
We are like those antique pieces and our lives tell a story marked with pain and scars that display the beauty and uniqueness of who we are. The very flaws and irregularities that we love so much and seek out as rare or special in an antique, we foolishly spend an entire lifetime shamefully hiding about ourselves. I’m not talking about character flaws that we need to address. We are accountable for how we treat people and we need to be in constant pursuit of God to work change in our hearts, but those petty flaws about ourselves that we hide, or perhaps even some deep emotional or physical wounds. When we embrace these layers as part of our story they become a beautiful display of art. We were created with unique purpose by a creative God who loves us.
This time of year can be very difficult for so many. While it is a time of family and celebration for many, it can be a very broken, painful, distressing and lonely time for others. Today I am very mindful of broken and hurting people. We have all been there at some point so if you know of someone who needs some encouragement, please share this post to let them know they are loved. If you would join me in praying for the broken this season, please comment and let me know that you are praying with me. ♡

 

There’s a Hole in My Boat

 

“You can’t blame the water for finding the hole in the boat…”

Blame is a weight of negativity that holds us captive in the boat of our circumstances. It lends complete control of our thoughts and emotional well being to the very person or thing in which we loathe. It stifles our creativity and our energy but it continues to sink our boat while we passively sit in it talking about our sinking condition. Accepting responsibility for our part in our chronic situations is the beginning of finding solutions. This isn’t to be passive or to say that we haven’t been treated unfairly or in some cases, even abused. It’s actually quite the opposite. It takes courage, character and backbone but we all carry a piece of responsibility in our own recovery process. When we are free from the weight of negativity we have the creativity to think of smarter solutions. If we take our focus off of the uncontrollable amount of water rushing into the boat, and look to the one who created us and wants to guide our steps, we will find the wisdom to address the hole in our boat.

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