In the Name of Love

Heart Upon Re-entry

“Heart Upon Re-entry” by Jim Carrey

So many people have been wounded and abused in the name of love. I have been sensing that a lot just don’t even know what it truly is anymore. It has been downgraded and perverted in so many ways. It has been used as a weapon for verbal, physical and sexual abuses; so much so, there is a large group of people that have simply sworn off “falling in love” and put up walls so high and deep for protection.

A good majority of people have been duped by the entertainment industry into what they think love is: an expectation of frilly, feel-good “love” that leaves you with this floating, euphoric feeling all the time. Although there may be brief moments of that, it’s not real love. Real love isn’t necessarily a feeling. You do feel it, but most of the time, you have to make the choice to love. Sometimes that choice is going to be the hardest one you will ever make. It is way below the surface. I like to compare it to the ocean. The ocean is breathtaking when you’re standing on the shore looking at it; especially during a sunrise or sunset. It’s peaceful to sit and listen to the lull of the waves. It’s fun to swim in the refreshing waters. It’s thrilling to catch waves on a surfboard. BUT, the depth of its beauty is deep below the surface. You have to dive deep into it, you have to be prepared for it, and it can be intimidating and scary. But, the awe-inspiring beauty is worth it.

“…but for Adam no suitable helper was found, so the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep…then the Lord God made a woman…and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man” for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:20-25)

When we partake of this surface-type “love”, it is guaranteed that at some point you will feel chewed up and spit out. When this happens there’s a part of you that blames yourself, leaving you feeling less than worthy of the something beautiful you were hoping and dreaming for. So now, each time someone new comes along, you swim in more shallow waters. This in turn pushes the other person away because there is a lack of trust. The baggage from the first swimmer is put on the next. It’s a vicious cycle and no one comes out feeling empowered, loved or free. Participating in all the things intended for marriage will always leave you empty and a piece of your soul connected to someone that doesn’t want the connection anymore. Thankfully, our God is one who Loves to Restore and Heal ALL things; especially our broken hearts.

I’ve now been married for almost 18 years. Our marriage is like every other (honest) one; like a roller coaster. Full of thrills, scares, unexpected turns, ups and downs. Several years ago, I went through a period that I just didn’t know what I felt anymore. My life had shattered into pieces and left me not recognizing how broken I was. Unfortunately, my husband took the brunt of my mess. Despite the mess I was, he showed up and walked out and fought for his unconditional love for me. See, I was such a jacked up mess that I didn’t even know how to accept his love and tried to push it away. When you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not worthy of something deep and meaningful, you settle yourself and wait for the other shoe to drop. If you don’t go beyond the fun beginning, then you don’t have to start sacrificing yourself. Real love is sacrificial. It’s compromising. It’s merging your life’s hopes and dreams with your spouse’s and sometimes some of those things don’t line up the way you imagined they would. Real love is searching out multiple avenues of communication to ensure your spouse is hearing and receiving in a healthy way. We all have an individual language and when we become One in our marriage commitment, we have to find a new language the both of us can speak and understand. This new language is created through some blood, sweat and tears; well, at least it was for us. Some of you might still be in denial because “everything is awesome”! When I had doubts of “my choice”, the Lord showed me it wasn’t really my choice, but His. He gifted me a husband that would be the manifestation of His unconditional love for me, through all my ridiculousness, my brokenness, in my mess, in my self-loathing and in all the beautiful moments of my life.

This isn’t all about marital love. Marriage is just one facet of Love.

I’ve learned unconditional love from my kids, too. This parenting thing is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. For a lot of my younger years I was told I’d never be able to have children, so I settled quite easily on not wanting children. I wasn’t heartbroken over it at all. But then again, I was a hot mess and didn’t know it. Then, I got married, and after a few years I started having that “twinge” to want kids. We now have four children and they all leave my head spinning and show me daily how much more of my flesh needs to die. I have likely apologized more than I’ve taught. But, like most parents, I would move Heaven and Earth to protect them and do everything in my power for them. God, our Heavenly Father, loves us unconditionally, even more than we love our own kids.

