Loving god’s people unconditionally

There are so many rules and regulations that people have tagged onto religion. I don’t believe that those kind of guidelines are necessarily what God had in mind. It surprises me how many people can spit out Bible verses with amazing clarity and precision but also with venom and without any compassion. We are all created in God’s image, therefore we all have worth in His eyes. People make choices and sometimes those choices are something I know God has declared to be unbiblical. Does that mean I should berate and harass them? How is that showing God’s love?

There are a lot of hot button topics out there in Christian circles and everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine: I love God and I love God’s people. I don’t decide who is worthy of God’s love and who is not. I know the truths of God’s principles and the one that seems to be the recurring theme more than any other topic in God’s Word is love. I am no one’s judge or jury. I don’t have the qualifications. I am imperfect, flawed, and always learning. I am a sinner, saved by grace, not because I have a free pass. I have some prejudices that I need to work out in my own mind, with God’s help, but I am a work in progress. I am no better or worse than anyone else on this planet. Being a Christian does not give me license to dictate how someone should live their life.

I want to take as many people to Jesus as I can. The idea of anyone spending an eternity in Hell breaks my heart. But without showing the love of Jesus as we speak to others about Him, our efforts are useless. Who would want to follow an unsympathetic, heartless God? Wouldn’t that just prove the futility of Christianity?

I have many friends who live their lives differently than my own. They are truly my friends, not Christian projects I’m working on converting. I love and respect them for who and what they are, as God’s children and as people I care for personally. I myself am capable of any sin at any time. We all are. The day I get cocky about my supreme spirituality is the day God becomes disappointed in me.

God loves us unconditionally. I need to learn to love like that. Without fear, without judgment, without handing out a checklist of what is required for my acceptance. We are called to love unhindered and abundantly. I won’t give up sharing my faith with others, but I won’t make Christianity a prerequisite of being my friend.

Defy assumption

As I was on a group call with my friends last night, we talked about a great many things, including how we make assumptions. Sometimes we are making assumptions about other people without getting to know them based on an unfavorable first impression. Sometimes we make assumptions about how people perceive us based on our own insecurities.

I am guilty of both.

Are you?

To be honest, I find myself having an easier time assuming that someone doesn’t like me rather than assuming they do. Why is it so easy for us to believe the negative about ourselves? My husband can tell me he thinks I’m beautiful a hundred times and I won’t accept it as easily as I would accept a put down from a stranger as truth.

Why? Are we so broken that we can’t see anything positive in ourselves? Is that why we sometimes can’t accept compliments from others graciously?

I am learning that I can accept a compliment without being prideful. I can be proud of my accomplishments without being conceited. I can follow my dreams with ambition and still follow God’s will for my life without boasting or putting my desires before God’s.

I can assume the worst and hope for the best, but that’s not what God wants for us. We can safely assume that, as God’s child, He wants His best for us. He wants us to be successful and use the gifts He has given us. Think about it. Why would He give us talents and abilities that He doesn’t intend for us to use? Isn’t that a waste, for us and for Him?

So, the next time you see a stranger looking at you with an unreadable look on their face, don’t assume they’re sizing you up and finding you lacking. Assume the best. Smile at them. Say hello. If they scowl or act rudely, shrug, say a prayer for them, and move on.

You are a beautiful, one of a kind, unique, passionate, gifted, talented, wonder of the world. Assume your identity in Christ. Assume your position as a child of God.

How does an insecure woman make (and keep) friends?

I am an insecure woman.

I know I am not alone in this, but I often feel alone. I know a few people who seem genuinely pleased when they see me, but I am not exactly the most sought out by any stretch of the imagination. I do not make friends, or keep them, easily. I am constantly second guessing myself, wondering if I am truly welcome or merely being tolerated because of common courtesy. It is hard to believe that someone would actually desire my company and I often find myself feeling honored by the slightest bit of attention thrown my way. As if I am not worth knowing or spending time with, willing to accept any crumbs offered to me from the table of friendship.

Pretty pathetic, I know, but at least it’s honest.

All my life I have craved the kind of friendship found in the books I read as a child. A Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley or a Honey Wheeler to my Trixie Belden. A heartfriend that knew me intimately and gave me the ultimate title of Best Friend. Not only in spite of my quirks and craziness but because of them. I have had many wonderful women drift in and out of my life over the years, but never one who I felt confident enough to consider a Best Friend, mostly because I didn’t feel worthy of that kind of relationship.

