The Importance of Relationships

The Importance of Relationships

I spent years defining myself by relationships. I questioned how important I really was by that silenced friend who never returned my calls. I tied so much of my worth in the thoughts of my husband or the lack there of. I was the queen of second guessing every word that came out of my mouth. I was in essence trapped in a unhealthy cycle of earning love and validation from others, who had no ability to carry that weight. It was a self-destructive and self-serving way of viewing life. If God had not stepped in, I would still be trapped.

But, you see, God never leaves us wallowing in our own self-inflicted prison cells. I didn’t know it at the time, but He was pursuing me and had no intention of me remaining in my single-mindedness. God came to me but He came through a series of trials, as He often does. Through these trials, He showed me that I was putting my relationships with my spouse and friends ahead of the most important relationship, my relationship with my heavenly Father! My husband and my friends could not be God to me nor should they. And, as I began pursuing Jesus, I came to find that one of the biggest themes of the entire Bible is relationships! Two relationships in fact! Read this excerpt from Matthew 22:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. vs 37-40

So, in essence our entire being was created for relationships! The first being our relationship with the Lord and the second being with our neighbors. If we want to live our best lives, we must first pursue a close relationship with God. What does that mean in practical terms? Well think about any other close relationship. You spend time with them. You learn everything you can about them. You talk to them. You listen to them. When it comes to God we do the same! We pray, read and study His words to us in the Bible, we apply His word to our lives and our hearts and we invite Him into our homes, our families, and our days.

book-897834_1920

Secondly, we start looking at our relationships with others in a different light. For years I would get hurt or sad when my friends let me down, but as my faith matured, I came to realize that I needed to be the kind of friend to others that I wished they were to me. I started to love with no expectation attached. If I was feeling unloved because a friend hadn’t reached out to me, I would reach out to them! More often than not, they were struggling and just needed someone to step in and say, “I’m here and I care.”

I also had to learn to look at relationships with others not as a venue to attain worth or importance, but as opportunities to pour love and encouragement out on others. Relationships can be hard but at the same time, some of the most rewarding life lived is life that revolves around loving God and loving all of the people that He puts in our path! Give it a try and you’ll be amazed at what God does in and around you! hands-1150073_1920

Advertisements

Unqualified, Broken, and Called

Unqualified, Broken, and Called.pngIt was a beautiful morning.  There was a cool breeze and the sunshine felt so warm on my skin.  I inhaled deeply and decided that the girls and I could use some fresh air.  A leisurely stroll would do us good and just maybe peanut would take herself a little nap!   As myself and the littles were making our way down the road, a divine appointment was about to happen.  A dear stranger with a very deep hurt crossed our path and as our friendly hellos turned into an unexpected honest and raw discussion, I marveled at her brave heart for speaking about her pain and I marveled at an amazing God for giving me this opportunity to listen.

Why does God choose me to be a part of these things?  I feel so unqualified. I don’t have answers and I don’t always know what to say except that I’m broken too.  But it seems that ever since I decided to follow God’s lead,  He always brings me to hard places.  Hard, beautiful places.  It’s these humble stories, the broken homes and the broken choices that perfectly compliments a perfect savior.  A savior who is in the business of redeeming broken and dark and turning our shattered hearts into hearts vulnerable and soft and yet fortified with fiery steel.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with every good thing to dI’m learning that having a soft heart is not having a weak heart. I don’t need to know the perfect words to say.  I just need to listen and when given the chance speak God into our conversations. I don’t need to know the next steps or have every thing planned out.  I’m coming to know that Jesus is the one who qualifies us.  He qualifies and gives us the Holy Spirit to give us discernment and guidance as we walk into the unknown and difficult.

As we arrived back home, our caseworker stopped by and we chatted about little lovie and the challenges of foster care.  I found myself being vulnerable and sharing my heart with this woman who up until a month ago I’d never met.  I talked to her about what God’s doing in my heart and how dear this little one and her mama has become to me. I shared how thankful I was to be doing this, but how unprepared I felt to be walking through all of this brokenness.  And then it occurred it to me, I’m more prepared than most because of who I’m doing this for.  This is Jesus work.  Redeeming work.  This is God’s heart and I was suddenly overcome with gratitude and humbleness.  It’s amazing that God uses broken people like me. What a privilege.

And then I thought back on our morning walk and the sweet reminder that Christ had given me.  How He whispered in my heart to, “Be brave and honest and bring Me into the hard and I will be faithful and use you.”  And for the second time in one day He did just that. Amazing.

StockSnap_OOHB8V1EHM

A Price Worth Paying For

Title

Her little head is snuggled in the crook of my arm. Mouth wide open with sleepy eyes fluttering behind thick black eye lashes. She is dreaming contently as I stare at her sweet face. I catch myself studying her. She has grown so much. Her cheeks are starting to get chubby. And, oh how her giggles and big toothless grin brighten even the worst of days! I find myself forgetting that she is not mine. I was not planning on loving her so much.