I had a long, hard road to be able to call on God as my “Father”. Every single one of us grew up with flawed parents and it’s guaranteed that every single one of us will be a flawed parent. Not one of us gets out of this parenting game with a perfect score. Some of our mess-ups create wounds and scars and I had some from my childhood. Because of that, I had a hard time thinking about God as my father because I was comparing Him to my earthly father. Now, I need to state that I love my dad unconditionally; no matter the ups and downs we’ve had over the course of my life. God is a restorer of families because family holds His heart more than anything else.

So, when we compare our Heavenly Father to a downgraded and flawed version, we’ve missed it. That’s where my struggle was and that’s where the Lord met me on my healing journey. Showing me who He truly was and He continues to do this. He moved Heaven to open up the way for us to experience Him as our Daddy. For a long time, I couldn’t understand why my Mom called God “Daddy”. Today as I write this, now I know. We all have a craving deep in our souls to have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with our Dads (Mom’s too). There’s something powerful that happens when your Dad speaks encouragement over you and when he declares his love for you. This is what God our Father does. Reading His words of adoration for His creation and His children is indescribably fulfilling and empowering. You learn who you were created to be. You find your purpose in this crazy life. Without getting too political or polarizing, there’s something that has to be said. This is just my observation and opinion (there, you have my disclosure). My generation and the generations following, there is a huge deficit of fathers. I see SO many people that unbeknownst to them, they are searching out for that kind of love and acceptance. They’re seeking and continually landing on downgraded, abusive and perverted versions of the real thing. It absolutely shatters my heart. There are people everyday that are around you suffering from ignorance of what love truly is. We all need it, we all crave it; we were created from love and for love.

I’m so desperate for others to experience the transformative power of unconditional love.

When I say, “I love you all”, I absolutely mean it. You are loved and valued; you have a purpose and plan over your life that you were created to fulfill. Everything has purpose for your purpose and we walk into that from a place of love. I pray you have a pure encounter with this breathtaking, unconditional love.

I will leave you with a couple of scriptures that speak about this.

Psalm 139:13-16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before on of them came to be.”

John 3:16-17 ”For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

1 Cor. 13:1-13 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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….but when perfections comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part’ then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”

Eph. 3:14-19 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in Heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

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The Feasting Table

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I’ve had a sense that a lot of us are feeling heavy, worn out and/or discouraged in this particular season. There are so many awesome promises being spoken over the Body of Christ. There are even more words of encouragement, dreams, visions and prophesies being spoken! It is all extremely exciting!

I believe the heaviness I’m feeling is from the group of us that although we’re claiming these promises, nothing seems to be manifesting for us. Let me say this; this is where the rubber meets the road. Either you’re going to be up for the journey or you’re not. I’m up for it and I have been reminded of some faith walks in the Bible. Abraham’s faith walk was a journey up a mountain to sacrifice his biggest dream; his answered prayer, his son, Isaac. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego’s faith walk was straight into a fiery furnace stating that they believed God would save them, but IF NOT, then it’s in God’s ultimate plan. Did they fully know God’s plan for their life? No. Did they trust in it? Absolutely.

I know in my heart what the Lord has spoken to me & over me. What I do not know is how or when that will manifest. So, when weeks like this come about, I hold onto those promises a lot tighter in the midst of my doubt and frustration. I read them over and over and speak them out a little bit louder. And then, without hesitation, the Lord takes me back to Psalm 23. What amazing Peace!

I’ve always been a bit of a strong-willed person and with that strong will comes a little attitude. Taming it to an appropriate level is still a work in progress! But, because my Daddy knows me so well, He highlights scriptures like Psalm 23 to speak calm, trusting peace over me. I always get hung up on verse 5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I always picture this in my head.

I will try to describe what I see every time I read this.

