A Love Story

a-love-story.jpgWe live in a culture that promotes love—at least that’s what we call it. Hallmark writes cards and movies about it, people search for it and often we are confused about how to really define it. I have had the opportunity to watch a love story unfold between two people that truly reflects the meaning of selfless, committed love.

My parents celebrated 76 years of marriage on March 7, 2018, and on March 8 my mom entered eternity. Even now as I write this, it’s hard to comprehend the depth of love that they shared. It was not a marriage without its struggles, trials and hardships, but one thing always remained: their commitment to one another. They were faithful in all aspects of their relationship. Their love was revealed every day in the way they interacted. Even when they were at odds because of their differences, they still showed respect and care and worked toward solutions that brought them closer to each other. The greatest evidence of the love they had for each other came when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my dad declared that he would take care of her as long as she needed care. He commented that he married her for better or for worse and he was committed to her through everything and anything. And he fulfilled that vow staying by her side and caring for her until the end of her earthly life.

As I reflect on my parents’ love story, I can’t help but be reminded of God’s love for us. He is always faithful. His love perseveres through all circumstances and his commitment to us is forever. He will never leave us, abandon us or reject us. I know that my parents’ love was rooted in God’s love for them. They always believed that God was at the center of their marriage, and they clearly lived that belief.

I have been challenged by my mom and dad’s love story. It has caused me to think about the way that I love others. Jesus challenged us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others the way that we love ourselves. God is using the picture of my parents’ love to remind me that I am called to the same kind of love toward my husband, my family, the family of God and to the world that desperately needs to see faithful love in action.

We are all creating a love story in some way. Join me in committing to a live a life that reveals God’s faithfulness to us which in turn will reveal a love story of faithfulness to others.

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Advent

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Christmas Greetings!

As we enter the month of December and anticipate the Christmas holiday, I am reminded that the meaning of Advent involves waiting and anticipation.

I remember the year that I was pregnant with our first child. As Christmas approached I was thinking of Mary in a new way as she anticipated the birth of Jesus. We still had 4 more months of waiting for our first son, but that Christmas season, the idea of waiting took on new meaning for me.  Being pregnant was a time of waiting with anticipation for what was to come.

Advent is a season in which we practice waiting; we wait for the coming of God as the baby Jesus. We need him to come. Our world is messed up and we are messed up. We struggle at times with our circumstances and long for God to set things right, to make us better. So we pray and watch for signs of his answer indicating that he has heard us and is present with us. We do all we know to do so that we are open and ready.

In the midst of hardship and disappointment, we continue to wait. We wait in hope. We wait by faith believing that something is happening in our world and that God is at work. We trust that the Spirit of God is shaping and transforming our lives into something wonderful and life-giving. Even in December’s lengthening darkness, as we anticipate the meaning of Christmas, this seed of joyful hope grows within us. We are pregnant with it. In our waiting, we are stretched; our thoughts and our feelings are forced to focus on what is coming. God is coming!

These words from Scripture remind us that waiting is a reality for all of us in one way or another. “All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” (Romans 8:22-25 The Message)

May your heart be enlarged this Advent season as you anticipate the reality of God’s work in your life. Christmas is a time to not think only about the baby who came in the past, but the opportunity to think about this same Jesus who is at work in our hearts in the present.

Anticipate. Wait expectantly. Be pregnant with Hope.

Perspective

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I have a nemesis. And it’s a dandelion that refuses to give up.

This particular dandelion has made its home between the driveway and our house. Seriously, how does that even happen? There is no dirt of any kind to support a root system. I FAITHFULLY pull that weed out, but because it’s wedged between the house and the macadam driveway, I can never pull out the roots. And so it returns. Last year we spent a hefty sum of money to re-do the driveway. The company that did the work completely dug up the old driveway, put down a new base of crushed stones, poured a new layer of macadam and even created a thicker edge along the house so that water wouldn’t seep into the basement.

And that dandelion came back!!

Grumbling to myself, I marched down the driveway and pulled and yanked with all my strength to rid myself of that pesky weed. Then, I sprayed weed killer on what remained and triumphantly proclaimed that I had won. No more weed. Right. Back it came. Again and again.