It’s been 4 months since this little one became a part of my heart. Four beautiful and yet broken months. Some days I smile so much my cheeks hurt! But, other days my heart literally aches. I can feel my heart clinching tight…trying to somehow protect itself from the inevitable shattering that looms constantly over our every days. Some days the roller coaster of emotions bring me spiraling down into such sadness. Some days I feel so unfit to say goodbye. How will I ever be able to give her back? This is harder than I thought it would be. I do not know what I thought before, but whatever it was, I didn’t have a clue.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance fini

But, as I reel from the thoughts of the possibility of losing this precious little person, I cannot help but feel God’s heart whispering into mine. I think about how He sobbed in agony over what He was called to do. The burden so heavy that He literally sweated blood. How His heart must of ached knowing He would be betrayed, denied, tortured, and crucified. And, yet staring into a future of immeasurable suffering, He still chose love. He chose us despite the pain. In a way, I have been called to do the same.

We are all called to live out the Gospel in our own lives. Our crosses are not all the same, but all crosses carry some hurt. They can be messy, painful, and broken. But, the beauty of the Gospel is that it did not end at the cross. And, our own crosses are also not the end. Though our freedom was bought with a love steeped in suffering and tears, the repercussions of Christ crucified and his resurrection changed everything. No longer do we stare into a future of hopelessness, because no matter what sufferings we may have to endure in this life, we know that in Christ we have already overcome. There will be a glorious victory of lives changed and redeemed at the end of this race we call life. These trials and tests that we walk through are difficult. But, we can trust that if we choose love, God will take our humble offerings and use our weak hearts to change lives and redeem others. To Jesus, the hard was a price worth paying because His love was stronger than the pain. And, as I stare into these little brown eyes as she awakes and flashes me that little gummy grin, I get it. It’s worth every tear.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16_33)

Not Good Enough

NotGoodEnoughDo you ever feel not good enough to be a Christian? Maybe you are in the bad habit of comparing yourself to others or just don’t feel like you fit in.  Well ladies, do I have some good news for you!

Every person sitting on every church pew is a hot mess sinner just like you and me! We can get so focused on what we see on the outside that we forget that we are all fallen and in need of God’s mercy and grace. Just because Sarah never says a bad word when she stubs her toe doesn’t make Sarah less of a sinner. And if you do spout off profanity like a sailor, it doesn’t disqualify you from entering into God’s grace. We all start some where. But the key is, we must start.

StockSnap_AFYKYZ1OTC.jpgThere is no check list of who or what we need to be in order to be acceptable into the family of Christ. We are told to come as we are. Yes, there are times where repentance is needed but Church is a place for sinners. It’s a place for people like me! And if you don’t want to take my word for it, maybe the words of Jesus will convince you!

One day He and his disciples were sitting down to eat dinner. They were joined by tax collectors and “sinners”.  Jesus was known for spending time with the potty mouths, the adulterers, and the unlikables. He loved them and wanted to share His gift of salvation with them. And let’s be honest, repentant sinners are a lot more likely to respond to grace than someone who thinks they have it all figured out. These men were drawn to His teachings and their hearts stirred. These men were slowly being transformed by being in the presence of Christ. And side note, if we want to be transformed we must spend time with Jesus too.

No sooner had they all sat down, did the self-righteous pharisees step in and interject! How dare Jesus sit with people like these?! It was unheard of! They were dirty! Well Jesus didn’t take to kindly to these self-righteous men. This is how he responded.
But when he (Jesus) heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13 ESV

Closeup of colorful flowers floating on water backgroundSo sisters, I want to encourage you to step into the presence of Jesus today and let Him transform and encourage your heart.  Read your Bible, spend time in prayer, and go spend time with others worshiping and learning about who Jesus is and who you are in Him. Remember “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 Know with all of your heart that God loves your hot mess self today, yesterday, and tomorrow no matter where your at. We’re all works in progress!

Can Mess Ups Be Good?

Can Mess Ups Be Good_

There have been many times in my walk with the Lord that I have felt so discouraged with myself.  There is no amount of sheer determination that I can muster that will keep my sinful heart completely in check.  I always mess up.

The season I have been in as of late has been very sanctifying and it has been eye opening.  Nothing has revealed my selfishness more than this season of parenting and schooling with so many littles.  There are days that I get so frustrated with myself and how I handle problems that arise in my home.  Some times I let guilt sink in. But I find that more often than not, those days of guilt are days that I have not been seeking God first.

On one such day God led me to this verse as I was listening to the Bible on my phone while getting ready.

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” 1 Timothy 4:15

This verse really spoke to me because Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith didn’t have it all figured out either.  He hadn’t “arrived”. He had bad days too like everyone else. But God fully intended to use his good days and his not so good days to be an example of what God can do in the hearts and lives of those who diligently seek God’s face.  And He intends the same for us.StockSnap_2E9J94LX70

Paul states in verse 13 that Timothy should “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” This means that we should fully commit to being in the scripture even if it’s just a verse a day! Even if it’s just from a phone app! But it goes beyond just reading.  We need to think about what we read.  Think about what God is saying through the verse and than applying it to our lives.  It is this act of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us that slowly transforms our lives!