Picture a massive feasting table. It’s covered with any food you could ever want to eat. Surrounding this table are huge chairs. As you sit in your chair, you look around away from the table and all you see are faces you don’t recognize but you know whom they are. They are all the lying words that were ever spoken over you and to you. They are the ones sent to place doubt into your mind. They are the ones telling you that you will never be more than what you are. They are the ones telling you that you aren’t good enough to call yourself a Christian. They are the ones telling you that your dreams are foolish. They are the ones speaking judgment, condemnation and rejection because of your past mistakes. All those reminders of who you used to be BEFORE you were invited to sit at that Feasting Table. They’re sitting and screaming all of these things.

Here’s the beauty of sitting at that Feasting Table: Although you can see them, you have no fear. Although you think you should be able to hear their screams, their words cannot reach your ears. The Feasting Table is all about Peace. When you’re at peace, nothing shakes you. When you’re at Peace, you’re at rest.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m enjoying a good meal with good company, I am kicked back enjoying every moment and every joke. If it weren’t bad table manners, I’d kick my feet up onto the table! And, that’s where my “attitude” comes in. Not in a full-on arrogant way, but in a way to show and say to the enemy, “Whatever, man! Try all you want, you aren’t getting to me. I know who and Whose I am, so even though you’re trying to get to me, it won’t work and every moment I live from this time forward, you’re going to regret messing with me!” That’s when I pick up my food, kick my feet up onto the table and laugh! It’s a beautiful thing!!

The next best thing is what comes after this. While you’re at the resting, trusting, peaceful Feasting Table; He anoints us. When we are at peace inside His Will, His Plans for our lives, He pulls us closer, whispers wisdom to us, gives us more details of what He has planned for us to do and our cup overflows. He over-answers our prayers and blesses us in ways we never dreamed.

So, to all of you weary and heavy-laden, I give you this: Find your way to the Feasting Table. There you will find rest, peace, restoration, redemption, joy and victory over all that is surrounding you.

 

 

Lepers’ Camp

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I’ve been meditating a lot lately on the Leper that was healed after Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, chapter 8, it begins with Jesus coming down the hillside and a man with leprosy approached & knelt before Him. He said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”. He didn’t ask for healing, he asked to be cleansed. In that time, lepers (along with other diseases) weren’t allowed outside the sick community they were banished to. They were sent away to live with other afflicted (unclean) people to either get better or die. So, for him to appear in this public place amongst the crowd (perhaps he was hiding) was unheard of.

He asks Jesus if he is willing. Jesus reached out his hand & touched the man. He TOUCHED HIM!! This simple, single act  made him human again and showed all the onlookers the value Christ saw in him. In front of this large crowd of people, Jesus touched someone deemed “unclean” and made him clean.

This man that has been cast aside, rejected, assumed and left for dead was finally looked upon with compassion; was touched by kindness and acceptance; unconditional love. This man did not just walk away healed from his leprosy; he was released from his imprisonment of solitude and rejection. He didn’t choose to have leprosy. He didn’t choose to be rejected. His choice and desire was to rise above the labels and hope for something more for his life outside of the death placed upon him. Jesus gave him the opportunity to do so.

How many of us have rejected others because of their “afflictions”? Afflictions can be anything, but I think these days, it tends to be peoples’ choices and/or their lack of perfection in handling life. Have you judged people and placed them undeservingly into the Leper’s Camp?

Let’s flip it. Are you in the Leper’s Camp? Have you accepted the rejection and death sentence you or someone else has spoken over your life? I’m going to say one thing and you need to hear it: YOU DO NOT DESERVE IT. I don’t care what you have done or not done, no one should be in the Leper’s Camp. Our healing, our cleansing and our washing came through the blood of Jesus on that cross. Even if you don’t believe, you still don’t belong in the Leper’s Camp. I’m here to tell you that despite all your (and others’) shortcomings, that you are loved and accepted. Not everyone will understand or treat you as such, but God does. You have breath in your lungs right now because you have a purpose in this life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