I have a great connection with my husband and we are very, very close. But I still crave the kind of female companionship I have always dreamed of. This morning I asked myself, does this kind of sisterhood really exist? I honestly believe it does, although it is not something I have enjoyed myself. I find myself feeling jealous of the closeness I see that other women seem to have…a special buddy who feels deeply connected to them, and they feel the same way about her. Don’t get me wrong, I do know a few women that would probably go out to coffee if I asked them to, but I am usually the one that does the asking. I feel like I’m too needy and badgering them if I ask too often. I feel a little bit sad that I have to try so hard at this, which feeds into my insecurity, big time.

Why is this so hard? I know I am loved by my family. I feel confident in that, as well as my relationship with God, so why is this so drastically different?

Do you struggle with this? If so, how do you cope with it? If not, how do you feel confident in your friendships with women? Do you have any advice you can share with women like me?

I guess my pyramid still needs a little more work.

Loss

If you ask just about anyone what one of the most heartwrenching things to deal with is, I would guess they would say dealing with loss. Whether it’s the loss of a family member, friend, opportunity, dream…it hurts. And it takes a long time to heal, sometimes your entire life.

For me, it was hard to get over the loss of my 2 babies I miscarried. In addition to losing the dream of holding those precious children in my arms and watching them grow, I also had to face the guilt I felt in losing them. I felt that if I had done something, anything different, they might still be alive.

Looking back, I realize now that, although I may never understand why God chose this for me and my husband, it was God’s will. I was fortunate enough that I was able to conceive 3 more children after my miscarriages, including a set of twins. I have been blessed to be able to minister of other women who have dealt with miscarriages, stillbirths, and other types of pregnancy loss. If any of the pain I went through can help someone else, I am willing to share my experiences, the way other women so graciously shared their experiences with me.

We have had many deaths in my family, particularly on my husband’s side. We have lost both of his parents, one of his sisters, our niece, and a few others. Death of a loved one is never easy, even as believers. The pain is intense, but at least, as a God-lover, I know that God will walk through the pain with me. I cannot imagine going through life without that support from my Heavenly Father. However, for many years, I did.

I went through a long period of turning my back on God, actually hating Him for the circumstances in my life and losses I faced, including the loss of relationships and friendships I’d had. I blamed God for everything I didn’t want to take responsibility for, including my bad choices. It took me truly bottoming out to see that He was protecting me from much more than He allowed to affect me. Once I realized that and submitted to His Will in my life, the pain of loss started to ease. It never completely goes away, but it is manageable.

Had my 2 babies lived, I would not have the 3 that I have been blessed to have. Maybe God will bless you through some kind of loss as well. Maybe someone can be blessed by you sharing your pain. Maybe someone can be blessed by sharing their pain with you. Nothing we go through is ever wasted. We can take every experience and learn from it, teach from it, draw life from it. Use the pain of loss to accept the gain that you will undoubtedly receive. God loves you with an everlasting love. Let Him help you through your pain. Let Him walk through it with you.

Embrace the beauty of the work you’re doing on your life. Know that you are loved and cherished by God.

Build your pyramid.

Crazy Time, loving God

It has been a crazy time.

My family and I, and many other people we know, have had a lot of trials and tribulations this year. Some relationships have been broken, others have been mended or renewed. We’ve had deaths and births. We’ve had hurting and healing. But one thing has held us all together, sustained us, and remained our common thread.

We all have God.

Sometimes we have cried out to Him on our hands and knees, begging for mercy and deliverance. Sometimes we have raised angry fists to Him, screaming in agony and desperation. Always, God has listened to us, loving us, intervening for us, waiting for us to call on His name. Waiting for us to trust in His will, in all things.

Jeremiah 29:11 says ” ‘I know the plans I have for you”, declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ ” Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Everything that happens in our lives happens because God allows it. We may never understand why or for what purpose, but we can trust that it is ultimately for our good and part of God’s Will for our lives. Sometimes we are strengthened in certain situations in specific ways that we couldn’t learn any other way. Sometimes our tragedies can give us what we need to help someone else, or even to help ourselves.

We may not like the way our lives are going, but we can be grateful that we do have life. It may not be what we’ve always dreamed of, but maybe God’s dreams for us are bigger than our dreams for ourselves. In any case, we know they’re better.

2020 has been a crazy year, that’s for sure. But I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in the days to come.