Progress isn’t having it all figured out.  Progress is more like advancing in a battle and gaining ground.  It’s not always easy but we know that if we just keep trying, God will bless our perseverance and use us and our “battles” in mighty ways.

It doesn’t matter that I mess up. What matters is that God is using those mess ups to mold me and shape me more into His likeness.  And what’s even more amazing is that others can see that in me! So when you start to feel the weight of your own imperfections, remember God doesn’t see you through those but rather intends to use them to shine His grace all the more brightly to those around you!

A Mother’s Day Lesson

01.

I spent my Mother’s Day morning in tears. It started out well enough, with flowers and chocolate from the hubby and coffee brewed by my oldest. Today was going to be a good day, I thought as I sat down to cuddle the baby and drink my first cup. But, you see this Mom thing is hard. It’s hard for two big reasons. Reason number one: This mama is a selfish sinner. Reason number two: So are these children in my charge.

No sooner had I plopped myself on the sofa, did the bickering begin. Lately, it has been somewhat of a plague in this house. A season of strong wills, emotions and jabbing words. Tonight there was even physical fighting. And, try as I might, I haven’t been a very successful peace maker. I have poured grace on my girls, gospel, long talks and prayers. I’ve tried hard to parent them well. But, I’ve also poured out frustration and anger. I get tired of being the referee. I get selfish and want peace and quiet. Some days I don’t do much parenting. I do more reacting. These precious babes can drive me to the brink of insanity better than anything I know. As I sat there in tears a thought occurred to me. Just maybe these tears are good for me and all part of God’s plan.

bouquet-1463378_1920

I realized that even though I try so hard sometimes, I can often get lazy. Lazy in dealing with my children’s hearts and even more importantly lazy with inviting God into our problems. Instead of praying before correcting and disciplining, I often just speak. I say a lot more out of frustration than from a place of genuine love. I say things like, “Why can’t you just love each other?!” or “How many times do we have to do this over and over again?” I’ve even yelled, “That’s it. I’m done!” more often than I’d like to admit.

There is so much in the scripture about the power of our words! Proverbs 18:21 says that there is the power of life and death in our tongues! Ephesians 4:29 says that we should not let corruption come from our mouths but only things that build others up and show grace. Proverbs 12:18 says rash words are like sword thrusts. My words can slash and rip into others…into my children. But it goes on to say that the words of the wise are healing. I can hurt my children or I can encourage and heal.

hands-1476198_1920This brings me to the scripture that God led me to this morning, James 1:5. It says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him.” Plainly speaking, God doesn’t look on us through the lens of guilt or blame. He just wants us to invite Him in. He wants us to ask Him for wisdom and help. He wants us to seek wisdom in His word and through a relationship with Him. And if we do, He will give wisdom to us generously and graciously. And, today was a testament to that in my own life! What did I learn from weeks of frustration and feeling overwhelmed with parenting? Today after my teary melt down, God gently but firmly reminded me that I need to pray and ask for wisdom especially when it comes to being a Mom. He also showed me that my words are powerful and if I don’t allow Him to reign in my tongue, my selfish words of anger can hurt and scar my children. I am so thankful that God loves me so much that not only did He die for me, but He in his infinite wisdom made me a mom. He is teaching me in such real and practical ways how to be more like Him. And I’d venture to say, He just might be doing the same for you friend!

Slaves to the Past

Espresso Shot Today I opened up to the book of Ezra Chapter 3 and began reading about the Israelite’s rebuilding the temple for the second time. How very interesting I found verse 12! Here they are laying down the foundation stones to their new holy temple and the younger generations of Israelis are shouting praises and rejoicing at the blessing of it! But competing with the joyful sounds of praise…great weeping. Weeping over what once was, weeping over what was lost,weeping over sufferings, weeping over change… God is BLESSING them with a new temple and all they can do is dwell on the past.342 magnolia streetpasadena, ca 91105
Emotions are a part of how the Lord created us. The holy spirit can use these emotions in us to show us our blessings AND our failings. It is not wrong to have memories and emotions about the past. God uses our past trials, struggles, and blessings to not only help us grow and mature but to help others at well! But we have to be careful to not be “slaves to our past”. We must remind ourselves that God is control of our past, present, and future! It is a very prevalent attitude among many in this world to shape their present attitudes and future plans around painful circumstances that happened in the past to protect themselves. It is also common for people to dwell on the “what might have been”s. These attitudes although understandable from a worldly stand point, don’t glorify our heavenly Father because they show two things. 1. That we don’t trust God with our lives (past, present, or future) and 2. That we are not thankful for what He has given us. No one on this planet hasn’t suffered in one form or another. It is a part of being alive. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:3 But as Christians, we shouldn’t respond like the world does to troubles and hardships. It’s okay to weep and grieve. There is a season for that. But there is also a time to lay that pain at the foot of the cross. Don’t cheat yourselves of the blessings of salvation by being trapped in past hurts and regrets.