A lot of us have given reason and justification to people throughout our lives to banish us. Call it boundaries, tough love, whatever; some of the time, it is done properly and done with love. Unfortunately, what I have found is that a lot of the time, it is not. It has only added to the pain and deepened wounds. The only thing I have found that can heal all of this is the unconditional love from our Heavenly Father. I didn’t learn it or receive it from anyone here on this Earth. I found it, I found Him while in solitude. When all that darkness closes in on you and you can’t hear any voices, you can’t see your hands in front of you; He shows up. He reaches out His loving hand and touches you, despite all of your uncleanliness. He accepts you just the way you are in your broken mess. His perfect love cleanses you, heals you inside and out, and restores you to someone better than you were before. Then, that power He used to heal you has been given to you to walk into that Lepers’ Camp and heal the rest. No more rejection, no more pain, forgiven; whole.

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Who do we know in this life that needs that acceptance? We are called to be like Jesus. It’s our job to walk into the Lepers’ Camp and make the “unclean”, clean. One loving word, one act of kindness will not only heal the visible ailment, it will breathe life into their souls.

Identity Thief

identity thief thumbprint

The Lord has been putting words into my heart for some time now regarding gossip. I’ve personally always had disgust for gossip, yet, at times, found myself in the midst of it and participating in it.

Recently, as I was lying down to go to sleep, I had the words “Gossiping is being an identity thief” running through my mind. I just prayed for the Lord to give me wisdom and understanding of that, to teach me what He wanted me to know.

Here’s what I feel led to share:

Every time you begin to gossip about someone you are taking a small piece of information about that person and giving it to someone else. It doesn’t matter if that piece of information is true or not, what matters is that it’s not yours to be handing out to all you come in contact with. You are literally stealing someone’s identity. That small piece of information literally changes other peoples’ point of view of that person; it changes how they look at that person, it changes how they treat that person. Being a victim of identity theft/gossip brings so much conflict and pain. That victim now has to fight to get back their identity; fight against the rejection and most of the time, the lies.

gossip

Let’s be honest. No one gossips about anything positive or good. It’s always some “juicy” piece of negative information. The part that has always baffled me is the way we never question the validity of the information or the integrity of the person sharing it. We eat it up like we would a free cookie. Why do we do this? Why do we revel in the persecution and degrading of others? Do we think if their sins are being shared and plastered everywhere it will diminish our own; maybe allow ours to be forgotten? Bottom line: it doesn’t matter. Who cares what the motives are? What matters is what you are doing to stop it! You’re not responsible for anyone else. You’re only responsible about what you listen to and what you say. Approach it with this point of view: Do you want all your information out there for others to use? I didn’t think so.

In Proverbs 18:21 it says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

power of tongue2

Are we using our power for good or evil? Are we eating from the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? I choose Life over Knowledge. I choose to speak life and encouragement into others’ lives. I choose to look past all imperfections because that is what Christ does for me on a daily basis! It all boils down to The Golden Rule: Treat others, as you would like to be treated. How quickly we forget this simple truth!

Life or death? Being an Identity Thief or not? How do you want to be known? I know too many Identity Thieves, but I know more Encouragers and Life-breathers. These are the ones I choose to surround myself with and listen to. Listening to life is so much more fulfilling and life-giving.

It’s time to make your choice.

speak life

Acceptance In The Mess

slipper

So, I was THAT Mom yesterday. The one in the school drop off lane, still in my pajamas, slippers and a mismatched hat to mat down the scary bedhead. If I had to get out of the car to walk the Preschooler in, I probably would have changed into my normal shoes. Probably.

What can I say; it was one of those days! It seems I’m having more of those days than not lately. It’s certainly the result of a combination of at least 100 options. I’m slightly exaggerating, but, seriously!