Then, two weeks ago, I grudgingly drudged down the driveway to pull out that dandelion…again. As I did, I had a different thought. What if instead of resenting this green nemesis, I viewed it with new eyes? This pesky, really insignificant annoyance could be symbolic of something greater and more positive. It reminded me that even though life brought hardship and struggle, I could persevere. If my roots were deep enough, I could continue to survive and thrive, even when conditions were less than desirable. And suddenly, that pesky dandelion became a symbol of perseverance, tenacity and hope.

Romans 5:1-5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we  also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Truthfully, I will continue to try and beat my dandelion nemesis, but my perspective has changed. Even as I write this, I am thinking of some things in my life, over which I have no control, with new eyes. I want to have God’s perspective about the difficulties of life. I want to persevere in a manner that builds the character of Christ in me and reveals hope to those around me.

Will you let the Spirit of God change your heart and give you a new perspective?

Declare

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Declare. A word that means to pronounce, proclaim, assert and affirm. A word that I don’t normally use in my everyday conversations. However, recently, as I spent time reading and reflecting on the book of Deuteronomy, I was deeply impacted by the word declare. In chapter 26, Moses writes, “You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised” (Deut. 26:17, 18a).

There is no ambiguity in the word declare. It is sure, definitive and certain; this is how it is. As I read those verses written so long ago, I felt compelled to ask myself, “Do my words declare that the Lord is my God? Do my actions declare that I am walking in His ways? Is my life a true and certain declaration of my belief that the Lord is my God? There was something about the certitude of those verses that pesters me like a fly when I’m trying to relax. I can’t seem to get the word declare out of my head and heart. I want to speak and live a life that declares the greatness and grace of God in my life. Even as I write these words, I am reminded that it’s not possible to live like that unless the Spirit of God is given the freedom to change me. Only then can I declare that the Lord is my God.

This past week my husband and I were able to spend a week in Ocean City, New Jersey. While there we celebrated our anniversary with a walk on the beach at sunset. As we walked, the sky was beautiful with nuances of color, the sun was radiant as it set in the west, and sound of the ocean was rhythmic and soothing. As I took the picture included in this blog, I couldn’t help but think of another declaration, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). All around us are evidences that declare the existence of God. How can we, as His children keep silent? Should not our lives also declare the glory of God?

Declare.   Affirm.   Pronounce.   Proclaim.  Why should these words matter to our journey of faith? We declare the Lord is our God because He has declared that we are His people, His treasured possession. Our declaration comes as a result of what He has done for us; it comes as a recognition of His grace and work in our lives. This day, declare with your mouth and your actions that the Lord is your God. Let your life be a declaration of His love in such a way that others see how He is changing and reshaping you to be more and more like Christ.

Declare.

 

 

 

THY WILL BE DONE

 

I lfie-change_6don’t know how old I was when I first learned the Lord’s Prayer, but I know I was young, probably four or five.  I dutifully repeated the prayer when it was a part of the worship service, but I can’t say that I said it with passion or even deep understanding.  As my church experiences continued, it seemed that there were fewer and fewer times that we said the prayer together. I remember thinking, “I wonder if this church says, ‘debts’ or ‘trespasses’?”

In all candor, there were times that I almost mindlessly repeated the prayer, and then there were other times when I thought about it, pondered it and even journaled about it. However, recently I had a light bulb, “ah ha” moment about this most important prayer. The phrases, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” took on new meaning for me.  It became very apparent to me that Jesus wanted me to pray with an attitude of total surrender because that’s what it takes to live in the Kingdom of God. My posture before the Father in this prayer should be an acknowledgement that I have been invited to be a part of replicating His Kingdom on earth. In Heaven, all things happen in obedience to the King’s will, and my prayer should be that I live with that same attitude. The magnitude of that privilege was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

Since that “ah ha” moment, I have frequently pondered what it looks like for me to say, “Thy will be done.” The word that keeps coming to mind is, surrender.  Surrender, my daughter, to my will. Surrender to my love, my goodness, my control.  Surrender, and let your life reflect the contentment and peace that I desire for you. Surrender to me, your good, good Father.

Truly praying, “Thy will be done. Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven,” is life-changing! It will re-orient our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions under the loving hand of God with the realization that nothing happens in Heaven that isn’t His will and that His desire for us is to live the same way now, on earth.