My kind of femininity

I have always been a bit of a tomboy. I wasn’t on any official sports teams in school but I participated in a lot of neighborhood basketball, football, baseball, and various other outdoor activities. Even as I got older and started to “notice boys”, although I’d wear makeup and play with my hair color, I wasn’t overly concerned with my looks. My hair was usually kept short because I hated dealing with it. I bit my nails and never bothered with nail polish. I dressed like a slob most of the time with a uniform of t-shirts and jeans. In fact, even now at age 51, I’m still most comfortable in my grubs. Why not? I work at a group home where I do a lot of cleaning. I’m not going to wear a Chanel suit to clean the bathrooms!

Am I feminine enough?

I guess it depends on who you ask. My husband always tells me he thinks I’m beautiful. I have friends and family members who say I am fairly attractive. However, on most days, I dress like someone who should’ve been on the TV show What Not To Wear. I have never had a mani/pedi. I still wash my face with Noxema, like I have since I was 13. I will probably not ever get Botox. When I wear dresses and skirts, I feel like Tim Curry in drag. I don’t read fashion magazines unless I’m in a waiting room.

Am I feminine enough?

Well, enough for whom? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? What one person sees as attractive may seem hideous to someone else. As long as I’m comfortable in my own skin, isn’t that what matters?

You probably won’t ever look at me and think, “Wow! She must be a supermodel!” but that’s OK with me. It taken me years to accept my body issues and develop my own sense of style (or lack thereof). My womanly curves have kept my husband pretty happy over the past 3 decades. My body has brought 4 amazing people into this world. I am smart, creative, and lots of other great positive words. I am Woman, hear me roar!

I don’t need to subscribe to the world’s idea of femininity. Am I feminine enough? You betcha! I am the woman God has created me to be. To try to be something else would be foolish, insincere, and an insult to my Heavenly Father who loves me just as I am. My imperfections make me unique, a one-of-a-kind creation of a womanhood meant to be celebrated. I don’t need to be lamented over because I’m different from the ideals I see reflected throughout American media.

My children are all adults. I hope my daughters continue to embrace their own unique beauty. I hope they don’t let themselves get caught up in the traps designed to push women to conform to unrealistic images of what is beautiful and acceptable. I hope my sons look beyond the world’s ideas of feminine mystique and see women for who they are as individuals, not just as prey to be conquered.

What is your idea of true femininity? If you are a woman, are you living up to your own standards? If you are a man, can any woman ever measure up to your fantasy? If so, good for you. If not, what do you think should change?

The Lord Gave

“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” ~Job 1:21 (KJV)

I have heard several variations and also many misquotes of this verse for many years. I never particularly liked it. It seemed so cold and callous. I would envision God up in Heaven dangling things and people I loved before me, just to snatch them away again. I especially felt that way after my two miscarriages. During those times, well-meaning believers would quote that verse to me in an effort to encourage me. It had the opposite effect. Instead of making me feel closer to God, that verse made me feel more alienated from Him. I was angry and devastated that not only had He not spared me the pain of losing my babies, but it was His will to take them from me. Why would a loving God purposely cause me so much pain?

I believed every word I read in the Bible. I just didn’t like everything I read.

Lately, this verse keeps popping up everywhere. Articles and blog posts I read. Bible studies and devotionals. It won’t leave me alone. So, instead of allowing myself to run away from it, I have faced this verse, head-on. I prayed on it, I researched it, and now I feel I understand it a little better.

I’ve been focusing on the wrong part of the verse.

Yes, sometimes it is God’s will to take things away from us. Sometimes it’s people we love, or may have grown to love. Sometimes it’s a dream we had that will never come to be. Sometimes it’s the loss of a relationship, or a job, or our choice of college, or anything we’d thought would be important to our happiness. We feel the pain and wonder why God has forsaken us. Worse yet, we wonder why God chose to not just allow it to happen but also to make it happen.

Sometimes that’s where we get stuck, on that one part of the verse, because the pain blinds us to the rest of it. The hope comes in the next part of the verse. God does take things away, but He also gives.

Every good gift comes from Him. Our very lives, our salvation, His Son…His love for us is so lavish and abundant, but we often don’t see past what we have lost and forget all we have gained. He allows storms to come but He holds us in the eye of the hurricane. We may feel forsaken but we’re not. Not for a single moment of our lives, even if we are the one pushing Him away.