We’ve hit this delicate balancing act of mayhem in our home at bedtime. The bedtime issue is The Bigs (11 and 8 yr. olds) should be staying up till a certain time each night, but The Littles (4 and 2 yr. olds) don’t want to go to be before The Bigs. “Don’t want to” is mildly putting it. Some nights my husband and I turn into Riot Police! I digress. So, it’s not fair to make the Bigs go to bed early like The Littles. The compromise has been secretly negotiated with the husband and I that the middle time is the perfect time for all four to go down for the night. This seems all fine and dandy, but the battles that ensue past bedtime are pure insanity. They are tag-teaming and wearing us down! No wonder why we’re haggard all the time! By the time they are all knocked out, I mean sweetly asleep, the Hubs and I can barely speak and then it’s time for us to call it a day. Rinse and repeat.

From the birth of Number Two, we made it a point to make sure we left time at the end of our day to have quiet, alone time. We didn’t do this after Number One because we all know that the first child is the center of our obsessive and paranoid attention. And, you do all those “bad things” you’re not supposed to do (i.e. co-sleeping, no set bedtime). With Number One being 24/7 attachment, Number Two arrives and you’re like, “Oh, okay! Now we get it! And, how did Number Two come along when we didn’t have any alone time?” Ahem! Okay. What was I saying?

Sleep depravation! Yes, this is our life right now. No sleep. Eyes halfway open, functioning on coffee, doing parental and adult duties that can’t be ignored. It’s our “Groundhog Day” life. The day in and day out existence that I can’t even remember some days. So, those days when there is less sleep than normal, those “adult duties” like taking a shower first thing in the morning gets shoved to an 8:00 PM opening of time that you may or may not have energy to shave. And, did I already wash my hair? I don’t remember two minutes ago, so, I wash the hair again. The second wash always ensures an amazing static cling and fluffiness! Fantastic.

The kids aren’t “sleep terrorists”, but sleep just isn’t in Number Two’s genetic makeup. He loves us all so much; he has a pressing desire to share his zest for life at 2:00 AM almost daily! He’s always danced to his own rhythm. We knew he was different, a bit slower with his speech. It didn’t help that Number One talked morning, noon, night and in his sleep. So, because of all that, the Autism diagnosis didn’t come officially till a few years ago. It confirmed what we already knew, but we still had the grieving process. You know, sadness, anger, denial and then acceptance.

It’s amazing how acceptance is always the last one. Why do we go through all this emotional roller coaster movement? I’m an extremely emotional person, so please don’t think I’m some crazy, emotionless cyborg. Did I just say “cyborg”? Clearly I was at an impressionable age when “Terminator” came out. ANYWAY! Why do we accept things last? Obviously, it’s a normal process to go through these states of emotions. I do believe, though, that our ability or inability to get to acceptance can give an abbreviated glimpse of how much a “control freak” we are.

My life over the past six plus years seems to be one grieving process after another; some big, some small. Through it all, I have found myself more willing to accept the process and go through it. I do have my crazy, out-of-control days, but I know it’s okay. I no longer condemn myself for having an off day. As parents, we know our kids are going to have off days so we extend them a lot more patience and grace. I’m learning to do this for myself. My kids aren’t anyone else’s. And, just so you know, no one else’s kids are as perfect as you may think. I learned a long time ago to stop comparing my reality to someone’s snapshot. If you do this, you will always feel like you’re failing.

There’s a reason and purpose for you to have the children you have, just like there’s a purpose and reason for me to have my children. Acceptance of the place and space you’re at for each season will leave you at Peace. Even in your tears and struggle. Just like the weather, every season serves a purpose; it leads to the next season. Life is this way; changing seasons. Accepting that change and welcoming it will help you get what you need out of it. I know there will be days you simply feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Guess what? IT’S OKAY! Have that overwhelmed and exhausted day. We’re not super heroes! But, we have an amazing Heavenly Father that has more Grace and Patience for His children then we can imagine!

So, next time you’re sitting in the school pick up lane in your pajamas and slippers, know that it’s okay. You’re doing the best you can at that moment and keep moving. Accepting yourself in your glorious mess is an amazing and free place to be!

wpid-messymom

Psalms 139:14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”