Take time to reflect on the privilege it is to bring Heaven to earth by the way we reveal God’s will in our lives. May His will be done!

LOVE & TRUST

I never thoughtdebs-blog I had a problem with trust because I’ve been fairly trusting in my interactions with others throughout most of my life.  However, a number of years ago I crashed into a situation with someone I deeply cared about and discovered that I had been lied to repeatedly. As I tried to process my frustration, anger and hurt, I discovered that my struggle with trust was not focused just at the individual who betrayed me, but also at God.  I found myself asking, “Are you REALLY good? Can you REALLY be trusted?”  My head knew that the answer was “yes,” but my heart kept whispering “no.”

What I learned through that situation, and have continued to believe since then, is that because God is ALWAYS love, He can ALWAYS be trusted.  Coming to grips with that reality has changed my entire outlook on life.  Love and trust go together, and start with a belief that God’s love is good and that He is always for us. Because He loves me, He will use every situation in my life to grow both my love and trust for Him.

Let me explain what I mean.  There are many circumstances in life that are hard, in fact very hard, and they can cause us to question the love and goodness of God. We tend to question God’s existence and care in the hard times, while at the same time neglecting to thank Him during the good times.  It’s interesting how easy it is to blame God, and how hard it is to thank Him for His love and care.  Our actions stem from a wrong view of love and trust. Because we believe that God’s love is conditional, our trust toward Him becomes conditional. Ultimately, that belief system taints our ability to love and trust others.

We need to remember that God can’t ‘fake love.’ His love is always real and genuine.  He is absolutely committed to our good, our growth and His glory.  The circumstances of our lives are always opportunities to grow in our love and trust of God, which in turn help us overcome mistrust in our relationships with others.

That situation that I mentioned earlier was really hard; it caused much dissonance in my life and built a wall in my relationship with that person.  I was cautious in my interactions after that point with that particular individual and asked God to give me discernment in how to discern truth.  I wanted to be smart in how I trusted.  But the bigger issue was that I was able to maintain an overall attitude and perspective of trust because my beliefs became even more deeply rooted in the truth that God is love and He can be trusted.

When situations are hard and people betray you, will you run to God, your good and perfect Father, to allow Him to renew your love and trust?

Love and Fear

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When I was 7 years old, my parents went away for the evening and left me in the care of my 16-year-old brother. Most of the time we got along, and he generally treated me well. I thought it was awesome to have an older brother! This particular night, I walked out of the family room to go upstairs to bed. I confidently walked into my bedroom, and before I could even turn on the light, my brother jumped out from a closet and yelled, “Surprise!” He thought it was funny; I was terrified! Even as I write this, I can still remember the overwhelming fear that I felt at that moment. Ironically, he really didn’t intend to do anything hurtful. He was 16; I was 7. To him it was a harmless prank; to me it was a distressing experience that planted a seed of fear inside of me. Even though my brother apologized immediately after he saw my distress, it took years for me to feel safe in my room. My brother loved me—he didn’t intend to hurt me; but that experience had a deep effect on me.

For many of us, woundedness, even unintentionally, from a person we loved and trusted can have a devastating effect on our ability to love. We were created by God with a capacity to receive and give love, but our experiences can cause us to feel unsafe and vulnerable, and we build self-protective walls so that we won’t get hurt again. The result is that our interactions and relationships are tainted by fear, and we live closed off from God and from those around us.

It took some time for me to feel safe with my brother again. Even as I struggled with my feelings toward him, I could sense my desire to trust him; but I was cautious and unsure. It took time and a conscious effort on my part to believe that my brother had my best interest at heart. Even as a child, I realized that my ability to trust my brother again was rooted in my choice to believe that God would be with me, and that he would help me love even when I didn’t feel safe.

Obviously, I’ve never forgotten that experience; but I’m so grateful for what God taught me through it. I don’t need to let fear get in the way of love. Perfect love casts out fear. God’s love for me tears down the walls that I build and helps me honestly and authentically love others.

What experiences have caused you to build walls that keep you from receiving and giving love?

How is God redeeming those experiences to help you exchange fear with love?