I have so much more to learn about my God and His amazing ways. I am looking forward to continuing this journey in this cool and crazy world with my Savior by my side. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Whatever it is, I hope I will handle it with the grace and submission I should.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Ditch vs. Cathedral: It’s All About the Attitude

When I started homeschooling in 1999, I read a lot of books to help to prepare me. In one of these books, I found a great little story that taught me a little bit about perspective and attitude. Here is a condensed and paraphrased version:

A man noticed two other men digging in the ground. Both were very hard at work, at opposite sides from each other. The first man went up to one of the workers and asked, “What are you doing?”

The worker threw his shovel down in disgust and answered angrily, “What do you think I’m doing? I’m digging a ditch, you moron!”

The first man left and went to see what the other worker was up to. “What are you doing?” he asked the second worker.

The worker smiled a smile so bright that it nearly rivaled the sun. “Mister,” he said with humility and honor, “I’m building a cathedral to God!”

Technically, both men were doing the same exact job, but what a great difference in their attitudes! How often do we act like we are merely digging a dirty ditch when God sees our work as equal to building an ornate cathedral? When done for His purpose and glory, all things are beautiful in His eyes. Not all of us are called to be Francis Chan or Joyce Meyer. Some of us are called to somewhat “smaller” tasks, as far as being visible to the general public, such as being a stay-at-home mom, singing in the choir, working as an usher, etc. But remember, without digging a ditch, you can’t lay the foundation and the whole structure will be compromised. Each task assigned to us, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, has an important part in the Body of Christ. All parts are connected and necessary to keep us strengthened. One missing part puts everything else at risk.

We are called to do various things. Me? I am called to be a small light in an equally small sphere of influence in all the roles of my life. Does anything I do make a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. I just know that if I ignore that little voice inside of me that guides me to different types of opportunities, I will never have any peace.

People may look at what I do as “ditch digging” and that’s OK. I am blessed to be part of the team that is helping to prepare the ground for the foundation of the cathedral. I hope the Lord will be pleased with my efforts and I am grateful He has found me worthy for such a task as this.

51

Today is my birthday. I am 51 years old today.

51.

Back in my younger days, the idea of being 51 terrified me. That number represented being old, over the hill, no longer experiencing life but merely existing, assuming I would pass away into ancient insignificance.

Oh, how wrong I was! How arrogant. How self-pitying.

How STUPID!!!

51 is a great place to be! I may not be young anymore but I don’t need to be put out to pasture quite yet. Thanks to some great choices I’ve made in the last year, I am healthier than I was, even in my 20’s! I am (mostly) comfortable in my own skin and in who God formed me to be. My relationship with God, my husband, my children, and others, are so much deeper and sweeter than before. I have a sense of purpose that I had searched for my entire life and have finally found.

51 is pretty cool.

I am not just existing, I am living life to its’ fullness. Waiting on God to reveal His will for my life as I enjoy my freedom to explore what might be out there for me. I have a family I love beyond measure. Connections made with friends on a deeper level than ever before. A job that gives me an opportunity to serve others instead of merely providing a paycheck. Finally being brave enough to go way past my comfort zone to try new things. And LIKE it!

On this, my first day as 51, I choose embrace all God has given me and to be willing to continue to expand my horizons and enlarge my world. I can take chances, be OK with possibly failing, and learn from every experience, even the negative ones.

I am 51. Happy and proud to be 51. Excited to see what 51 will bring. Appreciative of the gift of 51 years from my Savior.

51…and counting.

Claiming My Birthright As a Child of God

It’s an old platitude that when you put God in His proper place, everything else goes into its’ proper place. I feel that’s true, today more than ever. I feel…empowered, enlivened, enjoyable, lighter, loved, cherished, possible, encouraged, excited, hopeful, and..at long last…peaceful. Yes, after many years of struggling and questioning and doubting, I have found peace. I will never relinquish it. I have fought for this reward, this gift. It is precious, it will not be squandered or taken for granted.

I forgive those who have hurt me in the past and acknowledge the hurt I have caused in return. I claim my birthright of peace as a princess, the daughter of the Most High God. I accept my responsibilities and various roles within my life. I embrace my Christianity and my ability to love others, knowing that I will most likely get hurt, but also knowing that it will definitely hurt me more to close off my heart. I want to love abundantly and extravagantly, like Jesus does.

Scary thought, isn’t it, the idea of loving beyond our usual safety boundaries? Without any guarantee that we will be loved back by the human beings we are trying to love? Yet, that is what we are called to do. If we are truly Christ followers, we need to love like He does, sacrificially and unconditionally. We can claim the peace and other gifts that are our birthright as children of our Lord.

Are you ready to claim yours?